Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Of Human Bondage . . . and Tahitian Pork Roast

We are all bound by our expectations. We anticipate that things will go a certain way, and when they don't - we become frustrated and angry. We expect God to answer our prayers OUR way, and when He doesn't . . .

I purchase food through a food co-op - you pay for a box, and they fill it up. In that box are many things - things that must be cooked. And things that offer occasions for frustration.

So - I'm sure you're wondering where this is going - in the box of food, there was a pork roast. Very nice cut. Just perfect for one can of mushroom soup, some potatoes and some carrots. Traditional meat and potatoes. I was SO ready to get it going and then . . .

I checked the cupboards. No soup. No regular potatoes. Just a can of pineapple chunks in juice and a sweet potato. It was catastrophe. It was horror. It was unimaginable. OH THE HUMANITY . . . Roast can't be cooked any other way, can it?

Hardly realizing what I was doing, I opened the pineapples and dumped them in. Well, I was committed, might as well finish it . . . I peeled the potato, chopped it and put it in there too. And then the frenzy began. What other strange things could I put in with that roast? Two oranges, an onion, the left-overs of a bottle of barbeque sauce, honey, lemon pepper, spices, salt, pepper . . .

Well, I had done it - but how would it taste? I decided that, if I liked it, I'd name it Tahitian Pork Roast, and if I didn't, I'd tell myself that the pineapples just FELL in there. Eight hours later, my kids and I ate the best pork roast that has ever been prepared within the walls of my kitchen. Tahitian Pork Roast. Which led me to the question . . .

What do we miss when we are bound up in our expectations? When we as so caught up in our expectations of what SHOULD BE, do we miss what COULD BE if only we would let go of the reins - just a little?

I suppose I could have re-wrapped that pork roast and saved it for another day. I'm sure it would have been a good pork roast in the traditional sense. But I'm glad I didn't wait. I'm glad I took the plunge.

We aren't always promised and safe and smooth voyage. And we are not always promised that we will have the ending we expect. Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge.

Tahitian Pork Roast, anyone?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ending One Dream . . . and Beginning Another

I can distinctly remember the day 3 years and 11 months ago that I signed the papers purchasing my home. It was sunny, and I knew there was a busy afternoon of moving ahead of us. I had just completed my first year of full-time teaching. My daughter was 2. And I was idly dreaming - with every box packed, with every wall painted - of the life we would build within those walls.

Fast forward - 3 years and 11 months later . . .

Those dreams are gone. They have been mourned. But it is time to move on. To new dreams . . .

Today, I signed the papers for my house again. The weather is just as sunny, but there is no busy moving ahead (though I do need to clean up the toys in the living room and call the plumber to work on the back bathroom). I now work as a paralegal part-time and a teacher part-time. My teaching contract has renewed! My daughter is 6, and my son is 13 months. And I'm idly dreaming again, but much differently this time . . .

I know that I'm expected to feel sadness - or at the least, melancholy - about this event. I know that because each time I share my news, people tell me how sorry they are - and I'm taken aback a moment before I respond to their sympathy. I know why they are acknowledging the sadness in the moment, but I'm not feeling sadness. Or bitterness or anger, or melancholy.

Instead, I'm relieved. I'm hopeful. I'm happy. When the world fell apart, I didn't believe that there was any way my children and I would still have a home when the dust settled - but look what God has done! It's a miracle! When the world fell apart, God was STILL THERE! And I just cannot honestly say that it leaves me with anything but . . . wonder, joy and hope. It's the ultimate miracle - the one that Christ performs in every life - when He takes the broken things and makes them better than they were before they were broken! And I rejoice at what He has done!

If He has ordered my steps through the minefield of the past few years, what more do I have to fear? He will order my steps through everything else as well. And I can be nothing but thankful for the new dreams - and the plans that He has for me.

So my daydreaming this time is much more general, because I have no idea what God has planned. I only know that He is good and will walk with me through every plan He has made. Whatever they might be . . .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Mississippi Interfaith Prayer Meeting

My daughter attends the same school I teach at. It's a secular private school that is based on Christian principals. That basically means that prayer is okay within the class, they have devotionals, and faith can be discussed openly. But it's not corporate. And there are a good many non-Christian students.

Noelle is in K5, and her best buddies are Navarn and Tanya, children of Indian immigrants, and Wondeful, a Chinese immigrant. They are Hindu and Buddhist respectively. We were having a discussion this morning on prayer, and Noelle informed me that she, Wondeful, Navarn and Tanya had a prayer meeting on the playground yesterday, and that they have prayer every day at lunch. I was curious and asked her to explain:

At lunch, Noelle apparently blesses her food every day and ends her prayer with the phrase, "and don't let me throw up in Jesus name." Her friends have noticed the prayer, and since she has never thrown up after lunch, they decided to pray it too. (I have no idea why any of them expect to throw up.)

They gained such faith by the evidence of not throwing up after lunch, that when a caterpillar crisis erupted yesterday on the playground, they had a plan. One of the other children, Thomas Daniel, had thrown a handful of caterpillars he had collected into a puddle, and said caterpillars were struggling for survival. Noelle and her friends "rescued" them from the puddle, but apparently, they thought the caterpillars were still in distress. So, Noelle led them in prayer for the lives of the caterpillars - she pled the blood of Jesus over the puddle-drenched caterpillars. And pretty soon, Nevarn, Tanya and Wondeful were pleading the blood of Jesus too.

I had to try really hard, but I didn't laugh when my daughter told this story, because she was wonderfully serious about the whole thing. The caterpillars survived, and she's convinced it was the blood of Jesus that did it. I'm not sure if Jesus' blood literally saved the caterpillars, but I know that it left an impression on four little girls praying on the playground.

And for one moment in the world, in Central Mississippi, there was a prayer meeting of one Apostolic, one Buddhist and two Hindus where all four were pleading the blood of Jesus. My own prayer? That it will be a seed in the hearts of those children that God will nurture into something bigger than we can imagine.

Sometimes God can use foolish things to confound we who feel so wise . . .

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Dear Lord,

I received that call again today - the one that has come one time too many. My sister, your child, is still on the path of the prodigal, and she's found herself in the pigpen again. Lord, I don't have the strength to walk this path.

I've learned the hard way that I can fix it. I've tried. I've failed miserably. I've learned the hard way that my humanity fails every time. As much as I love her, I cannot 'fix' it. I can do nothing. I am powerless, and I don't like that feeling.

You are an all-seeing, all-powerful God. You see exactly where she is this morning, and you will know her steps this evening. Several months ago, I took this situation, and I placed it on the altar of faith. I began to trust that YOU were the author and finisher of my faith, even on this most difficult path. And now God, as I am tempted to grab my telephone and start making futile attempts to "fix" it, I will instead remind myself that this is no longer my problem. It is YOURS.

Into Your capable hands, I commended her soul, and her life. And I will renew that again this moment - today, this day, I once again hand this mess over to You. Take my mustard seed of faith and multiply as only You can!

She was dedicated to you as a baby. She has experienced the power of Your Holy Spirit taking hold of her life. You know how to draw her near, though I do not. You are an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Father, and You know just what it will take to bring her back to the Father's house. I trust You to do it.

Two thousand years ago, there was another dark moment when hope died. The Messiah lay in a tomb, and Hell rejoiced. But how wrong they were! Peter's faith collapsed. I can't blame him - mine probably would have too. But he simply couldn't see your plan - it felt like failure because it didn't look like he thought it should. BUT YOU WERE STILL GOD. YOU WERE STILL IN CONTROL. And Hell had to take a step back just a few days later, when deliverance arrived in a most unexpected way! You conquered death and the grave. And you did it for me. And you did it for my sister.

And as doubt whispers in my ear that I need to get up and fight the battle, I know that the battle was over long ago. I can't say that I see or understand Your plan in all of this, but I know what the end will be! The victory is mine - and hers - if I will just get out of the way. Satan can rage - he is defeated anyway. Tempest in a teapot . . .

So in this dark moment, I will rejoice. I will sing your praises. Here in my living room, I will dance before you. For victory is mine. Though I can't yet see the plan, You can. And that's enough. You are in the pigpen with her, and You know the way out.

So I will praise your name. You are God. You are good. I choose to trust. It is enough.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On the Road One Morning . . .

On my way to work this morning, my mind was wandering . . . always a dangerous thing! I've been employed by the same law firm for almost 10 years. It's a 1 mile commute from my home, and I am, shall we say, intimately familiar with the route.

Not much has changed in 10 years. Sure a few houses have changed ownership, new plants have been planted - but I have basically been waving at the same people on my "commute" for the past ten years.

Graduating college, through my pregnancies, the births of my children, buying a new home, the collapse of my marriage, turning 30, so many important milestones, marked right here, on this road . . .

Then my mind proceeded into sci-fi mode (told you that it was dangerous when my mind wanders), and I began to wonder what would happen if time itself dissolved, and I could meet myself on this same road 10 years ago. What would I say to myself? What wisdom would I impart? Would I warn myself about impending doom? Would I remind myself that I should take joy in EVERY moment?

And the answer came, sweet and soft. There is only one message that I would need to give my old "self", should sci-fi world ever come to pass. For all the "flights of fancy" advice I can think of, there is only ONE piece of wisdom that I would give a younger me:

Jesus is everything. Keep your eyes on Him. And don't worry, He is in control.

Sitting here at my keyboard, I am reminded that He has been SO faithful to me. I am safe and secure and am providing a safe and stable home for my children. I am a member of a loving family and church family. I am now 9 months cancer-free. He is SO GOOD. I would change nothing - not one thing - for He has walked with me, carrying me through it all. And I have learned after 32 years what it means to rest in the shadow of his wings.

I've been humming the old hymn I Know Who Holds Tomorrow all day. If I have Him, what else could I possibly need? What more could I possibly wish to know? It's ALL in Him.

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow

Thank you, Father, for holding my hand through it all.