Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In a Reading Kind of Mood

This is the beautiful book that I just couldn't bear to finish. It is quite easy to understand why this book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The language is beautiful - overwhelming in places, and the preservation of the multiple points of view of this family concerning their husband/father/family member's death is absolutely heart-wrenching. It is a literary masterpiece that takes you to places both dark and poignant. Which is where my problem lay, honestly. The story of a father's death still resonates a little too strongly with me, even so many years after Daddy has been gone. Reading the story - from Mary's, Rufus', Catherine's points of view - was overwhelming in many ways. I found myself so entranced with their emotions, feelings, and experience that their emotional turmoil became my own. I was inexplicably depressed here at Christmastime, mourning a man who, had he lived on from his death by accident, would have been naturally deceased years before my birth. And yet, that isn't particularly true. It wasn't his death. It was the impact upon the lives of those who loved him. It was the lasting hole, the festering wound, and the painful scar that is undoubtedly, indelibly left upon this family after the closing pages of the novel. It rocks all but the most grounded faiths. It brings no absolution, no peace. Only the certainty that one must move on from loss. My first sentence is true. I didn't finish it completely. I made it to page 285 of my edition and honestly could bear no more. The cruelty of the priest round about the page 260 mark about pushed me over the edge. But ultimately, it was the pain of the children. Too honest. Too intense. Too real. Perhaps one day I will return and finish the last few pages of this book. But, whether I do or do not return, one thing is certain. It has passed what is my own personal "test of great literature" - I will be thinking about this book for many years to come with that unsatisfied, aching feeling. A book that does not stop speaking with it's last page - THAT is the mark of great literature, and *A Death in the Family* certainly qualifies.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Faith is knowing that you don't take this journey alone

Yep. I’m in the Old Testament again. Something about it being in the beginning I guess. Another round of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . .

Today, I was reading about Abraham’s question to find a suitable wife for his son. The scripture seems to indicate that there wasn’t any real hurry for Isaac to marry, until his mother Sarah dies - then suddenly Abraham realizes that time is a-wastin’, and he better get that boy married off if he has any hope of grandchildren. But who to choose? Not a Canaanite woman for Isaac. So he calls in his faithful servant and sends him on an impossible mission: bring back the perfect woman. Understandably, the servant is skeptical - perfect woman? And what if I can’t even find your family? What if I find Ms. Perfect but she won’t come with me? What then? What if the camel has a flat in the desert?

Abraham makes a statement both simple and profound at once. “The Lord with whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. Then, when you go to my clan, you will be released from my oath even if they refuse to give her to you - you will be released from my oath.” Abraham essentially tells his servant, “Have faith, you aren’t going alone - there’s an angel that’s going to help you out with the negotiations. And you’re still worried that she won’t agree to travel with you? Fine. You just go. That’s all. I have enough faith that God has already taken care of the problem. Just go. And it will be enough.”

The father of the faithful is best seen in this light - trusting calmly in the promise. How I wish my faith was to that level. It seems that most of the time I want to assist the Lord in bringing about His promises, and then I get frustrated when I can’t. To quote Priscilla McGruder, “Today I
face a mountain that alone I cannot climb.” I’m 34 and have lived for God my whole life. I should know better. I should have great faith. I should trust. And yet - I still want overall approval of the plan before I sign off on it . . .

Today, my prayer is that my faith will be built. That I will trust that God has already taken care of the problem before me. That he has sent his angels along to prepare my way, just because I asked Him too. My responsibility? To go and do the work set before me, trusting that He will do the rest.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Lord given, and He taketh away . . . blessed be

What if God gave you everything you ever wanted, and then said, “Give it back”? Sounds cruel, right? Like some kind of twisted game small children play? Back in a less politically correct age, you would have been subjected to a perjorative term like “Indian-giver.” Even as a mature believer - one who counts her servitude as a blessing - I occasionally look at the circumstances of life - simple (a fight with a family member) or complex (the death of a young person) and come to the place of questioning? What sort of God gives and then requires the return of the gift?

Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t in the hands of the receiver. Abraham spent 100 years trusting God for everything. His only hope was God - if God did not deliver an heir, the promise would be without hope! And perhaps God began to wonder, years after Isaac had been given, years after watching the light in Abraham’s eyes each time he viewed his son, years after the promise was re-born in Abraham’s heart in a million different ways - perhaps then God began to wonder . . . does Abraham still trust me, or has he given his heart, his faith, away? Has he transferred his belief to the gift, rather than the giver? So God tested Abraham. Abraham passed.

Other Biblical figures did not pass every test. Moses impatiently struck the rock. Solomon worshiped his wisdom to distraction. Peter got so caught up in rules about what to eat that God had to give him a vision to get him back on track. What does it all mean? Why does God put this . . . stuff . . . in our way, knowing the whole time that it will “trip us up”. Why does he place our very weaknesses right before us as a challenge? Why bother to give us anything? Surely He who is all knowing already knows if we will pass the test or not. So, if He knows, what's the point?

Complicated question. Simple answer. Because He wants to check us. Because allowing us to have truly free will requires that He let go of the reins of control. He lets us mess up. He frees us to fail, if that's what we want. Why? To make sure that our priorities are exactly where they should be. The day that we begin to worship the gift more than the giver is the day that the spirit of Lot has overtaken us all. Distracted by the blessings, we will be unable to worship in spirit, and in truth. We will be imprisoned by the very thing meant to bless us.

I love what God has given me - my friends, my family, my home, the second chance at a life I thought I had forfeited. But if He should require it of me today, I hope that I could stand and give Him praise knowing that He who gave will not require more than I can bear. That He loves me, His child, and the gift more than I can imagine. While I may never fully understand why God chooses to give and take as He does, I know this: I love the Giver more than anything else. Anything. It is enough.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back to the Basics

There is no doubt that we are living in times of DOUBT! At least once every 5 minutes, someone is proclaiming that the end of the world is near and the sky is certainly about to fall. Lots of people are losing everything - my family has been touched by the loss of material things, too. And it is only human at those instances to ask the universal, timeless question: Why? Why me? Why this? Why now? Why?

Now after the fabulous set-up, the reader automatically expects an answer - sorry to disappoint, but I don't have one. I'm not sure why the economy is faltering, why it is affecting good people, why it can't be short-lived, why it is happening now, or why it has to happen. But, I will tell you a little secret - I'm hopeful. Hopeful because in times where life is not quite easy and people face tough choices, they remember where their strength truly lies: not in the economy, politics, government programs, or even church activities - but in God alone.

There are many promises in the Bible concerning His faithfulness in times of need. The one that I came across this morning is in Deuteronomy 30:9-10.

9) And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:

10) If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in the book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

I grew up in the Apostolic Pentecostal church (and I'm still there!) hearing about the great revivals that had occurred shortly before my birth. The early 70s. And, honestly, I've been waiting since then to see something on that scale again - more than a good "revival" set of services, more than a good night of worship, but a real calling to the people: dedicate, commit, live for Me, sacrifice. I've seen many a powerful church service, but, honestly again, I've seen very little personal dedication, and as a consequence, very little "follow-up" to that fabulous service. It's time for that to change.

The promise is there - if we will dedicate ourselves, He will respond as He has since time began. He will be faithful. Our finances will improve, our jobs become sound, and our toys return to their home in the garage. But those are just side effects to the whole: we will be of one purpose with Him. We will see souls not just saved, but irrevocably changed into WHOLENESS. Not just HEALED, but made WHOLE.

I hear the whisper of His words. The question for the reader is simple: do you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Promises, promises . . .

Genesis 11 was quite personal to me today. God speaks to Abram and tells him to GO. Abram GOES. God makes promises:  

Genesis 11:7 And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land:" and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.  

If I were Abram, I would be so excited. I would be waking up every morning and looking around for all the great - stuff - that God was promising. I can almost hear Abram waking up and singing - This land is my land! This land is my land! God said it's my land! The land of Canaan! And for a childless man - that his children would have the land? WOW.  

And then . . . nothing. Crickets chirped. Famine ensued. And, yep, still no children for Abram and Sarai. Interesting incidents with Abram asking Sarai to lie about being his sister, but no land was his land. And even if it were, there weren't any children to give it to.  

Abram believed in the promise, but it gets harder to believe when you wait and wait and wait and wait - and it still doesn't happen. God kept renewing the promise and blessing Abram in other ways, but still no son. Not for a long time. And no land to call his own. For the majority of his life, Abra(ha)m was a nomad.  

Most of us would love for God to promise us something, but we would have the fortitude to wait on it the way that Abraham did? Would our faith grow faint in waiting? God has promised me some things, and I often find myself getting frustrated because it is taking SO LONG to get there. Why can't God just hurry up, or at least give me a peek at the blueprints so that I will know what to expect?  

God made some promises to me a few months back. And life has been good, but not without challenges, especially for my fabulous husband. He's had to adjust to life in a new area, and God has been making serious changes to who he is becoming. Gone is the BMW, the high-octane job, the freedom and money to take endless vacations. And he's had to learn to cook, because he can't stand anything I make. I have no doubht that he's looked up several times and wondered exactly what he's gotten into and wondered where the promise is. But, like Abraham, he's a faithful man. And God is going to be faithful to him. And since I'm along for the ride too, I guess that means that eventually it will all make sense.  

I guess the answer is that God always delivers on His promises, but not necessarily in our time frame. Not necessarily the way we want to see it. Not necessarily in the manner that we expect. But He delivers. Abraham kept believing, in spite of the waiting and in spite of his "mess ups". I'm trying hard to learn to do the same thing. I'd still like to see those blueprints, though?