Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's 11:00 p.m. on the night before everything changes...

The kids and I had a great day, and we spent a really special evening together - the last one before they leave for their summer visit with their Dad next week.  After they were in bed, I completed my Biblical allusion assessment & rubric.  Tomorrow, my first graduate school class begins at 8:30 am at Mississippi College in Clinton.  What's on my mind?

The past six years have been bad enough to be worthy of Dante or V.C. Andrews.  My life has resembled a Lifetime movie more than anything else.  There have been times over that six years that I have become depressed & discouraged and wanted to give up, but I've always just fought through it and moved on.  Now, after four years of turmoil and two years of healing that felt like stagnation, I can see the pattern when I start looking back.  I can see how all those horrible things were really just stones in the brook.  When I was standing in that moment - on the proverbial "stone" - it felt like one of the circles of hell, and I wondered if God was listening or if He was otherwise occupied. 

Now, I'm nearing the other side of that particular brook, and looking back, I can see the nasty events for what they were:  stepping stones.  As bad as they were, I could not be who I am in THIS moment had it not been for the hell that hit me in THAT one.  I don’t mean to be vulgar in using the term “hell;” I mean it literally.  I truly believe that sometimes God allows the forces of hell to attack a human being for a purpose – one that He probably isn’t going to reveal to us on this side of eternity.  (If you don’t believe that, see the book of Job.  I think it’s pretty clear there.)  In those moments when I wanted to give up, that was certainly a choice that was before me.  I COULD have given up, given in, thrown in the towel, and decided to turn my back on what I have always believed…what I’ve always been…in favor of what felt good in the moment.  After all, that’s pretty much what the OTHER people involved in those particular crises were doing…

But I didn’t.  I kept going.  Imperfectly, sure.  But I kept moving forward, as much as I could.  Now, looking at the moments – the stones in the brook – I can say I’m thankful to have been through them, and now I am thankful to be leaving them behind.   I’ve crossed this brook with God’s help, with my hand firmly held in His.  Now, I’m ready for the next step on the journey of faith.  Bring on tomorrow: as long as He’s with me, it will be okay.

Monday, May 21, 2012

*The Lifeboat* by Charlotte Rogan - A book review

I picked up The Lifeboat because I have always been fascinated by shipwreck stories; there is something in the joining of a terrible need to survive juxtaposed the vast emptiness of the ocean that intrigues me. I'd also just finished Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken, so I figured this would perhaps be a kindred novel, if only a second cousin, once moved, from that nonfiction masterpiece.

Having finished the novel, I can say that Ms. Rogan's prose is quite lovely, and she is skillful in her use of metaphor, simile, symbol, and motif; the language is elevated, engaging and quite interesting in its own right. Troublesomely, however, I just can't like this novel, mostly because I just don't like Grace.

I wondered as I read the novel if perhaps the protagonist was named for the hero of Margaret Atwood's novel Alias Grace - I can certainly see some similarities between the women - but I LIKED Grace, despite her somewhat shadowy (and occasionally murderous) tendencies. Rogan's Grace, however, seems to be passively watching her life pass her by, shamelessly scheming to attract the attention of her wealthy husband by stealing him from his promised fiancee, while allowing herself to be steered into the murder of Mr. Hardie. As a reader, I wanted her convicted of being a really rotten human being at the same time that I wanted her acquitted of the crime.

Maybe it's the fact that I've been required to survive when I would rather have thrown in the towel myself and run for the hills. Maybe it's the torture of seeing so many children who are living below their worth because selfish parents passively allow life to happen to them. Maybe it's constantly watching people waste the precious gift of life they've been given in favor of the latest episode of "The Bachelor..." Or maybe I just can't stand people who would rather follow the crowd and do what they know to be wrong rather than standing up for what they know to be right. Maybe it's all of that, put in a blender and chopped into a fine smoothie of distaste....

All in all, this leads to what is a perhaps slightly complex review. I appreciate this novel for its use of language & its complexity. I could teach it because it has the elements needed to make a "good' study., but I'd really prefer never to read it again because I hope never to "meet" up with Grace again. Instead, I'd rather send a letter to her attorney telling him to rescind his proposal...

Monday, May 14, 2012

In the darkness...I shall not be moved

I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8)

To everyone one of us, night seasons will come - those seasons when we cannot see the best way to move, seasons when every possible path seems fraught with difficulty, confusion, and defeat. It is in those very seasons that we must cling to the knowledge that we do not walk alone.

There is an important step that can protect us in these dark seasons of the soul, but it is a step that can only be taken before we enter them: we must make sure that we are following His lead. If during the seasons when the sun is brightly shining we have developed firm "reins" in our souls, tethering us to His purpose...if we have attuned our spirits to feel the gentlest instruction from His hands as He guides those reins, we need not fear the darkness. For in the darkness, He can guide us by those gentle touches, even as our eyes are failing. This isn't something God can do to us or for us; they are "MY" reins, and therefore they must be entered into voluntarily.

For the Christian who is truly sold out to faith and who is devoted in every way to walking the paths that Christ has intended, we know ahead of time that the darkness will come, and we know even more certainly that we must count on living much of our lives without being able to "see" His plan for us. Even when we can see, it is usually the pattern of where we have been, not where we are going. That's what faith is about: forming the reins of control, trusting the steering of the spirit, and resting in the calm assurance that He who I have placed at the right hand of my soul will keep me safe. And resting in that promise, I shall not be moved.