Friday, July 31, 2015

Was Blind But Now I See

Last Thursday, because of the rain and overcast skies, I had to do something I rarely have to do--I had to turn on my office light in the middle of the day.  With four huge windows letting in the daylight, I seldom have to add any extra illumination to my office.  After all, with that much natural light shining in, it makes little difference whether my overhead light is on or not.  In fact, most days I wouldn't notice a difference at all.  So why waste the electricity if the light serves no purpose or has no effect.

On Thursday, however, I needed the light.  With the dark skies and absence of sunlight, my office was dim and gloomy.  I could see well enough to type and use my computer, but not well enough to read.  So, after a few minutes of trying to decipher the words on the paper before me, I finally stood up and pulled on the cord to light up the room.  Wow!  What a difference!  The light that typically would have gone unnoticed created a more comfortable and productive environment.

It's a bit like trying to use headlights or a flashlight during a bright day.  It's pointless.  It makes no difference whatsoever.  But bring on the darkness, and suddenly, we become very appreciative of the light.  Strange, huh?  But Job understood, and I think I'm beginning to.

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. - Job 42:5

This verse takes place smack dab in the midst of Job's suffering.  His wealth had been destroyed.  His children had been killed.  His health had been ripped away from him.  His friends (if you could call them that) had been less than encouraging.  And now, he's just gotten a speech from God like no other.  God wasn't angry with Job.  He wasn't trying to be cocky or condescending. He simply wanted Job to understand that Job couldn't understand. He needed to remind Job Who was in control.

So how does Job respond?  Differently than I often do when God has to set me straight.  I tend to huff and puff, pout and cry and finally realize that God was right (no duh, right?).  Job, on the other hand, decided to take a different approach, to view his trials with a different perspective.  "I've heard about you, God.  I've served You.  I've talked about You.  But, now," Job says as his eyes fill with tears, "now I've seen You."  Leave it to the darkness to reveal the Light.  No, there's nothing like a lack of sunshine to make us appreciative of the Source of all light.

Shouldn't that knowledge change the way we look at our troubles?  Job's wife wanted him to give up and die.  His friends wanted him to look deep inside himself and see where he went wrong.  But God wanted Job to see Him, and in His infinite wisdom, He knew that the Light was much easier to spot in the darkest of times.

So what about our struggles?  Are we having a hard time because we're being punished?  Well, that should be easy enough to answer.  We know what's right and what's wrong.  So, if that's not the cause of our suffering, could it be that God is allowing us to go through some dark times so that we can better catch a glimpse of Him.  Not a glimpse of His blessings.  Not a glimpse of what He can do or has done.  But a glimpse of Who He is.  Counselor.  Comforter.  Savior.  Friend.  Can you see Him?  It's one thing to know God, to serve Him and to talk about Him, but it's quite another to actually see Him for Who He is.  Through the darkness, He's giving us the opportunity to do just that.

Perhaps the darkness isn't so bad after all.  What do you think?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

So Sorry, Lord!

Whew, it has been quite a week!  For the past two days, my poor husband has worked 16-hour shifts, beginning around 7:30 in the morning and getting home after I've gone to bed.  Yesterday, my 14-year-old beagle suffered some sort of pain spasms.  For nearly an hour, she held her left foot off the ground, panted like crazy and limped from room to room, whining all the while.  Honestly, I thought she might have been dying.  So, I did everything I could to make her comfortable, setting her down in a cool place and giving her some pain relievers while massaging the tight muscles in her neck and shoulder joints.  Finally, she calmed down and drifted off into a deep sleep.  By the time we went to bed last night, she was walking around and acting like her normal self.

This morning, because of Jason's schedule, we had to get up around 6:00.  I am not a morning person!  What made things worse it that I discovered that Tippy, the beagle who had had such a hard time yesterday, was lying in a pool of pee.  Evidently, she was feeling some better but not better enough to get up and go outside to take care of business.  I spent the morning trying to get Jason's lunch together, bathing the dog, washing the linens and mopping the floor--all of this before 8:00.  Not a happy camper!  And I won't even go into all the other little inconveniences I've had to deal with already this week.

The more I thought about the hectic schedules and the constant interruptions, the more I wanted to fuss and complain.  But then, I was reminded of a verse I read in my devotions last week--a verse that I marked so that I wouldn't forget it.  I must warn you, though, this is not a flip-flop kind of verse, so you may want to put on your steel-toed boots before reading any further.

And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled. - Numbers 11:1a

Oh, ouch!  It hurts, doesn't it?  But it's true.  Every time we complain, we displease the Lord because He does hear it.  In fact, He evens hears the complaints that never make it through our lips.  Because He knows all things, He is aware of even our thoughts of complaint and discontentment, and those things anger Him.  We can hardly blame Him.  I mean, after all He's done for us, how dare we complain?  He gives us rain, and we wish for sunshine.  He gives us cooler weather, and we wish for warmer.  He gives us provisions, and we desire something else.  Ungrateful, that's what we are.

As much as it hurts to read and to think on this verse in Numbers, though, I'm glad the Lord brought it to my attention.  Without it, I probably would have allowed my complaints to run rampant this morning.  But with that verse in my memory, I was reminded what it would cost me if I complained.  Was it worth displeasing my Lord?  Was it worth evoking His anger?  I mean, when you think about it, when has complaining ever helped to make the situation better?  And despite what some may say, it doesn't make us feel any better either.  If anything, it makes us feel worse and puts us in a state of self-pity.  I don't know about you, but I don't have time for that.  I'm also not willing to displease my Father in such a way.

Life can be rough, and the fact of the matter is that it is in our fleshly nature to complain.  However, our spiritual nature is the one we're supposed to be heeding.  Before complaining, consider the cost.  Is it worth displeasing the Lord for a few minutes of ranting and raving?  I say, "No."  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Are You Done?

Jason probably won't appreciate my sharing this story, but he knows that I'm telling it to make a point, nothing more.  Besides, it's simply too funny to not be shared.

Sunday mornings are generally a huge rush to get ready for church.  Showers, breakfast, the ironing of clothes, one final practice for my selected offertory, packing up my computer for my Sunday School class, feeding the dogs, etc.  Some things can be done the night before, but most of these things have to be done Sunday morning, so occasionally things can get a bit hectic.  This past Sunday, however, we were doing fairly well on time.  We both got up when the alarm went off, and things seemed to be running smoothly.

The standing rule in our house is whoever gets ready first starts working on breakfast.  Well, this week, it happened to be me, but just barely.  I was just getting started when Jason came out and basically took over the operation.  (Sunday morning breakfasts are usually very simple.)  Since he had the situation under control, I took the opportunity to go put my makeup on.  I was going to wait until after breakfast because in this summer heat, it melts off rather quickly, but since I was really just standing around in the kitchen watching him work, I felt that doing my makeup would be a better use of my time.

When I was done, I came back out to the kitchen and helped Jason put the finishing touches on breakfast.  "Sorry about that," I said, "I just figured since you had everything in hand here, I'd go ahead and put my makeup on."  He looked up at me, studied my face, then asked, "Are you done?"  Having been married to my sweet love for over 18 years now, I knew that what he meant was that if I needed more time to finish my makeup, he would finish up breakfast.  However, my redheaded, sassy side simply could not let a comment like that pass.  I faced him, mustered up the best poochy lip I could and whined, "Yes, honey, I'm done.  I'm afraid this is as good as it gets."  That comment earned me a well-deserved slap on my rear end.  Hehehehe!  Aren't I terrible?

On the serious side, I often look at myself in a spiritual sense and wonder, Is this as good as it gets?  It is then that I hear that sweet, gentle reminder, "No, child.  I'm not done with you yet.  Just give it some time.  I'm still working on you."  Hallelujah!  I am not a finished product, and neither are you.  I honestly believe that God will be working on us until the moment He takes us home, constantly molding and making us into what He wants us to be.  We will never "arrive" this side of Heaven, but we can continue to improve.

I'm not what I want to be, and  I'm not what I'm going to be.  But, praise God, I'm not who I used to be.  He's still working on me and making me into a vessel fit for His use, so that one day He will behold all the work that He's done and exclaim, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  He does the work, and I get the praise.  How about that!

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beware the Burnout

These long, hot, South Carolina summer days are hard on my air conditioner, which is only about 10 years shy of being as old as I am (not that that's old for people, mind you.)  For air conditioners, however, that's a long life, and with every passing year, the poor thing reminds us just how tired and weary it has become.

On 90°+ days, the air will kick on before lunch time and run non-stop until the wee hours of the next morning.  Let's face it, air conditioners simply aren't made for that kind of consistent running.  And it's not like we keep the house all that cool.  The thermostat is set for 73° during the day and 68° at night.  Hardly the arctic.

Because of its inefficiency, the poor thing will run itself into a state of total exhaustion.  In other words, it freezes up completely.  Yep, after hours of constant running, it gives out and locks down.  The sound of the motor changes into a funky roar, which is my cue to turn the air off until the unit has had a chance to recover and pray that the house doesn't grow too warm in the process.  Just another one of those quirks I've talked about that come with owning an old house full of old equipment.

When the air conditioner decided to throw one of its fits the other day, to be honest, I wanted to join it.  After dancing the dance with my washing machine (see that post here if you have no idea what I'm talking about) and combatting both the ants and fleas that are determined to invade my home, I had honestly had quite enough.  Like my air unit, I felt like I had been running nonstop, and I was tired and weary.  I felt like locking up and shutting down.  After all, it seemed easier than to keep trying to fight these same battles over and over again.

What I had nearly forgotten (praise the Lord for "nearly") was that there was a third option.  Choice number one was to keep running and keep fighting until I finally dropped from exhaustion.  Choice number two was to quit before I reached that point.  Choice number three somewhat combined the first two as it involved my continuance in running and fighting but to quit trying to do it in my own strength.  Don't quit the race; just quit trying to run it on my own.

With that gentle reminder from the Lord, I turned off the air and took a few moments in the silence to be still before the Lord.  I turned my day and my work over to Him, along with all my frustrations and weariness.  I prayed that He would accomplish His work through me and that I would be a willing vessel.  And you know what?  The weariness lifted.  The frustrations eased.  And I felt like I could go on.

We live in hectic times, and it is harder than ever to be still.  There is so much to do, so many tasks to accomplish.  But, friend, remember burnout is real!  And it happens when we get so busy doing that we forget why we're doing it and Who we're doing it for.  It also occurs when we get so caught up in the process of getting things done that we take on each day's battles on our own, forgetting that Jesus said, "Without me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Yes, there is much to do, but God never called us to do it alone.  On the contrary, He promised to always be with us and to be our strength.  Stop stressing.  Stop running yourself to the point of exhaustion.  Give your burden to Jesus and allow Him to work through you.  In His strength, you'll be able to accomplish all that He wants you to do, and you won't suffer a burnout in the process.

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. - II Thessalonians 3:13