Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Now What?

I have not stopped recalling the goodness of God. I just haven't been able to post about it.
A little over a year ago I wrote about a convention I was attending with my chaplain husband. I mentioned that about 13% of Assemblies of God clergy are female, but only about 1.6 percent of those women serve as either "senior" or "solo" pastors.

The percentage is dropping by a bit.

I have resigned as the pastor of Jubilee. I will be their pastor until the end of February. After that--I don't know what I'll be doing.
For almost a year I have sensed change in the works, but I did not know what form it would take. Then late last summer I got what I think was one of those "nudges" from the Spirit, but didn't know what to think. When I went on sabbatical I hoped to return with renewed energy, focus, and authority--that didn't happen. The first week of my time away I felt I was to leave my congregation, and that it would be soon. I did not want that. I still don't want that, in many ways. I returned from sabbatical more tired than when I left, telling those who wondered that I had been "wrestling with God like Jacob at Bethel." That is just how I felt. I raged. I cried. I hollered. I prayed. I said, "I WILL NOT LET YOU GO UNLESS YOU BLESS ME!" You know the drill? Nothing happened to indicate to me that I was wrong and that I needed to stay.

Long story short, last Sunday I resigned. I cried. The congregation cried. We hugged one another with tears running down our faces. So much for these stoical Wisconsin folks. :-) That was so difficult it is indescribable. I love these dear little "sheep" of mine. They love me too. I've had detractors, and even enemies who would have rejoiced to see me resign, but they are gone. I thought to myself, "Are you CRAZY leaving a congregation where the people LOVE you?"

Part of the struggle I have waged for the last four months is that I do not know what to do now. My husband is not leaving his ministry at the prison, so that means I have a limited geographical area to choose from. There is no pulpit waiting for me, at least not that I know of as of now.

I need a paycheck. Do I apply for a secular job? Do I do temp work? Do I start sending resumes? I do not know. I'm giving myself a few days to get my thoughts together, but I will need to take some step soon. But which direction?

I would LOVE to travel and minister in different places. I don't necessarily think I will pastor again, though I am not opposed to that. I also know how difficult it can be these days to try to "make a living" by speaking in churches.

For now I am grieving. I am grieving for hopes I had that were not fulfilled, for my dear congregation that I know I hurt, for people I love, for no longer being part of that 1.6 per cent. (I don't know why that matters, but it does.)

Here are just a few pictures of Jubilee people from over the last eight years. I know a few of my church people do stop in here from time to time. I love you, and I pray God's blessings for each of you, and for the church as a whole. God is still God, and God still has a plan.

Prayers appreciated. God, HELP!

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's a Winter Friday Five

The picture is out a window at my place, complete with screen. ;-)

Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. If you comment, I'm not ignoring you if I don't visit. My computer has a cold, or a headache...or something. Anyway, it keeps crashing. Here goes.

1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?
- 6

2. Snow—love it or hate it?
Both. I love beautiful snowfalls, frosty days, snow on the evergreens, snow for Christmas. And I hate shoveling, and being cold, and slipping on ice for months on end. And today I'm just plain ol' cold. The sun is shining now, but clouds and snow are heading our way from Madison.

3. What is winter like where you are?
See above. Having grown up in Southern California, I actually do enjoy having four distinct seasons, but the thing is, winter just goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on.....way too long. I enjoy it when it first arrives, but by March I'm thinking it should be spring. Instead March can be the most snowy, wintry, stormy winter month of all.

4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?
No. And no. I'm too klutzy for sports--but snowmobiles are fun.

5. What is your favorite season, and why?
It is hard to say. I love fall, and crisp days and changing colors and fall clothing and all that. I love spring, as any long-time reader of this blog knows all too well, with it's splashes of color as the daffodils and tulips pop open, and I love the anticipation of green leaves and warmer days. And I love summer because it is warm. And I love camping and being outside. I guess I have three favorite seasons. :-)

Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.

When the thermometer hovers around zero and the snow flies and the wind blows, it is awful if one has to go to work or other necessary places. But I admit, being the coach potato that I basically am, I like being warm, curling up on the couch with a good book, a cup of soup and an afghan. Or maybe warming up the house by baking. Or watching videos. I like being inside as I watch the snow outside.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 11

Psalm 69:29-31 I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Many moments of my life, when I recall them in memory, are accompanied by music. It's like a sort of soundtrack to SingingOwl's Life Story. For example, when I think of my sisters as they were in my childhood, I see them in the poodle skirts so popular in the 50s, hear the swishing of their multiple crinoline petticoats, and then I see them in the living room of our old house, trying to learn to do "the bop" adequately so that when they sneaked out to the high school dance (we were Southern Baptists and dancing was a sin, doncha' know?) they would not disgrace themselves. I never hear the song "Tequila" without a smile, picturing the two of them. Once the late Richie Valens (think La Bamba) asked my sister to dance.

As a very nearsighted, confused and often frightened child, I would curl up on our scratchy couch while I listened to some classical recording. Moonlight Sonata and Claire de Lune are two I recall. In my imagination I was flying away on the back of a big bird, soaring above the city, the houses, the noise, the uncertainty, to bask in sunlight and reach out to the clouds.

I remember the first time I heard The 1812 Overture. I was in 7th grade and our teacher decided to try a few music appreciation sessions. I was enthralled and went right home and begged my dad to take me to something called The Cal Store to buy the album. I still have that scratchy record.

My childhood church memories are usually accompanied by a mental soundtrack which includes, songs like Leaning On the Everlasting Arms, When We All Get to Heaven, and Take the Name of Jesus With You. School memories are accompanied by late 50s early or 60s songs like "Yakity Yak" or "Que Sera Sera" or "Leader of the Pack." High school memories are accompanied by the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Steppenwolf, Cream or Iron Butterfly. Rhapsody in Blue or songs from Porgy and Bess play in certain memories of my sister, Darlaine. Or sometimes it's Mahalia Jackson. And on it goes. Church memories from the 70s have a background recording of gospel songs like, He Touched Me or I'll Fly Away or I Saw the Light. (We were in the south at the time.) Later it was He is Lord. These days it might be Blessed Be the Name.

What does this have to do with God's goodness? A great deal. I am recalling the comfort, the fun, the energy, and the spiritual solace or joy that have come to me over the years through God's gift of music. Sometimes a song comes easily. Other times it is a choice to sing through sadness.

What a blessing this gift is, and how different, and more difficult, life would be without a song!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 10

I thank you, Lord, that I have a warm house, a blanket, a couch, and food to eat. I am not being facetious, because I know there are many who do not have these things. Thank you that I can come in from the cold. Please help those who are homeless on cold streets tonight to find a place of warmth, and even more, a place of hope and healing.

The temperature was -13 when we left for church this a.m. Right now it is -1. The wind chill is about -25. I am SO GLAD I am not among the crowd at Lambeau Field in Green Bay!

Now, to settle in to watch the big championship game. Odd, but I do not care about sports--but I am infected with Packer fever right now, just like everyone else here behind the cheddar curtain.

Super Bowl, here we come. Maybe.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Five--Read Any Good Books Lately?

Over at RevGals, REVHROD gives us this weeks Friday Five:
1.What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?

I have always been a voracious reader, and for some reason reading has become difficult over the last six months. I don't know what's up, but I hope it gets set right soon! Let me think...I think it would be "Secrets of the Secret Place" by Bob Sorge. Yes, it is a not-so-good title. But the book is better than its name. As someone who has often struggled to find joy in devotional times, this book was a valuable help. Some chapters are much better than others, and some may disagree at some points with his occasionally simplistic approach. But connecting with God should be simple in a sense. Anyway, I recommend it to those who are seeking fresh insight into why time alone with the Lord is so essential and some specific insights to consider.

2. What is one of your favorite childhood books?

Just one? I have dozens of favorites. "Little Women." My sisters and I read it over and over and over and over and... well actually I read anything Louisa May Alcott wrote. I also loved "Eight Cousins." Then there was " The Sugar Creek Gang," a Christian book series from the 30s or 40s that I found in a box in the attic. Oh, and who could miss the "Dr. Dolittle" books? Or Ramona and Beezus? I read "Black Beauty" so many times I wore it out. Or "The Wind in the Willows?" That is a book that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Oh, I'll stop. I was a kid who always had my "nose in a book" as my mom used to say.

3. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!

Oh, that is hard too. If I MUST pick just one I pick Isaiah and Psalms. (Okay, I cheated.) Isaiah is for it's wonderful poetry, and the fact that I have felt God communicating with me more times from Isaiah than any other book. As for Psalms, one has to love the raw honesty, the laments, the acknowledgement that life does not always seem to make sense, the consistent determination to trust God anyway, and the glorious passages of praise. I turn to Psalms in moments of great joy and in moments of great distress. They are songs, you know.

4. What is one book you could read again and again?

"A Walk Across America" and "The Walk West" by Peter Jenkins. They are dated in the sense that Jenkins walk was done in the 70s. However, his tale is fascinating, uplifting, surprising and encouraging. I've read these books several times, and each time I feel like I am on the road with Pete. What memorable places! What fascinating people! This is especially so because they are real.

5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?

The Day I Was Crucified by Gene Edwards. There are some parts that do not square totally with the gospel accounts, but I found this book intriguing because it is written in the first person, from Jesus' perspective. I do like Gene Edwards very much, but he can be a bit of an acquired taste.

Bonus: The bonus question asks what I would write about if I was authoring a book, and who would I want to write the jacket blurb expounding on my talent.

I have ideas percolating (ever since a short series written here) on concepts of "The Church" versus "the church"--meaning the invisible and universal church comprised all all believers in Jesus Christ and the local expression of that--and why the two seem so disconnected sometimes. Or then again, once I am famous, I could just write an autobiography. I actually do have some interesting stuff to share. :-) Oh, jacket about my very smart friend Dr. Platypus (Darrell Pursifel).

Why am I suddenly incapable of just ONE answer?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To All My Politically Minded Evangelical Friends--RANT WARNING!

With rare exceptions, I don't usually write about politics at The Owl's Song. That doesn't mean I don't pay attention or that I have no interest in politics, just that I don't want to write about it. I have rarely told anyone who I am voting for, and I know there have been at least two occasions when my husband and I voted differently.

In my sidebar are a few links to individuals who frequently write about politics. I'm thinking of two in particular. Their views differ widely. They are both intelligent and thoughtful, both believers in Jesus Christ, both people who seek to practice what they preach, both people of integrity who have my deepest admiration and respect. One is quite conservative. The other is quite--shhhh-- liberal.

I tend to agree with one more than the other. Not saying which. Both of them make me think, and that is enough. I don't have to agree with people to value their insights.

Sojourners has a bumper sticker I'd like to acquire. It says;

Could the "evangelical" community PLEASE stop sniping at people in (at best) mean spirited ways, or (at worst) with outright lies and slander? Are we so stupid that we really think any piece of trash that arrives in our email is truth? Have you not all received a sweetly worded "Christian" attempt to get you to hand over your bank account information so that some lovely brother or sister far away can give you millions of dollars? Did you believe it? Are you still forwarding the email about Jane Fonda? Or the one that claims Microsoft is going to track email and all involved will receive money?
The more I receive horrid pieces of writing about Hillary Clinton, the more I like her. I note that none of the numerous emails I have received, some shocking in their hatred, discuss her position on issues. That is because, contrary to popular belief, she is far less "liberal" than some of her competition. We just like to hate her. It's so nice to feel superior.

And as for Barack Obama--yesterday I received one more email warning me that he won't even salute the flag. Oh, the horror of it! And he is a secret radical Muslim with terrorist backing. After all, that name says it all, don't you think? Both facts are, in fact, lies. Since when is it okay to gossip, to slander, to repeat any amount of damaging "information" without checking to see if it is

Last time I checked, "Thou shalt not bear false witness" was still one of the Ten Commandments.
It's a long time till election day. Sigh. Put this link to Snopes on your desktop. Pay particular attention to the POLITICS link. And if you send me one more piece of information trashing someone, I may vote for them out of spite.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rcalling God's Goodness 10

Earl Creps, who is linked in my sidebar, was the head of the Doctoral Studies Department at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO until recently. He and his wife, Jan, also a minister, have left their five acres of land and lovely home and their nice position at AGTS, and have started travelling to raise funds to begin a campus church in Berkeley, California. Dr. Earl was the speaker at the conference I attended Monday and Tuesday. He and Jan shared their story, a humorous and interesting account of how God led them one step at a time. Some of the things that happened to confirm this new direction were absolutely uncanny.

It started me thinking. Today I am reminding myself of times in my life when I was seeking the will of God and there seemed to be little signposts appearing along the way. Some will call them coincidences, but I choose to call them God. If I'm wrong, no big deal, but I do not want to cheapen the awareness that God Almighty actually loves and cares for me by calling what seems to be the work of God's hand simply "a strange coincidence." I'll share just three of those small signposts, from a time many years ago.
If you have read previous posts in my little series, you know that I was discouraged from seeking ministerial credentials. It took a while for me to see that I had been given wrong direction, and to work up the courage to approach the issue again. There was a deadline for beginning the process. As it approached, I prayed more fervently.
Two days before my application was due, one of my husband's "pastor magazines" arrived in the mail. The theme of the issue? "Women in Ministry." Every article related to that topic. On the cover was a picture of a woman in a suit, holding a Bible. Her face was not visible, but in every other way it could have been a picture of me. Her hands, her Bible, even the plum color of her suit looked like me.
It was a push that made me decide to proceed. I thought, "What harm can it do just to take the test?" I passed the test with a 100%! The district superintendent later told me he could nor remember anyone having passed with 100% before. I took that as another nudge. I could have just assumed that it pointed to my brilliance, but I knew better.
The interviews and screening process proceeded, and all went well, but there was one more problem. The candidates were asked to wear a dark suit. I did not have a dark suit, and I did not have the money to purchase one. About a week before the ordination service I went into a local "Cheapo Clothes Mart" and high on the back wall hung a display of winter suits, under a big banner that read "BLOWOUT CAREER DRESSING SALE!-- Everything 75% Off!"
I got my dark clothes for a price I could manage. I was the only woman in a group of about 30, to be credentialed that year. I've purchased better suits in the years since, but never one that moved me to tears like that one did.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Back Soon

I'm heading out of town for a short conference. I could use prayer--need to make some very important decisions.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 9

II Cor. 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Today I am recalling times when I was weak, but God was strong. It is such a paradox. If I get sloppy, I can't count on God to step in and rescue me. When I give it my best, but I am weak or sad or--just not what I want to be, then God is so often gracious and gives me the energy, the words, the insights I need.

Today was such a day.

My best is never enough. But God's grace truly is sufficient, and when I feel the least strong on my own--so often God is there in an evident way. Have you found that to be so?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 8



(Just kidding.) I needed a little levity today.
But we DO all know that the big G stands for God's team.
You didn't know that? Not from Wisconsin, eh?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 7

Isaiah 1:17-18

Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.

“Come let’s reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow...

Outside the snow is falling. The weather report indicates we will get about four inches of "the white stuff" tonight. We do get tired of snow up in the north, except for die-hard skiers. However, there is something almost magical about snow.

When I lived in Southern California, we spoke of how we'd like to "go to the snow." For Los Angeles people, that meant a trip out of the basin and up to the mountains. Ken and I were laughing recently, remembering how our church youth group would dress for the cold. We layered on two, or maybe three pairs of socks, long underwear (if we could find such an item) or sweat pants over our jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, coats, hats, gloves. I am surprised we could walk, but we'd trudge up a hill and careen down on a sled or toboggan. The thing that made us laugh was recalling the bright, sunny days we spent in those mountains. The temperatures might be in the 30s, or even 40s, but the snow was deep and we thought it was horribly frigid.

We always hoped it would snow while we were up in the mountains. It never did. I never saw snow fall until I left the state years later to accompany my Marine husband to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In those days in California I knew snow was white and I knew snow was cold and wet. I had no idea of the many kinds of snow one can experience! There are the lovely, fluffy flakes familiar from Christmas movies. Everyone loves that kind of snow. It is beautiful and it is light, making it easy to shovel off the driveways. It covers tree branches and twigs and fences and lamp posts with a lacy frosting that transforms an ordinary landscape into a wonderland. There is the snow that resembles tiny ice pellets, whipping painfully into your face and down your collar as the wind howls. There is heavy, wet, backbreaking snow. There is snow mixed with ice, a treacherous combination. If conditions are right, there is snow that sparkles in the moonlight as though dusted with diamonds--one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. There are large flakes and "dry" snow, and tiny flakes and "wet" snow.

Regardless, snow is white. Snow on a sunny day can be painfully white.

When we were students at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND, we had a friend and fellow-student who had come to school in the USA from Nigeria. Why he was attending school in North Dakota was beyond our comprehension. The poor man was never warm, even in mid summer.

I recall him standing at a window in the college cafeteria on a rare day when the wind was still. Our friend was experiencing his first snowfall, and he was watching the lacy flakes drift down with a look of wonder in his eyes. He was speaking quietly to himself, and drawing near to him, I realized he was saying, "Oh God! Oh, Lord God! How wonderful! Wash my and I shall be whiter than snow! Whiter than snow!"

Ah the wonder that you, Almighty God, divine Creator of all that is, want to speak with me. Thank you for the promise of cleansing, of purity, of a fresh beginning! Wash me from my iniquities, as the Psalmist said. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:10).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 6

From Psalm 71

For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.
By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.
I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

I was born in 1950. (No guffaws from the back of the room please. I am not a geezer and never will be.)
I was also born one of two, and my mother's much-anticipated twins arrived three months ahead of our due date. Nowadays, that doesn't mean what it did in 1950. The chances of a preemie of 6 mos. gestation surviving outside the womb then were minuscule. Neonatal units did not yet exist.
My twin did not make it past day three. Her tiny grave is in a lovely cemetery in California's San Fernando Valley. I haven't been there in many years, but I recall it as filled with the scent and the sound of rustling eucalyptus trees. The little marker reads, "This bud He plucked for His own." My mother told me that she had sewn two delicate little dresses as soon as she heard she was carrying twins. My twin was buried in her dress, holding a tiny pink rosebud in her hand. My dress is packed away in a chest.

My mother always said the baby, named Beatrice, (I was Baby A; she was Baby B-- I still have the tiny bracelets) looked perfect, just incredibly small. She weighed about two pounds.
Mother also related that neither of us had been expected to live. Her heart was broken as she looked at the two tiny infants in incubators. She was not allowed to hold us. (It was 1950.)
On her second night in Los Angeles' Good Samaritan Hospital, she had a strange dream. In it she saw that the smaller twin was taken to God, who spoke to my mother, saying, "I am plucking this bud for my own. She will be waiting. I am leaving the other little bud for you."
She awoke the next morning with an indescribable peace, and almost no sadness in her heart. Not long after, the doctor entered the room to tell her that the second twin had died in the night. He was not optimistic about my survival, but my mother was. Five weeks later I arrived home, to the joy of my two older sisters. There have been lasting physical effects, but God has granted me life in this world.
Heavenly Father-Mother,
Thank you for my life--all of it--good and bad. Thank you, Loving and Merciful God, for comforting my mother in her time of sorrow. Thank you for taking "Baby B" to live with you, and that she will be waiting for me. If it's all right, tell her I love her, and I eagerly await our first meeting.
I'm not recalling God's goodness just to let you know more than you need to know about me. It is a reminder, and I have to stop and think each day. I hope it makes you think of some of the things on your list.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 5

One day, some years ago, I sat in the office of an official of my denomination. I had come, a recently graduated woman hoping to be a minister, to discuss that very thing. He was a good man, a kind and courteous man. He also was not supportive of women in ministry. I did not know this. In those days I had no idea just how few women clergy were part of the Assemblies of God, nor that many of our leaders were not exactly enthusiastic supporters of our excellent position paper titled "The Role of Women in Ministry"--that is if they had actually read it. I have found that the majority of our rank-and-file clergy have not. I'm not sure about those in higher levels of leadership. (I rejoice to say that our new General Superintendent, George Wood, is an outspoken proponent of full participation of women in the life of the church. I LOVE that guy!)

This particular official assured me that plenty of opportunities for ministry would be available to me as a pastor's wife. We had a long conversation. I was relatively young and quite naive, and I was most decidedly neither confident nor assertive. I took his advice to be the best pastor's wife I could be, and to support my husband in his ministry.

It worked, after a fashion, for a while. I loved people, taught Bible studies, counseled women, led the choir, and so on. But I was unhappy on some sort of deep level and I finally realized that I was not called to simply support my minister-husband (though I gladly did and I still do). It was as I'd thought in the beginning; I too was called to be a minister. I mean a "professional" one, for lack of a better term.

By this time we were in a different area of the country. When I worked up the courage to approach another "official" I was warmly encouraged. And when I passed the first credentials exam with 100% I rejoiced and counted it a sign from above!

It has been a long journey, this ministry path, and there have been many twists and turns and some major disappointments--and a lot of those questions I mentioed a day or so ago. I'm still living it out, still unsure about many things, still trying to get it right, still sometimes very disheartened about the pervasive prejudice I see towards women in ministry.

But today I am remembering and thanking God for one woman professor who believed in and encouraged me, for my husband who not only encouraged but PUSHED me to be what I was called to be, for the encouragement of some of our leaders here in Wisconsin, and for the people who have enriched my life--professors, fellow pastors, parishioners and friends both in "real life" and in cyberspace.

Thank you, God, for encouragers in my life. May I always be one for others.

UPDATE: Those of you who read Questing Parson's blog will have heard of Ginger. Whether or not you are a QP reader, I highly recommend THIS post.
The Parson is an encourager, and I love him for it!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 4

Today is Trinity's first birthday! 'Nuff said.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Recalling God's Goodness 3

Okay, Nightmare, your comment made me laugh, so this one is for you.

Two days ago I thanked God for my precious eyesight. Only when I almost lost it did I really understand just how precious a gift it is. I thank God for the other senses too. In addition to sight there is touch, hearing, smell, and taste.

I once knew someone who did not have taste buds. Now in the grand scheme of life, I suppose it would be less of an adjustment to functioning in home, society and work, etc. to have no taste buds instead of no eyes, no ears, no sense of touch. But just imagine with me for a moment the blessing of taste!

Do we need to enjoy food to subsist? Not really. But imagine the juicy goodness of a peach picked fresh from the tree. A really good garden-ripened tomato, or the spicy pungence of a really well made dish of Pud Thai. (You haven't eaten Pud Thai? Stop reading this blog and find a good Thai restaurant and order a plate, and think of me as you eat it.) Imagine a really good hamburger with the works on it, or a cold, crisp salad with greens picked from a garden. The sweet snap of a fresh pea pod between your teeth, the buttery goodness of corn on the cob, the cinnamon-flavored warmth of homemade apple pie, the first cup of coffee in the morning, the smooth sweetness of a chocolate malt, the salty cruch of a pretzel, the richness of peanut butter.

What blessings! Thank you, God, for our senses. And bless my friend Nightmare as he heads to the fridge after reading this post. I hope to make you a big batch of spaghetti one of these days, buddy. :-)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Month of Recalling God's Goodness

A nice Anonymous left a comment to my Questions post below that made me think of something.

I will do as the Psalmist did, as I said, but I'll do it in posts. It will be a month of recalling the goodness, the might, the glory, the blessings of God. One each day (at least). I started in yesterday's post, so this is numero dos.

I remember a night, years ago, about a week before Christmas, when my husband was hospitalized and near death. He did not know it, but I did. My heart was full of fear, and I sat in bed all night reading Psalm 91 and praying portions of it for him, for me, and for my young children.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler...
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day...
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways...

It was indeed "terror by night" and I hung on to God, as best I could, for hours. About 4 a.m. I grew calm and I fell asleep. My husband did not die. Were my prayers better than someone's who lost their spouse? Surely not. Those are questions best left with God--more questions!
:-) There were some lasting complications, but God has given him many more years of life and ministry.

Thank you God, for my husband.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Question Marks Everywhere I Look

Lately it seems to me that I have many questions and few answers. Everywhere I look I see more question marks. To the right of me. To the left of me. Even above me when I look up to God.

God has never once answered my "why" questions, but I don't feel guilty for asking them.

As 2008 begins, I wonder how long my sister will live. From all indications, her passing is coming soon. Why couldn't we three sisters grow old together, as my mother's family did? Three doddering old women who love each other, reading as we sip Constant Comment tea? Why should my sister be closer to death than her mother? Why can't she grow to old age, loving people, serving God and blessing those who know her with her wit, wisdom, love and faith? Why must those bright and intelligent blue eyes grow so--empty--and why must she have Alzheimer's--despicable disease--and be close to the end before she is hardly past middle age? Why should her husband be struggling with additional serious health issues after many years of serving God faithfully?

I wonder what this year will bring for my mother, struggling with life in a nursing home and the frustrations of infirmity and increasing dementia. Why is it me, of her three daughters, who is struggling alone with the issues of her aging? That was never the plan! I am the last one who should be called upon to do this. She never has trusted me, never quite understood me, never really known me. Why couldn't she have passed quietly in her bed in Texas without this degrading slide into extreme old age?

I look around me and in all directions I sense question marks. At my church--what does the future hold? For my children? Why did things turn out so completely differently than anything I ever planned? For my husband--why should this once graceful, brilliant, athletic man struggle with so many difficult physical complications?

For myself, ah, there are so many question marks right now that I cannot begin to name them. Why have my efforts, hopes, dreams, expectations--why have so few been realized, why so few prayers answered?

As I struggled with these question marks today, I found this:

A man walked in darkness and fog from his house to the cobblestone street, his step determined and relentless, but his face tear-stained and weary. As he reached the street, he peered both ways, looking for the lantern of a horse-drawn, London cab. The man muttered: "Nothing! Am I too late? But no! I must end all tonight! And the river it must be!" Then, in the distance, he saw a hazy light, slowly enlarging.

Almost whispering, the man said bitterly: "God, you provided me no solace, but here you provide the cab to take me to my death!"

"Where to?" asked the cabbie, when he stopped.

"London Bridge," the man replied, curtly. "A cold night it is, sir -- what sort of business have you at the Bridge at this hour?" But the man said nothing, so the cabbie ended his attempt at conversation, and set off.

But the fog became thicker and thicker, so that the cabbie could not see even his horse's nose. What should have been a 20-minute ride lasted an hour, and still there was no sign of the river or the 600 year-old bridge. The cabbie peered into the fog, desperately looking for some familiar sign or landmark.

Suddenly, the fog lifted. The passenger, startled from his morose stare, looked to his right and saw, to his amazement, his own home. The cab, lost in the fog, had circled back to the very place he began the journey.

"My God! You have answered me!" the passenger cried out. Later that night, by his own hearth, this man, William Cowper, one of the greatest of England's 18th century poets, meditated on Psalm 77.

I cry aloud to God, I cry out to God to hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. I think of God, and I moan; I muse, and my spirit grows faint. You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago. I remember my song in the night; my heart muses, and my spirit inquires: "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Is his word no longer valid for evermore? Has God forgotten to show his favor? Has he in anger stopped the flow of his mercy? And I say, "This is my grief: the right hand of the Most High has changed."

I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

(slightly edited NRSV)
That same night, William Cowper penned this great poem:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!
The clouds ye so much dread;
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

To me, every verse of that poem has at least one line worth some serious pondering! I am going to spend the next day or doing as the Psalmist did--recalling the blessings of God. Those question marks may not vanish, but maybe they won't loom quite so large.

I'll start with recalling that I am not supposed to be seeing. Instead, thanks be to God, I'm enjoying the beautiful snow, the sunsets, the gleam in little Trinity's eyes. Thank you for those blessing, Lord God.

Join me in the comments if you like Or maybe even ask your questions. Your questions are safe, though likely unanswered, with me.