Playing to an Audience of One

Our pastor’s sermon series is discussing the life of Job. You know Job. He was the Old Testament man who was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1 NKJV).

As we are told, God took everything away from him — his family, his wealth, his friends and finally his health. And when He appeared to Job it was in the form of a whirlwind.

I’ve been in a minor earthly whirlwind (and in no way do I mean to make light of those who have had their lives devastated by real-life whirlwinds such as tornadoes.) The winds I have been in are similar to ones encountered by every parent and adult. Fierce gusts of too much activity–mostly good, but too much of job-hunting and home management and cooking and sports and school and extra-activities– and not enough downtime or appreciation (but that’s the subject of another blog). Swishing around me is the stress to make the right decisions (or making 180 degree about-turns) in parenting skills. Juggling the expectations of others — particularly close family members and one’s own expectations — and failing miserably and publicly.

This week the chaos became too much, and our pastor’s analogy was appropriate. “Your life is like your teenager’s bedroom. How can you bring order to this?” asked Rev. Tom Berlin as we laughed at the large screen graphic of a kid’s room with belongings cluttering every square centimeter. Yes, it’s been a few days of struggling with chaos when I love order so much. I crave order and simplicity and certainty.  All the things that God might not want for me, according to Pastor Tom.  Life — even with the frequent closeness of a relationship with the Lord — is not simple, it’s complex. And just when I think I know how and when to cultivate this most important relationship it is not certain. He is silent to my prayers and He is a total mystery once again.

Kitty, my friend and neighbor, caught me at just the critical moment this week. As I poured out my feelings of failure as a mother, wife, homemaker, job-hunter and writer, she kindly suggested a way to sort it all out. Try to remember, she said, “that you are playing to an audience of one.” The Lord God is that one. Forget the opinions and expectations of others, because honestly, no one can satisfy everyone else all the time. But ask yourself, she said, “if He is the only one who sees what I am doing today, what will He think?”

I am surely not blameless, as Job was. Job was upright and shunned evil and God dealt him a very bad hand. But Job finally realized that he was not abandoned, that God was still with him. I’ll try to remember that these days and step out of the little whirlwinds and know who is the most important audience. I’ll stop and ask Him if I am acting the parts that he wants me to act in — and ask for an honest assessment of how I’m doing.

Blessings and kind regards to you all.


Infinite Possibilities

On the wall above my kitchen desk and laptop, hangs an invitation to the third annual Inspirational Museum’s Opening Night. The elementary school program is aptly titled, “Infinite Possibilities.”

At the grade school ages of five to 12 there are certainly infinite possibilities. Everything in the world is open to kids for exploration. In this particular program the emphasis is on science, technology, art, music and performance. At these young ages, even more possibilities engage their interest every day –mathematics, languages, sports, friendships, family life, travel and much more.

What happens when we grow up? Some adults do retain that childlike ability to believe in infinite possibilities. More of us get weary with adult concerns, busy with so many tasks in so many directions.  Try thinking about infinity when you’re feeling worn down and it’s very humbling. Infinite as a description for God is hard to take in too….His wisdom and power are beyond our comprehension.

It’s exactly when I’m feeling wiped out, bereft of strategies, or just plain discouraged that I need to look to Him. Forget all our college degrees, our plaques of distinction, our pedigrees, our successes. It’s nothing compared to a drop of the power of the infinite. As Psalm 147:5 tells us, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.”

All the more reason I’ll lean on Him regularly. My understanding alone, without the help of the infinite God, is certainly at the pre-K level.

Blessings and kind regards to you all.

Doubting Dilemmas

One of Webster’s definitions of “dilemma” is a problem seemingly incapable of a satisfactory solution.

This is a word I’d use for housework. Just when I think I have a satisfactory solution it’s totally messed up again. And my better, Christian self doesn’t want to harrange my family for just being, well, normal. They are not necessarily messy, just busy. I’m wondering how other homemakers keep things sane around their homes. It’s discouraging because I’ve managed million-dollar projects and budgets with ease….and I know I might be a tad harsh with myself, but honestly. This housework (even though I customarily enjoy it) can be taxing because there’s never an end or a deadline in sight.

I think it’s because I’ve been out of my normal rhythm with a sick child and a sick dog. Both are on the mend, but things are just a little skewed.

There may not be a Bible quote in today’s blog….although one about doubting might be in order. Sometimes I doubt whether I am disciplined enough to keep things afloat at home and write a book and a blog at the same time. (Other women have done much harder things, I remind myself.) I’m asking the Lord for guidance daily, and I’m met with new challenges for patience. James 1 2-8 gives me much to ponder, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anthing from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Unstable. Sure don’t like that word. Same with double-minded. When I even have a glimmer of those thoughts about myself, I charge over to the prayer mode. Lord, please guide my work, my thoughts, deeds and actions — and especially my words — today and every day. Especially when I’m tired, doubting and feeling tossed like a wave. Be my anchor in the little turmoils and whirly motions of too much to do in one day. Amen.

Blessings and kind regards to you all.

Relationship, Not Religion

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is on my mind.

Reluctantly I had to address the issue of evil with my daughter after the news of bin  Laden’s assassination. It was my comparison of bin Laden to Hitler that had her quickly comprehend why a country would condone killing someone. (The discussion of evil is not something I like to bring up with her or anyone. At a tender age she was incensed that I had not told her about the devil after some neighborhood kids did. I explained, “if you were enjoying a beautiful day on the playground with 30 kids and 29 of them are laughing, playing and enjoying themselves, and the one kid over on the side is throwing stones and saying awful things to the 29 happy kids, would you want to go near that child? Would your Mom want you to pay any attention to or play with that one? The devil is like that one trying to spoil all the happiness and joy of everyone else.”)

On the radio this morning, I heard part of an interview with Eric Metaxes, co-author of a book published a year ago, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” Metaxes explained that Bonhoeffer, due to his deep personal relationship with Christ was able to push religious resistance to Nazism. The German church was silent, but not Bonhoeffer. He died in his attempt to assasinate Hitler, but his convictions and courage continue to inspire Christians to follow Christ’s individual callings to each of us.

The body of Christ, the church, is important in so many ways — if it works with the spirit (borrowed from the mission statement of the church I attend)–of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In our corner of Virginia, this vital and growing church helps the poor and needy and hurting not only in our community, but in other parts of the world. But what is essential to each believer — whether or not one is a member of a church — is a personal relationship with Christ. Spending time in his word. Prayer. Following the still, small voice that shows us where to go and what to do — if we are quiet and humble and courageous enough to listen and act. Our challenges may not be as famous as Bonhoeffer’s, but they are important and wherever He leads us, He will give us the strength to continue.

As Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him enduring the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Blessings and kind regards to you all.

All Things Are Possible

With the death of Osama bin Laden, I had to fully explain what happened on 9/11 to our young daughter. Along with that explanation came a discussion of why, in some instances, the killing of a person is necessary. When I described the simultaneous attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, she readily grasped that 9/11 was an attack on our country, similar to what had happened at Pearl Harbor. (Travel really is educational, and Hawaii is not just about beaches, afterall.) And when I compared bin Laden to Adolph Hitler, she could understand why we were searching for him, and spending trillions of dollars in the process.

Ten years of searching is a long time. There must have been many times of frustration and defeat, but our country did not give up.  God rest the souls that have died in the fight against terrorism, no matter where it has occurred, in Africa, Bali, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations. Those are the true heroes — those that we know about, as in our armed forces — and those that we don’t know about–the  human losses we’ll probably never hear about in the intelligence community. Those heroes and the resolve of three administrations got us to this point.

But what might come next? A turning point in the war on terrorism? A horrific spike in the reprisals against America?

I can only wonder and pray that the direction goes favorably for our country and all the citizens of the world determined to root out terrorism. I am removed (I pray) from the fight. I can pray and educate youngsters and write encouraging words, but the fight is one that I support from a distance. My personal fights are so small, so insignificant, but part of the weave of society. I can fight to encourage my family and friends (and self) to do the right things, even when there is a cost. I can encourage education and hard work and charity and solid American values. And I can challenge myself to do those things in my life that appear to be impossible. But I can’t do it alone. Just as our heroes couldn’t do it alone. Whatever is before us, we can remember Mark 10:27, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.'”

Blessings and kind regards to you all.