“Nothing Can Stop Us Now”

[Once again, this draft was penned in June a year and a half ago.  It’s ancient history now :0), but I’m pleased in a shy way to see how upbeat I was able to be.]

 

The last time I wrote (January 1) I exclaimed, “What’s Next, Father?”  and basically stood amazed, waiting for whatever He brought my way.

I wanted to let the few of you who still read this little chat know what has transpired since then.

Times grew worse; desperate, in fact.  I wish I could list for you all the particulars, but for now let’s just say that I can’t imagine anything worse happening to us.  (What a frightful thing to say, now I see this and wonder if I “jinxed” our journey).

Then on one of the earliest sunny days in 2014 to date, someone that neither my husband nor I had ever contacted called him and asked him to come to work for them.  Right here in Oklahoma.  No 12 hours of travel; no outlay of expense for hotel, or anything.  Just wanted him to come to work immediately.

And a couple of days following that–ending 3 years of unemployment–I was called for an interview that I had joked about a few days earlier.  I’d grown so used to pouring my all into an interview to no avail, that I just relaxed and enjoyed this one. No pressure–if I wasn’t going to get the job, there was no reason to fret and be nervous. So I relaxed, and laughed a lot, and had a great time in this interview. In fact, when I left the boss’s office, I was so pleased just to have a warm and confident interview that I was encouraged just to have accomplished that simple act.

You can’t imagine the awe and delight in my heart when I was asked to accept the position a couple of days later.  It was more than I could fathom that all of this would transpire at the same time.  BOTH of us hired within a few days’ time.

To shorten a long and rather boring tale, we’re now in a new home; smaller, but beautiful.  We have a new beginning; new jobs, new dreams, and thankfully, a new purpose.

Last time it was “What’s Next, Father?” And this time I can truly say it’s all about Him.  To quote my husband’s wedding vows to me, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now.”

 

New Chapter Coming Up

[Written over a year ago when I switched jobs.  Not sure why I neglected to publish…but I still appreciate RCB bank, even though I’m over 500 miles away now…it’s STILL “my bank!”]

I’ve had a wonderful time working for the local bank the past few years.  Along with other activities I’ve spent my days staring at checks written by customers, squinting at the handwriting of Mr. Jones and Miss Smith, trying to interpret what dollar and how many cents they mean.

You’ll never believe how many people put about 4 zeroes BEFORE the dollar amount on their deposit slip…and a dash, or slash, or dots, or smiley face after the written dollar amount–leaving me to guess what they actually intend in regard to their accounts.  My coworkers grew weary of hearing me say, “I wanna teach a class in how to write checks or people can’t have accounts!”

I can now stop feeding that wicked machine that photographs (but for me it eats) paper checks and distorts them until I cringe at the outcome.  They’re letting me out of validating new information, they now understand that they cannot train this old traditionalist to read the “new math” kind of numbers that some customers are writing for us.

And now I’ve turned  another page in my personal history and moved on to more familiar ground.  I left the hallowed tan cubicles, ornate paneled elevators, with scenes of quiet floral vases and opulent wallpaper for a more common habitat. I learned a great deal from each of those I met  at the bank.  I learned not go to the banking floor to cash a cheque unless it’s between 2 and 3 pm.  And which teller to approach–one always busy, one chatting you up so that you never go away feeling less than a new member of the family.

I learned that it is NOT necessarily worth it to wear jeans on Friday. That the bank has the very best leftovers in town (their catered events are fantastic). I learned that behind this genteel aura of respect, impersonal formality and “properness” is a group of observant, thoughtful and caring people, a team who shows regard for your personal safety and security, trying to help you succeed (sometimes in spite of your own best intentions).

The slow, deliberate nature of their decision-making process allows time to examine all avenues available to their clients…resulting in a studied, wise and certain direction that will rarely offer you less than the very best outcome possible.  Quite a legacy, when you stop to think about it.

I’ve moved on to new territory…different, surely, but not necessarily  better.  Just different.  But after all’s said and done, I can still say with certainty and pride, ..”that’s STILL my bank!”

Never Know How Little You Know Until You Teach

Been teaching lately.  And while it shouldn’t, it still surprises me how much I learn just from preparing to teach.  A few pearls I’ve picked up this year:

  • You do not have the answers to everything.
  •  It’s okay not to have the answers to everything.
  • Expounding longer and in detail while it sounds a bit impressive (to the beginner’s ear) does not improve the percentage of learning that takes place.  In fact, it usually drops the numbers a bit.
  • Students learn as much when you ask them questions as when you provide answers.  Possibly more.
  • The times you’re less well-prepared tend to turn out pretty well.  In spite of you.
  • It’s very humbling to hear simple wisdom emanate from someone you had totally underestimated.  And gratifying, somehow.
  • Wisdom comes in many forms.
  • The lesson you thought you were teaching isn’t always what was learned.  And that’s okay.
  • “Pride goes before a perilous fall”…watch the teacher stumble. Pride shouldn’t enter into lesson preparation OR delivery.
  • About 12 years ago I wrote an article titled “Surprised by Christ.”  It still rings true.  No matter how well I believe I know Him, He continually amazes me.
  • A lesson not bathed in prayer isn’t worth teaching.
  • Timing is important.  I repeat.  Timing is important.
  • Teaching is addicitive.  Or more like a calling.  I’m driven to it; can’t help it.  Can’t get enough of it.

Enough said.

I Can’t Say Amen

Goodness!!  It seems now that with growing frequency, whenever I bow my head (when I’m alone) or sometimes with a close friend sharing a meal, that I bow my head to say our thanks for the food in front of us…and I just can’t do it.

I begin thanking God, remembering Who He is.  Remembering how He even managed to fashion the miracle of a human being is astounding, much less develop the capillaries and the tongue, teeth, and meat of the animal that’s been placed before me for a hearty meal.  How do I even begin to wrap my senses around how much effort, how much unfathomable intelligence thath it took, to even comprehend what it would take to create out of simple matter a living, breathing–your see?   My food’s grown cold, my friend is looking at me with a “what’s with you?” expression…  And I realize I’ve done it again.  I whisper a quiet, “forgive us our sins, Lord, we love you, in Jesus’ name” and end my prayer. But it isn’t finished.  It just isn’t.

Give Us This Day…

Remember the story of the widow with the oil and flour in I Kings 17 who was preparing to die when her food ran out, and it managed (the Lord provided) to keep lasting on and on and on?  She just baked enough for each day and the next day there was still enough to bake bread for one more day.  Trusting God.  One day at a time.

Well, it seems that way with my Bible.  I mean, to clarify, I’m not planning to starve or die right away as the widow feared; I’m just fascinated how the same container with the same contents–the Scriptures–just keeps renewing itself and  providing me with different insights on a daily basis.  What a bargain!  Buy one book and keep reading new insights for years.  He just keeps on feeding me constantly. (Could this be my “daily bread” that I pray for?)

The very same 66 books, the very same words arranged in precisely the same way they were when I was 2 or 3 and first heard the stories at my mother’s knee…or to expand on that idea, the same words for the last 2,000 years or so, never mind when I first heard them.

As to the nature  of the Word, the apostle John shares that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…and that tells me the Word is Jesus.  The same yesterday, today and forever.  And Hebrews 4 reminds us that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” so that addresses the literal power in the Scriptures.

Yet somehow I’m newly aware that these 807,361 words (in the King James version, at least, according to http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read2/r00722.html), are the same words I’ve been reading for close to 60 years–and that their message is constantly changing and meeting my needs, whatever they are at any given moment.  Wow.  Mind boggling.

Thank you, Lord.

Unfathomable Grace

I’ve been studying, preparing for a quarter’s teaching  on the subject of the Last Days…the days leading up to and following the Rapture of the saints.  We’ll be viewing the series of DVD’s titled “”What in the World is Going On?” created by Dr. David Jeremiah.  And I ended tonight’s personal study preparation by answering the questions in the Study Guide that comes with each lesson.

They’re very simple, four questions only, took me maybe five minutes to complete.  But the impact of these simple questions following the thorough, reasoned teaching of Dr. Jeremiah has made a jaw-dropping impact on my heart.

We all  sin.  Those who are saved understand that they are forgiven; that God’s grace through Jesus’ blood covers it all.  And that’s a given; a fact.  But still, if you’re tender-hearted, or have a tender conscience, at times you tend to wonder how God REALLY feels, if He will truly not stand with his clip board and a foot tapping…and even as I write this, I find I’m embarrassed to admit that, as it proves that I doubt God’s promise and His word that He says He will.  (Maybe I’m calling to mind my own tough-to-forgive nature, you think?)

The questions I answered were the following, if I can paraphrase them for you to lend a bit of the weight  of the message that I discovered in this first lesson:  Who did God choose for his covenant, Abraham or the Jews?  (IF you read Genesis 12:1-3, it’s crystal clear that he chose the man).  One man.  Abram, who lived in a city called Ur of the Chaldees.  God promised he would make Abram a great nation–the man, not the race of people.  He said he would make Abram’s name GREAT.  That –get this–I never saw this before:  THE FATE OF ALL OTHER NATIONS WOULD DEPEND ON HOW THEY TREAT ABRAM (Genesis 12:3)…can  you imagine?

All the nations that mistreated the Israelites, from the Canaanites, Hittites, and all the other tribes who no longer exist, to all the ones you’ve just heard about on the six o’clock news…all have been destroyed.  It’s history; not just a prophecy that the eternal God made, but FACT.  NEWS.  HISTORY.

He promised to Abram as many descendants as the stars in the skies and the sands of the oceans…and he promised that simply…that’s just too tiny a word to get across the import–BECAUSE HE LOVED THEM, BECAUSE HE’S FAITHFUL AND KEEPS HIS PROMISES, he promised that they will be his people, his treasured possession forevermore.  He enumerates how they were faithless, stiff-necked, and rebellious against him over and over and over.  But on the simple basis of his faithful nature; his amazing love; and his covenant with one man a long time ago, he will never ever break his promise.  In Jeremiah 31:35-37 He states it plainly:  The only way his covenant will ever be broken is if the heavens can finally be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched.  Sure.  Right.  I’ll get right on that.

As if you ever needed a rock solid concrete statement of just how unshakable, unfathomable and amazing that God’s love and Grace truly is…there it is.

Wow.

Come Before Winter

This morning I’m stuck at home enduring an infected tooth extraction that wants to complicate things.  Before the painkiller kicks in again, I wanted to share what I’ve read this beautiful, mild autumn morning. It seems such a paradox, such an embarrassing contrast of comfort and misery.  The silkiness of Sugar Bear’s coat, (my Chihuahua) a warm glowing honey-colored fur,  snug at my side, coat shining in the early morning sunshine.  Outside the window, the hummingbirds battle for the next sip of nectar, blossoms nearby sharing their perfume wafting on the soft breeze.

While I nestle under a crimson fleece blanket in my little corner, mug of hot tea beside my chair, I can picture the dreadful, drafty cold stone of the prisons under the streets of Rome.

Stones that never warm, never soften.  The human misery that emanates from below the streets, calls from the abyss that is all but forgotten in this teeming city.  The unbelievable stench of human waste and sweat to which the nose does not acclimate.  The guards, the dregs of the Roman forces, alleviating their boredom and disgust with their duties by pestering and humiliating the prisoners.  Runaway slaves, forced into housekeeping duties, trying to haul away the buckets that were used to relieve the prisoners following a meal of wormy gruel.  And as always, the voice of a rich baritone growing slightly feeble, singing praises to God.  The prisoners used to stop him from singing, taking turns ridiculing him, but after months and months they’ve taken pity on him and some encourage him.  A few even join in his singing, as they’ve grown used to his music, as well as his God.

His friends have stopped coming by to bring him food and bits of comfort, a fresh pair of sandals, a parchment to read, or a clean tunic with a word or two of encouragement. For the most part, the poor old guy has been left utterly alone.  His cough is getting a bit more forceful, the sound of it ominous.  Yet on he sings.  Singing and writing, that’s all he does now.  He was trying to help out the slaves, to share their burden of carrying the slop buckets, but he’s grown too weak for much of that now.  Though he still encourages the other prisoners around him, urging them to have hope and to look forward to their reward.  I guess he’s convinced all of them to believe as he does.

As the prison is below the streets of the marketplace, the sun never seems to reach all the way to the cells.  The way these walls are constructed, the winds tend to howl down through the opening in the roof, a hole hardly larger than a manhole cover that lowers by ropes whatever supplies, new prisoners, or guards enter the enclosure.  And then receiving in return dead bodies, waste, and the occasional guard relieved of duty that cannot wait to leave, drawing their woolen cloaks closer in the  growing chill of late autumn.

Paul tried to stand and stretch, his arthritic joints and bones growing stiffer with age, poor nutrition, and exposure.  He finished his latest letter to Timothy, encouraging him still, in the face of all that Paul has endured.

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that Day.”  He continued to stress to Timothy to keep it simple:  “I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder.  Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the  Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit.  Just keep it simple.  You’re going to find that there will be times when people have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food–catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.  But YOU–keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive, do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

“You take over, Timothy.  I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar.  This is the only race worth running.  I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.  All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!”

“Get here as fast as you can.  Everyone else deserted me.  Bring Mark with you: he’ll be my right-hand man.  Bring the winter coat I left in Troas and also the books and parchment notebooks.  …Try hard to get here before winter.”…The message goes on, ever encouraging Timothy and his followers, regardless of how Paul was suffering.  And I know that he counted his imprisonment and even his death a victory for Christ; so many came to believe as a result of his testimony.

Yet this morning, cozy and growing sleepy in my little nest, my heart breaks for this man of God, enduring more than anyone should have to, all in the name of His Savior and his purpose.  “Come before winter.”  Those words say so much, don’t they?

I intend to look around.  To seek out those who serve quietly, enduring much for the cause of Christ.  I’m going to find some way to alleviate some small portion of what they endure for Him.  To do what I can to ‘bring a coat before winter.’  And more than anything, I want to follow Paul’s example:  “Read these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of laying out the truth plain and simple.”  I can do that.

(Quotations from II Timothy, [The Message])