Slow learner

Some life lessons we’re slow to learn and God keeps teaching. Lessons like waiting, trusting, and resting. Even at my mature age, I’m still a novice.

I try to wait patiently on God’s will, trust completely in his provision, and rest calmly in his care. But when urgent matters continually pull me from my work making deadlines look increasingly impossible, I feel frustrated, anxious, and stressed.

During the first few months of last year and this year, this kind of struggle was particularly intense. Until God’s Spirit worked a sudden shift in my emotional outlook, my writing fell into place, and my projects were finished on time. It was as dramatic as if a switch had been flipped.

I wish I could tell you that something I thought or said or did caused the sudden change. I’d like to give you three magic keys or a six-step strategy. But I can’t. I could do nothing to make my work fall into place, create a calm heart, or fill my spirit with peace. God did it all.

Although God always does what needs to be done, he certainly doesn’t always do it in my time frame! I love the satisfaction of having things completed ahead of schedule, but sometimes it seems to me as if God waits to act until the very last minute.

Apparently I’m a very slow learner. God keeps teaching me the same lessons about waiting, trusting, and resting. If a project is from the Lord, he will equip me to finish on time. Even if I don’t complete the project or if I do it so poorly that I fall flat on my face, I have to trust that too as his will. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15).

Are you, like me, a slow learner?

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DON’T PANIC (in large, friendly letters)

Douglas Adams is the famous author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the source of many memorable quotes among which the most notable may be, “DON’T PANIC,” which appears on the front of the fictional guide in large, friendly letters.

Google marks what would have been Adams’ 61st birthday today with one of its fascinating interactive Google Doodles, which will be a hoot for Hitchhiker fans who corporately may waste countless of otherwise productive minutes clicking on the virtual Guide.

Adams wrote memorable quotes of comic genius, but he was also a celebrated atheist who clearly conveyed his worldview even–or perhaps especially–in his humorous quips. Citing 42 as the answer to life, the universe, and everything in it may be funny, but it’s also sad. The true answer expands exponentially beyond a mere numeral to glimpse God, who created it all.

He gave life to Douglas Adams and he took it from him again in what some call an untimely death at age 49 on May 11, 2001. But we know that every day of every person has been ordained by God. Psalm 139:16 says that in God’s book “were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (ESV).

Adams’ life and work was not meaningless. God uses unbelievers as well as believers to accomplish his purposes. Even the most imaginative and creative minds cannot begin to fathom how God uses all events and people for the church’s good and his own glory.

This morning, as I see that a speaking engagement is suddenly NEXT WEEK, God used a dead atheist to encourage me: DON’T PANIC (in large, friendly letters).

God speaks

Sometimes God speak so directly we can almost hear his whisper in our ear.

For several weeks, this blog has been primarily in silent mode while I work hard to complete a devotional manuscript. [I’ll post more specifics about that when appropriate.] With my intense writing schedule, the most I’ve managed is posting the occasional Christian Renewal article. And I’m pretty far behind on that!

This morning I’m working on the devotional for Day 29 from Hebrews 13:5-6. Taking a brief hydration break, I heated water for tea and pulled from the cabinet a package my husband bought for me some time ago: Scripture tea, which is Chai green tea. I held the package in my hand in amazement. The photo on the front of the package depicted a cup with a tea bag string draped over its edge, whose tab proclaimed, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5”!

As if that wasn’t enough, I took out an individually-wrapped tea bag with this verse on the wrapper, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Proverbs 3:5,” which is my Day 15 focus!

I felt compelled to share these clear evidences of God’s presence with me in this project and began typing this blog entry. Only now do I see that the actual tab dangling beside my mug says, “Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven. Luke 12:21 TLB.” You guessed it–Luke 12 was the subject of Day 19’s devotional!

What am I that God is mindful of me? That he cares for me? (Psalm 8:4)

The two-edged sword of promotion

On this wonderful Wednesday, I’m wondering about promotion, which is a two-edged sword for the Christian who writes. One side of the blade cuts with the necessity of self-promotion, while the other side slices with the desire for kingdom promotion.

I write to glorify God. When I begin thinking about my name on the cover of a book, I try to resist the siren desire for personal fame and remember that it’s all about glorifying God’s name.

Because that’s my basic philosophy, I’ve resisted securing an agent. There may be a time when I feel called to do that, but for now I attempt to rest in God’s sovereignty.

God is my agent. But the reality is that if the things I believe God calls me to write are to be published, sold, and read by anyone, I must actively market them myself. Too few Christians, especially in Reformed circles, support and promote fellow believers who are authors, poets, and artists—even those whose work they admire.

Few things scream “Self-promotion” as much as book proposals. Essentially, a book proposal requires selling yourself and your book idea. And if that sounds a bit like prostitution, it may because a few vague similarities exist.

Writing involves vulnerability. One peels away layers of protection and exposes private thoughts to the harsh gaze of critics.

I’d hoped to submit three book proposals before the end of October, but that appears increasingly impossible as November 1 looms. I’d appreciate prayer if the Lord brings me to your mind over the next few weeks.

What is your view of book proposals? How do you view the division between self-promotion and kingdom promotion? What kinds of things do you do to promote your work in Christ’s kingdom?

>Lifted horns – Psalm 75

>“Monday, Monday,” sang the Mamas & the Papas, “so good to me…Monday mornin’, it was all I hoped it would be.” But by Monday evening, the singer has been deserted and no longer trusts Mondays. Now “whenever Monday comes…you can find” her “cryin’ all of the time.”

Modern society views Mondays just as negatively. It sees Monday as the inconvenient end of the weekend, which is party time, and the dreaded beginning of the work week, which is drudgery.

That view comes from a warped perception of work. Work is a calling from God. We ought to view the work week as a new opportunity to fulfill our calling in the work place. And our weekend is an opportunity to spend extended time with family, but primarily an opportunity to spend extended time with God in worship.

Yet even the Christian with the proper view of work as calling experiences times when it is tough to go back to work on Monday. Perhaps looming deadlines seem impossible. Perhaps the work situation is constantly high stress. Perhaps the environment is extremely negative. Perhaps tools are not adequate for the task. Perhaps persistent breakdowns create continual tension. Perhaps health problems make it difficult to endure the work’s physical demands. Perahps a mother feels overwhelmed and isolated by the nagging demands of her children. Perhaps financial constraints force a mom to leave her dear little children.

If I think about all the struggles that others face, I realize how easy it is for me to return to work. Since I work in a home office, I don’t even have to leave the house! But after a weekend of talking, eating, and playing with our children and grandchildren who camped in our yard, it is difficult to switch my mind from family mode into work mode.

Meditating on scripture helps me order my thinking early in the mornings. This morning’s reading from Psalm 75 reminds me that God judges the wicked and lifts up the righteous.

When the Psalmist thinks about God’s “wondrous deeds,” he thanks God because His “name is near” (verse 1).

Verses 2-6 directly quote God. He assures readers that at His appointed time He “will judge with equity.” He will keep the people and “pillars” of the earth steady when it “totters.” God warns the boastful and the wicked not to boast or “lift up” their “horn on high” or “speak with a haughty neck.”

Verses 6-8 explain why the wicked ought not boast or be haughty. Lifting up does not come from the east or west or from the wilderness; “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” The Lord holds a cup of “well mixed” and “foaming wine,” which He pours out “and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”

Because God will execute judgment, the Psalmist concludes:
But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up (verses 9-10).

When we return to work on Monday mornings, wherever or whatever our work situation, we can work with the confidence that comes from knowing that God will judge the proud who set themselves above the righteous. The wicked may seem to have control over your work situation, but that is only temporary. Their power will not last. God will cut off the horns of the wicked, but He will lift up the horns of the righteous.

God’s promise to lift up the horns of the righteous enables us to go forward in our God-appointed tasks on Monday and every morning.

>The Last of the First

>Today is the last day of the first month in 2010.

Are you calling it “two thousand-ten” or “twenty-ten”?

An argument for “twenty-ten” is that we didn’t say “one thousand, nine hundred-ninety-nine.” But I never heard anyone say “twenty-oh-nine” either. Personally, “twenty-ten” sounds like a shotgun caliber and I’m sticking with “two thousand-ten,” but it’s really irrelevant.

On another New Year note, how are you doing with those resolutions?

I decided long ago that making official resolutions was too depressing. Who wants to spend all that time, during the bleakest days of winter, thinking about all one’s failings? And then one spends all that time, during the bleakest days of winter, trying to overcome all those failings. And finally one is overwhelmed with the realization, still during the bleakest days of winter, that one is probably never going to overcome all those failings.

I’ve nixed formal resolutions, but I just can’t escape the feeling that the beginning of a new year is a good time for some personal assessment.

One thing I’ve been praying in this first month is, “Lord, help me to stop wishing and worrying so I can start working and worshipping.”

I recognize that I spend too much time wishing certain aspects of my life and my world were different (wishing for spring, for one thing!). I also spend a lot of time worrying about things that I cannot control. If I spent less time wishing for change and worrying about things I can’t change, I would be better able to work and worship.

On this last day of the first month, I anticipate a day of rest and worship. And I continue my New Year’s prayer for my wishing and worrying to be replaced with working and worshipping.