Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm ready to fly

I came across this picture this week. Yes, that’s me, bottom left. Over 20 years ago.

Seeing this picture evoked a whirlwind of memories and emotions. I could go on and on about all the things it made me think about…

…Like the day I got the phone call informing me I had been hired to fly the friendly skies. I was so excited not just to have a job but to have THIS job. The first person I called to tell was my mom. She was NOT excited.

…Or on the Friday night flight out of New York I kept telling one of the girls I was working with that the man in the back row was so very handsome. He was handsome because he looked a lot like Warren Beatty. It never occurred to me that it might actually BE Warren Beatty. I finally realized that it really was him on the Sunday night flight back in to New York when he was sitting with Geraldo Rivera. Duh.

…Or the day the turbulence was so bad everyone on the airplane got sick. One fellow passed out. I sat strapped in the jump seat in the back of the plane and kept throwing airsickness bags down the aisle and people kept reaching over to pick them up.

…Or the day a minister from the Baptist state office gave me an in-flight sermon about how I was contributing to the demise and eternal damnation of all the poor sinful passengers by serving them alcoholic drinks.

…Or the many flights I sat looking out of the window as we followed the Hudson River and banked around the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautiful site. I don’t think planes are allowed to do that anymore. I wish I had taken pictures.

…Or the many mornings I ate nachos for breakfast in the Miami airport. Before 8 AM. Or, for that matter, all the stinking peanuts I ate in-flight. Mmmmmm.

…Or the beaches it took me to. Key West. Nantucket. Martha’s Vineyard. Naples. Miami…

Like I said. I could go on and on.

When I saw the picture, I felt a little nostalgic and sad because I don’t lead that kind of life any more. I’m not that person any more.

I also felt a little relieved. For the very same reasons.

I’ve come a long way and a lot has changed in my life since then. No, I’m not completely satisfied with where I am right now. But I can’t help but think that in 20 more years, I will not be living the life I have right now. Things will be different. I’ll be looking back at pictures taken in 2009 and I’ll be flooded with memories and emotions again. And I’ll be a little sad that I don’t lead this kind of life anymore. And a little more than relieved too.

My life is in His hands.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dust on the Table

Have you ever had that moment when you read a familiar verse in the Bible, one you've read a thousand times or maybe even have memorized, and all of sudden it hits you like something you have never heard before? And then you think, WOW, why haven't I ever seen it like this before?!

It happened to me recently with Psalm 23. Yes, a very familiar verse. But this time it was much more personal than it ever has been to me.

I had been unknowingly and unwillingly thrown into someone else's unsettling circumstances. It was nothing I planned, nothing I intended, nothing I even imagined, but there I was - a little speck of dust sucked up by an evil vacuum cleaner. And it was very clear that they didn't like my particular variety of dust.

In the midst of it all, one morning I grabbed a little devotional booklet that I pick up at church every month. The devotionals in the booklet are brief one-pagers that include one verse of scripture, about 4 or 5 paragraphs of inspiration, and a one-sentence prayer. I don't usually use this booklet for devotions, rather, I read it when I need a quick inspiration or Word.

This particular day the verse was Psalm 23:5.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
I read that verse and realized I would be sitting around that table later that day. I had an appointment scheduled with the vacuum cleaner operator. And they certainly felt like the enemy. When I read this verse I realized that God had prepared that table for me. FOR me. And He had anointed me with oil to protect me from being penetrated by the evil of my enemy.

Psalm 23 wasn't just a chapter of comfort any more. It was written about me. For that particular day.

After that, I couldn't seem to get away from Psalm 23. I came across it in reading and in conversations over and over again.

It all reminded me of a study I took at least 15 years ago, Prayer Life by T.W. Hunt. In that study one of the assignments was to write your own 23rd Psalm. Hunt explained that David was a shepherd, so he wrote using his own personal daily language. He wrote about things he knew and dealt with every day - shepherds, green pastures, rod, staff, those kind of things. The assignment was to use our own buzzwords and write our own.

I went through my stack of study notebooks last night and found mine (yes, I hang on to all those things....for years). Here is it:
  1. The Lord writes my story; I don't have to find the right words or even make it rhyme.
  2. When I follow His outline, the storyline takes me to such peaceful places.
  3. The things He writes always leave me wanting more. He has not only written the script, but has given it the direction that will always lead me back to Him.
  4. Sometimes the words He's written are painful and make me cry, but they are always followed by words of love and compassion.
  5. You write my story in such a way that other people can read it too; even those who want to write their own ending to it.
  6. You have given me so many words; they often spill out of my mouth with very little prompting. You have written Your words on every day of my life and because of that, there is no end to my story.
Psalm 23 is only six verses. You should try writing your own.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

Monday, May 11, 2009

Peggy and Promptings

Peggy and I became fast friends as freshmen in college. Our dorm rooms were right across the hall from each other. Her roommate was the quirky, eccentric chick on the hall; mine was America’s sweetheart. She and I were the “real” people somewhere in between those two extremes and we found a connection with each other there.

My memories of her from those college days are that she never hesitated much when it came to going for the most out of life. She was a music major. She changed from piano to voice because she couldn’t lug those 88 keys around with her as she lived life to the fullest, but she could take her voice anywhere she went.

It wasn’t long before she fell in love. We were sophomores when she and Ken got married. Several of us on that dorm hall wore the blue pleated skirt bridesmaid’s dresses in the wedding. I was her Maid of Honor.

When she left the dorm and started her life as a newlywed, naturally we were not as close any more, but we still kept up with each other. I remember the first time she invited me over to their cozy little love nest and she made homemade soup.

Her first son was born before we graduated from college. It was another step in the separate ways our lives took.

After graduation, I moved away.Then I moved back. And got married, and then moved even further away. She and her husband had another son. And another one. And another one. And then she and Ken divorced.

We kept up with an occasional email. We’re not as close as we once were, but the memories of our friendship remained cherished and favored.

Sometime right before Easter this year, I got a burden on my heart for Peggy. I didn’t know at the time where it came from or why the burden was so marked and heavy on my heart. (You can read about that here).

We’d had a little communication by email so I knew she was ill. But, really, I had no idea.

My heavy heart led me to call her a few times. We never really got to “talk.” I got to hear her voice again. She got to hear me say, “You’re in my prayers.” That’s about all.

As the days went by so did the short but sweet attempts at communication. Facebook updates, mostly. I kept looking forward to a long, intimate girlfriend conversation with her.

Before I knew it, April was over. April ended on a harsh note for me. Some unexpected distractions in my own life kept my focus on things other than Peggy or that burden I had felt. I was busy staring at all the broken pieces in and around my life that had accumulated and piled up all around me over the last couple of weeks. I was fully engulfed in grieving over all that brokenness.

Then I got a wakeup call about my friend.

And an answer to where and why I had felt such a burden.

And another reason to grieve even more.

Peggy passed away.

She was only in her 40’s.

She died of a cancer I can’t even pronounce – leiomyosarcoma

I don’t know why things like that happen. But I do know that God’s hand was in my life because of it. I know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit was the one prompting me to reach out to her just weeks, days really, before her death. Although I didn’t get to talk about any details of her life or her cancer with her, I did get to hear her voice again. I cannot tell you just how loudly that voice is in my memory right now. The Holy Spirit made that happen.

I have been reminded how important it is to follow His promptings.

I can say this from experience: Today, if you hear His voice . . . Listen. And follow.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ... Psalm 95:6-8

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I've been expecting you - - or not

A lot of years ago I had a young friend who was struggling in a young marriage. I wasn’t that much older than she or that much more experienced at the time, but I did offer her one piece of wisdom I had already struggled over and come to terms with myself.

She expected her husband and her marriage to be a certain way, and neither was living up to it. I told her to eliminate her expectations. Not lower them; forget them. Put away the measuring stick for a while. If you are not measuring to see how someone or something compares to your personal standard, then the likelihood of disappointment is decreased.

If you constantly compare something/someone with where it actually is to where you think it should be, all you will ever see is the gap in between. Sometimes it helps to just see things and people as they really are without any surrounding, calculating comparisons. Try to see them like God sees them.

Now I know that God looks at all of us and sees the potential of who we could be. I also believe that we should do that with each other. Where I think we get into trouble is when we start assigning markers to the steps of someone else’s potential. Like saying, “isn’t he old enough to know better?” Or, “doesn’t she know she shouldn’t be doing that?”(And, for the record, I’m talking about adults here. Not children.)

When we set those markers, we’ve imposed our expectations on them. It’s one thing to want and hope and pray that things and people will turn out to be what we want them to be. It’s a completely different animal when we transfer the sole responsibility of living up to our expectations on to them and then punish them when they don’t.

Last time I checked, the convicting and refining work of the Holy Spirit was not my job.

So, why am I thinking about all of this?

Recently I was told by someone that I didn’t live up to the expectations and standards they had for me. It was not in my marriage. It was at church. I was shocked by the confrontation. It was…unexpected. I had no idea that such standards had been placed on me.

My reaction? Of course I was hurt. I thought I was striving to lead a Godly life. I regretted that anything I said or did unintentionally caused someone else to become so angry and confrontational. Honestly, it felt more like they were disapproving of who I was rather than of anything I had said or done. I felt unjustly condemned.

Then, I began to think…the one who confronted me should not have handled it in the way that he did. I thought about all the different ways that whole situation should have been approached. Someone in his position should have taken into consideration…

Ahhhh, there it is. He’s not living up to my expectations either.


I’m throwing out my measuring stick. The gap is gone. My expectations are gone. I’m looking to see more clearly what God sees.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2