Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's okay....nothing's broken

Today, during my puny attempt at a run, I passed an interesting sign. It said "Nothing's broken. This is a landscape drain."

It seems that this family has had difficulty with people calling the city water department when water came pouring down the street because they thought a pipe must be busted to cause that much water. Instead, it is simply a type of drain put into a yard to remove excess water from building up. In other words, it's doing its job.

You guessed it, that's where the "random thoughts" began.

This week has been a particularly difficult week, (and all the teachers said "Amen!") As I was talking to one of my teacher friends, I mentioned that the children of Israel didn't just take over the whole promised land at once. There were giants in the land and they had to be ready for the battles they would encounter (and by ready, I mean fully leaning on God!) Some of what we encounter is preparation for doing battle with those giants...learning to trust God in all things. At times, we can sense God's presence....other times, we cannot. That does not mean He's not there. As people, we tend to assume that if things aren't going well, it's because something is really wrong. Maybe it's just the "drain" doing its job. Even when we can't really see what's going on, we're learning to trust God.

Let me try to explain. In John 15:2, we are told that any branch that is not fruitful is cut off, and any branch that is bearing fruit is pruned so that it will become more fruitful. (my paraphrase). Perhaps the storms we experience at times aren't so much because of what's wrong, but they are simply a part of the process of growth in which God is preparing us to become even more fruitful! There's no need to sound the alarm. If the storm isn't because of something wrong (see the pothole blog), then perhaps it is simply a part of the process of our pruning that will make us more fruitful.

Now I will be the first to say I don't get excited about pruning. When things are going well, I'd just as soon we keep it at the status quo and keep plugging along at what I'm doing. However, that's not the way things usually work. We're all either moving forward or backward. If we're "standing still", we're usually growing stagnant and if you've ever smelled stagnant water, you know that's not a good thing. Pruning takes that which is "working" and fine tunes it so that it works even better! Anyone who has ever pruned a rose bush knows that while this may not be a pretty process, it's well worth the "barren" looking times.

So, if in my life you should see what looks like a busted water pipe, have no fear. It could just be my "landscape drain" at work....washing away things that are not fruitful and doing a bit of pruning on those things that are. That doesn't mean I won't appreciate your prayers in the process....and I promise to do the same for you when it's your turn for pruning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Put the bucket down....

In my last blog, I intimated that it looked like I'd be doing some "cleaning" in my life. I had no idea how I was going to do that. Knowing that something is wrong may be the first step, but it doesn't necessarily mean you know what the next step should be. Today, I think I discovered what the next step may look like. What follows is a word picture that will hopefully explain.

Have you ever been out working, perhaps in the yard or on some sort of construction site, and you had to carry a bucket that was so full it made your fingers ache? Sometimes as a teacher, I find I carry books home in a tote and they are so heavy I almost tip over. Even groceries can do this when you try to carry too many items in at one time. The connecting factor here is the weight and what it does to your hand. After a short time of carrying this load, your hand almost conforms to its load and develops into a sort of painful hook. When you finally let go of the load, your hand seems to scream out in pain as you try to straighten it once again. You may be tempted to put the load BACK into your aching hand simply to ease the pain. For a brief moment, you may wonder if you will ever hold that hand out in a normal manner again.

Of course, that is where the analogy begins. Some of us have been carrying a heavy load for so long, our hands are gripped around it like a vise. The weight may be different things: our jobs, our "stuff", our disappointment in life or with God, or even hurts from the past that fill our buckets like slop for a pig. Whatever it is, the thought of letting go is painful. We can't lift our hands no matter how hard we try because of that heavy load, and we can't seem to let go. We know we need to let it go, but every time we try, it's so painful we simply tighten our grip once again and try to go on.

There is good news. We don't have to carry that load forever....we don't even have to carry it another day. We do, however, have to make the choice to lay it down. At first, it may be so painful you are tempted to pick it back up. Yes, it hurts, but at least it's a pain that is familiar. If, however, you let go of that heavy weight and reach out to God in faith, He will take that twisted hand and take away that pain. Picture the way someone would reach out in love and gently massage those twisted fingers and help the circulation return...

Perhaps your spirit has been twisted with pain much like arthritis or injury twists the joints of a hand. The pain is real. The hurt is real, but God is there reaching out to you, waiting for you to let Him take away the pain. The thing is, first you have to let go of the "bucket". Let go of the hurt, let go of your right to feel justification at our anger, let go of whatever weight is keeping you from running the race set before you. Simply let go. God is waiting to take your hand. Shift your focus from the weight to His hand reaching out for you. In time, that poor twisted hand will be stretched out, free of pain and free to reach out for joy.

What about the bucket? Leave it where it is....God will take care of that load far better than you ever could. Just take His hand and trust Him to lead the way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The problem with the rug

This past Christmas, in moving furniture and rearranging the living room so we could put up our tree, I made a rather unpleasant discovery. My rug had a problem.

Now this problem was not immediately evident to, I discovered the problem quite by accident. You see, in order to move everything, I needed to first roll up my large area rug from its out of the way place and temporarily put it into our "computer" room. It would be out of the way until Christmas was over and it could then be put back out. After a few days in the computer room however, I started to notice an unpleasant odor...anyone who has dogs would recognize it. It was that unmistakeable smell of dog urine. At first, I thought my daughter's small dog had com into the room and had an accident, but after investigating I found the odor came from my beloved rug. It didn't just smell a little bad, it was AWFUL! I guess that the dog had not once, but repeatedly used a corner of that rug as her own personal potty! I had never noticed it before!

Now, let me assure you I am not a horrible housekeeper....I'm not in danger of the Clean Sweep Team coming to my door any time soon, (although I would probably welcome them!) This rug was simply in a relatively unused area of my living room and its dark patterned design hid any spots better than you would imagine. While I had caught the dog once trying to use the rug as her own personal spot, I had cleaned it well and felt confident that it was a somewhat isolated incident. Boy was I wrong. My immediate thought after discovering it was "Oh no, have others who have entered my home already noticed this smell? Have I just gotten so used to it that I didn't even notice it was there?" This is not the kind of thing you want to find out.

I knew the rug needed cleaning, but since money is a bit tight, I decided to first try "airing" it out by hanging it over the half wall of my carport. A day or two later, my husband came to tell me that we needed to move the rug - the odor was bothering him. Funny, I didn't seem to smell it now. At any rate, we decided to lay it out in the sun for a few days. Perhaps that would work. Well, I am somewhat forgetful and instead of being in the sun a few days, it stayed in the sun, rain, wind, etc for a couple of weeks. Well, surely now it must smell a little better. Nope, I'm afraid not. Now it's worse. I guess, I'm finally going to have to deal with cleaning this rug. I might even have to get professional help!

Of course, this blog is about more than just a rug, for at the same time all this is happening, I am realizing there is something that "smells" in my own life.

A few years ago, I was hurt by someone....betrayed. I thought I had dealt with it and gone on. After all, I know a lot about forgiving others. I've been deeply hurt before and learned to forgive and move on. Yet somehow, this time it was different. I realized this the day the person who had hurt me re-entered my life. To be quite honest, I'd have been happy if this person had disappeared forever...but God had other plans. There they were....again. The feelings that came rushing over me were no less repulsive than that odor that had been lurking in the rug. They had been there all along, I just had gotten used to them and as long as they weren't stirred, I could ignore them. Of course, I now wonder if those around me "smelled" these bad attitudes all along but simply were too polite to say anything.

I tried "airing" them out by talking to friends...after all, the "spot" wasn't my fault! I hadn't caused the problem, I'd been the one who had been "soiled". Unfortunately, the "airing" didn't make it just exposed my friends to the smell. I tried laying the "problem" out and hoping God would somehow miraculously just "deal" with them and then I could go about my happy little way. That didn't work either. This time, it's going to take ME dealing with the stench. I've got to clean out what is causing the root of the problem...and yes, I might have to get some real help.

I can't help but wonder if it's worth it. I'd love to just "throw the rug" away....but I sense this time it won't be that easy. Not dealing with this could prove to be something that robs me of joy down the road. How do I know this? Well, seems like everytime I turn around, that person is there. They have no idea the effect their presence has on me...but trust me, I do...and I understand why it is so important to forgive.

When unforgiveness is allowed to stay, it puts down a root of bitterness that produces a really "stinky" fruit. That smell will get into almost every area and ruin anything it comes in contact with. Even worse, the vines that grow from the root wrap themselves around you and "bind" you to the one you won't forgive. I know you've heard this as many times as I have...but somehow that smelly rug brought it home again.

How will I go about cleaning this "rug"? To be honest, I'm not sure. Will it be worth the effort? Again, I'm not sure....I can only go on what I know God has told me to do. Somehow, I've got to forgive just as I have been forgiven. Perhaps in a future blog, I can tell you what finally got the "smell" out. Until then, like most people, I've got some cleaning to do.