Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elephants, George Bailey, Elijah...and me

In this blog, as in most of them, I share the real and for true parts of life I struggle with. I do this in an attempt to help others, for the enemy would have us believe we are alone in our struggles...that if we were more spiritual it would somehow all be okay. (The enemy is a liar, by the way.)

Today's random thought started this morning while reading an article in an exercise magazine written by a young woman who admitted that her entire life had been ruled by her weight. I shook my head as she detailed events she had skipped and moments missed simply because her thoughts were consumed by how much she weighed. My heart went out to her, not because I deal so much with my weight (thanks diabetes for that much) but because as I read, I realized I, too, am ruled by my own "elephant in the room." For me, that elephant comes in the form of financial worries, but it is an elephant all the same.

This elephant controls everything I do. His name is "How much does it cost?" He has caused vacations to not be planned, dinners never made, parties not given or attended...and let's don't even start to think about Christmas and birthdays because the weight of that elephant grows with each passing thought of their arrival. He's an ugly elephant, even as elephants go. Like most pachyderms, he has grown with age...and evidently, elephants have an extremely long lifespan because I see no hint that he plans on going anywhere.

All this was on my mind as I entered church today. Those around me sang and my mind's eye was filled with the "elephant" that sat on my wallet...make that sat on my chest, making it hard to breathe. When would this elephant go away? 

As will happen, my mind ricocheted to a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life." You know the one, where George Bailey grabs the post off the stair railing as it comes off in his hand and kisses it for joy because he has come to realize how blessed he truly is...then my mind wandered to the scene earlier in the movie, before Clarence the angel makes his appearance. It's the part where it appears Potter has won; George, who has been so positive before is overcome with worry and rants, "This drafty old barn! Might as well be living in a refrigerator! Why did we have to live here in the first place and stay around this measly, crummy old town?...Everything's wrong."

I'm afraid I'm a lot closer to George "pre-angel visit" than I am to the "post-angel" one. I wanted to be more like the happy George who didn't care what happened because he knew now how truly blessed his life had been. Still, inside I was frustrated, confused, and just generally in a frump. That elephant shifted his position, but he still sat clearly on top of me.

My mind then wandered to Elijah. (Hey, who can figure out why or how my mind works!?!) I thought of the old widow who had made her last batch of bread because "that was all there was." Yeah, God! That's what it feels like. I spend my life looking at what I have and wondering or worrying because I know that when this is gone, there is no more till next month. This is all there is! 

Then I remembered the rest of the story. You all know the one. Elijah comes to a widow and asks her to fix him some bread,  basically asked her to give all she had. That widow let him know that this was all there was, but then she made that small cake of bread for him anyway....and there was still plenty for more. That oil and flour didn't run out. She had all she needed, for her AND her child.

All this "thinking" went on during worship, and now it was time for the pastor to finally start talking - as if God hadn't already been messing with me enough already. When our pastor stood up to share, the message was aimed right at me. In a nutshell, the main idea was that we all must deal with FACTS, TRUTH, and OUR INTERPRETATION. Facts - that's what other words, my elephant. Truth - that's what God has to say about things. Our interpretation - what am I going to do about it. Which will I believe?

Our outlook is determined by what God says. While the "reality" of our elephant wants to shut us down, we can know that there is a truth that is bigger than the facts of our situation. Yes, there is a TRUTH that is bigger than your elephant!

The pastor left us with a homework assignment. We are to write in a little chart whatever the "Facts" are that we are dealing with. (He didn't say our "elephant" but I knew that's what it was.)  For me, I wrote, "There never seems to be enough." In the second column, we are to search God's Word for what HE has to say about this. That would be the TRUTH column. The third column may prove to be the toughest...."Which will I believe? As he reminded us today, what we believe in our head, we say with our mouths. What we believe in our heart becomes what I do.

I don't know if you have an elephant that has come to live in your house like I do, but if so, I invite you to join me in this exercise. Perhaps by the end we'll be more like the happy George Bailey. Our elephant won't seem so huge anymore. Maybe we'll even find that it is gone completely....and we can live life knowing that our God is MORE than enough...and there's always plenty of whatever we need, no matter what that need may be.

So here's to elephants, George Bailey, Elijah...and us. Good luck to us all on our "homework" as we attempt to eat our bite at a time, make that one word from God at a time.

1 Kings 17:7-16

The Message (MSG)
7-9 Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.”
10-11 So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”
12 She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”
13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”
15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!

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