June 25, 2012

Life Update

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 11:29 pm by Tamara

It may be hard to tell from the last few posts, but my life really isn’t a book (or a review of a book).  So I guess I should give a life update before I write the next two book reviews I have planned….

You’ve probably already guessed it, but we aren’t going to be going overseas this fall.  As I mentioned here, once we started the application process a bunch of reasons not to go suddenly popped up, and we were left trying to discern whether that was God speaking or just life being life or the enemy being the enemy.  We were concerned about the timing for several reasons, such as our desire to have more kids sometime in the next few years (and the possibility that I’d have to come back to the states if I needed another c-section), and the fact that we’d have to raise all our support in the summer, which is when I also needed to complete my internship for my degree.

Also, right when we were turning in our applications we found out that Adam’s mom’s cancer had started progressing faster than expected.  She was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia a while back, but told it would be ten years or so before she would feel any symptoms or need treatment.  Unfortunately, her check up showed it was progressing faster than they expected, and they said she would probably need to start chemo within the year.  I promised Mom I wouldn’t be dramatic when I wrote about this, but you can imagine how difficult it was for all of us to hear that!  She very much stressed to us that she wanted us to follow God wherever he was leading us, but it was definitely a new factor in our decision process.

So, we did a lot of praying and talking with people we trusted, and finally decided that we should wait at least a year before trying to go overseas.  Ironically, a few days after we decided that, the organization got back with us and told us that they didn’t think they had quite the right placement for us.  So that closed that door!

I had very mixed feelings about that.  My first reaction was to be very thankful that God had clearly closed the door and confirmed our decision to wait.  Unfortunately, other emotions followed quickly on my thankfulness’ heels!  Chief among them was a deep feeling of rejection.  “Why didn’t they want us?  What’s wrong with us?”  And that quickly transitioned into “Why doesn’t GOD want us?”  It’s baffling to me that God clearly calls us to “Go into all the world” and says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” but then when we say “Here am I!  Send me!” he says…”No.”  What do you do with that?

So I had to take a few weeks to really wrestle with some things I believe in my head but had to come to grips with in my heart.  A big one was that God’s love for me has nothing to do with my usefulness to Him.  And that closing one door doesn’t mean He’s given up on me and doesn’t want me anymore.  That He loves me fiercely and unconditionally and considers me as valuable as His own Son, and that will never change.

Once I had some peace in my heart about that whole mess of emotions and lies and truth, it was pretty much back to my old reaction: “Alright, Lord, thank you for clearly closing that door.  But, now, where is your open door?  I’m very thankful for clear ‘No’s,’ but where is your ‘Yes?’”

And…you’ll have to wait for a future blog post about that, because we’re not exactly sure about the answer yet!  We are sure, though, that God doesn’t have us here for no reason.  We don’t want to just be here because we aren’t “there” (wherever there is); we believe God has a reason why we are HERE, NOW.  So we’re trying to be faithful with what’s on our plates right now and keep our eyes open for what God wants to do in and through us right now.  There are a couple things on our radar screens, but this is getting long, so I’ll save them for later.

Mom has had a couple of doctor’s appointments since then, and we’re very thankful that she’s found some fantastic doctors.  They are still thinking she’ll need to start chemo sometime before the end of the year, but say there are some positives about where her condition stands now, such as that she’s still considered stage one.  So we’re waiting, praying, and trusting God.  I’d really appreciate your prayers!!

Thanks for reading, caring, and praying for us!  I can tell you are.  : )

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March 15, 2012

Vision and Questions for the Future

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by Tamara

“Let me explain–  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.”  (Name that movie!)

It’s a long story that I’ve shared bits and pieces of, but the summary is that Adam and I have been seriously praying about the possibility of going overseas for two years to do ministry.  We’ve sent in our applications so that we can talk with the organization, find out more about the opportunity, and go from there.  (Incidentally, the application is part of the reason for the lack of block posts lately: too much other writing for the application and school!)

Ever since we started the application process we’ve been blindsided by a bunch of reasons NOT to go.  We’re still processing them, trying to discern if any of them are God saying “Wait” or if they’re just life being life, or the enemy being the enemy, or what.  It’s exhausting and discouraging, but also a good lesson in trust and learning to listen to the Father.  We’re really in limbo so I can’t say what’s going to happen, but if I don’t at least mention it now and we do decide to go, you’ll all think it came out of thin air, so I’m mentioning it!

At any rate, that’s not the real point of this post, just the background.  Here’s the point: I get prayer updates from someone doing ministry in a dangerous part of the world, and they recently had some people visit the region to see about maybe coming to minister there.  This was in a recent update from my friend, and it just about made me cry, because I can so relate!  I can’t share my friend’s name, but they gave me permission to post this.  If you’re in the same boat, I hope it’s encouraging to you, too!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Some call them vision trips. Others say they’re survey trips. Whatever the name, it’s all about breathing the air, walking the ground, and wondering if you could do it. Could you make this move? Could you live here, in this stranger than you’ve ever imagined place? It’s about putting your real self and your shimmering dreams before others you may have met only through email, if at all. It’s about listening to what’s said and what’s left unsaid. Its about pushing back the doubts and fears and straining to hear our Father’s voice.

“I am always awed at the courage of vision-trippers. It’s a journey of pure faith; flying face-forward into the abyss. It’s knowing that you’re called but wondering who, if anyone, will receive you. And if they do receive you, will they be glad for it? Will you find a home with the little band, the team you’ve agreed to join? Will you make good decisions? Do you really know who you are? Are you ready? And if you do come, will anyone back home support you? Will people really pray? Will they give? Will they remember you? Will it be enough? And who said you could do this, anyway? Who said you had anything to give? Why don’t you just stay home? Isn’t there enough work to be done there? And how could you take our grandchildren so far away? What about your career and your retirement – and a hundred other challenges?

“This is why I’m always awed at the faith of vision-trippers. These are folks who’ve started the journey. Who’ve stood up and bravely said; ‘I want to go.’  They have some partners who’ve said; ‘I believe in you.’ Who pray and give – who invest in the brave dream that’s not yet been fulfilled. They’ve completed applications and joined an organization. They’ve prayed their hearts out and started counting the cost. They’ve stepped headlong into a spiritual battle the likes of which they’ve never experienced before. The enemy rises up in rage. “Who do you think you are!?!” With weapons of doubt and fear, he would stop us in our tracks if God were not with us. This is why I love vision-trippers. I love their sheer courage and trembling faith. The next steps are clear; join a field-team, raise support and go. If you know any such people, cheer them on. Celebrate their journey. Enjoy the overflow of their faith.”

September 22, 2011

Ignoring Conventional Wisdom on Having Kids=Best Decision We’ve Ever Made

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

Bear, Five Months Old

I’ve been thinking tonight about what an incredible proof Bear is that God knows what He’s talking about and wants good things for us.  When we decided to try to get pregnant, there were plenty of reasons people could have said we were nuts.  The common “wisdom” on starting a family is that you need to a) be finished with school, established in your career(s), and financially secure, and b) have done everything fun that you want to do, because kids are going to tie you down and could destroy your dreams.  We decided to say bah humbug to conventional wisdom, mostly because the Bible is so chock full of statements about how kids are a blessing and a joy.

For example: Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward!  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!  Psalm 128:1-4  How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways…your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.  Behold, for this is how the man who fears the LORD will be blessed!

If God, the one who created all the incredible things that make me happy (like chocolate, colors, the ocean, back rubs, my husband!) says something is a blessing, then I would like to experience it!  We also trusted that if God instructs us to raise godly children, He’ll give us the financial and emotional resources to do so.

Zooming Around on Daddy’s Shoulders

Tonight I was doing homework and my husband put Bear in his PJs and then was jogging around the living room with Bear on his shoulders.  The sight of our little baby in footy teddy bear pajamas, grinning from ear to ear as he clutched fistfuls of Adam’s hair and “drove” his daddy around the room was too adorable for words.  They stopped by the table where I was working and Bear gave me a squeal and a huge smile before they zoomed off again.  My heart just melted.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am with our little family.  My husband and Bear have brought me so much joy—infinitely more than I can ever imagine getting from the things we gave up to have him.

Certainly, it’s hard too.  And there’s no guarantee that parenting won’t involve heartbreak (in fact, it probably will at some point).  I have friends who have experienced terrible heartache, whether in raising their kids or in trying to have kids.  My heart bleeds for them, and I don’t understand the unfairness of it.  I don’t understand why good parents have children who rebel, or why evil people harm their children while wonderful couples have no children.  Amazingly, most of my friends who have experienced this have still told me that God has brought good things even out of their pain.  In fact, witnessing firsthand the pain of our friends who wanted kids and were struggling to have them really drove home to my husband and I that kids are a blessing we shouldn’t take lightly or make a low priority.

Melts My Heart!

When I look at Bear, there just aren’t words to describe how fiercely I love him, or how fulfilled and joyful he makes me.  And tonight it hit me again: God is right.  He is really, really, right.  He knows what He’s talking about.  Bear will always be a great reminder to trust God when I’m faced with things that God says but I don’t think make sense.  I SO wanted to have a baby, but it was still a leap of faith for us, one we made because we trusted (and still trust) that God knows what’s best for us, knows how to give us REAL blessings, and will take care of us.  God has provided for and blessed us more than I could ever have imagined, and He always will.   I am SO thankful, and so blessed!!

July 24, 2010

Proud of the Pigpen I’m Splashing In

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 8:11 pm by Tamara

Have you noticed how cool it’s become to talk about what failures we are?  Hypocrisy is bad, and honesty is good.  But I’m starting to think we’ve gone a little too far.  Too often we’re like pigs in the muck, happily splashing and saying “Look at me!  I’m sinning left and right!  I’m a total mess!  It’s okay, I’m no better than you, so you don’t have to be offended by me.  Come try this Christianity thing!  The muck’s great!”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Popular Christian attitudes seem to swing like pendulums.  It’s very hard to find the middle–something I know very well, being extremely drawn to the black and white.  I think this pendulum swing has come from our reaction against a mask-like Christianity that acts like we have everything together, and once you become a Christian, everything will be hunky dory for you, too!  Of course, this hypocrisy is not only harmful but ridiculous.  So we realized, rightly, that it was time to add some more honesty to our Christian dialogue.  After all, how could people see the healing, transforming, redeeming power of our Redeemer if we never admitted there was anything for Him to heal?  We also realized that one function of the body should be accountability–we need to admit our failures so we can help each other out of them.  This are good goals and beautiful results of true humility.  But, our enemy is smart, and of course he hates true humility.  So he twists it.

We’ve maintained, mostly, the part where we talk about our sins and failures.  But somehow we’ve forgotten the POINT of that.  When we talk about our struggles, it’s too often not because we’re broken-hearted over sin, it’s because it feels good to admit we’re sinning and have everyone else just nod sympathetically.  It takes a burden off our shoulders, makes us feel like maybe this sin isn’t so bad after all!  But true confession is not about just telling the story of our failure (and being proud that we’re humble enough to admit it).  Confession means agreeing with God that what we did was wrong, and that our sin is something deadly that He takes very seriously.  When I say “I’m really struggling with______,” that’s a good time for me to examine whether I’m really STRUGGLING against that issue, or just passively floating in the shark pool.

And why has it become “cooler” to talk about personal failure than to express faith and hope that God is powerful enough to help us out of any situation?  Eric Ludy says in his book The Bravehearted Gospel, “Oddly enough, the only people whom we trust any more in Christianity—the only people whom we consider to be real, honest Christians—are those who come right out and testify not of the power of Christ transforming their lives, but of their own sinful indulgences, lusts, and indiscretions, and their complete inability to cease from a single one” (p. 137, emphasis mine).  When did we forget the power of our God?  When did we forget that the point of a Redeemer is that He redeems?  Why do we act like there are some issues that are just too big for Christ’s blood to cleanse, so we may as well just sit around and tell each other “It’s okay, don’t worry about it?”  And why should anyone want to join us in the Christian life if we ourselves have no hope of change, healing, and life?

My challenge to myself:

  1. If I’m admitting my failure, I’d better make sure that I realize how serious that sin is, that I’m broken-hearted over it, and that I’m consciously telling God, “I agree with you that this is sin, please help me!”  If I can’t say any of that, I probably need to stop talking and start praying that God will help me see my sin the way He does, otherwise I run the risk of just encouraging someone else that the sin isn’t that big of a deal after all.
  2. When someone else admits to me that they’re struggling, I need to not only tell them “I understand, and I have the same struggle,” but also tell them “There’s hope!  God is strong!  He cares about this, and He’s given us the life of Christ so we can conquer this.  We don’t have to be defeated!”

April 27, 2010

Really, God?

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 10:20 pm by Tamara

Sometimes I really think I know where God is going with things.  His power is so obvious, His control over the situation so seamless.  Take the story of how God delivers the Israelites from Egypt.  God needs a leader, so He miraculously arranges for a baby boy to be rescued and adopted by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter.  I see where He’s going with this!  Who better to free the Israelites than Pharaoh’s own grandson, who just happens to be an Israelite himself?  It’s perfect!  Moses just grows up, becomes pharaoh, sets the Israelites free, and rules all of Egypt.  Isn’t it so amazing how God can put people in powerful positions in order to have them do His will?

Pause.  What?  Moses commits murder?  Pharaoh orders him killed?  Moses runs for his life, leaving his wealth, his power, his position?

What?

I’ve had some “what?” moments with God before.  I think I know the track He’s rumbling my life along, and then—WHAM—everything gets derailed.  Without warning, Moses goes from a life where he was probably learning political strategy, forging alliances, using wealth, and dreaming of how God might use him to deliver his people.  And then suddenly, he’s sitting at a dirty, dusty well in the backwoods, where no one respects him and he’s constantly looking over his shoulder in fear.  Everything is lost.  To add insult to injury, his solitude is cruelly interrupted by the jangling, jostling, bleating sounds of a smelly herd of sheep plowing their way towards him.  Not only that, but they’re being shepherded by the daughters of a pagan priest.  Great.

Moses watches them fill their water troughs, wishing they’d hurry up and finish so he can be left in peace again.  And then the shepherds come—big, burly, dirty men who start harassing the girls and shoving them away from the well.

Now, to be perfectly honest here, I’m not sure I would have done anything.  I can physically feel how depressed, worthless, afraid, and abandoned I would be feeling at this point.  All my big dreams of doing great things for God are gone.  The most important thing in front of me is a well and some idol-worshipper’s sheep?  I have a sad feeling I might have just gotten up and walked away.  What’s the point of doing something so small when I failed at something so big?  But Moses doesn’t walk away.  Exodus 2:17 says he did two things: “Moses stood up and helped them.”

Moses made a huge mistake in Egypt.  I can remember times I’ve wondered if I have too, and if I’ve completely messed up God’s plan.  Or sometimes it just seems like God has plunked me in the middle of nowhere for no reason.  But He still challenges me to 1) Get up, and 2) Do what He’s put in front of me (Ex. 2:17).  No matter how small it is.  No matter how far gone I feel.  No matter how powerless I feel.  I have no way of knowing what wonderful things God might do through my obedience.

I don’t always get God.  I “think” that I think in big terms, have big dreams, lofty goals, careful plans:

“God, couldn’t You make me president so I can DO something about this?”

“Oh, if only I was a famous movie star, I’d share the Gospel with everyone.”

“I can’t wait to be on the mission field so I can make an eternal impact.”

Those aren’t bad dreams, per se, but it seems like God doesn’t often work that way.  In my case, He’s taken me from being heavily involved in multiple ministries to working a retail job.  Really, God?  Are you sure?

Have you ever had one of those moments?  Ever felt powerless to impact anything?  Ever stared down at that exploding baby diaper, or at the piles of paper covering your desk at work, or at the five page study guide for that test, or at the notice about your layoff, and said, “Really, God?  This is my life?  This is what You’ve given me to work with?”  Don’t get me wrong–I’m enjoying life right now, but it doesn’t seem very spectacular, or like there are many life-changing moments in it.

“Really, God?  A smelly herd of sheep, and pagan shepherd girls?”

“Yes, Moses.”

In the end of the story, God’s plan was infinitely more incredible than where I would have gone with it.  A vision of God in a burning bush?  One of those shepherd girls becomes his wife, and saves his and his son’s lives?  Miraculous powers, signs, and plagues?  The entire Egyptian army being wiped out?  Wow.  But the really impressive half of Moses’ story starts with him just showing compassion and watering a flock of sheep.  Just like Moses’ story, I think the story God’s writing for me—and you—will be more incredible than we imagine.  And it, too, will probably start with obedience in a lot of small things.  We just need to get up, do what He’s put in front of us, and trust Him for the rest.

March 17, 2010

The Fifth Gospel

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 8:59 pm by Tamara

Today I felt a little palpitation of panic for no good reason.  I’d left my book in clear sight on the breakroom table, with “Christian” loudly printed on its cover for all to see.  I had to deliberately resist an urge to flip it over as I headed for the microwave.  My workplace is not exactly a haven of Christianity, in fact it seems to draw the loudly liberal.  There’s one regular customer who’s particularly hostile and has told me repeatedly that he hates—yes, hates—Christians and Republicans (“You know why Republican ends in ‘N’?” he asked me,  “It’s for Republica-nazi.”)

All I could think as I sat down with my lunch and flipped open my book so you couldn’t see the cover was Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  I could almost hear those words spinning around and around in my head, accompanied by a sad, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I’d never say I’m ashamed of the gospel, per se, but openly reading a book with “Christian” stamped boldly across the cover?  I felt like a scared, fleeing disciple, running away from my Savior in the night.

Where has the power of the gospel gone—how does it so easily slip out of my sight?  The next half of the verse is “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Really, power?  Yes, I believe—I believe it!  There is power in the gospel.  So why don’t I feel secure?

I think sometimes it’s not that I’m ashamed of the gospel, but that I’m afraid of my stuttering, ineloquent delivery.  If someone called me on the carpet for why I’m studying to be a Christian counselor, could I answer them?  Could I answer with the joy and security that I feel when it’s just me and my wonderful Redeemer, alone in worship?  Could I tell them why I KNOW that Jesus is the only balm that will heal those deep, deep wounds?  And why am I so afraid of the reaction—so afraid that my poor witness will be the thing that turns them away from Jesus instead of to Him?  What a delicious trick of the Enemy—make me so scared stiff of turning them away from the Gospel that I won’t even share it.

Ironically, the chapter I was reading opened with a quote: “There are five gospels of Jesus Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you, the Christian.  Many people will never read the first four” (Gipsy Smith).  I see my hostile customer several times a week, and I’m always glad to see him.  Let’s call him Mr. New York Times.  I know his name, I know which paper he always wants, I greet him with a big smile and—almost inevitably—listen to the story he’s about to read in the paper: one more professing Christian (usually a politician) who just got caught in a sickening affair.  He points to that story and says that’s the Gospel.  I pray I can show him otherwise.

Please pray for Mr. NYT!  Pray for me to cling bravely to the power of the Gospel, and send those seeds out wherever they land, believing in their power to divide soul and spirit.

I am not ashamed—Lord help my shame!

March 3, 2010

Big Knives and Marriage

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 11:53 am by Tamara

My dad spoke at our wedding about “cleaving” in marriage.  I’ll be honest, the day was a bit of a blur, but I THINK he talked about how cleaving could either mean something to do with a large, sharp knife, or to stick with and be united with your spouse.  Some might argue that both are possibilities in marriage, but let’s go with the second definition, shall we?

The reference in Genesis 2:24 says a “man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  (The word “united” was “cleave” in early English translations.)  It’s amazing to me how I can “know” what a verse means and then have God make it REAL, and I realize how much more depth was there than I ever imagined.  I think that concept is why the Bible is limitless—why there’s always something deeper to learn from it.

This move has been a living lesson for me in what it means to cleave, and why the Bible says the process of being united involves leaving.  Adam and I were both pretty independent and secure in our environments, friends, etc when we got married.  We have WONDERFUL parents who have beautifully handled the balance between giving us freedom to start a new family while still loving and supporting us.  I’d say Adam and I relied on each other during our first year of marriage, but it was nothing like these past few months.  When we got here, we had no one to lean on but each other and Christ.  The result is that, through leaving our comfort zones together, I feel closer to him than I’ve ever felt before.  In the first place, we’ve been together nearly 24-7, which I’ve loved.  In the second place, I NEED him now, whether it’s to save me from the multitude of mini handyman-emergencies we’ve had with the house, to get away for a cup of coffee and chat, or just to know that someone else knows exactly what going through all these new experiences is like.  “Leaving” has been a hard thing, but it’s been a wonderful thing for our marriage.  I respect, trust, love, and admire him more than ever before.

Today is the first sad day when Adam’s shift ends at the same time that mine begins, meaning we won’t see each other all day.  On the bright side, he got a job!  He’ll be working at Panera (one of my favorite places!) and continuing to take seminary classes.  As stressful as it was before he had a job, the upside for me was that he was almost always home when I was.  And I just love having him around.  I’m so thankful for these past few months of learning to rely on him more than I ever have before.

It’s amazing isn’t it, that the Bible actually knows what it’s talking about?  I wonder how many other things the Bible says to do that I’m brushing over without thinking of actually applying them to my life.  God really, really knows what He’s talking about.  There’s never been any command that I’ve obeyed and had it not turn out for my good.  That should be something to remember when I don’t understand what He’s doing, or just plain don’t like it.  He knows what He’s doing, and what He’s doing is good!

December 31, 2009

The Gauntlet

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 9:55 pm by Tamara

This move has felt a little like the gauntlet Lancelot runs in the movie First Knight. When I first stared into the details, it looked like an impossible mess of slashing blades, jabbing swords, and swinging hard objects. SLICE! Two blades went whizzing in front of my nose, taunting “You have nowhere to live!” STAB went a sword up from the floor, reminding me, “You have no way to pay for school!” THWACK, “You have no job” swooshed by. We were pretty sure of two things: we needed to get this training, and we had no way to make it happen.

In one of my (many) freak-out moments, I sensed very clearly that God was telling me that I needed to just take the first step–ONE STEP–in faith. There’s a dazzling shot in First Knight where the camera looks down the gauntlet and all you can see is a blur of blades. Then they pull back and show just Lancelot’s next step, and you see what you couldn’t see before: there’s just enough space for him to stand in between the swinging blades, IF he doesn’t go too far (or not far enough) with each step. That’s what I think God has been teaching us to do: wait for His provision and then step, then wait again until He opens the next door.

God has definitely not parted the entire gauntlet for us, but we’ve watched in wonderment as, each time we take a step of faith, He takes care of another problem. SWOOSH, He gave us a place to live. ZING, He gave us money for tuition. SLICE, He gave me a job. But, if I’d refused to follow Him because I couldn’t see all the answers at first, or if I’d decided He didn’t care about me or doubted that He’d see us through, I never would have seen the incredible ways He’s provided.

As I look forward, there are a LOT of details not taken care of yet. Adam doesn’t have a job, we need a car, my income won’t pay for all our expenses, seminary is just a LITTLE BIT expensive, etc, etc, etc. Every time I crunch the budget numbers I want to hyperventilate as all I can see is another blur of slashing blades. But God has clearly gotten us this far down the gauntlet, and I know that He’s asking me to keep walking. While we’re relying on Him, I believe that each step will keep us safe between the blades, and eventually we’ll reach the other side.

“You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ …For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:30-34

P.S. Okay, I have to add that I’m not a big fan of Lancelot in First Knight, but it’s the analogy that’s the point here!

September 16, 2009

Falling…With Style

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 8:47 am by Tamara

I distinctly remember my wincing prayer: “Lord, if you want me to look like an idiot, I will.” I was nineteen and almost a junior at the college I’d decided to go to when I was ten. My life plan was rolling along splendidly, until I suddenly felt like God was leading me to leave college. (Choke) The label “College Drop-out” just sounded so unbearably horrible. Well, I took a leap of faith and the next thing I knew I was plunked down at a Bible college in the frigid depths of Wisconsin—IN JANUARY. I had no idea that this insane move was God’s answer to so many of my prayers. The next few years as a student and then as staff at the school were a dream, and I often sat in amazement of how WONDERFUL God was making my life.

Once in “Anne of Avonlea,” Anne is talking to Marilla about soaring in life’s wonderful moments, when Marilla very pragmatically informs her that she’d “Rather do without both soaring, and THUD.” Ah, yes, thud. Things went thud for me when suddenly I needed to look for a job in the “real” world, and I needed…a college degree.

HammerLooking back on when I left college, it felt like I’d been sitting at my carpentry bench, happily hammering away, when God said, “Give me your hammer.”
(Confused expression) “But, God, I can’t make this box without a hammer.”
“Will you trust Me?”
So I hand over my hammer, and for a few glorious years, He works everything out! I don’t need that hammer, and He gives me new tools, and helps me make beautiful, elaborate things, and then—
“Make Me a box.”
I stop dead. “But, God, I don’t have my hammer anymore. You took it away.”
“Make Me a box.”
“How can I make You a box without a hammer?!”
Silence.

I was okay with the leap of faith when I left college, but I expected God to CATCH me. In fact, there was no doubt in my mind that He would. He owed it to me—I leapt, didn’t I? And He did catch me for several years, and then…THUD. Now it seemed like the biggest stresses in my life were because I’d trusted God. I’d willingly given Him my tools (job, degree, etc) when He asked for them, and now what did He expect me to do, bang the nails in with my head? It seemed like God was being so…mean. What do you do when God isn’t catching you?

To Be Continued….

June 25, 2009

Beautiful Fear

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 9:55 am by Tamara

I’ve always been intrigued and a bit perplexed by the concept of fearing God. It’s all over the Bible, but…I don’t really get it. How to I balance fear with His love, grace, etc, and what does it look like PRACTICALLY to keep a healthy fear of God in my mind?

A few nights ago we had an awe-inspiring thunderstorm. Brilliant sparks of lightning flashed across the stars in tandem with ground-shaking crashes of thunder. I like thunderstorms; the combination of terrific force and equal beauty entrances me. And I don’t feel afraid watching them while safe in my house, cuddled on a soft bed in the cool of the night.

I read a quote by John Piper the other day that painted a beautiful picture of the fear of God. (Granted, I have more than a few problems with Piper’s theology, but I loved this quote.) He starts out saying to imagine that you’re on a glacier when a storm sets in that you’re afraid might blow you off the cliff:

“But in the midst of the storm you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure. But, even though secure, the awesome might of the storm rages on, and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers, Not everything we call fear vanishes from your heart, only the life-threatening part. There remains the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power.
“And so it is with God. The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. Hope turns fear into a trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it earnest and profound.” (Piper, John, quoted in Holy Available , p 148 by Gary Thomas, [emphasis mine])

What a vivid picture of the fear of God. My fear of thunderstorms is a beautiful fear, a recognition of their power but a feeling of safety because that power isn’t against me or going to hurt me.

I think I need to take God more seriously. Fearing Him requires really knowing Him deeply enough to recognize what He’s capable of, what He deserves, what I deserve. It would undoubtedly effect my obedience. What is my sin, if not a statement that I really think I know better that God? But the more I combine a realization of all God is (which should create a healthy dose of fear if I’m honest) with the hope He’s given me because of His grace, the more I’ll take His commands seriously and trust Him that He really does know best.