The Voice of Condemnation

Condemn: to express strong disapproval of, to show or declare guilt, to declare unfit for use.

Every now and then the voice of condemnation makes a bid for prominence in my day, my thoughts and feelings.  It’s often when I hear the story of a famous, influential person who has accomplished a lot, or when I hear a tribute to someone who used their talent in an extraordinary way and influenced many lives for better.  I am tempted to look at my very small circle of influence and compare.  The voice points out the ways in which I have not been courageous, or diligent, or faithful, or willing to be involved.

Yesterday I entered the doctor’s waiting room, signed in and took a seat.  There was a late 20’s aged girl totally absorbed in telling her life story to an elderly couple.  She recounted her home life, her dysfunctional relationship with her father, mother and brother, and the situation she was presently involved in.  There were many complaints, tales of poor decisions (blamed on others, of course) and all voiced loudly enough that I had a hard time concentrating on the book I was trying to read.  I was wishing not to hear her after five minutes, but after fifteen minutes I was actually considering going outside to escape and asking the desk to call me when it was my turn to go back. The elderly couple was called back and she no longer had an audience, which clearly upset her.  She changed chairs and started making comments to herself about how sick she was.  She got up and kicked a book off the chair next to her, sat down on that chair, and mentioned out loud how she was not going to pick up the book because she was too sick.  I was SO grateful to be called about then and spared having to get into a conversation with her. She had “needy” written all over her and I didn’t want to deal with it.

You see, I am very aware of the miraculous ways in which God is walking into people’s lives and changing their course, and yet I am not always willing to get involved.  The truth is that when I have been involved in situations similar to that, they have not turned out well.  Over time I have seen that I am ineffective when it comes to counseling, reasoning with people to enlighten them, thinking of what to say to help them.  I am not able to change hearts, and much of the time I can’t even figure out what their need is and how to approach them.  Here’s where the voice of condemnation would like to finish me off. It would like me to think that I was responsible, and that it is now over, too late.  The voice repeats “It’s about you, and your failure.”

I have been convicted of my part and in response I am asking for crazy boldness, extra resourcefulness, time at the right time, and discernment.  I know God can teach me these things.  I know he forgives me for falling short.  If I hear a condemning voice, it is not his and I had better ask who that voice belongs to.  It is never too late for God to show what he can do, in fact the later it seems, the more awesome he proves himself to be.

“so, there is now no condemnation…”    The Bible, Romans 8:1

Guess what? It is not about me (or any of us). The whole story is about God and what he has done, is doing and will do yet. It is not over, not too late.  It’s in progress and we are part of it, a special part, but it is not about us.  That is pretty good news, just sayin’…

Early Morning Thoughts

I have to confess that my earliest thoughts each morning are not cheery.  It’s not that I don’t sleep well, but more that I don’t wake up well.  Aching shoulders, a pounding headache, feeling too warm and so uncomfortable that I have no recourse except to get up and look for distraction.  I’m hoping it’s a reasonable time to start the day.  It’s 5:30 am.

This is the way it is most days, but not every day. I find my distraction in the search for my glasses, the first cup of coffee, the mental chore of figuring out what day it is and remembering what I have to do. I used to have to be out the door by 6:30 but made the change to a kinder schedule.  Now I seldom have to be anywhere before 8 and I am thankful for peaceful mornings.  I can watch the light of day as it grows over the oneacrewoods and hope that a few moments of peace will result in a more comfortable me. It usually does. (Today I also took an Excedrin, that helped too.)

I realize that there are things that give me direction and energy.  I love thinking about the work of the day – the things I feel God has given me to attend to – and as I lay it out I examine each thing to see if I can figure out why.  It takes a lot of frustration out of my day to believe that this list comes from my “real boss” and he has the knowledge to add to or subtract from the list without explaining his reasons to me.  It’s interesting that the older I get and the more experience I have with his direction, the easier it is for me to see those reasons being worked out.  When there is a sudden change of plan, even something that looks like an inconvenience (think traffic jam, troublesome phone call, toilet overflow, etc…) I get a little excited and start looking for the opportunity in it.  If I was the one in charge, those things would be purposeless, aggravating, and discouraging.  But with my adventurous, all-knowing manager, everything has significance and can be part of something awesome.  I love being part of his team.

I do the things I know I should do.  I get dressed and try not to look scary. I eat breakfast.  I pack my bag and get out the door with words of encouragement running through my mind, “trust me, and don’t insist on having to understand.  No matter what happens, remember me and I will direct you through it.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6)  And one of my most positive morning thoughts is that even though I am getting older, slower, weaker, less able in many ways, none of those things are going to get me fired or laid off from my real job. Job security.  Once again, I’m just sayin’…

Being Led

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One of the hardest things for me in my relationship with God is knowing when he’s telling me something. I’m sitting in the physical, trying to hear from the spiritual and honestly, I need more practice at it to be sure what I’m hearing.
The husband has been a member of a community band for years. It takes quite a bit of his time and is really his one and only hobby. He plays trumpet, helps on the board, and with their website and talks about band, band, band all the time. I’m not a band music type of person, although I can usually find something to enjoy about any music played well. I have been to quite a few of his concerts over the years but lately I have felt more selfish with my time. I have many things I enjoy doing as much (more) than listening to marches and show tunes.
Today there is a fall concert, and I would say that the husband has been a tiny bit stressed out about it. I had not discussed with him whether I would go or not.  He left early to be there for a practice and warm up.  I was at home wanting very much to have a lovely quiet afternoon. Unfortunately, I have found that often in that situation I begin to have persistent thoughts that maybe I should be doing something else. Like, maybe going to a concert in support of the husband. Is this the voice of God testing my willingness to listen? Is this an overzealous conscience fueled by guilt? Hmmm… what are the chances?
So here I am at the concert (painfully early I might add), which I know will probably make the husband happy.
It’s possible it wasn’t God talking but he knows that I thought it might be him, so I think he’s happy too. It strikes me as the kind of thing God would do to surprise both the husband and me, so in that way I am looking forward to how this will turn out. And what can it hurt? I feel sort of blessed already, I’m just sayin’…

Today’s List

Today I made a list, which I almost never do anymore.  There were some important things that I didn’t want to forget.  I am never sure of my lists – are these the most important things? what am I forgetting? can I possibly do it all? But I did make the list and then prayed that if it mattered at all, I would be directed what to do.

And then I did other things, none of them on the list.  I guess it didn’t matter?

But it was ok.  I had made the decision someone else’s.

Today I helped my employer, somewhat longer than I had planned, but she needed it.

Today I returned a phone call and as a result, someone who needs a place to live, might have exactly what they wanted.

Today I fed someone who couldn’t feed herself. The food looked disgusting (pureed) but she ate it.  She had no response except to swallow and look at me once or twice. I felt overwhelmed with compassion.

Today I called the above person’s husband and told him that his beloved wife with Alzheimers was clean, fed and safe for one more day.

Today I came alongside someone who was helping someone else and hopefully answered some of his questions and encouraged him.  We made copies of his friend’s last will and testament.   We went to a restaurant and I had a strawberry shake while I watched him eat his burger and fries.

Today I let my cat sit undisturbed on my lap for half an hour.  It was the only time I was stationary at home and it did me good too.

None of these things were on my list, but they were on God’s list and ultimately I was very satisfied.  I’m making a list again for tomorrow but I’m not going to worry about it. The God I believe in is also making a list which is far better than mine. Hopefully as I trust him, my list will match his more and more. That is really all he asks of me.

Thanksgiving Day

 

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Today is a thanksgiving holiday for me.  I’m just taking a day off after two weeks and several thousand miles of travel to be thankful for making it there and back once again. I have “that thought” every time I leave home that I might not be back again, ever.  I’m not upset or overly morbid about it – it’s more a realization that there is no promise of longevity or a trouble free life given to anyone. Stuff happens, no matter how careful you are.Read More »

Scary Plans

I like to plan. Really, why not? The future is like this blank canvas on which something will be painted, or the blank sheet of paper on which something will be written. Why not choose what I’d like to see there and then have something to work toward? And I like plans that are a […]

Goodbye April Poetry Month

Poetry is so mysterious.  I love the collection of quotes about poetry on Addie Zierman’s post today, especially one by Dave Harrrity: “They aren’t silver bullets, tweetable platitudes, divine deliveries, or didactic directives that help you “be a better person.”  If a poem made your world easier, simpler, or more livable, then it’s almost certain that you haven’t read a poem.”

 On the Frustration of Poetry

I danced the dance

fought the fight

did the hard thing and listened to my soul.

And when it was said, I

presented it to him,

that teacher,

that Know-it-all,

that God.

And all he said (though not unkindly) was

“that poem’s not finished

keep writing.”

Shirley Dietz  2013 

 

 

A to Z Challenge: I – Images

Images: Colossians 3:10

I think because you think

“My thoughts are higher than your thoughts…”

I reason because you reason

“Come let us reason together…”

I love because you love

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends…”

I live because you live

“I am the way, the truth and the life…”

I know because you have known me

“before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely…”

I work because you work

“I have finished the work which you gave me…”

I grieve because you grieved

“Jesus wept.”

I suffer because you suffered

“he learned obedience from what he suffered…”

I know what is beautiful and good because you know

He saw all that he had made and it was very good…”

“…the new self, which is being renewed in the image of its Creator.”

 

 

 

Thoughts on Knowing Myself

(As I sit at the table, looking out at the green world with bright splashes of sun coming through the trees, on my day off, aware of how amazing it is that I can have thoughts at all…)

Hello self. Who exactly are you?

I believe my self-knowledge comes through my spirit.  I am not just a body having a spirit, I am a spirit having a body (from A. W. Tozer). I am different from other creatures in that I am spirit and body, made to resemble certain characteristics of the one who made me. The more I discover about myself, the more I know about my creator – and the more I know about my creator, the more I will understand about myself. It’s called “made in the image of”.

I believe in the reality of a spiritual world even though I don’t have eyes that see it. I often wonder how frightening it would be if that world were suddenly visible… That unseen world affects me day to day, moment to moment.  My moods, my physical responses, my energy, my courage or lack of it are all of extreme interest to this spiritual world.  You might even say there is a war going on and I am at the center of it and most of the time, completely unaware.

Can I prove the spiritual world? I have proved it to my own satisfaction in several ways.  Ultimately, I choose to believe it because its reasons and defense makes more sense to me than other beliefs.  The natural world is such a testament to someone greater and smarter than I am, or anyone else is.  People who believe otherwise say that we will discover natural answers to things we now consider supernatural – given time we will discover them and be master of their processes.  I also think we will discover things given time, only what we find will be increasingly complex and intricate and I believe we will discover God behind it all.

I believe that we all worship.  If I made a list of the things that concern me, that I fight to maintain, that I spend great amounts of time on, the item at the top of the list is what I worship. Do I want to worship things, or the creator of things, all things? Even the things we discover about the world – we discover, we don’t create. Science admits that the odds of evolution creating the complexity and diversity of life that we see are astronomical.  The “faith” required to accept a universe of its own creating is something I don’t have. It’s too big a leap.  I’m just sayin’ that’s one thing I know about myself.