Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Waltzing with Solomon

I've always enjoyed the book of Ecclesiastes.  Solomon tackles the nitty gritty in his self-titled book.  What is the point?  Why bother?  One day is the same as the next.  We think we have something wonderful and new, but history reveals that it's all been done before.

Solomon tried to combat the futility he felt by indulging his cravings.  He toyed with profound knowledge, with tremendous architectural projects, with surrounding himself with wine, women, and song.  He sought pleasure in all its many varieties, and found it was not the remedy to humdrum, meaningless life.

Never claiming Solomon's wisdom, I nevertheless share a pursuit he explored.  He sought out knowledge and man's wisdom to alleviate the tedium and purposelessness of life.  I lean toward the same intellectual bent.  I tend to be pragmatic and practical, to a fault, really.  While I am a spiritual person, I tend to discount the spiritual aspect of my faith and my life.  If it's in black and white, if it's logical, if it's sensible, it is acceptable.  If it smacks of the supernatural, of mysticism or miracles, it is questionable at best.

I've been indulging my inner Solomon lately.  I say this to my shame.  I've become downright cynical about the faith to which I owe so much.  Sure, I acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross to take my punishment for sin, and that this atonement makes me acceptable to God.  But visions, dreams, feelings?  Give 'em to someone else.  I don't acknowledge such things.  I have even become scornful of them and dubious of those who lay claim to them.

I know for a fact (ah...love facts!) that God accepts me as I am, cynicism and all.  I know that nothing more is necessary for me to partake in relationship with Him.  But I know, for myself, that I am missing out on a richness that others enjoy in abundance.  Ignoring the spiritual side of faith sounds anti-intuitive, and it is.  I've paid a high price for my enjoyment of reasoned faith.

I recently participated in a women's fellowship meeting.  The ladies who led worship had an amazing ability to select songs that recalled my haughty intellect back to those days before the cynicism set in.  I had experienced wonder then.  I had approached life with anticipation of meeting God at every turn.  I had enjoyed the dance of spiritual liveliness once.

Solomon concludes Ecclesiastes playing the same melancholy tune he opened with.  The curtain closes and we are neither enlightened nor enlivened.  I hope that my experience will be different.  I want to get as much out of this dance as I possibly can.  I want life, and vigor, and the supernatural, to cut in and sweep me off my feet.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Did It Go?

A worthy question.  Thank you for asking!

I still am not a preacher.  But apparently I do a pretty good imitation of one.

I was overprepared.  I think most people who feel inadequate probably end up with too much material.  Having so few speaking opportunities, I had no idea how long each part of my "message" would last.  I prepared four segments - one outline, one word-for-word section, one printout of a Bible passage with brief notes, and a suggestion of something to add at the end with no notes whatsoever.  I had no idea which format would be most effective, and this seemed a good way of making sure I had something I'd be able to communicate while standing before a group of people.

The woman who prayed for the service before it began did a great thing, let me tell you.  I was not nervous (not even one little bit).  Standing in front of an assembly of women, most of whom I'd never met and the rest whom I see every week, felt quite natural.  Although I don't remember the blow-by-blow, apparently I was coherent and even somewhat interesting.  As I spoke, I actually looked people in the eye, gestured, and added little bits of humor.

Something I learned about myself:  I am amazingly extemporaneous.  For all my planning, each segment turned out to be a mere launching point for discussion.  My  preparation made my speaking points seem old friends with whom I had much in common, and about whom I could relate familiar detail.

Afterward, a number of ladies approached me with positive comments.  Since I had four segments to my message, there was a lot of ground covered, but there was not one segment that went without comment.  That made me very happy!  As I stood baring my soul, I suspected I was going on a little long, and I wondered if I was wasting my time and theirs.  I was glad to learn that they found my words valuable.

So what did I learn?  I learned that speaking, or preaching, is not a mystical experience.  It's hard work and lots of preparation.  Even though I'm married to a pastor and I see this week by week, it took personal experience to apprehend it for myself.  I also learned that God will speak to His people, even if He has to use someone like me to do it - and that leads me to the realization that those who speak for Him are wholly human.  If they don't measure up, well, neither do I.  That's what grace is for.  Again, I see it in my husband, but it seemed more miraculous when it was me.

I also learned something that the apostle Paul taught long ago.  When we are weak, God steps in with His strength.  It's a good thing to be weak, then.  I can't imagine what would have happened if I'd tried to read my notes and muddle through it alone.  As it was, I prepared and planned, then offered what I had, and God stepped in and called it good.

I am not a preacher, but God can use me as one, anyway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm not a preacher.

Let's just get that straight.

I have been asked to speak at a ladies' meeting this Saturday.  While I realize that everyone says they're uncomfortable speaking in public, I really really am.  People are sure that, because my husband is a pastor, I'm a natural candidate to preach.  Of course, they also think I play the piano and make cute little appetizers, too, ha ha.

The ladies at church are all excited.  At a dinner after church on Sunday I was repeatedly approached by enthusiastic women.  "I can't wait to hear you preach!"  Preach?  Me?  If you knew me, you would find this ludicrous.  I'm not an emotional person.  I don't preach.  Teach?  Sometimes.  Opinionate?  Occasionally.  Preach?  Never, ever.

I've been asked to speak before.  Every time, I nervously pray and prepare.  I write, rewrite, tear up and write again.  I research the Bible, commentaries, and my thesaurus.  I make an outline.  I write out every word.  I make a new outline.  And something always comes up and I never actually speak.  The activity is cancelled, or the worship lasts for hours, or the event becomes an impromptu prayer meeting.

This time it's our denomination's district annual women's fellowship meeting.  The topic is God Speaks, and to be honest, I hope He does.  Maybe I'll open my mouth and A Voice From Heaven will fill the room and leave us all in holy awe for two hours until lunch is served.  I told the woman who organized the meeting about my shady past and we joked that it might snow.  With the weather we've had lately, I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

Or Jesus Himself might return.  Some people say He will.  I should be so lucky.  Er...blessed!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some Good Quotes

Our homeschool group is performing a play about Corrie ten Boom.  My job was to prepare slides to give the audience some feel for the setting and characters before the play begins.  As I researched a bit I thought some quotes from the real Corrie ten Boom would help set the mood.  Although I didn't end up using any, I found some of them insightful, so I thought I'd share my favorites here.

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength." 

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open." 

"The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible."
"When you are covered by His wings, it can get pretty dark." 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

It was the perfect Mother's Day.

I had to stay home from church because Toddler has a bad cold.  Tween stayed with me, while Teen went to try to fulfill some of my church obligations.  While she was gone, Tween made me a card and Toddler reassured me any number of times that she "wuffs" me.  My third daughter brought Tween home (more about 3D in a future post) and stayed to talk boy/God/future stuff.  We went to the store to pick up subs, cold medicine, and ice cream, then spent the rest of the day watching videos and playing Wii Fit.  Husband called on the computer and we chatted for a while.  Video telephoning is so Jetsons, and so nice.

I love a quiet day at home.  I hate having a fuss made over me.  It really was the perfect day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

First Day Jitters

Tomorrow is the first day of my new life.

Okay.   That is, perhaps, an overstatement.  It is true, though, in a way.

Every year my husband travels for a number of weeks for work.  Usually that means a relaxing of the guard.  When it's just me and the kids, dinner is flexible, and even sometimes optional.  Chores are easier.  Bedtime is strictly enforced, so the rhythm of the days beats a little stronger, making everything else fall into line.  Fun can be more spontaneous, since we don't have to plan around Daddy's schedule or his car usage (we are a one-car family).

This year will be very different.  Teen is in public school for the first time, as I mentioned before.  Usually Daddy drives her to school at 7 a.m., since Toddler is still up at least once, and often more, every night.  While he's gone, driving duty will fall to me, and Tween and Toddler will necessarily accompany me.  Day One is tomorrow.

I am choosing to view this as a great opportunity.  I'm very hopeful that a regulated rising time will help Toddler to finally hold to some kind of sleep schedule, and perhaps even sleep all night.  Tween also produces better schoolwork when he rises early.  Honestly, I also am much more productive when I don't make up for a lack of nighttime sleep by staying in bed until eight or nine in the morning.  Plus, Toddler will need an earlier nap during the day.  She usually naps in the car while I pick Teen up in the afternoon.  A nap at home will mean more time for me to accomplish a few things around the house while she sleeps.

Time will reveal if my hopes are realistic or just a further extension of my reckless optimism.  One good thing, either way, though:  it's much easier to get out of bed at six a.m. when your companion is cheerful expectation!