Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wilderness Wanderings

"Not all who wander are lost" wrote JRR Tolkien.  Lost or not, the experience of wandering in an unknown place - a wilderness - is not a comfortable one.  Whether it's a literal wilderness of an unknown land or the metaphorical wilderness of a life experience, for the Christian there are some recognizable landmarks and a promise of hope.

I've come to recognize that "wilderness experiences" have some common characteristics.  One of these is isolation. This is the season of aloneness, a season that can leave you wondering if there is really love to be found in this life.  It can make us doubt our perceptions.  Another is danger.  We know there are unknown (and sometimes known) pitfalls, yet, because we are alone, we can't take a break from being watchful.  It's exhausting.  Because of both isolation and danger, we can feel very vulnerable and subject to temptations.  Things that wouldn't entice us under ordinary circumstances can pull very powerfully on us during wilderness times. 

It is during these time that we realize how much we truly must depend on God for everything.  In fact, in looking back over the times in my life which have felt like a wilderness, I realize that the questions being posed are always the same - "Did God say?" and "Do you trust Him?" 

Another characteristic that wilderness experiences share is the one that encourages me that I'm not lost there.  It is this - they are temporary, designed by God and allowed in my life to prepare me for what He has coming next.  Moses, Elijah, Paul, and Jesus himself were all prepared for service in the wilderness.  So even though I feel the isolation, I know I'm not alone.  Many have walked this route before and found God to be always good and always faithful.  They are that "great cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews 12 mentions, continually urging me on by testifying to the greatness of our God.

I don't see the end yet to this bleak landscape I'm currently in, but each day gives me the opportunity to move forward in faith.  I'm wandering right now, but, thankfully, I'm not lost.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why I'm a Terrible Blogger

All the conventional wisdom I've seen on blogging maintains that a good blogger needs to post regularly - daily, weekly, bi-weekly - in order to keep in touch with readers.  And I must confess,  I do have a couple of blogs that I read on a regular basis.  However, I'm never going to be a good blogger myself for a couple of reasons.

1) I don't have something worthwhile to say on a regular basis. :)  Most of the time I'm swimming in the mundane aspects of life and enjoying the beautiful things as they are flying by.  I'm a slow processor, so whipping out a quick blog isn't going to happen for me.

2) I am woefully aware of my tendency to be reactive and sharp-tongued.  I purposely keep things on hold while I try to think through the best way to write about a subject.  Again, this takes me a while, so I'm not one to generate a lot of impassioned posts on current topics.  "Where words are many, sin abounds." Proverbs 10:19

That being said, I've got a backlog of ideas to explore this summer, so I may just get out more than a quarterly blog!  Stay tuned. :)

I recently got an invitation from someone to join twitter.  I've thought about that a bit, and decided that my challenge in life is to NOT say the first thing that pops into my head.  Twitter would make me feel obligated to do otherwise.  So, no tweeting here.  I'm still working on this space, though.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thoughts on Mother's Day

For my children: You make this day special for me.  Without your presence in my life, there would be a whole dimension missing.  I don't think I'd have learned the sweetness of sacrifice, the pangs that can accompany joy, or the elation that can come with small steps forward without you.  Most importantly, you have expanded my understanding of God's love as I've been amazed at the depth of joy I have in your growth and in your delighting in beauty and the good gifts of life.  Often I think, "If I feel this so intensely, how much more must God delight over His children."  I think you've made me a better child.

Thank you!  I love each of you with all my heart.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thoughts on working

How do you evaluate (or value) your work? This is on my mind right now as I evaluate student term papers and see the annual gap between students who take instruction and requirements to heart and students who don't.  It's obvious pretty quickly what a person values by what he or she brings to the table with work.

For some, the measure of value is money.  Do I put effort into something that isn't going to enhance my earning potential or professional reputation?  As an English teacher, I'm painfully aware of this standard in my students.  Many opt for minimal effort because they won't "need" writing skills, or so they think.

Closely related to pay is the "grade", which is essentially the measure another person puts on your work.  This is part of a good reputation, and isn't something to be dismissed lightly, but it won't necessarily carry you through working with integrity in situations where no one is going to give you any feedback.

Some folks are perfectionists.  They aren't satisfied unless their efforts yield a flawless or faultless result.  It's awfully hard to sustain perfectionism in every area, though, since we're finite.  Granted, some can do better/last longer than others, but I haven't know any perfectionists who haven't crashed and burned at some point along the way.

There is a balance I've been aiming for over the past few years, and it's closely tied to a model of growth and Biblical evaluation.  Paul says in Colossians, "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord..." (3:23)  The point of value here is my heart. The emphasis is on perspective, not performance.  This doesn't allow room for apathy, or blowing things off, but it does allow for the reality of human shortcomings.  My "heartily" working with our checkbook isn't nearly as easy or satisfying as my "heartily" writing a book review.  However, the value is in the Evaluator - God views my work and sees the effort in context of my giftings and responsibilities.  And there's room for me to accept that, in some areas, I'm never going to be excellent in terms of performance compared to other people.  But, that doesn't make my work less valuable or unimportant in the perspective of eternal value. 

So, I'd better get back to work!