Archive for 2013

Wide Open Spaces

“You have set my feet in a wide place………”

When we moved from our large home into a townhouse last fall, we were determined to bring along all the stuff we could stuff into the tiny rooms, especially the living room. If we couldn’t have ‘spacious’ then we’d darn well have cozy; it’s amazing how much you can get in a 13 x 13 room when you plot it out on graph paper. Besides the sofa, chaise and rockers, we managed to squeeze in a huge antique step back cupboard, two bookcases,  a big vintage cabinet to hold the TV, plus a wine rack and ottoman.

I went to great lengths to make everything look warm and cozy.

But cozy quickly turns into cluttered and cluttered brought out my clumsiness. The comfy ottoman and oversized basket of books looked great but became my downfall as I tripped over them not once but twice and landed hard.

I don’t know which hurt more: my knee or my frustration at not being able to move about freely.

The second time it happened the impact shook not just the house but shook loose whatever latch had been holding back all my emotions since the move. That thing sprung open and I thought I’d never stop crying.

I’d thought if I could just make this place a miniature version of our house I’d be ok. Instead it made me miss it more. My logic quite literally tripped me up.

The solution was simple: get rid of the obstacles – put the books on a shelf, shove the ottoman against the wall (I can pull it out when I want to put my feet up) and make sure the computer cord is tucked safely away from unsuspecting ankle.

Problem solved. Turns out I wasn’t really all that clumsy – my house was just cluttered.

Sometimes we get ourselves into tight places and sometimes God has us in circumstances that seem confining and close and every time we turn around we’re running into a wall or tripping over our own feet. We can pound on those barred windows till our fists bleed, ‘shake fists at the sky’ and fail to see that the door is open.

Even in our dungeons of despair and despondency, there IS ‘a spacious place, a large room’ to set our feet.

  • The tight space expands when we choose thankfulness instead of self-pity.
  • We whittle out a few more feet to move about when we choose to worship instead of whine.
  • We gain more ground when we remove the obstacles that fight for our attention and distract us from what is really important. 
  • We give Him thanks and he removes the obstacles; the things that try us and trip us up, he clears them out.

Unemcumbered…. not burdened, vexed, inconvenienced. Not hindered or thwarted or barricaded.

He gives us room to breathe (ahhh); He gives us a safe place where we can move freely.

The Good News version of the Bible says, “You have given me freedom to go where I wish.” 

What He really does is give us the freedom to wish for what He wishes.

I wish to be home, God.”

He whispers, “You are home, child.”

Yes, He sets our big, clumsy, wayward feet in a large space and we are amazed to discover it was there right under us the whole time.

 

Psalm 31:6-8   “But I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in thy lovingkindness because Thou hast seen my afflictions; Thou hast known the troubles of my soul. And Thou hast not given me over to the hand of the enemy; Thou hast set my feet in a large place.”

 

 

When You Feel Like Throwing a Pity Party

A friend of mine, displaced from her small town life, close friends and church family, has had a hard time adjusting to life in the big city. A stay at home mom whose kids are now grown, she is restless, anxious about driving in rush hour traffic, lonely and struggling to recover that sense of ‘home’ she’d known for all her adult life. Been there, can relate.

She was trying to duplicate her old life, but it wasn’t working.

It never does. God never leads us backwards.

When the present feels lonely and scary and the future seems bleak, he tells us to look back and remind ourselves of his faithfulness.

And be grateful.

Trust.

But straining our necks as we glance over our shoulder, complaining about this rough road we’re on,  well…he’s not above taking us around the mountain a few times. Just ask the Israelites.

Ask me.

With Egypt behind them and the Promised Land before them – despite supernatural provisions along the way, they were still fixated on ‘back there.’ “Back in Egypt, back in my day, back in our old neighborhood, back in our old church, back when we had money, back when I was married…”

Ungrateful, really, that’s how I’ve thought about them. How could you not trust God when he had just done a miracle to save your sorry butts?! Not once but over and over.

And yet I’m guilty of the same thing. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like the idea of conquering my promised land a little bit at a time. Seems easier to go back to Egypt and make bricks. Let’s at least try and make a little Egypt right here in the desert, shall we?

What’s this have to do with hospitality?

I can’t ‘practice’ hospitality where I’m living now the way I did in my old house (across town in Egypt). There’s no room for my giant farmhouse table, no fireplace to gather ’round, though my husband did buy us a fireplace DVD complete with crackle soundtrack. The oven doesn’t heat right, the bathroom too funky…. all the excuses I talked about in the past have come back to haunt me.

Yes, of course, I know there’s more to hospitality than that, but for a while there?  The only party I wanted to throw was a pity party and I really didn’t want to invite any guests. It’s hard to love strangers when you don’t love yourself.

My little itty bitty pity party would have gone on forever if I hadn’t been confronted with the truth:

Self-pity is a sin. It’s the opposite of thankfulness, and the antithesis of trust. It’s not believing that God is good. ALL the TIME.

Here’s the thing:  it’s kind of hard to break bread with people when your loaf is hard as a rock. My bread – my portion, what I have to share at this point in my life – its hard. It’s lost its moisture. Who would want it? I don’t want it! Who would want what I find unpalatable? What I’m ungrateful for? What I feel ashamed of and resentful of?

This? God? You want me to offer this?

Yes, offer it, he says – offer it to me. Your pain, your disappointment, your fears and your tears. Thank me for taking it from you and then eat the bread I’ve given you. The Bread of Life.

I’ve offered it to Him the only way I know how – in song, in tears and trembly voice, I have made a choice to worship. I have moistened this hard bread with a sacrifice of praise and miraculously my portion becomes palatable.

Sweet and savory because it is seasoned with suffering – His suffering, His sacrifice for me.

“My body which is given for you,” Jesus said when he broke off a piece of bread and passed it around to his disciples. “Remember me.”

We can dwell on the past and choke on the bread of painful labors. Or we can remember his sacrifice and feast on the Bread of Life.

Throw a pity party or have communion.

Jesus knows the pain of leaving home; he’s with me in my present home and with my friend in hers.

He’s with you, too. “Temporary homes – just a stop on the way to where we’re going.”

One day He will usher us to our eternal home.

THE LAST COURSE:

“I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.”    John 16:28 

Like a Good Neighbor

I’d describe it as darling, really: older, funky but fab two bedroom town house, in the ‘right’ part of town, affordable rent. Cozy (read ‘tiny’) living room, efficient (‘minuscule’) kitchen. Decorated with period furniture pieces from the 1800′s – stepback cupboard, jelly cabinet, sideboard. Warmed up with a collection of antique copper, vintage over-sized candlesticks lining the steps. What’s not to love?

It’s the perfect situation for a young married couple just starting out.

Perfect if it weren’t for the fact that my husband and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.

This is not where I expected to be four decades later. Sometimes life flat out kicks you in the butt. Luckily I have ample padding there, but I’ve still got some colorful bruises to show for it. Ouch.

So I try not to think about the house I left behind and I’m working on that ‘being content in every circumstance’ thing. One good thing about where we live – it sure is easy to clean!

But honestly – my heart has not been into hospitality much since we moved in. If the real meaning of hospitality is ‘loving strangers’ I’ve got some work to do before I invite them in for a cup of tea.

The first night we spent here, one neighbor pounded on our door and demanded we move our car because we were parked in his space. This despite the fact that there are no assigned parking spaces. No ‘hi, welcome to the neighborhood’ from this guy.

At least the lady on the other side of us was friendly. She even brought me cookies one day and left a thank you note on my door after I’d taken her some coffeecake. Then I accidentally parked in ‘her space.’ Friendly neighbor turned into neighbor from hell with flames shooting out her ears.

I think I liked the concept of being neighborly better when I was on a half-acre lot. This whole ‘near-dweller’ thing leaves a lot to be desired. Sigh. Just being real. 

Yesterday my ever-observant good friend rather annoyingly reminded me that I hadn’t blogged in months. “Yeah,” I replied, “writing about hospitality is a little too painful right now.” Silence and then she said, “Write about the pain.”

So here I am, dumping the bucket of pain about losing my house onto the page and wondering who would ever want to read it. And then I ran across some statistics: Bank repossessions increased 11% from the the month of November and are up 5% from last year. Good ultimately for the housing market but not so great if, like us, you can’t get the bank to budge on a loan modification. We had an additional complication to the cumbersome, maddening process: identity theft on our 2010 tax returns.

Here’s the thing about that kind of identity theft – ain’t nothin’ you can do about it until the IRS clears it up and until it’s cleared up the bank won’t talk to you. As far as they’re concerned, you don’t exist. Unfortunately I started to believe it. It felt like my real identity had been stolen.

For a while there (until, oh, I don’t know…Sunday?) I forgot who I was: child of the most high God, forgiven, free, saint, redeemed, daughter of the King. God, my valiant warrior, had  somehow neglected to scoop me up when he went riding off to do battle with the forces of evil. Perhaps he didn’t see my laying there bloody and wounded. After all, my identity had been stolen. Maybe he didn’t recognize me as one of his own?

It’s hard to keep fighting when you feel like God isn’t fighting for you behind the scenes. I felt abandoned and developed a spirit of fear.

The enemy zoomed in for the kill.

It felt like someone was holding my head under water. I couldn’t breathe, kicking and flailing, I guess I started to believe that God was the one responsible.

This despite the fact that my life verse is Psalm 18: 16-19: “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

God is the only one I know who could look at stubborn, thrashing, doubting me and call me ‘delightful.’ What a sense of humor he has. A couple of years ago I wrote a little song with these lyrics:

“I will laugh in the face of adversity,

I will scoff at the devil’s wiles.

I will say “Ha ha ha!” to the enemy

For I am Abba’s child!”

I haven’t lived up to these lines too well, but as they say in the South, “I’m fixin’ to.”

I am His and He is mine and He is with me in this little doll house of a home and it’s going to be alright. 

Just realized my neighbor lady hasn’t been going to work lately. Wonder if she lost her job? Maybe I will take her some cookies. Like a good neighbor…..