Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Proverbs 31 and a Perpetual Sense of Failure

If you are like me, there are days when you read Proverbs 31 with a sinking
sensation. "I don't do that." "I need to do better at that." "I don't do that." "I've never done that." "Okay ... I try that, but I'm not very good at it." 

Isn't it just like the Enemy of our Souls to take one of the most beautiful tributes ever written and use it to create a perpetual sense of failure?

Some friends and I have been discussing the woman who inspired Proverbs 31 (you can read about her here:

To be quite honest, there are days when we are tempted not to like her very much. She's just too perfect.

The phrase that always gets me first is "rising before dawn." I've never been able to establish that supposedly perfect and ideal routine. I cannot count the number of times I have promised myself that I will get up at 5:00 a.m., read the Bible, pray, work out, and have a piping hot breakfast ready for the family when they awaken.

I fail. Failed. Have failed. Will fail. Failure. That's me. 

It seems to me that the Enemy too often takes my honest belief that the Bible is literal truth and twists it into something that, instead of producing good fruit, produces an unholy sense of abject failure ... a temptation to "just give up, already, you're never going to get a gold star."

I've spent the last few years trying to find a balance in my faith walk that doesn't leave me feeling like a perpetual failure God is about to whack over the head. 

I think this passage provided a lyrical way of saying a good woman works hard. If I don't "rise before dawn," it doesn't necessarily mean I'm doomed to be a failure in God's eyes (and honestly I have felt that way). 

I think it's okay to envision the actual woman who inspired Proverbs 31 being just as amazed as I am when I read about her today. I envision tears rolling down her cheeks as she looks at her son, the author, and says ... "Really? You see me that way?" Sort of the ancient version of me when I read one of "those" Mother's Day cards. You know the ones I mean.

Now ... don't take this too far. I'm NOT saying I give up and I won't even strive for the mark. God's Word is powerful and it accomplishes what it was meant to accomplish. Proverbs 31 is the ideal. I should strive for the mark. But sometimes I should also give myself a break, already. A perpetual sense of failure isn't what it's about. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When the future looks scary

Some people I love very much are facing some scary health-related times, and this morning I prayed for them and then came in to read my devotional and because it lead me to some other thoughts, I'm posting here instead of on my Facebook page.

What is the hardest thing you've ever had to give up? For me personally, it was the future. Giving up my dreams of life with a guy named Bob, because Bob had non-Hodgkins lymphoma--not the curable kind. Somewhere in my readings about the life of Amy Carmichael, I read about a convert to Christianity from her ministry who shared the mental image of taking whatever we have no words for and envisioning it in the palms of our hands and then holding those hands up to God as a silent offering. 

At some point in the 5 1/2 years of the cancer journey with a man I called my "best-beloved," God enabled me to do that. To hold up the broken pieces of life as I knew it to God and to say "yes." All I could manage at the time was to refuse bitterness about those broken dreams. 

And so, this morning, if you are facing scary times and what feels like a life-shattering reality, my prayer for you is that God will enable you to hold up those broken pieces. 

Here is the excerpt from Streams in the Desert that spoke to me this morning:

 Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son... I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven; …because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:16-18).
And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God's voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that same thing is returned to them by Him a thousand times over. Abraham gives up his one and only son, at God's call, and with this disappear all his hopes for the boy's life and manhood, and for a noble family bearing his name. But the boy is restored, the family becomes as the stars and sands in number, and out of it, in the fullness of time, appears Jesus Christ.
That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His. We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth. We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of. We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self; He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy.And the crown of it all is our Jesus Christ …We sometimes seem to forget … that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.
We don't often get to "see" the results of our fearful offering up of lost things, but in the case of my greatest fear, God did allow me to receive a very specific blessing. Apparently I shared the "broken pieces" analogy with one of my children, and about four years ago it came back to me in a song.
Humbling. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.
And now ... now I have new things to place in the palms of my hands and lift up to the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. 
Life. It never gets easier, does it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spool Furniture

Have you seen the vintage shelving & etc. that's made of wooden spools? I tend to think it must be from the depression era (use it up, make it last, make it do, do without), although I don't really know, and looking around a bit on the internet I've seen some pieces that are called "nineteenth century," so perhaps my recently acquired treasure is older than I thought it was.

I have yearned from some little something made from spools over the years ... probably because I love old sewing stuff in general. Mostly I love the tactile connection to the woman who used the stuff. Which is why I litter my office with things like tatting shuttles (don't tat), needles for filet crochet (don't crochet), pin cushions (how many does one woman really need), and assorted other sewing gadgetry that is easy to store but still evocative of another time. I even have a metal box of attachments for a New Home sewing machine. But I don't have a New Home sewing machine. Go figure.

At any rate, this past month I took my annual pilgrimage to Nashville with my best road-dog friend. We made all the usual stops at this quilt shop and that flea market, and the corner shelf/what-not joined the other treasures in our over-full rented SUV. Now it sits right here to the left of my desk. And it makes me smile. Over 100 wooden sewing spools ... put to very good use ... at least I think so. Recyling isn't new!

Here's a spool lamp:

and a table:

and a chair that looks more like a throne:

I remember using very large spools as step-stools when my children were little ... but I don't know what they were orignally used for (wire of some kind, I suppose) or where they went. Now that I have grandchildren, a little step-up would come in handy, and those things were untippable!

What example of recycling do you treasure?