Interruptions & Expectations

I have found a quiet niche in the building where I work. Okay, it isn’t always quiet. Folks still shuffle by, the elevator churns up and down, doors creek, pin pads blip, and strangers talk and laugh like old friends. But there in the hallway, under the glass canopy with the warmth from the sunlight upon my face, I can spend my lunch hour in quiet, in thought, in prayer, in reading, and sometimes in frivolous text. I love the silence.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t also love the interruptions. The hallway is open to the first floor atrium, where the piano waits patiently for anyone who’ll grace her keys. When they do, I am never disappointed. I have heard all the classics on my lunch hours–Bach, Beethoven, Mozart; I have heard that Titanic song, Someday My Prince Will Come, the dungeon theme song from Zelda (NES), and such an incredible variety of music that I cannot help but smile. I love the interruptions!

The other day, I was met with a jazz interruption. I enjoy jazz, but I don’t understand it–not one bit. If there is one type of music I am intimidated by, it’s jazz. It’s so free, so fluid and unpredictable. My mom always tells me that she dislikes jazz because it doesn’t move to the same rhythm as her heartbeat. I always tell her that’s the same reason I like it!

I digress. The pianist was playing this incredible piece of light and frollicking music that reminded me of the flurry of sparrows on a spring morning. A woman working in one of the nearby offices came out and leaned against the railing to watch him, then turned to me with a chuckle. “I wasn’t expecting to see a big, burly man in blue jeans and a Tigers hat playing something so light and airy,” she said.

I’ve been thinking about that all week. I laughed with her, of course, because it was sort of a comical image. But why not? Why shouldn’t a big, burly man in blue jeans and a Tigers hat play jazz? Why shouldn’t he play a light and frivolous song on the piano?

It’s all about our expectations, I suppose. So often, we are so consumed with what we expect that we miss the incredible reality in front of us. We expect life to play out in a manner that fits an easy mold–something we understand, something we can make sense of, something we are comfortable with–but it doesn’t. It never does. God has a way of doing things in the way we least expect. We focus so hard on how things ought to look (so we think), and the truth is–life is not simple and easy. Life is messy and complicated, and not one of us has had an easy go of it. Not one of us has perfectly comprehended what God has had in store for us. Not one of us can say we haven’t wondered what God was doing, why things weren’t going “as planned.”

Maybe we look too often to the gift rather than the Giver. If we could shut our eyes for a moment, forget what we think we want, forget what we think we know, forget what what we expect, forget what we desire, forget what we fear, and just soak in the music and the sunlight, maybe we would realize what an indelible gift each day is.

Pax Christi.
semmie

Who is Faithful?

New Year’s Resolutions

…or…Who is Faithful?

There’s something about this time of the year that causes us to reflect. Where the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions came from, I know not. What I know is that we often set unrealistic goals, set off running, and then collapse a week or two into the new year. We may try again, but most of us (I would guess) put those resolutions aside until the Holidays wind down again and we face another new year.

I have always loathed resolutions, and I’ll tell you why: They are constant reminders of my failure, my faithlessness. In a faith that deals with convictions, promises, and covenants, I find that I am the worst of the keepers. Everything I see in this generation, in others–in broken promises, in broken relationships, in broken self-image, in broken faith, in broken everything–I see and despise all the more in myself. Why would I find any pleasure, any hope in holding resolutions upon myself that I know I cannot and will not uphold? I can’t. I don’t.

I am the most faithless person I’ve ever known.

But.

The good news is what Paul wrote to Timothy (2Tim.2:11-13, NIV).

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him.

If we disown him, he will also disown us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

I find it fascinating that Paul adds these last words: “for he cannot disown himself.” Somehow, God’s faithfulness to me is as much (maybe more) about remaining faithful to His own character as it is about my need or my desire. It has everything to do with the Unchanging One. He remains faithful to me because it is in His character to be so–even when I am faithless.

What a relief!

So what does 2013 have in store for me? Do I not desire to change at all? Of course I do. And if I do change, let it be not because I somehow managed to become faithful after 32 years of being faithless, but rather, because He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.

Amen.

Tozer, Mullins, & Choices

A.W. Tozer. The Pursuit of God. Page 103.

…the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His Name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.

Rich W. Mullins. My One Thing.

Every night and every day

You hold on tight or you drift away

And you’re left to live with the choices you make

Character doesn’t happen by chance; it is created by our choices.

 

 

Black Rocks & God’s Voice

Stolen from a letter.

(Not stolen so much as copied, which is totally allowable, since it’s a letter I wrote.)

I went to Black Rocks yesterday. I walked and walked, back and forth, and farther than I typically go (something about stepping over the uneven rocks wigs me out and makes me dizzy, so I usually don’t explore very far). After about twenty or thirty minutes of mindlessly wandering in and out of the shoreline, I found myself tucked down below one of the big rocks right at the edge of the water.

I sat there, back against rock, feet upon rock, hands on rock, and I just listened. Though She looked relatively calm, I realized that here, at the base of the rocks, Superior was churning. She thrashed and gulped, slapping the rocks (and me) and sending Her spray higher than the big rock that was hiding me. I didn’t think, didn’t talk, didn’t feel, didn’t pray or sing; I just sat and listened. It’s the first time in a very long while that I’ve been truly silent in both mind and spirit. I listened, and after I-don’t-know-how-long, I heard myself sing a line from the Psalms that I’d put to music years ago: The voice of the Lord is on the waters.

And then my mind caught up and wanted words. What was “the voice of the Lord” saying? I grew angry for a moment, because the crashing waves sounded majestic…maybe even joyful; and how could God be rejoicing?

And…then…my heart crumbled in shame, because the churning sounded like sorrow…like turmoil.

But then my spirit made sense of it. It is right that God’s voice should sound both victorious and grieved. These are, after all, the very contradictions of our faith: that Christ commands even the waves, and yet He walks through our sorrows–He carries them for us…because He knows we cannot.

Blessed are we who mourn; we shall be comforted.

Missions: Will You Be the One?

There’s a voice that keeps calling out

For someone who’s not afraid

To be a beacon in the night

To a world that’s lost its way.

Will you be the one to answer to his call?

Will you stand when those around you fall?

Will you be the one to take his light into a darkened world?

Tell me, will you be the one?

 

This is an old lyric from Al Denson. I don’t recall when I first heard it, but it was one of the songs I carried with me throughout my years in Hancock, Michigan. I was in a constant state of seeking God’s purpose for my life, it seemed–a constant state of surrendering and asking God to use me somehow, someway.

My senior year, our chapter of New Kids performed this song. I remember secretly wanting to get the solo, but in the end, I was far more blessed; Rachel and I alternated the solo on another song (a Smitty song, remember, Rach? Uhm…”we’re passengers aboard the train, silent little lambs amidst the pain”…?), and Mark Plichta asked me to play piano for Be the One. It was all the better, as I could never control my emotions when I tried to sing it, anyway!

This song has been on my heart again the last few weeks. My niece and nephew, Mikayla and Clayton, are going on  missions trip to Brazil in a few short weeks. Mikayla sent me a letter a few weeks ago and asked me if I’ve ever been on a missions trip. I haven’t responded to her. Honestly, sometimes I feel like a major screw up. How can I encourage my niece and nephew to do missions when I haven’t?

But I have to be honest. There have been many moments in my life thus far when I’ve felt a stirring, a desire to hop a plane to some third world country where I can serve, build, sing, and sweat for others, for Christ. Missions have always been so close to my heart. Heck–my best friend growing up was an MK. Don’t tell her, but I used to be jealous of her for that reason. I wanted to be an MK, too!

Still, I think there’s a growing phenomenon in our Christian culture. There’s this idea that the real on-fire Christians do missions, and the mediocre Christians just stay here in America doing whatever they want. And maybe that’s true in some cases. But always?

I think I was willing. I think if God had opened the door wide and provided, I would have gone. But every time I grew restless and asked God for a mission field, it seems, He sent me someplace far more awkward–the public school system. Some day, I will write about it. Today, it will suffice to say that I wanted God to send me, and He did; and I still hope that the opportunity will arise for me to go on a missions trip. I’m not that old, after all. And I’m not obligated with a husband or children. Why not?

Whatever God speaks to our hearts, whatever He asks of us, whatever missions He brings us to, I hope we’ll continue to ask ourselves the questions. Will you be the one to answer to his call? Will you stand when those around you fall? Will you be the one to take his light into a darkened world?

May He grant us all the grace and courage to reply, “I will be the one.”