Monthly Archives: October 2011

Finishing a Project

When I’m working on a project, I have a tendency to leave open tabs strewn across the dock at the bottom of my computer screen. The windows are minimized, but the tabs are there, ready to pop open at a moment’s notice. It saves a bit of time–but not all that much, really, since I also have a links tab on my browser for the project.

We gave our class presentations last night, my husband and I. They went well, we think. My topic was the First Great Awakening. It was difficult to cram everything into a 10-page paper; even more difficult to attempt a 20-minute talk–I think I could do a two-hour seminar, at least.

This morning I did something that felt good—cathartic, almost: I closed all the tabs on my term paper project. Websites for the report, resources for the presentation, the paper itself: all closed. My desktop looks a bit more tidy. But I was surprised that it actually felt so good to close out the windows and files.

It feels good to finish something, to complete a project or cross a task off a list. Some items are fairly quick and painless: Water the plants, finish the laundry, type up invoices. But other projects take awhile longer: Write a term paper, edit a book, reorganize the workshop.

And some projects never really end: Raise children, and be there to encourage them along the way; become a better friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister; grow in the Lord and grow further into what He has for me to do.

I’m a list person.  My “To Do” list sometimes seems to take on a life of its own, with quick reminders, short-term and long-term projects. Unless I pay attention, it can get overwhelming.

But you know who has the biggest “To Do” list?

God.

I don’t mean just the whole “running the world” thing, either. I mean day-to-day, with each of His children:

 

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

—Philippians 1:6

You know what? While I try to do the right things and to become more like Christ, I find it comforting that perfecting His good work in me isn’t on my “To Do” list … it’s on His.

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Thursday Intermission

This week’s Thursday Intermission is in honor of the fact that both my husband and I are presenting our term papers in class this evening. Our presentations will be … nothing like this.

(Thank goodness!)

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Grace-Givers

I love the informality of worship on a Wednesday night. At our church, midweek services are less formal, more intimate.  We sit in a large almost-circle, with a guitar or two playing, before the pastor speaks. We don’t have a full worship band at those times — no mics, no one up on the platform. The worship leaders are just part of the circle.

Now, imagine you’re a visitor. It’s informal; everyone’s sitting wherever they want. You walk in with your family. No sooner are you seated than the person who was sitting beside you gets up and walks across the room to sit on the other side — without so much as a word to you.

What would you think?

What a rude person! What an unwelcoming church! Why would she treat us that way?

Hold on … there’s another perspective.

One Wednesday I’d gone into the meeting while my husband parked the car. I slipped into a seat and was joining the worship time when a visiting family came in. They sat in the seats beside me — husband, kids … then the wife came in. I could tell before she even got there that I’d have a problem. She was wearing perfume.

It wasn’t too strong, and it was a nice, light scent. But apparently it contained the wrong chemicals. I could feel my throat constricting. I couldn’t stop to explain; I simply got up and moved across the room.

I have vocal cord dysfunction. Presented with the wrong scents, my vocal cords constrict and tighten. That means I can’t talk, and breathing can become difficult. There’s nothing to take for it; there’s nothing to do, really, except to leave.

But that family didn’t know that, and I couldn’t stop to tell them. What did they see? They’d visited a new church, and the person they sat next to pointedly got up and left with merely an apologetic smile. (I hope it was a smile; it might have come across as a grimace.) What an awful thing to do! What an unfriendly church! And, given my behavior, they’d have been justified in thinking these things.

Fortunately, my husband ran interference for me after the service, explaining the problem. They were understanding, for which I’m thankful.

How often do we look at things others do and assume the worst?

Maybe that person who’s been so rude lately is overwhelmed, overburdened or focused on other issues. Maybe their world is falling apart, and they’re doing their best to get through it. Everyone carries burdens, some more gracefully than others. Perhaps a little understanding would help.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

— First Corinthians 13:4-7, NAS

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Getting into Character

I was aghast when I realized how I’ve been procrastinating on writing my term paper. Oh, I’ve done my research and some of the writing; but the fact is that I’d hoped to have it finished by now, even though it isn’t due for another week.

I realized something this week. You see, I’m a ghostwriter. I write books for people who have a message to get out, but who need some help with the writing and organizing process. I do the writing, but  I do my best to do it in the author’s “voice.” When I ghostwrite a book, I often take a couple of days to listen to the author’s CDs, watch the DVDs, read the notes—not for information, but to get “into character” as it were.

What did we do last weekend? We had dinner with our sons, our daughter-in-law, and our younger son’s girlfriend—all of whom are college students. I slept in a little on Saturday. And we had pizza for diner last night.

Hmmm … Hanging with college students? Check.

Sleeping in on the weekend?  Check.

Pizza for dinner?  Check.

Procrastinating on my term paper? Check.

I hadn’t realized it, but I’ve been getting into character as a college student!

Most of my life isn’t spent in character as a writer–that’s just part of what I do. But I still need to be “in character,” as it were:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children …

–Ephesians 5:1

As Christians, we are to imitate God, to do the things we see Him doing. We are to be holy, as He is holy. We are to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, the fruit of His Spirit. We are to do good to everyone and, as far as it’s up to us, be at peace with everyone. We are to be as Jesus was in this world.

How?

By relying on Him. By asking His help. By letting Him reach others through us.

And may I suggest a few ghostwriting techniques?

Read His Book. That will help you to know His voice.

Talk with Him; spend time with Him. That will help you to hear Him more clearly.

Look for Him and recognize His work when you see it—in His creation, in His people.

And get right on it. After all, there’s no sense procrastinating.

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Thursday Intermission

It’s time for another Thursday Intermission.

Last time our class met, our prof handed back our midterms. To celebrate the midway point in the class–and the fact that the midterm is over–he played this documentary for us. I’m sure it will be very helpful when the final rolls around.

It’s a little long, but fun.

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Putting Christ First?

“We must put Jesus first in everything.”

We’re often encouraged to place Jesus first, then family, then jobs, then… whatever else.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

But lately I’m not so sure that’s the right approach.

Should Jesus be simply the first on the list? If we “put Him first,” it seems to imply that we are then free to go on to the other things in life, doesn’t it? It pushes Him out of the way, makes Him a separate entity, apart from the rest of the things that jostle for attention.

Maybe instead, we could allow Him into the rest of our lives. We could let Him into those dark and dusty areas that might need His touch. And when life gets hectic, or we’re frazzled with worries, or things just aren’t working out the way we want, we could let Jesus into the middle of it all.

So change it up. Don’t put Jesus first in everything.

Instead, put Him at the center of everything.

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What Does Love Look Like?

For several weeks now, I’ve been tucked away at home, tethered by a knee injury. The orthopedist could do nothing as yet. When I’d gone to see him, the knee was inflamed, so much so that even a cortisone shot couldn’t be given. His directions?

Don’t walk.

So for the past six weeks, I’ve kept walking to a bare minimum. I spend most of my time at home. And I’ve done an unwillingly close study to answer one question: What does love look like?  As Christians, we often talk about loving others, about reaching out to them, caring for them. But what does that look like? Here are a few of my findings.

Love looks like cards and phone calls from friends, just to say “I was thinking of you.”

Love looks like a hug at church.

It looks like my younger son when he brought me the elements of Communion since I couldn’t walk all the way up the aisle at church.

It looks like the couple who invited Roger and I to dinner, and ate outside on their new patio so I didn’t have to walk up the stairs to get to their apartment.

Love looks like the friends from my Bible study group–which I haven’t been able to attend–who came and shared lunch with me after group. And it looks like my older son, who baked brownies for us.

It looks like emails and texts, sometimes from friends I only know online.

Love looks like the couple who surprised us by dropping by with homemade chicken pot pie–the most delicious ever.

Love looks like my husband, who has been taking care of the household–and like our two sons, who have been helping him.

It looks like the friends who pray for me.

Love looks like the friends who offered to come help with household tasks, to bring a guitar for a time of praise, or just to visit.

And it looks like my husband when he kidnapped me for a day, took me to a mall, and made us both laugh as he pushed–careened–me in a wheelchair for the afternoon.

When we think of showing God’s love, we often think of the big things, the grand gestures; and God’s love is seen in these: digging wells for people in Africa, helping children in Haiti, establishing schools and orphanages and hospitals all over the world, wherever they’re needed. All of these are things we should be doing.

But it’s also important to show love in smaller ways. You never know when your actions will keep someone from feeling despair or desperation or, as in my case, isolation.

Especially if you can make a good pot pie.

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