BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE.

In Disney’s Aladdin, just before jumping off the side of the building in the marketplace, Aladdin reaches out to Jasmine and asks her, “Do you trust me?”

In National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character asks Diane Kruger’s character, “Do you trust me?”

Good question. And it seems that God has been asking me that a lot lately. I thought last year was a “challenge.” (A word here which means it stinks and I do not want to go through it, but I don’t want to sound like a whiney Christian who thinks she’s the only one who has problems.)  I was optimistic that this year had to be better. It was time for God to give me and my family a break.

Instead of a break, it seems more likely that I’m about to get a breakthrough. I know that sounds like a clever line from a televangelist, but I’m actually hoping that this year’s challenges will produce something really good – not like getting a star next to my name for getting an A on my spelling test in the second grade kind of good. A glory to glory kind of good. Let me explain.

We started 2019 waiting for our car guy to get back to us with an estimate to replace the driver’s side mirror I’d managed to destroy. The morning of January 4th, I caught a patch of ice and completely lost control of the car, which was obviously a total loss. I called my repairman to let him know that the mirror was the least of our concerns now. That second car had made things so much easier for us, and now it isn’t worth more than $200 – even with front tires that are less than a month old.

In February, in the middle of a cold, cold Minnesota winter, John woke me before he went to work to tell me the furnace wasn’t working. He’d left a message with a local plumbing and heating company to call me so i could be home when they were available. We had the choice to repair the furnace for “a lottle” (that’s a little, but more), but there was no guarantee it would last long. Or we could replace it for about $4,000. Note that if we had $4,000, we probably would have already spent it on a used car.

Early in March, a friend teased that I must have made someone mad and they’d signed me up for the Problem of the Month Club – kinda like the oh-so-popular Fruit of the Month Club, only more expensive and a lot crappier. And now it seems as though there’s a new sort of bonus round called “But wait! There’s more.”

So…new furnace…no problem! We’d just refinance our mortgage and pay that bad boy off. Now, I’m all for finding the humor in any situation, so I granted that for March, the stress of refinancing our home so we could pay off the new furnace would count as our “Problem of the Month”.

I was wrong. So very wrong.

Now, March isn’t over yet, and today I am typing with only my right hand. Last week, I stopped by a convenience store to get a fountain drink for $1.07 before work. I stepped outside and was seriously calculating the risk of stepping off the curb because, fun fact, I’d fallen at this store about three years earlier. And just that easily, I lost my balance, failed to find anything to hold onto and the full weight of my body pinned my shoulder against the door. I appreciated the very nice men who came to help me up and make sure I was OK. I also apologize to them for using the only four-letter “F” word that came to mind – and word of the hour was not “Fine”. The good news is that nothing was broken, I didn’t need surgery and as of March 1st we’ve had medical insurance.

But wait! There’s more.

I’d already made an appointment with our new orthopedic doctor to examine my right shoulder, which was convenient because it meant I wouldn’t have to wait so long to see her. This was especially fortuitous when that morning, around 4 am, I bent over to pick up something and felt pain that took my breath away. That’s when my shoulder dislocated. So we’ll start April with a visit to a specialist.

But here’s what excites me the most: Over the past couple of weeks, my prayer has changed. I had started out with the usual plea for God to help ease my pain and give me a good report from the doctors. Give me the strength and encouragement i needed to get through this.Then I thought, Wait. Why am I asking for the things God has already promised? Unlike me, He already knows how this is going to play out. I and the medical staff were the only ones who didn’t know.

That’s when my prayer became a prayer of genuine gratitude as I recognized God for who He is. He’s loving, compassionate, faithful and absolutely sovereign.And for the past few days, I’ve had only the lyrics of Mercy Me’s “Even If” on a perpetual loop in my head, my spirit taking constant encouragement from The Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

85a3bbd960542bc7687561576708b29eMy trust in God precedes an infilling of joy and peace that, in turn, allows me to overflow with hope. And the best part is that it’s not dependent on my power, which is usually somewhere between Go Team God! and a poor imitation of Lucy crying because Ricky won’t let her be in the show. Again!

No, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that will give me hope. All I have to do is trust.

However, trusting isn’t easy for me. In fact, I have a really hard time trusting, and God is fully aware of every reason why. He’s been incredibly gentle and patient with me. He may lead me to conviction, but never to shame.

ba81239008fe119c47efbadd069e220aRight now, it’s been a day since I wrote the paragraphs before this. I’m not as gung-ho and positive as I was yesterday. I’m frustrated and discouraged about a few things. But my prayer is still that I would have the eyes to see my circumstances as my Lord sees them; a heart to love those who currently are getting on my last nerve; and the grace to to understand that all the things that I see as trials are actually opportunities to strengthen my faith and help me move from glory to glory instead of laying down in aisle nine and having a hissy fit – if for no other reason than the fact that it gets harder every day to get back up!

I’m quite tired of feeling sorry for myself and being disappointed with other people. I’m tired of feeling hopeless and defeated. And I’m tired of shying away from God’s hand when he asks, “Do you trust me?”

I truly sense that God is “relieving” us of the things that we’ve had blind confidence in. In three short months, He’s “relieved” us of a car, a working furnace and the little physical comfort I did have. None of these things have been anywhere near affordable for us. In fact, it’s all so much like the Minnesota winter we had this year. It seemed that the snow never melted in between snowfalls. The mounds of snow just seemed to get higher and higher, and we knew it couldn’t last forever – but it certainly seemed possible some days,

After the loss of our car, I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “Do you trust me?”

I suppose so.

After we got the bill for the new furnace came, I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “Do you still trust me?”

Yeah, but you’re starting to push your luck now.

After I fell and ended up in the ER, I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “Do you still trust me?”

Yeah, but can we be done now? I’m kinda tired and broke!

It was then that I began praying to have the eyes and heart of Christ. If I could have that, I know it would be so much easier to trust Him.

So do I trust him?

In John 6:66-69, Christ’s disciples had a choice to make: “…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

I trusted Him today. I suppose I can trust him tomorrow. Even if!

READ ANY GOOD BOOKS LATELY?

As far back as I can recall – at least as soon as we were required to do book reports in school – I discovered there was one thing I could do to minimize my effort and maximize my grade. I most clearly recall using this technique when I had a book report due on one of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. [Fair warning: If you’re a teacher, this may make you cringe.]

I don’t remember if it was because I hadn’t allowed myself the time to read or if I’d preferred to not read, but I had a book report due and little time left in which to do it. I think it was my mother who suggested it first. I read the summary on the back of the book, chewed it up a bit, and regurgitated it in a form that my teacher actually liked well enough to give me an A.

I became so skilled at synthesizing information, that I did it all the way through college. Although, in college, I probably spent more time researching commentaries, reviews and critiques on the assigned reading than I would have if I’d actually read it.

This might not seem like a particularly egregious habit – unless I confess that I was an English major who aspired to teach children the wonders of literature. (I know.) To be fair, if a degree had been available in researching literature, I’d have gotten a doctorate in it and been a very happy camper!

I did know better!  When I actually read the material, I fell in love with the words, the subtle nuances and rhythm of a sentence, the symbolism, the art with which a character was unfolded. It could be beautiful…but it was time consuming.

I’ve done the same thing with the word of God. I didn’t see a problem with it, though. After all, isn’t that what church is all about – listening to a preacher tell you about God, sharing the big stories in the Bible. Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the big fish, David and Goliath – they’re lessons that teach you that God is big and in charge, and you should be obedient to him and kind to others.

I had no idea what I was missing.

Fun fact about LaRonda: When I was younger, I fantasized about reckless passion. I imagined reading a beautiful love letter in which someone described how very much they loved me, that they yearned to be with me every chance they had, that they would die for me, built a home for me and, (this was added as I got older and learned about expenses) once they’d finished the construction and paid the mortgage off, would come back to get me so I could live there with him forever. What a romantic fantasy!

However, instead of actually reading the letter, I left it in the envelope on a table where I could see it, taking comfort in the fact that I knew it was a love letter. When friends came to visit and would invariably ask about the envelope, I’d say, “That? Oh, that’s my love letter. Yes…. Isn’t it wonderful?” Naturally, I’d say it in a soft, whimsical way, trailing off to insinuate an intimate mystery that only I and the one who loved me could understand.

But this isn’t simply the fantasy of a silly girl. This is the Gospel. It’s the greatest love letter ever written. It’s about a reckless and passionate relationship that God wants to have with us. I had been content with hearing about God. I had not been hearing from God, and God had a lot to say…to me.

During his ministry, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. He asked them who others said he was. There was a variety of answers, but the one he was longing to hear was that he was Immanuel – God with us. If we knew the Son, we knew the Father. He was the part of the trinity who agreed to a back-up plan for our reconciliation with our Creator before we were created.

669a0d1e281b953b71df9ab0cf423f5cWhich begs the question of Immanuel, “So who do you say I am?”

I know the answer I hope to hear, but I can have a pretty ugly heart and a fairly judgmental spirit. I also have have a great fear of rejection, so I prepare myself for the worst. I know, though, that if I believe he loves me, then he loves all of his creation and expects me to, as well.

So, I’ve been asking God to help me see people as he sees them, so I can love them the way he loves them because I don’t have a natural inclination toward grace and mercy.

To be fair, though, I don’t like myself all that much either. In fact, from the first time I heard that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, I was convinced of one thing. My neighbors were screwed.

So I was surprised to realize recently that the first person I would see with grace and mercy would be me. As a child of God. I am lovedanyway and always. And I am lovable. There is nothing in this person whom God created that disqualifies me from being cherished and beloved; if by no one else, then by God himself. And that understanding shows me what it feels like to be flawed and loved again and again. And that feeling helps me understand why it’s so vital for me to treat others with the grace and mercy that helps them stop feeling “less than.” And that understanding largely comes from reading the ultimate love letter to the world from the greatest Lover we’ll ever know.

Hmmm…Maybe there’s hope for my neighbors, after all.

 

 

 

OH, IT MATTERS!

twain whyRecently, I’ve  been a little discouraged because I’ve been focusing so very much on the things I can’t do instead of the things I can do. And I think it’s natural for the things you can no longer do to become magnified in importance and value. It’s like when you’re told to not think about purple-spotted elephants, and all you can think about are purple-spotted elephants. To be fair, though, I think there’s a certain amount of grieving we all go through when we start seeing limitations – whether they’re a result of one specific event or the natural process of aging.

Our lives can change in a moment, and not all changes are welcome. Some come along completely without our permission and challenge everything we thought we understood about ourselves and the world. It’s times like this that I think it’s natural to re-evaluate who we are and what our purpose is – especially if what we do is such an integral part of who we are.

This deep contemplation of life is how I started my morning today. What followed is my personal adaptation of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, otherwise known as If You Give LaRonda a Random Thought. And it’s going to take longer for me to tell the story than the whole thing took to unfold – all before 7:30 am.

First I read a post from a blog I follow – The Godly Chick Diaries. After some great thoughts on heading into the new year with purpose, she ended her post by inviting her readers to contribute to the Hope for Humanity Foundation, which is dedicated to “empowering children and youth to shape their own future through the use of education.”

Then I checked out a devotion a friend texted me about a young boy who had no plan for his day but to see what the excitement in town was. Not knowing how long he’d be gone, he packed a lunch for himself. Had he planned to feed 5,000 men and their families, he probably would have packed a little extra. Who would have expected there would be more food left over than what he’d brought in the first place? See, he mattered!

Then I thought of a quote I’d read about doing small things greatly. (I love, love, love quotes!) I couldn’t remember it, so I Googled “small things done greatly.” I wasn’t disappointed!

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

napoleon hill    Take your pick!

mlk

Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa have each created a legacy that has left a permanent impression in history. I doubt that any of them started their lives with a plan to change the world. Napoleon Hill is the guy who literally wrote the book on changing the world and is one of the most widely read authors to date on making the most of your life. They each mattered!

Then I remembered a speaker I’d heard at a Women of Faith conference who radically illustrated the point that the smallest things we do can have an exponential effect on the world, in ways we may never realize. Andy Andrews gave a magnificent, inspiring example of The Butterfly Effect. If you haven’t seen this, please take the 9 minutes and 48 seconds it takes to watch this video. I’m confident that you’ll never forget it or regret it.  And if you’ve heard it before, I encourage you to watch it again. It’s about a single thread of people who each mattered.

The birth of this talk particularly struck me this morning, having spent the past few days deliberating over just how much I have to offer my family, my employer, my church and my friends, much less the world. In short, do I matter? It wasn’t until I searched for the video that I knew how it originated.

Andrews wrote, “Working with the United States Air Force at the time, I was charged with finding ‘proof of the value of an individual life’.  At that time, the military as a whole was just discovering that suicide had become more prevalent within their ranks than with the civilian population as a whole.”

From that charge, Andrews developed this talk and wrote The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters for adults and the pint-size version for kids called The Kid Who Changed the World. The long story is that everything we do has an effect on not only our immediate surroundings, but everything.

It’s hard to leave the house feeling small, unnecessary, and insignificant after a morning like that. And I thank God that he took the time to remind me of this truth:

plans i have for you

Never doubt that God has a very specific plan for your life. He has already gone before you, made the way straight and prepared all the key characters. Because you matter.

If God can take an attractive young Jewish woman from obscurity and place her in a king’s palace, giving her great favor with all the right people – people who also had no idea how God had planned to use them – he can do something significant with your life.

Esther had no lofty goals of saving her people. In fact, she had no clue why she was where she was. Someone had to point it out to her: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV) Two things are made clear here: What God plans will come to pass with or without you, and it’s really not about you. God didn’t put Esther in the palace so she could be a pretty queen. She mattered.

Chances are you’ll never be positioned to save a people from genocide. (No pressure there!) But you can make a small contribution to a valuable organization. You can pack a lunch for yourself and be prepared to share. You can open the door for someone. You can be kind to the customer service rep who is trying really hard to solve your problem. You can give a ride to someone who totaled her car and needs to get to work. 😉

Our days are absolutely full of opportunities to do small things in a great way. And you never know which one will change the course of history. (You know, just in case you are positioned to save a people from genocide.)

You are a child of God. You’re beautiful and significant to the One who created you. And the world is waiting for you to flap your wings because you matter!

(By the way…the name of the post that started this trip down the rabbit hole? “Thank you for Giving Me Wings!” God can be so clever. :D)