Response

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Have you ever considered that your responses to life’s situations can be considered a spiritual discipline? Keith Drury in his book, With Unveiled Facescomes to this conclusion: that at the end of all spiritual disciplines is this one final ‘discipline’ called response. He states that “a right response to life is not automatic. If anything, our natural responses are more often the wrong ones. Thus it is a spiritual discipline to respond the way Christ calls us to respond.” So to the list of spiritual disciplines, Drury suggests that we should add Response. Aspiritual disciplinethat calls for us to manage or exercise discipline in our reactions and responses to what life brings us, be it good or bad. I have come to believe that this is an important ‘discipline’ that aids us in our ministry.  Like any discipline it needs to be cultivated and exercised in and through our relationship with Christ.

As I look back at my own life and the way in which I may have reacted in any given situation, I have to admit to the truth of Drury’s conclusions. I think back to my last appointment as an active officer and contemplate what some of my responses were to some decisions from THQ. For example, if I were to disagree with a given decision and choose to complain about it loudly and publicly it is easy to see how this negative response would cause me stress personally but consider the negative stress that my reaction could cause to those around me.  Worse still my responses could then cause negative reactions in co-workers; and could lead to divisiveness in a number of areas: officer to officer, DHQ to THQ, employee to employee, officer to employee, etc.  Like a pebble thrown into still waters, the ripples of effect could have reached far and wide. Conversely, should I choose to exercise the spiritual discipline response and simply accept the decision given by THQ and look for ways of reconciling myself to it then instead of a ripple of negativity the waters would remain much more calm. It then becomes easier to keep relationships strong so that focus on mission and ministry maintains its priority.

I remember being in the fall months of a new appointment when our daughter was struck by a car on the way to school.  I remember coming to the scene and seeing my daughter stretched out on the road being attended to by EMTs.  I clearly remember the stab of fear that went through my whole body.  My first reaction was prayer for my daughter’s life and health. As I stood there alone praying, unable to move, unable to reach or touch my daughter, a stranger simply placed a hand on my shoulder and uttered a comforting word.  I realize now that, at the moment I instinctively recognized in that stranger God’s comfort and reassurance.  In the ambulance ride to the hospital, I once again gave my daughter back to God and prayed for strength to accept what lay ahead. Somehow, in that moment, my past relationship with the Lord guided my response to the horrific crisis that was facing me. (Praise God she was and is totally fine—a miracle that I still marvel at. And in fact was privileged to experience with my son. Am so grateful that God is still a God of miracles.)

About a year later I discovered that the people of our new corps had noticed my response in this situation and my reliance on God.  In their observations, (that were shared with me by an awesome woman of God.) my response indicated that I had the God-given resources to deal with difficult situations. The outcome was a greater ability to minister to our people and to help them through their own difficult or tragic situations.  I am not sure what the effect would have been if I would have allowed fear and bitterness to be my response.  Responses such as: How could this happen to my daughter, I’ve been trying to be a good Officer, witness, etc.; they should throw the driver who hit her in jail, it’s all his fault; and on and on. Responses such as these lead more to self-pity and help no one. In fact I would maintain that they do more to harm ministry because the focus is on self and lacks trust in God and His control of circumstances.  On the other hand exercising spiritual response looking only for the best outcomes in a tragic or difficult situation demonstrates trust in God for whatever the outcome may be which brings to the individual a calmness and peace that is attractive to those around them.

I still praise God and marvel at the peace that carried me through an ambulance ride to the hospital not knowing what awaited my daughter there. In all of that I do know that my spiritual life was deepened and enriched in and through this very real life and death experience. And today—thank you, Jesus—I have a beautiful daughter who loves and serves the Lord as well as a loving son-in-law and two extraordinarily bright and beautiful grandchildren.

In his book, Drury, goes on to explain that: “Each of our responses becomes a thread that weaves together the rope of our character. Our character is the sum and total of our choices. In the spiritual discipline of response, we braid into that rope Christlike responses to life’s situations.”

My continued prayer is that God would continue to work in me in such a way that my response, even in the smallest most unimportant situations, will be appropriate and in keeping with His will.

“There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.”                              —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

In His Image

It’s funny the things that give pleasure within the same activity/genre.  I like to make quilts. Which is a sewing activity, right?  But I do not care to sew clothing as I once did. What I have come to realize is that it is not the activity of sewing that I like, it is what I am sewing or better said, creating.  Even in sewing a quilt I can quickly come to dislike it if I do not like how color or patterns are progressing.

Creativity if a funny thing. It can inspiring or frustrating; it can be challenging or   easy; it can be a driving force or lassez-faire. God gave this marvelous gift, I believe to give us a measure of understanding about who He is and what He is like.

Since we are made in the image of a creative God there is a measure of creativity within each of us. Yet there are those who seem to be bereft of this creative gene.  In my first appointment it was part of my responsibility to work with kids ages 7 to 10.  During an art project I suggested that they use their imagination to draw a picture about some part of the story we had just read that they liked. I was astounded (and heart broken) at the lack of imagination within these poverty-stricken kids whose parents were themselves educationally limited.  For example, several of the kids parents could not read nor write or even sign their own names.  We had a number of adults using some form of an X to sign their vouchers when receiving assistance from us.

It took these kids to help me realize how insidious poverty can be. From that point forward I made it a priority to try and stimulate and help these kids awaken their imagination and to begin exercising their creative gifts. I will never forget their responses as they began to actually create something from their own imaginations with no help from mine. It was an experience that as I think back I cannot help but to ponder how much light came into the life of those kids as they began to learn to create.  Even if it was to simply draw a fish/whale.

I recall reading an article about creativity that spoke about Adam’s creation. Part of it read something like this:

Imagine day six of creation. God has formed the very first man but he lays lifeless. The outer shell has been formed and the body made but there are eyes without sight, ears without hearing, lungs without air, and a heart without a beat. There lay God’s            creation jewel the period of His work. Finished?

God’s creation was done. Finished. Finished? Man formed, yes. But finished, no. Creation would not be complete until the first gasp of breath. God had ‘imagined’ how He would create this human and like all artists paused knowing that the work is almost complete but just what does it need added to be finished. Ah, yes, I need to add breath. But how to get breath into the body of His creation? I’ll breath into it and he will become complete.

Creativity challenging and easy….for God.  And even frustrating as the Creator God realizes that the human was not finished even when breath and life had been added because he was alone. And so our Triune God created another human to complement and finish His human creation.

I absolutely love the idea that my Creator God did not simply speak Adam and Eve into existence as He did with the rest of creation but He formed us by His hands. Creating us with the abilities to think, reason, feel, and create. Created in His Image.

I love this quote by Max Lucado, “God must’ve had a blast. Painting the stripes on the zebra, hanging the stars in the sky, putting the gold in the sunset. What creativity! Stretching the neck of the giraffe, putting the flutter in the mockingbird’s wings, planting the giggle in the hyena. And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, He made a human who had the unique honour to bear the stamp, In His Image.”

 

 

 

 

Tiling…in Embroidery

I have done some tiling in my time–backsplashes, fireplaces, etc.–but this is the first time I have done it in an embroidery project. It is almost as challenging as tiling with porcelain tiles.

 

My first project, “Dashing through the Snow” was quite a challenge but one undertook with enthusiasm and ignorance of the process. I loved it frustration and all. I want to do this pattern again and next time do it correctly.  There are some minor errors in the one that I completed that I would like to correct. Nevertheless it still came out well and I love it.

In fact I enjoyed the process so much I purchased another pattern that I absolutely love and, for the most part, is progressing well. But boy! the stitch count is up there!

This one is called “Santa’s Workshop.”  So far I have 17 out of 32 tiles completed. It is a lengthy process. One of the tiles took 97 minutes to complete. Patience is a very necessary ingredient in this tiling process.  Well, really I guess it would be necessary in any kind of tiling process.

In case you have not noticed, I love to sew, quilt, embroider. I love learning new techniques and new ways to create old patterns.  Needlework requires lots of patience if your goal is to create a flawless (almost flawless) piece.

Patience is something that I have come to appreciate through the quilting process. Take the time to do it right then you won’t have too many mistakes to correct. And don’t expect to complete your project in one sitting.  Since I’ve learned this lesson the quilting process has become much more enjoyable.

I approach my work time with anticipation of working on a particular project with the added bonus of listening to a book, podcast, or music.  TV is great for keeping you company when you don’t need to pay attention to it.  As the mother of four I still find some kind of noise (voices) in the house somehow soothing.

Patience also allows you to enjoy the process along the way. Worry over completion of the project is removed and the love of the creative process becomes dominant. In addition I have discovered that a by product, for me, of learning  patience is contentment.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (4:11).” This is so much more difficult than it sounds because contentment is something that we learn. It is not a natural part of us. We’re not born with it. It is not a gift. For some of us it may take years and for others, not so much but it is something that is learned by those who choose to pursue it.

Generally we tend to  look for things that will make us content; those things that we deem better or the next rung in our career rather than putting forth the effort it takes to learn how to be content. If only I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone (and myself) say, I will be happy/content/satisfied when I am promoted; when I am married; when I am single; if I were rich; if/when I am healed; so forth and so forth.

Contentment is not about denying one’s feelings about wanting or desiring something they can never have, rather being content brings to the individual freedom. Freedom from being controlled by the feelings of always wanting and never having enough.

Contentment is not pretending that every thing is all right when it is not, but rather contentment brings about the peace that comes from knowing that God is bigger than any problem and that he will work all of life’s problems and difficulties out for our good.

“Contentment isn’t a feeling of well-being contingent on keeping circumstances under control, but instead it promotes a joy in spite of circumstances, looking to God who never varies. Contentment is not based on external circumstances, but rather on an internal source. Contentment is of the heart” (Rick Ezell).

Let me leave you with a John Wesley story of contentment and gratitude. John Wesley was about 21 years of age when he went to Oxford University. He came from a Christian home, and he was gifted with a keen mind and good looks. Yet, in those days he was a bit snobbish and sarcastic. One night, however, something happened that set in motion a change in Wesley’s heart. While speaking with a porter, he discovered that the poor fellow had only one coat and lived in such impoverished conditions that he didn’t even have a bed. Yet, he was an unusually happy person, filled with gratitude to God. Wesley, being immature, thoughtlessly joked about the man’s misfortunes. ‘And what else do you thank God for?’ he said with a touch of sarcasm. The porter smiled, and in the spirit of meekness replied with joy, ‘I thank Him that He has given me a life and being, a heart to love Him, and above all a constant desire to serve Him!’ Deeply moved, Wesley recognized that this man knew the meaning of true contentment.” (Source unknown)

Who knew you could learn so much from quilting? Or from a railroad porter.