Saturday, May 31, 2014
Recently, I was talking to a young man who just graduated from college. His response to my question as to what he was doing next, was: Find a job. What do you want to do? Make a lot of money!! Then I asked my standard question: What can you do that is worth someone paying you for it? Turns out his concept of the ideal job was working at a gym so he could work out. Unfortunately, I suspect that that's not what the staff does all day.
Reminded me a little bit about my first job, for which I realize I'd been "interviewing" for since I was 5. I've always been a book person, so the librarian at the small branch library five blocks from our house saw a lot of me. She was one of my first mentors--took an interest in me and recommended things she thought I would like to, and things I should, read. She also got me a job as a "page"--the lowest form of life in the library world. I thought it would be great to be around books--but found out that the pages don't get to read on the job. They're there to put the books back when people return them, mend them as necessary. and generally to keep them in order. I was fortunate in working at a very small branch, without any more staff than the librarian and a part-time page, because I got to do other things, that were technically above my pay grade (which was at the bottom of the system as well). I'll never forget one patron who asked my boss for a specific book, and she said that the page would help him find it. So he came to me and said "You're the page? When do you get to be a whole book?"
What could I do that was worth the Spokane Public Library system paying me? I learned to alphabetize and put away books efficiently, became familiar with the standard library cataloging system, answered the phone and generally learned enough to be helpful.(Once in a great while I will find myself answering a phone "North Monroe Library".) I learned enough to get a job at the college library when I went off to college, and spent a summer and several Christmas breaks in the catalog department of the Seattle Public Library. Later, when I found myself working with John, I realized that filing systems and cataloging systems were pretty similar even when what was being filed and cataloged and organized and shelved where they could be found was different. Later, my son David wangled his way into a job at an art supply store, and said that selling a tube of paint was just like selling a spark plug except for what was actually in the box.
I think one of the valuable things I learned was learning how to work. One friend seems to miss a lot of work, and then complains that he isn't making much money. His excuse: "I lost my mojo." Somehow that's not something I tell myself when I get up in the morning--I go to work, whether I happen to feel like it or not. The bottom line: you're not worth anything to anybody when you're not there. If someone is there, and willing and able to learn, I can teach them what they need to be worth something.
We were created to work; to cooperate with God in taking care of His creation. Even in Eden, Adam was given a job. There is a story of a man showing off his garden; a visitor commented on the beauty of God's work. The gardener replied: "You should have seen it when He was doing it by Himself!" God deliberately left work for us to do!
Friday, May 23, 2014
Some years ago I was looking through my mother's old photo albums with her youngest sister, making notes of who was what and where. We noticed that in a good number of pictures from mom's grade-school years, she was wearing the same dress. My aunt explained that when they were growing up, they each had one good dress, which they wore to church and any other special occasion, and often got passed down. One good dress! When I was growing up, there was a family in our church in Spokane who had relatives in Seattle who were fairly well-off and had daughters who were a size or two bigger than their Spokane cousin. So the cousin got their hand-me-downs--very nice things, usually. And my mom's best friend had a daughter another size smaller. And I was the next size down, and there were two more girls down from me. We would check out what the bigger girls in the chain were wearing, because that's what our "good dress" would be down the line.
Now can we even imagine having just one all-occasion good dress? I've been house-hunting off and on for about a year, and the newer the house, the larger the closet. I've seen some that have closets bigger than some bedrooms used to be. Now I'm "paying" for my genetic packrattery, as my house finally sold and I am dealing with 40 years worth of stuff. Actually more, because there's stuff that came from my folks' house as well. My first thought was to find a house about half the size of this one, and deal with stuff over a year or so. I was fortunate in a way to have all the houses I was interested in not work out, some of them because I didn't have a good closing date until this month. I think a light bulb went off when I was reading a book I ran across sorting books (books are somewhat out of hand around here) by a family who went through several disasters that essentially wiped them out at least twice. It made me truly realize that I was over-stuffed, and I needed to somehow get down to basics and downsize a lot farther than my original plan. I hadn't done a lot of packing ahead because I didn't have a time frame or know what space I was going to find. I still don't know where God wants me, but am working on what is the minimum I would need and/or want wherever. My kids have been over here helping clear out, and I came home one day last week to find that my daughters had posted a list of what needed to be done. At the top it says 1) Pack Mom's needs--not wants. 2) Pack Mom's wants--limited to the tubs . We are dealing with enough dishes to do Thanksgiving dinners for 30-50 people, closets with clothes in various sizes because I've been various sizes over the years, not to mention stuff left over from everyone else. My kids had great fun last weekend finding old stuff of theirs; and even more fun reading things I wrote in college and the summer I met their dad.
There is some value in old stuff, it helps you understand where you've been, what you've learned, and what God has done with you over the years. But we live in a world full of stuff, some of which becomes a substitute for the realities of life. It brings me back around to a question I've been haunted by for some years now: what do we need to give up to be ready for the presence of God?
BTW: we are having a house sale the weekend of May 31-June 1; call me for directions (909-844-1920).
Friday, May 16, 2014
Usually on Mothers' Day we talk a lot about how mothers are hardworking, wise, loving, etc., etc., and many of them are all those things. However, there are exceptions. One thing we notice is that unconventional and dysfunctional mothers are often the children of less than textbook families themselves. One example of this is a lady that was the subject of a daily Bible reading last week; the thorn in a bouquet of great Godly mothers. (Note: the first part of this story is not a commonly told Sunday School story.)
One of the things we know about the northern kingdom of Israel after the split with Judah after Solomon's death is that the northern kingdom had no record of Godly kings or stable dynasties. The most dramatic of the northern ruling families is that of Omri, in the ninth century BC, about a hundred years after Solomon. Omri's son Ahab married Jezebel, a daughter of a king of Tyre in Lebanon, who was an aggressive Baal worshiper and an enemy of the God of Israel. Ahab had a daughter named Athaliah, who married King Jehoram of the southern kingdom of Judah, who had all his brothers killed when he became king, and was accused by Elijah the prophet of leading the people of Judah away from God and serving the idols of his in-laws. All of his sons but the youngest were killed by raiders from outside, and so the only remaining heir to the throne of David, Ahaziah of Judah, became king when Jehoram died at the age of 40, and the queen mother Athaliah was the power behind the throne. Ahaziah was soon killed by Jehu, the northern general who had also killed Ahab, Jezebel and their pagan entourage. When Athaliah heard that her son was dead, she had all his remaining family (her own grandsons and whoever else she could find) killed and took power herself, the only reigning queen in the history of either kingdom.
However—God had promised that the Davidic line would survive. She missed a daughter who was married to the High Priest at the Temple, and the youngest grandson (Joash) who was rescued by his aunt, hidden and raised in the Temple until he was seven years old. The story of the High Priest organizing a bodyguard and coronation for Joash is a good Sunday School story, and also how he organized a collection box to repair and renovate the Temple. All’s well that ends well, and King Joash was one of the Godly kings—but it was a close one.
The Bible is nothing if not honest. It pulls no punches describing the bad deeds of Ahab and Jezebel, and the bad judgment of King Jehoram of Judah. Elijah asked the same question that occurs to us: what was he thinking to marry into that family? Yes, Omri had been successful politically and economically, but at what cost? Sin is not only a roaring lion, but it has fierce cubs as well. I haven’t tried to count how many people died violently in those times but it is a whole bunch. We’ve talked a lot about legacies in the past few months, but we need to remember that legacies are not only powerful for good, but can be powerful for evil as well.
2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 21-22
Thursday, May 8, 2014
This is the conclusion of Jean-Paul Sartre's one-act play "No Exit",* written in the chaos of WWII France. Sartre, though not a believer in God, did understand some of the important things about sin. Thinking about relationships, the reading about the effects of King Saul's jealousy and depression,** and stories of dysfunctional relationships from friends and family, I am realizing that sin is incredibly more destructive than we often understand.
The sin that grows out of bad relationships and bad attitudes can have ever-widening ripples and waves of pain, often affecting people who had nothing to do with the original mess. Hurting people react in ways that further hurt themselves and others; sometimes cutting themselves off from life and relationships that could otherwise be healing and positive. Or worse, they can lash out against not only people they perceive as responsible for their pain, but others who are innocent of any complicity in their hurt. It is often a generational sin, being passed on through a family, sometimes by repeating their own hurt on others, or resenting others who don't share their pain. Sometimes there is active destructive behavior, sometimes neglect and cluelessness, or both. Sometimes it is a family not dealing with something that has hurt one or more of their family members. Sometimes something is said or not said without intentional malice that is heard with misunderstanding or assumed evil intent. I'm sure most of us could add to this collection of evil and pain that we humans inflict upon each other.
Unfortunately, Sartre and most of the existentialist writers and thinkers his era rejected the one way out of this hell, seeing humanity with no options but to accept the struggle of a meaningless universe. Looking back at the story of King Saul, we see an alternative to Saul's anger, pain, impatience, and malice. The target of much of this was King David, someone who did know the answer, and though he suffered pain and also did things that caused pain and death, he was blessed with mentors and advisers who could point him to a way out, and he himself had had experiences with God that gave him the right place to go in his darkest hours. He had family and friends who loved him and whom he loved. He is called "a man after God's own heart" *** despite his failures and misdeeds because he was willing to love (sometimes unwisely), confess his sin, and to see truth and act upon it. He knew where to go for wisdom, comfort, forgiveness and strength. Are we willing to pray for people before we argue with them, to recognize the influence of evil in others and turn it over the the One who can deal with it , to accept the love of God and His people, and pass it on where it is most needed?
*Jean-Paul Sartre, "Huit Clos", 1944
** I Samuel 10-31
*** I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22
Saturday, May 3, 2014
I have just come back from a California Baptist University graduation (one of my grandsons) and saw and heard things that went right along with last week's sermon mention of education. CBU is an unabashadly Christian-oriented institution, seeking to educate people who will live out the Great Commission. Seeing the variety of academic disciplines represented in their graduating class, and hearing about their goals and activities, I was reminded of my own college experience, also in a Baptist-related liberal arts college in Oregon, Linfield College. I was fortunate to have been at a place were the faculty and goals were Christian, as well as intellectually rigorous and challenging. I came away with a good solid background in the "hard sciences" and mathematics, literature, history and political science, and Bible, and experience in theater. Todays' commencement speaker is a retired college president and Marine veteran with a lifetime of Christian service. One of his wrapup pieces of advice was something that I had figured out in college myself: learn as much as you can when when you can, about as many things as you can, so that you will be prepared for the opportunties that God sends you. He wants us to learn as much as we ca about His Creation; and we need to have an awareness that everything we learn on this earth relates to God either as a reflection of Him or a challenge to His power and authority.
In the words of the old chorus, He has the whole world in His hands. Everything in it is His: we are responsible to Him for what we do with what He has given us: a world in which we can work for what we need to live and grow. We ourselves are also in His Hands; we do get taken care of in amazing ways, but we also are allowed to suffer in ways that we may not understand in this life. I have learned in my own case, that He does allow things we don't like to happen to good people, but He is always there with us if we ask.