Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Think I Can't

“I think I can, I think I can…” is the oft’ repeated refrain of The Little Engine that Could, a favorite children’s story. I found myself repeating that phrase over and over a few weeks ago on the first snowy day of the year as I tried to drive my van up the big hill between school and home. It took more than a positive attitude to make the hill, however. It took a full twelve minutes of bald tires spinning repeatedly against packed snow, making only inches of progress at a time. Upon reaching the top I drove directly to the shop to get new tires.

Today, as I was reading Exodus, another repeated refrain grabbed my attention. “I am the Lord.” This is the answer God gives over and over again, as Moses struggles with his own incompetency and the “what ifs” of his assignment to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt in order to worship God.

With the narrative removed, the conversation between Moses and Pharaoh goes something like this:

“I am the Lord. Go speak to Pharaoh, saying ‘let my people go.’”

“But I am a poor speaker. How will Pharaoh hear me?”

“I am the Lord.”

“But Pharaoh won’t listen to me.”

“I am the Lord.”

“But Pharaoh will bring more harm to my people.”

“I am the Lord. Go speak to Pharaoh, saying ‘let my people go.’”

“But I am a poor speaker.”

“I am the Lord.”

Wouldn’t you think Moses would finally get it? It’s not about him and his shortcomings. It’s about God.

One biblical expositor, Gill, expands on what God packed into that oft’ repeated phrase: “Jehovah, the self-existent Being, the Being of beings, the everlasting I am, the unchangeable Jehovah, true, firm, and constant to his promises, ever to be believed, and always to be depended on.”

In other words, “I am the Lord,” is all Moses needed to know -all he needed to complete each assignment.

Likewise, “I am the Lord” is all I need to know. So often I worry that I am not the right person for the tasks God has called me to do. I don't feel adequate, and when I try to accomplish things in my own strength, they fail. Wouldn't you think, after all my "tire spinning" I would finally get it?

Instead of “I think I can,” I may as well declare right from the start, “I think I can’t" ...while remembering that God can.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Had a Dream (with apologies to Martin Luther King Jr.)

Some people dream in color. I dream in attitude.

I got to sleep in a bit this morning, thanks to the famous and admirable dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. In my last hazy moments of semi-consciousness I heard myself snipping, “I’ll show you!” in the sassy tone of a thirteen year old. Never mind that it concerned a meatloaf too large for the pan I was trying to use. (A dream interpreter would no doubt deduce that I need a bit more excitement in my life.)

I awoke to the sound of hubby rattling around in the kitchen and immediately felt the urge to snip at him for making all that noise, but then I realized that he had already let me sleep much later than I needed, and the sounds were of him making coffee for the two of us –hardly anything to complain about. Still, I toyed with the idea of delivering a few choice sarcastic remarks as soon as I saw him. The attitude had a firm grip on me.

I began to ponder just where the attitude was coming from - from the hallways at school, perhaps, or maybe from watching teen themed movies recently –one at the theater, and a couple on television. Maybe I had some unresolved resentment tucked away in the corners of my heart. Whatever the source, I decided that I needed to pray before stepping one foot out of bed, or else the attitude revealed in my dream would command the rest of my day.

As I prayed, asking God to redirect my thoughts and take control of my tongue, He brought a verse to mind –one that gripped my heart as I spoke it aloud, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 KJV). As I rose from my bed praying that Scripture, I felt the attitude melt into a puddle that I was able to step out of and leave behind as I went out to face my dear husband and the remainder of the day.

Now the verse that came to mind wasn’t one I had read or thought of recently, but one I had memorized as a child. This realization brought to mind another verse, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11 KJV) I am so thankful for the time I spent memorizing scripture when I was young. The Holy Spirit brings those scriptures to mind at just the right time to comfort, delight, direct –and yes, even to change the attitude.

I hope you find some help and encouragement in what I have shared today. Now it’s time to decide what’s for dinner. For some strange reason, I’m thinking meatloaf…

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Two Years Converged...

Two years converged at midnight’s stroke:
One behind, and one before;
One spent, and one as yet unsullied;
One known, and one a mystery to be unraveled;
One polished (however imperfectly), and
One plump with possibilities.

Once again we held our traditional New Year’s Eve party with a fine group of long-time friends. The tradition began when all of our kids were small -they are now all grown, many with families of their own, as this recent photo of our family demonstrates!

We have a long history of family campouts, game nights, and New Year's Eves spent with the same dear friends. Most years have been good years. Each of our families have grown, spread, and multiplied. We know we have been blessed beyond measure.

This year two of our friends face serious health problems. They both came to the party, encouraging us all with unfaltering faith and positive spirit. I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for them in 2012 –what lies ahead for each of us, really. I want to hold another party next New Year’s Eve. I want these stoic friends to be here celebrating with us. I want to praise God for answered prayers. In short, I don’t want much to change. But change is the only thing that’s certain in this life, so I know that eventually unwelcome change will come –if not in 2012, then in the years following. This thought could cause me to worry, to become weary, or even to give up altogether.

How comforting, then, are the words of Isaiah 40:28:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

During the coming year when I am tempted to grow anxious, weary, or tired, I can simply call on the Great I AM: the One unaffected by time, unchanged by circumstance; the One who understands the “whys” and “why nots” that puzzle the rest of us; the One who mercifully gives us new years and fresh starts. Here I must add a quote I read today by Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:

Vanity it is to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well.

Father, grant me your endurance and strength; let me lean wholly on You in the days and weeks ahead. Make each moment of 2012 count. May I live well and reflect Your glory and grace through every triumph and trial; through each change and circumstance. Amen.

A Happy and blessed New Year to each of you who are faithful followers of Dancin' on Rainbows, as well as to those of you visiting for the first time! I can't believe it's been three and a half months since I last posted! Being a better, more faithful blogger is one of my New Year's Resolutions. What are you resolved to do differently in 2012?