What Am I Doing Here?

It is in the valleys that we are given provision for what lies ahead.
Blogging at Ishshah’s Story this week.

Ishshah's Story

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“I was the worship leader of a large church. What am I doing behind the bar of a coffee shop? I don’t even like coffee,” he said.

“I know I am called to be a missionary to the third world. I’ve studied pediatric nutrition, I’ve been to seminary, I’ve learned the language, I’ve jumped through red tape hoops, but instead I’m teaching privileged college students who are semi-comatose under the spell of entitlement. What am I doing here?” she said.

This is becoming a familiar conversation as I listen to friends and family whose lives have taken a detour. I know a lot of people who are asking the question, “What am I doing here? This was not in my five-year plan.”

I’ve seen some interesting career shifts: a former chaplain working as a tinsmith, a refugee physician pushing a broom, a former pastor working as a carpenter, a former…

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Inspection

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This man did not inspect our faith in the bridge, he inspected the bridge. So often we are inclined to look at our faith … but we must inspect the Bridge. We must not look at ourselves, but at Jesus. And when we look at Him we know He is strong.

– Corrie ten Boom (Not I but Christ)

Today

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It was a difficult time. There was nothing more the doctors could do for my friend. She surprised everyone by living a happy, healthy life ten years longer than the sell-by date first suggested by her most optimistic specialists. In fact, she outlived two oncologists. Now the third told her the cancer was back and he had nothing left to offer her that they had not already tried.

She holed up in her lovely house in the forest for a while, reviewing her life and faith and relationships. Then one day she phoned and told me she was coming over.

“Today I am not dead. Let’s enjoy it.”

She was my accompanist, a misleading term, really. She didn’t accompany me like the paid companion in Victorian novels. We were a duo. We gave most of our concerts for an audience of three – ourselves and God. We chose music we wanted to do. We challenged each other. We allowed the music to say what we could not.

For six months we made music, dropping the more evocative songs when they caused one or both of us to choke up. You can’t sing with a lump in your throat. She stopped me and said the reason she liked coming to my house was that it was one place where she didn’t have the burden of comforting other people. I saved my tears for later.

She wanted to go to be with Jesus. She was ready to go. She longed to go. She felt no shame in not wanting to fight anymore.

But she determined to not make a career of dying. “One day I will die,” she said, “But on the rest I will live. Let’s sing.”

Most of the trees in my neighbourhood are barren now, but up at the top of the street a weeping willow glows in the sunlight. I stood under its swaying branches enjoying every moment of golden beauty that surrounded me. It carried a familiar message.

Today I am not dead. Today I am alive. Let’s sing.

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Gathering

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The thing I like about rest is it gives me a breathing space where I can gather myself. I can step back. You don’t have to react to externals; you have to respond to an internal.

-Graham Cook

I feel sorry for the person in a crisis or otherwise dramatic moment who has a microphone thrust in her face as a reporter is asking for reactions. If that happened to me I could probably supply him or her with a choice remark off the top of my head. But that’s the problem. My first reaction is just that -my reaction.

It is, as often as not, a shallow, self-centered reaction motivated by whatever has caused inconvenience or pain. For small things, like a stubbed toe, the memory of a short loud complaint fades faster than it takes to hop across the room on one foot. For big things that involve profound disappointment in people and may even change the course of my life, I need to get away and submit my reaction to the Holy Spirit’s response before I say or do something I’ll regret later

I need to gather in angry scowls, perturbed sighs, peaceless mutterings and woe-is-me moans. I need to take catastrophizing thoughts and calls for revenge captive. Then I can present them to Jesus. After all he paid to take this stuff away. Then I need to listen and respond with his love, his joy, his peace. I need to see the way he does.

Sometimes it’s a bigger struggle than I think it should be. Sometimes I sit in his presence wishing I could take back words that flew out of my mouth before self-control showed up to edit them. Sometimes I feel as stubborn as three-year old who would rather sit at the dinner table until bedtime than eat my broccoli. I don’t want to eat my words. And sometimes I eventually hear the futility of my repetitive argument as the finer points dull in comparison to his wisdom.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of situations and people lately. When my first reaction might be to reject them he whispers, “Look again. Do you see what I see?”

Freedom means that when a situation sticks a metaphorical microphone in front of my face demanding an immediate reaction, I don’t have to give one. I can step back, wait, listen and respond with Christ in me, the hope of glory.

It definitely beats counting to ten.

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Love Never Dies

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Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

(1 Corinthians 13 The Message)

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

(Galatians 5:14 NLT)

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