I’m back.  Again.

I apologize that it’s been so long since I’ve posted.  Sometimes, life just gets ahead of me and my discipline falters.  I wish I could say that, while I was away, I had been diligent about working through this devotional and only remiss in not typing it up or sharing it.  But, I have not.  I have been studying though, don’t get me wrong; but, I have been working on getting in touch with who I am – in the Lord – again.  I had lost sight of that over the course of the last few years.  God has allowed our family to get into a place where our absolute faith in Him is essential to doing this walk right.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It ought to be absolutely essential, regardless.  However, we – my husband and I – had been going along for quite a while thinking we were certain we knew what God’s plan was and WE were making it work.  We had consulted with Him, and decided that He had, in fact, signed off on our plan, that He was on board with it, so we took off.

Then, life went sideways.  Or, rather, we were obedient to God, told Him “Your Will be done,” and it was, and it did not look like we had planned.  That was fine.  He only changed one part of it.  There were certain parts of it that I was sure He had not changed.  I could feel it.  However, instead of turning to Him solely for direction, I kept turning to friends whose lives seemed to have worked out just fine.  That’s when things starting getting difficult.  Funny, isn’t it, how we go to God for the plan but then, when it doesn’t work out the way we think, we start looking for folks with skin on so that we can work a more familiar plan?!

The problem was:  I had made a vow to God to do this life the way that He wanted me to.  And only God knows how that is supposed to look.  God has prepared good works for me to do, and is preparing me for those good works.  Yet, I kept turning to people to see if I could figure out that plan.  I could tell them everything that was on my mind, but only God knows the real song of my heart.  So, whenever I would start to try to lead, I would feel frustrated.  Whenever I would get upset that I couldn’t explain my situtaion with any words other than “God just won’t allow me to do that” and I would get a blank stare, I would get frustrated.  

Finally, I just got tired of trying to please God and man.  So, I threw up my hands, and cried out to God:  “I will not do this anymore!  I will not continue to spin my gears trying to make people understand something that I cannot understand myself.  All I have is the truth of my situation:  that You have tied my hands.  That answer is not enough for all the people I keep giving it to.  I cannot help that.  I know it to be true but I have a choice here:  I can keep trying to please man, or I can please You and let man shake out where he will.  One way has always gotten me to where I supposed to be and in perfect peace; the other way has always left me frustrated because I cannot please everyone all the time, regardless of how much I want to.  One way offers me all the space I need to be exactly who You have created me to be; the other way insists that I bottle up a part of myself because ALL OF ME is not quite safe enough for this particular person.  One way has the Creator of the entire Universe in complete control; the other way has one part of creation (me) constantly trying to snag part of that control out of the Creator’s hands thinking she could do things better.”

When I come to the end of my life, and I stand before the throne, all I am going to have to offer is my yes or no answer to whether or not I did the will of God in my life.  Any turning to the side, and I will have to say no.  There have been plenty of those times.  But never in my past, have I ever arrested control of my life back from God and had it turn out well.  

This time, I tried.  Several times.  And every time, God said NO!  My mother has always said that I am extremely teachable.  But I just kept getting denied.  For 2 years.  It might not be the complete truth to say that I tried everything I could think of to change my situation.  But everything I did try came back as a flop.  And  when I would share my feelings about what was happening – “I’ve tried many different things and, everytime, it’s like God has smacked my hand and told me ‘I’ve got this.'” –  I would get blank stares, or questions like “What does that mean?”, coupled with statements about how odd my situation is and what they would or would not do in my situation, or what they felt I ought to be doing, since I – apparently – wasn’t doing anything.  Tell me:  what’s a girl to do when she finds out that doing the will of God is not good enough?  Eventually she starts to question EVERYTHING.  I talked to everyone I know about the situation.  The majority of people told me: do something.  A few people told me:  you obeyed God and this is where it got you; He will continue to get you through it.  Do what you think He’s telling you and the rest of us have to get on board.

So, instead of continually spinning my wheels, I decided to ACTUALLY let God drive.  He has been doing a fine job.  I would like to say that my situation looks different than it did before.  In some aspects, it does but, in most, it does not.  Even so, I have a sense of peace now that I haven’t had in about 4 years.  As the saying goes, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.  I know that the God I serve is already there, preparing the way for me.  Everything I encounter there I will be suited for because of everything I have already gone through, and because I let God work IN ME in the meanwhile.  I don’t know how the future is going to look, and my peace does not hang on knowing.  God’s got this, and I will trust Him to carry me through it.
Leter today, Day Sixty-Eight:  Thirsting for Justice.

Love, Patty

Day Twenty-Six: Welcoming the Stranger

READ:  Ruth 3

 

This passage covers Ruth and Naomi.  Shortly after Naomi’s sons married, they and her husband died, leaving Naomi with two daughters-in-law and not much else.  She told her daughters-in-law to return to their people so that they could be married again, since they were young.  One agreed.  One refused.  The one who refused was Ruth, and she vowed to make Naomi’s God her god and Naomi’s people her people.  With that, she and Naomi traveled back to the place where most of Naomi’s family lived so that they could find Naomi’s kinsman redeemer to fulfill a family obligation to Naomi (in this case, by marrying Ruth).  The one who was first in line did not want the job.  Enter Boaz.  He satisfies the kinsman redeemer law by marrying Ruth, ensuring Ruth and Naomi would not have to live the lives of beggars or starve to death.

 

THINK:  Here, the book challenges us to reread the passage, thinking about who we might identify with:  Naomi – the one who belongs in the land; or Ruth – the younger, foreigner.  And it goes on:

“Imagining you are the person you identified with, how does it feel to hear or say the term daughter?  (Again, this was unusual because of their differences in nationality.

 

What might God be saying to you about the “strangers” in your life?

What might God be telling you about the places in your life where you feel like a stranger?

 

PRAY:  Thank God for how he provides for those who are strangers and aliens, that he isn’t partial to just one group.  Ask God how you might partner with him in this.

 

LIVE:  In the quiet, consider God’s attentiveness to all people.  Is there someone specific he brings to mind?  Today and in the next few days, look for opportunities to pay attention to the stranger in the same way God does.

 

I know this post is late.  While I was reading it, I was having a hard time thinking of what I would say.  I should’ve known better than to think that I had anything to say that would be of any benefit.  I should’ve just been obedient and sat down to write, because, then, I’m sure, the lesson God needed me to see would’ve come into glorious clarity.

 

There have been many times when I have felt like the stranger, like the outcast who didn’t fit in.  From 8th grade until I graduated, I felt like that in the church & youth group I attended.  By the end of my 11th grade year (if I remember correctly), I had finally gotten so fed up with watching other kids come to our youth group and then leave because they felt the same way I did, that I decided to do something about it.  I started introducing myself and asking the kids to sit with me in the section where the youth group sat during church.  Up until then, I had refused to sit with the youth group since they seemed to have no use for me.  But, apparently, I seemed to realize that there was no way I could hope to make these new folks feel welcome and like they were a part of the group, if I didn’t place myself IN the group along with them.

 

I have to admit that I only started this because I wanted to show everyone that it really wasn’t a big deal to make someone feel welcome.  I thought, surely, if they saw how easy it was just to go up and introduce yourself to the new person, they would catch on.  Apparently this was not to be the will of God for my life at this point in time because one day, I decided to test my theory.  I decided that, it didn’t matter if someone new showed up that day at church, I was going to stay glued to my seat and not say a word. 

Ya wanna know what happened?

Everyone speculated that there must be something bothering me since I didn’t get up and introduce myself.

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown:  AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

Why didn’t they just do it themselves!?!?!?!

 

I would like to say that, since then, I have not fallen into the trap of allowing new people to go unnoticed.  I could say it; but I’d be lying.  Sometimes, I’m just distracted by my own business.  But that is a lame excuse.  Our church is also a pretty decent size, so it’s easy not to be able to get to all the new people all at once.  However, that is just an excuse, too.  Sometimes, I just want to come in and see who I want to see and talk to who I want to talk to and not have to try to  be so welcoming or go through the awkwardness of finding out that the person I thought was probably new had actually been coming for several months and that all of my friends had talked to them weeks before I got around to them.  In short, I allow my own insecurities and convenience and comfort level get in the way of being obedient to a call God placed on my life back when I was in high school. 

 

I also think that seeing this about myself is probably the reason why I’ve had so many things come up since I was supposed to publish this entry.  If I don’t address this issue in my life, or if I just try to take it at face value by saying, I don’t know any strangers…, then I don’t have to worry about having to do something with what God has shown me.  But then, if God has already shown me, but He just needs to remind me and I keep ignoring Him, then I have to admit that I am just being rebellious and choosing not to obey.  Either way, I am in the wrong and have to ask forgiveness.  UGH! 

Makes me wonder why I had to try so hard to learn the lesson from high school about fitting in. 

Why did I try so hard to learn what God was trying to show me about my time of outcast in high school?

What was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking.  I was thinking:  there has to be a reason for all this, that all of this is still going on, and I have to get to the bottom of it. 

 

So, here we are!  Let me encourage you:  take the challenge.  See if you can recall a time when you felt like the stranger, like a foreigner.  See if you can remember how good it felt to know you were being brought into the fold.  Then, ask God for a chance to let someone else feel same feeling because you decided to make that stranger into a friend.