I feel this strange urge to document this mindset tonight, before I make a personal decision tomorrow around noon. Unfortunately, I am not sure what this 'mindset' actually is.
The situation I find myself in is this:
I moved back this year to my hometown after 30 years away. In June, I strongly felt God was leading me to try to help our struggling community in a couple of different areas. I put together grant proposals and business plans for three projects which I personally could implement/lead with my skillset/training (i.e., technology and theology). Each of the three projects had the ability to (a) support me; and (b) have a major impact on different aspects of the community. [Many of you prayed for two of these, http://www.lati.us and http://www.libs.us.]
I devoted a lot of time, thought, heart, and money to preparing these, building support/endorsements from various stakeholders, and submitting these to reputable philanthropic organizations. All of these have been rejected within the last three weeks. [The third project involved a business plan for investors, but the targeted first-round possibilities were not as interested as first thought.]
Now, presumably these could eventually be funded, given a search process of adequate time and resources (every piece of feedback on the three are overwhelmingly positive, enthusiastic, and supportive). And it is 'adequate time and resources' that I have just run out of…
I have tried to find short-term support and/or spot consulting work--to buy the estimated 7-9 months it might take to get something funded (still a gratuitous assumption, to be sure!)--but nothing has surfaced.
But what has surfaced has challenged my understanding of the situation dramatically.
The weekend after the first rejection, I was approached with the possibility of a full-time job, similar to what I had from 1987 through 1998 --that of a traveling "executive brief-er" to CIOs. If it is like the other job (as it appears from conversations with the potential hirer), it involves approximately 70-80% travel. [In the ten years I had this function at another firm, I logged approximately 3 million airmiles, mostly domestic.] Needless to say, such a job precludes any of the three initiatives our community (and I) was hoping I could implement here, and, once accepted, is a job that I could not in clean conscience 'quit' until after a couple of years of service. This, of course, means that any of the local initiatives would be postponed (at best). The Tank might be only marginally impacted, since the first 25-30% of the Tank was written in such a job--on plane flights, in hotel rooms, in airports. It just makes it much harder to do library-intensive pieces (e.g., history, biblical studies, literature), but doesn’t radically affect more conceptual topics (e.g., philosophy, theology).
This opportunity came up the week of the first refusal, and comes from a friend of mine--a Christian, an occasional Tank-reader, a CTO of a $2B services firm, and a consulting client whom I have done 6-digits worth of work for in the past. They have to fill the new slot and wanted to give me a shot at it (due to our solid relationship in the past).
At the time, the second rejection had not come in yet (the pastors thing), and so I 'begged' for two weeks to think about committing to two-plus years of NOT being able to pursue helping my community in any of these ways. I put a 'low level fleece' out to my Lord, asking for some indication of which direction to take. The two-weeks is up tomorrow (Mon) noon…
I had asked God early last week to "see if He could expedite" a response on the LIBS grant request (in case He had any extra, un-allocated 'sovereignty' just sittin' around unused…smile), and He did--the rejection came on Thursday. [The rejection letter basically said that they didn't do startups--only shorter projects at existing institutions.]
So, I have a decision to make tomorrow of whether to start the interview cycle or take a chance of something else (unforeseen) coming up locally to support me while continuing to pursue the grants. I learned Friday that someone just moved to town that had successfully gotten a number of grants for Federal aid for economically depressed communities, and one of the civic leaders (actually a board member of the would-be computer school) was going to see what they thought of my proposal.
The job opportunity will obviously close soon, since they will need to fill the slot.
So, that's the situation. Now, here are the things that went through my heart and mind over the past few weeks [btw, these are 'unfinished thoughts'--not 'conclusions'…I wanted to share the iterative process of trying to work through the vortex of feelings…in hopes that, a la 2 Cor 1, it might help somebody in a similar situation…so, don't 'correct me' in a flurry of 'exhortative e-re-bukes'!]:
One. Why in the world would the Lord allocate so much time/energy of mine to these plans, and get everybody in town excited and hopeful and encouraged about the future--for us to be seriously and deeply disappointed and discouraged? Of course, He never "said" He (a) would grant these; nor has He indicated that He doesn't want these sometime in the future. I was just directed to pour my best strategic thinking into the plans. As I have often noted on the Tank, I have a habit of over-extrapolating from today's 'marching orders' to 'where I am supposed to end up', when the two have rarely been tightly-coupled in my Christian experience! For all I know, God accomplished 'plenty of stuff' in just the consensus-building phase. I know I certainly enjoyed the interaction with the stakeholders and supporters, but I am saddened that they are disappointed like me. I am in that unenviable position of almost wishing I hadn't 'gotten their hopes up', only to be an agent in that fall.
Two. I had in my mind--based on the way the proposal construction and consensus-building process went--that God would facilitate ALL THREE, but in an order that was somehow best for me and the community. Each of the three--if done right--is a fulltime job, and this would have me fairly well 'utilized' (along with the Tank, of course). And of course I changed my 'perspective' as the rejections came in. When the interest waned in the Blues projects, I came up with a rationalization that God wanted to focus on the kids (lati) and pastors (libs) first, and then the general community/culture. Then, when LATI was rejected, I sanctimoniously agreed with a friend of mine that God wanted the pastor thing first--since it was more closely aligned with biblical mission (but of course my friend was not as presumptuous as I, relative to when exactly it might start…smile). Now, with LIBS rejected, I am forced to theologically conclude that God's higher priority for ME is NOW on the critical need of CIO's for briefings on technology trends! (messianic-glazed-eye smile here). Oh, my… I obviously missed a minor premise (or two or three) in there somewhere…LOL
Three. And then there was the brief but frustrating--"What in the world do you WANT with me, Lord???"--in the context of my personal characteristics. Some of you remember my tape-business venture. The goal was to be able to become TOTALLY "reclusive", supporting myself from web-sales of those video tapes. Heads-down focus on the Tank writing, with occasional forays outside the house for church activities, shopping, and double, non-fat mochas with one packet of Equal and no cream. When the Tapes thing didn’t work well enough to support me, I initially concluded that it was because it wouldn’t have been 'good for me' to become even more solitary that I was. [I later learned, of course, that the tape thing was probably just to keep me home, to enjoy that last year with my precious daughter.]. This time, however, I had 'learned my lesson', and I was prepared to 'take up my cross and follow Jesus' --outside the house [chuckle]. It made so much "sense" (given my understanding of my personal limitations and proclivities) to get me involved in the lives of these students, these pastors, these musicians. And I was ready, willing, and eager to do so. And so, when they all fell flat, although I would almost LOVE TO conclude that I can 'stay inside and write' for the rest of my life, I cannot conclude so, BUT now I cannot detect a 'pattern' in the deal. ANY of the projects would have moved me in the direction of greater 'social interaction' and face-to-face involvement in the lives of these precious folks here. [The travel job is definitely not an 'anti-reclusive' thing: a different city every night, each conversation being 30-60 minutes and desperately focused on urgent business issues, always too exhausted to 'engage' when back at home on the weekends…I suspect that my years of doing that contributed to my need to 'be alone' simply to re-gather the fragments of self and try to put the pieces back together--before driving to the airport again in a day or so. As a job, its not a bad one at all--don’t get me wrong--it’s a good job, and can be done pure-heartedly with Little Drummer Boy ethics. It is stimulating, often fun, a massively educational experience, you actually get to make a difference in large organizations (IT people who are struggling to support others), and never boring. It just doesn't allow room for almost anything else…]
Four. And as I try to process this last point, a host of jinn assault me…I cannot be trusted with people (in person), because I think too slow--my first comments/answers to something are very, very frequently wrong or misleading--and I mislead…I am a bad role model (in person), doing damage rather than good--the only 'safe place' God can let me try to make a contribution is this Tank-room, in which I am hidden away from sight and from influencing others (somehow) to my life of reclusively and eccentricity…I cannot be trusted with attention or appreciation (in person), or I will dwell upon it, and try to milk it (over and over and over again) for evidence of personal 'significance', instead of always finding my identity in the all-knowing acceptance of a warm-hearted and smiling God…I was right--God was going to finally 'free me' in the process of doing this, but I somehow 'fouled up the process' and in an act of pettiness, God 'smote the plan with a blight'--without of course, being good enough to show me which particular piece of religious minutia I neglected (perhaps I didn’t tithe enough mint this year)…God DID give me the ideas and vision and passion to help these folks in these ways, but I hijacked them all from Him and poured 'my fleshly wisdom' all over these dreams, soiling them with tools of iron to the point that He abandoned them… etc, etc, etc
[Can there be anyone out there in readership-land that can still have the slightest doubt about why I delight in my Lord as I do? With a heart filled with such self-doubts and fears and self-views and cognitive-closure-lusting 'theological explanations', can I help from nearly exploding when I think about the "full-bodied" love and effusive acceptance that my precious Jesus has extended to me, and wraps around me daily?! If He didn't know me perfectly when He accepted me, His acceptance would mean nothing--I spent half my life learning how to 'impress people'--and their acceptance only meant that I didn’t 'get hit' by them--it was a 'manipulated' acceptance, which never offered ANY evidence to counter the "Well, if they REALLY knew you, they would reject you" objection…And if they REALLY knew me 100% (my thought life included--ALL of it), then they couldn't accept me (humans just don’t do that, you know)…But when a God who knows every single blood-sign in my heart, and who knows every failure of faith and heart and love, and who knows every misconception and misconstrual of His good heart, STILL ACCEPTS ME with open arms and emotion-filled Face--because of the oh-so-complete Cross-death of the Beloved Son for me--now THAT is an acceptance that is 'ultimate' and that can be 'rested upon'… I did not 'generate' or 'manipulate' that. I didn’t make sure my 'best side' was always showing to Him. I didn’t make sure the conversation stayed on subjects that I knew a lot about. I didn’t appeal to His vanity by flattering Him with words of praise and self-abasement. I didn’t try to 'earn His approval' by doing the kind of things His real children did. His acceptance was something different--it was genuine, without hesitation and without reserve, 'well-informed'(smile), and completely cognizant of every reason it should not be given to such a one as I. This is the truest freedom I could imagine. I am free to lose myself--with all my tortured doubts and fear of failure and self-ignorance and agony of confusion over my future--in the vast ocean of His warming and calming grace. I can approach Him, knowing fully that He is aware of any moment-by-moment 'issues' between us--and that this doesn’t drive Him away from meeting me. I can throw myself into His care, with tears of lostness and with feelings of helplessness and with cries of 'Lord, help my unbelief'--and He never fails to 'catch me', hold me and 'get me through'. "In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer--I have overcome the world"… And this week, this understanding was important to me…]
At least this time I didn’t fall for the old "If God had ordered it, He would have funded it--" slogan. Someone "used" that phrase on me before once, and it worked as a low-grade shame-producer for a couple of years. And then one day I realized that had that been true in the sense I interpreted (probably misinterpreted?) it (i.e., outside support from 'somewhere' for a full-time vocational ministry, as an indicator of God's blessing on a ministry), we wouldn’t have half the Pauline corpus (which were written while Paul was 'paying his own way' as a day-laborer) or some of the Pauline churches (to whom the NT epistles were written!). The forms of God's provision are obviously not limited to non-self-support(!)…and nor can the means of support be taken as an indication of God's blessing or lack thereof--that is measured by the results seen in the lives of others and in the life of the 'do-er'…
Five. I have struggled since the last rejection to stay open to all paths. It was so tempting to 'pack the fleece up' and proceed down Door Number Two. But I didn't -- and the only reason why I didn't was to honor my commitment to Him. It's no longer that I still have all my optimism that there will be a BIG check in the mail in the morning. [I have had a couple of these experiences in my Christian life, but they are infrequent enough--fortunately--to force me to seek 'normal, human' means to live/thrive. A steady supply of miracles would tend to make one a bit 'complacent' about personal effort and a bit 'avoidance-leaning' about accountability for results, I would think--smile.] I just want to allow the process to 'finish'. But I have not been able to avoid the 'path planning', but I think this is okay. The "What IF I get the traveling job" kinds of thinking--how to create the platforms for the 3 projects without having to do a ton of grant-extraction activities (and the like).
Six. The odd thing about this is that even with the decision (now in 11 hours), nothing is really settled. I don’t HAVE a job offer, and presumably it would require 6-8 weeks (longer with the holiday?) to get it/start it. I have just about as much reason to believe that I will get that job as I had that my projects would be funded (wry smile). I wouldn’t know what to do if, during the interview cycle, some type of other job came up, if some other funding sources materialized, or even if NOTHING occurs. I do know that I am not to 'despise the day of small things'. I suspect tomorrow will contain 'nothing'--only silence, quietness, and calm. That the decision point will not be like Sinai, but like the Nativity. Not the grandeur of the Exodus, but the quietness of forgiveness. It will be the quietness of peace, and not the quietness of despair or hopelessness.
Seven. It was interesting that today (yesterday/ it is 1.18am now) I though about how almost 'blind' I felt. I did not "seem" to have any positive guidance on my 'next steps', and since the rejections I felt that I was walking without a path. (Or to use the word I often use about some days, 'drifting'). But my mind quickly remembered two passages: (1) they shall not walk in darkness; and (2) 'thy word is a light/lamp to my feet/path'. I tried earlier today to put those together. I felt I did NOT have a light on my path, but then I quickly realized that I sort of did. The path the biblical text is talking about has very little to do with cartography, or with which shirt to put on tomorrow, or with which Tank topic to write on next. It probably doesn’t have anything to do even with which choice to make tomorrow (assuming I have a choice at that point). Instead, it refers to a path I am already on--a path of striving to live in freedom, love, authenticity. It shows me moral challenges I will face as I try to walk 'in the footsteps of Jesus'. It actually is a path-within-all-other-paths. The path of living-as-God-would (or maybe better "hearting-as-God-would") is one which needs to be inside the core of all career paths, family planning, educational choices, and social postures. This can also be seen from the John 8 passage --it was the light of "life" that Jesus spoke of: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life". By watching the life of Jesus (in His relationships to the Father and to people), we can see what the "structure of life" is, to be infused into any and all 'regular' paths and choices of life. [Interestingly, I went to a most beautiful Cantata tonight--and this passage in John 8 was the theme of one of the selections.]
Eight. I personally prefer the 'bit and bridle' approach to these kinds of matters, and often pray under that model ("Lord, show me unequivocally" or "Lord, make it very, very clear" or "Lord, please, please, please override me in this decision"). Too often this boils down to walking by 'sight' (asking for a sign, even if it is given by God), instead of the biblical method of walking 'by faith'. I have been painfully aware that this is NOT God's preferred method of guiding my path (preferring me to see and respond spontaneously from a heart conformed to His), but I still hesitate to consistent 'try this wisdom thing'. After all the failed projects, and misunderstood events, and false-starts of the last 2-3 years, I am so gun-shy of my 'after the fact wisdom'. This is still a conceptual-challenge for me, and I suspect (or assume…smile) that I have unconscious assumptions operating here that need 'sanctification'…
Nine. But part of this problem is probably due to me looking for the wrong 'search target'. Traditionally, I have asked the wrong question--"lord, where do you want me to END UP?"--instead of the more biblical one--"Lord, what steps should I take TODAY?" When I ask the former and try to work backward from the 'destination' to what steps I need to take today to get there (a standard strategic planning exercise, of course), I am at the mercy of the validity of my understanding of the end-goal. In the former, I am at the mercy of my ability to discern and obey. Discerning the end-game is significantly more difficult than discerning what can be done today. Accordingly, I should focus on the opportunities of today first, and then --should there be any excess present 'capacity'-- create resources/perspectives commensurate with possible future directions (and especially any possible and "passion-able" directions, such as a school to help students with less-than-equal access to advanced resources) . I can only assume that my 'love for planning' intrudes sometimes into areas that are not in His design, and yet, since investment in something (in this case, the investment being detailed planning) creates 'ownership' and 'attachment to' ('where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'), I find myself 'disappointed' (and stupidly, also 'mystified' by it!--smile) when the plans don’t make (even though the plans are sometimes mutually exclusive!). Clearly, planning is important in life-mission, as a couple of the parables of Jesus and many of the proverbs teach us, but it too is something to be used under the Lordship of Christ. [Sometimes I suspect that some of my personal projects over the years fell into the category of 'recreational planning', since they were 'fun' to do…smile.]
Believe me, this 'issue' has nothing to do with 'desiring earnestly the best spiritual gifts' (1 Cor 14) and 'aspiring to serve the church as an elder/overseer is a noble task' (1 Tim 3). There is nothing even remotely wrong with trying your best to find ways to impact the world, in accordance with His beautiful heart, and in moment-by-moment dependence and companionship with Him. Aspirations to serve more, better, longer, farther, sweeter, softer, and deeper are indeed grown in our hearts as His love increasingly infuses our lives, and as we glimpse the passions of HIS heart. It's just that we need to always seek the best way and the best time to attempt specific ministries, and that they should not become 'ends in themselves'.
The first time I learned this (smile) was in a most comical way. I had been a Christian for two years, and a serious follower of the Lord (i.e., would-be disciple) for about a year. I was finishing up my graduate work in Computer Science, and trying to finish my thesis. My thesis was actually a very practical project, writing a special-purpose operating system for our mainframe, to be used in upgrading the production OS from a previous release to a current release. My OS was to allow this switchover to be tested first, and to ensure that all media resources (e.g., disks, drums) were preserved in integrity (in case we had to rollback). One night as I was in my little TA office, poring over a core-dump (dates me a bit, doesn’t it--smile), I found an attractive little rabbit-trail (sound familiar from my writings…grin), thinking about what would be the aftereffects of the Rapture. And I had a moment of mini-panic and actually (I remember this hyper-vividly!) prayed out loud something like this: "But Lord, if I got raptured right now, who would finish my thesis?"---!!!! Honestly--I said such a stupid thing out loud (in private, of course). About 900 milliseconds later, I realized what I had said, burst out laughing and realized for the first time that day-to-day life (if 'unexamined', to use the philosopher's term) can sometimes lead to major value-distortions! [I am so glad God didn't let me do any writing and 'helping others' for another 25 years! If I make mistakes NOW, can you imagine what I would have said back then! Another argument for God knowing the timing issues better than Glenn…Also, please note that this idiocy is not reflective of all, or even most, TA's…smile]
Ten. And the timing thing is always a challenge for me. I don’t do very well here at all it seems. For all I know it will take 2-3-4 years even to GET grant funding for such expensive projects…But this is a fascinating case. In my devotions this weekend, I read the passages on the birth and maturation of Moses. And, as I pondered his situation, I can almost hear (pardon me Moses) Glennisms in his thinking, both before the killed-Egyptian event and after it. Listen with me…
(Moses, meditating, in the great library of the Pharaoh, circa age 38) "Lord, I think I get it. You salvaged my life from death for a special reason. I have always been aware that I am a Hebrew, it being more visible with age in the baths of the palace. You have graciously provided for me, given me access to the literatures of the world, educated me in the history of my people and related peoples, and made me strong of body and will. I hear from conversations with your people that you promised deliverance from your people right about now, and it makes perfect sense that I have been crafted by you to be the agent for this exodus. I obviously need to bond with your/my people, and let them know that You seem to have equipped me for this, and I plan to do this tomorrow--I'll go out and visit them, and make myself known. Everything seems to point to this--my education, my resources, my favor with/support of the royal authorities, even my blood-relationships with the Levites of the Hebrews. I am so excited about the future! I know you are sovereign and that you can control the 'heart of the king', so, in faith, I will 'claim' your deliverance of your people, and will expect Pharaoh to miraculously agree to free us and let us go into the Land (since the iniquity of the Amorite is undoubtedly 'full' by now!).
(Moses, after 20 months as a shepherd in Midian!) "Lord, what was THAT all about?! On the day I hoped to start helping my people, I take a step of faith and kill the Egyptian--and yet the Hebrews do NOT understand that as a first step of rescue, but rather rejected me for it--good grief! (Acts 7.25). Then all my royal support-base fell out and I fled here, no doubt to improve my 'servant-ness' though humility, but I would have expected you to have sent me back by now. The situation is no better for my people, and I am not getting any younger or sharper in my skills. Okay--point well taken about Abraham, but we aren’t talking about siring kids here. This just doesn't make any sense. You are the Lord here, so I trust your judgment, but you know how confusing this is for me. How can I trust your leading in the future, with how this deal has turned out so far, Lord? How do I know I won't just be rejected and embarrassed again--for trying to do your will?!"
(Moses, after 20 years as a shepherd in Midian) "Lord, thanks for burning that messianic-daydream out of my head. Wow, was I confused. I guess I really don't know your plans very well--but you have revealed Your beautiful heart to me in these decades. I would so much rather be 'confused and ignorant' about the future, than about your warmth, goodness of heart, and love for us. I don’t know from one season to the next what life will be like for my family and my sheep and my country, but I DO know that you will walk with us whether the future leads. And that's all I need to know for today. And if I need to know something a little more specific, I will trust you to guide me gently there. For now, I will enjoy our times of prayer and meditation in the quiet of the night, as I watch over my flocks."
(Eighty-year-old Moses, after 40 years as a shepherd in Midian, now at the burning bush) "Lord, I thought I trusted you by now, but maybe not-- this order to go to Egypt to free your people sounds vaguely familiar to me. And quite uncomfortable, I might add. Granted, there are obviously some differences…Back then Your will was my 'scenario-construction', as opposed to a very, very explicit instruction…Back then, my resources were those provided by the educational and cultural systems; as opposed to resources of heart from the experience of You and your provision/protection and nurture for four decades…Back then, I assumed that Your blessing on the venture would insure pain-free and expeditious implementation; as opposed to the difficulties You have just enumerated (a euphemism for 'promised'!) for me: prolonged conflict with Pharaoh (and the obvious negative fallout on your people from that!). This is a specificity of communication I have very rarely received from you, in the eighty years of my life.
(80+ year-old Moses, after Pharaoh has cracked down worse on Israel because of Moses 'management intervention'). "Lord, what gives NOW?! I knew there would be backlash against this "plan", but I didn’t expect you to crush the hearts of your people in the process---! You have made Israel a stench to Pharaoh and made ME a stench to everybody! If I had only known this would have happened, I could have popped out a couple of flashy miracles first, and your people would have at least been able to remain 'stable in hope'. Granted, they might not realize later how bad they had it here (being numbed to complacency and hopelessness by the oppression so far), and perhaps all of them would want to return--if we run into hardships along the way. And you know, Lord, from a planning standpoint, I really makes sense not to waste all those smaller miracles, if you are going to have to do the BIG one at the end anyway. I know you are interested in having some/many of the officials and people of Egypt have the opportunity to recognize You (by following the instructions as to how to avoid some of the damages), but it would make so much more sense to play the big Trump Card now, so we can get out 'efficiently'.
(100+ year-old Moses, dialoguing with God in the tent [Ex 33.11], in the wilderness):
"Good morning, Moses--isn't it a good day for celebrating the Exodus again?"
"Uh, sure, Lord, but let me ask a quick question first--are we supposed to move camp tomorrow?"
"Moses, after almost 20 years of you asking that 'odd' question, what do you think I am going to say??"
"I know, I know…probably the same old "wait until tomorrow and see if the cloud has moved""
"Good job, Moses--that’s been the operating procedure since we set out. Why do you always ask Me this the day before?"
"Well, Lord, I figured with some advanced notice, we could pack up a little earlier, and be ready to leave a little earlier."
"And what might the advantage of that be, Moses?"
"Well, we could obviously travel a little more efficiently that way, and arrive at out destination earlier."
"Would it make the journey any shorter?"
"Would it make the journey any easier for anyone?"
"Well, Moses, how then would it be better for anyone?"
"Well, Lord, it would be a little less stressful for everyone if when they went to bed at night, they already knew that they had to travel in the morning and maybe (hint, hint) where they were going. They could have what some people call 'closure'"
"I see…but wouldn’t they then just worry about how long they would be in that new place?"
"Probably, but you might could also tell them that, you know, Lord"
"I see…but wouldn’t they then worry about what would befall them there, and why I picked that, and what was after that, and so on…actually increasing their stress somewhat? Especially if I laid out the entire forty-year travel plan????"
"I suppose it might not always be less stressful…"
"…might it even sometimes be more so?"
"Probably so, Lord…actually, maybe it wouldn’t help after all"
"Good observation Moses--I KNEW I had a good reason for picking you…(mysterious smile)…but I have one other question about this matter for you"
"What is it, Lord?"
"Well, suppose I told you this morning that we could be setting out tomorrow…what would you do differently than normal?"
"Well, Lord, I would tell all the tribal leaders that information, and they would likely do as much packing today as they could."
"When they pack, what do they pack, Moses?"
"Generally, they pack up all the stuff they use to live and to work and to play. Everything except bedding and minimal eating utensils."
"And what would they do all day, if they had packed all that stuff up for moving on the following day?"
"Uh…not sure, Lord…I guess they would sit around and wait and talk about the future and speculate on fortunes and the such."
"Would they have those family meals--that generate such wonderful laughter and stories?"
"Probably not, Lord--you sorta need the stuff that would be packed."
"Would they have those weddings with all the songs and bells and flirting and dancing?"
"Probably not, Lord--we sorta would have packed the stuff for that too."
"Would they reflect upon how I gave them the riches of Egypt when I freed them from slavery?"
"Probably not, Lord--the jewels and treasures from Egypt are some of the first things we pack."
"Would they sit out under the stars and meditate like some of them do until the wee hours of the night?"
"Not as much, Lord--some might be preoccupied with getting a good night's sleep for the morn."
"Moses, would you say the quality and richness and enjoyment of their life would be better on such a day, or worse on such a day?"
"Well, Lord, I guess--all things considered--their life would be 'less life' on those days---worse."
"Hmmm…are you recommending then, based on your love for these people, that I NOT pre-disclose the travel, and therefore allow them to enjoy their days, experience their families, and celebrate the present?"
"Absolutely, Lord. I heartily recommend such an life-enabling approach!…"
"Good suggestion, Moses--I KNEW I had a good reason for putting you in charge…(mysterious smile)…and just for the record: those forty years I had you work as a shepherd--you were supposed to have 'noticed' that the sheep don't worry about tomorrow's pasture, but rather focus on enjoying today's…"
I also noticed a 'bad habit' I still
seem to have--something that looks strangely like inconsistency
(smile). Like many people, when I pray for something to happen, I
often/generally 'qualify' my prayers with an 'opt-out clause', something like
"…but if this is not something GOOD for us, Lord, then DO NOT give us this
request…" I only want God to answer prayers that are beneficial, and NOT
those that would be less-than-beneficial because my motives were wrong/mixed or
something related. So, we/I add that stipulation on 'big matters'. "I am
asking for this, Lord--I think it is good for this need, but IF THERE IS A
BETTER approach, then please answer this one 'NO'"…The inconsistency arises when He honors that
latter request (saying "No")--and yet I am disappointed, crushed, and
"pout" about it! Good grief! I asked Him to answer
"No" if its best for me/us/them, and when He DOES so, then I whine
and complain and grumble and get depressed and feel slighted etc, etc.,
etc…What lunacy! Even as I go through that emotional whiplash, I KNOW BETTER
and even am able to laugh at it most of the time--but its still there…It feels
almost like I am throwing a toddler-sized temper tantrum! What an insight into the nature of the
flesh--a pathetic, self-consumed, 'sulking immaturity'! Am I really, really
serious about wanting His best, or am I still doing the 'to consume it upon
your desires' thing from James 1?!
Well, nothing big came in the mail or email, and I responded affirmatively to my friend about the interview cycle…Nothing was different, except this peace of God which passes all understanding…I am free to 'daydream' of serving others, and yet freed from the responsibility of being the Shepherd--I'll try to enjoy this pasture today, and follow His voice to the next one--whenever that comes…and I am freed from agonizing over the countless 'what ifs' that still circle around me and beg for my soul…but the Shepherd has that staff, and will stay close to Him who defends me…
Nothing has really changed in my situation--I have no assurances of job or grants, of life or death, of joy or grief…but I have changed, believe you me…
I read a story last week about the shepherds of Bethlehem, and it described the ancient practice of how the shepherds would play the flute and pipes to the sheep at night to help them stay calm in the darkness…My Great Shepherd--with holes in His hands which did not come from His staff, but came from the teeth of wolves who were coming after me--soothes my heart so often with the gentleness and quietness of His musical voice of grace…
I hope your holiday season is filled with warmth, laughter, loved ones, reflection on His unhesitant love, and celebration of the freedom of forgiveness and acceptance by such a One--who knows you completely, yet embraces your life in warm intimacy and complete peacefulness…
"for out of you will come He who will shepherd my people Israel…"