Acting On My Behalf

1 12 2012

ps37_5Part 1 (Psalm 37:5)

You never know where you will be when God taps you on the shoulder. Today I was out for a walk with my mom and the dog. We have always loved walking and talking; conversations always tilt towards the deeper end of things. Today she mentioned something she had read in Psalm 37 and I knew that as soon as we got home I would be sitting down with my Bible and my laptop.  God is speaking to me, in my circumstances, through this Psalm. So if you happen to come back to onebrownleaf in the next while, you will be reading what I am reading and hearing in these verses.

Context: very tough parenting season; excruciating. Not an hour goes by that I do not whisper to God about it; a cocktail prayer: 1 part lament…1 part hope…1 part faith. Anyway, now you know where my head is at.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your future to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will act on your behalf” (NET).

The first part of this verse, dealing with the word “commit” is interesting when you look at it in Hebrew (the original language of this Psalm): “roll away each care of your load on Him.” This verse is saying that I need to take whatever care is weighing on me and roll it towards God, entrust it to Him to deal with.

It is interesting, in this verse, it is says to “commit your future.” When I think about what is burdening me right now, it is the future. It is all the “what ifs” that are specifically about how this all will turn out that is concerning. I project: if this happens, then this will happen. If that happens, then that will happen. Psalm 37 is saying that I need to take all my scenarios and roll them across the table to God; He will take all of these and even the ones I have not thought of, and He will deal with the outcomes.

God isn’t just “with” us, a sympathetic friend; He is more then that. We can actually trust in Him to act on our behalf before, during and after. God is our advocate, our “muscle.” In the original language it carries a tone of vindication; that God is going to deal with the future, attend to it, bring it to pass His way. God is our hero.

So if we have this option to commit , and if we have this option to trust…I wonder what happens if we don’t? If I don’t commit the future to the Lord; if I don’t trust that He will act on my behalf, am I on my own with all this? If I live like there is no God (which is essentially what I am doing when I bathe in worry) am I shutting the door on His help?

I do know that God has answered prayers I never prayed. He has answered prayers others prayed for me; I reaped the benefits. I do know that God has gifted me with things that I never sought after; grace gifts, completely undeserved. God can do what God wants to do, that’s for sure. But I know that He also will wait for us to relinquish the hold we have on our own lives. He has often said in the Bible, “If only you would have turned to me,” “If only you had prayed,” “Just ask and you will receive” those sorts of things.  So my answer is, yes, I think God will often wait us out because we aren’t simply the one making the request; we are the first half of the project.

God wants us to surrender something in the whole process: Worry, anxiety, self-reliance, pride, stubbornness and rebellion. God is not our hired hand; we are part of His family and He is our Father. In order to do the work of a Father, He needs us to have the posture of the child. He waits for the sound of His children knocking at His door and our small voices asking for help. He wants to come and lay it all out before Him and in return He will give us peace that we are not alone; He has taken up our cause.

As I am thinking of my circumstances today, this Psalm reminds me that I have to take my stack of questions and concerns and give them to Jesus. I need to say,

“Jesus, here I am. Here is what is on my mind, all these cares and concerns. What can be done with these? I don’t know how to set this right; the steps, the order of things as they should happen and I trust that You do. None of this comes as a surprise to You, none of it has escaped You.

So here; please take all of this. I trust You to take the lead. You will act in a way that is perfectly right and there is nothing that can stand in your way.

You will go where I can’t go.

You see what I can’t see.

You hear every conversation,

and you can work with all the pieces on the board, all at once.

You are not bound by the hour of the day.

There are no shut doors,

no period on the page.

You pursue without getting weary.

I am giving you this whole load of things, entrusting this whole thing to You.”

Even as I write that prayer a song begins to play in my head:

“What joy, what joy for those whose hope is in the name of the Lord

What peace, what peace for those whose confidence is Him alone…”

Have a listen…

— Teresa Klassen

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Why Molly Shakes

20 02 2012

It’s so strange, this thing about our dog Molly.

She is a beautiful yellow Lab; small for her breed and very smart.  She will lie at our feet for hours on end and make no demands of us; but mention the word “walk” and she will jump like a jack-rabbit as high as your head. And it is surprising how brave this little docile dog can be. She will chase a bear up the hill if it gets too close. She will endure the agony of a rattlesnake bite just to get out in the woods again.  She will square off against a snarling Doberman if it gets close to her people.

And given the go-ahead, her energy knows no end! She will chase a ball until she is exhausted yet never know when to stop. She will retrieve whatever you throw into the water time and time again, farther and farther into the waves. If you even think about going outdoors with her along, she will read your mind and begin wagging her tail ferociously.

If anyone comes to our door and knocks or rings the bell she will bark like a maniac one minute and be their best friend the next.

She looks so well adjusted, but it only takes one little, almost imperceptible thing and Molly will shake from nose to tail, uncontrollably; every time it happens I think she is just going to drop dead from a heart-attack.

What scares the fur off her? A little noise.

Whenever I see her shaking, I have to think, “Was there a noise?” because it is usually so subtle.  I try to figure out the source and I realize, “Oh, it was on TV” or “Oh, somewhere downstairs” or “Oh, across the street.” It is a certain noise pitch that could last for a millisecond yet she practically has a seizure over it.

Today she had an episode and I just put my hand on her head, consoled her, and realized, looking into her fear-filled brown eyes, that she and I have more in common than I like to admit.

There is a “noise” that works on me too and it might be almost imperceptible to others, but it just drains all the courage out of me, all the passion, all the creativity, all the joy for a little while. It ‘s never something I see coming because it happens in random situations, but just like Molly it makes me all shaky and wimpy and ridiculous. Where moments before I felt like I could race up a mountain, in those shaky moments I just want to take a nap; a long nap.

I was reading Mark 8 today and the Pharisees are at it again, making noise. In this case, they come at Jesus with their noisy misguided, cynicism.

Jesus’ first reaction? Verse 12: “He sighed deeply in his spirit.” Isn’t that a picture? What meaning in those six words! To actually affect Jesus so, enough for Mark to write it down! It was a drain on Jesus to hear those words that day, in that way. Jesus was on mission, with the short time He had, to be Good News to the world and then He has a run-in with these self-serving, arrogant, posturing leaders trying to trip Him up at every corner. What did they want? Were they there for the honest-before-God good of the people? Were they just looking for clarity before signing up to carry the cross He later mentions? No. They were first class connivers wearing the cloak of religion. There was nothing righteous about it; it was a front. It made Jesus sigh.

(As an aside, I really don’t want to be one who makes Jesus sigh like that).

Here is where the noise would have gotten to me. I know this, because time and time again it does. I can be eye-ball to eye-ball with something noisy and a good response catches in my throat.  Noise can be so disorienting, it makes me wordy and apologetic and unnerved. Noise makes me “wish I had” instead of bitten my nails over why I didn’t.

But Jesus? He responds; right then and there. It isn’t a “Captain America” response (chest out, deep voice, “ta-da” kind of statement); at least that isn’t how it sounds to me. When I read it I think it is said in a pretty normal tone of voice, with everything left-over being said in His eyes.

You don’t have to be loud when you’re right.

Jesus says it, simply; straight-forward; and then He moves on. He leaves those Pharisees where they were and crosses over the lake to where His friends are and warns them about the noise; warns them about the ones who are just in it for themselves. Be wary: if it sounds like a Pharisee, and acts like a Pharisee, and looks like a Pharisee…it’s a Pharisee.

Ah, teach me your ways Jesus.

I am looking at Molly as I write this. She is napping. I am wondering why that certain noise trips her up every time. She must think she is no match for the noise:

  • even though she has legs to run, and has run for miles and miles without anything catching her (including me);
  • even though she has fantastically sharp canine’s and can strip the bark off trees (or vinyl off hot-tub covers);
  • even though she is an excellent judge of character and can whiff out trouble (and chipmunks).

Even though; she thinks a little noise can get her.

Is that what I think? That I am no match for it?

Sometimes I do.

Thanks for listening, Molly. Thanks for the nuzzle, and the lick on the hand. What do you think…walk?

— Teresa Klassen





Consider: The Ravens

2 08 2010

Part 6 of “Consider This”

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

Victor Hugo

Yesterday morning I sat on my lawn-chair and a Robin hopped by on the grass with a lime-green worm as big as my finger in its beak. I don’t even know how that Robin managed to hold on to it because the worm was flipping around, protesting its capture something fierce! But the bird puffed out its crimson chest, oblivious to the worm’s displeasure, thrilled that it had found the mother-load. The bird flew off with its catch and would have a fine feast of it somewhere with its family (though undoubtedly some chick would beak off, “Not green worm again, I don’t like green worm” and the dad would say, “You’ll eat it and you’ll like it!”).

The Bible calls us to

“consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap…” (Luke 12:24 NIV)

Humans don’t do nearly as well as the birds, living on a wing and a prayer. To be like that Robin, without cupboards, would stress most of us out.

Is it possible that we can forget what freedom tastes like and come to fear it, rather than long for it?  Can we come to actually treat open spaces with suspicion, preferring the cage over the sky?  I wonder if we build “bird-houses” because it makes us uncomfortable that they don’t? Is having a floor and four walls so important to us, that the thought of gliding over the treetops fills us with dread rather than amazement?

What words do we assign to our present experiences? Are they descriptive of trust or apprehension?

Remember the children of Israel in the desert?  Just now it occurred to me that the word we use for their experience is “wandering.” But if you were in the mix, knowing that someone was taking care of your every need, wouldn’t “holidaying” be a better description? The whole thing started with a campfire experience, with just the right amount of getting-there stories to recount later, good weather every day and, better than better, not once did they have to run into town for food or drink; they were fed morning and night by God himself. God wasn’t even subtle: cloud by day, pillar of fire by night; it wasn’t like God went away and they were wondering if He would come back.

So why were they so stressed out?

The Israelites in the desert didn’t see any beauty in it. They weren’t pinching themselves saying, “Can you believe it?” Instead, they sat by their tents at night worrying, “My life is going nowhere.”

  • Where is “there” and “nowhere?”
  • Where is where we ought to be not where we could be?
  • What is stable and unstable?
  • What does predictable give you that unpredictable doesn’t give you more of?
  • Is having something in your hand so much better than seeing how it gets there?

Consider the birds, they do not sow or reap; they have no storehouse or barn; yet God feeds them. And Jesus says, “you are so much more valuable than birds” (Luke 12:24). Is Jesus saying quit everything; just check out? No, He follows up His statement with: Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

So yes, quit something: quit worrying.

God is calling me to not only be OK with “not knowing” everything, but to actually relish it. Consider the birds that swoop and glide and occasionally seem suspended in mid-air, caught in some sort of up-draft; they sing for no reason, bathe in whatever puddle they can find and only create enough of a nest to rest in.  Consider this.

Like us, they have a beginning of a story and an end of a story, but the whole middle is being written as we live. The whole middle is all about where we find ourselves, and who can say where that will be? Birds venture out. We need to consider venturing out…

Venture

1 : to expose to risk
2 : to face the risks and dangers of
3 : to go ahead in spite of danger

Yes, like the birds, God wants to add “venture” to our vocabulary and our experience (adventure, you see?) and quit making up dangers as an excuse to stay indoors. Quit worrying; God is with us and as P.D. James said, “God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.”

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: I could have taken this blog in 10 different directions because birds are amazing! There are 10,000 (plus) species of birds in our world.  Picture God’s imagination run wild and you have: birds. Take an hour and Google, “pictures of birds;” I don’t even know how to describe the experience. If a picture paints a thousand words, here are a 5,000 words in 5 pictures (5 out of 10,000 pictures…imagine!):





The Perception of Danger

23 07 2010

Two nights ago I was having a relaxing evening hanging out with my favorite Michael. He was tidying up a paper he had to send off, and I was tidying up my account with WordPress. I had some old/unused accounts; names I had reserved but had changed my mind on and I decided to just get rid of them since they were making my dashboard crowded. So, I read up on what I needed to do and then I checked off the account I wanted to delete and hit “next”.

A very big, scary warning came up saying that to delete a blog is a PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE ACTION and did I really want to do something PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE. I have to admit, it gave me a chill! I went back and double checked: did I have the correct blog selected. Yes indeedy! So again, next step, big scary warning, and I said, “Yes.” Yes I want to go down that road and I am prepared for the consequences; bring it on!

The next thing that happens, when one is deleting a blog, just to help people like me who might suddenly have second thoughts even after saying, “Yes”: an email is sent where you are able to click a link which is now the final, final step. Here is where I think WordPress might reconsider it’s final, final step; I would like to suggest that there be a final, final, final step.

So I clicked the link and then merrily went back to see my neater global dashboard. Oddly, when I clicked on my “OneBrownLeaf” address a message appeared on a stark white screen that said, “The authors have deleted this blog. The content is no longer available.” That must be a mistake, I thought, and refreshed the screen. That must also be a mistake, I thought, seeing the very same message.  I closed Firefox and opened it once more; I typed in the address and there it was telling me I had deleted my blog.

I said (with some volume) “Oh no!!!!!” I may have said this repetitively, I can’t quite recall, what with the light-headedness and my hands pressed over my eyes.

I quickly found the WordPress support and emailed them something with the subject line, “Hellllllllp!!!!!!!!!” I could picture my blog just dangling there, not quite gone, retrievable like a wedding ring on the edge of the drain and if I got the word out fast enough they would respond and say, “Because of your quick thinking, Mrs. Klassen, we were able to save OneBrownLeaf from imminent destruction! Congratulations!”

WordPress has not returned my S.O.S. thus far, and it has given me some time to reflect on this experience.

When my website disappeared, I just kind of blanked out; I think it was the words PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE. When some things go wrong in life, that is the way it seems. In varying degrees, a sense of panic creeps up my spine and spiders into my thoughts, wrapping my mind in a web of worry. I don’t consider myself a worrier, but that is when there is nothing to worry about. When something goes wrong, I can obsess over it.  I can lose sleep over it. I can wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

But what is PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE? 1 Corinthians 10:13 (in the Bible) says,

“No Temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

There are two words in this verse that might throw us off, the first temptation and the second be tempted can be a bit confusing; here’s another way of looking at it:

“For no temptation (no trial, adversity, affliction, trouble), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.”

There are some pretty serious things that we wrestle with in life and I do not mean to make light of pain; but I must gently suggest (note to self) that even pain is a door we can walk through; we can find ourselves in a new place, when we are ready, if we choose to do so. 1 Corinthians 10 isn’t just for the garden variety trials, after all. Even our worst things can have an alternate ending.

With that disclaimer, I will return to my blog story. What was PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE there? My actions were; kind of, but not really. I did lose something: an address, connections with some strangers/followers, traffic; but I was able to piece most of it back together because I had a backup. Last week I made a backup file of my blog.  I didn’t really know how to do this, but I kind of figured it out and had even made a back-up site. I am sure this was God saying, “I think I should give that girl a shove in the right direction, because next week she is going to do something really stupid. Let’s help her out.”

I had glanced at the backup I had made at the time, but hadn’t really checked it out thoroughly and I think this was at the root of my panic-moment. The fact that I had a back-up didn’t jump out in front of me and say, “No worries! Got you covered!” When the reality of my error hit, I just froze. I should have known my back-up better because then, when my site went down, my error would have annoyed me, but that’s about all.

So many of the things I face, the things I have angst about are just perceived dangers. Something happens and all I can see is white and I have a horrible feeling something just went terribly wrong. Maybe it actually did, but is that it?

  1. First of all I can breathe, knowing that nothing is wasted. God has promised me that even the most troubling circumstances can all be turned around and used for actual good (Romans 8:28).
  2. God always has a strategy. I read this once (Ortberg, I think), that if one pictures life as a chess board, God always has a play, no matter how the pieces are arranged on the board. So, even though there are real worries in life, as 1 Corinthians 10 reminds me, there is always another move.
  3. I am never alone in any situation. Sometimes we just need to step out of the room and talk to Jesus who is ready, willing and able to help us (Isaiah 41:10)

How many times has God watch me sweat it out before I remember my back-up? If I am putting myself through the wringer, it is a clear sign that I either do not trust that my back-up is real or that my back-up is trust-worthy. If either of these theories are true, that means I have not taken the time to thoroughly look at Who my back-up is and how He operates.  Put plainly, I don’t know Jesus; I don’t know what I have; I am not familiar enough with His Words for them to make any difference.

So my little story has a happy ending, but not all my stories do. Sometimes what I have invested in is “gone” and sometimes the thing that mattered is “over” and sometimes it has felt as if the pain of something will “never go away”; but PERMANENT AND IRREVERSIBLE? No. As in the case of my blog, we do not walk through life unscathed, but in Christ, nothing is completely lost. Our perception of things cries, “What good could ever come of this?” And our back-up, Jesus, shows us how mercy works and always has the final, final, final word.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2)

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: take some time to read Psalm 116

After-Afterword: Just thought I would share the note I got from WordPress just now

“Hi, I’m sorry, but deleted blogs cannot be restored or reused. Deleting a blog is permanent and the name cannot be used again…

Thanks…TonyF
Happiness Engineer”

Happiness Engineer? Happiness Engineer? 🙂 Now this just absolutely made my day!!!! I could write at least 4 things about this title alone and just might. Stay tuned.

After-After-After (sounds a bit like final, final, final, doesn’t it?): Just got ANOTHER email and here is what it says

“Hi there, I was able to successfully restore your deleted blog. Please note that this is usually not possible, and there are many clear warnings throughout the deletion process. Be very careful with that delete button in the future!

Best, Hew S.
Happiness Engineer”

Wahoo! Back in action. Liking that my tagline on my site is “Always A Faint Hope”; so true today.





I Choked

15 04 2010

This may or may not have happened but I am imagining someone coming up to Jesus and asking, “Jesus, in two words or less, could you describe what trips most people up?” Without a moment’s hesitation Jesus summarizes: “Life’s worries.” Later he expands on this, describing His loving message as seed to be planted in human hearts: “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries…”(Luke 8:14)

I am 42 years old and have known Jesus as long as I have known anything, but at times I still choke. And He’s right: it is all due to life’s worries. Certain circumstances still flatten me. Certain words leave me completely deflated.  The right thing at the wrong time will wipe me out. I don’t want to choke. Jesus goes on to say that hearts in the right place retain what they know and persevere. I like the word persevere, you know, not losing sight of something in spite of difficulties, opposition and discouragement. The problem is, some days I forget everything I know.

Why? Why do I forget? Looking back, I can see that there were times when something worrisome caught me in an unguarded moment (didn’t see that coming!). Sometimes it was the 4th thing and I was already raw (aren’t worries supposed to come in three’s?). Sometimes I was feeling really disconnected from community (where are you, my friend?). Sometimes I was feeling really disconnected from God (“Teresa is temporarily away from her desk…”). Sometimes I was just Peter, through and through, so full of doubt that I could not handle even the thought of that particular worry (sinking, sinking).

Sometimes I do choke on a worry and I forget what I know momentarily. The best way I can describe it is like Jet-lag.

Jet-lag does something to me. When I come back from a trip, some breaker has to reset.  When we came back from Japan one year, I could not remember how to fill my car with gas. I knew the mechanics, I just couldn’t remember the order. This year, recovering from jet-lag, I could not remember the PIN to my Visa card.  Could not!  I know how to fill my car with gas, I know my PIN…what is with that? It is like I have hit my head on the roof of the plane and my little brain is injured.

You can sustain an injury through Life’s Worries but, like I said yesterday, it’s OK. You will return to what you know. And that is how it has been for me thus far.  I have always returned to what I know.

Do you remember that scene in “Something’s Gotta Give” where Diane Keaton, having put her heart on the line only to have it stepped on, goes into this wild period of grieving?  It is actually really funny, but I can relate. Sometimes a worry just get’s me between the ribs and I really grieve. Then, just like Keaton’s character, I suddenly start remembering who I am and what I love and the things that matter. For me, I remember God and I remember His promises and I start feeling His guidance again.  Something dislodges and I realize I haven’t choked to death.

There is a side to me that fears the Big Whopper Worry; how will I handle that?  I am trying to be a good observer, these days. I am watching people who are walking through The Big One and seeing how they are handling it.  You learn something by what they do right, and by where they are faltering; I try to do this without judgement because what would I do? And would I really?

Everything is a teacher.

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: Someone wise said to us one time, “When you are walking through a problem, ask yourself, ‘Is this going to take 24 hours to resolve? 48 hours? 72 hours? Putting a time frame on it gives you realistic expectations; it also gives you a goal; it also keeps you from stewing in the problem too long.'” That’s a keeper. Thanks Vern Heidebrecht.

After-Afterword: Sent to me via Twitter  — “Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods-C.S.Lewis”