Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
By Micky Wolf
“Nope, this doesn’t look good…” It didn’t matter I was the only one in the room.
“What is the problem?” I wondered, staring at the unwanted lines and overlap marks on the dry, freshly painted wall. Discouraged, I sat back on the carpet amidst the chaos of drop cloths, painting equipment, shoved together furniture, and stacks of books.
While not a do-it-yourself expert by any means, my beloved and I have had plenty of experience over the years with a variety of projects. Our first home, albeit sturdy and well-constructed, was a true fixer-upper. Part of its charm was the original plaster walls and slightly uneven corners, which meant using brushes to refinish surfaces.
This home, our second and likely our last, is much newer. In pristine condition when we bought it a number of years ago from the original owner, the walls are smooth and straight, nary a bump or uneven surface to be had.
“Okay, so only my second attempt with a roller,” I muttered.
Exhausted from almost three full days of being up and down on a ladder and crawling along baseboards, I plopped into my chair in front of the computer. Within minutes I was staring at more how-to videos than there are bristles in a brush. And I also discovered what I was doing wrong and what needed to happen to resolve the issue.
Tools and gifts…
Not surprisingly, I have found some similarities between home improvement projects and self-improvement.
First all, the paint wasn’t ending up on the wall in a way that brought out the best features of the wall or the room because I didn’t understand the best way to use the tools.
Same holds true for you and me. God never intended for you and me to try and fix or improve ourselves, all by ourselves. He has given each of us a variety of equipment—intellect, wisdom, heart, mentors, friends, emotions, the Holy Spirit—to help us be the best person we can be. It is important to know which tool is best suited for the task at hand and how it might be wielded.
When we’re not getting the results we hope for—with the paint on the wall or ourselves—it probably means there is something in our approach that needs changed or adjusted.
Seek God. Seek understanding. When we choose to have a teachable spirit, God does not fail to provide all that we need. The Bible is truly the best do-it-yourself-with-Divine-instruction manual we could ever have available.
Practice and experience…
After soaking up some instruction and getting a good nights’ rest, I was ‘back at the wall’ the next morning. With new techniques and strategies in hand, the lines and patterns were quickly disappearing. At the same time, I have lived long enough to know knowledge, in and of its self, is not to be confused with ‘knowing how’. Time and hands-on practice would be necessary for me to improve the final results.
And so it goes for you and me. We learn a Scripture, pray more fervently, take time to ponder—and we still make choices that are unloving or inconsiderate of others. While it is true there are no practice runs for this life we have been given, it is also true that the more time we spend here, the greater the opportunity to be and become more compassionate and caring of our fellow sojourners. We may need a few ‘re-dos’—otherwise known as apologies and asking for forgiveness—but the bottom line is we can decrease those occasions when we make a mess and hurt others (or self) by applying what we learn to ourselves first.
Energy and perseverance…
I put my all into those three days, only to discover it was going to take another two days (if everything went well) to complete the job. Aargh! But, I have other things to do, God! Right.
As human beings, we can flit from one thing to the next without ever fully appreciating this moment. This one moment. This one breath. The lessons God allows for us will usually involve time and attention. If we hope for good fruit to manifest, we must be patient.
God is no hurry as He goes about His business of transforming us into more Christ-like people. He is much more interested in quality than quantity, substance than superficiality. His desire is to mold and shape us, to draw out of each of us the shine and sparkle that is unique to who He has created us to be and the mission He has planned for us.
Not giving up on ourselves can be the biggest challenge we face every morning, or as we lay our head on the pillow at night. Persevering with God—opening ourselves to receiving His unlimited grace—is the way we are energized and fortified to stay the course.
Excellence, not perfection…
I have no illusions the repainted walls are perfect, without a single a line or lap mark visible anywhere on the surface. I do know, however, that by taking time to incorporate what I learned, there is a vast improvement in the finished project.
The same applies to you and me as we allow God to work in and through us. It’s not about trying to be perfect and never making a mistake or a mess. He is much more interested in whether you and I make a sincere commitment to take responsibility for our choices and actions. When that happens, God shows up every time and is more than generous with His blessings, His love, and His provision.
Do I need to change the way I use the gifts God has given me?
Do I have a teachable spirit, regardless of my chronological age?
How do I feel about making the commitment for the long haul?
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
By Micky Wolf
The digital display stared back at me again. “Check tel line.”
Three times in less than three weeks our telephone land line went dead. Seems no reasonable explanation, although our service provider acknowledged it was their equipment issue and not ours. That my beloved and I have cell phones is helpful, but small consolation given the inconvenience (and expense) of phones scattered about the house that don’t work.
When the repairman arrived the last time, we explained the situation once again and he went about his business, checking each and every wire. Didn’t take him long to knock on our door with the comment, “Well, mystery solved. I’m not sure what happened with the previous two incidents but this time it was pretty obvious—one of the connections at the main box had been bumped or moved out of position by someone working on another problem.”
Mechanical failure, human error, or both happen from time to time. Interruptions and disruptions are part of life. Hopefully, most of them do not result in serious injury to others or self and end up being more of an inconvenience than anything else.
You know where I’m going with this.
Divine connections—or not…
Unlike our phone service provider, God’s equipment never breaks down or malfunctions. If the ‘connection’ is broken, it will be that we have stepped away from the conversation—of listening or in speaking to the One who is always available.
Sometimes our connection with God is loose—meaning some days we hear, some days we don’t. Our prayer life is wobbly and inconsistent. We’re plugged in, but not all the way. Our time for personal reflection and listening for the still small voice is hit or miss, mostly missing. We multitask our day away as God patiently awaits our full attention. When that doesn’t happen, we wonder where He went.
Sometimes our connection with God is impacted by the actions of others—which is not to say we need to be quick to shift the blame and responsibility to their shoulders. In the case of our phone line, a worker may simply have been in such a hurry or so focused on the task at hand they failed to realize they had bumped us offline.
All the more important why you and I need to pay attention to how we behave as Christians, or simply as human beings sharing the journey with a multitude of other souls. Our individual choices and actions do affect those around us. Loving choice? Positive consequences. Unkindness or lack of consideration? Unpleasant fallout.
I’ve lived long enough to realize that many ‘human errors’ (my own included) have had a lot more to do with haste, personal expectations, and ignorance as much as anything. Determined to forge ahead, check one more thing off the to-do list, or get from one place to another, I don’t always take the time to attend more fully to what is happening in the moment.
None of my electronics with digital displays have yet to read “Check God line”, but it is interesting how we do receive alerts on occasion. And they manifest in a variety of unique ways.
…Realizing I am worrying and fussing over some concern (or person) is a classic wake-up call. A wrinkled brow and frown are a good indication I’ve lapsed into trying to run things rather than call on God for help and guidance.
…Sitting in my chair aimlessly staring out the window, too paralyzed to move, is another sign I’m paying more attention to the pitter-patter of negative thoughts racing to and fro instead of getting up, taking a walk and allowing the Spirit to stir Truth, flow in and whisk away the mental garbage.
…Tapping my fingers clickety-click on the tabletop while debating reading the riot act to someone for an injustice (real or imagined) that has occurred is clearly a signal I need to take several deep breaths—maybe several more—and then dial back the emotion long enough to open my heart and receive God’s healing love and mercy before taking action.
Ignatius of Loyola says it well, “God in all things”: our thoughts, our emotions, and in all things of the world around us. With the Divine Presence that omniscient and omnipresent, there’s no place we can go—physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually to break His connection with us—which is not to say we won’t try, intentionally or in innocence, to test the strength and extent of that connection from time to time.
The next time you sense God is not responding to your calls, take a moment and check the connection. Prayer, some quiet time, or reading a Scripture or two might just be all it takes to restore clear communication.
How do I feel about my connection to God?
What happens when I sense the connection has been broken?
Am I attentive to the ways God alerts me to His loving presence?