From the Basement

November 5, 2010

In the face of discouragement, He is my Refuge

Right now, it’s a struggle to remain encouraged. As many of you know, following my turning down of the full-time university job, I switched my focus to the metro area where I’m currently staying. I’ve applied for three jobs as a leave replacement middle school English teacher, I’ve submitted my resume to a temp agency, I’ve visited numerous retail outlets and applied both in person and online, had several on-the-spot interviews, visited restaurants in our neighborhood only to find that they’ve just finished hiring or aren’t hiring or have some strange hiring practice…

Y’all, even with applying for administrative, retail, and restaurant gigs, I am still having trouble finding work. I do have a sort-of outstanding offer with Barnes & Noble downtown, but the pay is only $7.25/hour. Not much. They’re calling me on Monday to confirm whether or not they’ll hire me.

I’m starting to feel frantic. I know I haven’t applied to a ton of places, but I’ve applied to quite a few, and have heard nothing. Or been outright rejected. Or have them tell me, we’re sorry, we can’t work with your schedule.

I still ask: God, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I changed my focus! I’m looking for retail gigs! Am I not humble enough yet? I could always be looking more and be out there every day all day, but I also have grad school apps to work on. And on Wednesday, I stayed in the loft all day, because I walked so much between Monday and Tuesday that by the time I was on my way home Tuesday evening, I was limping. I limped… a dozen city blocks?… back to the apartment, where I proceeded to almost collapse upon arrival. So Wednesday, I bummed around because I couldn’t walk more than five feet without needing to sit down.

Again, I have no idea what God is doing.

Yesterday was a reminder that He provides in unconventional ways. I want a job. Have I said it loudly enough yet? I want a job! And even the easy ones – I can’t get even the easy jobs! OK, there is the Barnes & Noble offer, which I will take if nothing else comes through. $7.25/hour, 25 hours a week? That’s it? Okay, God. Okay.

But I digress – yesterday, He provided in a cool way. My future mother-in-law’s boss has a friend who is an OXO rep (OXO being a line of kitchenware, for y’all who don’t cook), and future MiL’s boss must have told him about my fiancé and I, and so the OXO rep, out of the blue, gives us almost $200 worth of FREE items from our registry. The measuring cups, measuring spoons, can opener, swivel peeler, salad spinner, the three mixing bowls… everything. What generosity. What a blessing.

God provides. His methods are unexpected and unusual and most of the time, I have no idea why He’s doing what He’s doing. How hard should it be to find a retail job that pays more than $8/hour? Even a seasonal temp job? (Which is what the B&N gig is.)

This week I’ve had my dad’s downtown loft to myself as he’s out of state training with his company. And honestly, my quiet time has sort of diminished. I’ve been frantically applying for jobs and working on grad school apps and, frankly, flipping the eff out over both. Worrying that no matter what I do, it won’t be enough. Worrying about whether I’m doing the “right” topic for my writing sample. Whether my statement of purpose is focused enough. Whether my cover letters – my freaking awesome cover letters for RETAIL jobs, people – are good enough.

I am worrying whether they’re good enough for the eyes of humans rather than trying to please my heavenly Father. And what pleases him is not a perfectly worded cover letter or a perfectly constructed 25-page writing sample. What pleases him is my heart. My attitude. Whether or not I trust him. And frankly, I haven’t been acting like I trust him this week. Ain’t that a kick in the pants?

And even in the midst of trust, he somehow puts it on a guy’s heart to offer my fiancé and I some much-needed items for our kitchen. Even when I’m not trusting. Even when I’m worrying. He provides. In his own way and in his own time.

I wish I knew his mind. I wish I knew what he was planning right now. If I let myself, it’s very easy to feel like a failure. The on-the-spot interviews I had all took one look at my resume and asked what exactly I was doing and is there a reason I’m not employed?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

But so too is He our refuge, the God who sees, the God who is accessible to his people because he loves them.

As for God, his way is perfect:

The LORD’s word is flawless;

he shields all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the LORD?

And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength

and keeps my way secure.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;

he causes me to stand on the heights.

He trains my hands for battle;

my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You make your saving help my shield,

and your right hand sustains me;

your help has made me great.

You provide a broad path for my feet,

so that my ankles do not give way. — Psalm 18:30-36

My mom says that when I was a little girl, verse 34 was my absolute favorite verse, that I would walk around quoting it: “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze!” Something in me clung to that fighting imagery, that the fight was in my hands, in my fingers, in my arms. Given that I’m a writer by vocation, it’s decently prophetic. But these verses still inspire me today. They give me strength. Everything the Lord gives us, every situation Jesus allows us to walk through – it’s preparation. These verses are reminiscent of putting on the “armor of God,” as Paul writes in Ephesians 6, but what I love about this is that David is talking about how God trains him, how God gives him the strength. “You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me… you provide a broad path for my feet.” Mm. I love that.

“He shields all who take refuge in Him.” It doesn’t matter what we need shielding from. Unemployment. Alternately, the job you’re in. A relationship. Doubt. Discouragement. Fear. Feelings of unworthiness. Abuse. There is no difficulty or hardship in this world that our heavenly Father cannot shield us from. He is our hope when we are discouraged. He is our strength when we have none. In Him can we boast. He is our delight.

Psalm 37 exhorts us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But I want to focus on the first clause: take delight in the Lord. Delight yourselves in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always. These commands permeate scripture. In every situation, we are to delight in Him.

I don’t have an eloquent way to end this post, but to proclaim Christ’s sovereignty over my life. I am so thankful that my imperfections and shortcomings are filled up with his spirit, that my sins are covered by his blood, that he is my refuge and my rock, my Redeemer in whom I take all delight.

October 17, 2010

“You Are Here” (God is faithful)

God is good all the time.

When I was in the shower getting ready for church, I begged God for an obvious confirmation of the decision to turn down the job. This in spite of the fact that he has sent many reminders: conversations and emails from trusted friends and spiritual advisors who confirm that he has me exactly where he wants me – and that that place is here, at home for the next 10 months, in preparation for marriage, letting him work in me.

God doesn’t always answer that prayer for obvious confirmation. A lot of the time, he offers the grace to endure, and he reminds me to trust him. But this morning, thank you Lord, he gave that obvious confirmation. The title of Pastor Mike’s sermon was “You Are Here: God As My Fixed Reference Point.”

He drew from 2 Samuel 7:18-22. To summarize the history, David is King of Israel and, seemingly convicted over the fact that he lives in a palace and that the Arc of the Covenant is in a tent, makes a decision to build God a grand temple. At first, Nathan agrees with David. But then, God comes to Nathan in a dream, telling him that David mustn’t build the temple – that God desires to dwell with his people and, amazingly, that he desires to bless David and does not demand David’s reciprocation. And this is David’s response (verses 18-22):

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord? “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. “How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.

Mike paraphrases what God told David as, “You’re wanting to get somewhere, but you are here.” Oh, how that resonates in my life!

David, confident in his successes, wants to do something for God. His eye is fixed on what he feels he must do to honor God, to bring glory to God. And this is an honest desire… but it is not what God wants. God shuts David down and says, no, you are not going to work to bless me – I am going to keep blessing you.

Total grace. This is TOTAL grace that God shows to David. Oh, if anyone doubts there is grace in the Old Testament, offer this passage as proof that God’s character truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

One thing Mike pointed out that I just love is who David doesn’t beg or persuade or question or sing praises… he just sits with God. He’s just sitting with God, maybe with a cup of coffee in his hand (wishful thinking? Probably). David is comfortably sitting in the presence of the Lord, completely in awe and wonder of the goodness of his God. Our God.

Mike noted how David brings three questions to God:

  1. Who am I that you would bless me, especially considering my family background, not to mention my current circumstances!
  2. On what merits do you decide to bless people?
  3. I know my own heart… why on earth, O Lord, would you bless me?

In this situation, David learns about the unlimited and unmerited favor that God bestows on his people. There is truly no work we can do that will earn this kind of favor. We do not have to work to earn the Lord’s blessing. I don’t have to take this job to walk in his favor. I don’t have to act more sincere or pray more or read scripture more… those things are all nice, but they aren’t in any way connected to the grace the Lord gives. God’s will is accomplished through grace alone.

Ephesians 2:1-10:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

There was more to the sermon, but the take away message that, for me, confirmed the decision to turn down the job was simply… you are here. I am exactly where God wants me. I don’t need to strive to be somewhere else. So often I am consumed by trying to work for God and find the “right” path and make the “right” decision instead of just allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me right where I’m at.

This morning, we opened and closed worship with the song “Forever Reign” by Hillsong. And this morning, this song is my confession: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au3EGgISYMc&feature=channel

You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost it’s sting

Oh, I’m running to your arms,
I’m running to arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In your presence I’m made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I’m letting go

Oh, I’m running to your arms
I’m running to arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing
no other name
Jesus, Jesus

Oh, I’m running to your arms
I’m running to arms
The riches of your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

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