When Goodness is Hidden

“God IS Good” is a declaration that is stated and sung by those of us who have responded in faith to the invitation from Our Lord Jesus Christ to exchange our life for His.

For some of us, the statement is easily reflected by our life circumstances; our health, our wealth, our relationships and our dreams.

For others of us, in order for the statement to have validity, we need to reach into our faith conviction and say, even though this doesn’t feel good today, I choose to believe that God is good.

Finding a promise in scripture and following through on the prerequisites for that promise to be claimed can produce either joy or sadness. When we are surrounded by other believers, we look forward to sharing our joy and that which led up to the experience. It is not as easy to share our disappointments.

Probably the most difficult exchange happens in the depths of our own soul. Even while reading scripture, our common enemy (who knows scripture well) can whisper, “If that is true about God, why did He do nothing when you were desperate?”

We quickly say, “Well, our thoughts are not His thoughts” and we know that is true but it doesn’t answer the nagging doubt that even though God is generally good, He can and does miss some chances to prove it.

Because this is my confession, of which I am not proud, I was deeply impacted this morning by Amy Carmichael’s treatment of Psalm 31:19 from “Edges of His Ways” where she uses Rotherham’s translation: “How great is Thy goodness which Thou hast hidden away for them that revere Thee?”

What if, in the spaces where God’s goodness is indiscernible, He is saving it as a surprise, as Amy puts it “a surprise of love?”

Wanting to check this out for myself, I looked up the verse in the old KJV and read “Oh, how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee”.

I then went to Strong’s and found the original meaning of the word translated “laid up” in the English language. I was comforted to see one of the choices to be “to hide, hide from discovery”.

Because, at my core, I trust that God is good, I am waiting with great expectation for Him to reveal the goodness that He has hidden from me. I celebrate today because I am convinced He is good.

I even believe that the “good” I will eventually embrace will be better because I am trusting Him while I wait.

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Well, that’s a first!

Thought it would be fun to hear two views of the same story. Thank you, Rachel.

It seemed like a normal invitation. “Would you like to attend Molly’s birthday party and lunch afterward?” What made this invitation interesting and a FIRST for me is that Molly is, wait for it…a DOG! The party planner happens to be eleven years old and possesses quite a few administrative gifts.

Once she knew I was interested, she approached me with her mini tablet in her  hand, “Could I have your email address? She asked.” I’d like to send you some details and a reminder that you agreed to bring chips.”

A few follow-up emails and reminders came. Today, in below zero temperatures,  Molly’s party was held. Pink balloons marked the house’s outside entrance. Yep! this is it!  These two sisters had both taken the time to decorate with party pink.

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Molly was barking with excitement and was delighted when I arrived. I noticed all of the home-made party details as they pointed them out to me. “Could I take some pictures because this is my first party for a pet?” I asked. (I had no idea it would be this blog post.)

“Sure!” they said.

I loved the drawing of Molly posted on the back of this box. The girls even decorated the stair railing with pink touches of crepe paper and balloons marked ‘Molly’s 6th’. The eldest was in charge of making contact, the menu and the party agenda. They were both so proud and took ownership over their involvement and I was proud of them.

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My young friend purchased, with her own money, the pink party dress bedazzled with pearls and rhinestones. Molly was sporting it quite well. It was so cute on and made me feel a bit under dressed. (Just kidding) We took time for a bit of “show and tell” as they brought out other outfits in the dog’s wardrobe which included two beautiful red Christmas outfits. This was a first for me in pet fashion.

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I said at one point, “I’ve never been to a birthday party for a dog before! You’ve set the standard for any pet party for me.”  I seem to remember my first of anything.

I recall my first:

  • solo
  • kiss
  • time flying
  • time out of the country
  • passport stamp
  •  pregnancy
  • birth
  • sip of coffee
  • time eating different ethnic foods

Okay! So you get my point. I remember my “firsts” quite well. This was definitely a first for me. We gathered in the kitchen before lunch and circled around the island, held hands and prayed. My friend blessed each of us in the circle and the food.

As soon as AMEN was spoken. The young coordinator made a suggestion. “Let’s sing Happy Birthday to Molly now!” Without any deliberation we began. “Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you…” As we joined in chorus, Molly enjoy the festivities and spun around a few times as we finished. “Happy Birthday, dear Molly, Happy Birthday to you!”

Nest we moved to the round wooden dining table. During lunch, we talked about our recent Christmas gatherings and family activities. Molly was invited to join us as we visited and was quite content to sit with us. At one point she laid her head up on the table with it cocked slightly listening attentively to our conversation.

“Oh, my!  Someone has to get a photo of Molly.” I said. “It’s like she knows this is all for her.” I didn’t know if I should get up from the table during the meal and I was concerned we might lose the magic moment. Molly responded to the commotion and disruption and got down from the table only to jump back up again.

They all began talking at once asking, “Molly put your head own the table again. Just like you had it before. Can you put your head back up there Molly?” It wasn’t tilted exactly the same way, but Molly did pose once again on cue.

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Finally, we indulged in chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting. While Molly ate her own version of a birthday treat,  a ground beef, egg and cheese “cup-cake” with peanut butter and banana frosting.

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If you really knew me you would know I’m a bit pet-impaired. But at one point while sitting on the couch, Molly snuggled right up to me, laid her body up against my thigh and laid her head on it. I buried my fingers into her furry head for quite a while. She was just so cute as she lay there in bliss. Well, that’s a first! I thought.

I’ve been asking God to surprise me. He has been doing that a great deal lately. I’ve been asking him to do a new thing. This certainly was a FIRST and new thing! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19

I will remember this DOG party. It was simple and sweet. I will also remember it because of the delightful young party planner. I was touched because this precious eleven year old wanted to invite me, a woman in my mid fifties, as her and the dog’s guest. I was the only guest other than family. That is the way my young friend wanted it.  I was truly honored to be present for my first ever birthday party for a dog.

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Pause and reflect back on some of the” firsts” you’ve experienced recently. Think about the ways God is doing a new thing and thank Him.

 

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Love Through a New Lens

“Could we have a birthday party for Molly?”

I answered, “Sure”, without really thinking much about what my adopted granddaughter was really wanting to do. It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that I had never even heard of a birthday party for a dog let alone hosted one.

Molly is a Maltese dog that I inherited almost a year ago when my friend died. This dog is a ball of white fluff that is usually under my feet or pushed against me in such a way that my hand is on her back. Molly has navigated a lot of loss for an eight pound six-year-old.  I think that’s why I try to make space for her Velcro attachment.

But, her story isn’t all about loss and trauma as in this transition process she has gained the extraordinary love of my granddaughter.

Come, imagine yourself a guest at this party and even be present during the preparation for it.  Watch for evidences of love through the new lens of Molly’s Birthday Party.

In the mind of this granddaughter, the preparation has been the focus of attention for weeks. Yesterday, with the party just a day away, was spent packaging up all she would need to make the day fun. She had found a recipe for a doggie birthday cake so a couple of bags of baking ingredients and supplies were mixed in with pillows, blankets, crepe paper streamers and a tooth brush as an overnight at Besta’s (Norwegian for Grandmother) would be necessary in order to get everything done.

Our first stop, after loading the car for the overnight was to stop at the Pet Store.

This child had $10 and she wanted to spend it on a gift for Molly.  Once she spotted the pink blinked princess dress the decision was made. It was sacrificial and expensive but did not appear to cost the giver anything.

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Then came shopping for the food. It went quickly because this child had come prepared with a list of what would be needed. Invitations had been sent and responses received so it was possible to buy exactly what we would need for the guests and what would be needed for Molly’s cake. I watched in amazement as the ground beef cake was assembled, baked and then frosted with peanut butter and banana. There was joy in this labor as all was done for the purpose of doing something special for the one she loved.

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Soon my house began to feel like a place to celebrate. Streamers hung from the balcony, the stair rail was wrapped in crepe paper, balloons were secured after being scripted with “Molly is 6”. Love flows from the heart but creates an environment that causes one to pause and ask, “What special thing is happening here today?”

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This child included her whole family in this event. Her daddy grilled hamburgers outside in below zero weather, her mother took time off work bringing a dog sweater as a gift and her sister was by her side planning, decorating and exploding with creative ideas. What is it about love that make it contagious?

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As we filled our plates and found a place at the table we noticed there was an empty chair—but not for long. Molly jumped up on the chair and rested her little head on the table. As I watched her, I wondered how much she understood about being the recipient of unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love.

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I wonder how much I understand about unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love? Is it possible that SOMEONE is loving me in this way today?

Do I need to see love through a new lens?

 

 

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To Love and Be Loved

I have inherited a little white Maltese that I have needed to “choose” to love😘.

I looked up Maltese on Google and learned the purpose of this dog is to love and be loved.

So I wrote this poem:

What is your purpose                                                                                                                           You ball of white fur                                                                                                                            Since you are now mine                                                                                                                       I need to make sure

You wouldn’t be useful                                                                                                                        With sheep on a farm                                                                                                                            But the frenzy of city                                                                                                                        Would cause you alarm

You don’t cook or clean                                                                                                                       You don’t grocery shop                                                                                                                         You don’t really dance                                                                                                                         You just run and hop

So what is your purpose                                                                                                                             You ball of white fur                                                                                                                                      Since you are now mine                                                                                                                      I need to make sure

“To love and be loved”                                                                                                                          Says this ball of white fur                                                                                                                                 To love and be loved                                                                                                                               ”Tis my purpose for sure

Is that not enuf?                                                                                                                                      Stop! Think it all thru                                                                                                                                And you will soon see                                                                                                                          That it’s your purpose too!

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Filling in the Gap

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For three years our lives traveled the same path. We were nursing students at a hospital based diploma program from 1961-1964.

From this season, we remember being packed together like sardines in a crowded dorm, working days, working evenings, working nights, all in the same week. We did this while studying, memorizing, testing and being victims of each other for practicing injections, inserting nasal cannulas, inserting urinary catheters and worse.

Together we stood breathless at the birth of babies, wept with patients who died too young, sighed with the aged for whom death came too slow, watched with amazement as children from Viet Nam romped with glee, seemingly oblivious to their amputated limbs, wondered why brilliant artists were confined to psychiatric prisons and pondered the uneven responses to medical “practice”.

I don’t know why riding this emotional roller coaster, sleep deprived and anxiety ridden, left us with a lack of judgement and a defective moral compass but most of us came from under the scrutiny of small town behavioral expectations and discovered that in the big city of Milwaukee there was no village to raise a child—no one to call your parents and report.

So, we took risks.

We dated strangers. We drank too much. We pushed the limits of crazy.

All of this we did together. We started in 1961 as “me”.  We ended in 1964 as “we”.

But then, our common path diverged and we each went our separate ways.

The converging of two of these separate paths “happened” at the 50-year class reunion in 2014 and is, therefore, prompting this post.

As these two former students, now battle worn nurses, met, a recognition of belonging was rekindled; a desire to engage again in each other’s lives was sparked.

For the past three years, since 2014, this connection has been by email, Facebook or messaging.

This week, however, I traveled cross country to her home and we have spent the last four days both enjoying the stunning seaside and filling in the gap of fifty years apart

The sweet comfort of being known and loved paved our sharing as we unwrapped our lives for each other. The questions were safe because the one who asked really cared. The answers were safe because the one who listened really loved.

There was so much to share that most of the time we had to interrupt each other to get a word in. That was OK because just like in a family there is no reason to not talk at the same time.

We learned from each other about:

 

The death of a son.

Seasons of financial stress

Being a defendant at a crime scene

The brutal death of a deeply loved friend

A husband with dementia

A divorce

Family members rejecting Christianity

Learning to embrace diversity

Chronic illness with precarious treatment options

A heart for the homeless

Disillusionment with health care

A gripping appreciation of God’s expression in nature

An unshakeable trust in the goodness of God

A secure trust in the faithfulness of God

The blessing of friends who walk with us

The rest of taking ourselves less seriously

The joy of finding God in the ordinary.

In pondering these things, we celebrate that this fifty year gap has deepened, not diminished, our friendship.

From the script on the gift of a pillow “We will be friends ‘til we are old and senile…then we will be new friends”.

 

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Anchored in God’s Goodness

I opened a lap top I haven’t used for a while and found a sticky note below the keyboard that said, “Stay securely anchored in the goodness of God or your theology will be reduced to the level of your pain”.

This quote from an unknown friend must have impacted me deeply at one time just as it does as I read it again now.

How does one stay anchored in the goodness of God when the tides of life thrash against it?

I asked God this question in the form of a prayer and His answer to me was that I needed to cut the rode that had me anchored to my own goodness.

Yikes!!!  Do I really think that I trust my own goodness more than I trust the goodness of God? I would be quick to answer of course not!! BUT, do I think, given the power, I could have designed a less traumatic story for my friend who recently died a brutal death, I have to confess my temptation to say yes.

I want to stay anchored in the goodness of God. I need His grace to hold me there.

As I examine my own thoughts I am asking these three questions:

Is it possible that this story that looks so not good to me has a redemptive purpose in the grand scheme of the goodness of God?

Is it probable that this story that looks so not good to me has a redemptive purpose in the grand scheme of the goodness of God?

Is it providence that this story that looks so not good to me has a redemptive purpose in the grand scheme of the goodness of God?

God is good because God is good. My assessment of His behavior does nothing to change His character.

I can choose to stay anchored in His goodness or lower my theology to the level of my pain.

I invite your response. Let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

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Forging a New Journey

I know that most of the life I have known, on a practical level, is gone. Some of it eroded away by the “or sickness” and the “or for worse” of the marriage vow.  Some of it shattered by the brutal death of the friend I had entrusted into the hands of the good God who I knew would not allow it to end as it did. Some of it by my volitionally stepping away from the ministry role that had become my identity.

There is a beautiful praise song that contains the words “when seasons change and stories end”. Seasons do change and stories do end despite my screaming that it can’t possibly be true. So, having acknowledged, at least cognitively, that all the above is true, I ask the question, “Now what?” and this question is what compels me to embark on a new journey.

I have been invited, spontaneously and with little preparation time to meet some friends at the 45th annual Fiddlers Convention in Lafayette, Indiana. This is about a 4 ½ hour drive that includes Chicago and I will be driving alone. The friend’s I am going to meet are precious to me because of past encounters but our lives rarely touch now. I have never heard of this Fiddlers Convention or any Fiddlers Convention, for that matter. All of this to say, I had many reasons easily available to me to decline this invitation but something in me wanted to accept and I did. It felt like an adventure. I knew I needed to risk adventures to craft a new season and write new stories.

The following “lessons” were gleaned as I drove south from Milwaukee to Indiana on I94 and then the Illinois Toll Road:

As I kept a close eye on my built-in GPS and watched for overhead signs I sensed “Pay attention to the highways in your heart”. I remembered the verse from Psalm 84:5 ESV “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” Other translations refer to setting your heart on pilgrimage and reading further tells about making the valley of weeping into a place of refreshing springs. I want to focus on the highways of my heart as I map out the new journey for this next season of my life.

Then I was challenged with the thought “Your rearview mirror is too big”. It is a challenge that doesn’t leave me much room to dispute. I feel more at home looking back at where I have been and longing for what I have lost than I do looking forward to the landscape that has yet to be designed. I can start by reducing my rearview mirror to a size that allows occasional glances and recognize that my forward-looking windshield is the place that now needs my attention.

A surprising next lesson came as I struggled to see both distant signs and my dashboard. I was wearing prescription sunglasses that were only designed for distance. To my amazement, I found it easier to see both near and far without the prescription lenses. Because of the blazing sun, I needed sunglasses so I pulled into an Oasis and bought a pair off the rack for $15. I smiled as I realized that the glasses that were needed for my old journey are not necessary for this one. No prescription needed now. Just enjoy the ride.

My sister had generously lent me her I Pass and registered my car so that I didn’t have to stop at tolls. It was a freeing experience and one that would easily preach to know that my tolls had been paid and I could simply drive through.

The route my GPS took me was right through Chicago rather than around on the bypass. I had not taken this route for a long time and I don’t know if I have even driven it. As I navigated through I was suddenly struck by the spectacular view of the Chicago skyline. It didn’t seem to be something that I could see in the distance and then watch as it drew closer. It seemed to just suddenly be there and I was thrilled with the striking spread of breathtaking architecture. As I let myself enjoy this view I sensed that God wanted to tell me that there are more spectacular experiences ahead of me than I now expect.

I am ready to receive them.

Grateful for the GPS and the I Pass, I wondered for a moment what my guidance would be for the highways of my heart when I heard God whisper, “I’ll be your GPS” and “Your tolls have been paid”.

All of these lessons as I take baby steps toward forging a new season in my life. I have yet to know their full impact but the weekend at the Fiddler’s Convention was wonderful, the company was nurturing for my soul and the spectator role I expected to have was replaced with my jumping at the opportunity to stand on stage and sing shape notes at the gospel concert.

Forging a new journey.

I would like to ask those of you who read this to help me know how I can write in such a way that we have a dialogue. Were these thoughts helpful to you, do they apply to your life, are they just personal ideas that have no value for anyone else, do they prompt questions? Please respond and help me become a better writer. Grateful, Roselyn

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