Friday, October 9, 2009

Wait, what am I supposed to be doing?

I just got back from an errand run. I intended to mail a birthday package to a friend, drop off a coat at the dry cleaners, and deliver a stool sample to the vet. I got home and stopped to wonder if I actually got everything to the right place. Surely, the vet would have said something if I dropped off my thrift shop find there, but, I sure hope I didn't accidentally mail my friend the stool sample. I think, maybe, I have too many things on my mental list and some practical awareness ability is starting to go.

Oh, good, the vet just called; my wool coat has a bacterial infection.

It feels like the semester has barely begun and yet midterms are right around the corner. I have lots of papers due and projects to start, and grading to complete. It is also time to get ready for next semester in terms of picking classes to take and class time slots for teaching. I create a list of things to do and sit down and wonder where to start. Next week, I fly to Oregon to present at a teacher's conference. I am relieved, that while I am on that trip, I will only be responsible for one thing at a time. I am blessed to have Paul come along to drive. In my present condition (Old age? Grad student dementia?) I didn't think even MapQuest could get me from the airport to the conference center, nearly 2 hours away. I had a feeling I would get on some highway and not stop until I realized I was in Alaska.

Wait, did I just see former Gov. Palin? I think I made a wrong turn somewhere.

I sit at my desk in my office and nervously check my schedule. What time is it? Where should I be? What should I be doing? I manage to make sure I show up to the right classroom at the right time to either teach or learn, but, just barely. I find myself slowly becoming more and more like my advisor who looked up at me the other day and asked "what building is it that I teach in, again?"

Seriously, I kid you, not.

No, really, he did. And this man is my mentor. Even though it is a long time away, yet, I hope we both make it to my dissertation defense.

My life is full of busyness, confusion, and barely hanging on. My life is full of disorder, but my God is not.

For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33

In the midst of all my confusion, I can have peace, because of the orderly, thoughtful, complete, nurturing, redemptive love of my Savior and God. My life is a mess with decisions and responsibilities, surrounded by my weaknesses and inadequacies. My world is a mess with sin and grief. Yet, in that sin and grief I know that my God orders my days, protects me from harm and leads me to the place I need to be; by His side.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Friday, October 2, 2009

Heavy Load

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. Lena Horne

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness; knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness; love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure, For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 5-11

I have not been carrying my load very effectively, lately. This is a particularly busy semester as I am watching my advisor teach one day and then repeating his instruction the next two days. I am unhappy with this because I cannot do the long range planning that is required of good teaching. Yet, this is the situation and I must make the best of it for the sake of my students.

I was recently diagnosed with asthma. I am not carrying this burden well, either. I have let it cause me stress as the medicine has begun to work. Now that I am breathing somewhat better, I realize how bad my breathing got and so each new attack brings a bit of panic. It is interesting to me how the asthma did not cause panic before I knew I had it. At that point the inflammation had developed slowly and crept into my daily life unbeknownst to me – kinda liked the frog that boils to death because he doesn't realize he is in a pot in water that is gradually getting warmer. It is only now, when I can notice the difference between good breathing and labored breathing, that I panic.

You may have met someone, or heard stories about people who grow up in horrible situations, or who endure despite disease or injury to go on to live a happy, productive, often amazing life. These people have something called "resiliency." It is the characteristic that allows some to overcome terrible circumstances while others succumb to the burdens of their lives. For them it is not the burden, but how they carry it, that matters. In fact, for many of them, the burden is what made them successful.

Faith is our resiliency. Faith does not guarantee us a carefree life. Faith does not promise we will never carry a burden. In fact, our sinful lives, which point us to our need for faith, almost assuredly guarantee we will have burdens. Some burdens are temporary, and some are life-long. Some burdens sneak up on us and fool us into thinking we can carry them on our own. Other burdens fall on us like a ton a bricks and render us helpless and pleading to God. We all have burdens, and because of the covenant of our baptisms, we all have the faith to carry those burdens.

What a beautiful picture of Grace. This faith is a gift and because it bestows us with resiliency, and at the same time points us to our Heavenly Father, it carries the burdens for us, in a way that they will make us stronger instead of beating us down. If God took the burdens from us, we would not learn from them. If He left us to handle them ourselves, we would break under the strain.

We will not fall; He has blessed us with faith resilience. This truth is in more ways than one, my very breath.

This is what God the LORD says- He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: "I, the LORD have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42: 5-7