Thursday, May 16, 2013

Birds of the field

Yesterday, I brought Dorris home after a long day that included two different doctor appointments in two different towns. She turned to me with a contented smile and said:

“What a delightful day we have had! What prompted this expedition?”

Trust me, Dorris, you do not want to know.

Truth be told, Dorris had an extremely challenging day. She had an early eye appointment with an Ophthalmologist receiving an injection in her eye. In addition to that treatment, she had to navigate an office system not conducive to working with the elderly.Then, because she had a stabbing pain in her back, I made an appointment with her home town doctor. Her day went something like this:
Standing, stabbing pain, walking, sitting, stabbing pain, waiting, pain, standing and walking, pain, waiting, answering confusing questions, waiting, eye drops, waiting, standing and walking, winding around tight corners, pain, listening to directions, waiting, pain, waiting, eye injection, walking, pain-now in both her back and her eye, long ride in car, pain, walking, pain, sitting, answering questions, pain, x-rays, understanding directions, pain, long ride in car, walking back into the building with pain.

Did I mention there was pain involved?

In addition to that, she spent the day not being able to see the trees when outside or to read her paper when inside – her two favorite things.

This is Dorris’ definition of a delightful day. She is such a good role model for me. 
Of course, her memory loss is helping the situation a bit. She is able to relegate the recent past to the dust bin that is stuffed full of many other memories. Her memories of the day did not dictate her feelings at that moment as she spent a few minutes outside on a beautiful sunny day. 

I could learn from that.

She has also learned to set aside current anxiety. When the doctors and nurses give her directions she looks at me and says that I will need to be her memory. Then I have to remind the nurse or doctor to write it down, because I can’t seem to get them to remember that Dorris needs memory care and these directions need to go to the good people who care for her. 

Whenever Dorris needs to be taken to another eye appointment, I get geared up and stressed; pumping adrenalin and every other stress hormone I can muster. She just willingly comes along knowing that I will take care of things. She has way too much trust in me. 

I need to pray for some of this trust and forgetfulness. If Dorris can trust me, why can’t I put trust in a God who can actually deliver? Why do I let memories of previous experiences plague me with new worries? 
God knows the past, present and future. I can have Dorris’ best interests at heart, but God knows AND accomplishes my best interests. And He does this every day; all the time.

When I sit in a poorly run doctor’s office and wait, I merely fume and stew; Dorris just experiences and lives. A good friend, someone who walked her mother through the journey of Alzheimer’s, recently reminded me that one of the blessings of not being able to create memories is to simply live in the moment. That is a great definition of trust.
 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6: 25-34 ESV)

Birds of the air and lilies of the field do not make memories. They live in the moment; doing the work God puts before them. 

I understand that thinking about future needs and planning are important. This is part of good stewardship. I just need to let go of the worry and anxiety parts. 

Which brings me back to God and my favorite prayer:

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b ESV)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Workers in the lemon field

Some people say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, the age-old adage does not tell you what to do when life squirts lemon juice in your eye.

I recently got some discouraging news; thankfully, not tragic news, but, discouraging none-the-less.  It is news that puts our family in a bit of a financial pinch and feels a bit like a slap in the face. 

I am guessing you have also received news like this in the past.  Let’s give ourselves a few minutes to enjoy a pity party.  No, those are not tears in my eye, just lemon juice.

Okay, it is time to put on our big girl panties and move on.

God will provide for my family.  And if it takes an extra semester to finish my degree, then I will work from the assumption that this is part of God’s plan.  The question for me is why does this event feel like betrayal? Why do I feel like I have been cast aside along with all of my hard work? Why do I feel that evidence of my past good work should have prevented this from happening?

Hmmm, I am thinking the odds are good that this comes down to a sinful flaw.  I am a sinner, after all.

I have been reading and thinking about the story from Matthew 20 about the workers in the field.  The owner of the field recruited workers five times over the course of the day.  Some workers labored all day in the hot sun, some worked about an hour, but they all received the same pay. Harder work, better work, longer work, or even a good report from the supervisor (or, perhaps in my case, good student evaluations); none of it made a difference. There was no reward; just pay for honest work.

I seemed to find myself caught up in the earthly idea of extrinsic motivation. If I work hard, life will give back. If I follow the rules and keep my nose to the grindstone, I will be rewarded and that will make me want to work all the harder.

Hmm, this extrinsic motivation stuff is not working for me.  Moreover, it does not leave much room for faith.

Here is another passage about laborers:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38, ESV)

It would be a mistake to read into this verse that God needs us to do His work.  God is God; He does not need anything.  In fact, when we come in as laborers, we just muck things up.  

God does not need us; we need Him. We need to be a part of God’s family and His ministry. We need His mercy and grace.  We need forgiveness and faith.  Even if we work all day, in the hot sun, and find there is no money at the end of the pay line, we still get what we need.

“For we are God’s fellow workers.  You are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9, ESV)

This is God’s message to me, today.  I am on His staff.  He graciously gives me work to do.  He blesses that work.  He cares for me. 

No earned reward, just perfect love and loyalty. 

Thank you, God!