Monday, September 26, 2011

Obedience, Part I

There is a large part of me that hasn't wanted to write this blog...for a long time. It's been brewing for months, believe me. I've wanted more clarity, more organization to my thoughts. But God won't let me let it go. The word "obedience" is coming up everywhere - my thoughts, Scripture, facebook posts, sermons, songs. The time has come to get my thoughts out there, so bear with me. Caution: this may take more than one posting; I will do my best to make it worth your time.

In all actuality, my pondering of obedience and God really began in 2008. My coworkers at the time and close friends will tell you I fought a hard war all over my hands with warts. Holy cow, they are stubborn little devils. What started as one quickly turned into more than 30 in little clusters all over the fingers on both of my hands. Thinking back, I can remember trying to hide them. They were a huge source of embarrassment and self-consciousness. Sitting in church, I'd fold my hands in certain ways so people couldn't see them. I'd keep my hands in my pockets or fold my arms when in conversation. I tried several things to get rid of them. I should have bought stock in Dr. Scholl's wart remover. I used duct tape like it was going out of style. I had them frozen by a dermatologist. I had them surgically removed and burned until my hands looked like a bloody war zone. And they grew back. Every time. I began to research medical reasons - vitamin deficiencies, chronic dry hands, soap chemicals, etc. Nothing seemed to make a difference. I eventually began to think that maybe God was trying to tell me something and until I listened, the warts would remain entrenched in my skin. Like there was an area of disobedience that was causing them to remain. Finally I read that my body needed to recognize the wart cells as foreign and that attempting to kill them all at once would be overwhelming and unsuccessful. The key was to target one, blast it, get it to go away completely, then hit another one, until the body gets the idea that it's foreign and bad, and then it will take on the fight itself. It worked! It was amazing. After years of treatments and money, it took two weeks to conquer the first one, then they all disappeared. Every single one of them.

How does that relate to obedience? I think we can get overwhelmed with so many areas in our lives that we want to see change happen that nothing we do works. If we are able to focus on a spot or two, really dig in and seek change, the momentum will move on to those other areas. It's starting with the small things. Little steps. Just like a parent does with a child. A child isn't taught all areas of discipline at one time. That would be too overwhelming. A set up for failure even. It's really a process. Growth. Obeying once leads to obeying again. The level of trust increases as the child demonstrates their ability and willingness to obey.

And as I was telling a friend last week, obedience sure does feel good. It just feels right. And you can't be neutral. You're either obedient or you're not. There's no halfway. If you're asked to take out the trash and you take it halfway down the driveway, you weren't obedient. In the same way, if God tells you to stop and say hello to someone you've never met before, and you pretend you don't hear the prompt, you weren't obedient. Being in a place where you can't hear or see doesn't make you more obedient - you're just blind to what He's asking. And I've experienced firsthand how disobedience hurts. We all have.

Sometimes I find myself asking, how do I know it was God that spoke that to me instead of just me thinking it? Does it matter? If it's a good thing, if it's beneficial, isn't it better to have done it and it be of me than to not have done something God was asking? It goes back to trusting Him. I am currently reading through the book of Daniel. Man, that guy trusted. Can you imagine finding yourself being thrown into a den full of ravenous lions and completely trusting that God will care for you? But life feels like that sometimes, doesn't it? A den full of ravenous lions. And we're expected to trust and obey. Easier said than done, eh? But it's steps. One leads to another. God is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105). He didn't say He was a lamp a mile ahead on the road. He's the lamp at our feet. Guiding the next step. And then the next one. No wonder obedience feels good. It's us walking down the right path. The guided path. The steps may be so small at times we wonder if we're getting anywhere, but if we're listening to our Father, really listening, He's got us right where He wants us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What a Relief!

Goodness gravy, I about tackled an 83-year-old man today. Just out of the sheer joy of seeing him again. Peter, my favorite regular at the bakery (I'm not ashamed, everyone knows it), and a man who I call my friend (read more about him here and here) has not come in to the bakery for several weeks now. I have been worried sick. I've asked every one of the other mall walkers if they've seen him, I've asked all of my coworkers if they have. I've even had some of my blog readers ask about him. No one has seen him or heard from him. I knew the Brit had a trip to his homeland planned for this fall, but I knew it wasn't this early. Something had happened. I could just sense it. I have prayed for him often, wondering what was keeping him from his daily morning walk through the halls of the mall and his cup of Columbian coffee with a splash of cream. Of course my mind went to a million different reasons, but I kept telling myself that his good friend who looks after him surely would have let me know if something serious had happened, or (ack!) if he had died. She just would.

So today I was helping a customer and out of the corner of my eye I see an elderly man walk in in a suit coat and dress pants. He slowly walks up to the coffee bar, his back to me, and starts getting out his wallet - an action he's done a million times before. It's Peter!! The familiarity of this scene hits me and I mumble something to the customer as I race across the bar to embrace Peter. I exclaim his name as I hug the heck out of the frail trembling man. He proceeds to tell me about his three week stay in the hospital with pneumonia, being released, then readmitted because he lost 30 pounds in a week. Boy could I see it. He was so frail. So much the same Peter he always has been, yet different. He couldn't hide his exhaustion. His hand shook when he brought the cup of coffee up to his mouth. He had walked from Nordstrom to our store and needed to sit. Usually this man walks two miles with hardly breaking a sweat. He said he had come to the mall the day before to run an errand, but waited until today to come to the bakery because he knew I would be there today. Ugh, it melted my heart. After fixing his coffee the way that he always does, he made his way to the couch to regain his strength before making the trek back home. It brought me such joy to sit with him, hear all about the past several weeks, share with him how much of a scare he gave me, and let him know that he must call me if he has a need for anything. I hugged him again just before he left, receiving a kiss on the cheek.

I'm so glad to have Peter back home. My how I've missed him.