Books, books, books!

August 9, 2011 | My Jottings

One of the blogs I visit had this meme on it recently, and since it’s about books, I couldn’t resist putting it on mine.

Feel free to put this and your own answers on your blog, or leave a comment below so we can all see and perhaps get some new recommendations! (You’re really supposed to list one book per question, but I’m feeling bookish and have decided to list two per question.)

One book you’re currently reading: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Love Can Open Prison Doors by Starr Daily.

One book that changed your life: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and A Place of Healing: Wrestling With the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada.

One book you’d want on a deserted island: my Bible and my journal.

One book you’ve read more than once: the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon, and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

One book you’ve never been able to finish: Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge, and most books by Karen Kingsbury.

One book that made you laugh: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald.

One book that made you cry: When God Weeps — Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

One book that was a waste of time in your opinion:  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

One book that stunned you: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin.

One book you keep rereading: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, and Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.

One book you’ve been meaning to read: Brothers Karamozov  by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Radical — Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt.

One book you believe everyone should read: Disappointment with God by Phillip Yancey, and In Celebration of Simplicity by Penelope Wilcock.

Finally, grab the nearest book. Open it to page 56. Find the seventh sentence: “We forget the debt of love we owe each other, under pressure of the times in which we live — we forget to be spacious and generous and understanding, begin to be resentful and antagonistic, giving never an inch, insisting on our rights and our own way.”  (From The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock.)

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to answer all of them or just a few.

Happy reading!

When you thought you heard from God – Part 2

August 4, 2011 | My Jottings

**To read Part One of this post, click here.**

He’s gone? Two hours ago? While I was in flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles?  My thoughts swirled as what my daughter Sharon said to me took hold. My father was dead, and I was not going to be able to say goodbye to him face to face. Of course I cried. Sitting there in my rented Altima in the Enterprise lot in Los Angeles, I turned the ignition off and the tears fell.

I called my stepmom Dorothy in San Luis Obispo and she told me how my dad’s last hours had been. She was sitting there in their home, with my father’s body, waiting for me to arrive. She was willing to wait the four hours it would take for me to get there to say goodbye to the empty shell that had housed the man with the huge personality, who had been my dad. At first I didn’t know what to do. I had flown to California to spend some last hours with my dying father, to sing to him even, and now that wasn’t possible.

I decided to fly home to Minnesota. I knew that Michael and I would be returning to California in a few days for my father’s funeral and I would be able to see him then, so I told Dorothy that I would not be driving up. She understood and was so gracious to me.

I called Northwest Airlines to see if there were available flights and was connected to the kindest, most compassionate woman who comforted me as I cried to her on the phone and told her what had happened. She instantly waived the fees to change my flight ticket home. She booked a flight from LAX to Minneapolis for me that afternoon, poured out a golden balm of love and grace on my soul through the telephone, and called me honey. I pray again this day that God blesses her for her kindness to me.

Like someone in a semi-conscious state, I pulled my bag from the trunk and locked up the car I’d never driven, returned to the line inside the rental facility, explained why I wouldn’t be needing the car after all, and boarded the shuttle back to the airport. I was stunned. I was sad. I was unsure about why this had happened, why I flew all the way to California only to turn around and fly all the way home to Minnesota in one long day, without having been able to see my dad again before he died.

Of course I inwardly berated myself for not having gone to see him sooner. His illness seemed to hit him like a fast freight train — he died 44 days after he first started feeling sick. It all happened so quickly, and since there wasn’t a diagnosis for so long, I thought he might get better.

On the 3 1/2 hour flight home I pondered what had obviously not been a word spoken by the Lord to my heart: “sing to him.” Why had I thought the Lord had spoken those words to me? I had prayed and asked, was willing to obey, and sensed in my heart something that definitely didn’t seem like it would have been my own thought. And even if I hadn’t heard the Lord correctly, the one thing that kept rolling around in my mind was this question: why didn’t God allow my dad to live just a few hours longer, knowing that I was on my way to see him? Why didn’t he either die before I left, or hang on until I arrived?

Aahh, these are the theological questions that men and women much greater and godlier than I, have wrestled with for millenia. If God can so easily do _____, why doesn’t He? Here’s what I think the answer is, in a nutshell:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”   (from Isaiah chapter 55)

1. Either God cares and can’t do anything about our messes.
2. Or God can fix our messes but doesn’t care.
3. Or God cares, can do absolutely anything, but works in ways we often don’t yet understand.

I have chosen to throw my whole life into the third choice. Has He fixed my messes before? So many times I can’t count them all. But sometimes He just says, “Trust me” and that’s what I choose to do. Trusting in the dark is so much better than railing and flailing in the dark. I know this from experience. So I had to let go of the question “why didn’t He keep your father alive for just a few more hours?” and put that in The God Box, as my friend Sue R. has taught me.

This brings me back to the directive I thought I heard from God before I left for California. I was obviously mistaken and it was disheartening for me at the time. But I’m still listening for His voice. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t. I get it right the most when I “hear” Him speaking to me from His Word. There have been times in my life where God spoke in such a powerful, unmistakable way that it took my breath away. (Remind me to do a post here someday about me almost getting arrested in Scotland, and the unforgettable way God spoke to me from His Word then!…still brings goosebumps.)  1 Corinthians 13:12 says that now (here on earth) we see through a glass darkly, and I also take that to mean that now (here on earth) we hear through a thick wall faintly, as well.

Michael and I flew to California a few days later to attend my father’s funeral. I was able to see what a small malignancy had done to a previously vigorous body. It brought such sorrow for my dad’s suffering, but it also reaffirmed to me that I believe we are here on a temporary basis. We dwell in flimsy tents, only passing through. We see spiritual realities blurry at best, as through a dark glass. We sometimes hear God’s voice loud and clear, and other times we don’t hear it at all.

I never got to sing “Precious Memories” or “The Old Rugged Cross” to my dad, didn’t get to hold his hand when it was still warm, didn’t get to see those blue eyes looking at his only daughter again. It took a while for me to be okay with that.

I was sharing the story of my attempt to see my dying father with a wise Christian woman named Vinita. These were her words to me:

“Perhaps what God really wanted was the process you went through in deciding to be at your dad’s bedside, choosing the songs, and singing them to him. Who knows the details of how we walk on God’s path? God wants an opening, that’s all, a place in which we say yes to whatever. The openness and the saying yes are the real dramas, probably more so than the actions themselves.”

What comfort, what new ways of thinking and seeing, she brought to me!

So whatever God had in mind for my seemingly fruitless flights, for the suffering of those I love, for times of clear direction and for confusion in the dark, I’ll leave it all to Him, and I will still trust Him.

But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
   the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
   putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
   never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
   bearing fresh fruit every season.

Jeremiah 17:7-8, The Message Bible

No matter what, I’m a woman who’s sticking with God.

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 66

August 3, 2011 | My Jottings

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

 to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.


(The Methodist Covenant Prayer)

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *