And Coming in 2016....

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden," to be published by Cranberry Quill... an allegory for children of all ages, beautifully illustrated.

Friday, October 18, 2013

DO SOMETHING. OR NOT.

September happened, but for various reasons I never got around to writing a blog. Not even one, when I'd like to do two a month. When I was a weekly newspaper columnist, I loved the feedback from raising hackles and pleasing readers (depending on the subject matter or the frame of mind) on a regular basis. My daily poetry blog (www.ellenpoems.blogspot.com) is a challenge and a joy, but that's no excuse for not being a better caretaker for this one.

How do 30 days pass without time or inclination to sit down at the computer and share thoughts that are not poetic (as in A Poem a Day) or the briefest of communication (as in a Facebook post or text)? In a word, they pass stressfully. Pull-the-rug-out-from-under-your-feet stress. Take-the-wind-out-of-your-sail stress. Feel-like-I'm-gonna-scream stress. Not all at once, but several Big Things during the month that slapped me squarely across the face, interspersed (of course) with many more quieter moments of peace and joy. 

It would be unfair, even dishonest of me to mention the Big Things, as unsettling as they were, without also mentioning the better things. Did I say the Big Things unsettled? Then the quieter moments of joy did the opposite, settling my spirit and my soul and even my breathing into a rhythm I could sustain and live with.

Now that we are more than halfway into October, some of the Big Things have yet to resolve and (as is my custom) I was becoming impatient and anxious. Perhaps I should set up a conference call. Write a letter. DO SOMETHING. That is the Protestant way, isn't it? The basis for our great work ethic? When all else fails, DO SOMETHING.

It always amazes me that with the hundreds, nay, thousands of Hallmark cards or plaques or posters or bumper stickers I've seen over a lifetime, the relative few that strike a chord and remain locked inside my picayune little brain. One perky little phrase I've seen numerous times and in numerous settings is one attributed to several different speakers: A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are made for. The implication is that we need to step out of our comfort zones, take action, etc. etc. blahblahblah. DO SOMETHING.

Looking back at September, I'm thinking that the problem with such quotes, such sound bytes, such syrupy song lyrics, is that they don't take the almost limitless variables into consideration. Maybe the ship needs work. Maybe the crew is on shore leave. Maybe there's a freakin' category 5 hurricane brewing out in the ocean. Doing something doesn't necessarily guarantee doing the most helpful, wisest thing for the long term best of the situation or those involved.

But I was still caught up in DO SOMETHING mode and decided to try the ole' flip-through-the-Bible trick employed by countless new believers and also (if they will admit it) seasoned believers as well. It's done like this:


  1. Get into a bit of a panic over some particular decision or circumstance.
  2. Pray and ask God for wisdom.
  3. When it doesn't come immediately, pray that he will lead you through the Bible. You're muddled, human, sinful, stoopid from time to time and often hard of hearing when it comes to spiritual matters, so you assume that he's talking and you just aren't getting it. Since handwriting on the wall seems to have been a one-time event in the book of Daniel (thank you, Jesus...I wouldn't want God's admonitions to ME written on the wall for everyone to see, would you?) the next best thing would seem to be (you reason) the Word.
  4. Turn the Bible upside down, if you like, so you don't inadvertently flip to the verse you're really hoping to find that says "Smite them, O Lord!" Then read the direct word of wisdom that will either fit your needs exactly or will be so incredibly off-topic that you will throw the Bible down impatiently and fume.
By the way, when I was still in my 20s, a young mother of four on the mission field with my husband in India, I heard a wonderful sermon on the subject of having a "life verse." A lot of people seemed to know what their "life verse" was, but I was clueless. I prayed for God to show me, and I turned right to Deuteronomy 6:5:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Really?

No, I didn't say that. I was pleased, in fact. What's not to like about that? It's comfortably vague while being fierce in its implications.

But I digress. Today, I went the flip-through route before doing something I might regret. Doing something without thinking it through had been one of the problem variables in one situation, and I didn't want to make it worse. I prayed. I flipped....

...right to King David's psalm of thanks in 1 Chronicles 16 (New International Version):


Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
11 Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.
12 Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
13 you his servants, the descendants of Israel,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
14 He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
15 He remembers[a] his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”
19 When they were but few in number,
    few indeed, and strangers in it,
20 they[b] wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
21 He allowed no one to oppress them;
    for their sake he rebuked kings:
22 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
    do my prophets no harm.”
23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[c] holiness.
30     Tremble before him, all the earth!
    The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
    let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Let the trees of the forest sing,
    let them sing for joy before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
    gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
    and glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.


Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”


You are forgiven if you respond to this with a scratch of the head and a nasal "Huh?" What does that have to do with the wisdom I was seeking? Which I need? I submit to you that it has EVERYTHING to do with it.

Forget the problems, the variables, the ornery people who simply refuse to do what we what and when we want. Forget all that. Remember God. Remember what he has done. Consider what he has promised to do. And beyond that, give thanks. For the problems, the variables, the ornery people who simply refuse to do what we what and when we want. Give thanks because God is God, and he is worthy of our thanks, regardless of everything else.

I love that David ends with a heart cry for help - even kings need help; maybe especially, kings need help - but he's laid the groundwork for almost two pages of praise, piling it on, reminding God of his own greatness. By comparison nothing we fume over is beyond minuscule and yet God is concerned with even those tiny things with trouble his children.


There was no rumble of thunder, no shout of "Eureka!" I didn't even shout, with all the people of Israel "Amen" and "Praise the Lord." 

I didn't do anything. And that was the whole point.


(c) Ellen Gillette, 2013