Complications

Fear Has Big Eyes--Wikipedia

Recently I received  notification congratulating me for six years with WordPress. It’s difficult to believe it has been that long since I timidly began this little adventure. And while the posts have been a bit sparse lately due to some major life changes, thoughts of this blog are rarely far away.

Several days ago, I was checking my “stats” and noticed the following post had received some attention. I went back to re-read it and realized how much I needed to hear my daughter’s wisdom that day, my life having acquired a few of those “complications.”

It is my hope that you too will find encouragement as you read, and be reminded as I was, that God really does have all things under His control. No matter what the mess, He is well able to see us through.

Don’t Send a Boy To Do A Man’s Work

Below is an essay from my daughter’s blog, “My Soul Found Rest.” When she first sent me the rough draft to look over, I was moved by what she wrote. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have never read Wendell Berry; had not even heard of him before my daughter told me that he was the focus of this semester’s Honors College at Belhaven University. I know, this admission shows me to be a severely under-educated individual; there is clearly no limit to the number of things I do not know.

My daughter’s life has, like the rest of ours, had its share of “complications.” It has been part of my job as her mother to help her navigate some of the rough rapids on the river of her life. Occasionally, she has been summarily dumped out of the boat and into the water, leaving her hurt and floundering. Each time though, she has climbed back into the boat and kept on paddling.

It has been a privilege to watch my daughter grow in her faith. She has met the complications in her life by doing what we all should do: turn to the Lord first. She truly believes that life has a “happy ending,” not because she has a false “Pollyanna-like” attitude, but because she has chosen to place her faith in the surety of God and His Word to her. She knows that no matter what this life brings, her Father continues to uphold her; her goal is Heaven. She has learned she doesn’t have to fear the future, she can trust God to use the events in her life which have left her bruised, for His purposes and the maturing of her faith. And, while her life has had no shortage of “bumps in the road,” she has learned, as her father and I have, that there is only one place we can go to find help.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 (ESV)

It is easy to get bogged down in the trials and tribulations of our lives. We lose our focus; we forget God is Sovereign; we begin to fear we are on a path that has no good end. Just as in the Wendell Berry story referenced below, our Father comes and straightens out the mess we make of our lives and He does so with a deft and gentle Hand. His mercy, His grace, His love always ready to lift us out of the quagmire, setting our feet on solid ground.

It’s Complicated

This was my first honors essay of the semester. The short story referenced is from Wendell Berry’s That Distant Land, a collection of his short stories.

In his short story, “Don’t Send a Boy to Do a Man’s Work,” Wendell Berry describes the consequences of complications. The main character in the story, a twelve-year-old boy named Athey Keith, has been left in charge of overseeing a hog-killing while his father, Carter Keith, is out-of-town. Carter Keith has laid specific plans and enlisted the help of knowledgeable men to make sure the work gets done efficiently and well. However, several complications arise during the hog-killing, which turn the Keiths’ well-laid plans upside down and cause the story to turn in an unexpected direction. The rest of the story hinges on how Athey and the other men deal with the complications.

Complications are hardly an uncommon event in our day-to-day lives. The dictionary built into my computer defines “complicate” as such: “[to] make (something) more difficult or confusing by causing it to be more complex.” Complications, or problems, as we more often call them, seem to arise with impeccable timing whenever we least desire them. Yet it seems that although complications may be sometimes unwelcome and turn our story in unexpected directions, our stories, once finished, become clearer and more illuminating as we reach the end of the book.

The plot’s driving force in Berry’s short story is the three complications and how Athey and the other men handle them. While Athey would certainly have had a much more productive hog-killing and a less harrowing day without any such complications, such a plot (or lack thereof) would not have made much of a story. Stories are driven by conflict.

When I was part of a fiction-writing group in high school, my teacher (a fiction author) had to remind me over and over again that I needed more conflict in my story. What I was writing would have been nice to live, but it was boring to read. There was no impetus to drive the plot forward. I resented her correction, because I wanted to write stories like I wanted to live, sweet, delightful, and all with happy endings. That’s still how I would like to live my life. But I am old enough now to begin to realize that my life is not going to go in a carefully plotted way to reach its happy ending. It’s going to take its twists and turns, and complications (whether small or large) are going to arise.

If I believe the promises of Scripture, that God works in all things for the good of those that are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), then I can navigate the bumps in the road with confidence. But questions still remain, and I am sure that I am not the first person to raise questions such as, “Is there any way to avoid complications? If I can, should I? Do all complications arise from sin? Even if they do, can they still turn out all right in the end (and preferably before the end too)?”

Athey could not have avoided the particular problems that came his way, all of which began with other people. He could not foresee them, nor could he escape them. The only thing he could do was be prepared for them, in the sense that he could be ready to deal with any problems that might occur. But when the complications came, he was not ready. The somewhat cocky young boy that he was, his pride and fear caused him to react in a way that allowed the originally small problems to become big ones.

I don’t think there were any complications in the Garden of Eden. Life there must have been like the story I tried to write—boring to read, but wonderful to live. Like in Berry’s story, the first Biblical complication came from another person. The complications Athey had to deal with all began with other people, but his fear caused him to react in a way that exacerbated the problem instead of solving it. Neither did Adam and Eve begin the first complication in this world, but they chose to yield to it instead of standing up and resisting. This first complication resulted in the fall of man from perfection, and now the human story is, well, complicated. At times it’s positively messy.

I don’t think there’s any way to avoid complications altogether. If there were, someone surely would have found a way by now! We can’t force others into our perfectly molded stories for ourselves—they’re going to bring complications, and sometimes we aren’t going to like the results. But neither our stories nor Berry’s story ends with failures to handle problems correctly. Fortunately for young Athey, his father came back—to a mess, it’s true, but he was quite up to handling the challenge and soon put things back to rights.

The human story doesn’t end with failure either. Although Adam and Eve didn’t have the power to put to right the wrong that they had done—that took someone with the proper authority—our Father sent His Son to earth to handle the challenge and put things back to rights. Unlike Carter Keith, He never has to go on a business trip, leaving us in charge. If Keith had been present at the hog-killing, the complications that arose would have been handled differently, and the resulting problems avoided. Likewise, because the Lord is present, we have the ability to handle the complications that come our way correctly. Not that we always will (in fact, many times we won’t), but we can, through His power. What is more, we have the guarantee that our stories will have happy endings. There might be cliffhangers after some chapters, and plot twists, and some pages might have tears on them. But in the end, we will close the book with a sigh of relief and meet our Author, the finisher of our faith.

Author: My Soul Found Rest (Used with permission)

Original Content: Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

He Went Willingly

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53: 3-6 (NKJV)

Firmly Fixed

Mooring Ring-595548_640--Pixabay

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”
—-H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

I have to admit I am sorely tired of the current political scene and the drama which unfolds in the run-up to this (and every) presidential election. Most of the time I just want to vote for “None of the above.”

We have lost our mooring, both as a people and as a nation. I remind myself though, no matter who is elected President, Jesus Christ is still King.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

The above quote was posted on Facebook by one of my friends. And this was said almost 100 years ago! In a democracy, no matter who is elected to the office of the President, he (or she) is a reflection of the inner soul of that nation.

May God have mercy on us all. . .

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

Psalm 2: 2-6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

We’ve Got It Wrong

Attention by Marcos Tulio--Public Domain Pictures

It’s about the condition of man’s heart–always has been, always will be. We want a quick external fix, but what ails us won’t be fixed that easily. We need the power of the Living God to resonate in our hearts. When we encounter His presence, our lives change–dramatically. And that’s as it should be. . .

From a Far Country

What we want is laws passed.  What we want is people elected who see things our way, who do things our way, who make everybody else do things our way.  What we want is behaviors to change.  We don’t necessarily want hearts changed.  If hearts are changed then that would be okay with us but it’s not the main thing.  We want behaviors changed.  We want to make them change their behavior.

We’ve got it wrong.

It seems to me that our priority should be the spiritual condition of those who oppose us.  It’s not behavior that’s the issue.  It’s heart condition that matters.

I’ve been in Church services where the presence  and power us God was so real it forced me to my knees.  This morning I sat on my porch praying and I knew His presence so real that I was compelled to change, to stop doing one…

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Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

buttons-841621_1920

From sister-site “Scripture Nuggets“:

This parable gives a good picture of 1 Corinthians 12. Both fellowship and ministries are divided because believers have a wrong estimate of their gifts and place in the body of Christ. Many people think that only they have the whole truth, when all they have is a fragment. The following parable is worthy of your time.

Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?

A solemn assembly was called. Apostles and prophets gathered to sit in conference with one another. Chairs were circled, so no one man would sit at the head. As each man took his seat, an unusual silence filled the room. The men sat staring at one another, almost forgetting the reason they had assembled, not one man wanting to speak. Out of the unusual silence a Voice spoke and asked, “Button, button, who has the button?” As if well-rehearsed, the men jumped to their feet and shouted in chorus, “I’ve got the Button! I’ve got the Button!” Each man raised his arms in the air with closed hands to show the Voice, and then one another, that they indeed were holding the button. Their voices roared, as if trying to drown out one another, shouting with great apostolic and prophetic confidence. “Yes, I’ve got the Button! I’ve got the Button!”

Their voices were hoarse from shouting, the roar subsided, and all responses stopped. And again the unusual silence filled the room, each man still standing with arm raised and hand closed. Slowly, their arms began to drop and each man opened his hand and stared into his palm. The Button was not found in any one hand. But, there was something in each man’s hand… a small piece of the Button. Every man standing in the room was holding a button fragment. Not all of the fragments were the same size or shape. Some were larger, some smaller, some were round and smooth, some oblong and jagged, but each man held some part of the Button.

Again the Voice broke the unusual silence and asked, “Button, button, who has the Button?” This time there was no quick answer. The men stood silent, no longer examining their own button fragment or the fragment of their neighbor. With their heads lowered, arms hanging limp at their sides, all boasting stopped. They stood dumfounded in the unusual silence. Finally, one man confessed in a broken voice, “I don’t have the Button…” And another whispered, “I don’t have the Button…” And another, with a deep sigh, “I don’t have the Button…” This time the response was personal, quiet, and remorseful, as every man admitted to himself, to the Voice, and to his peers, “I don’t have the Button.”

Once again, the unusual silence filled the room. Moments passed into eternity. And again the Voice broke the unusual silence. “I gave you bits and pieces, but you assumed you possessed the Whole. I sought to increase and shape those pieces, but you refused to open your hand. I desired to enlarge your fragments and mold them with other fragments, but you refused to let go. My gift you made into your possession. My generosity you turned into exclusiveness. My revelation has become your prejudice. You speak of unity, yet build invisible barriers between yourselves with your boasting, “I’ve got the Button.” As you see, all you really have is a fragment. And you are protecting, exalting, and defending your fragment as if it were the Whole. My sons, you have not yet seen the Whole!”

No longer were men standing; they were on their faces. The Button fragments had slipped from their hands and lay scattered around the floor. Their hands were empty. Their self-confident hearts were broken and their proud spirits softened. For the third time the Voice asked, “Button, button, who has the Button?” Through tears of contrition came the gentle reply, “Lord, You have the Button!”

–C. Brown

Pastor George Belobaba

Copyright © 2011 by Scripture Nuggets Ministries
All rights reserved

Five Minute Friday: expect

An excellent reminder, today and every day.

Between Blue Rocks

Version 2

We’ve been “expecting” for six months now, a euphemism which I find doesn’t quite catch the truth of it.

Early in the pregnancy, if I’m honest, my expectations were different — my husband and I both acknowledge, now, that we didn’t expect to make it this far; we expected — for a myriad of reasons — to lose the baby.

A lot could happen in the next three months, and I cannot presume to know, but now I expect that in late August I’ll be holding a wiggling, crying little boy.

Even so, to say we’re “expecting a baby” is a misnomer. We don’t expect him. We have him — something like two pounds of him, every inch a baby right now. A baby whose kicks and tumbles we treasure. A baby to whom we already talk and sing. He isn’t born yet, but he’s not merely expected. He exists.

It’s…

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"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

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