Archive | February, 2013

Lord of the Fleas

23 Feb

I will restore to you the years
.    that the swarming locust has eaten…
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
.    and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.  —Joel 2:25, 27

About a year ago I staggered into the bathroom in the middle of the night. I lost my balance. My foot slid across the floor and up against the side of the toilet. Instead of supporting my weight, the floor gave way slightly. Even in a sleep-stupor, I knew this was not good.

This midnight episode launched a year-long project. The homeowner’s curse—“while we’re at it”—took over at every stage.

Before we could remove the toilet, there were several aspects that had to be done first. Finally, the day came. My husband loosened the bolts; we lifted the 1970’s almond-colored toilet from its foundation and set it aside. We expected to find a wet floor under it. Instead there was a neatly piled mound of sandy stuff that we swept up before ripping into the sub-floor. The plywood layers were loose and came up with little effort.  After lifting a few with a putty knife, we discovered the reason for the squishi-ness that started this project—a colony of carpenter ants exploded around our feet.

Never was a more intense dance performed! Four arms flailed in time to our frantic heel-and-toe moves.

IMG_1695crop
After we sprayed ant-killer and the madness slowed enough that I could take a photo

While we were completely grossed out until the last insect was dead, the ants gave us a brand new bathroom—new toilet, tile floor, shower (“while we are at it!), vanity and sink, paint, towel racks… and all mold eradicated.

And, yes, it did cost a bundle. The ants forced the bathroom to the top position of our financial priorities for last year. Without them, this project would have stayed near the bottom for a long time. I’m actually grateful to the (long-squished and dead!) ants. I really, really like our new oasis!

Our situation made me think of Corrie ten Boom who was imprisoned with her sister during World War II for helping Jews escape the Nazis. The last time I read her biography, The Hiding Place, I was in high school. Yet I still remember Corrie’s sister Betsie thanking God for the fleas in their concentration camp barracks. Corrie was vexed by them and didn’t understand Betsie’s thankfulness (neither did I!) until she explained that they were able to have Bible study and prayer times without fear of interruption or punishment. The guards didn’t want to get fleas, so they stayed out of the building!

Fleas and ants are pests. I dislike them lots. In these two cases, though, I’m grateful for them.

I wish I could say that I always have this perspective and understand God’s greater purposes in life’s frustrations, but I don’t. More often than not, I’m still broadsided when my expectations are thwarted. I am, however, learning to breathe, to take a step back when hit with the unpleasant stuff of life.

Several years ago someone told me that maturity is shortening the distance between falling and getting back up. I would add that maturity is also lengthening the distance between an annoyance and reacting to it, in order to temper my reaction with grace.

I wouldn’t mind if I never saw another ant in my house. But I don’t want to limit God from working in my life.

He has my complete permission.  He is God; I am not.

—————

Ready for Sunday

How many times have I been derailed from worshiping God because of a Sunday morning annoyance? Technology that doesn’t work… an off-handed comment from someone that hit me the wrong way… not feeling well… and a myriad of others.

How can I enter into the spiritual realm equipped with weapons to defeat these commonplace enemies in order to worship the LORD my God? Being vigilant against an age-old enemy requires ancient weaponry – The Word and prayer.  Against such strength no tactics will succeed.

The very best

15 Feb

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Sitting down at the piano with 1:38 left on the countdown video, I arranged the charts I hadn’t seen since the rehearsal four days ago.  My scrawled pencil marks reminded me of some basic cues, but my heart squeezed my blood pressure until I felt my pulse in my fingers. “I meant to practice.  Really,” I whispered a quick confession, not daring to ask for his help since I hadn’t made time to practice.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I led our worship teams in a study of Psalm 33:3

         Sing to him a new song;
.               play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
 

The word skillfully means “with excellence and great skill”. Excellence is one of our worship ministry’s top values.

Here’s why – if we are worshiping the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Father who sent His only Son to die for our sins and who adopted us, our Sustainer and Provider (the list could go on and on); if this is Who we worship, how can we give Him anything less than our very best?

Excellence is doing the very best we can
with what we have for God’s glory

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory. Excellence takes many forms, is intentional, and includes sacrifice. A short list of examples–

  • Making personal practice a priority instead of “winging it” (!)
  • Valuing mid-week rehearsal, being on time and staying engaged even as it gets late
  • Not being satisfied with the status quo, constantly looking for a way to improve
  • Reading the equipment manual and learning new technical solutions to issues
  • Getting up really early every Sunday for a tech tun-through so that each element and is tested, rehearsed, and ready to go

Excellence is different from perfectionism.

Perfectionism may look the same as excellence on the outside, but the heart attitude and motivation couldn’t be more different.  Perfectionism strives for a flawless performance and is dissatisfied with anything less. The goal is a perfect end product with an inherent at-any-cost mentality, so that mistakes loom larger than all else. Ego and reputation are wrapped up in delivering an impeccable performance, consequently, a disappointing presentation means the performer’s worth is greatly reduced. Simply put, this is pride– performance for self.

Excellence seeks to do its very best, and is happy with a less-than-perfect result. Far from a “settling” mindset, however, excellence learns from mistakes and works to make the next time even better.  The focus is on God and pleasing him, not on the performance or on self.

Excellence is doing the very best we can with what we have for God’s glory.

———————-

Ready for Sunday

What am I doing during the week to get ready for Sunday so that my contribution to the service is excellent?

How do my priorities reflect my commitment to worship God with excellence?  (One answer to this for me is that I now put “practice” on my schedule!)

What other activities, practices, and attitudes are important to excellence?

This is the first post in a 3-part series on Excellence vs. Perfectionism.
Next week: “What we have”

Back

15 Feb

In my last post I talked about restorative balance. Sadly, writing was one of the casualties of finding some margin to catch my breath and enjoy the life God has given me.

This week, however, I have become increasingly aware of the burning desire in me to write.  And so I am back.

In some ways writing, though always excruciatingly difficult, brings rest to my soul.

I’ve missed it.

And you.

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