Watching the show

Have you ever noticed, when you’re buying a new car, how many of those exact models you see everywhere you go? You wonder when that car got to be so popular. It must be a new thing, we reason, or else we would have noticed them before. When you are picking out names for your soon-to-arrive baby, all of a sudden you will hear numerous mothers calling out to their toddlers, who all seem to have been given the exact “unique” name you wanted for your child. We are constantly surrounded by things that we don’t notice, but once we start paying attention, we’re amazed by what we find.

I’ve noticed the same thing in everyday life. When I’m mad at my husband, or frustrated with a client, or late paying my bills, it’s easy to let those events color everything else that happens all day. When this happens, my thoughts are on the injustice of what someone said, or the blatant way someone is spending money I don’t have to spend, or the fact that my husband still hasn’t responded to a question I posed him two hours earlier. I will not allow myself to enjoy anything else because I’m consumed by my anger, and the day is ruined (for me and for everyone nearby).

Or I can let go and look for the good. I can remind myself to notice how much I’ve been blessed by the other projects a client has sent, or be thankful that my friend’s finances are in good shape right now, or realize how lucky I am to have a husband who will pick up the kids from all their activities and not complain. Both sides are always there; it all depends on what I’m looking for.

A friend once told me that Satan continually shoots arrows at us, flaming arrows of greed and hatred and hypocrisy and sinful thoughts. She found that for a while, she was reaching up and grabbing hold of those arrows, gnawing on them, letting those thoughts fester and torment her mind. She wasn’t able to forget the trial she was in; it was always right there. But one day she realized she didn’t have to reach up and grab hold of those darts. The enemy could shoot all the darts at her that he wanted, because she was going to let them go on past. She wouldn’t catch them, she wouldn’t gnaw on them, she wouldn’t listen. She wasn’t going to take his bait any longer. I’m with her. I’m going to choose what thoughts I hold onto. And, rather than hold on to the darts, I’ll enjoy the show as I let the fireworks go right on by.

Quiet observations from MoonDance Cafe

I sit here, quietly typing on this soft keyboard. These two women, women who meet here faithfully every Tuesday, are laughing. I love sitting near them, feeling like a voyeur, trying not to eavesdrop but catching fragments of their conversations. They pray, then they take turns reciting from memory all the carefully-copied scriptures they’re learning. Page after page of neatly-handwritten verses fill binders. One closes her eyes and starts speaking, while the other follows along, word for word, mouthing the verses alongside her friend. Their conversation rarely strays. I know. I sit by them most weeks, half listening, half writing or reading or talking to friends. But always aware. I feel the Word of God washing over me. We are cleansed by the hearing of the word, and as they recite God’s promises, I feel a peace settle around me. I thank God for their faithfulness, for their discipline, for their devotion, for their diligence. They work hard at this, and they take it seriously. It’s not like if I met with my friends to do it. We would talk. Catch up on all kinds of things, get distracted, make fun of each other’s mistakes. I’d probably not get around to memorizing my verses, and I’d be cramming at the last minute. But I pray that God will bless these women, even more, because surely they are already blessed for all this. The words hover in the atmosphere, weighty, present. The Spirit lingers in the trail of the words, rejoicing in their faith, staying near to see what they’ll quote next. They love their God, and they love His word, and I love hearing bits and pieces of the Word floating all around me. This wholesome gladness makes my spirit sing.

My dad's hands

My dad is an artist, and I’ve always loved his hands. Large, strong, capable – but so gentle. Soft but not frail. So very able. Talent hidden in those hands, the ability to make something surprisingly beautiful. My dad worked with his dad as a cabinetmaker, and he is skilled at carpentry, at making things solid and beautiful at the same time. But when he sits down with a brush, he is amazing. He’s got such a delicate touch – he can effortlessly, in a couple strokes, invoke the sagging roofline of a barn in the snow, bring out depth and color in the shadows of a hollyhock, or carve ruts in a dirt lane. With years of experience and loads of innate talent, my dad makes it look so easy. When people ask how long it took to paint a panting, he’ll reply, “3 hours and 30 years.” He worked hard and spent years developing his skills, and now it comes easily to him. It’s not that easy for most of the rest of us.

I’ve always thought my dad’s hands must be a lot like God’s. Big enough to hold my hand and make me feel protected, and at the same time capable of such gentleness. But when God works, it doesn’t just look effortless on his part, it really is. It’s more than a well-honed skill. He creates with just a touch, just a word, just a thought. And then He tries to involve us. It’s like when we teach our kids that success doesn’t come without effort and monetary gain doesn’t come without work. We want them to understand the value of what they have. So even though it’s not hard for God to grant our desires, He may ask us to do some work to get what we need. Not in exchange for His blessing, and not as a form of payment, but simply so we understand the worth of what He’s given us.