Sunday, October 22, 2006

No Great Traits, But it's a Good Thing, too

I remember a few years ago, when we still lived in our 1907 house in old Everett, we lived two doors up from a crusty 55-year-old merchant marine who loved to come up, talk to Gary, and make derisive comments to Katie, Tim and myself. One day he was spouting some pretty nasty stuff at our dinner table. It was okay for us to feed him, but he never seemed obligated as the results of eating at our house to be more polite than usual, whether in insults or language in general. I remember his appalling comment to which I responded at one point, and it's not suitable to type here. I responded something to the effect of his need for Christ. In retrospect, I can see that I was casting my pearls before swine, because it didn't bring about any improvement in his speech or attitude. He then called me self-righteous, which caused me some time of self-examination before I responded.
I had to think about the difference between self-righteousness and righteousness. While it's a clear and very discernable difference, when someone calls you that, it's good to ascertain however you can whether they have any grounds for it.
I'm pretty sure that at least for the most part he was wrong. I'm sure I have times that I take undue pride in something that is not of my own doing or that isn't as good as I think it is, or thinking that I'm at all good in my own right. Probably more than I'd like to think or admit! But I think he was saying so more because he didn't want to examine himself, and be found lacking.
I often bemoan my various inadequacies--I'm a poor housekeeper however hard I work at it; I'm not a great singer; I'm terrible at maintaining my figure (in the way I should, at least!); not in the least style-conscious; the energy that I put into cooking (while making a huge mess every time) never results in a proportionately beautiful or delicious meal, though thankfully it does keep body and soul together; and my interior design sense is completely lacking. Okay, maybe I'm adequate in man's terms at these things, in that we're still alive in this house for which I am caretaker; but I am excellent at absolutely nothing that I "should" be. And God says we are to be perfect as He is perfect. Well, I am not in any earthly sense perfect!
So I cannot, when taking a realistic view of myself, give myself kudos for anything. Cannot rightly think of myself as better than anyone else. Cannot attain in my strength to being good enough for God's standard. On the flip side, though, I think it's a good thing, in a way, that I don't generally have enough talent and beauty and skill and money, or maybe sheer stupidity, to fool myself into thinking that I'm quite so great on my own. (Sometimes, however, by means not fully understood, I can do so for a brief time!)

For example, when I refer above to my figure, I'm talking about how thin it isn't, which is at least mostly my own fault--but additionally, I'm short, and short-legged, and lack model-type qualities--which is entirely God's doing. For a while I used to bemoan this, but I realized that God in His wisdom gave me my lack of height and physical beauty, perhaps to mercifully keep me from falling for a lie that I was in some way good, adequate, beautiful, and righteous without Him.
So for all my inadequacies, I thank God.
Thank You, God, that You made me so insufficient on my own--and so fully adequate, in You alone. Amen!
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Some Solid Promises in a Moment of Faltering

Last night we were driving some friends to the airport. We went as a family rather than have Gary drive home by himself; he insisted on it and in fact it was rather better than three of us staying home. It gave all of us a chance to fellowship, which is an opportunity that should rarely be dismissed. The usual semi-frantic nature of getting down there wasn't an issue, because they would be staying in a motel overnight to get a very early start the next day.
On our way back, discussion turned to our handling of money, and though I have not been worrying about it in any primarily noticeable way (Gary's been between jobs for a while, and God has provided amazingly), still sometimes that little fear monster, just a small one, pokes out its head. I was scolding one of us for a cavalier attitude toward our finances--the desire for a splurge on the way home. Well, it's not that I haven't splurged now and then...just the other day Katie, Tim and I split a nice Chinese lunch (they're always so big!) at Haggens for an after-Bible Study lunch. Haggens is on the pricey side. Anyway, there I was last night, rather fretting.
Don't misinterpret. We're going to do fine for quite a while still, by the look of things. It doesn't make sense as far as I can figure, but we will.
At one point on the drive when someone nearly collided with us, Tim asked some questions about angels, like whether we have guardian angels, and the verse about how He will give His angels charge over us came out in the conversation. I do feel confident that by God's grace, we have an abundant protection, that nothing will happen to us that isn't for our good, whether it feels like it or not at the time; this is a point to rely on since every time that we have been without health insurance coverage we've had no major health problems. We seem healthier without it!
Anyway, when we got to Marysville, Gary went into Albertsons BECU to deposit his check (he's been working as a temporary, putting together cardboard displays for Nintendo and doing related things, and very much enjoying the diversion of it). Katie went into the store with him, and Tim being tired wanted to stay in the van, so he and I stayed. He told me he had something we could do in his bag. I was skeptical; he had recently re-found his Star Wars book and I thought it would be something of that sort. It wasn't to be! He pulled out a small New Testament that he had been given a couple of years ago. It includes Psalms and Proverbs. I said, stupidly, "It's too dark to read it." (I realize now that if I was determined, I could have eliminated that hurdle.) No problem. He pulled out his 7-way tool that I'd given him at Christmas. It had a little blue flashlight at one end of it. Without yet being able to see, I started trying to figure out where in the Book I would turn. I could make out where Psalms were, but not which psalm I was turned to. Tim turned the light on and we read Psalm 91. This isn't one that I could say until yesterday, "Oh, I love that psalm" because until then I wouldn't have known which one it was and known its content. Now, though, thanks to Tim's little NT, it's spoken to me and I know it. We read the following; even today it chokes me up reading His promises. It's worthwhile to include the whole thing.
Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!"
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
and under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
but it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge,
even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
that you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra,
the young lion and the serpent
you will trample down.
Because he has loved Me,
therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high,
because he has known My Name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him,
and let him see My salvation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's a Beautiful Year

It's amazing to me that it's already October. And it's beautiful all around...the sky, the leaves, the slight chill in the air, in contrast with this hottest summer on record that just passed. Well, all in all, I'm liking this year. We've had our house re-sided, which instead of the three weeks they promised, turned into a three-month job, because the supervisor Erik kept assigning the workers to other jobs. One of the two remaining workers (of the five that were assigned to our house--three were fired), Mike, recently quit because of pay issues. So in addition to the extension of the work itself, they don't even take good care of their employees. Zeke is planning to go into real estate. He'd be good at it, too. We definitely liked Mike and Zeke. (Seems to me there's a Dr. Seuss scene with a Mike and Zeke, isn't there? Something about pushing a bike up a hill?) It appears that they only hire people whose name ends with the "k" sound.
They've finally replaced the window that they broke, and twice I've had to make lists of neglected issues that they needed to address. All that's left is a hose rack that was wrecked when Jake (the first fired) tore it off the house while one bolt was still intact. They've ordered it now, and it should only be three more weeks. Meanwhile the bulk of the cost languishes in our account waiting to pay them, and we have to be careful to keep it there available and not spend it. I don't know whether this is the way they normally do business, but I can't imagine it's the most profitable.
At any rate, the house is looking good at least on the outside. I notice that we have a bit more pride of ownership--we're messy types overall (not that I don't try to be tidy, it's just a lot more work than I can accomplish!), but I'm trying harder and harder to keep things cleaned up and attended to so it continues to look nice. Gary also--he's refinished the deck, painting the railings to match the house, and took a lot of time and care to do it right. It would be really good if we could fix up the kitchen. We very well may sell the house next year, and the kitchen cupboards and floor at 13 years old are getting really shabby--they weren't the highest quality when they were installed. But we have to wait. When and if Gary gets a new job before then, we'll consider that possibility.
It's been a very content year. We've pretty much stayed at home, which I can really enjoy and appreciate; home schooling is going well--I've learned that the trick with Tim is to stay seated with him while he does it. If I get up, that's when he gets squirrelly and distracted. Having Katie in college instead of at home during the early part of the day helps reduce his distraction too. She's enjoying that, as well--finding old friends, getting to know new ones, liking the classroom environment which is for the most part a new experience for her. A neighbor family drives her to school, her friend Josh drives her back and occasionally she takes the bus. Her everyday horizons have been pushed out just a little. A good adjustment year before she goes off to live elsewhere and go to college. Life is good, and God is absolutely great. But of course, we knew that, didn't we?