Thursday, February 19, 2009

Even the Wind and the Waves Obey Him

This last little while, our church has been studying the Gospel of Mark...and you know in Mark, there is the story of Jesus calming the storm on the water, "even the wind and the waves obey Him," ...then the story of Jesus walking on the water, coming up on His disciples straining at the oars and fearing at this supposed apparition that appears. "Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid." He has the upper hand over the storms, over the waves. He seeks to calm us when we fear the things we think He can't fix, that we fear will overtake us and submerge us in catastrophe. Don't you find so often that the things you are studying in the Bible correlate to the things you are dealing with in your life? I don't know if it's just that everything in the Bible could have bearing on everything in our lives, or if it's just that God tends to orchestrate that we happen to be reading the things we need to know just when we need to know them. I think it may just be a little of both. Or a lot of both.
What are the wind and the waves in my life? Well, Gary keeps getting unsettling lectures from his boss. This boss only had him down to the company headquarters for two days when he started with the company. Any pharmaceutical company he's worked for in the past has trained him for at least a week; sometimes three weeks. With this job, Gary learns one little key piece of information at a time, usually about a month apart, just in time to give him another reason to call on all of his clientele and update them on what he has to offer them. So it's a bit of a challenge dealing with the slow thread of information, and the unsettling lectures from his boss...
Supplementing this little concern was the further indication we thought we found that the company might have financial concerns. There were two or three things that caused us to think so, one having to do with postponed bonuses, and one having to do with Gary's charge card, which they keep allowing to get maxed out.
So we had these two little storms, which started their own little whirlpools brewing in my mind. With Gary's job history being what it is, we have had great finances (for what seems in retrospect like one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot) and we have had less-great finances. Right now we have less-great, with more bills and less savings combined than we may have ever had, which makes it an inopportune time to be without income, if there ever was one. So that was one little whirlpool.
Then there's the real estate market whirlpool. We have this house that costs too much in upgrades, in maintenance, in heating, in taxes...and takes too much time in upgrades, in just is too demanding and I'd love to unload it on some poor (strike that) rich, unsuspecting individual. Thing is, we had new cupboards put in last year, and so all the more the linoleum needs replacing, not just because it was the builder's bargain-basement type, and worn to the point of holes in places, but also because it now doesn't quite reach the bases of the cupboards and has a nice habit of turning upward at the edges. I don't personally care, I could live with it like that for some time (and feel like I already have), but I don't think it will be a very good sales feature. So we really need to fix the floors before we sell; at least the linoleum portions. Which leaves us with a quandary: fix the floors to sell the house, or preserve our little bit of savings in case of loss of job? Because this is a real estate market where a listing could easily outlive our savings if Gary were to lose his job.
Then there's the job market whirlpool. I've applied for jobs in Gary's name (believe me, we've been through this enough I know just how to do it), but Gary heard that one job opening got 1200 other applicants. So we can't just say, "Well, all Gary has to do is get another job, and that won't be any problem at all. Maybe he'll get a raise in the process." Well, it could happen. But it is another whirlpool stimulated by the other matters.
Then there was the whirlpool of...checking the calendar and realizing something about the number of weeks that had gone by. I'm almost 49. I was just kind of wondering about something that had me pondering my own health, I don't know if you get my drift; I can't bring myself to type out what I was wondering. And...we don't have medical insurance. We could be looking at having to move soon, which means a lot of work and lifting and clear-mindedness. And 20 years from now I'll be 69. Gary will be 79. Yes, that had me really quite distracted.
Then we got some significant bills from the IRS that were supposed to be checks from our 2007 return. With interest charged. I couldn't call their office on President's Day. They were closed for the holiday. I hoped they were having a good time. It was a true whirlpool.
So with all these not-so-small whirlpools, and seemingly major storms and waves, I was challenged with the subject of the Bible lesson. I'm not one to worry; it really takes some major things to get me to the point where my stomach churns or I wake up in cold sweats or anything like that. But to tell the truth, if ever there was a time in my life that I felt like I might be tempted to worry, this couple of weeks would have taken the award! I promise you.
Kit, our pastor's wife, helped me out, without fully knowing how much I needed to hear it. (It was because I didn't understand the disciples fearing more after Jesus calmed the storm--though they didn't yet understand His deity. I was sure that when Jesus would calm my storm, I couldn't imagine fearing any more--just being very thankful, relieved, and absolutely adoring Him and having ever-more faith!) She pointed out, among other things, that fear is the same whether it is directed at our problems, or at Jesus. We fear our problems, or we fear God. It is the same stuff, the same substance. The substance of fear is the allegiance of our attention. She described it as standing at the midpoint of a circle, and Jesus is on one side of us, and the problems are on the other side of us. We can turn toward our problems, or we can turn toward Jesus. Which will we focus on?
So this week, when I've been tempted to focus on the various storms and waves and whirlpools, which I have to say was a pretty constant state, I'd say, "Waves, be still." Or, "Even the wind and the waves obey Him." Or, "Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God." When I'd feel that anxious stomach, I'd mentally turn from that mess and focus on Jesus. He's a much more appealing, read calming, view anyway, and yet at times it was such a struggle to pull my focus off those ugly whirlpools and storms!
When Tim and I were reading the Psalms (we read one per day--or in the case of Psalm 119, 20 verses per day--along with two chapters from either Mark or Ephesians), yesterday we read Psalm 121. Tell me if you don't find this a very calming and assuring Psalm:

Psalm 121
The LORD the Keeper of Israel.
A Song of Ascents.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

I felt very sure that God was thinking exclusively of me when He wrote that. What? You thought He wrote it exclusively for you? Huh. So interesting! All through the weeks, my resolve to focus on Jesus and His power over the big and little things that might challenge a person have borne fruit. I have honestly been able to put my worries aside, or take them in stride, or whatever you call it. I know He calmed the storm, He has done all sorts of those kinds of things in the Scriptures and in my own life (just read about it in all my other blog posts if you feel like reading that much), and if there should be anyone who is worry-proof, it should be me--though I have to admit this last while was about as much as I could take. I thought I just might sweat blood at one point. I didn't, though. And I did my best to remember, "He calmed the storm. Even the wind and the waves obey Him. Be still and know that I am God." I had to say that a lot these weeks.
So Gary asked his boss point-blank about the company finances yesterday, and he actually had some plausible explanations; he says the company's in fine financial shape. Whew. And Gary's sales were up this week, so hopefully his boss will start being happy. In fact, his boss has encouraged him to sign up for various conventions and trade shows and other sales hoopla that are happening in the next couple of months. I don't think he'd do that if he were planning to let Gary go. Hallelujah!
These little bits of information were enough to calm the whirlpool about real estate. If Gary's keeping his job for the next few months at least, maybe we will be able to ride out the real estate slump and sell the house at a more opportune time. Maybe we can put in linoleum. At least, at this point, I'm not very distracted about it any more, and the curls on the edges of the linoleum are no big concern to me...I guess. Ha!
It does the same to the little whirlpool about the economy and the job market. Okay, if Gary's keeping his job, it doesn't matter personally whether there are 1200 people applying for each job opening that is out there. We'll just keep on plugging! Good-o. Hallelujah! again.
As far as that problem with my health? Well, let me just say, I am thankful for an aspect of my health that I've never been very thankful for in the past. I'm really quite fine, thank you, after all. Hallelujah, amen!
The IRS? Well, I called and talked to a very nice man. He acknowledged that two IRS people had made mistakes. I'm not criticizing them--the whole thing got started by a mistake I made when I filed the 2007 return last year. It wasn't one that caused any difference in the refund amount, but in the process the nice man found a deduction I had missed. And he recommended that I send in an amended return, which should bring us a check after all, in the end. (Sigh. I don't like doing taxes any more than anyone else. But I do like checks!) So I have already completed that and it will be in the mail tomorrow. One more whirlpool disabled. I even worked on 2008's return. Looking at the numbers in the process, I wondered how we got by last year--except that we know a great Provider. Hallelujah! Amen.
So now I can assure least for now, Jesus has calmed my storms and my whirlpools. And I don't fear more, though maybe I do. Maybe I fear God more. I do think my faith has reached the highest level I've ever had it. (I know, now, I had better be ready for more testing of my new, improved faith. Breathe deep and repeat after know it too by now, don't you? "He calmed the storm. Even the wind and the waves obey Him. Be. still. and. know. that. I. am. God.") Hallelujah! Amen!

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