Unidentified Calling

How many times have I told you God? I’m not cut out for  this! It almost feels like you’re that parent with pie-in-the-sky dreams for his kid, ambitions for Jonny to be a star baseball player when all Jonny wants to do is learn the guitar. 

I am a self-aware people pleaser. I’m not an entrepreneur or a risk taker in any capacity. I don’t like failure or rejection and I can’t handle large uninsured investments of my time, money or emotional energy. Yet, here I am, holding the second rejection of my manuscript in as many days. What makes you think I’m supposed to be a writer? 

If I didn’t know myself so well, I’d assume that I’m just fool hardy, a glutton for punishment, cocky and pretentious to think I have a story to tell and a ministry to fulfill through the written word. But I know I heard you. I know you put me up to this. 

Just the other day, I was thanking you for finally revealing “my calling”. But now, as I evaluate the outcome of my obedience, I think you’ve got me all wrong. It’s so hard, Lord! I really don’t want to sit in this uncomfortable space of waiting for and listening to you, of pressing on and stepping out in faith again and again. Can’t I just do something cut and dry, trudge along in a rut carved by some previous, daring saint? Is there just a “good Christian” to-do list I can follow?

I prayed this prayer under my breath, not too sure that I want God to hear me. I mean, I don’t want Him to give up on me, to relinquish His great plans for me, but I’m so tired of living in limbo. It feels like none of my projects find any closure. I’m still waiting for feedback from publishers, waiting for the answer to prayers about our family’s future, waiting for that phone call to be returned, waiting for the support group I lead to grow, waiting for the magazine editor’s response, waiting for some affirmation that my life is bearing any fruit for my Father, that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing something right!

God?

Except for this uncanny pressure, like His thumb between my shoulder blades gently propping me up and pressing me forward, I wonder if God really doesn’t hear my whispered prayer. He’s been mysteriously quiet today. But He didn’t chide me for my fears or mock my frustration. He only lay upon my heart one thing: “[Do not] get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time [you] will reap a harvest of blessing if [you] don’t give up.”*

I’m pressing on.

I am blessed to work with, write for and count as friends, dozens of other authors. So, I take great comfort in their humble stories of rejection letters and their gutsy determination to press on.

Here are a few links that have bolstered my spirit:

Chad Allen, by means of Mary Demuth and her humble honesty about failure even after you’ve “made it”. Here’s a priceless one, a cup of tea for the weary creative’s soul. I shared it once before and I’ve Pinned it so I can find it over and over, but just so you don’t miss it: In the Ditch.  And here’s board where I keep scraps of possibilities. Hopefully you’ll find brain stimulation there too. And one more, By Anne R. Allen, with enough wit to put some saucy back in your key strokes and determination to defy discouragement.

In the next several posts I’m going to be “going deeper”. That’s something the Holy Spirit  has been etching on my heart lately. I’m not completely sure what it means, but the more that I explore it, I’m finding it applies to nearly every aspect of my life.

I have a tendency to cast a wide net. I reach farther, do more and often give up quickly on the things that seem to have the least potential. Then it’s off to the next interest, praying this ambition is more promising (honestly, praying that maybe I found God’s sweet spot for me). Anxiety wells the longer it takes for an effort to blossom. Pure fear takes over when God seems to tie my hands behind my back. Wait He says, kneel here until your knees wear a deep indentation in the carpet.

What are the things that make you question whether you’ve heard God? What were you completely sure of yesterday, that you’re less than convinced of today? How do you know if you’re on the right track? What if you’re not?

*Galatians 6:9

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Missing Peace, Chapter 15: “Failure to Drive”

Three months at Remuda set me behind the power curve of normal teenage life. Add to the list of my insufficiencies the fact that I celebrated my 16th birthday in a hospital and now I was two months late taking my driver’s test.

Dad had instated a rule long before any of his girls turned 16: No one gets her driver’s license until she learns to drive a standard transmission vehicle.

Months before, in November, I had mastered the clutch, taken driver’s ed and passed the test with flying colors. Dad remained true to his promise and drove me to take the written and practical tests the first weekend after I got home.

“Are you ready?” he asked as we shut the door from the house to the garage.

“I hope so,” I replied. “But I’m happy to let you back out of the garage anyway.” I grinned sheepishly.

My only pre-license driving disaster occurred as I tried to back the truck out of the storage shed. The passenger mirror caught on the garage door frame, bending it backward and leaving a long scar in the paint. The kicker was that Dad had just sold the vehicle and the new owners were on their way to pick it up.

“My pleasure.”

Dad put the white Honda Civic, the truck’s replacement, in gear and released the emergency brake. He backed out, then climbed out into the sunshine to trade me seats. I settled into the driver’s seat and took a deep breath. I don’t think I exhaled, feeling the tension inside me mount like an overfilled balloon.

Our driveway was almost a quarter mile long, gravel, framed by end-to-end railroad ties.  A few years earlier, I had helped Daddy lay all those railroad ties. He was a big do-it-yourselfer. His determination and ingenuity employed my sisters and me quite a bit, and served us well.

It was another mile or so down the main dirt road before we came to the first turn onto pavement. Highway 86 was the artery of my family’s social life. It connected our small town of Perry to Stillwater where we went to church, shopped at the nearest Wal-Mart, and where I attended Trinity Christian School.

I pulled into the parking lot at the testing location. It was near the airport and my friend Amy’s house, so I felt comfortable having been there dozens of times before. I parked in front of the nondescript brick building and followed Dad, ducking under his arm as he held the door. Within seconds, I was seated at an old fashioned school desk facing the first test I had seen in months.

“That was easy!” I wiped my sweaty hands on my shorts as soon as I finished. “How long do you think we’ll have to wait to take the driving part?”

“Let’s go, young lady.”

I turned to see a hefty, brusque woman already glaring at me impatiently. She had ridiculously long, artificial nails painted dark blue. A strand of gray, messy hair was caught between her face and glasses.

I tried to be cheery, “Hi.” Wordlessly, she handed me the keys, “Thanks.”

I backed out of the parking lot, drove through Amy’s neighborhood and parallel parked on the side of the road between two trash cans. The woman never said a word, but made a few indecipherable notations on a legal pad. I focused on the road and tried not to look over at her scratchings.

Finally, she pointed in the direction of the testing facility. Relief flooded me. I was almost done. One hundred yards from the entrance, a tiny hill, really a bump, was the only thing between me and my last left turn.

As my front tires crested the bump, I saw a pickup truck coming toward us. Quick calculations ran through my head, The speed limit is only 30 mph, plenty of time. Deftly, I turned the wheel left and coasted into a parking space.

Dad wasn’t waiting outside. He’d found the most recent copy of AOPA (Associate of Private Aviators) among the sparse reading material left for bored parents in the waiting room. Nervously, I unbuckled and stepped from the car.

“Nice job.” The woman still couldn’t smile. “You maintained the correct speed limit and parallel parked beautifully.”

My hopeful smile began to stretch into a sloppy, deliriously happy grin.

“However, you should have waited for that truck to pass before you turned into the testing facility. I’m going to recommend you come back in two weeks and take the test again.”

My heart crashed through my feet and dissolved on the pavement between me and this terribly mean woman. Humiliated, I accepted the piece of paper where she had written her suggestions. Through my swelling tears of disappointment, I saw a paper on which she had scrawled a big, fat “F” across my best efforts.

I hated to go inside the building. I knew Dad would read my face before I had a chance to explain. Fortunately, he noticed us talking and came outside.

“Mr. Blades, your daughter did very well except for one mistake. As I told her, I am going to ask her to come back and test again in two weeks.” With that, she shuffled inside. I noticed the large sweat stain on the back of her shirt as she left. It disgusted me.

Daddy was kind enough to accept the keys and drive home in silence. How I hated to go home and explain to the rest of the family that I had failed.

Insecurity, a GOOD/GOD thing?

One of the biggest obstacles of my growing faith, is an idolatrous worship of exercise. Praise the Lord, that the Holy Spirit consistently, frequently and aggressively, convicts me of this tendency and turns my heart toward Him once again. One of the tools He has used to do this is a book called Pray Fit.  I was in Kansas, and a girl-friend and I had miss-communitcated about what time we planned to get together over coffee. Being car-less and on the opposite side of town from my parents’ house, I meandered across the street to the local Christian Bookstore. 

Bored, cold and feeling sorry for myself, (not to mention feeling cheap since it was just after the Christmas spending season) I found myself in the clearance isle. I gravitate toward all things “fitness,” “skinny,” and “health.” It’s not usually a good thing, but in this case, God worked my sinful bent for His glory. I picked up Jimmy Pena’s book, “Pray Fit,” from the bottom shelf.

I was instantly captured by his thorough and aggressive devotionals. There was no pansy-footing around the God-talk in favor of diet tips and weight loss jargon. Pena is unashamedly about Jesus.  Not to let the diet-starved reader down, at the end of each chapter, Pena includes a progressive, bodyweight workout. I had to have the book. I know that health and exercise is a good thing, but in our culture, frequently perverted into the only thing. I have been searching long for the way to balance my love for fitness with the truth that Jesus is my life.

I have been reading the book slowly, digesting each devo and trying some of the workouts. I joined Pena’s website, Prayfit.com. That is what finally, leads me to my point today (:

A recent entry on Prayfit.com, asks “which Bible character do you identify with?” Since this week we are focusing on Moses, I began to think about him. Do you identify with Moses in any way? Most of this week, we are focusing on Moses’s strengths; the contrast between his growth in holiness and the disobedient Israelites. But Pena points out Moses’s insecurity. I hadn’t thought of that.

I am an insecure person. Most of my life, I have promised God that I would offer myself fully to Him as soon as I got my life straightened out.

As soon as I get over this eating disorder thing, God. Then, I won’t be such an embarrassment to you. Then I can share my testimony and you’ll be proud of me.

As soon as my marriage is a better reflection of Christ and the church, then God, I’ll tell others about the miracles you have worked in our lives.

As soon as I resolve the conflict with my sister, then I’ll tell everyone about your overriding peace.

As soon as I get over this sadness, this loneliness, then I’ll take the mask off and admit my past to others so that they can see and be astonished at the change in me.

Does that sound familiar? As I wrote on Monday, I don’t think Moses held anything back as he scribbled down his complaints, joys, daily duties and God-moments. Obviously, it can’t be denied that God has used all Moses’s miserable, insecure moments just as effectively as all of his successes. Consider.

Want To Read Someone’s Diary?

Most of you may not realize that each time you read this blog, you are flipping through the pages of my journal. Have you ever wondered where Scripture came from? Particularly, the Pentateuch? In the New Testament, on several occasions, God instructs the authors to “write this down.” Peter even refers to Paul’s writing as scripture. It seems clear that most of the New Testament authors knew what they were writing and why.

Outside of the Gospels, the New Testament reads a little like a sermon. It’s full of instruction, admonition, encouragement. It’s the correspondence between itinerant pastors and their churches. But what about the Old Testament? This week we are taking a close look at Moses: the friend of God, the most humble man that ever lived, the stutterer, the shepherd of God’s people, the son of a Hebrew, the son of an Egyptian princess.

I am plodding through the Bible in a year, this time chronologically. As I skip between chapters of the Old Testament, most of the first 5 books are written cohesively, each episode in order. Episode, maybe I mean “entry.” I think the Pentateuch reads like Moses’s journal. Think of it, Moses writes about:

1. What God is doing

2. What his fellow Israelites are doing

3. What he is learning

4. His failures

5. His triumphs

6. His prayers

7. His complaints

8. His travels

9. Illness and miracles

10. His siblings, his in-laws and his wife

I wonder if God told Moses that one day the world would have the opportunity to read his journal?

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Being a journaler, I submit to you that we are not the only benefactors of Moses’s journal. It’s obvious in Deuteronomy 1, that Moses is beginning to read out loud his journal entries from past decades. “At that time I said to you…” (Duet. 1: 9) Throughout the Old Testament, God instructed His people to erect monuments, altars, tell their children, remember…

Do I learn from my past? Do I consider the mistakes of my predecessors and learn from them? Moses went from being a murderer and a liar, to being called the “most humble man that ever lived.” He talked with God face-to-face. He was a friend of God.  Moses certainly wasn’t perfect, but how was he perfected?

Chapter 2, Am I Such a Loser?

By far, the chapter I expected to be most affected by in Davis’ book, “10 Things Jesus Never Said,” was chapter three.

You are constantly letting God down.  With every new day, he has a fresh and full slate of hopes and dreams for your life, but by the end of each day, he’s facing the ugly reality that you’ve failed to be all that he hoped you would.  Once again, you haven’t lived up to God’s expectations.  (pg 51)

Again, well-versed Christian that I am, I don’t really believe this, do I?  Well, if our behaviors are the truest indicators of our beliefs, then yes, sadly, I do believe that God is terminally disappointed in me.

Many children formulate their perspective of God in the image of their earthly fathers.  Ironic, since we are made in HIS image, not the other way around.  My father was generous with affection.  He spent plenty of time with each of his daughters and met every one of our needs. However, like all earthly dads, he is human.  And, consequently, so are his daughters.  We made myriad mistakes.  We let him down.  And I remember his grimace, the downturn of the corners of his eyes and the straight lips that pressed together – that face meant Daddy was disappointed.

According to Davis, disappointment has everything to do with expectations.  We set our hopes or expectations on something or someone, and the inevitable shortfall results in disappointment.  He gave a perfect example: You cheer for your favorite sports team, expecting them to do well, when they don’t play up to your expectations, you’re disappointed.

What’s the good news?  What is the truth that exposes the mantra, “You’ve disappointed God,” for the fraud that it really is?

GOD KNOWS EVERYTHING!  HE DOESN’T HAVE A SINGLE EXPECTATION.  FROM THE DAY YOU WERE CONCEIVED AND BEFORE, HE HAS BEEN INTIMATELY AWARE OF EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER DO.  Therefore, you can’t fail to meet His expectations.

Davis gives a couple of Biblical examples, that you’ll have to read the book to understand.  The Bible has no shortage of flawed heros and heroines.

On a personal note, as I finished this chapter, I remembered God’s word in Matthew 5:48, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  In Philippians 2:5, we are told to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ.  Just today, someone I love dearly has disappointed me.  I don’t think I can completely avoid that emotion.  But, Davis’ book has caused me to consider my response to that person.  I don’t want to cause them to despair, as I feel when I believe I have let God down.  I want to love in such a way, that my disappointment resounds with forgiveness, humility and mercy.

AT THE END OF THIS WEEK, I WILL BE GIVING AWAY A COPY OF THE BOOK, “TEN THINGS JESUS NEVER SAID: And why you should STOP believing them.”

MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A COMMENT SO THAT YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING!