Tag Archives: trusting God

The Potter and the Clay

My pot

One of the pots I made in college

A couple weeks ago, one of the pastors of our church, Pastor Care Crawford, gave one of the most moving sermons. Care’s voice is very soothing anyway, so that added to the nuances of the story. And the fact that the sermon sounded more like a story made it even more intriguing for me.

Care talked about loving Play-Doh as a child, and taking a pottery class in college. I was totally in sync with what she was saying because that was me, too. Then she talked about the Bible passages about God being like a potter with plans for each and every pot that he makes. And we’re the clay.

Since Care has had pottery classes, she explained exactly what happens in the creation of a pot. And since I’ve taken a pottery class, I knew what she was talking about, and I could completely see the parallels between the potter and the clay, and God and us.

It’s not that I haven’t heard sermons on this topic before, but the life I’ve been living recently has been seriously tough. And being reminded about how you have to handle clay to make a beautiful pot was seriously helpful in gaining perspective on what’s been happening.

Right down to remembering what it’s like to squeeze the clay back down to a ball because it’s not shaping up right. I didn’t do that because I hated the pot I was making or because I had it in for the clay. I did it because I knew I could make the pot better and the clay could take it. I’ve still got some pots I made in college, and I still love them.

So I’ve been trying to keep in mind lately that God knows what he’s trying to accomplish, and it’s better than the life I’ve lived until now. And like the clay, God believes I can take the pounding. That makes me believe I can, too.

Do You Have Soul?

I’m one of those people who believes God talks to us. Maybe not in a James Earl Jones voice from the clouds – though I wouldn’t put it past him to do that if He wanted to – but He finds ways to tell us what He’s thinking.

A long time ago, frustrated and trying to make a decision about something, I told God in exasperation, “Can you please try to remember I am slow and half-deaf? I need something concrete. You do lots of things in threes, how about you tell me things three times so I know it’s you?”

To my surprise, God agreed! Every time something strikes me and gets my attention, I ask God if He’s talking to me. I wait to see if the same point or idea comes up twice more in a short period of time, and if it does, I talk to Him about it. I am often surprised when I realize God is trying to get my attention (silly human!), but I love that He cares enough to talk to me and try to help me find better ways to live.

This happened most recently last week on my writer’s retreat. I kept running into people and web sites (much more than three times that week!) who were doing business in such a way that they incorporated the spiritual side of life into their business. For years, I’ve been led to believe by Christian friends and associates that it’s okay for other people to do that, but Christians will get dismissed, disrespected, and torn apart.

rbbp-coverI’m in a business mentorship program with Jennifer Lee at The Right-Brain Business Plan, and she also encourages her cohorts to “show up as authentically YOU.” She believes this is part of how you grow a business. I wonder now if the people who have told me this is how you can destroy a business actually have growing, blooming businesses.

I don’t believe that hiding parts of me is the best way to do business anymore. The people who like me seem to be perfectly fine with decades of my occasional God-talk. I don’t personally know of that many people who don’t like me, but the ones I know about dislike a whole lot more things about me than my spiritual take on life.

So this is what I decided last week: I’m going to be even more myself than I’ve ever been before. I’m going to be authentic. I’m going to stop separating my spiritual life from my business life. I’m going to work on better integrating all the parts of me. I’ll probably lose some customers and gain some customers, and that’s okay.

Because when I’m my real, whole self, being led by the deepest, most important part of me, I’ll be able to help encourage other people to do the same. What if we all lived our lives that way? What if we had the courage to be authentic, to work on getting closer and closer to the people we were created to be?

I think Louis Armstrong has the words for that: what a wonderful world it would be.

It’s not a pipe dream. It’s not idealistic, wishful thinking. If we let our spirits and souls live and breathe and grow, our personal worlds will be better places. And as all of our personal worlds collide online, in the grocery store, in church, and on the street, the good in us is going to overcome the bad in the world.

Don’t believe me? Try it. I’m going to. 🙂

So what do you think? Am I crazy? Have I made a career-destroying decision? Or do you think I’m on the right track?

Does the Holy Spirit Smell Like Lavender?

Life is still a roller coaster. So many wonderful things happening – the writers conference was not only worth the cost in information gathered, but I won a Sony Reader! (See this post on Routines for Writers to hear details and see pictures.) Still, hard things keep coming. The fact that John is in between jobs and money is tight is suddenly meaningless because another family member just died a few days ago.

I don’t understand how all of these parts of life mix together. Sometimes I feel so compartmentalized; sometimes I feel everything is a swirl and I don’t see anything clearly. The only thing that makes sense so far is the thought that this is just how life is. The older you get, the more you experience, and the more you see that nothing is what you thought.

While that doesn’t make me feel good when I’m crying over another loss and trying to imagine what Thanksgiving and Christmas and so many other days will be like this year, I do find comfort in the idea that God is also not what I thought.

He’s more.

I don’t have any lofty theological arguments to talk you into seeing God my way. But I know what I’ve experienced. When times were tough, God sent people to help me through it – a plane ticket to see my mom before she died, friends who surrounded me with love and care, a husband and best friend who made me laugh and let me cry.

When John lost his job, God arranged things so that a friend told John about another company and John got a new job three hours after he lost the first one.

In a time of tight finances, even things we don’t “need” were provided in unexpected ways. A friend offered to give us their old car. John was given a computer, a large-screen TV, a smaller TV and several other items at a going-out-of-business event. At my writers conference, I won a Sony Reader after I was thinking and praying about how useful it would be to my self-publishing business. The conference itself provided some important information I’d been looking for and unable to find. Another friend offered to give us their old car to be our second car.

For over a year we’d been thinking about starting a financial program called Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey. We had the materials; we just hadn’t opened the box. We started the program a month before John lost his first job, after only two months of work. Then his second job only lasted six weeks. If we hadn’t started this program when we did, we might’ve lost our apartment. But I believe God nudged us at the right time so that we could manage our money in a way to make it through this tough time. There is some talk at John’s old company that he’ll have work by the end of the month, and we have just enough money to make it.

Some people may call these things coincidence or providence. But many people use “providence” referring to “something out there” without knowing that it means divine guidance or care. Divine means of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god. So many people believe there is some “god” out there who thinks it’s fun to give us things and take them away. I’d rather have more time with my mother than a car or a big-screen TV. Did a “god” take the one and give the other in some twisted sense of fun?

No. God doesn’t operate that way. He doesn’t do things willy-nilly. He has a plan. He talks about it over and over again in the Bible.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give  you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

When I say that I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was, I mean that I am learning the deeper and more subtle meanings of things He has said and done. I’m getting better at knowing what He’s telling me in the here and now. Like that his plans to prosper me may or may not have to do with worldly wealth, but those plans definitely have to do with my spiritual wealth and health and growth.

I’ve been married to John for 22 years. (Shocking!) There are still so many things we don’t understand about each other, but every year we find ourselves closer than the year before. We understand each other a little better every year. We know each other on a deeper level every year. The more time we spend together, the more we finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.

Just today, John said, “What’s the name of the friend who gave me the, the -”

“Bacon t-shirt?” I asked. “Paula.”

How did I know what he was going to say? I have no idea! It’s a pretty random answer to be the correct one! I’ve been reading a lot of neuroscience books lately, and there are lots of ideas on why this sort of thing happens. But the more time John and I spend together, the more we grow and the more we grow together.

What I’ve found is that it happens with me and God, too, the more time we spend together. And that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was. I knew, absolutely, that He would take care of us in the midst of all these crises. But I had no idea He would be able to do so in a way that I could feel myself growing stronger as a person, not weaker.

The other day I was putting on the last of a lovely lavender-scented hand cream a friend gave me. The smell of lavender is supposed to have a calming effect, so I rubbed it in and breathed in the scent. There, I thought, this will relax me.

Then I remembered that God as the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. God is the one who can help me relax the most quickly, who will help that peace to be lasting.

Of course, God also created all the plants and everything else on the earth. And I found myself giggling and wondering, does God smell like lavender?

I don’t know yet. But it won’t surprise me if I get to heaven and hug Him and start giggling. And before I can even finish my sentence, “Father, you smell like -”

He’ll laugh and say, “Lavender. I thought you’d like that.”

Tour of a Rose Garden

Part of Lauraine's garden

When I read some of the things King David wrote in the Psalms, I mentally cringe a little. When he says that God can see into our hearts, I get a mental picture of me trying to open up my heart like doors on a cabinet, but turning my head away with my eyes squeezed shut. I’m not sure I want to see what He sees.

Lately, my thoughts start with that picture but jump to a new one. Last week, my friend Lauraine walked me through her garden pointing out all the different kinds of flowers, telling me where she got them, what they were called, how much water and light they need, which ones smell beautiful and which ones are only beautiful to look at.

She also pointed out the gopher holes and told me about the rose bushes the gophers had destroyed. She didn’t focus on the gophers or mention them first when she described her garden, but she was clearly frustrated with the damage and wished the gophers would go away.

I’ve always liked Lauraine’s garden, but I appreciated it even more after she gave me the walking tour. It occurred to me while reading the Psalms that God would probably give us a similar tour of our hearts if we weren’t so afraid to hear what He has to say. I suspect God would also start with the good parts, pointing out some of His favorite flowers in our heart gardens first. Like Lauraine, His face would probably show His pleasure with how things are growing, pointing out plants that looked like they would die last year that have come back this year.

He’d certainly point out the gopher sins that are destroying parts of the garden, and His face would show frustration or even anger depending on how much damage had been done and how out of control the gopher sins were.

But also like Lauraine, God doesn’t abandon the gardens of our hearts because of gopher sins. He works with us to get rid of the gophers and replant. If and when the gophers return, He helps us again go on a gopher hunt and again replant. Maybe He’ll even plant something new. Lauraine is thinking about planting something different where a Lincoln Rose bush used to be before the gophers took it out.

Double Delight roses in Lauraine's garden

Now when I think about God seeing everything in my heart, I squish my eyes closed because I know there is some gopher damage there. But then I hear Him urging me to open my eyes and see what He sees.

“Look,” He says. “See how this plant is beginning to bloom here? Smell how sweet this blossom is. I’ll show you how to cut these properly so you can give some blooms to your friends, and even more will grow back.”

I guess it’s not such a scary thing, then, that God can see everything.

Welcome to the Desert of Testing, Ice Cream in Aisle 3

The last few months, I’ve been a bit perturbed with myself. When did I become such a complainer? Was it when we found we had less than three weeks to move from one country to another? Hmm. What about when we arrived back in the States to find far fewer jobs than there had been when we left? Maybe. Or perhaps when the deadline for “waiting” came and went, and I started sending out my accounting resume.

That might be it.

Because, you know, who wants to go to a nice office job with a steady paycheck and people to talk to when you could stay home writing novels all by yourself, trying to promote your work into the 3-digit earning range?

This year for Lent we decided to “give up” an hour a day to read the Bible. I decided to start reading at the beginning and, let me tell you, if want to read about a bunch of whingers (one of my favorite Aussie words – it means “whiner”), the first hundred or so pages of the Bible is a good place to start.

In fact, it’s making me wonder about God’s teaching methods. “Kitty’s not getting the message. I think I’ll tell her to read something that hyperbolically reflects the problem I need her to fix.” And it’s beginning to not surprise me anymore.

When we moved to Phoenix, we did so because there were no jobs in Michigan. I’m not sure it occurred to me to find out what kind of jobs Phoenix boasted. That was one of the most difficult 7-year periods of my life. Definitely a desert experience.

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that if you whinge and cry enough, God will eventually let up the pressure. And – because you tried to get out of school before the lesson was over – you have to go through it all over again at some point in the near future.

Yuck.

So here we are living in the desert again. Great. I particularly dislike the desert. Another Israelite experience? I’m beginning to think so. Being someplace you don’t want to be – whether literally or figuratively – brings just about everything to your attention, good and bad. But I’ve learned something I can use this time.

(Here God’s voice booming, “She CAN be taught!” Cue angelic singing.)

I’ve learned that if you dig in and focus, you can get through the lessons without crying uncle. Then the whole lesson-learning part doesn’t take as long. (Not as long as it takes to go around that mountain twice. Or five times.) It’s super helpful if you don’t complain a lot, too. God doesn’t like to be disrespected. (Who does?) He made that pretty clear to the Israelites and, via Bible reading, to me.

But try as I might, I’m finding it really hard to not complain. Regardless of the gazillion blessings I can count, I constantly find ways to bring up all the things that aren’t going the way I want them to. In fact, since I’ve been reading about the Israelites complaining about their experiences in the desert, I’ve been complaining about how much I complain!

I think this is an example of “the darkest hour is before the dawn.”

I’m learning how to turn my head just a bit so I’m not focused only on my desert-school life, and I see other signs of life. For instance, ice cream never tastes better than when it’s hot outside, right? And where is it hotter than the desert? Ice cream in aisle 3!

I’ve never had so many friends offer their love, encouragement, support, and help as during desert-school times. That’s chocolate ice cream with a peanut butter swirl to me!

So here I am, trying again to stop being such a whinger and buck up. The Israelites eventually figured out how to chill out, trust God, and learn what he was trying to teach them in both the good times and the bad. And they didn’t even have chocolate peanut butter swirl!

Surely I can learn from them, dig in, and master this lesson without having to take this class again. I just have to remember the things I like about hot weather – like the perfect taste of ice cream. 🙂