Definitely Not Finding Excuses to Write Less

Well, sheesh, my writing schedule remains a little hit and miss. But there will always be articles on GUG! Click to read last month’s piece, and check out all their other nifty stuff!

As for my nexth VGS article, here’s hoping for next Friday. 😉

Happy reading, y’all!

Through Darkness to the Light

At my work, I sometimes host a StarLab program, at the start of which I make a speech on the etiquette expected from attendees while they huddle inside the dome. It’s a great big inflatable semi-circle of synthetic fabric, easily torn by rough-housing or a careless shoe. Also key: the dome must stay inflated through a constantly-running fan, and if the entrance tube is held open too long, the air rapidly escapes.

The littler children frequently freeze on first entering the tube. It’s pitch black for the first few feet, and that’s a long way for tiny legs to crawl without light. The problem here is, when you hold up the line, you hold the entrance open, which causes the dome to deflate. So I give the wee ones (and their parents) a pep talk before we head in:

“Now, it’s going to be a little dark when you get inside the tunnel, but I need you to keep going so others can come inside, too. As soon as you round the corner, you’ll see the light of the projector and be in the nice open space of the dome.”

After doing this spiel roughly four times in a row, the symbolism dawned on me. It probably helped that during this particular hosting of the StarLab, I was in the throes of medical trouble and about to start a somewhat worrying rehabilitation process. I thought about that dark tube and couldn’t fault the children for crying while they were led through it. I’d had my own share of fits when faced with personal darkness.

But God gives His own reassurance: “The dark part is brief. I need you to keep going, because in time you’ll see My light is up ahead.” My own corny interpretation, I’ll grant you – and maybe clichéd. But I will add that it’s never quite what we think when we round the corner and emerge on the other side.

In the StarLab dome, there’s only enough illumination to find your seat. Just two pinprick lightbulbs on either side of the projector. No blinding flash, no angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus in assurance that you’ve finally made it out all right. (That’d probably frighten the little ones even more, come to think.) All that greets you is a glimmer – not striking but steady. Enough to bring comfort after a frightening journey.

The children always forget the darkness as soon as the stars spread around the dome. How funny that it takes so little to reassure them. I suppose that’s the sort of appreciation time spent in pitch black will teach you. I’d like to have that sort of faith, too.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5

Thanks in All Circumstances

cornucopia

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Have you ever practiced the advice to write 3 (or 5, or 10, or whatever) things you’re grateful for at the end of each day? It’s said to boost your attitude, change your thought patterns, and help you see the good in life instead of everything that might go wrong.

I’m no pessimist, but even so I’ve never really gotten into it. Oh, I’ve tried before, but after about a week I begin to think: “I could be writing something so much more interesting right now. Where’s that character sheet I was working on…?” So in a hodgepodge of journals I have these intermittent lists of thankfulness mingled with scraps of character development and fiction snippets. (I pity anyone who tries to make sense of my notebooks after I’m dead.)

I also believe that these lists, while helpful, never brought me to meditate on the goodness of God. They were two separate worlds to me: life’s pleasant surprises didn’t mean God was good. They just meant I’d had a nice day. I also tended to watch for the other shoe to drop – not necessarily in the vein of karmic balance, but more the belief that God was always ready to teach me a hard lesson through pain or grief. And that certainly never felt “good”.

I’ve since left that philosophy behind, but in its place I’ve needed to instill a new way of thinking. What does it mean to be thankful to the Lord, beyond everyday circumstances? (And does it require more lists? ‘Cause I don’t know if I can take that kind of commitment.)

Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), and he had the credentials to make such a command. Stoned, imprisoned, mocked, ship-wrecked – I could go on. Circumstantially, he had days where you’d laugh to hear him be grateful. And yet, he was.

He already knew what’s only recently been my personal lesson: you can always be thankful, because God’s got this. He is who He says He is. He is good. His love endures forever. Have you ever stopped to consider this love that sticks to you through everything? It blows my mind after giving it just two minutes’ thought.

And you know what? I stand by my creed: life’s pleasant surprises don’t mean that God is good. God’s character means that God is good. What does that mean when our years are a mix of happiness and difficulties? That kind of theology is still too deep for me to comprehend.

But until I figure it out, I’ll keep saying thank you, no matter what happens.

Living the Psalms – Psalm 73:21-26

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before You.

Yet I am always with You;

You hold me by my right hand…

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

heart-in-stone

How many times have I been senseless and ignorant before God? I think I cycle into those sentiments at least once a month, when my own strength to believe has depleted itself.

I used to believe that His love for me was as capricious as my trust was for Him, and so when the doubts and confusion and bitterness reared up I transplanted those feelings onto God and became certain that He felt nothing for me. Apathetic, like an imaginary friend whose personality was subject to my whims.

That isn’t what the Psalmist knew. His relationship with God was a relationship of person-to-person, not person-to-imagined-idea-of-a-person. And because he knew God’s personhood, he fully acknowledged to Him his times of stubborn anger; there’s no pretending in the presence of an all-knowing Being. I, on the other hand, typically try to convince God that I’m not upset about the turns of life: “No, Father, I’m fine. Really. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t care, I don’t care. I’ll just muddle along.” Passive-aggressive much?

But the Psalmist flat-out says, “I’ve been a jerk in my grief. I’ve been unable to compose myself, unable to present a clean and upstanding front. I’ve been like a dumb animal before you.” There’s only honesty between him and the Lord – something I commonly forego in the hope of presenting a disinterested front. “Let’s keep our relations cordial, God, what do you say?”

What blows me away even more, is that after the Psalmist admits his attitude and emotion before God, he holds fast to God’s steady response: He doesn’t leave us. He holds our hand, he guides us along, even when we’re petulant little children digging in our heels. The Psalmist’s raw need allows him this revelation.

“[He] is the strength of my heart.” I have had days where – for all logical reasons – I should have despaired my situation. Yet somehow there was inexplicable strength and hope. To put it in the geekiest way possible, it was like I had some super power imbued to me, a gift of resilience going into the fray.

It’s my greatest proof of God’s existence, because if it had anything to do with my whims I’d be up and down all over the place. He is not subject to my personal feelings. He is not my flighty imaginary friend. He is powerful, near, and involved. He is my “portion” as the Psalmist would say – or as I would like to say: my super hero.