Arrows Not Answers

Today’s post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “Question.”

What I’m about to say I’m taking directly from fellow Redbud Writer’s Guild friend Emily P. Freeman. In a podcast from last year, Emily talked about the fact that we’re always looking for answers from God. We want clarity, we want details. But God doesn’t tend to answer our questions in that way. So her podcast episode was titled “Look for Arrows (Not Answers).”

emily freeman podcastI thought that was brilliant.

I also loved a prayer she prayed near the end. It included this line: “We are looking for a plan but then You offer us Your hand. May it be enough today.”

We want plans, He offers His hand. We don’t always know where He’s taking us. Most of the time we have more questions than we do answers, but if we trust the character of God, we will take that hand and let Him lead.

Ever gone out looking for yard sales on a Saturday? Many times all we see are signs with arrows drawn on them. Go this way. When you need to turn again, we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, keep going. There will be treasures at the end.

Yard sales don’t always end in treasures because, you know, yard sales. But we know that if we walk with God, we will find the treasure of His presence wherever we go.

Take His hand. Keep walking. You can ask the questions if you want to, but don’t be surprised if He doesn’t answer them all.

Find this podcast on Emily’s website, emilypfreeman.com. The podcast is called The Next Right Thing. Subscribe. It’s really good. That’s where I got the image above.

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Who Ya Rootin’ For?

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “goal.”

I’m not a soccer mom, and I’m good with that. My kids never had an interest in the sport, and so we avoided the all-weekend tournaments and crazy practice schedule. And I’m more than good with that.

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But I have to admire one thing about the sport: the announcers.

I know it’s probably cliché, but to hear the fanatical “gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!” when encountering the game on a television in some public place, it always makes me laugh.

But now that I think about it, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to meet our own personal goals if we had such enthusiastic support on our side?

Lost those pesky 10 pounds you’ve been trying to get rid of? Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!

Exercised at least 5 days this week? Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!

Finished that manuscript that’s been on your laptop for a year? Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!

Did the dishes right after a meal? Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!

Kept to your budget for 3 months in a row? Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllllll!

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Who’s cheering for you on the sidelines of your life?

Who are you cheering for?

Maybe it seems silly to get so fired up about the little things in life we just want to accomplish, but it’s always nice to know that we have cheerleaders on our side.

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Well Check Your Heart

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “well.”

All parents know the drill. Every few months of a new baby’s life, they go to the pediatrician for a “well check.” This would be as opposed to a “sick visit.” At our pediatrician’s office, and I’m guessing at most similar offices, there are two separate waiting rooms for the well and the sick.

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As a parent, I was always grateful for that. I wish there was such a thing at an adult doctor’s office!

But I digress.

At these well checks, height and weight would be recorded, lungs and heart listened to, eyes, ears, nose and throat checked. The doctor just wanted to make sure that everything was progressing as it should in our babies.

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When our second was 4 months old, the doctor noted at his well check that he wasn’t gaining enough weight. That led to the dreaded “failure to thrive” diagnosis. He was thriving as far as we could see, doing all that he was supposed to be doing, but we had to do all this testing to rule out anything bad. Turns out—and his doctor figured this the whole time—my milk just didn’t have enough calories.

So we supplemented with formula and he was fine. So when the same thing happened at our youngest’s 4-month appointment, we didn’t have to go through the tests. We just started giving her rice cereal.

I was thankful for their doctor, and I was thankful for those well checks. It was always good to know that, for the most part, everything was going just fine.

Have you well-checked your heart lately? Listened to it? Checked its pulse? Determined that it’s staying soft?

20120722-083057.jpgPsalm 139:23 & 24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

That’s a very good place to start.

 

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what we come up with. You can check out all the other posts in the link up by clicking “link up” above. Today’s prompt is “name.”

cheersIn the early 80’s through the early 90’s there was a popular American TV show called “Cheers.” The show followed the lives of several patrons and workers in a bar by that name. The chorus of the theme song struck me given today’s prompt.

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” performed by Gary Portnoy theme song to the hit TV show “Cheers.”

People just want to be seen. They want to be known. They don’t want to be categorized or labeled or stereotyped. My desire to be known goes beyond that, though, to an unhealthy desire to be famous that I have to fight continually.

My name is Stephanie Claire Allan, and when I married, I added my husband’s name, Reeves. In my writing, I often use both my maiden name and my married name so that people who knew me before will recognize me. I want people to know my name.

Recently, I got a Twitter notification that Tim Keller had started following me. Whaat? I was astonished, thrilled, amazed, that someone famous like Tim Keller would follow little ol’ me on Twitter.

Until a friend pointed out that it was a fake account and not the real Tim Keller.

Well, thanks for bursting my prideful bubble!

I can laugh at that now, and I laughed then, but I thought it would be so cool to be known by someone who is themselves well known. It was a big, albeit very short-lived, ego boost for me. And my personality type really struggles with wanting to be in the limelight. If you’re famous and I stand close enough to you, some of that light might just shine on me as well.

But the fact is, I’m not likely to be famous, and I really hope I’m never infamous! But the God of the universe knows my name. And walking in His light is way better than any spotlight of fleeting fame.

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Cheers image from IMDB.com

A Culture of Grace

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a 1-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “culture.”

If culture is what you’re surrounded by, then make mine a culture of grace, please.

I want to be known for always showing grace, but unfortunately, I fall far short way too many times.

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My daughter used to complain that, when she cleaned her room, all I would notice was what was still undone rather than the massive amounts that had been done. And when my husband would stop by the grocery store for me, I would notice the one thing that he got wrong rather than the multitudes he had gotten right. I’ve gotten better at that. I make a conscious effort to be grateful.

But just the other day I said something to my daughter that shot her down after she had experienced a personal victory that she wanted to celebrate with me.

I missed it completely.

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I have since repented to her and she has forgiven me, but what I would like to figure out is why I lean toward that in the first place.

Is it the copyeditor in me, trained to find the smallest thing that is wrong? Honestly, it could be, but whereas the goal is no errors on the printed page, there will always be plenty of mistakes in life. Jesus came in grace and truth. I want to be like Jesus.

There is a time for truth, couched in love, but there is always an abundance of grace.

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The Eternal “Why?”

This post is a part of my 10-minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt and write for 10 minutes without heavy editing and see what happens. Heresy? Hopefully not! Just realize that things are not necessarily fully thought through. Consider it food for thought.

When my kids turned 3, they all entered the “why?” stage. Any answer they were given or thing they were told always prompted the question, “Why?” from them. Not wanting to squelch curiosity, I would answer as much as I could, but eventually I would grow weary of it and say, “Just because!”

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Somehow, “why?” is a question we want answered all the way through our lives. It’s something we challenge God with often. And it’s not something that we get an answer to very often. “Why do I have to go to bed now?” turns into “Why is this happening to me?” Why do I have to suffer? Why is my child dealing with cancer? Why did you let my husband die?

Unlike us, God does not grow weary of our questions, but on the other hand, He doesn’t choose to answer our “whys” very often either.

Maybe “why?” isn’t actually the right question. Maybe we need to be asking, “How can I know You better through this?” What can I learn about You? How am I going to walk with You through this? How are You going to reveal yourself to me?

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I don’t think God cares that we ask, I just don’t think He owes us an explanation. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORDFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I don’t think that’s quite the equivalent of “because I’m the mom, that’s why,” but there is a strong element of trust that needs to go into our life with the Lord. We know from Romans that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romas 8:28). As C.S. Lewis said, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

For our good and His glory. That’s why.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “practice.”

Everyone has heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s a lie.

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Let’s say you are learning to play the piano. You have a piece of sheet music in front of you, but you have never actually heard the piece before. So you do your best, practicing and practicing to memorize the music.

Then a music teacher comes along and asks you to play the piece you’ve been working on. So you pull out that music you’ve been practicing and, lo and behold, you find out you’ve been playing parts of it incorrectly the whole time!

So did all your practice make that piece perfect? No. So, I am thinking the saying needs to be “perfect practice makes perfect.” You really need to know that what you’re practicing is the right thing.

My sister in law and her husband just divorced after more than 30 years of marriage. One of their main problems was that neither of them knew how to communicate. She would point out things that he was doing wrong; he would acknowledge that and work to change his ways. After awhile, he would think, Huh, I must be doing OK because she hasn’t said anything. Meanwhile, she’s seeing him slide back into old habits and think, He’s just doing things the way he always did them, so he must not care! Why even bother saying anything?

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The problem was that he had been practicing imperfectly. And he didn’t have anyone around to show him where he was going wrong. If you take two broken people who spent too many years playing the piece the wrong way, and only one of them wants to put the work into learning the music correctly, well, giving up is inevitable.

Coaching—in music, in sports, in life, in marriage—is essential.

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