Friday, June 24, 2016

Need a Little White Space?

He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

My team spent hours designing our experiment. We'd spent more hours training the shuttle crew to perform it on orbit. Didn't the scheduler know that? Why, then, did he refuse to allow time for the shuttle crew to do it on days I'd requested? 

Believe it or not, he insisted that my experiment wasn't the only important one being performed on that shuttle mission. (Of course it was!) He'd have to schedule ten-hour work days for the crew if everyone's requested tasks were to be done. 

If I was flexible in my requested days, he could fit it in. If I'd redesign the experiment so it could be done in four sessions rather than five, he could assure me it would be done on this mission. 

His job was to jealously guard white space - down time for the crew. 

Without scheduled breaks, the crew could become exhausted. They might have to pick and chose which tasks were more important. 

You see, the crew was too gung-ho. They'd work 24-hour days if they weren't forced to rest. The schedulers insisted on rest times spread throughout each day. During the mission, they hounded the crew to take their breaks. Unfortunately, once the guys were in the shuttle, orbiting over 200 miles above sea level, we didn't have much control. All we could do was tell them and hope they behaved.

Sound familiar? 

We all have way too many important tasks to do. We all run ourselves ragged with 30 hours of work to cram into a 24-hour day. 

But who guards our white space? Who says, "Come away with me and get some rest."?

Our kids might, except that their schedules are as packed as ours. Our husbands might, except that they have the same problem. 

Jesus does. In more ways than one. 

  • He calls us to slip into a quiet space and spend time at rest with Him. 
  • He makes us feel exhausted and hopes we'll listen to Him.
  • He invites us to take a family vacation and give everyone time to relax.
  • Sometimes, as He did with me, He says "Enough is enough!" 

He allowed me to work myself until I was sick. I even had a minor wreck because I fought going to sleep at the wheel. Still, I didn't listen. Finally, He took advantage of a lay-off and I lost my job. Boy, was I mad! I refused to acknowledge that it was my own fault. 

Like me, we all have the right to ignore Him - for a while. The crew often ignored the scheduler. If they weren't quite finished with a task when white space was set to start, they kept right on working. If they were troubleshooting a problem, they refused to give up. We knew what was going on but there was no way to reach across the miles and slap them.  

Jesus can reach across the miles and say "Sit down!" Don't make Him do that! Trust me, it isn't pretty. 

Draw aside with Him and pray about your priorities. Talk to your family. They might welcome a chance to slow down a bit. 

Above all, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Do We Pray Without Seeing?

I walked into the reception area. My heart leaped around like a baby goat. Another job interview. I’d lived in the Houston area for year and my new engineering degree had burned a hole in my pocket.

I’d prayed, a lot. While I scoured newspapers for jobs, I prayed. When I filled out an application, I prayed. Every time I headed in for an interview…well, you get the picture. Even so, the jobs always went to someone else. I was pretty discouraged.

That morning, I prayed extra hard. I had an interview with a company that contracted engineers to work at NASA. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? There were a few openings for engineers to design experiments and to help train the astronauts to perform them while on the shuttle. It almost took my breath away!

I sat in the reception area and squirmed. I chatted with the lady at the desk and commented that I’d prayed all the way there. She assured me the Lord had just the right job for me and said she’d pray during my interview.

It went great! So great, in fact, that they offered me the job on the spot. Can you start on Monday? I stared at my future boss in shock and I said – get this – “I have to pray about it.”

I went back into the reception area and the lady excitedly asked me how it went. I told her I’d been offered the job and I was going to pray about it. She looked at me like I’d suddenly sprouted a giraffe’s head. “Honey, you’ve been praying! You’ve prayed like crazy. Don’t you recognize His answer when it’s staring you in the face? You get right back in there and take this job!”

As her words sunk into my brain, my soon-to-be boss came into the room. I turned and said, “Is that job still open?” (Duh, it had been all of 2 minutes.) Two hours later, I sat in my car with paperwork in my lap that said I was an engineer at NASA!!

Now, what’s wrong with this story? I prayed diligently. I asked for wisdom and guidance. Every time I walked into an interview room, I prayed for clear direction. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, I focused so hard on prayer that I forgot to keep my eyes open for His answer. If not for that sweet lady, I would’ve walked away without a job – an amazing job that took me from exhilaration to tragedy and back again over the next nine years.

How often do we do that? We pray faithfully. We might write our prayer requests in a journal. We go back and pray through them every morning. They stay on our hearts days on end, perhaps years go by.

Then, an opportunity comes along. Do we embrace it or stare at it blindly?

We pray for healing in a relationship and a chance comes to visit that person. Do we pray, “God, should I talk to them about this or just chit-chat and see how it goes?” Or “Thank You! Soften our hearts and guide my words.”

We pray for a used car that fits our tight budget and the perfect one appears on a sales lot. “God, this is great! It’s just what I need and I can afford it. Should I buy it?” Or “Praise You, Lord! You answer prayer!!”

We’re unemployed and pray diligently for a job opportunity. An interview goes great and the perfect job’s ours for the taking. “Lord, this is amazing! I can’t believe it! I’m going home and pray about it some more.” Or “Lord, Your goodness is beyond words! I’m in awe of You. Thank You!”

Prayer changes us. It teaches us to
  • Pray with confidence, assured that He hears.
  • Pray expectantly and wait in faith.
  • Burst with joy when we see His answer.  

I realize this might be a bit simplistic. Of course, the "perfect" thing might not be God's answer. But, as we bring our requests before Him, pray for eyes to see His answer. If you do, you'll recognize it when it comes along. 

Cling to your faith. 
Stand on the confidence that He hears. 
Be alert for His answer. 
Praise Him when it comes.

Then grasp His gift with both hands and make Him proud!

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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sum of Our Steps

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? Prov 20:24

My Uncle John was in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. To this day, even in his nineties, he cries about his friends who died around him as they came on shore. The last time I saw him, he asked me why God allowed him to live when so many others died.

I looked around the room, filled with his children, grandchildren, and a smattering of great-grandchildren, and said, "This is why, Uncle John. Your children love the Lord and they are a blessing to so many. Your faith has been passed down to your grandchildren and they are raising their children in your footsteps. You and Aunt Joanne are building a monument to God's faithfulness. You have lived a full life; you live out God's purpose every day. This room is filled with your legacy."

Most of us don't have such tragedy in our past but we've all walked crooked paths. Like my Uncle John, sometimes we don't understand the road our lives have followed. We walk, step by step. Of course we've taken detours, but even those times were under God's hand.

My uncle's life was the sum of his steps and the same is true for us: heavy steps of tragedy and dancing steps of celebrations, shuffling steps through difficulties and leaps of joy during miracles.

Can we look back and rejoice in the winding paths our lives have traveled? Can we see how God led us from beginning to end? God used each step to mold us into unique people. The hills and valleys shaped us into gifted individuals that can serve Him in ways no one else can.

Do you think your life's inconsequential? Think again! God's path is never without purpose. The sum of your steps defines the remarkable person are.

Your steps through childhood molded the adult you are today. The love you pour out on those around you grew out of the path, be it challenging or nurturing, that you walked during those years.

The joys and sorrows that led you over mountains and through valleys shaped your talents, your hopes, and your dreams.

God directed each step to draw you to Himself and to create the one-of-a-kind person you are. No step was wasted. No stumble was without purpose. Witness, servant, spouse, parent, employer or employee: You are the sum of your steps.

As for me...
My father was a harsh, demanding man and that filled me with a longing for a Father who would love me unconditionally.
My childhood in a military family shaped how I view my country and the world.
My work at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center taught my heart the preciousness of each life and ordered my priorities.
A tragedy that almost destroyed my family taught me that I couldn't survive without God and filled me with awe at His power to heal.
My time as an engineer at NASA taught me the potential of people to imagine, to explore, and to push boundaries toward the unknown.

As I look back, I can see how each twist and turn led me to the place I stand today.

I am - you are - the sum of our steps, each one guided by God.

If you're unfamiliar with the battle of Normandy, here are a couple references:
D-day and Omaha beach – a brief summary

Photo credit: James Petts from London, England (Winding path) 

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