Call It

Sometimes, there are things in your life that you have to let die.  Dreams that you’ve held dear for a long time that will never come to fruition.  Friendships that seem to shrivel and wither, despite your best efforts.  Hopes for certain outcomes that just don’t pan out. 

How to know when to let something go is tough.  I am a stubborn person.  I have tenacity. Sometimes, the emotions are too crushing and that helps me make the decision.  Usually, I pray extensively about it before I give up entirely.  I don’t want to miss anything, especially if I’m really close to a breakthrough and this last hurdle *is* the last hurdle before I win.

So many things can be done if you’re only persistent. You can learn an instrument or master a language if you don’t give up. Kids know that if they keep asking, they will usually get their way.  Not our kids – or your kids, of course, but other people’s kids. Our old cat, Rita, would stand and meow outside our bedroom door for literally hours until I opened it and let her in.  Our other cats know I won’t open for them and they try, but I know they will give up. I’ve already been through the Rita-rooter. Didn’t Jesus have a parable about this? A widow who kept coming to a judge to get justice until he finally gave in and listened to her request?  A man who kept visiting his neighbor to get bread and wouldn’t give up until his neighbor came down with some? This is how my dad raised me:  Winners never quit, quitters never win.

But at times, persistence is not rewarded.  It’s penalized.  Having desire and vision and purpose is actively put down and called ambition or angling for position.  Yes, occasionally, that’s the case. We need to check our motives – always. And yet, I find it hard to stomach and hard to understand.  Do we trust people enough to hear from God and trust His image forming in them to believe they can succeed at what’s in their hearts to do?

I find myself in the valley of decision today.  I don’t want to be here.  Maybe I didn’t hear from God after all; I can admit that. I want to be on the mountaintop of having achieved what I wanted, what I’ve dreamed of for years.  Proverbs says “a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”. I want to be joyful and excited.  Right now, I am not.  Everything in me bucks against giving up.

I believe that God will bring good out of this, for me and for others.  He can bring “beauty from ashes” (Is. 61).  I trust in Him.

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Marnie vs. Gomer

Yesterday afternoon, I watched “Marnie” on TCM.  It’s an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Generally, I don’t watch any TV during the day.  Too much to do and too much tripe on.  Most shows worth watching seem to be on after 8 p.m.  Remember when there was almost nothing on until after school?  I grew up on Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and Electric Company.  My brother and I got in trouble for sneakily watching Adam-12 (too violent) or Hee Haw (too sexist).  Both of those were anathema to my mom.

It felt like a lazy afternoon.  Ruby was taking a nap and Jonathon was working/playing computer games (!) upstairs.  I missed the very beginning of the movie, but otherwise I caught the whole thing.  In case you didn’t know, “Marnie” is based on a book by Winston Graham.  I have not read the book, and so cannot comment on the movie paralleling the book with any veracity.

In brief, the story is:

Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a troubled young woman who has an unnatural fear and mistrust of men, thunderstorms, and the color red. She is also a thief. She uses her charms on Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel) to get a job without references. Then late one night, she steals the contents of the company safe and disappears.

Mark and Marnie on their honeymoon cruise

Mark Rutland (Connery), a widower who owns a large publishing company, is a customer of Strutt’s. He learns about the theft from the victim, and remembers the woman. Marnie applies for a job at his company; Mark hires her and they begin to date. He is robbed too, but Mark finds her. He has fallen in love with Marnie, and instead of handing her over to the police, blackmails her into marrying him.

After being hastily married, Mark and Marnie depart on a honeymoon cruise. He finds out about her frigidity. At first, he respects her wishes but later consummates their marriage against her will. (In certain syndicated broadcastings of the film, this scene is censored, making the sexual encounter more ambiguous.) The next morning she attempts suicide by drowning in the ship’s swimming pool but Mark rescues her in time.

Upon their return, Mark tries to discover the reason behind Marnie’s behavior. In the end, Marnie and Mark learn that her mother, Bernice (Louise Latham), had been a prostitute. When Marnie was six years old, one of her mother’s clients (a sailor played by Bruce Dern) had tried to calm her after she became frightened by a storm. The mother thought he was trying to molest her daughter and began attacking him. Seeing her mother struggling with the man, Marnie struck him with a fireplace poker, killing him. The bloodshed led to her distrust of men and fear of the color red. Once the origin of her fears is revealed, Marnie decides she wants to try to make her marriage work. – taken from Wikipedia

It was a tough film to watch, at least the violent parts when Marnie finally remembers the original, horrific episode from her childhood.  Luckily, Ruby was up from her nap at that point and I flipped over to “Jungle Book 2” so she didn’t see it, and I didn’t have to watch it, either. 

What struck me most about this film is Sean Connery.  I’d forgotten what he looked like as a younger man and didn’t know he played any other roles other than James Bond during this period.  He was masterful as Mark Rutland. His firmness and compassion with Marnie, his genuine love for her, was palpable.  I’d forgotten there were still films where men weren’t portrayed as fools.  He had no feminine traits whatsoever.  He knowingly hired her, a thief, in order to find out what made her tick.  He unwittingly fell for her, then chased her and married her in order to yes, blackmail her, but also to rehabilitate her.  Yes, he probably did rape her, though in the version I saw, there was just a lot of eyebrow raising.  I couldn’t really follow that, not being a product of the 1960s.  I definitely don’t agree with that, though they were married at that point.

He reminded me, if I may be so bold, of Hosea.  Obviously, Mark Rutland is a fictional character, but hear me out. Hosea, prophet of the Old Testament, is told by God to marry Gomer, a known prostitute.  I don’t suppose he was very happy about that particular word from God, but he did it anyway.  It was supposed to be an allegory about God and Israel.  God sought Israel, messed up in her sins, prostituting herself to foreign gods.  God saved her, washed her, clothed her and brought her home to be with him, a covenant relationship.  Gomer didn’t stay with Hosea.  She birthed 3 children, all with allegorical names – Jezreel (revenge on King Jehu for murders committed there), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not My people”).  She left him and went back to her old life of sexual freedom, having taken a lover.  Hosea sought her yet again, as another allegory of God’s unfailing love for Israel.  He bought her back for 15 pieces of silver and 5 bushels of barley and a measure of wine. I am assuming that, over time, he grew to love her and the children they had together, despite the awkward beginning.

Though the two women, one real, one fictional, are on opposite ends of the sexual spectrum, they are very similar at heart. Both see no way out of their current situations.  Neither of them sought one, in fact.

At the end of “Marnie”, Marnie resolves to work on her marriage with Mark.  It can only get better from here, right?  Having faced her childhood fears of men and the darkness of a repressed memory, she has hope to live a normal, non-felonious life. She has a steadfast love of a good man, someone who believes in her. I hope Gomer felt she had a future with Hosea as well.

Claiming the Inheritance

We finished up the book of Joshua yesterday and now we’re into Judges.  These books can be heavy reading, bogged down with “here’s the territory this tribe got and here’s the territory that tribe go”t, replete with names of long-forgotten cities in a dusty land. 

One thing really sticks out, though.  Joshua’s final words to the Israelites contain encouragements and warnings.  He lets the Israelites know that if any foreigners remain among them the Lord will not bless them.  The will be a “snare and a trap to you, a whip for your backs and thorny brambles in your eyes” (23:13).  Ouch!  Pretty graphic description, Josh. 

And yet…the last chapter of the book, Joshua leads the people to renew their covenant with the Lord.  He recounts the entire history of the nation, starting with Father Abraham scouting out the land.  He finishes with a challenge to them:  “Fear the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly.  Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when the lived beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt.  But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve.  Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates?  Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live?  But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (24:14-15).

Joshua leaves no middle ground.  He’s about to die and sounds a bit old and cranky. He’s done his part, the best he could do for the stubborn, adolescent Israelites.  They are no longer children at this point and have acquired a measure of maturity. 

The people’s response is unanimous.

“We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods.  For the Lord our God is one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt…It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land.  So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God” (24:16-18).

Joshua, after some 30 years leading the people, is not so certain.  He calls them on it:  “you are not able to serve the Lord…He will  not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been good to you” (24:19-20).

It’s a test of loyalty.  Once they’re committed, they’re bound by their oath.

The people know Joshua, too.  “No, we will serve the Lord!” (24:21).

Joshua renews the covenant with the people at Shechem.  He rolls a stone under a terebinth tree as a witness and reminder of their words. 

But…

Some of the nations were hard to drive out.  The Canaanites, for instance, with their chariots.  Judges 1 tells the story of the Israelites enquiring of the Lord post-Joshua about this very subject.  Judah and Simeon go to fight the Canaanites.  They wer unable to route them on their own.  And almost every tribe, in fact, could not completely clear their territory.  Either there weren’t enough tribe members, or the original inhabitants were too strong or too entrenched.  The Benjamites couldn’t drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem.  Manasseh failed to drive out yet more Canaanites from at least 5 of their alloted towns.  They forced the Canaanites to work as slaves, but didnt’ annihilate them as they were supposed to do.  This happened over and over as the Israelites moved out as individual tribe to claim their inheritance. Ephraim.  Zebulun.  Asher.  Naphtali.

What was going on?  Did God stop fighting for the Israelites?  Teaming up with other tribes seemed like a good idea; why didn’t more of that happen?  Did they stop believing in God’s promise that the land was set aside for them?

In Judges 2, God finally speaks through an angel.  Why didn’t He say something sooner?  God says he is angry and claims He will fight against them now. “So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land.  They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you” (2:3).

If God fights against you, you will lose.  Just a heads-up on that.

The text says that the people wept and offered sacrifices, even named the place “Weeping”(2:4-5).  But no change was made.  This doesn’t sound like weeping with repentance.  this is just flat-out “Woe is me!  God has abandoned me!”  It’s self-pity, folks.  And it did nothing to change God’s mind. 

Fast forward another generation, and the Israelites were worshiping idols again (2:11).  Despite the people’s heartfelt confession to serve God wholeheartedly, they were unable to transfer their faith to their children and on down the line.  The idols of the nations living around them became more real to them than Jehovah, god of their fathers. The alien gods of wood and stone, tangible in their essence and less strict, perhaps, in their reverence, replaced Him.  I can just hear God sighing.  Again?!  Raiders invaded their land and enemies surrounded them. It says “Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned.  And the people were in great distress” (2:15). They weren’t slaves at this point, but managed to be miserable again nonetheless.

We don’t fight real enemies today; there’s no one waiting outside for me with an Uzzi. Our skirmishes are spiritual, mental, physical. Yet I, for one, don’t want God fighting against me.  I want to hold on for what God promised. And that means I can’t give up, and I can’t give ground, even when I’m so, so weary of struggling and the battle.  I have to hold on and do my part. It’s not good enough to just clear out the middle of my room, like my kids cleaning their bedrooms, all shiny middle and junky, crap-filled corners. What enemies remain must be annihilated, or damage my walk with God.  There’s a call to greater maturity and understanding of what my inheritance really means. Will I take my post and fight?

Lessons from Berenstain Bears

Ruby has a favorite episode of “Berenstain Bears”, the cartoon based on the book characters created by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  It’s called “The Green-Eyed Monster”. It’s been out of the rotation On Demand for awhile.  Since we both stayed home yesterday due to her flu, we watched it several times. I know I’ve written about jealousy before and how it’s tied to love.  This episode is not loving.  It’s about Sister Bear and her lust for Brother Bear’s new bike.  She gets Brother’s hand-me-down bike because he outgrew it.  He gets a brand new bike, a beauty that causes Sister’s heart to ache with longing. 

Mama Bear, noting the look in Sister’s eyes, calls her on it. 

“It looks like you’re in the grip of The Green-Eyed Monster”, she remarks.

“What’s that, Mama?”  Sister wants to know.

Oh, Sister.  You don’t even know what hit you right between the eyes.

I’ve never cared much for bikes so this didn’t hit me so hard.  The last time Ruby watched it gave her nightmares.  She hasn’t watched it for at least a year and a half.  Now that Ruby is six years old, I thought maybe she could handle the content. Not because of the bike, but Sister’s nightmare. In Sister’s nightmare, she actually sees a green version of herself, complete with pink hair ribbon.  This creature is angry and possessed with a victim mentality.  She urges Sister to get on the bike and ride it; she’s not too small.  She needs to prove she’s big enough.

And she deserves a nice new bike.

Isn’t that the real issue?  We deserve what someone else has.  Why didn’t we get it?  Why did we passed over for something that’s so wonderful?

The angry green thing makes such an impression on Sister that the first thing in the morning, she gets Brothers’ bike out, mounts it from on the porch and takes off.  Only she can’t stop.  There’s such a great picture here of what jealousy can do to us – a speeding bike moving under its own power and  we can’t employ the brakes.  In the story, Brother catches up to her and tells her how to stop with the handbrakes, something she doesn’t have on her own bike.  She’s not ready for 3 gears and handbrakes. 

The story ends happily.  Sister repents of her bad attitude and almost crashing Brother’s bike.  Brother, in a bit of kindness, offers to help her doll up his old bike with new paint, a basket and ribbons.  Sister learns to be happy with what she has and to make the most of it. She knows she will continue to grow and when she’s ready, she will get a more sophisticated bike.  She trusts her parents will do right by her.

This episode still gives Ruby nightmares, so it’s officially off the list of approved shows. Last night, it took her a long time to nod off. We talked about it quite a bit yesterday. The green-eyed monster is not real. It’s not a bear. It’s not alive. It’s invisible. It’s the devil, whispering in your ear. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy. We have to choose not to let him in and not to listen to his lies. He’s only doing what comes naturally to him. 

Life is sometimes unfair.  Okay, a lot of the time it’s unfair.  But we don’t have to live like it is.  We could each rant about our circumstances nd those who did us wrong, even rail at God for not giving us specific advantages at birth.  But what about what we do have?  What are we doing with that?

Running Home

Today was the first day in a long time that I ran any distance outside.  I ran 7 miles, my usual out-and-back with a little extra tagged on to make seven.  My mind was not into it at all.  “Let’s just do 5 miles.  How about 4 miles?” it wheedled.  It had no intention of being outside, the sky an opalescent gray-blue, for an hour plus. 

But I’m the boss. My body found an easy gait and breathing rhythm, despite the Olympic Hwy. hill.  It was cold, still in the 30s, but dry.  I like running when it’s cold.  I run faster and I don’t get as dehydrated.  I have to keep running just to stay warm! I told my mind to shut up and just relax into it.  No hurry here.  Just breathing and one foot in front of the other. It’s recess for adults.

I thought about a friend of mine doing missionary work in Haiti with a team from his church.  I prayed for them. I prayed for a few others as they came to mind, asking Jesus to show His mercy and love.

It was like getting reacquainted with the neighborhood again.  I’ve run the hill lots of times, but not the whole course past the car wash, Jack-in-the Box and Wal-Mart.  Yes, I run on main streets.  There’s a sidewalk and not too much traffic on a Saturday morning. It’s not the most picturesque, but it’s my town.  I noticed green stuff poking up out of the ground.  I saw boggy patches and areas where the rainwater had pooled into spontaneous grassy ponds.

It’d been so long since I ran my route, i couldn’t remember if it was 6 or 7 miles.  I realized, almost all the way home, that it was only 6 miles.  I decided to add another mile and think of it as a victory lap.  My body didn’t like that idea.  It was getting tired.  I’d burned off last night’s pizza and the morning’s cereal and coffee long before. 

What I’ve been learning through a Bible study I’ve been attending at my sister-in-law’s house, is that I’ve been bound up with negative thoughts about others and about myself.  Accusing spirits.  Bad juju.  If I didn’t feel like I got treated well in a certain instance, Satan would whisper, “See?  They don’t really like you after all! They’re out to keep you from God’s best.” Lies, all of it.  The devil is out to divide us. Would God say that? Or, even worse, beating up myself for not being perfect.  I had to stop to breathe a bit on the hill at the start of my run.  My usual reaction would’ve been, “Wimp!  Don’t stop!”  This time, I heard Jesus whisper, “It’s only failure if you quit.”  Aha!  Forgiveness is key.  I’m getting some healing and discernment out of the deal.  How much self-hatred have I walked in? How many relationships have I let go or botched because I listened to the Father of Lies?

No more.  It ends now.  I want all God’s best.  I really saw during this run that my mind has kept me from doing my best running and so many other things. Our pastor is always saying, “If you change your thoughts, you can change your life”. I want to reach all the potential that I can.  And most of all, I want to be the best friend that I can be to anyone who will have me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

The Gibeonites

Okay, I know there are a lot of -ites in the Old Testament. But the Gibeonites are special.  How many people groups did the Israelites demolish in their quest to claim the Promised Land?  Five?  Ten?  More? 

The Gibeonites’ story starts in Joshua 9.  The kings west of the Jordan heard about Joshua and his crew and their mass destruction tactics.  The Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites combined forces to fight against the Israelites. 

The Gibeonites, however, did not (9:3).  They figured they had no chance joining the posse of their neighbors.  If God wanted to destroy them, they were goners.  The resorted to deception (9:4).  The sent ambassadors to Joshua.  The ambassadors had beat-up saddlebags (not on their thighs), patched wineskins, worn out clothes and sandals.  They carried dry, moldy bread (9:5).  Then, they acted and lied.  “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us” (9:6). 

Oho!  Did God say anything about treaties with any of these nations?  No. But the Israelites, at first, are skeptical:  “How do we know you don’t live nearby”  For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you” (9:7). 

“We are your servants”, they replied (9:8).  Evasive, yet obsequious.  Who wouldn’t love a whole tribe of servants?!

“But who are you?  Where do you come from?” Joshua demanded.

Here comes the lie.  They told old Josh they came from a distant land and that they’d heard of the deliverance of the Lord out of the hand of the Egyptians annihilation of the 2 Amorite kings east of the Jordan, and of course, Kings Sihon and Og.  They were sent to make a treaty and willingly take on the bondage of slavery in order to save their entire people. (9:9-11). The treaty part of the narrative was true. They show the supplies and all their dusty, musty props.

Hmm. The Israelites examined their food, but did not consult the Lord (9:14).  Big mistake. They made a binding oath and guaranteed the safety of the Gibeonites (9:14).

Three days later, the learned these people lived nearby.  But the oath was unbreakable. The leaders said, “We must let them live, for divine anger would come upon us if we broke our oath.  Let them live” (9:20-21).  So, the Gibeonites assumed the roles of woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.

God has been silent during this whole story.  Why didn’t He get angry at the gullibility of His people?  Was he pleased at the show of mercy?  Or maybe he wanted them to continue to learn from the consequences of their actions?

Joshua called the Gibeonites together and asked them a simple question:  Why?  And he cursed them with woodcutting and water carrying forever.  Bah! 

But the Gibeonites’ response is fascinating.  “We did it be cause we – your servants (never forget!) – were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded his servant Moses to give you this entire land and to destroy the people living in it.  So we feared greatly for our lives because of you.  That is why we have done this.  Now we are at your mercy – do to us whatever you think is right.” (9:24).

Wow.  The humility in that statement floors me.  Every time I read this in the past, I always thought the Gibeonites were scumbags.  In reality, they were saying, Hey, we want to be a part of the winning team.  God is no match for our idols.  Obviously, God is the real God.  What He says, goes.  Let us be a part of what you’re doing.  Is this much different from Ruth saying to Boaz, “Take me under your wing, for I am a relative”?  There’s a vulnerability here and a spirit of service.  They risked death anyway; why not try to live. No, the Gibeonites were not related to the Jews and would have been utterly destroyed.  But there’s a tenacity and a reaching out to faith that encourages me.

Joshua had no response to that, either.  Think of all the times the heroes in the past had lied, after all.  But the Bible says they remained woodcutters and water carriers “to this day”.  My guess is they did it with pride.

How to Get Hired

Is there an easy button?

Hi there!  Just thought I’d put in a plug for getting hired.  I helped an acquaintance type up her resume just yesterday, so the concept is fresh in my mind. I can only speak to office or corporate-type positions, since that’s my arena. These are not foolproof, but a few guidelines I’ve picked up. Here goes.

The newspaper is not the best source for jobs anymore.  Get on the internet, people!  Employers can post ads for free and millions of people will see them.  When I left Aspen, we posted my position on craigslist.  People from as far away as Wales applied. They didn’t get an interview or a call, but it was interesting reading.

Your cover letter should not say things like “will work for food” or “hire me or else, cause I  know where you live”, albeit tempting as that may be in this job climate. If you can, incorporate catch phrases from the ad the business posted, like “team player” (though *incredibly* overused), “self-directed”, “proactive”.  Of course, this can backfire on you if you don’t know what the heck the job is all about.  Seen it.  Cost the person a position and a little bit of faith in humanity.

And on resumes, please, please be honest about your abilities.  Don’t oversell yourself to the point of lying.  Don’t be like one of the hires I had to train at IDC who said she “knew computer programs”. Note to menfolk:  Being beautiful is not a qualification for a regular job.    Yeah, she knew what they were called, but not how to use any of them!  She was practically putting her mouse on the screen to navigate in Word.  I had to tell  the construction and program managers that there was no way I could fit 6 months of Microsoft Office training into 2 weeks, let alone get her up to speed on the actual particulars of managing project documents.  She ended up fleeing the company and the project in tears.

As far as interviews go, Congratulations!  You’ve earned an audience.  You should be full of confidence and excitement. Now dress like it.  Do some research on the corporate climate.  Are visible tattoos okay?  When in doubt, be more conservative rather than less. Ladies,even if you were/are a cocktail waitress, if you’re interviewing for an office position, dress the part.  The office part, not the racy waitress/barmaid part.  Cover up.  Don’t drench yourself in scent.  Men, wear pants, not jeans.  Wear dark socks with your dress shoes.  And scrounge up a tie and a button-down shirt, for the love of Pete! You need to look competent and that you mean business.  This does not mean a “Taking Care of Business” shirt or anything with a Simpson family member on it.

And write an email or thank-you note to the interviewer after it’s over.  They’ll appreciate it, and you will feel like a million bucks no matter what happened.  It’s classy.

If by some act of God you get a job offer, don’t dilly-dally on the salary.  Call back.  State what you want.  I’m talking especially to women here.  Don’t say things like, “I was hoping for x amount”, after you’ve been called several times, prompting the caller to mentally put her hands around your oh-so-chokable throat.  

Lastly, make the most of your job.  Enjoy it and be grateful! Do your best, work hard and make friends where and when you can.  You never know how long you’ll work anywhere. Remember, there are at least 100 people who would gladly take your place in a heartbeat.