Prelude to a Holy Kiss

Everyday I wake up in a rush. It is absolutely true on probably 98% of my days. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. My internal clock keeps me up at night and struggling in the morning. So, just like every other day, Monday I arrived at the office as the clock struck 9:00 am and answered the phone as I logged into the computer. The monotony of my daily schedule began.

We never know how that day will change. Most of the time it is predictable and unchanging. However, some days offer a twist. Monday at 9:17 I received a phone call from my bank informing me at 9:03 and 9:05 some genius credit card hacking criminal had succeeded in sabotaging my bank account and scurrying off silently with almost $1000. Thus, sending my limited financial gain into a deficit not easily recuperated. Then by Thursday my account was frozen, my card was cancelled and my recovery of these funds was on hold while the charges waited in the balance.

This type of invasion in our standard of living can be a day, week, month or life breaker. We can say a few cuss words, yell, scream, throw a temper tantrum and holler at the bank teller until we are blue in the face but the situation will not be complete until it is complete. We can spend our life being bitter and angry, telling everyone about our problems and our desire for revenge against the criminal, the bank, the vendor who allowed them to fraudulently charge. We can, but…. I have known people who live a life that is spent swimming in a sea of the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s, didn’t because of’s and if’s.

But, we have another choice. The prelude.

The prelude in a song is the introduction. But, it is more than that. It is the introductory performance that precedes a more important one.

So often we cannot see beyond the immediate misfortune of our particular situation. We panic, we stress, we literally freak out and do things without thinking. However, you can find vision that reaches beyond our limitations. Stop, breathe, think, pray, meditate on God’s word.

People ask me often how I can be so calm in troubled times. “Susanne, you always seem so put together.” I always laugh and say “you should have seen me inside my head, or when I ran and hid in the bathroom”. I believe that partially it is because I have learned to fully trust in God’s provision. We can’t piece our belief together. If you are going to believe in scripture you have to trust that it is true in its entirety and begin sifting through and learning to live it right? God says “I will never leave you or forsake you”. God says, “my love never fails.” God says, “I am your refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” So, when trouble comes it is a prelude to God’s work in your life and in others.

Because we fear the outcome… Truth is my story could end in a mounted debt to my bank and to creditors and the companies I owe money too because my funds were stolen. I have indeed known some whose situation did end badly. But, I have lost a home and cars years before due to my own inability to manage finances and the horrific struggles in my failed marriage. I can attest to you today that that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. God was with me in that struggle, teaching me, loving me and leading me to a better life in Him. It was a prelude leading to a more important outcome years in the making.

I really had minimal stress over this situation. First of all, the bank called me. They were on top of my account protecting me from further damage. They froze the account and shut down my card. So many people get belligerent and angry when this happens, but, I knew it was for my protection. I felt like it was handled with much grace. Second, Walmart.com had already attempted to cancel the transactions fearing they were fraudulent. Third, I had my closest friends and family immediately embrace me. My boss paid for my lunch that day. Another co-worker another day. A dear friend another day, along with a monetary gift. My sweet cousin another day. (that is 4 free lunches). Another friend brought me a coffee that morning from Starbucks and then showed up at the end of the day with another one, then put gas in my car. My sister in law and brother in law helped me put a vehicle up for sale on Craig’s list and online garage sale among other things. Many, many, many people prayed and some shared there own stories of a situation happening to them too.

Now, if you live your life trusting God in each moment you would know that I felt “kept” by a Holy God. He was loving me through this.

Sometimes it’s the waiting… Oh how we hate to wait. We are the most impatient, right now people on the planet! People that is. We want it fixed now. We want immediate gratification. But, if I had been stomping my feet and demanding this be fixed instead of just going through that normal routine and believing “God’s Got This!”, I would have missed the waltz. God’s love affair to His people is beautiful. It starts sometimes in the rarest of places, where we think it would never be found.

In the prelude of Monday morning I was wearing a dress I had forgotten I owned. It is one of those dresses ladies that make you feel beautiful and you walk out the door in confidence that you look good. I went to Starbucks that morning and was behind this older gentleman. He turned around towards me and looked at me as if I was the most beautiful woman in the world. He said, “What a beautiful dress. (implying also that I looked good in it!) Ladies first.” He barely touched my shoulder and beckoned me to move before him in line. The barista, who knows me, offered me my usual and the man said to him, “She deserves a free one today!” The barista laughed and actually mumbled something about not owning the place, but, if he did he would. Then this man just smiled at me as if to say, well I tried. I know what you are thinking, he should have paid for it and sometimes people do “pay it forward”. But, it was not about getting free coffee. It was the innocent comments of a sweet older gentleman that God caressed me with that morning. Yes, He knew what was to come and He knew the outcome.

Friday morning, my bank account was replenished with minimal damage. When I opened up my account online to check the balance and I saw that it was back in the positive, I truly felt peace. It was a time of rejoicing in God’s goodness. It was a joy filled moment shared with all of those who had touched me with God’s gracious hand during the week. If we can stop if only for a precious moment before the craziness ensues we can watch the prelude that may not be comfortable or pleasurable but we can trust it to lead to something great!

I am blessed that God has given me the ability to see His work in my life and others. It is truly a place of rest and joy. Susanne does not always have it together. Susanne can’t even go to bed at a decent hour (I am finishing this at 1:42 am) get to the office reasonably early. Susanne is imperfect and limited. But God is unlimited, He loves us and beckons us to Him in the monotonous daily routines, in the sweet words of our daily meetings and even in the tragedies that seem to engulf us for just short time, like mine. The daily noise in our otherwise quiet days is the prelude to a Holy Kiss if we’ll only listen for God’s voice.

Polytonality – Life is a gamble!

Every day we face choices. Simple ones like what we will eat for breakfast, how we will do our hair, what we will wear. We also face choices that make a difference in how we live each moment. Who we will marry, what we will believe, what we will do with the days we are given. Life is a gamble isn’t it? Even the simple decisions such as a hearty breakfast can years later lead to high blood pressure or diabetes and eventually death. For that matter isn’t every day we live leading towards the ultimate end?

For many years friends have tried to get me to take trips to Vegas. It is one of those things that has never really had an appeal to me. In fact I have already won a trip to Vegas for next year at work and I am wondering how much cash I can get instead. I am pretty testy about throwing away a dollar, since I have battled so hard to keep them and I really enjoy spending them if it is on something I find value in. Yet, as of late I have enjoyed doing things that I have not done in a long time or have never done. This is likely related to the freedoms that come with an empty nest and fun new single friends who enjoy new opportunities. Irregardless, this opportunity knocked and I said, “why not, I can mark this off the bucket list” (although I think I had not put it on there!).

So, I relinquished my abstinance from the casino, by agreeing to go to Oklahoma Winstar. It is a gentle step to Vegas I hear. I had passed it at least 100 times going to Oklahoma Baptist University to visit my daughters. The architectural outlay of the building is pretty awesome and at night it is like a beacon to anyone in the area drawing them in. So, I have to admit I was intrigued about the possibilities of what was inside. Yes, I did give in. Yes, I already knew what I would find.

Is gambling a sin? That was the thought going through my head as we headed up there. It was a quick jaunt, very little money and good friends. Gambling is not really mentioned in scripture however, God has a lot to say about our actions and money. Throwing your money away is not the best course of action. Casting lots happened a lot in scripture and that is not likely the best course of action either. Anything that takes the place of God in our hearts would be considered an idol. Anything that causes us or someone else to stumble can also be considered sin. So, gambling most certainly can be a sinful act if it does any of those things mentioned. But, i do not believe that I fell in to sin by going. I took only $25 and I left a couple hours later with $18.20. $5.80 lost is much less than I throw away possibly every day. I had mentally agreed that it is a relatively small gamble that would not break the bank if I suddenly found my pockets bust. Besides, I blow $25 quite frankly every week on movies, dinner out, STARBUCKS!

We had a good time, some lost more than others but we all had very little to lose, some good laughs and a great night out with friends. What I have pondered since was what I found inside.

Polytonality in musical terms is when 2 or more keys are playing at the same time. Our very nature has a polytonality to it. We battle between flesh and spirit, two keys playing at the same time in our hearts. The first key being our very nature sinful and then that internal clock that dings those bells of warning as you begin a journey unsure, if you are a daughter or son of the King of Kings like me.

As I walked through this “promised land of opportunity” i examined the atmosphere, the people frequenting it, the smells, and the sounds. Pretty hard to stomach since I am the worst ex-smoker in the world! As always I searched for the lost souls fallen into the traps of struggle, most were desperate to strike it rich. Many were sitting at their stations punching their bets monotonously, eyes transfixed on the shrinking dollars on the screen. I noticed easily the addicts pining for a dollar for their next fix. The smell of stale cigarettes penetrated my nostrils and devoured my clothes and hair, sticking to me like honey in a mist. The sound of chaos: laughter, sadness, excitement, and disappointment filled the air. The architectural master piece found outside, was simply clear plastic monuments with countries posted on them, the glamour diminished to money making machines of no relation and a sea of souls searching.

I landed in Vienna and pretty much stayed there most of the night. Vienna was no different than Paris but, they had a bathroom nearby and the free soda station too. I liked the machine where you pull the lever on the side, seemed I always wanted to play one of those. My money would come and go quicker than you can say “boo” but since I was playing penny and nickel slots, I wasn’t doing too bad. They were calling me the luck sucker, because no one else in my group was doing as well as I was, if you can call losing money a win. The lowest I ever dropped to was $15 and the most I ever shot back up to was $22. Either way, it was a losing battle! There was a woman next to me that had almost $300 in the machine and another guy who kept losing and putting in more tickets, $80, $40, $20. He lost it all, but, my assumption is he wins sometimes and so he keeps playing and praying.

It was pleasure and sadness, it was excitement and deflation. A gamble with emotions. Polytonality.

So as I am sitting here today enjoying the cooler temperature, listening to the raindrops on my tin roof and pondering this choice that I made, I wonder was it the right choice? I have a mind that is constantly analyzing my choices, measuring them up to how God has called me to live my days, contemplating the lives of those around me and how I can help them in their plight. Inside the walls of a casino you find pretty much what you find outside the walls of the casino, its just candy coated. The struggle of man is intense, magnified in seeking satisfaction, gratification and acceptance. Life is a gamble when you are lost in that sea of disatisfaction, never finding the right fix, it is miserable.

What I love about my struggle is the sound of the Holy Spirit in my polytonatic soul. The light in my darkness, the fire alarm in my fire, the life raft in my sea of sadness, the song in my silent shame, the peace in the gamble called living, the sound of the love of my life calming the storm in the battle for my heart. Yes, everything we do, every day is leading to one certain and ultimate end. We are dancing with the keys to our heart and we can choose death or eternal life.

I am not sure if I will take advantage of my free vacation days in Vegas next year, its free so I am not gambling away my own money, but, I know this. I choose eternal life and choices that lead me to it and I pray everyday that all of you will cut in and dance with me!

Zanna

Deceptive Cadence

In Alice and Wonderland Alice is enticed by things that offer excitement, intrigue, pleasure or gain. I am most certainly much like Alice and thus this was one of my favorite reads when I was young. It was full of tall tales that led to amazing encounters. I do so love adventures.

Growing up with three brothers was a daily adventure of the third kind. Dad was often missing in action and Mom was usually working. Left to our own vices we took liberties in our learning process. Alice downed drugs to become small and ate cake to become big again, we just experimented with whatever we had available. For example we froze a turtle to see if it would thaw out. My brother experimented with Tide and matches….blew up the bathroom. We used frogs for target practice. We jumped off the house to see if we could fly. We dug a tunnel in the snow barefoot. I opened the car door while driving and I stuck my finger in a hedge trimmer to see what would happen, have the scar to prove it! We even ate like kings, making vats of chocolate frosting for dinner!

As my days went from young to older I was always seeking the adventure, excited about the race, intrigued by dangerous possibilities, finding pleasure in the here and now and hoping to gain something good.

The natural beat of the human heart accelerates when we perceive something to be dangerous or daring. The heart is seldom balanced by good. We chase the rabbit hole searching and so often fall in. Without guidance, without instruction. Stuck in the pit of sinful desire, seeking gratification in dangerous living, considering options that promise excitement, intrigue, pleasure or gain. It is the natural deceptive cadence in the rhythm of our heart; fallen into the hole like Alice.

In Romans 7:15-17 it talks about our sinful nature. “for I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do but what I do I hate. For if I do what I do not want to do it is no longer I who did it but the sin that lives within me.” Seems like an endless cycle of craziness. Sounds like that high pitched fast paced repetitive rhythm that plays tornadically during the climactic scenes of a suspenseful movie. The tone will not resolve it just keeps playing faster and faster and faster.

But, Jesus resolves the relentless repeating. He is somewhat like the Chessire cat that is always cleverly appearing in those inopportune moments. Frightens you a bit with that chagrined smile! Please don’t read this wrong, Jesus is not deceiving. However, In our sinfulness we do not want to get caught in our sinfulness and thus when we hear Jesus calling we are quick to try to hide. With innocent eyes we respond, “whatever do you mean?” “Where should I go?” Jesus brings resolution to the questions that taunt us.

Jesus is there when you are too small to reach the door or when you are too big to walk through it. Jesus is there when you are chasing the haried opportunities that are always leading you through dangerous places and spaces. Jesus is there when you are seeking to find and He is answering back, “It really depends on where you want to go!”

Like Alice I have been the little girl searching for love in all the wrong places, seeking identity in mayhem, folly and madness, struggling for place in an unfamiliar face. It is a deceptive cadence that plays in all of our hearts, wreaking havoc on our living, beckoning mad chase. Yet, in Romans we discover the truth; our sinful nature is disolved as Jesus resolves. “The old is gone, the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

Alice awoke in a world post familiar. In search of self discovery she found truth, thus trumping the past and transforming her future. She resolves “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” If you find yourself running after what used to be, or living in the dark and traumatic seasons of your life, stop in the ashes of a fire burned long and watch as the green breaks through. Because Jesus resolved my life, he dissolved the struggle when he absolved my sin and shame. He involved me in His work after I revolved my life around the cross and my life evolved into something beautiful.

As Erma Bombeck says, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank.” For Alice she resolved as Jesus does our past, “Well that was the sillyiest tea party I ever went to, I am never going back there again!” The maddening noise of sinful pursuits is no longer deceived and anxious. It is a clear sound smoothly resolved into that masterful rhythm of living a life filled with Jesus.