Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Fighting doubt and fear

Note: I want to preface this by saying that I am not a Bible scholar. If I make mistakes about my history or anything, either disregard it :) or make a note in the comments if it affects any theology or anything. Thanks!


This morning I opened my Bible to my bookmark. I woke up really wanting to read God's Word this morning. I have made it a habit to read it every morning, but I confess I haven't been very faithful about it this last week, or very enthusiastic. So today, when I woke up thinking about it, I was glad. I have felt spiritually dry and strained for awhile. Anyway, I have been reading through the Old Testament, and I am on 2 Chronicles Chapter 32. It was a very good chapter for me to read this morning, and I wanted to share it with you.

A little background: Judah goes between good kings and bad kings. I don't know how God had so much patience with them for so long. At this point, though, there is a good king: Hezekiah. He has thrown out the idols, re-established the Passover, rebuilt the temple and re-instated the workers at the temple (the Levites and priests). As the Bible says, "He did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly." (31:20-21)

Well, Chapter 32 starts out with a threat to the newly revived kingdom. Sennacherib king of Assyria invades Judah and lays "siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself." I don't know much about history, but I'm pretty sure the Assyrians were a scary bunch. However, Hezekiah takes charge and readies the city for war--blocking the springs, repairing broken sections of the wall, building towers, etc. He assembles all the people who are about to go to battle and says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles." And with that the people were strengthened.

Sennacherib, however, also realizes that the battle is really within the mind and spirit more than in the strength of one's army. He sends a message to the Israelites saying, "On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, 'the Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,' he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst. [...] Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the people of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kindom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!"

The king of Assyria continues to yell out insults on the God of Israel and speak of Him as though he were the work of men's hands. It does not say if this tactic worked, but I think it did, because of Hezekiah's response in the next verse, which I will write in a minute. Hezekiah's people are hearing all this slander about their God. At that point in history, I don't think the Israelites understood that there was only one God. I think they understood that Jehovah was THEIR only God, and that they could worship no other, and that Jehovah was more powerful than other people's gods, but that other people did have their own gods. So the fact that Assyria defeated the other people despite the help of their gods would have been a scary thought.

But here's my favorite part:
"King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz crid out in prayer to heaven about this. (Which is why I think that all the talk was affecting the people.) And the Lord sent an angel, who annihalated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king."

WOOHOO!! YES!!! We win again! And it had nothing to do with us!! Verse 22 says," So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side."

I know this is a long entry getting longer, and you can probably figure out the application for yourself, but get this: God handles our problems, not us. And Satan understands that the battle isn't in the strength of our arms to hold a sword, but in the strength of our hearts to battle discouragement.

We talked about a similar story in Ezekiel on Sunday, Ezekiel 38. Verses 18-23 explain how God will destroy the threat to His people, and without any help from them.

Are you discouraged? I know I am. I don't know what else to do, where else to turn. I feel stuck and powerless. But you know what? It's not my battle. Just like Hezekiah, I need to do what is good and right and faithful before the Lord. In everything I undertake, I need to seek God and work wholeheartedly. And beyond that, it's all God. When I get discouraged, I need to pray to God about the lies Satan is whispering to me. And then trust that God will deliver me.

God will take care of me on every side.

WOOHOO!! That's exciting!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Comment on a poem

My friend Hillary is a blogger, but not on this site. She uses Xanga, which is all well and good until I want to post a reply to what she wrote, because I have to have an account with Xanga, which I don't. And already having this blog, I don't feel like I need to have another. That being said, I really enjoyed Hill's poem today, and I wanted to pass it on as well as comment on it. I hope she doesn't mind (forgiveness over permission, right?). Not many people read my blog anyway, and a few of them the same people who read her site. If you mind, Hill, just let me know! Here is her beautiful poem:

today I know how neville feels
ensconsed by predetermined boundaries
surrendered to the liquid monotony
powerless to escape
from east to west
or west to east
the scenery never changes
and the destination stationary.

or maybe the illustrative hampster wheeling
in a perpetual vertical race
scrambling and flailing
hoping that the next minute
his efforts eventually might be rewarded
by freedom
or at least a mile that counts for something

and I own a circle too
if only on a different plane
a week that starts and ends
and starts again
with too much of the unchanged
and this glass that detains
just a small guage away from
my audience
in the boundless world beyond.

See? Wasn't that a beautiful poem? What a great description of life! At least life the way it seems now. I guess, then, that that's why the spontaneous moments are so fun. For once we're not on our wheel, but we're running! And going somewhere! Though only for a moment. The freedom that lasts is when we're not bound by the world any longer, but in a new world where we belong. So maybe that's the trick: not spontanaeity (sp?), which only lasts a moment, but working to further the Kingdom, which is outside this world and outside this wheel. Being "Kingdom-minded" is something I forget so often. I worry about the job I still don't have and silly things like money. I get caught up in my own worries that I don't think about others. So thanks for reminding me, Hill. :) I will step off my wheel now and run with purpose.

Monday, July 18, 2005

We joined a church!

Yesterday Jon and I joined Wedgwood. We're officially Wedgies now! Many of you know that we have visited several churches over the past month and a half, and we are very glad to finally be a part of a church. It was interesting looking for churches. We found big ones, small ones, (some as big as your 'ead!), nice ones, weird ones. I really enjoyed Willowcreek, by far the smallest church on our list. I believe that God has some really neat plans for that church, and I am glad to have at least been a part of it for a week. I also enjoyed the Bible study at Southcliff, and I think that the women in that Sunday School have a special bond that is rare.

But Wedgwood is where our puzzle piece fits the best. They have a Young Marrieds w/o Kids class, which fits us perfectly! (Not for long, if it were up to Jon!) The couples in there seem really nice, and they're working hard to start hanging out more and being involved in each other's lives, which is good. For example, this week we're going to a drive-in movie! Of course, it's not like Gatesville. This place is 18 bucks per car to get in! I think someone has a suburban, and I'm sure other people have SUVs we can all cram into. :) I don't think they'll be wanting my little Hyundai...

Also, while this has nothing to do with us, Wedgwood has this great kids program called LITs. I think that means Leaders in Training. It's for 5th and 6th graders, and they learn the importance of daily Bible study, worship, and especially evangelism. They also all have mentors in the church. This group of kids has evangelized to over 1100 kids, with about 150 salvations -- all since January! I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I've evangelized to 5 people since January, and I'm sure I haven't led anyone to Christ! These kids are very spiritually mature and really soaking up any teaching they receive. It's exciting, and reminds me a little of my 6th grade year, which was when I truly learned the importance of taking sermon notes and Bible study every day.

One way in which the LITs do have something to do with us is that this program is fairly new, and the "first class" is moving on to the youth group. They have learned the importance of having mentors, but there are no mentors. Pastor Al's sermon this week was about discipleship, and he called for people to become mentors to the graduated LITs (and any other youth that wants a mentor). Several people volunteered, including three people from our SS class. I think Jon and I would like to be involved in that, too.

Well, as you know, I really like to talk, and I just thought of about three more paragraphs, but I won't keep writing. :) But I will tell you my accomplishment for the day:
Jon and I went running this morning, and 1) he ran 1 1/2 miles without stopping and 2) I kept up with him the whole way!! Yay us! We're going to get in shape, yet. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why we run

This morning I once again dragged myself out of bed to go running. I pulled on my shoes and filled my Nalgene bottle with ice and water. Heading out to the car, my brain was still in a morning fog.

The high school track was already occupied by two runners. One was a scrawny teenager who worked harder than the rest of us put together--running backwards, sideways, and finally forwards with his legs reaching as far as they could in front of him, as he periodically checked his time on his watch. He must be on the track team.

The other runner was a middle-aged man trying to fight the flab like the rest of us. As he ran, he beat at the air with his fists in Mohommed Ali-an fashion. Occasionally he also ran backwards, and I wonder if he always did that, or if he had been inspired by Track Boy. Either way, this Cassius Clay was in it for the long haul. He kept a steady pace the entire time I was out there, one foot in front of the other, pumping his fists in the air as he went.

My goal as a runner is to actually become a runner, not a jogger. Most people can pass me walking, so I'm trying to get faster. To accomplish that, I try to keep up with Jon, whose one step equals my two. I manage to at least keep him on the same side of the track as I am, and I feel that is an accomplishment.

As I run, I wonder why I put myself through it. My lungs crave air, my legs burn, my knees ache, and I burn under the sun. I could think of no worse torture! Why do I keep running? It's not for the view. The track looks pretty much the same all the way around. Every once in a while a few planes fly overhead, and I watch them until they disappear into the white-hot sun. All kinds of people come to the track, and it's interesting to watch them, but why not do that walking? Why run?

I breathe in as I take three steps, then breathe out three steps--regulating both my air and my pace. Breathe in. Breathe out. My feet pound softly on the rubber. The sound is full of energy, though by the end I notice my feet scuff against the track because I no longer have that energy to lift them high enough off the ground. I look straight ahead, trying to keep Jon in sight. I turn the bend and realize I've already gone 5 laps. Only one more to go, then the cool down walking lap.

I think to myself that I haven't once thought about problems that face me, or tried to work out the troubles of my family and friends. What is usually thought of as a good time to think has become for me a good time for absence of thought. Job choices, church choices, adjusting to change...all of that which normally runs its own laps in my mind ceases. I focus only on the rhythmic beat of rubber on rubber, the methodical push of my body towards the goal. I strain through a routine torturous enough that I can think of nothing else...and I am at peace.

Track Boy breaks my concentration by calling a polite, "Take care!" as he bounds off the track, though the practice field, and beyond the perimeter of the school, running the entire way as if he had the energy of 10 men...and he probably does.

Cassius Clay has slowed to a trudge, and his fight with the air has become half-hearted. I admire his stamina, however, since he was there before I arrived, and he was still there when I left.

Jon and I slowly make our way to the car. Our motivation to even keep moving is the air conditioner inside. Both of us feel we pushed ourselves a little more than we had the day before, and we are satisfied. As we travel home, I wonder if there will be any e-mails or phone messages from employers left while we were gone. My brief moment of peace is over, and I return to the reality of the day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

When I grow up... (life goals)

Okay, so everyone has something that they want to have accomplished by the time they die. People say that if you write your goals down, they're much more likely to come true. I have two random and far-fetched goals in life, and here they are:

1) I have a tune in my head constantly, and have had it for years. I would like to see that tune composed for a symphony. I can't really do this myself. There are limits to Garage Band and to my knowledge of it. Although I guess that's a good place to start. But I would really like to work with a composer to get the song written.

2) I would like to go in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti. In my mind, I would see roaming elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions (not eating the previously mentioned animals), and gazelles on the plains. It would be great. Obviously I want to see them more up-close and personally, but I'd like to start in the hot air balloon.

So there are mine. I've confessed! I know they're a little far-fetched, but now they're written. The likelihood of them getting accomplished just jumped dramatically! :)

So what are yours? They can be as ordinary or out there as your imagination allows. Although maybe they should fall within the limitations of the laws of physics, so no flying or being the great disappearing man or anything like that.

If you read this, comment! I'd like to know!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rainy Days

I woke up this morning to Jon getting out of bed to look out the window. I heard the gentle rhythm of rain outside. I guessed by the weak light coming in through the windows that it was about 6am but my clock told me it was 9. For the first time in a while I had decided not to set my alarm, and I was glad that this was the day I could sleep in. Jon came back to bed and we enjoyed listening to the rain while we were comfortable and dry inside.

Of course, already being awake, and being a morning person and someone who loves to watch storms, I didn't stay in bed long.

Rain is such a lovely thing. Especially during the summer. All the dusty dirtiness is washed away. The scorching heat is broken, at least for a moment. The earth seems to sigh in relief as the temperatures slowly sink to a more liveable range and the sun strains and fails to beat its harsh heat upon us.

I think about those who are affected by the rain. The birds remain silent--foregoing their morning ritual of song to opt for finding shelter. Summer mowing is postponed, allowing for the steady beat of rain to only be punctuated by thunder. The homeless huddle under bridges, thankful for the cooler temperatures, but miserable in layers of wet clothes. Stray animals doggedly search for a home or their next meal, regarding the rain as a nuisance that must be endured. And we, jobless but not homeless, open the blinds and keep the lights off so we can enjoy earth's drink.

Rainy days are not made for working, and I'm sorry for any of you who had to work on a day like this. Rainy days are made for wrapping up in a blanket, reading a good book, and petting a purring kitten. They are made to offer rest for the earth, and rest for us.

I used to be afraid of the rain and the thunder that shook houses. But I came to know Christ one scary stormy night, when I thought for sure that we would all die by the lightning that threatened to strike us next. After that storm, the sun came out to reveal a beautiful rainbow--a promise from God to me that He would always take care of me, and that I was His child forever. Ever since then, I have enjoyed storms and felt safe in the caring arms of my Father.

I hear the rain lessening, and the morning light is trying once again to come in through the window. Today's sigh is done. It's back to the vigil of work and toil for the earth. The birds will sing again, the homeless will begin to dry out, the stray will continue with it's wandering, and I must uncurl myself from my watch station and go on with the day.

Friday, July 01, 2005

On interviews...

So I've been looking for a job for a solid month now, and pretty regularly for a while before that--maybe another two months. I've heard from one place, but that ended up not working out. Other than that, silence.

Now I have an interview at a software company for a Marketing Associate position on Wednesday! Yeah!! And I talked to someone else about a job possibility, too.

In both these phone calls, the potential employer was concerned that all I could do was graphic design. This bothers me a little, because it's a slight on the profession. "What, you can only teach? We were really looking for some other qualities." "Oh, I'm sorry. We were looking for a programmer who can also do the accounts for us." "An accountant? Do you also answer phones?" "Now you say here on your resume that you are a brain surgeon....tell me if you know anything about maintenance work as well..."

Okay, so maybe I'm taking it a little out of proportion, but it's like a Minister of Music/Youth. It means they don't want to/can't spend the money on two positions, and feel that your position is the one to be compromised. Why doesn't the pastor ever lead the music? Or the Marketing VP come up with the copy for a letter he's sending out?

Granted, graphic design does have its fingers in several fields. Marketing, Public Relations, Art, etc. And I know I can do everything required of both employers. So...the question is...do I compromise? Once last year I was offerred a raise if I changed my position from graphic designer to Administrative Assistant/Graphic Designer. I turned the offer down because I didn't want anything to do with being an administrative assistant. I don't like doing stuff like that. I want my resume to say Graphic Designer, not Administrative Assistant.

At the company I'm interviewing for on Wednesday, the things I would be asked to do are not administrative kinds of things; they seem a lot like graphic design to me. Things like ads, sales collateral, websites, press releases, communications inside the company and out, e-mails to customers, and event planning management (I wrote them all down while he was listing them). Anyway, all of these things are in some way related to graphic design. They all take layout, adherence to a certain look, etc. And several of them sound like fun design opportunities. But I think the employer was also saying it would require copy writing and some other things. He said graphic design would be 50% or more of the job. When I was offered the Admin. Asst. job, I was told graphic design would be 40% of the job, but--knowing my boss--I knew I would have to fight for that 40% every day, and it would be very easy for it to go completely by the wayside. I don't know the boss here, so I don't know what I'm up against.

Thinking of the responsibilities listed above brings up the question of how honest do you be in an interview? My conflict is this: I want to be as honest as I can be. I never want to go into a job where they expect me to be an expert at something I've never seen. It wouldn't be pretty for either of us. On the other hand, I am a fast learner. Just because I've never done it before doesn't mean that I can't do it, and that I won't be able to do it very well within a short period of time.

For example: the website maintenance. The employer said he saw my website and was impressed (or "it looked good") and showed it to the web programmer, who thought the same thing. (THANK YOU, JOHN, FOR YOUR HELP!!) But I felt compelled to tell him that that is the only website I have designed. I explained to him that I used my website to learn HTML and CSS, and now I feel comfortable with them. I am not an expert, and don't know Flash or anything like that, but I'm comfortable with web design. Was that a bad thing to say?

I don't think so, because it was the truth.

Also, about copy writing. I have done it for Texas Life, but not very much. I did the ads and some of the flyers, but all the legal wording and information about the product was already provided for me because of strict compliance parameters. So I've never written a memo to the company, or an e-mail sales push to customers. But I think I could do it. I'm a good writer (I hope), and I think I can do that. Give me just a little instruction and let me go! :)

And about salary. On the job posting, it says the job I'm interviewing for pays between $35-45K. That's really good for us! However, for some dumb reason, the employer still required that I include my salary requirements. That makes me so mad! They know what they're willing to pay! It just hurts the potential employee in every way. Let's say I don't even know who the company is. If it's Mom and Pop Print Shop, I've just shot myself in the foot by asking for $35K, because they wouldn't be able to pay that much (and I could have let them know that I could work for less). If it's Disney, they've just got their cheapest employee at $35K! But I didn't know who they were to know to ask for more!

Now, with this company I'm interviewing for, I had an advantage, because I 1) know who the company is, and 2) know their basic range. I took the middle ground and asked or $40K. Today on the phone I was asked if that was what I really was looking for. It sounded like they weren't willing to pay that much (if they're paying according to experience, I really don't have much experience), so I back-pedalled a little bit and said I was looking for $40K, but $35K would be okay. Jon said that was a mistake, and it probably was. Although in reality we could live on $30K, so I'm still $5K in the black, right? I mean, you've got to give me a little credit. For a month now I haven't heard anything from anyone, practically. I don't think I have a right to be picky at the moment! If it means knocking five grand off my salary, then so be it.

I just wish that with all this honesty I'm giving them, they would give me a little, too. Tell me how much you're willing to pay me, and I'll tell you if I'm okay with that.

I hate looking for a job. The self-promotion, best-foot-forward, one-word-could-ruin-your-chance-at-a-job, and every other super-hyphenated phrase I can think of. It just stinks. I want to do my job. I want to be busy. I want to do well. And I want to get paid a fair amount and have fair responsibilities. I'm not asking for special treatment or huge amounts of money. I just don't want to be demeaned.