If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

Are we ready and listening for God’s next step in our lives?

Vanity: Killing Lawns Everywhere

Here, let me show you a dead spot on my lawn.

Sinking to new lows, the blog now has photos of dead grass. (This is time you will never get back.) ((I'm so sorry.))
Sinking to new lows, the blog now has photos of dead grass. (This is time you will never get back.) ((I’m so sorry.))

Here’s another.

The excitement continues...
The excitement continues…

Giant brown dead spots, courtesy of my pride and vanity. A few weeks ago a lawn company representative stopped by and gently pointed out that my lawn looks… oh… awful. It doesn’t help that the neighbors on both sides of us paid for gorgeous sod and sprinkling systems so their lawns look like golf courses.

Except for one couple across the street who care even less about their lawn than we do, we’re the black sheep of the grass community on this street. But listen, I have other things to do. I don’t have time to be obsessing over the lawn.

But the lawn company guy made me really look at my neglect, and then in a fit of vanity I went out and bought a bag of lawn fertilizer and applied it to the grass.

I did not read the directions. Not all the way, at least.

Because who reads the directions on a bag of nitrogen? It’s basically chicken poop in an easily carried container. I read this much: “Apply to dry grass…blah, blah, blah…lasts for three months.”

Two days later I mentioned the fertilizer to our friend and neighbor Josh, who lives on the next street up and has a lawn that makes golf courses look slovenly. Josh’s lawn is lush and a freakish shade of green, like angels come and tend to it at night. He looked at me and said, “You know you need to water that, right? It’ll burn your lawn.”

Luckily we were on a bus at the moment, bouncing our way down I-94 with a herd of 4th graders headed to a field trip. We were shouting at each other over the open windows and the hyper children, so I didn’t actually have to come up with a coherent answer.

Of course I didn’t know that, because I didn’t read that part of the directions.

And now my lawn looks worse than before.

I don’t know if this is a lesson in humility or reading the directions, but take your pick. Apply whatever lesson you need to learn.

And if the lawn guy comes knocking, just plug your ears and refuse him an audience.

Here, let me leave you with a better photo. If anyone knows what kind of flower this is, I'd dearly love to be reminded of what I planted.
Here, let me leave you with a better photo. If anyone knows what kind of flower this is, I’d dearly love to be reminded of what I planted.

 

Moses Didn’t Have Time for God’s Plan, Either.

Right now the vacuum is whining its way up my stairs, loudly. My twelve-year-old daughter is manning the thing, grunting with the effort of a carting a heavy object while simultaneously using the attachment to get all the cat hair off the carpet.

My son is in the bathroom, scrubbing away at the toilet and the tub. But not simultaneously, I don’t think.

My children have been drafted into service this morning because 1) it’s good for them (Please see previous post about spoiled children) 2) I don’t ever want them to think the toilet magically cleans itself and 3) I don’t have the time to do these things myself.

2015-05-16 11.07.04

So while I’m sure that it appears I’m resting comfortably in a chair and surfing the interweb with a cup of coffee while my children do all the housework, that’s not the case at all. I’ve been writing all morning, feverishly trying to catch up on writing I didn’t get done this week because I was working, cooking, shopping, mowing, and driving all over Kalamazoo County.

And this brings me back to our friend, Moses. You know, the man who was busy minding his own business when God interrupted his life with a very large plan? Moses had sheep! He had kids who needed new sandals and food on the table. He had a wife who probably had a long list of chores for him to do, some sort of house that probably needed some sort of repairs, and responsibilities in the community.

He was busy.

He didn’t have time for God’s rearrangement any more than we did, I’m guessing. And fast forward a few thousand years– the disciples were all busy doing things when Jesus called them. They were tax collectors and fishermen with careers and responsibilities. Saul was busy killing people and persecuting the Way when Jesus blinded him and gave him a new life calling.

None of them were just sitting around with giant pockets of time, waiting for God to give them a new assignment.

So as we look at our own lives and packed schedules, it can be easy to rationalize God’s call away. We don’t have time to get to know the neighbors next door, or host the small group, or teach that class. The calendar clearly indicates that we are already packed to the gills.

But somehow God’s people managed to prioritize their lives so they could focus on what God needed them to do next. It comes down to those priorities and making the hard choices so we open up the time needed for whatever it is God’s asking us to do.

And this is why I’m sitting here, typing so fast my fingers are a blur. I write because God’s asked me to write. It means I have less time to vacuum and redecorate my house, though. Lucky for me, I have able-bodied children I can draft into service to help out, but even if I didn’t I’d still write.

We’d just have a really hairy staircase, is all.

A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (Matthew 4:21-22, NLT)

Today, a Shepherd. Tomorrow, Leader of God’s People! (It could happen to you.)

The story of Moses resonates with me. In fact, a few of you long-time readers will remember that the new book, If I Plug My Ears God Can’t Tell Me What To Do, was originally called the Burning Bush Still Speaks. That was way back in the day when I didn’t know what I was doing and every day as a writer was filled with trepidation and a scrunched up face of pure concentration.

Exactly like today, I guess. Nothing’s changed in six years! I thought Moses’ story was awesome six years ago and I think it’s awesome still. I love how Moses was minding his own business, watching the sheep when God broke through and rearranged his entire life.

Lambs! And mercy, were they noisy.
Lambs! And mercy, were they noisy. 

He had no idea of what was coming.

He woke up that morning, he ate his Cocoa Puffs, he added gel to his hipster beard, and he kissed Zipporah goodbye. He pulled on his barn boots and he started the commute to work with a coffee mug in one hand and some goat cheese in the other.

Just like every day.

As he walked to the sheep he probably tripped over a few cats, a dog barked at him, and he wondered what his wife would make for dinner. He gathered up the livestock, said hello to Kirk (the minister at the local Presbyterian church), made polite small talk around the watering trough, and then he and the furry beasts headed out to the pasture.

Scuse me. No, scuse ME. Oh, so sorry. I bumped you. There are just so many mouths and so little trough space!
“‘Scuse me.” “No, ‘scuse ME.” “Oh, so sorry. I bumped you. There are just so many mouths and so little trough space!”

(If I get so much as one comment about how I know nothing about middle eastern sheep herding practices, I swear I will hunt that commenter down and feed him mutton.) ((And I know there weren’t any Presbyterians back in Moses’ day. But I’ve got one across the street from me and I thought it would be fun to add him into a blog post.))

Moses and the sheep did boring sheep/shepherd type things all morning, Moses was just about to eat his goat cheese on a few barley crackers, and then…

God rearranged his entire life.

The bush was burning, God was in it, he had things to say to Moses, and life was never the same again. It was hard, it was weird, and it was nothing Moses had planned to do. He did his best to talk God out of it, even.

God was not about to be redirected.

He was about to include Moses in one of the most amazing projects God has ever set into motion, and Moses was just the man for the job.

So think this little story over today, my friends. As you eat your Cocoa Puffs and gel your beard, as you kiss your spouse goodbye and begin your work day, mull the possibilities over in your mind.

Keep your eyes peeled for burning bushes, and be listening for the voice of God.

It might be your turn to have your life rearranged. Are you ready?

2015-05-16 10.45.24
Seriously, the baby sheep here wants to know. Are you ready? What if God rearranges your life today?

 

 

When God Asks Us To Do Something Very Small (and Very Hard)

Let me sum up the entire Bible for you: God speaks; we need to listen.

Theologians everywhere are groaning and formatting angry letters to me right this minute because that’s a vast understatement of the whole Bible. Six words can’t begin to encapsulate thousands of years of God’s Word to humankind, they’ll say.

And they’re right. But so am I, maybe.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a terrible time listening to God lately. I pretend to listen, but really I’m really worried about what He’s going to tell me. For example, Monday’s small group lesson was on how to open your life to the Holy Spirit’s work even when it means giving him control of everything.

Everything, did you hear me? Do you know how frightening it is to give the Holy Spirit free reign? Do you know what happens when you let it all go? You might end up writing books for a living, or moving across the world to be a missionary, or finding your house full of children. You might have to get a new job or keep the job you hate. The Holy Spirit does not prioritize based on our comfort levels, I’ve found.

Today’s podcast from Michael Hyatt was all about Setting Up Camp in the Discomfort Zone, further adding to my sense of coming change.

As of yesterday afternoon, I’ve given up on ignoring God and I’m really trying to listen (ignoring him wasn’t working anyway) and I have a feeling we aren’t in for a move across the country or even a job change.

I think the coming change is very small.

It’s probably going to be very hard.

Changes in the heart are often the hardest, aren’t they? The changes where we move from distrust to faith, or from selfishness to generosity. Sometimes we have to learn to speak with kindness, which of course means we have to have the kindness in our hearts in the first place. We might be called to offer mercy when we’d rather retaliate, or show grace when we just aren’t in the mood.

The Holy Spirit might not be asking for a radical, obvious, adrenaline-pumping kind of change. He might be asking for a change of heart.

Ephesians 4:23-24

Thoughts? What heart-changes are the hardest for you to make?

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We’re Going to Call This a Learning Opportunity, Rather Than a Failure

I always have a weird reaction to Mother’s Day. Instead of basking in the glow of motherhood and my children’s adoration, I wake up fidgety and get positively cranky by nightfall. I remember all the ways I’ve failed already as a mother and I fear all the ways I’ll mess it up in the coming years.

I don’t know how my children have made it this far, honestly.

Motherhood isn’t the only place I’ve failed, of course. We can also add these things to the list:

  • any skill involving math
  • basic carpentry
  • driving around garbage trucks on rural roads
  • running any distance without a zombie close behind
  • speaking in public
  • working at that pumpkin place
  • eating well (today I ate my body weight in Cheetos)
  • competitive sports
  • cigar smoking
  • patience
  • grace
  • peace
  • evangelism

And so on, and so forth. Now aging into my late 30s, I’ve accumulated quite a list of Things I Should Not Make a Habit of Doing for Any Reason. 

But is this really a bad thing? For example, I know enough to not become a carpenter, no matter how many hours of This Old House I log (my slogan could be Clemences Crooked Cottages). I am a more careful driver, thanks to nineteen years of a throbbing ankle due to the Great Garbage Truck Smashing of 1996.

All the things we stink at can really help us as we try to discern God’s next step for our lives. Of course he works through our weakness, we all know that. But there’s also a reason we’re designed the way we are, as individuals. So go ahead, make that list of Things I Ought Not Do for God.

If you’re overwhelmed about what your future holds and what God’s plans may be for you, you can at least start with this list. But don’t get too dependent on your own perception, because God really does throw a surprise in there every once in a while.

Because as much as I feel like a failure as a mother, I have two kids out there in the living room who really are thriving and will one day grow to be productive members of society, even if it’s the last thing I do. Do I feel called to start an orphanage because of my superb mothering skills? No. But I can do a decent job with the two kids I have.

What about you? What do you stink at, and will therefore strike off your list of possible ministry opportunities?

1 Thessalonians 2:1 & 4

You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure… For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:1 & 4 NLT)

If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What To Do: It’s finally here!

Happiness! Happy day! It’s May, which means my new book is available!

I’ll stop with the overuse of exclamation marks now. I apologize.

If I Plug My Ears, God Can't Tell Me What to DoSome of you have advance copies because you’ve won contests or because you’re my mother. And a few of you contributed and got a copy, or you’re just a delightful person and I gave you one.

The rest of you might be dying for your very own copy of the new book, and I’m here to tell you all the ways to get one. Others of you might not be convinced to part with any money whatsoever to read books, but don’t worry. I’ll either convince you before this post is over or I’ll give you another clever option. Stay tuned.

So, here’s how to get a copy of the book:

  • Local booksellers: A few of you lucky ducks live near a real, live bookstore that carries the book or can order it for you. Baker Book House in Grand Rapids will have it, and Family Christian Stores will have it soon. Please, support your local bookstore if at all possible.
  • Discovery House–direct from the publisher! Discovery House has been amazing to work with, and they’re a great option if you’d like to order the book without having to go into public and therefore wear real pants. No one will know your pant-situation if you order from dhp.org.
  • Amazon.com: Super easy, and of course you can also order a salad spinner and a hot tub while you’re there. I won’t judge.
  • Christianbook.com: Excellent prices, and you can order in bulk and give copies away as Christmas gifts and then con your small group into studying it together. (Hint, hint.)
  • Ebooks! It’s available anywhere ebooks are sold. You know, if you’d like to save the earth and use less paper or you have a small book addiction and can’t carry thirty books at one time.
  • Direct from the author: I do have books you can buy right off me, if you live close enough. Just give me a ring/email/smoke signal.

Some of you still aren’t convinced. You get this blog for free, why would you pay money to read my craziness? Here’s the best idea ever– go into your library and ask them to order the book for the library. And then ask to be notified as soon as it comes in. Not only do you get to read it for free– you wily, frugal person, you– everyone else in your community can read it too. Win-Win-Win!

If you’re really excited about this new project, there are a couple of ways your extra support could make a huge difference:

  • I’d love it if you’d review the book on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are IMPORTANT these days.
  • Share this post on your social media accounts to get the word out.
  • If you’re a Pinterest fanatic, please pin these quotes from the book!
  • Come to the release party at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids on May 23, 10:30am. I’ll be signing books and we’ll have a blast.

I have to take a minute and thank you for reading this blog and the books. I appreciate you more than I can ever say– you’re marvelous!

 

Brain Explosion: Quite Possibly on the Agenda Today

If my skull cracks in two today because my brain has exploded from within, don’t be surprised.

If you walk into my living room or back yard and find an actual gray mass of throbbing neurons sitting just outside the boundaries of my head bones, just call 911 and my husband. One of them will scoop me back up and glue me together like Humpty Dumpty.

Wait, things didn’t turn out well for the egg-guy, did they? Never mind.

Dear reader, my brain is fried.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news and/or you’re parenting children, your brain is probably also about to explode.

I’m terribly worried about the entire population of Nepal. When I think of the parents sleeping outside in the cold with their children because they’re afraid of the earthquake aftershocks, my eyes go cobwebby and I feel a little faint. What would I do with my own children in that situation? When I realize help is on the way but they’re dealing with many miles of rugged terrain in a poverty-stricken country, I have to lie down for a minute out of sheer helplessness. I could clear out my bank account and not make a dent in the real problem. Neither can I go there to help– I’d just be in the way.

Nepal isn’t the only spot with trouble. Ethiopian Christians are getting walked along the beach and then executed. They and countless other Christians are being persecuted in a way I’ve never even known was possible, here in my quiet little country town, where Christians outnumber goats by a 3:1 ratio. (You thought I was going to say heathens instead of goats, didn’t you? It’s surprisingly hard to track an actual number of heathens, while goats are an easily counted population in this neighborhood.)

Speaking of closer to home, we Christians are having some trouble on several fronts. While I cannot overstate my compassion towards those who struggle with same-sex attractions, I also can’t rewrite the Word of God to my feelings or whims. I wonder what I would do if I owned a bakery and a same-sex couple asked me to bake them a wedding cake. The compassionate part of me would run to the kitchen and start creaming the butter. The other part of me would be screaming, “Coward, coward!” into my own ear as I remember Paul’s words to Titus about rebellious, unfit church folk: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:16).

I wonder if Jesus would stand alongside of me and bake the cake or if he’d be standing on a chair next to the cash register, taking advantage of a little teaching moment while he gave a Sermon on the Bakery Counter.

As if the entire world’s problems aren’t enough, we have friends and family who worried, anxious, and unsettled. Because we love them, we struggle with them.

And also, I don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner again tonight. Not that it will matter if my brain explodes here in a few minutes. Eat whatever you want, kids! Mom’s out cold.

In all these things, I have only one effective weapon: prayer. I can pray for Nepal, I can pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere, and I can pray the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to unite us in all situations, so that God may be glorified. And I can pray Jesus returns for us quickly.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

John 16:33

 

A Bunch of Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Quit Your Job

It’s currently Monday afternoon, which means 83% of all people on earth are thinking about quitting their jobs at this exact moment.

The remaining 17% are divided among these groups: people who love their jobs (5%), people who don’t actually work while they are at their jobs (10%), and those without fully functioning frontal lobes of the brain (2%).

(Percentages are estimates. And by “estimates” I mean “I made them up.”)

I’m not thinking about quitting my job but that’s because I only work until 2pm and then come home and take a nap. Then I start my other job, which is being a writer while simultaneously taking care of our kids and house. I get enough variety from this setup that I don’t need to quit anything– before I know it I’m on to something new each day.

But I have quit many, many jobs in my day. I’m sitting here, reviewing all the jobs I’ve ever quit, and I really don’t have any regrets. Many of those jobs ran their course and ended because the summer was over, the contract was finished, or I was pregnant and the baby was about to explode from my abdomen. I can think of two jobs in particular that were so awful that I can’t even go near those places, to this day.

Quit your job

I feel this qualifies me as an expert in quitting jobs, and I’m here to give you some things to ponder if you find yourself in the 83% of persons who currently would like to find new employment:

  • What’s the real problem? Am I frustrated with the duties of the actual job, the people I’m forced to work with, or– moment of hard truth– am I the problem? I know I wander through life with this vague sense of restlessness, looking for situations to be solved so I can find contentment and joy. The problem is I’m often really the problem and, until I slay the dragon of discontentment, quitting isn’t going to solve anything. On the other hand, sometimes the job duties are a bad match or the people are truly horrible. In that case, I’ve found tremendous satisfaction from giving my notice and walking out the door.
  • Am I really trapped here? Sometimes I feel trapped by a job which makes me hate it even more. When I feel like everything depends on that paycheck hitting the bank account every other Friday, I get a little nuts. The first few years Eric and I were married he was finishing his degree, which meant I had the actual job with benefits. I felt like I had to work at a job I was completely unsuited to do, but I should have quit. Honestly. At that point in our marriage we could have easily lived off what I made at almost any other job–  no kids, no car payments, no mortgage. I still regret staying at that job, fifteen years later.
  • What can we change now to prepare for a job switch in the future? I think many of us hesitate to quit our jobs because we know it’ll wreak havoc on our families. But what if we started moving slowly in the right direction, getting everyone on board a little at a time? Just knowing I have an exit plan helps me feel a lot better about a terrible situation. We have some friends who could easily cut at least $10,000 out of their annual budget by chopping two things– dance lessons for their daughters and a costly preschool program for their son. As far as I know both parents love their jobs, but if one of them wanted to quit they could slowly start reducing dance lessons and finding less expensive schooling options. Often an exit strategy is simply a matter of sucking up some courage and taking that first small step.
  • Is this job my true calling in life, and/or is it helping me to accomplish that true calling? Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as a church secretary. It’s tons of fun– but it’s not my true calling in life. My first calling is to my husband and children, and after that I’m a writer. But there are actual bills that need to be paid and being a mother and writer is not a good way to make actual money. The part-time job gives us what we need so other callings are possible. Paul, the man who wrote so much of the New Testament, was a tentmaker. That was a great way for him to make money so he could eat, but it wasn’t his true calling in life. He had bigger things to do, my friends.
  • Have I prayed about this? I often spend a lot of time thinking through a problem from many directions before I settle on the correct plan of action. I then begin to harass God into agreeing with me and my plan. However, I’m pretty sure that if I started with prayer and then opened my life to what God really has planned, that flexibility might make the whole process a lot less painful. Let’s go back to our friend Paul, the tentmaker. His true calling involved a lot of uncomfortable situations, from angry mobs to shipwrecks to prison time. No one would have thought it unreasonable for him to pray about the situation and then quit. Because PRISON. Lucky for us he didn’t quit. He took those problems and rolled on, because he was focused on his true calling to spread the Gospel. I’m pretty sure this focus was possible only through vast quantities of prayer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What jobs have you quit, and have you ever regretted quitting? Or not quitting? And let me know if you have other criteria for changing jobs– let’s not rely on my expertise alone.

“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.” (Paul, in Acts 26:19-22)

A Bold Theory About Control Freaks

Control freaks don’t actually solve problems. They make us cranky, anxious, and they’re unpleasant to be around. Micromanagement strangles the life out of everyone around them.

control freaks
This is how control freaks make me feel. Even though I am one…

I’ve been collecting data about this exact problem for weeks now, from my own life and from the lives of other people who shall remain nameless. I’ve been driving people crazy and other people have been driving me crazy. Because we are all control freaks, my friends.

My pastor is even preaching a sermon series on this, so yesterday I got to hear an excellent sermon that coincided directly with my thoughts for weeks. While Jason has to preach with some sensitivity and grace, I can be more blunt on the blog. I’m going to say what he can’t say from the pulpit– Let’s all knock it off. Let’s stop the micromanagement of petty details and things beyond our realm of control.

What we can control:

Now, we are always in control of a few things: our attitude and the words that come out of our mouths, for starters. I don’t know about you, but I don’t yet have a reliably good attitude or kind and gracious words, so I obviously have enough work in my own heart that I don’t need to be piddling around with other people’s attitudes, hearts, words, or responsibilities.

Perhaps I should get my heart and words exactly lined up with the Holy Spirit, then maybe I could feel free to tell others how to manage themselves, and tell God how to handle my problems.

From Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak:

It is so much easer to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls. We like to talk about the outer world as if it were infinitely complex and demanding, but it is a cakewalk compared to the labyrinth of our inner lives! (p. 82)

But wait– I’m still super annoyed at their mess.

I know life is aggravating. Heck, people are aggravating! When things change unexpectedly, when others don’t see the genius behind our ideas, when we’re forced to share space with people who do it all wrong– the control freak comes out in us. We assume that since we’re in a dither God has forsaken us, so we take matters into our own hands.

We fuss, we pout. We fume, we whine. We hone our manipulation skills until they’re a sharp, deadly instrument that can be used to skewer anyone who gets in our way.

Maybe there’s a better way, though. I’d like to talk about a story in Daniel, chapter 3. Daniel and his friends had refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar, knowing full well they were about to get barbecued in a walk-in oven for their defiance. They said this in response to this unpleasant situation:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NLT)

The new approach for control freaks:

This hands-off, fully trusting in God approach makes me twitch because I do not enjoy getting burned alive. Here’s how a control freak would handle the problem instead:

  1. Review situation in full, as soon as the heralds began the announcements. Spend many hours in whiney review with friends, expressing full displeasure with God’s provision and the government’s poor choices.
  2. Find another place to be for actual event. Perhaps a convenient illness, trip back East, or a convention for high-ranking Babylonian officials would be in order. Whatever gets me out of the range of the fire would be perfect.
  3. Find all possible options for getting rules changed to our advantage at event. Speak to other high-ranking officials. Date the king’s daughter. Plan a coup with neighboring nation. Get king assassinated, if necessary.

Whatever the situation demands, a control freak will rise to the occasion. Because, once again, we do not enjoy getting burned alive.

g1dciucdx9u-evan-kirby

But Daniel and his friends let go of the situation, trusted God, and did what they need to do. They focused on pleasing God, and God took care of the rest.

What would happen in our individual situations if we just backed off? I’d like to try to let God handle the situation while I stand back with full confidence in his leadership, and I’d like to see some other people try it too.

Any thoughts on being a control freak? I’d like to hear them. (Even if they’re just really good stories about other control freaks you may know…)

 

 

Because I Don’t Like It, That’s Why

We had a rare opportunity to go to the bookstore the other day without our children. The kids, darling creatures, aren’t exactly the most restful companions at the bookstore.

“Mom, can we go to the children’s section?”

“Mom, will you buy me an e-reader and/or a $100 set of Legos?”

“Mom, am I old enough to drink that kind of coffee with the whipped cream on the top?”

“Mom, how much allowance do you owe me, and do I have enough to buy this book?” (The answer is always, always no.)

“Mom, why doesn’t that lady on the cover of the calendar have enough clothes on?”

Of course I love these short people and would gladly give them an organ from my own body, but I relished the opportunity to wander slowly through the aisles and actually focus on the books while they were in a different place. For consecutive minutes I could focus on the books. Cheap books, decorating books, mystery books– I examined them all.

(In a vaguely related note, one of my favorite cookbook authors has gotten a divorce since her last book. I noticed her new cover shows her left hand with no wedding band, which got me worried, and then I launched a full-scale investigation into the acknowledgements in the back of both books to see if I was correct, and I was. In the first book she thanks her loving husband, and in the new book she casually mentions some new dude. I’ve been worried about her for days and I never would have even noticed if my kids would have been two inches behind me, talking my ear off. But I digress…)

I also had a chance to closely examine many artsy, literary books. I usually skip these when the kids are with me because I have to use my minutes wisely before they run out of patience.

It turns out I still don’t like deep, literary fiction. Even without the kids in tow.

I know I should, as a writer, deeply appreciate another’s ability to write prose that inspires and translates strong emotions through the mystery of the written word, deepening my understanding of the world and the people who fill it.

But I don’t.

don't like it

I just don’t like it, and that’s the end of it. I don’t enjoy being dragged through three hundred pages of torture, misery, and angst. I don’t like feeling like my emotions are being manipulated by someone who woke up cranky in 1954 and decided to make everyone else cranky, too.

I’m not saying that other people shouldn’t enjoy it– by all means. If the full range of human emotion is how you like to spend your three hundred fictional pages, then go for it. I just like to spend mine happy and relaxed, is all I’m saying.

Sometimes I feel guilty, like if I’m going to really contribute to the world I should use my talents to write deep and slightly disturbed novels. Something with some grit, where we all come out a little scarred. I’d feel more like a genuine writer if I had some dark secrets to tint my pages.

I’m never going to be that kind of a writer, though. It’s not where my interests lie, nor my talents. I specialize in ridiculousness, and I’m going to be okay with that. Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) says this:

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.

Do I believe this? Do you believe this? What if we were formed by a loving God to serve him with specific gifts, in a specific time? I think we don’t have to despise ourselves for our lack of organization or math skills or literary interest. I think we should relax and grow into the exact reason we were formed, whatever that may be. I give us all permission. 

What about you? Do you ever feel like you should enjoy something and then feel terribly guilty when you don’t? What do you enjoy, instead?

 

 

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