Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whatever it takes


Monday: the summit…

On Monday, a book manuscript on which I had worked long and hard (twice) was officially accepted for hardcover publication in 2010. http://christykrobinson.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-book-manuscript-is-officially.html


In 2004, I conceived the idea of a multiple-author daily devotional book, wrote author guidelines, solicited articles from about 50 authors, wrote more than 90 of the 365 articles myself, rewrote many pieces, and edited all of them. It was laid out for publication and printed at a Los Angeles vendor, formatted for the company website, and we sold several thousand of the 4-volume sets for $15 during the 2005 calendar year. All of the writing and most of the editorial work was done at home on my ice-age Mac with dial-up internet.


As an appreciation gift for helping with several other projects of mine, I sent the set to the book acquisitions editor at Review & Herald Publishing Association, who liked it so much that she and the Book Committee decided to knock someone else’s manuscript out of the six-year waiting list, and put ours in instead.


This year, the acquisitions editor, now assistant vice president in the books division, called to update me on the new editing and formatting to their specifications, and to set deadlines for submission of the manuscript and other pieces they need to publish and market the book. So, again at home on nights and weekends, I set about replacing weaker articles, finding new Bible texts and translations to fit every day’s entry, and format the manuscript to size, font, and space requirements. I finished one week before deadline and emailed it to the publisher.


The vice president’s reaction was extremely complimentary, and on June 8, she notified me of the official decision of the Book Committee to accept the manuscript for publication.


Thursday: the valley…

Meanwhile, at my workplace, people were tense, and tempers were short. Most people didn’t know why this was going on, just that everything was on edge. I loved what I did, but not some of the practices at the workplace. Behind our backs, daggers were being thrown. Accusations. Threats. Criticisms. I knew what was happening because I’d seen and heard budget discussions at committee meetings. This was the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year.


But though the workplace and its events consume much of our waking hours, we all have lives to live. Families to attend to and enjoy, chores to do, recreation and spiritual times, friendships to establish, relationships to cultivate. Heart things. Life and death things. My aunt and uncle both have cancer, and uncle Ted, a kind and gentle Lutheran minister, and deep thinker whom I loved to talk with for hours, passed away one day before his eightieth birthday.

All this and more – even wonderful, positive things – had built and built to a fever pitch in my life. My shoulders, back, and chest muscles ached, I only slept three to four hours a night, and despite the usual dieting and exercising, I rapidly gained a lot of water weight and kept it on for weeks. Cortisol, the best friend of stress, fright, and flight, is a mother bear. The health insurance benefits just aren’t enough compensation for the destruction going on inside me.


After consultation with several Christian friends, I decided to add another element to my daily devotion: a radical prayer. So on Thursday morning, I said, “Lord, to accomplish these specific things, to fulfill your promises, and advance your plan for me, do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. I accept that it could be painful for a time, maybe even excruciating. I’m already at my breaking point. But I also trust that you will heal me again as you have before, and I’ll be blessed more greatly. So just do it. Whatever it takes.”


During the morning, I had a heavy, oppressive feeling, and my body ached. My head hurt. My stomach was a hard knot. Physical symptoms I’d suffered many times over the months. At noon, the ministry officers called a staff meeting for employees. At 1:30, the explanations about budgets and realities were given, and I was convinced that I was one of the people who’d be laid off later in the day. At 5:40 pm, the CEO and my supervisor came in to my office, and I was told that I was one of the people to be let go, along with a third of the staff. The survivors get a 10 percent pay cut (erasing all gains of the last 10 years), and have to pick up the duties of the dismissed. “It’s not personal, it’s only about the budget,” I was told again and again.


Still, I’m a 50 year-old woman with no other means of support, no family members to help financially, in one of the worst economic and highest-unemployment regions of the entire country. I have a mortgage to maintain. It’s hard not to take it personally, especially when I know the rancor going on over our heads and behind our backs. Our corporate culture is not the sweetest. Two of us had been led to this ministry by God some years ago (seven for me, fourteen for him). And for several years, we’ve prayed to be led back out! But where God places you, you must stay until He moves you on. We don’t abandon our posts because of discomfort. We stick through until relieved of duty or posted elsewhere.


The walk out of the valley…

But within an hour of the exit interview, I remembered what I’d prayed in the morning. “Whatever it takes.” So, like any other Thursday evening, I took my niece, staying with me for a few weeks, to the city’s street fair and farmer’s market for a few hours. We listened to the bands, petted the Humane Society puppies, bought some pizza slices and cold drinks, and strolled through the crowds.


At home, there were 38 messages on Facebook, and my cell phone and land line rang simultaneously with friends calling to give support and love. I now have a paycheck that includes 176 hours of unused vacation I’d earned, plus severance and a two-week in-lieu-of-notice salary. My insurance will be paid through end of July. I’ve applied for several positions already. I’ve filed for unemployment checks, too. (Should get them if California doesn't go bankrupt.) And I have very carefully saved a small emergency fund over the years. This is not the end of the world, but neither is it a three-week vacation to England from which I’d return to the job I love. (Sigh… maybe I can go back to England after a year or two in the new job.)


This separation from my job is not the only answer to the radical prayer. I asked the Lord for some significant and specific changes (which I’ll not share here until they happen). This layoff is combined with a deep peace and contentment that God is leading me to a huge miracle. Epic!


I’m expanding my job search from this area of southern California to my native city of Phoenix, where I have lots of lifetime friends, and my brother’s family. Moving back “home” would not be a traumatic event!


Goodbye, cortisol. That weight gain? I’ve lost six pounds in six days. After the first night, with only three hours of sleep, I’ve slept about six or seven hours. Working out. Loving on the pets. I’m giving myself the “spa” treatment and my face already looks younger.


So I very much appreciate your prayers for my future in career, lifestyle, and relationships (not necessarily in that order). But don’t worry about my spirits or that I’ll go postal. For me, this is a God-thing. This is wonderful. The dread is gone. I’m out of the “valley of the shadow of death, and I fear no evil,” for the Lord my Shepherd is guiding me, doing whatever it takes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Foi est tout


My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1,2 NIV

My surname, Robinson, is a very common English name. Its derivation is “son of Robin,” Robin being a diminutive of Robert, which means “famous brilliance.” The family motto for Robinson is foi est tout, or “faith is everything.” Well, it is, if you put your faith (belief and actions) in the Lord of Hosts.

Foi est tout. When I had just moved away from everything familiar and found myself without enough money to scrape by, the Lord solved the problem, and my debtor paid up, alleviating my poverty. Later, when I had no job, I promised God that I would, by honoring our partnership, continue to give the same offerings every two weeks as if I had a regular paycheck, until God found me a job or I ran out of money. I got the job seven months later, but I never ran out of money. I paid my mortgage and bills on time, received a serendipitous scholarship to accomplish a long-held goal, and had enough left at the first paycheck to cover my bills as usual. It was like the widow whose flour and oil never ceased during a famine (1 Kings 17). By my figures, my emergency fund should have run dry in two months. How did the money last for seven months, with a cushion left over? Only by God’s grace.

Foi est tout. But only if your faith is in El Shaddai, the Almighty Protector and Nourisher. People will let you down no matter how hard they try to keep faith with you.

King David the songwriter knew that foi est tout. “God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.” Psalm 62:1,2 MSG

Whatever your needs, the Holy Spirit, the parakletos, “the One who is called alongside,” is with you. He’s as close to you as your skin is to your flesh. Right now, ask Him to increase your faith. Be greedy for that faith that comes from God! I’ll gladly lend my ancient family motto to you: foi est tout. Faith—in God—is everything.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Father's Day gifts



Social studies and polls tell us that we all think we’re good drivers, but everyone else could stand some refresher courses – maybe even jail time.
“Could you be more annoying?” I silently fumed, following a clueless driver on my way to work. I would hope the answer from the driver would be, “Oh, sorry, I was chattering on my mobile phone while straddling both lanes at 20 miles per hour, and didn’t realize you needed to be somewhere on time. I’ll pull over and let you pass.” Instead, he suddenly stood on his brakes and blocked the intersection while waiting to make a left turn. I guess he could be more annoying!
It’s amazing how frequently life and limb can be endangered in a short distance from red-light runners, swervers, those who dart out from side streets, and who don’t use turn signals. 

I’m conscientious about the speed limit on surface streets, from concern for pedestrians and animals (plus a healthy respect for the radar-detecting motorcycle cop who lurks there sometimes). But on the freeway, I keep to the fast lane. 

So on the first day of driving a rental car in England, I drove just under the speed limit in the farthest-right lane (center lane on the left side of the road) so more-confident drivers could overtake me on the motorway. I concentrated on being safe, legal, and considerate – a righteous motorist indeed. Yet drivers frowned and mouthed words behind their windows. I finally realized that I was learning British driving in their fast lane. Fellow drivers said, essentially, “Could you be more annoying?” 

Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Matt. 7:1-5 The Message 

Our heavenly Father has every right to crush us for our faults, even the ones we consider slight. He really is “holier-than-thou,” but you’d never find a critical spirit, or a sneer of contempt on His face. Instead, He sings and rejoices over us, tenderly wipes our tears, covers us with His feathers and bears us on His wings, dandles us on His own knees, runs to meet us and shower us with kisses, holds us in His arms and carries us when we’re weak, shoulders our yoke and burden, has plans for good and not for evil, takes us by hand through danger, is compassionate and merciful and forgiving, and gave Himself for us – not because we love Him, but because He loves us. 

This Father, perfect in every way, created us in His image – the image of a divine Lover. He created the angels to worship and serve Him, but us – just to love and be loved! He created us and He adopted us, so there’d be no mistaking that we belong to Him every perfect way, including dimensions we’ve not perceived. What a wonderful Father. 

Paul exclaimed, This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!  That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. Romans 8:15-21 The Message 
 
He alone is worthy to accuse and judge us for our faults. He’s the only one worthy to tell us about the dust motes and giant logs in our own eyes. But He doesn’t condemn us (John 3:17, Romans 8:1) or tell us we’re annoying (or bad drivers!), but simply that He loves us beyond our comprehension, and offers us joyful, eternal life in His kingdom, starting here and now. 

Every day is Father’s Day, and the gift from Abba is that He gives the inheritance, the gifts, the love, the realization of His will and word – to us! Such a deal. The children get the goods! 

No one can deny that that’s good news.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My book manuscript is officially accepted!

A few days ago, a book manuscript on which I had worked long and hard (twice) was officially accepted for hardcover publication in 2010. 
In 2004, I conceived the idea of a multiple-author daily devotional book, wrote author guidelines, solicited articles from about 50 authors, wrote more than 90 of the 365 articles myself, rewrote many pieces, and edited all of them. It was laid out for publication and printed at a Los Angeles vendor, formatted for the company website, and we sold several thousand of the 4-volume sets for $15 during the 2005 calendar year. All of the writing and most of the editorial work was done at home on my ice-age Mac with dial-up internet.
As an appreciation gift for helping with several other projects of mine, I sent the set to the book acquisitions editor at Review & Herald Publishing Association, who liked it so much that she and the Book Committee decided to knock someone else’s manuscript out of the six-year waiting list, and put ours in instead.
This year, the acquisitions editor, now assistant vice president in the books division, called to update me on the new editing and formatting to their specifications, and to set deadlines for submission of the manuscript and other pieces they need to publish and market the book. So, again at home on nights and weekends, I set about replacing weaker articles, finding new Bible texts and translations to fit every day’s entry, and format the manuscript to size, font, and space requirements. I finished one week before deadline and emailed it to the publisher.
The vice president’s reaction was extremely complimentary, and on June 8, she notified me of the official decision of the Book Committee to accept the manuscript for publication.

_________________
Dear Christy,
The sound you hear in our office is that of hammers against metal, crafting a Medal of Honor for your amazing, unstinting, and thoroughly beautiful work! Even a quick glance shows that this is one manuscript that will be a pleasure to work on. Thank you, thank you!

I’ll be in touch after Book Committee with the official decision. God bless!
Jeannette
-----------------------

Hello, Christy!
It is my pleasure to inform you that our Book Committee has recommended that we accept the manuscript We Shall Be Changed. Congratulations! There are still some hurdles the manuscript has to clear having to do with the cost of publication, but we are looking forward to seeing the book in print. You should have a contract before long.

Thanks for a job well done, Christy! This book will be a real contribution to our lineup.

Jeannette R. Johnson
Assistant Vice President, Book Division
Review and Herald Publishing Association

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dave Barry speaks truth -- just this once!

"The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes."
--Dave Barry

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Baby steps

Even in the life of a mature Christian, there are times when God seems very far away. We walk through the desert, crying for Him to just show us the way, to lead us to the oasis, to hold our hands and tell us it’ll be all right. What we see in our loneliness is burning sand and thirsty ground. The summer heat has chased away any pools or trickles of moisture. Our mouths are parched.

We remember being taught that we must have done something wrong, that we were in rebellion, or we’ve withheld confession of or repentance of some sin that keeps us from perceiving God’s presence.

And we feel even worse. Forsaken. Deserted.

But we know, by previous personal experience and by reading God’s word, that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. We know that He does not condemn us, and that God so loved humanity that He gave His beloved and perfect Son to die that we could live the abundant life. We know that we have emerged from the wilderness in the past, and we will again.

Why in the world do we go through these trials? Why, when God has promised to comfort us with His Spirit, are we still tottering on weak knees?

Hummingbirds are lovely, tiny creatures that only live in the Western hemisphere. Their life spans average only three years. Their hearts beat 1,260 to 1,400 times per minute or about 23 beats per second. Their wings beat 55 to 75 times per second, creating the famous humming noise. Some migrate thousands of miles in a single season, following the blooming plants. They need to eat (flower nectar and tiny insects) about every ten minutes to maintain their metabolism.

When the young hummingbird is temporarily abandoned in the orchid tree, she chitters for her parents for ten minutes before she’s hungry enough to seek and sip her own nectar (which was why she was “abandoned” in the first place). Mom and Dad Hummer are busily seeking nourishment about 30 feet away, but keeping an eye on their baby. As soon as she leaves her branch and hovers before a blossom, her parents return to encourage her and they fly off together.

When babies first stand alone, and sway back and forth to maintain balance, we cheer with pride. When they take their first stumbling steps, we back up and encourage the child to toddle to us, and when they reach our arms, we enfold them with love and praise. “Well done, little one!”

What if, during our lonely desert experiences when we're looking down at the hot, burning sand, our heavenly Father is right in front of us with outstretched arms, encouraging us to take the steps necessary to develop strong muscles, to be ready to march and run? He’s never left or forsaken us, because He’s still here. He’s still our Immanuel and Comforter. When we begin to fall, His arms catch us and He sets us up for the next steps.

God is intent on maturing our souls to be ready for service. Some people need to see His power as expressed in an earthquake or lightning bolt. Others, in their pain or grief, prefer a gentle, healing touch and a kind word.

But when we do hear God’s whisper in our ears, a personal message that can’t be explained or translated, there is rejoicing in our hearts.

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. …they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…he will come to save you." Isaiah 35:1-4 NIV

When Jesus was baptized, and the Father praised Him as His beloved son, Jesus left the crowds around John the Baptist, and the Spirit “drove” Him into the wilderness for prayer, fasting, and the devil’s temptations. (Mark 1:12) I’m sure that during those 40 days in the Jordanian wilderness, Jesus didn’t sit around thinking about pita bread and falafel. He was focused on the strength the Father had for Him in the scriptures. He experienced that loneliness and despair we do, and wondered if any human cared for Him. He wandered through the desert of His thoughts, too.

But Jesus had the faith that His loving Father was there, pleased with Him, ready to bear Him up if He stumbled. He had faith that God would turn His wordless, anguished prayer into the polished eloquence of heaven. He had faith that “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.” Isaiah 35:6-7 NIV

The burning sand and thirsty ground, just a depression that water runs through, is miraculously transformed into the opposite: a place that holds water, and the source of clean, bubbling, life-giving water. Grasses and trees grow in this oasis, and birds and animals come to live and thrive.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If…you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:9-11 NIV

When you go through a hot, lonely desert in your life, remember that the Lord is still close to you, but allowing you to grow and strengthen, and to lengthen your stride. Like the hummingbird’s parents, at the right time He will swoop in and lead you away to sweetness.

And if you sense that your friend feels abandoned, rejected, or needs a beacon in the darkness, hold out your steadying hand. Carry a light. Extend that gentle embrace for a few extra minutes (not seconds). Say nothing — but feel everything. Breathe in the same rhythm. You can be the Lord’s healing hand. You will be that oasis that is sought after, that cool, sweet spring water.

“Sharing God’s love” is not a catchphrase: it’s real and it’s one-on-one. It’s loving the Lord with all our hearts, and our fellow creatures as ourselves. That is the greatest commandment. It’s the only commandment!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...