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Out of Order

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
– John G. Whittier –
from the hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Less than a week after my youngest daughter was born, a contractor came to enclose our carport into an activity room. Our family had expanded to three children and one grandmother so our living quarters also had to expand. It took about two months to get the room completed and we enjoyed the new space for about six months. Then the room started getting smaller as its contents increased. Right now there is so much stuff in the room that it is more of a large storage closet than anything else. I call it the no-activity room. I know I need to get in there and purge and organize and yet the weeks and months go by and still it is a mess.

Hannah turned six last week, so the room has been in need of attention for five years.  It had some shining moments of activity when out-of-town guests came to visit or we had a big party. We’d spend weeks working on it and then after the visitors left or the event was over it quickly returned to its cluttered state.

Sometimes my mind is like that room, so full of stuff that it doesn’t function as designed. Sometimes my schedule is like that room, so crammed with appointments and happenings that I race from one thing to another. Sometimes my emotions are like that room, crowded to capacity and ready to spill forth at any moment.

If an ordered life confesses the beauty of God’s peace as John Whittier’s lyrics convey, what does my disorganization and clutter confess? The ugliness of my upheaval?

Heavenly Father, please heal my harried heart. Restore order in my life and home so that Your peace may prevail.

Slightly Ajar

I am the sort of person who wants to be available to those around me who are in need. I am also the sort of person who is easily distracted. My once strong focus on the task at hand seems to have faded with my fourth decade on this earth. In order to get my work done, I need to shut out much of what is going on around me, but I do not want to shun people whom I care for and want to serve.

I am someone who likes to know what is going on in the world. I am also someone who is tender-hearted and heartbroken over the terrible things that some people will do to other human beings. The news, from whatever source we learn it, is rarely happy. I don’t want to be uninformed, but I also do not want to open up my heart, soul, and mind to become a trash receptacle for the refuse of humanity.

Therefore, I almost shut my door—literally and figuratively.

My office sits on a busy hallway. It’s noisy. If I close my door within an inch of latching it, I muffle the volume of the masses. At the same time, if one of my students, or colleagues, or advisees comes looking for me, they will notice that I am in and have left an obvious, albeit thin welcome.

I am ready and willing to come to the aid of those who need help; I am also eager to share in the joys and accomplishments of others. Unfortunately, the entire world at times needs help and thankfully, there is always something to celebrate. I will go crazy trying to be available to help everyone and I cannot party constantly or I will never be able to fulfill my daily, demanding responsibilities.

And so, I only leave the door cracked. I do believe what Jesus taught about being my brother’s keeper and being a Good Samaritan, but I have learned that I can follow those principles without making everyone my neighbor. I trust that the Lord will place in my path anyone I do not already know that He wants me to help. I don’t have to go out searching for more.

Life is hard for so many people. Natural and unnatural disasters happen every minute. I seem to have an overdeveloped sense of empathy. I grew up in a loving family, in a safe neighborhood, in a free country and I have good health. I married a man who loves me and we are blessed with healthy, intelligent, happy children who bring us great joy. I have work that is fulfilling, an environment that is visually pleasing in a friendly organizational culture. I worship a loving, merciful, and powerful God with a church family that encourages me to live in a way that honors Him. My life often makes me feel guilty when compared to so many others who struggle with so many of life’s challenges.

It is very distracting to open my mind to all of the needs in the world and every wrong that should be righted. It is depressing to constantly be immersed in the dark things happening all around us. I cannot do everything for everyone and intellectually I know that the Lord doesn’t expect me to. Sometimes my heart needs to be reminded. I am not, after all, divine.  Taking care of the world is God’s job. If He wants to include me in His work, He knows where to find me—in my office with my door slightly ajar.

So, I choose to fill my mind with the good stuff and filter out the bad. I choose to work for good in my personal sphere of influence in this world and leave the rest of the work to willing comrades in their spheres of influence.

Doors swing both ways. I use mine to close out the bad and let in the good. In order to be of any use to my neighbors, I’ve got to be in a good frame of mind for them when they come knocking at my door.

Come on in if you need me, and I will gladly make some room for any friend you decide to bring along. We can rejoice together, shed tears, or roll up our sleeves. My door may not be wide open, but it is never closed.

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