Tag Archives: plans

The wisdom of percolation

The other week a colleague and I did a presentation for Ph.D. students about the job market.  She told them that when she started looking for jobs her own adviser told her that it’s not that difficult to find job, but to find a job that leads to or amounts to a career takes about four to five years on average in academia.

I could see the desperation and disillusionment in the students’ eyes, but deep inside, I sighed a bit.  Her words reminded me that we so often look at others around us and all we see is where they are now, the fruits of their hard work, and we assume things came quickly and easily to them, probably—no–definitively, more quickly and easily than they came for us.

But what if that’s not the truth?  What if I reminded you today that good things take time?  And that the good things that others have, those took time, too.  

See, despite my sigh, I saw myself in the eyes of those students.  Here I am not even three months into my new job and I’ve been beating myself up a bit, because I haven’t made it around to all that much of my writing, I don’t have a clear three-year vision for this appointment, and I’m not sure what role I can or should play in institutional change.

But it’s been three months.  

And my expectations crammed into those short months, for the next three years, reek of impatience, perhaps even faithlessness.  I wouldn’t expect to take a new job in a church and within three months implement dramatic changes.  No, I’d recognize and routinize the value in listening, observing, taking in what’s God is and has already been doing before ploughing boldly ahead.

So I’m drawn these days to something like the wisdom of percolation, to recognizing and valuing that if we people work hard for years beneath the shadows, then surely God needs time to work, too.  That perhaps we’ve got it all wrong: time is not against us, but for us, in that it takes time to understand, to learn, and to grow, and God wants us to have and to hold and to enjoy that time with God.  I would and can afford that time to my students, but it’s a bit more difficult when it comes to me.

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Fall in Washington, DC.  Photo by Evan Schneider.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m right where I need to be.

Maybe you are, too.

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On risking earthly things

It sounds so simple, this business of trusting God.

But even when I’m wracked with uncertainty and brutally aware of my own need for God, I often fail to understand how exactly we go about being faithful.  Even as I strive to know and trust God with my present and my future, I discover that once again I’m going about it all wrong.

Chesapeake Bay.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Evan Schneider.

I’ve placed my trust in earthly things instead of in who God is, has been, and always will be.

When we’re reticent to truly trust God, our vision is limited.  We place our trust in human endeavors–promotions, houses, even people–but earthly securities are but illusions.  They crumble, they fall, they fail us.  At those moments of despair we often cry out to God, feeling betrayed.

But it is God whom we have betrayed.  

We’ve put our trust, our devotion, and our service in the things of this world instead of our creator, redeemer, and sustainer.  And when God doesn’t have our whole trust and our whole lives, God can’t grant us the vision and possibilities and promises that lie beyond our own limited perspective and imagination.

I heard a great sermon yesterday challenging us to faithfully cast out our nets as the disciples do in the last chapter of John and trust Jesus to fill them with provision that defies common sense.

The Yong River.  Nanning, China.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
The Yong River. Nanning, China. Photo by Evan Schneider.

But we’re so stubborn.

We human beings cling to our common sense like it’s all there is, like we’d rather settle for our own plans and dreams and ideas rather than God’s expansive vision.  Have the Biblical stories taught us nothing?  Has the promise of Easter fallen on deaf ears?  Do we truly believe Christ has been raised from the dead, and with him, we, too have been given eternal life?

I’m realizing that living as Easter people means risking the earthly things for the eternal ones, and relying on God to provide possibilities that we cannot fathom or imagine, but that we earnestly trust come from the hand of the creator, redeemer, and sustainer who never fails us.  For me, this requires daily commitment.  It requires me to continually let go of my plans, however seemingly perfect, and find rest and peace in who God is.  My restlessness, in fact, is a good sign to me usually that I’m relying on my own vision rather than seeking God’s.  

So may you find rest in who God is, has been, and always will be this morning.  May you seek eternal rather than earthly things, and may you be raised alongside Christ to taste and see the possibilities that only God has in store for you and your life.  Amen.

Scripture: Colossians 3; John 21

The challenge of following

Remember how I said I love a good challenge?

Well, operation-complete-a-revision-of-the-first-draft-of-the-dissertation-before-the-baby-comes is in full swing!

On Friday, armed with decaf coffee and hot cocoa, I tackled the first chapter and am happy to report that while it’s not perfect, it’s light years from where it was.  I have a lot of motivation, of course, with a baby on the way.  Plus, I’m signed up for a dissertation bootcamp through the writing program next week, and I really believe I can do this.

Still, there’s nothing like a baby to put your plans in perspective–to help you realize that your plans are yours and well, God’s are God’s.  I sometimes imagine God chuckling, “Just try to control the timing of this baby, just try.”  

I’m sure God very much wants me to finish this draft of my dissertation, of course, but I’m also certain that following God has to happen on God’s time and with my full commitment. Babies and due dates remind me that following God involves submitting all my plans to God’s wisdom and supervision, learning how to be content in all circumstances, and trusting God to provide possibilities beyond my wildest imagination.

Fading sunset on the River Seine, Paris, France.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
Fading sunset on the River Seine, Paris, France. Photo by Evan Schneider.

And that’s actually a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

I’ve remarked before how the true liberation of the spiritual life is to live a life free from our control and instead, fully committed to the adventures God has in store for us.  When we relinquish our expectations and allow God to dream, the results are life-changing.

With a baby on the way, I certainly expect no less!

 

 

In praise of the weekend

It was an invigorating, pedal-to-the-metal kind of a week, full of early mornings, course planning, expectations, connections, and preparations.  

The weather finally turned cold over here in NJ: I took a run in the freezing temperatures on Friday morning feeling quite at home, and yet I’ve also relished the opportunity to rest inside while the wind swirls outside this weekend.

This weather calls for stew, about which my husband, thankfully, knows plenty!
This weather calls for stew, about which my husband, thankfully, knows plenty!

What have you been up to?

I’ve been contemplating these words about doing less, these from the always wise and timely Anne Lamott, and wondering how I can make a visit to this amazing sounding coffee shop sometime in my future?

On Saturday morning I grabbed coffee with a seminary alumnus friend for some good, hearty conversation about academia, life, and faith.  Yesterday afternoon I combed the UPenn Anthropology museum with some friends and then went to a lovely cocktail party to celebrate another friend’s birthday down in Philly.

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Finally, this morning, Evan and I attended church and got to listen to reflections on faith and history.  The pastor read from Dr. King’s “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech which he gave the day before he died.  You can listen to it here.  His words are on my heart and my mind as we honor his memory and his dreams tomorrow.

I’ve been praying for wisdom as I begin to teach, for China, and for grace.  I keep hearing from other wise voices and God’s that I need to continue to let go and live into the harmony of the present, embracing and remaining open to what can and will be.

I’ve been missing walks in the village, the families I grew close to, even the misty sweltering Southwest China weather as of late!  But I am comforted when I see God’s hand in leading me back to this concept of harmony, so woven throughout the fabric of Chinese life and morality.

Guangxi foster family friends.
Guangxi foster family friends.

Could it be that God weaves a harmony in our lives that we are created to crave but in our sinfulness also so easily dismiss?  And could it be that fulfillment and life-giving transformation often involve minute acts of yielding to God’s harmonic rhythm rather than moving boulders, mountains, or dreams with our own two hands?

I hope your Sabbath has been restful…may you yield to God’s perfect harmony this week and give God praise for mountaintops, dreams, and the present.