Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I AM NOT A FAX MACHINE*$&%&%$*

I have been receiving calls from a fax machine for…oh…for about 5 or six weeks now. The calls happen pretty much everyday, Monday to Friday, sometimes starting as early as 7:30 am and usually in a sequence of 5 or 6 calls at 5-minute intervals as the machine is obviously programmed to automatically redial when it does not get through.

After a few days of this, I was getting slightly annoyed so I pressed *69 and got the number and had my husband send a fax asking them to stop calling me and letting them know they had reached a residence and not another fax machine. It was no use. The calls continued. I tried to look up the number on the internet but only got a location…no name or address because the number was being serviced by a third-party phone provider. Two weeks into this, I called Bell and told them about my problem. They promised to sort it out, but it would take a few days. That was about 3 weeks ago and I have begun to make peace with the possibility that the fax machine and I might develop a long-term albeit one-sided relationship. One can only stay annoyed so long before resignation sets in. It is becoming part of my daily ritual like brushing my teeth and making the bed or cleaning out the cat litter.

Last night my husband figured out a way to get our computer to accept faxes, so this morning, when I picked up the phone and heard the familiar beeping sound, I rushed over to the computer and set it to receive a fax. Predictably, five minutes later, the phone rang again and I was uncharacteristically excited about it! After pointing and clicking a few times, I was receiving a fax! Finally, the mystery would be solved, the information received and the fax machine able to rest from all its labours! Yes!

No!!! The fax was a list of service calls completed by technicians for Home Depot in the last 15 days. There was a company name at the top of the page (a division of GE) but no other information. And the fax machine called me 6 times this afternoon again. Argh! I suppose there is another all-important list that it is sure I must read, and it won’t rest until I get it. And I suppose that every few days it will send another list as it wants to make sure I keep abreast of all the happenings of the technical department of GE Mabe.

I don’t know what the point of this is. I am not one to believe much in coincidences and can usually assign profound meaning to the smallest incident in my life, or find an important life lesson that I must learn from the mundane and occasionally extraordinary events that make up my days, but this remains a mystery. I only know that I am not a fax machine and someone else is convinced that I am. I was hopeful that once the message was transmitted, once they got through, all would be sorted out, but it has solved nothing; it has only given me more words to type into Google in my search for the anonymous sender.

I suppose I could spiritualise this by saying it might be somewhat like God trying to communicate with us – we as earthly beings often cannot interpret the heavenly information he is trying to send and therefore, ignore it. We can even get annoyed because it seems intrusive and meaningless and senseless…until we tap into the spiritual “fax” realm and finally receive the message – but unfortunately, that does not solve our life problems or make things any easier…it only leads us down another road in an effort to decipher the mysterious message. I could say that God is persistent and will keep sending messages to us, even if we do not get them, but I would stop short of saying God only sends messages Monday to Friday. Frankly, I am hesitant to go down that whole spiritualization road because at this point, I really don’t have a sense that I get what any of this might mean, other than even when I get the message, I don’t get the message. I am clueless, but the good news is, I am a more patient clueless person. And perhaps that is something.

Last week I attended a well-produced high school Christian theatre production where, predictably, the hero got into trouble, repented, everything turned out all right and he got the girl in the end! It had a profound effect on me, for I was struck with the oversimplied and dumbed-down rewrite of the struggle of faith we as North American Christians have embraced, and I cringed at the thought of having any of my friends without faith view this rather shallow version of Jesus' message as an accurate presentation of truth. Not everything needs to be explained and worked out neatly, and we do the mystery of truth a diservice by assuming that we can and we must.

I cannot tell you why a fax machine calls me everyday and I cannot tell you why God speaks in parables and I cannot tell you why there is suffering in this world and why one person dies and another lives. I am not God. I am not a fax machine, either, but I can tell you that in my experience, the neverending, sometimes painful and humbling and often frustrating pursuit of truth, of Jesus himself, is most days a blindingly sweet and bright and mysteriously beautiful and tasty endeavour that leaves me breathless and changed.

NOTE: The day after I wrote this, I received a fax that included a cover letter complete with the sender's name and phone number. I spoke to Jackie at GE and everything is sorted out now, but I must admit, I miss the fax machine just a tiny bit - the phone is awfully quiet these days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

GrEaT eXpEcTaTiOnS

Visitors and projects and several birthday celebrations have kept me from writing much in the past few weeks, but today the house is quiet (except for the snoring cats and the dishwasher) and I can once again take a few moments to sit quietly and mull over the lessons being offered, along with homework, on the journey of life.

This past week has been a seminar in EXPECTATIONS. We had some family members visiting us for a week and we had made plans to complete some outdoor projects, take in some beautiful sights and do a bit of walking around our neck of the woods. That was before the rain started. For four days in a row we experienced everything the wettest, windiest and coldest May on record could deliver and there was no way we could do anything outdoors, so we modified our plans and decided to shop for a few things for our home. We spent the better part of Saturday and Sunday driving from store to store checking out coffee tables and when we finally decided on the right one, the store was out of stock (what??? it can't be!!!) and we returned home empty-handed. After days of seemingly nothing being accomplished, I finally sighed, “I think we have to lower our expectations. Tomorrow, we will simply get out of bed and that will be enough, we will be satisfied that we have done what we set out to do.” I was kind of kidding, but in a way, also realizing that my expectations were once again clashing with reality and it was decidedly uncomfortable.

So Sunday night at church, I was thinking about these things and wondering about expectations and if they serve any purpose at all. Wouldn’t life be easier without expectations? I could simply accept everything that came my way and never be disappointed. But what about having vision and setting goals and working towards them and accomplishing great things and seeing projects completed? A person determined to live without expectations would be unmotivated and passive and probably negative and generally frustrating to hang around. One of the things I really like about myself is that I am a person with a lot of hope; I easily believe that anything is possible and doable and can happen and no situation is hopeless or unredeemable. And in truth, expectations are part of the equation of hope and faith, so, yes, they have their proper place, but what exactly is that? What are good expectations? What are bad expectations? And where do I need to adjust mine to better reflect my faith and hope in all things good?

I asked God these questions and this is what I believe he said to me, “I AM faithful. Put your expectations in me, not in events, or what will happen, but in my consistent character and you will never be disappointed.”

So it appears that my expectations have in fact never been too high, but too low! I have settled for counting on certain events to happen or for circumstances to work out a certain way, or for small things to be resolved, or something to grow and take shape in a certain form, or for people to act and react in a certain way, when in fact, I should be hoping for my life to be extraordinary, looking for God to be present and at work 24/7, planning on encountering love and joy and grace and peace, expecting sacrifice and suffering that shimmer with glory, and never doubting for a moment that everything is beautifully and creatively being woven into a tapestry of holy worship for a holy God.

Those are my GREAT EXPECTATIONS today.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

@inside day

Today was supposed to be a yard work day. We bought a house that is just over a year old and it needs some landscaping - no, let me rephrase that - ALL the landscaping needs to be done. I have been trying to get at it, and even arranged for some friends to come over this weekend to help out with the heavier work, but it has turned out to be a totally rainy and cold day, so I am stuck inside...alone.

Sigh. I like to work outside. I like to work on things that others can see and admire. I like to work together with people on projects. There is nothing wrong with that, I know, but today God is speaking to me about taking care of some things on the inside, working on the places that hardly anyone gets to see. The inside is what I have to live with every day and it is up to me whether it will be a well-kept, tidy, sunny, comfortable and welcoming place or a neglected, gloomy, tight space with dark and dirty corners.

I hate cleaning my house, yet it is this weekly chore that makes it a pleasant and healthy place to be. Sometimes we don’t particularly like the personal and spiritual disciplines, but these very things keep our souls alive and well and growing. Here are some “inside tasks” I can do to keep things from getting constipated, stagnant and stinky, bitter and shrivelled, overwhelming, neglected and grown-over, or apathetic in my interior life.

1. Take the first few minutes of every day to acknowledge God’s presence and again relinquish my will to his. Ask what he would like to do with this day and LISTEN!


2. Read or listen to something that reminds me of what is true: this could be reading the Bible, listening to a teaching CD, having an honest conversation with someone about spiritual matters, etc.

3. Reflect on my present inner attitudes and sincerely ask God to show me which ones need some work – he always answers. There is always something I need to learn and an area I need to work on.

4. Enjoy God. Sit down with your beverage of choice or take a walk or go for a drive or lie down on the floor and just hang out with the lover of your soul. Tell him everything you’re concerned about, notice the details of everything he has put around you, have a laugh together, close your eyes and let his love sweep over you (not recommended while you are driving, though). Be available to get to know him better and to be known by him. Make this a personal, private time that no one else shares.

5. Take an everyday, perhaps unpleasant task, and turn it into worship or prayer. Sometimes when I am cleaning the toilet, I pray for God to help me face and clean all the gunk out of my life and eliminate the crap (like physical elimination, we should regulary cleanse our spirits of the junk we have ingested). I use my driving time to pray for my list of loved ones. Somehow, skies and landscapes tend to inspire me to pray big prayers on their behalf. Even watching television can become more than entertainment. I can be sitting in front of the tv and something I see will strike me as disturbing or interesting or just something to take note of. Sometimes I weep and pray for those on the screen (I watch some reality tv), sometimes I see a spiritual principle played out before me in a very clear way, sometimes I am inspired to act against injustice or pray for world situations, and other times, I see the wonder and creativity of God displayed through some very talented and innovative people and I take a minute to say thanks.

6. Invite God to work or school with you. Every budget, every shovel of dirt, every email, every test, every phone call, every meeting can be less burdensome and more effective when you know God is with you and wants you to be an overcomer. Don't neglect to consult him throughout the day. My best strategies and ideas have come when I take the time to ask him.


Well, I guess I can't procrastinate any more. Enough of the enjoyable stuff (writing) and now on to the toilet-cleaning and vacuuming (ugh). But it needs to be done and hey - it could turn out to be fun because I have someone cool to do it with.