This Is Not the Life I Requested

When I began my new life in Christ over 30 years ago, I have to admit, I thought it would be different. I’m not sure what I expected—well, that’s not exactly true—I expected my life to smooth itself out. I expected problems to be minimal, if at all. And I expected that–after the totally dysfunctional life in which I’d grown up–I should have a really good life. I thought I “deserved” it.

Boy, was I wearing “rose-colored” glasses, or what?

Life has pushed, pulled, tossed, ripped and beat me to pieces. People I love have broken my heart and devastated my life. Friends have laughed with me one moment and turned their backs to me the next. I have found my life wanting in many ways, not the least of which would be the need for just one moment of peace. And lately, I’ve felt truly kicked in the tail by life in general.

Wonderful experiences have also been a part of my life. I’ve known true, committed love from my husband of 30 years. The births of my two children have only been topped by the births of my three grandchildren. Young people with whom I’ve worked for great lengths of time have finally stopped fighting and given their lives into the hands of the Savior. God has allowed me to be a speaker who encourages women through the “challenges” of life. I have been privileged to teach the Word of God in classroom settings.

What really bugs me is that tendency I have to let the struggles outweigh the cool things God does for me. It’s just so easy to fall into that “woe is me” trap. Some days, my greatest challenge is to remember to thank God in all circumstances.

My firm belief is that every experience has a reason, the greatest of which is to learn what God is teaching through the situation and then take it to the world. I really do believe that God is good all the time. I really do believe that He works all things for my good. I know that He loves me. And while I would never have chosen to have the “challenges” I have experienced in my life, yet even through the dark clouds and the gray days I am learning to thank God for what good will come from every circumstance.

James 1:2-5 “Consider it all joy, my brethren,when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NASB)

Nope, this is not the life I asked for. Too many days of too much to deal with. But if I can help just one more person, if just one more person can come to understand God’s love even in their time of pain because of the testimony He has given me to share, then my life is just right. It’s all for Him, after all.

Romans 8:28-29 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)

Claudette Wood
(c)July 26, 2005
revised October 2006

A Parable

A sheep owner had to go on an extended trip. As he prepared for his journey, his neighbor came to him and said, “Friend, while you are gone, I will take care of your flock for you.” The owner was grateful and accepted his neighbor’s offer of help. Then he went on his way.

While he was gone, his neighbor was not faithful to remember his offer to help the owner. He spent much time at the city gates playing “throw the stones.” In the evening when he would come home, the neighbor would pass by the owner’s house and say to himself, “Oh, well, I forgot today, but the flocks will be alright until tomorrow.” Then he would go into his home and sleep. After a while, the sheep owner’s flocks began to be sick and some of them died. The gate developed a break in it and many of the owner’s flock escaped through the break.

When the owner came home from his trip, he noticed that the men at the city gate gazed at him with strange, angry expressions. He didn’t understand why his friends would behave so. His neighbor was also at the gate, but he refused to meet the owner’s gaze. Upon his arrival at his home, the owner found his flock dead or missing. The men from the city gate followed him home and stood accusing him of being cruel, to leave his animals without anyone to care for them. As they spoke, the owner’s neighbor stood with them and allowed this criticism, and he even offered criticisms of his own, without any mention that he had offered to take care of the flock in the owner’s absence. The city-gate men told him that they would hold a council to discuss this owner’s negligence and pass judgment on him.

The owner was amazed at his neighbor’s accusations. At the council meeting, he reminded the neighbor that while he had intended to hire someone to care for his flock, the neighbor had made the offer of help, and the owner had accepted his generous offer. His neighbor accused the owner of not being thoughtful enough of him to leave the animal’s food where he could easily reach it. He spoke of the struggle to get water from the city well to the flock, and that the owner had not told him how difficult it would be to care for this flock. Then the owner asked the city-gate men why they had not done anything to help keep the flock from dying, since they saw that the flock was not being cared for.

The city-gate men then knew the truth of what the neighbor had done, and they turned their gaze upon him. The neighbor was unable to look at the city-gate men, because he had made many false accusations against the owner in his absence. And the city-gate men were ashamed that they had not been better friends to the owner and tried to save the flock. The owner went to his home vindicated. The city-gate men went back to the city gate. The neighbor went back to his home, and every day he would go to the city gates and play a new game of “throw the stones” with the men at the city gate.

(c) 2006


The Skin of Their Teeth

More and more, I encounter folks who say, “I am a Christian,” but who live with both feet firmly planted in the world. God’s Word has no more weight to them than the latest magazine they are reading. His standards are adopted only as they don’t interfere with the lifestyle they’ve chosen for themselves. They pick and choose what aspects of God’s character they will believe. Several times over the last few months, I have been frustrated to find friends and family members alike who say they are Christians, but who are practicing sinful lifestyles–mostly in the area of sexual immorality. One person said to me, “Yes, I’m a Christian, and I know I shouldn’t be living with my boyfriend. I don’t plan to ever marry, and I don’t plan to ask him to leave. But I do love God. People live together all the time now.” Hmmm, what’s wrong with that picture?

How do we help them understand that God is not One who changes with the whims of society, that His Word is eternal and unchanging? It seems that even the thoughts I share with them from the very Word of God only serve to anger them and bring out the most famous verse in the Bible–“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Ugh. What I am finding is that I must just let them go. I pray for them, I continue to love them, and after we have had an opportunity to discuss our differences–based on the Word and not my personal opinion–I continue our relationship as before the conversation (as much as they will allow, understanding that I have a problem with their lifestyle). I want to be available if or when they want to talk.

The Bible has some very specific instructions for dealing with wayward brothers and sisters–all with a view toward bringing them back to the Lord. Sadly, in this world of political correctness, it’s becoming more and more common that it doesn’t bring them back, but places them in the league of the bitter and disillusioned. They choose to believe they were wronged–judged (ugh)–unfairly. And they absolutely refuse to accept that their lifestyles have caused Jesus to be dragged through the mud. Rather, it is those who attempted to point them out of their wayward behavior who have embarrassed God with their ‘judgmental’ (ugh) attitudes.

So, do we give up? Do we stop trying to be a witness? We do have our own feet of clay, you know…

Of course, I don’t believe we should give up. God has called us to be His witnesses. When Jesus told us to be His witnesses to the world, I thought He meant for us to witness to the lost…

now I see He also meant for us to witness to those who’ve lost their way…

(c) January 2007

Graduate Sunday

Today was Graduate Sunday at our church. As the youth leader, this is my fourth set of kids who are graduating out of youth group and headed to college group. Today also marked the last of the kids I started with in the youth group five years ago. As well, today marked the last time I will graduate kids out of the youth group. See, I’ve made the decision to move into another area of ministry with the end of this church year.

For years, I have had a desire to have an active ministry among women. Five years ago I put that on the back burner for a while, when God distinctly called me to move among the youth for a season. I didn’t realize how long that season would last, but here we are. At last I feel released by God to take another direction. And it’s a good thing. I’m getting too old to jump with these kids at concerts anymore!

My calling with the youth began in this manner: five years ago in the early fall, I was asked to help chaperon a group of kids going to see the drama, Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames. I wasn’t immediately enamored with the group. These kids were into the Goth “thing” and were wearing their black leather jackets, chains, black nail polish, and dog collars. Rough crowd–not interested.

I don’t know the exact moment it happened, but sometime during that evening, God placed within me a burning desire to reach out to these guys. By the invitation, when I looked at the young man beside me and asked him about his standing before God, and he replied that he wanted to be saved, I was hooked. I was madly in love with all of them. Now, how to be involved? I mulled that one over, and later that week asked the current youth leaders if I might sit in with them during a class. After a few weeks of that, I asked if they might “share” the kids with me–let me do Wednesday evenings and them continue to lead the kids on Sunday mornings.

And so it began, my love affair with the youth. It wasn’t easy. The kids at that time were rather jaded and mostly non-churched (invited by one member–the only member–of the youth group and brought to church on our van). They brought some bad habits with them to the church. Some of those behaviors could even be classified as dangerous. We spent much time discussing the Word of God, we went to ballgames, we went to concerts (after which walking was difficult for a few days!), and we started going to summer camp. My first year with the kids, we took six girls to camp. Last summer, our fourth year, we took 18 kids.

Last year we graduated six kids out of youth group into the college age group. They were–I think now–the heart of the group. After they left, the makeup of the group changed drastically. It was the last of my unchurched kids, and this year’s kids are all kids who have been in church all their lives. I find quite a difference in the style of teaching I must incorporate into leading them. I have also found that I am tired. I have run completely out of steam. And the passion I once had to reach these kids is growing cool. They deserve better than that. It is time for me to move on and offer them a change of leadership. I have given my guys five good years. Before God, I have done the best I could to point them to Him. They belong to Him, and He will see to it that the proper leader comes into their lives.

And now on to the women’s ministry!

Weekends

My son asked me what I had done last weekend that made it such a good one. I told him I’d done what I wanted to do. He laughed at this, because he knows that is a new thing for me. My weekends used to be full of grandchildren living in the house. Understand that I love my grandchildren with every ounce of my being, but when they lived with us, it was always noisy, it was mostly always messy, and hubby and I had very little privacy. It was different than how we had planned our lives, for sure.

When our daughter and grandsons moved out last year, it was difficult at first. We have always felt a great responsibility to the boys, and loud or not, we missed them. Then they would come over for a while and we couldn’t remember why we had missed them so badly (!). Quiet is such an underrated thing!

Last Saturday, before my husband even got out of the bed, I had the bathroom clean, the kitchen clean and swept, the dining room table cleared of the week’s mail, a load of clothes washed and dried, and his breakfast cooked. I loved it! I did a few other things around the house and then I quit for the day. I did what I wanted to do.

Later, when hubby returned from the church office, we went out shopping and to dinner. And we were back in our house and settled into our cozy chairs for the evening by 6:30pm!

Not every weekend is like that. Some weekends I have church responsibilities. Every other weekend or so, one of the boys spends the night with us. Some Saturdays I go shopping or to visit my mother. Now the weekends are at my pace, relaxed, quiet for the most part, and peaceful. Because I work outside the home five days a week, you can see why this is important to me.

I love weekends.