Wednesday, March 16, 2005

pleasant boundary lines

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup: you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (from Psalm 16)

I read these words this morning on the heels of a family birthday celebration last night, and they bring to mind a conversation I had there with my cousin – we’ll call her ‘A.’

Her youngest son is the same age as mine so we have been on a similar time-line re: loosening apron strings and contemplating having more free time.

"When I thought about life after raising my kids," A. said, "I imagined a peaceful quiet job – clerking in a bookstore maybe, or a flowershop.

"Then one day when I was working in my garden, I felt a presence almost as real as if someone had tapped me on the shoulder. And I had a thought as clear as a voice: ‘You will be looking after that boy.’"

‘That boy’ was very disturbed youngster (about eight, I think she said), who was being cared for by the pastor of their church. He focused only on death, killing, blood, violence. If he had pets, like a cat or a frog, his thought was how he would kill them.

‘Where did that crazy thought come from?’ was A’s first reaction.

But the next day the same thought came to her with such clarity, she said, "Okay God, if this is really You, have the pastor talk to me about it."

Within hours the pastor (who hadn’t called them personally for months) telephoned, asking would they consider taking that boy into their home and working with him.

"I’ve already been asked," A. said, and told him the whole story.

So A. and her husband Y. took this boy into their home. He got saved and over time his life turned around. Social Services (who were involved) were very impressed. (I asked her about sharing one’s faith with kids under Ministry [of Children and Families] care. Apparently you can do stuff like take them to church etc. if the child’s parents give consent.)

After this little guy moved on, Social Services asked, would A. and Y. be willing to take in other disturbed kids, as their files were full of them.

So now they have two other foster boys. One fellow, 12, has Marfan’s Syndrome. Through him A. and Y. have come to know his dysfunctional family, whose history is riddled with sickness, depression, drug and alcohol dependencies, gang involvement and lots of untimely deaths.

A. felt God wanted her to laser in on the 18-year-old brother of her foster boy. She invited him to church, gave him a Bible, and witnessed to him at every opportunity. He seemed interested and hungry. At the same time he was caught in the grip of involvement with the Hell’s Angels. Last Christmas he committed suicide.

All involved were stunned. A. spent a lot of time, agonizing before God over this. One day when she was praying this way, she sensed God say to her, Why do you think I drew your attention to him? Why did I have you take him to church, witness to him and give him a Bible (which he read)? Don’t worry; he’s okay.

A. and Y. now have a hugely busy life. Besides the two foster kids, they also have a couple of kids still living at home (which is a double-wide trailer), and five under-school-age grandkids, many nearby. "But I wouldn’t trade it for anything," A. told me. "It’s not us changing these kids – it’s God."


As I listened to A’s stories, my first thought was Yikes, why aren’t such things happening to me? Have I missed my calling?

Then I heard what God has said to me before: Did I ask you to do that?

My answer: No.

My belief remains as strong as ever that God’s will for most of us usually means staying right where we are and continuing to do the stuff we’re doing right now.

At the moment I am working on a second book of children’s devotions. I started this project about two years ago, after praying for a book idea (up to that time I’d only written articles and stories).

My plans grew from making it a book of only a few devotions, to one for each day of the year plus February 29th = 366. The sheer scope of it discouraged me, however–my vision was to take kids through the whole Bible, extracting lessons from the Bible texts. Finally I completed one third of it (122 devotions) in the spring of last year. It goes through the New Testament.

I’ve since been trying to market that manuscript, taking sections of it with me to a writer’s conference last spring, and sending it to The Writer’s Edge last summer. The Writer’s Edge has deemed it publishable, but to this point, I’ve had no takers. Thus in January, I began sending it to various publishing companies – it’s presently sitting at five.

Since completing that part of the project, I’ve been restless. I delayed doing more work on it, though, waiting for a response on the first part. But I found it was hard to go back to doing just small things after doing book-length. A few weeks ago, I was whining to God about this – as I’d done before – and asking him for the fire in my belly to start something book-length and new. Then I heard this: You already have a project. You just need to finish it.

So now, even though I’m going about it all wrong (conventional wisdom says I should have queried book publishers until I found someone interested in taking a look at the finished project, and then written it up) and am still often tempted to wonder whether this is really how I should spend my days, all I need to do is recall my little interchange with God and observe the quiet writing afternoons I’ve been given, to know, A. is supposed to be running after those difficult pre-teens right now - not me. I’m supposed to be writing this book. (And to think God’s will actually allows me to do something I enjoy!)

Which brings me back to the verse, with which I started this very long post: "The boundary lines have fallen for me (and A.) in pleasant places. Surely we have a delightful inheritance."


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