Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grateful for Matilda

I got so caught up in complaining about Matilda ("But it's SUCH an old lady car." "Ah! I get terrible gas mileage." Yeah, she's a beast all right...reminds me of behemoth." "Why, oh, why did I get a car with a V8 engine??") that I forgot to be grateful.

Then all at once, it hit me.

This is actually a really nice car! I like so many more things than I dislike. It has cruise control, power windows, leather interior, and a huge trunk. It rides so smooth and quiet, has air conditioning, and is really a very low mileage car for the price I paid. It's comfortable to sit in. It's spacious. I like everything about it except for one or two things--so why are those the only things I mention when I tell people about the car? 

I decided then and there to ditch the complaints, put buyer's remorse behind me, and just enjoy this car. Of course I have already enjoyed HAVING a car, but not necessarily THIS car. Now I have resolved to enjoy this car with abandon. Okay, so it has one drawback. Well, so be it. I like it anyway. I am thankful for it. I see it as God's provision for me. I appreciate it. And I genuinely do think that I am pampered and got more than I expected in it.

Thank you, God.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Matilda, Lesson #2

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I was going out to buy Matilda (my car) was, "Well, it's not like I'm marrying this car. If it doesn't work out, I can always sell it and get a different one."

After the buyer's remorse set in once I had bought the car, I reflected on that statement.

You see, God had assured me that He knew my needs and would provide a car for me in His time. Then I waited a year and 3 months. "Isn't it about time already, Lord?" I was beginning to wonder. I kept praying about it, asking, "Aren't you going to provide my car?" Finally, in prayer one day, God gave me the go-ahead. "See, I have provided a car for you." So I went out and looked. The night before I bought Matilda, I spent a good hour in prayer about it, and I had peace about buying the car. I was so overwhelmed with excitement that I could barely sleep. So the next day, I went out and bought it.

Yet excitement turned into buyer's remorse nevertheless, due to the discovery of how bad my gas mileage was. And I had bought it with the kind of determined attitude that said, "I don't care what anybody says, I don't even care if I look into whether this is a good deal; I'm getting this car."

I thought to myself, "How many girls get tired of waiting for God to bring the right mate into their life? How many girls thrust their chin out and say to themselves, 'I am getting a husband'? How many girls make a snap decision to plunge into marriage, and then regret it for the rest of their lives?"

God has assured her that He will provide her a husband in His time. The girl waits. A good deal of time goes by, and she says to herself, "Isn't it about time already, Lord?" Perhaps it is within her power to secure herself a guy. She does it, overcome with excitement and infatuation, and before she really looks closely into his character and habits, she marries him.

Quickly the happy, excited feeling fades away, and she is left with buyer's remorse...only in this transaction there is no backing out of it. No selling the car. No 30-day return policy. No saving your receipt to get store credit. No disputing the transaction with your credit card company. She is stuck.

I think of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Out of spite, she just up and marries Charles in a snap decision. She doesn't really love him, but she can have him. He's not really right for her, but she can get him. Once they are married, she is bored to death with him. He dies a few months later and she is left a widow with an even more boring existence, because she is expected to wear black and mourn his death.

How sober and careful we must be in following God's direction regarding a life partner!

If I felt trapped and ripped off shortly after buying a cheap old car, how much more disillusioned I would be if I blindly leaped into a similar situation in marriage!

If I kicked myself for not being more careful and doing my research on a car that I will only have for a few years, how much more if it was the husband I would live with for the rest of my life!

If I felt a twinge of jealousy at how much better looking than mine all the other cars on the road were, how much more disastrous it would be to the relationship if I was married and then started "shopping around" for better-looking guys!

If I could make a bad decision when I got in a hurry to "help God out" in his provision of a car, how much more dangerous it would be to get in a hurry to "help" God find the man I was supposed to marry! 

How much better it is to wait on God in perfect trust, confident that He can do everything I need, all on His own initiative. How essential prayer becomes, to connect me to God's eternal purposes and keep me on the right path. 

I will certainly tread more carefully the next time I go out car shopping. 

Let all those tread even more carefully who would venture to go "husband-shopping." 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


About a month ago, I bought my first car. Yay! I have wheels!

It is a 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis, quite the old lady car, so I named her Matilda.

Getting this car proved to hold an interesting lesson.

I had been wanting to buy a car for over a year, and I had been needing one for longer than that. I worked three jobs and scrimped and saved for over a year just to get $3000 together so that I could buy a cheap car. (Before that, the car I was driving was my dad's 1984 Mercedes with 380,000 miles on it. It finally gave up the ghost, and I was left borrowing other people's cars and walking or biking to work. Fortunately my job was only 3.5 miles away!)

God had assured me during this process, "I am your Father. I will provide a car for you. Don't worry about it. I will bring it to pass." And I had trusted in this assurance as well as I could.

I also felt very insecure about getting a car and didn't want to get ripped off, so I did a lot of research over the course of the year. My dad gave me some used car appraisal sheets that I could use to compare notes on different cars, and I started frequenting craigslist, autotrader, and Every time I would go to look at a car, I would meticulously fill out one of my little sheets, go look up the VIN number online, and read reviews on it.

What I really wanted was an orange car. (What can I say? Orange is my favorite color.) I didn't really think it was asking that much. Say an orange, 4-door sedan, under 100,000 miles, good gas mileage, manual transmission. I would look on autotrader for those specifications, and NEVER would anything come up in my price range. Never. Not in the whole country. You can put in your zip code and then search within a certain radius of your home--well, I would say "any distance" from my zip code and still wouldn't get any results. Weird. Why are orange cars so uncommon, when they're the best color ever?

Then, one day in March, I saw a little Ford Escort station wagon in a used car lot along the highway. I pulled in and asked the lady the price. She initially said $3999, but if I paid cash, she said she could give it to me for $3200. That was a little higher than what I could pay, but hey, I thought, you can always barter these places down. I went home and looked it up online, came back with my little evaluation sheet, and wrote down all the specifications. It looked like it might have had a little fender bender once. There was dog hair all over all the seats. There was no power anything and no cruise control, but hey... that's what you get when you get a cheap car. I test drove the car and drove it to the bank, where I withdrew $3000 cash.

"I am getting this car," I said to myself with a stubborn thrust of my chin. "I don't care what's wrong with it. I'm just sick and tired of not having a car. I'm going to surprise my family and drive home in my own car today. Yeah. That's what I'm going to do."

I walked in to the office and started talking price with her. "Oh! Did I say $3200? Hmmmm. That was a mistake. The lowest I was really supposed to go is $3400," she said. "But--since I told you $3200, I guess I can give it to you for that." I couldn't talk her down. She didn't even care about selling the car to me. Before I was even done talking to her, she got on the phone and the conversation was over. I walked away with my cash still safe in its envelope.

That evening, however, I was on my way to a class I attend, and I happened to be a few minutes early. "I'm just going to pull into this other dealership," I thought. I drove around and looked at the cars and then a salesman walked up to me, so I got out of my car and walked around with him. He took me over near the Mercury when I told him my price range, and I barely even glanced at it. "No, that's an old lady car." I wasn't even willing to consider it. So he showed me some other cars, all the while treating me like a princess. We were back to my car and I was just about to leave when the boss stuck his head out the door of the building. "Did you say your price range was $3000?" he said. I said yes. "How about that Mercury?" he said. "We could give you the Mercury for $3000, taxes and fees included." I had forgotten which car the Mercury was by this point, because I really hadn't even given it a thought. We walked back over to it and when we got close, I realized, "Oh, it's this one." But the salesman was talking all about how nice it was, how it only had 85,000 miles on it, how it was owned by an old lady and garage kept all its life, how it was worth $6000 and they were going to let it go for $3 (hahahaha... worth $6000... riiiiiiight).

I was at a very dangerous moment. I was already taken over with that little chin-thrust attitude, "I am getting a car today." I was dazzled by the great paint job on the car. (It's blue, by the way.) Somehow, in a flash, I was sold on the car. I hadn't driven it, I hadn't filled out my little sheet, I hadn't even seen it from any angle other than from the driver's side back corner. The only problem was, I hadn't brought my money with me.

No problem, the dealer assured me. Come back tomorrow. We'll even pick you up.

Okay. deal.

They picked me up from work the next day and I handed over the money. I didn't end up getting it with the taxes and fees included, because the way they were going to do that was by lying on the title and putting down that I bought it for like $30, so that the taxes wouldn't be high, and I refused to go along with that, so I ended up having to pay the taxes too. But I didn't care. I was getting a car. (Now I think I could have negotiated that: Lower the price of the car or I'm walking out. But I didn't, and it's too late now. Live and learn.)

I drove the car home.

Parked it in the driveway.

Wow, this thing is a beast.

And I wonder how much gas this V8 engine is going use up?

I looked up the gas mileage. According to the cool little digital thingie in the dashboard of the car, the average MPG was 9.0. I calculated the cost of going to work and going to church at the current gas price (which was then $3.50).

Ahhhhhh! Aaaaaaaaaa! Ack! It was going to cost me $17 just to go to church!
It would cost me $3 just to go to work, a distance that I could walk. I'll be throwing a quarter and a dime out the window every single mile!

Suddenly I was wishing that life had an undo button. Oops! Ctrl + Z! Let's do that one over!

But other than selling the car for the price I paid for it (which I now doubted I could even do), there was no way to get out of this one.

Great. Now I was stuck with a gas hog, and I was never going to be able to afford to drive anywhere.

That night I wrote in my journal about my thoughts regarding it.

I thought I wanted a car, I reflected, but what I really wanted was freedom. Freedom to go on road trips. Freedom to be my own person, to go places without asking if someone needs the car, to do things I want to do without being hindered by lack of transportation to get there. I thought I was buying freedom for myself. Apparently, I wasn't. At least, it's going to cost me a lot more than I bargained for. Forget about road trips--I won't even be able to afford to go to church!

I didn't get the freedom I thought I was getting. But then I heard the sweet whisper of God's voice in my ear, and suddenly I knew why He had allowed me to get myself into this situation--just to teach me this one lesson.

True freedom is not found in roaming around geographically.
True freedom is found in Christ alone.

True freedom is not freedom from external restraints in my life (like lack of money or transportation).
True freedom is freedom from sin.

If I find my freedom in how many trips I get to take a year, I do not know the meaning of freedom.
If I find my freedom in being able to do things without asking anyone, I do not know the meaning of freedom.
I must find my freedom in Christ alone.

In Christ, I could be in a prison cell and still be free.
Apart from Christ, I could be a millionaire, driving the nicest hot rod in the country, and still be in bondage.

I am free--not because I have car keys, but because I have the living Christ reigning within my heart.

And this is more valuable than all the nice, efficient, orange cars in the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

God's unmistakeable provision

In the last few weeks, I have been reading through the New Testament, and the thing that has stood out to me this time through has been the topic of God's provision.

Verses like these have really spoken to me:

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8
"But we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
"For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Through these passages, God has brought me to the question, "Do I trust God to provide for my needs, or not?" 

I initially answered, "Yes." (Of course I did. That's the "right" answer. How could I answer no?) 

However, I came to see that deep down inside, I really felt that I ultimately had to trust myself. 

Trusting in myself, I went down to a local restaurant that had a "Now Hiring" sign outside, and I filled out a job application for a waitress position. I really did need to make more money, and I thought this would be the best way to "help" God to provide for my needs. 

Then God decided to confirm His word and show me, in real life, how things would be if HE was taking the initiative and providing for me. 

First, out of the blue, I got a call from a parent wanting to set up piano lessons with their daughter. They had "somehow" found my music teaching profile online, on a music lessons site where I had filled out a profile but had never paid, so technically it shouldn't have even displayed. Each new student I get is $40 extra a month that I make. 

Then, totally unexpectedly, the principal at the school where I work heard me playing the piano and offered to send out a letter to the parents of every child in the school, advertising my piano studio. :-O I designed a flyer and gave it to him, and he's even going to make the copies for me! 

Then, just as unforeseen, a family from church asked me to house sit and watch their dog while they went away on vacation. This opportunity came back to back with another housesitting job that I had been asked to do, so I went from one person's house to the other with not even a day's interruption between them.

Again, out of the blue, someone "accidentally" found me online, didn't even see a phone number, and had the initiative to look me up in the phone book, where they managed to find me under my parents' name and call to set up piano lessons for their son. 

Nothing ever came of the waitressing job, but with all the things God did for me, I will make that little bit extra that I was looking for. I am totally blown away by the fact that God did those things, all on His own initiative, without the least bit of my help. I am also blessed by the fact that these opportunities have been much less time-consuming and far more stress-free than the waitressing job would have been. 

Thank you, God, for fulfilling Your Word!

Jehovah Jireh is my provider!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seeing and hearing...vexed his soul?

I was struck by this verse while doing my devotions yesterday:
"And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)" (2 Peter 2:7-8)
Lot vexed his soul, not by participating in the evil deeds of the wicked, but just by seeing and hearing them.

I often think (especially regarding movies), "Seeing and hearing this thing won't hurt me--it would only be wrong for me to participate in it."

So this verse challenged me to think a little deeper and be a little more careful. I may not be in danger of committing the actual deed, but I am still in danger of "vexing my soul" whenever I see and hear sinful acts.

So what is a vexed soul? Is it really that bad? In Lot's life, we see evidence of a vexed soul in the fact that he would offer his two daughters to the wicked men outside his door.

How could he give innocent women to be raped by a gang of lustful men?
Could he not tell that this was wrong?

No, because his soul was vexed. Even while he successfully maintained righteous standards for one form of evil, he unconsciously became desensitized to other forms of evil. He had his guard up against one, but his guard against the others vanished.

How many Christians have "vexed their souls" watching movies that contain sex, violence, rebellion against authority, foul language, and other wicked acts? How many excuse it for one reason or another, never realizing the damage they are doing to their souls?

More importantly, how have I vexed my soul in my life? Am I taking care of my soul? Am I living in such a way as to protect my soul from wounds and damage? Or do I think, "Hey, I'm strong. I can watch this movie or this television program without any damage to my Christian walk. I mean, it's not like I'm going to go out and do those things." This type of reasoning doesn't work in the light of this passage.

Let me do what David did, when he said in Psalm 101:3, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me."