Monday, January 31, 2005

Wasting Time Wishing



I know people who spend a lot of time wishing. Sometimes I am one of those people.

Sometimes I wish things were more old-fashioned in our new-fangled world. Sometimes I wish people were kinder and had better manners.

Other times I wish people still considered homemaking an art, something honorable and to be excelled at. And often I wish prices weren't so high... and people weren't so busy or stressed-out....and on and on.

But wishing gets me nothing. No, I take that back. Wishing gets me discontent and a pain in the head when I complain about not having what I'm wishing for.

So a few years ago I stopped wishing so much. Instead, I started going out and finding what I was wishing for.

Instead of wishing that I could still go to a coffee shop and get coffee for less than a dollar. I ventured out and found such places.

Rather than just wishing they still made magazines like the old ones from the 1930's, I stopped buying new ones and started buying old ones on Ebay. I also looked on Ebay and found the old dishes I'd wished for. I had to stop buying new dishes, and ok, I have to wait awhile to afford the old ones I like best. But instead of having my money go toward new things I only tolerate, I'm saving it for what I love.

I found delightful things when I stopped wishing for them and went after them with my imagination and a spirit of adventure instead.

I found friendly people in certain shops so now I go there. And in other places, I began a sort of Friendliness Revolution and began being friendly to others, myself. It's amazing how many friendly people I discovered that way. Now they're everywhere I go.

And on the computer I joined a listserv where, if you were to read our daily emails, you'd think we were living back in the 1940's. Our words and kindnesses reflect those olden days. And we all sing the praises of homemaking. We share old book titles with each other and recommend new old-style magazines like The Good Old Days and Reminisce. I no longer have to wish people were more old-fashioned--I've found so many old-fashioned, friendly people online. Now I'm just grateful that they're still in this modern world with me.

On another listserv we talk only about old TV series and movies. We help each other find places to buy them on the Internet. And now I don't wish they'd put the old shows on TV anymore--they're on my TV anytime I want them. And in a way, that's even better than the so-called good old days of TV. Back then, if you missed a show--you missed it forever. VCR's and TiVo were non-existent.

I also try to stop wishing Tom and other people would change. Instead, I meditate upon what they are doing right. There's a whole list of those things. And if I am more strict with myself-- placing higher expectations upon my own behavior--I become more patient with others (but that's a whole other post).

Wishing, for me anyway, involves too many negatives. Too much concentrating on what is missing or what has changed. Too much sitting in one place wasting my imagination by sad, complaining thoughts instead of creating the world I wish to live in. That's partly why God gives us an imagination and hope.

Gratitude is a little like hope. It makes the world look different. Gratitude makes my world downright incredible.

What are you wishing for that might be found if you stop complaining and just go and look for it?

***
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain. (Maya Angelou)

We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see. (Bishop Berkeley)

Instead of a wishbone, we need more backbone. (Joyce Meyer)
***

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hot, Medium Or Mild?



Tonight I drove to Taco Bell--very unusual for me to be out at night and even more unusual for me to pick up something from a taco place (I leave that to Tom). The teenage boy at the window asked if I wanted hot, medium or mild sauce and this will sound wild, but I drove home wondering what kind of a Christian am I--hot, medium or mild?

I guess what really made me wonder, was the fact that I've read some blogs lately whose writers have advocated that we, as Christians, should be rather medium-sliding-into-mild ones. They tell me not to share scripture. Don't talk about my faith. Don't say I am a Christian because I just may be expected to live like one.

They tell me to just be nice. Loving. Blend in so that I don't appear different. Talk like everyone else--even swear--that's fine. Don't quote from the Bible. Be a carbon copy buddy and act like the world in order to win them.

Win them to what? A secret club whose goal is to look like everyone else?

Hot, medium or mild?

What kind of a Christian am I?

I know what I don't want. I don't want to be medium or mild:

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3:16

I don't want to avoid mentioning Jesus' name to others. If I do, He said he'd not mention my name to God.

I don't want to forget that Jesus used the Word of God to defeat satan. He told us to study it ... that it is a lamp so we'll see the way to go... it brings health... it is wisdom... it is sharper than a two-edged sword when it is rightly divided... and it will last forever.

And He asked how will people know about Him unless we tell them?

I am to be in this world, but not of it. Plain, simple--but it requires sacrifice. And maybe that's the whole problem.

Hot, medium or mild?

As I told the kid at the Taco Bell window, "I'll take hot, please."


***
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light..." ... 1 Peter 2:9

"Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you..." II Corinthians 6:17

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14

When God Blows Your House Down



Sometimes God comes along like the big, bad wolf and blows your house down.

Trust me, I know. He blew mine down and it didn't take much breath at all, because I'd built it all wrong. Even in all those Christian years of mine.

I spent around 35 years using straw and flimsy, warped lumber from companies like Personal Pride, My Way--The Right Way and Listening to No One.

I added on whole rooms without consulting The Contractor. When I did listen to Him, I usually tweeked his advice a bit and made my own alterations. I read the blueprints only when the roof started caving-in. When people began laughing at my lopsided,flimsy house, I only became more determined to work on it harder. It became just more lopsided and more flimsy because it was built with wounded pride.

My house was already beginning to tip and collapse the day when I threw my hammer through a window and admitted defeat. I was frustrated with being frustrated that I could not build my own house.

And that's when God came along and breathed upon my house. It crashed into a big, ugly heap. Part of me was sorry for all my wasted work and years, but the other part was relieved. It's exhausting to try building something when you have no idea what you're doing. When you're only pretending you know what's going on.

"We're starting all over. From the foundation on up," God told me. "And if you'll not place even one small brick in mortar without my permission, this will become a good, solid house. But it will be known as My house, not yours. My houses are built to last."


***
"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." ... Matthew 7:25

Saturday, January 29, 2005

10 Easy Ways To Kill Your Quiet Time





1. Always sit in the same place. Never take a walk or go to a coffee shop.
2. Read the Bible through in a year when God is giving you a different plan.
3. Go Legalistic. Always do the same things in the same order and in the same way.
4. Stay there when God is saying "Get up and go about your day."
5. Get up before God says, "Get up and go about your day."
6. Run and answer the phone while God is speaking to you.
7. Sit there and feel like God is mad at you.
8. Read a book which is boring you to tears.
9. Never try anything new, like singing, dreaming, dancing, writing or staring out the window.
10. Hold your quiet time at your home's busiest, most hectic time of day.

My Nevada Years



Speaking of Nevada (my earlier post)...

I'd just turned 29 when we moved to the Nevada desert. When I was 31 we moved into an adorable 70 year-old house there in the same town and I should have experienced more happy days inside that sky-colored stucco home. Spring-Pink was sponged over white on the living room walls and there was lots of white trim and even oak floors. We had a big back yard and I planted cosmos which grew like pink, lavender and white stars around the birdbath and reached over my head. And Naomi, at 11, grew up alongside them. Finally I had my own dear old house--I'd wanted one since I was 12.

But I had too many sad afternoons in that house because I also wanted what God did not want for me. I was incredibly insecure so I latched onto all sorts of jobs at church. I saw them each as 'ministry' to other people, but really, I used them to give me self-definition and to make me feel good and secure about my sad self.

Not surprisingly, each of those 'ministries' eventually rose up to claw and rip me apart. God had never told me to take on those things, so Grace wasn't there to help me or defend me when I messed up. When people criticized what I was doing, I fell apart because I'd invested all I was into those ministries and I'd invested more than I could afford to lose. My motivation and thinking were all wrong, my foundation was all cattywampus and I stupidly expected ministry to set them--to set everything--right. To patch-up and fill what was missing inside.

Things got bad. One day there in our little dream home I stood in my living room and did the Scarlet O'Hara bit: "As God is my witness, I will never care about people again!"

And I willed my heart to turn to stone.

Then one day at my lowest point, I stood in our little library room and thought about my future. I paused and peering ahead, all I saw was grey. Depressing, rolling grey fog--that's all that lay ahead in the path. A lie was told me that day and believing it, I went under.

But God brought me out. Not by way of a Poof! Miracle, but instead, by a Bit By Bit Over The Years Miracle. But that's another blog post (or ten). And now it would be hard for you to find a more contented, peaceful person. He cleared up my confusion about ministry and purpose and He's shown me what happens when I really do love Him best. How Life feels as it should that way. It feels meant-to-be-before-the-Ages good.

And now maybe you can understand why some of my posts sound the way they do--celebratory and almost careening over the Happy Ledge.

If you are in your own Nevada Years... If you have seen that depressing, rolling grey future cloud, remember--it usually appears right before the sun is about to come out and change absolutely everything.

***

HaloScan Blues

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

And darn, darn, darn... All my comments on this page have been erased. And of course, I have about a million posts on this page and there were lots of comments... Excuse me while I crawl off in a corner and scream %#$%@#$&*)#$%!!!!

I remembered that Saija (hi Saija!) had added HaloScan and said something about her comments being erased and then she'd said something about no, they weren't afterall. But it was all so hazy to me and I didn't reread her post about that until *after* I'd added Halo Scan and saw that eeks! Everybody's previous comments on this long, long page were gone. And at her blog I discovered the awful truth-- I should have had only a couple of posts on this page before I installed Halo Scan.

Well, all I've gotta say is that HaloScan had better be worth it... :)

And I do sincerely apologize to everyone whose comments I hadn't responded to yet. Especially to the new commenter who had such a terrific blog full of Christian T-shirts. I can' recall your name, but your blog was very unique and fun to read.

Oh well... I'll just chalk this up to another of those Live and Learn Things... probably # 3,459 for me. Nothing to lose sleep over, certainly!

Oh, and let this be a warning to any of you out there who've not yet installed HaloScan! :o)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Wasted Time

I was sitting again in our darkened sunroom tonight,waiting for Tom to come home from work. And again, the peace was palpable.

I got to thinking about the decades I wasted complaining about anything that didn't go as I thought it should. I ruined many weeks and years, complaining about Tom's 12-hour shifts... and those insane power plant hours... and the years we lived in Nevada and I didn't see him for days because his job was 100 miles away out in the desert (he'd be gone 4 days at a time). Then on the four days in a row that he'd get off, I'd spoil them by complaining about the days he'd been away.

Poor Tom.

I did have sense enough to try not to complain in front of Naomi. I do remember being so grateful that she remained with me while Tom spent all that time in the desert.

But sadly, during my early 30's I complained and whined about Tom always wanting to go someplace after he got home from the desert. After being stuck out there in a trailer with no place to go (literally), he liked to, after returning home, drive to Reno which was an hour away from us. But I hated big cities (still do), so I'd choose to stay home and he'd go alone. And then he'd return from shopping and relaxing in the big city and I'd be waiting at the door to complain some more.

And some more. About how long he'd been in the city. About anything. Everything.

Then he'd leave again for that desert job and I'd wonder why I was so unhappy.

Duh.

Finally in my late 30's I stopped complaining so much--and not just because we were no longer living in Nevada. Even here, where we live now, there were many things to complain about. It's so easy to complain about anything, anywhere you may live. And in any situation.

And wonder of wonders-- when I stopped the constant complaining, life got better. The less I complained, the happier I became.

Looking back, my past stupidity is now crystal clear. It got all muddied in the middle of it-- much of life has seems cloudy while I'm in the middle of it, especially when I pretend not to see.

But now there is peace. Like I said--the palpable kind.

And Life is sweeter than I ever imagined it could be.

***
"It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare." ...Edmund Burke

God Dreams



From experience, I've noticed that my own self-made-up dreams are always too safe. Too quiet. My own dreams require little risk--practically none, in fact. I can carry them out whether God shows up or not.

But God's dreams for me... Oh my. They have always required that I step out of the boat in deep seas and then, yes, walk on water.

And those are the dreams, the adventures, I now remember with awe. How in the world did I ever have the courage to do those things? To say what I said? To write what I wrote? Especially when no one else was saying or doing the same things?

Especially while walking on water and feeling all trembly and unsure?

God. His Presence. His ability. All held me up. And what a rush! The times when the ocean got choppy and I was tempted to leap back to the boat--but didn't--oh, those incredible times.

My own dreams take me down safe, dusty roads, ones which usually end at a crooked sign upon which is written, "Dead End. Waste Of Time."

But the God-birthed dreams keep leading me back to scarey--yet exciting--adventures on high seas. Risk is always involved in some form--he's a close cousin of Faith and Grace. And the sign on the faraway beach is always the same, "Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Servant."


***
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." ...Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

"The harder you fight to hold on to specific assumptions, the more likely there's gold in letting go of them." ... John Seely Brown

***

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My Daughter's Birthday Eve



In this picture, Naomi was on her way to begin her first day of kindergarten. That was 20 years ago, but only Yesterday in my mind because I remember leaving her in the classroom, then almost running down the crowded hall, praying no one would stop me to chat. All I wanted was to escape to my car and cry.

But after the tears, I confess... I smiled and drove home and read and drank coffee and flittered the morning away.

Tomorrow is Naomi's birthday. Each of her birthdays find me pensive and pondering. This year I wonder how can I have a daughter who is 25 when most days I, myself, feel only 30?

Again I remember kindergarten on September days. Afternoons when Naomi would come home from school and play her cassette tapes, ones which told stories from books. She played one tape over and over--a mournful-sounding song: "Little house, little house--so much to remember. Little house, little house..." I stood in the kitchen one day and thought, "I will always remember this. That song, this opened window with warm pine scent wafting through the screen, Naomi-Afternoons when she was 5 years old. And standing here. I will always remember pausing here right now. Today."

And I have remembered, even though that was many years, many houses and two states ago.

I wonder why each of Naomi's birthdays return me to right around that time? Perhaps because once she started school, I began to sense she wasn't really mine to keep. Each day I had to let go of her, I had to loan her to others, and well, the day would come when she would spend more time in others' homes than in ours--and I knew it.

And with that realization came something new. I slowed down more, because Naomi seemed to be growing faster and I could almost feel Time, like sand, pouring from my fingers. I'd sit on the couch mending or writing while Naomi played on the carpet with her stuffed animals. And I'd pause, look up, and memorize her just as she was. I'd tell myself, "Memorize her now, because someday she will be grown."

I'm glad I memorized my daughter at 5 and 8 and even 12. My heart holds pictures no one can ever take away from me. They're all still here as only a mother's heart can hold them.


***
Happy birthday to my Little Girl All Grown Up.


Poor Misunderstood Pollyanna



In a comment in my last post I mentioned Pollyanna. Man, when I want to live dangerously, I bring up Pollyanna's name. I usually have to cover my ears (or my eyes) because of the language her name stirs up.

Have you realized how negative our world has become? Maybe you've noticed that I often end my posts with quotations from people or books. To find them, I just do an MSN search for 'quotes about __________' (and fill in the blank with my topic). Well, often I must scroll down ten or twenty negative, pessimistic, sour-face quotations to get to a positive, hopeful-sounding one.

What's up with that?

But back to Pollyanna... Here is her original quote about the Glad Game:

"Oh, yes; the Glad Game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what it was..."

But according to this negative, weary old world, the Glad Game is foolish, ignorant and unrealistic.

Yet I think I know why it's considered unrealistic--many people have partaken of negativity until they are stuffed full to the bursting of their seams. They've gorged themselves on negatively-slanted news and books and thinking and people. They've chosen roads which have taken them to gloomy, dark places where they'd never originally planned to go. So now not only are they negative on the inside, but they're surrounded by all things heavy and sad on the outside, too.

Don't tell me such a place doesn't exist. I lived there in the 1980's as I described here.

So I'm going to be extremely bold and risk some comments from those still living in the land called There's Not One Good Thing Left Anywhere....

Pollyanna had it right.

There *is* always at least one thing to be glad about in any situation.
The Glad Game can still be played by players ages 2 and up.

And I daresay that includes you.


***

Some Glad Game examples:

When it's been raining for days... I'm glad no hurricane came and flattened my house.

When all days are snowy and dark... I'm glad I have a cozy home and glowing lamps...and that I'm still young enough and strong enough to shovel snow.

When I lose a friend... I'm glad for the good times we had... and I'm glad for the friends I still have.

When money is tight... I'm glad some day that will change.... and I'm glad for what we've been given.

When our computer breaks down... I'm glad I still have books to read... and I'm glad that my email box will be full of mail when I'm back online.

Come play along! It just might make you smile...


***
"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy." ... Psalm 5:11

"A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles." ... Washington Irving

***

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Have You Tried This Yet?



No, I don't mean *that* ...smile...

But this--Here's something fun. Maybe you've already tried it, but in case you haven't....

Google your blog's address. Click search.

Then click on "Find web pages that are similar to (your blog's address)."

Then start clicking away at the blogs Google believes are like yours.

The most delightful thing I discovered? My very favorite blog in the whole world was one of the 30 listed as being similar to mine. I felt so honored and pleased.

You'll just have to guess which blog that one is.

Anyway, try googling your blog's address and see what happens! You just may find a kindred spirit--who knows?

***

Wanting More



Years ago I'd sit at home on my couch and want more friends. Friends who'd go out for coffee with me at the drop of a floppy-brimmed hat. Friends who weren't too busy. Friends who had time for deep conversations with me on the phone or my front porch.

I wanted a lot of friends.

I also wanted more stuff. Cool stuff like vintage furniture and old-fashioned knick-knacks born with names like Jade-Ite, Mc Coy. And I wanted old magazines from the 1920's, ones with banners like McCalls, The American and Good Housekeeping.

I wanted a lot of stuff.

And I wanted a Mission in Life. A real big one that would take over all my days and require all my strength and make me look strong and noble.

But it seemed something always kept me from getting what I thought I really wanted. The friends and stuff were both iffy and elusive. Hard to find--both of them. The Mission in Life was invisible--I felt it was hiding from me. So mostly I felt frustrated and upset with Life.

I was disappointed a lot.

But then I started wanting more of God. More than friends. More than stuff and more than The Mission. I went on a passionate journey because I heard that people have about as much of God as they really want.

And I wanted a lot.

Well, the years of that initial journey were long and partly hard. The longer the journey, the more heavy baggage I had to let drop in the sand if I wished to continue. That required wanting even more of God--and even the wanting comes from Him. He gave more desire when I asked for more. And He replaced the parts of self I left lying on jungle paths and across high bridges--He gave me treasure in exchange for my junk.

So I continued--with even more passion.

But mostly, the journey was incredible. Some days I even stood on holy ground--and came away changed.

And years later, there's a funny part. Now I have more friends than I can keep up with. And so much cool stuff that I must give some away. And a Mission in Life which keeps me just-busy-enough-but-not-too-much.

But those aren't the things I want most. Those things don't bring me true joy or contentment. And since they're no longer my lifeblood, God can trust me not to get carried away downstream back to the desolate place where the journey began.

No, The Treasure I brought home from my journey is the best thing in my Life.


***

Monday, January 24, 2005

Loving Whichever Season I'm In



It's winter and my moaning
Will not shorten this season of
Snow and ice and bitter cold--
But I can lengthen it
By hating it--
The hours will creep,
The cold will bite harder
If I'm resenting the whole mess.

My life has Winters, too--
Times where God
Keeps me inside,
Holds me still,
Performs a little surgery.
(It's hard to operate upon
A woman who's sprinting
And who won't shut-up.)

And after the recovery time--
The healing,
Winter slides me--woosh!--
Into Spring
Where afternoons and color
Resume like an album
Held under the needle,
And gaining speed, plays music.

And then I find it matters
How I behave during Winter--
I can shorten it
After all
By learning its lessons,
Cooperating, appreciating
And then moving on--
Traveling at God's speed--
Which, though seldom fast,
Is always just right.
Even perfect.

And coming out a new person
In a new day--
Ready, prepared, anticipating.


***
P.S. The photo: From My Porch This Morning

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ...Anne Bradstreet


"Be still, and know that I am God..." ... Psalm 46:10

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Housekeeping: The Movie



Rather a funny title, but did you know that there really is a movie called Housekeeping? Such a dreamy, sleeper film which came and went and now plays at dreadful times like 3 a.m. on TV. It deserves better than the Late Night Graveyard.

Roger Ebert liked Housekeeping. He's not one to scatter gold stars around like bread crumbs for birds, but he gave it four-out-of-four stars. Here is his review.

Eleven years ago Tom and I watched Housekeeping together. On a Tuesday, I think. At odd, quiet times on Wednesday he shook his head and said, "That was a strange movie. Really weird."

A couple times on Thursday, out of the silence he said the same thing. I just smiled. I couldn't shake it off of me either-- I didn't want to.

When you reach the part where Sylvie and Ruthie cast off in the little row boat out upon the cold, early-morning lake, it's as though suddenly you've walked into someone's dream. And you know you won't be able to escape until that someone awakens--yet you hope they never do. Especially the end being what it is.

Do I have you intrigued?

Housekeeping was taken from a first novel by Marilynne Robinson. You read her similies and hang your head because you know yours will never sing like hers, nor be as luscious--like mind sorbet.

The movie or the book--take your pick. Both will make you feel like a teenager with a hundred dreams on the threshold of birth.

***

For more reviews about Housekeeping, click here. (Scroll down, down, down...)

Wild At Heart



I do read grown-up books during my morning quiet times. After my post on my favorite sorts of books, you may have wondered... For years I've told people that the ladies at our city library desk probably watch me pass by and then snicker to each other, "There goes that woman with the fifth-grade reading level." These past twelve years, I've checked out all the good books from the kids' library room.



But anyway, I am rereading John Eldredge's book, Wild At Heart, a book which amazes me each time I open its pages of invitations to adventure. If I was allowed to recommend only one Christian book to you, this one would be it. (I'd love to know how many of you have already dived within its seas.)

I must be reminded that God installed within each of us a love for adventure. I could go on about how society has done all it can to stifle and squash that desire, but to me, it's always the easy way out to blame modern society for everything gone wrong. Jesus lived amongst people who wanted Him to be something other than what He really was, and He did ok. He remained true to Himself and to God. And well, if we have Jesus within us, can't we do the same?

What is an adventure, a conquest to me, would probably be a sunny day at the park for you, relatively speaking. But that's all right.

Wild At Heart convinced me years ago that challenges are good things. That I would not want to live in a world without them. A good challenge alerts all our senses, all our capabilities that they've been handed an invitation to exert themselves-- and to excel. Finally there is a chance to put into practice all we have read and learned and experienced.

What a relief it is to stop dreading challenges, problems. To anticipate that not only are we at the brink of an adventure, but we will once again be able to see God Almighty move on our behalf.

I'm not one to say that books change our lives. Our lives change only when we put into practice what we hear or read. But Wild At Heart changed my mind about much of life--it also helped me understand Tom's 'quirks' (shall we say) much better.

Every day is a good day. Every day holds potential adventure--even at home. It's all in how you look at it.

And it's all in how you live it, too.

***

To read the first few pages of Wild At Heart, click here.

"Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes." ... John Eldredge

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Brittle Years



The 1980's were my brittle years. I hate brittle years, don't you?

I spent half that decade bathing in hurt feelings. And later, wrapping my coat around me and driving away to every pity party to which I was invited.

Then coming home and huddling in a dark room, staring at a lighted doorway, yet stubbornly thinking I was right to remain upon the couch in my darkness. That I couldn't help it. Just a helpless, misunderstood Christian woman.

But always watching that lighted doorway.

Knowing my ways would not fit within its frame. My ways--which seemed right--would have to be left behind in the dark room.

Brittle years. Falling apart when anything went wrong. Getting older, but not getting better. Knowing in my heart what was wrong, but telling my heart to keep silent because I just wasn't ready to let go of self, even though self was the boulder dragging me under the blackness.

But a year came, finally, when I got sick of my ways. And I began to listen. I listened to others who'd sat in darkened rooms, too, but had chosen to leave them, even though it meant leaving self behind. It was hard, but they made it. All over their faces you could see that they'd made it to that lighted doorway.

And you could see they were never going back to what they'd left behind. In losing self, they'd found a better thing. Some call it Freedom.

But it's never enough to just listen and nod your head up and down. I had to match those words with steps. Words from the Bible, words from human experience--it wasn't enough to just listen--I had to get up and walk. The couch was no longer an option. I had to choose the doorway over what I wanted, what I thought, what I felt. I saw self as the enemy it was.

And I saw 'I Can't Help It' as the disease it really is.

Step by step by step...Forward moving on Humility Street. There's a checkpoint there where they check your bags for pride and know-it-allness. Those things set off alarms in the scanner, so you have to leave them behind. If you refuse, you have to turn back.

For me, there is no turning back. There are people dancing further down on Humility Street--I see them celebrating. I even see the confetti fluttering down from the windows of buildings lining the street. Dancing or dark rooms?...hmmm... I choose dancing.


***
"Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”...Luke11:36

Friday, January 21, 2005

Sweeping



Some lamplit evenings I sit alone in our living room, play soft music, and look around at the autumn-colored walls and strings of tiny white lights. There's almost a mist of peace on those nights drizzling down from the ceiling.

We've lived here nearly 12 years and I've swept our dining room and kitchen floors hundreds of times. I've done a lot of sweeping, worn out a few brooms, too.

The world says sweeping is menial. Whenever I find myself parroting what the world speaks, a warning light goes off inside me.

Sweeping is important. One must sweep a lot if one wants peace. I've spent years sweeping away the choking dust of unforgiveness, pride and stubbornness. Peace cannot co-exist with those particles of chaos. The dust must go. So at Grace's nod and in her timing, I've often opened the door and swept chaos away into the sunlight, then welcomed the sunlight inside in chaos' former place.

Sweeping and sunlight. Today I swept away the dusting of snow in our driveway without even throwing on a sweater or slipping my fingers into gloves. No, I tossed a bag into the trash can, then grabbed the broom and swept the trace of snow aside so Tom would not slip. The sun felt warm on my face and covered arms, though my bare hands stung a little.

Later I discovered that while I was outside the temperature was only 5 degrees F. I couldn't believe it, for I'd barely felt cold. The sun had made all the difference.--its gleaming light and rays had cast warmth. But that's always how I feel--just give me sunlight and I don't care how cold it is outside.

Just give me Sonlight and I'll be fine.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Sense of Humor: Don't Leave Home Without It



Years ago I read a humorous, teasing article in a Christian magazine about fasting. It asked questions like, how many Tic Tacs can you eat without it being considered cheating? And, if you make a liquid shake out of all your favorite foods, is that considered bad form? Things like that. Things we've all felt before, if we're honest.

Well, I, personally, thought the article and it's cartoon drawings were funny. Cute. But I cringed because I just knew what the Letters To The Editor section of next month's issue would look like. As I've written before, I've been around church people my whole life and I know what ol' sober-sides they can be. I knew trouble was coming.

And I was right. The following month, there were tons of letters screaming about the 'irreverence displayed by the author toward the hallowed subject of fasting.'

Oh good grief. Can't we lighten up?

I refuse to grow old before my time, and that's just what will happen if I cannot take my sense of humor with me wherever I go. If I can't lighten up and tease myself when I start taking life too seriously, then I'm on the road to becoming morose. And well, I refuse to become a morose Christian-- they turn into a sort of repelling magnet, repelling the very people who need God--and joy--the most.

No thanks. Instead, I'll find at least one thing to laugh about every day. I'll exercise this gift of laughter, this sense of humor God installed within me. And I'll choose fullness of joy, the unspeakable, full-of-glory kind.

Fill mine to the brim, please.


***
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." ... Psalm 126:2

"Seven days without laughter make one weak." ... Joel Goodman

***

Wonder Years



"When we were in our wonder years, if the electricity was lost during a storm, it was more magical than inconvenient. Everything was transformed by candlelight, and everyone gathered together in one room--a special conviviality for a special occasion. We slowed down, edged our way through the darkness, and used all our senses to rediscover the familiar." ... Sarah ban Breathnach


"When we were in our wonder years..." Past tense. How sad that sounds.

I want these years to be my wonder years.

I want to welcome snow with the heart of a let's-go-sledding child instead of a gosh-I-hate-driving-in-this-stupid-snow adult.

I want to feel safe even when the outside world is fighting and coming apart at its tired old seams.

I want to awaken each morning with at least ten happy things to look forward to.

I want to anticipate the future and love the now.

I want to keep the wonder and lose the dread. Hold onto the wonder and lower fear out the window.

God and wonder. The perfect mix.


***
"'Cause these are the good old days." ... Carly Simon

"From without, no wonderful effect is wrought within ourselves, unless some interior, responding wonder meets it." ... Daisy Bates

***

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Serious Snow



Today we are having Serious Snow, our very first of the season. Up until now we've had just Teasing Snow, the kind which tickles your lawn and stays only a few days if the sun appears. The kind which melts from warm spots in your driveway by the following afternoon.

Serious Snow is different. It falls hour after hour in huge flakes and by the time you finish shoveling the driveway, it's time to shovel it again. And when you sit inside and gaze out the windows you drowsily realize you can't recall what a day in summer looks like. Slowly you pull your eyes away, back to your book, but still you see white. You'll be seeing white outside for a long, long time.

During afternoons of Serious Snow you begin thinking about the little groundhog of Groundhog Day fame. You squint your eyes and make plans to wring his hairy little neck if he predicts another six weary weeks of winter. Okay, I'm kidding (my daughter belongs to PETA, so don't tell her I said that about the groundhog). But you do feel like telling that groundhog that if he can't predict something nice, then don't predict anything at all.

Oh, I'm not complaining... You have to laugh about Serious Snow. It'll be here too long of a time not to.




Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Photos Just for Fun

Some of you seemed to have liked the houses in my previous post, so perhaps you'll like these photos, too...




This is the street next to ours. Doesn't look like this right now, though! Perhaps I can get over there this week and take a snowy picture.

This is our house before the carport was built. A lot of living and loving goes on inside our three floors of utopia.


Here is a favorite picture of me, though don't ask me why. This was taken shortly after we moved to this house--before we gave it TLC (notice the poor old porch slats and the awful red color of the walls).

I used to have many pictures of the old houses in our area--great old houses are here by the thousands, literally. Perhaps I'll go around and take new ones and then I'll be able to better show you what winter looks like here.

The old houses are a big part of why I love living here...

The Greater Pain



There is a greater pain than in letting go.
It is in holding on.

When I was 14 my family moved to utopia. Well, my own personal utopia. My dad pastored a church there in my perfect town and to me, the congregation was full of angels. For the first time in my life I felt truly loved and accepted. And at 14, that's huge.

Well, two-and-a-half years later, we moved away and I nearly lost my mind. In our new town a couple hundred miles distant, I was homesick beyond homesick. I wrote letters by the box load and my goal in life became to move back to my utopia and graduate from high school there. Unfortunately, my parents wouldn't even hear of that.

So in my new town I went to school and felt like a zombie. But eventually, God sent me a friend, and she became the first truly best friend I'd had in my life. At first when we'd go to my house I'd tell her all about the utopia I'd left behind and all the marvelous, angelic people there. She took that until one day when she asked, "Do you always have to talk about utopia?"

And her words shook something from me. Call it a bondage, maybe. But from then on I stopped talking so much about the town I'd left behind and my friend and I went on to have remarkable adventures in this new town. She was incredibly fun, exactly what I needed and our escapades in the following seven months would have made a delightful book.

And that is just one story in my life where the pain of letting go was not as great as the pain I would have felt later if I'd held on.

There is pain in letting go and yet...
Try being drastically homesick for a year or two and see what it gets you...
Try holding onto a relationship, a friend who depresses you and see where that leads...
Try holding onto junk food and see what happens...
Try spending money any time you want...
Try neglecting your spouse for something else...
Try holding onto your children when they are ready to start doing some things on their own ...
Try wanting what God does not want you to have...

(Been there, done just about all of that...)

Much of life is about letting go. All changes require letting go in some form. But the amazing thing about God is that whenever He asks us to let go of something, He always replaces it with something better.

All we need are the eyes to see that better thing.


***

Monday, January 17, 2005

Accepting Winter



In our house, you don't dare leave a glass of water anywhere and then return later to take a drink from it. No, because most likely, one of our cats will have taken kitty sips from your glass. They prefer their water that way.

I've written before about the world which exists inside our house. That world becomes clearer and cozier during winter. I discovered years ago, though, that I was ruining part of this indoor world by not accepting the outdoor icy one. I had to come to terms with these frozen months. I had to accept that it snows here--accept that it's too cold to take afternoon walks... and we will have many dark, sunless days... and the roads are slippery so I will stay home a great deal.

I wrote about acceptance earlier and this is a prime example of what I meant: There will be no joy for me in winter if I do not accept winter and all that it brings.

Think about it. If I'm always dreading January and February and moaning about dark days and having to shovel the driveway snow and paying those exorbitant heating bills, well, my own personal winter will be long and miserable. Year after year. (No rocket science involved there.)

So today I'll bundle up and shovel our driveway and be thankful for the exercise--the exercise I'd otherwise miss because it's too cold to take a walk in 12 degree F. weather. And I'll not complain that the snowplow awoke me last night and I couldn't go back to sleep for an hour. No, I'll just recall that I spent that hour talking with God and smiling into my pillow.

And I'll be thankful that Tom has the day off and won't need to brave our slippery streets or icy sidewalks. And hopefully Naomi and Carl will be able to stay inside off the roads, too. Then when we get the lake effect snow which is preparing to blow-in this afternoon, we can hum, "And since there's no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

We do have to pick our battles. How ridiculous that I fought against winter for years when the battle was really with my attitude about it. Old Man Winter is just the same as always, but he doesn't seem nearly as fierce or depressing. That's because I have changed. And now there is joy, even in winter, because there is acceptance.


***
"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." ...Albert Camus

"People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy."...Anton Chekhov

***

Sunday, January 16, 2005

God And Silence

Yesterday was my first day off from blogging in a long, long, time. I kept hearing, "Take the day off. Relax." Still, it's sometimes a test to not forge ahead and make something up, even when I feel Grace is not helping me write. It's often a test when God is leading me to stillness while the world is saying, "Doing nothing is a big fat waste of time."

But then, so much of what the world says has become suspect with me. Too much of it is at polar opposites of the Bible.

Anyway, yesterday morning it was around 15 cold, but sunny degrees, yet Tom and I drove to our supermarket and had coffee there while reading the newspaper. And while sitting in the shiny newness of our neighborhood store, I read something silly in the paper.

There is a Saturday column which is written by two 'people of the cloth.' They were asked by a mother if she should be concerned that her four-year-old talks to God a lot. The columnists said talking to God is perfectly wonderful, but the problems arise when people say they hear God speak back to them.

Ok, part of me understood their concern--their fear-- but the other part of me wanted to scream right there amongst the tables and coffee and other people.

How sad to represent God before lonely people and to not have experienced verses like, "My sheep hear my voice," and "Come let us reason together," and "Those whom I love, I tell their faults," and even:

"But the Comforter...shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance," to name only four obvious ones.

Yet even with a verse like, "There is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother," well, how can you have a friendship if one of those friends never says anything?

I'm not one of those people who say, "God did all His speaking in the Bible. Period." To me, that's sad. How sad to think that God said so many beautiful things in the Bible then forever closed His mouth and will not speak within our hearing until we reach Heaven and stand before Him.

And yes, of course, many terrible things have been done in the world by people who swore, "God told me to do it." But if what 'God told them to do' contradicted the Bible, well, what they heard was something different. (And of course, people often disagree about what the Bible does say, but I'm not going there--not right now.)

No this is simpler. I'm just saying there are quiet places where God speaks when we listen (key word--listen). And ok, I'll say it-- He speaks to me. (I'll give you the address of those two columnists if you'd like them to come take me away to a padded cell...) But I cannot accuse God of not honoring true friendship. Friendship does take at least two and requires incredible communication. And I've found there is no better Communicator, no better Friend anywhere.


***

Friday, January 14, 2005

Yes, More Harvey

Do you ever read something and think, "Drats! I wish I would have written that first because it describes exactly how I felt, only I was unable to voice it so perfectly."?

For the four-hundredth time, that happened to me this afternoon when I read a review about the movie, Harvey, the movie which is still up in my kitchen VCR... still being viewed while I cook and clean. Earlier this afternoon, I watched the portion of the movie described in the second paragraph below and then walked out to the sunroom with Tom where I then melted into my comfy chair. And I mean melted. You'd think I'd just had a massage--and maybe in a way, I had.

Here, read this:

Watching this movie is like warm milk at bedtime. It's like sipping hot chocolate just as the marshmallows are beginning to melt. It's sitting in a hot bath with the scent of your favorite bubbles filling the air. It is warm and sweet and, ultimately, extraordinarily satisfying. Watching James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd is looking back for a time and place that probably have never been, an era when goodness and decency and kindness win the day... Sometimes it's so nice to be wrapped in the warm blanket of a story told with heart and grace...

There is a moment in this film when Stewart, when Elwood, sits down to tell about when and how he first met Harvey. His master story telling is so natural, so mesmerizing, that I sat in awe of him. There was no acting that I could see, which is much the goal, I understand. He spoke with simplicity and sincerity, and I would have listened to anything he had to say for as long as he wanted to speak. The character of Elwood P. Dowd is so generous, so kind, so winning, that you truly begin to believe that any story could be true, that any love could be real, and that any six foot rabbit could find a home at his side. James Stewart resides at the center of this film, drawing all of the other characters to him, changing the richness of their lives and the openness of their minds. -- Natasha Theobald

***
Here is the sentence I love most: "He spoke with simplicity and sincerity, and I would have listened to anything he had to say for as long as he wanted to speak."

That's what happens when a person is doing exactly what God has called them to do upon this Earth. Be it acting, writing, speaking, fire-fighting, parenting or being a patrolman, a doctor, a secretary, a clerk or a thousand other callings.

There is a Presence, a brilliance, a rightness--something as close to perfection as you will find on this earth when a person is smack-dab in the center of doing what they were meant to do. There is something eminating from them which calls to the hearts of even those who live and think in opposite poles. And when that person is a Christian with God at the very center of their heart and motives, well, the effects upon people's lives are even more immeasurable.

I love coming across those kinds of people. I first began noticing them probably 23 years ago, or so. They always take my breath away and remind me of important things forgotten. And maybe through time I forget the people, themselves. but the part of me that came away changed--it never forgets what it once was and now has become.

And what's more amazing--each of us has the same opportunity to shine in this brilliance and to change others' lives. No matter what our calling.

Of Pity Parties And Other Places


I've had God drag me out of a few pity parties. I'm always embarrassed when He comes through the door, brushes past the noisy (invisible) crowd and finds me slumped over at a little table, drunk on self-pity cordial. You've tasted self-pity cordial, haven't you? It's warm and red and goes down smooth--at first. But then an hour later it makes your head throb and you feel worse, as though the best days of your life are over. And when you look around at those people who haven't yet succumbed, you hate the ones who are laughing. You think they are laughing at you.

I've had people tell me, "God takes me, accepts me, right where I am." And yes, He does.

But if He finds us at a pity party, He certainly doesn't want to leave us there. He does all He can to take our arm and pull us outside for some cold, fresh air. Then He walks us to a better place. A place where no self-pity cordial is served from the bar.

Yet only if we cooperate. Only if we let Him take our arm. Only if we leave the dark places and walk with Him to the light just up the road.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tired In a Good Way

Twenty years ago as a young wife and mother, I used to babysit a high school teacher's little boy. One day the mother came into my house while I had two friends visiting and she told us, "I spent the weekend with my husband's family and by Sunday night, I was sick of hearing my own voice. I realized I had been talking, talking, talking for two days straight."

I've felt like that before. I've become sick of hearing my own voice at times, also.

And I've experienced becoming sick of other things...

Sick of feeling worried all the time.
Sick of doing my own thing.
Sick of wanting what I want, when I want it.
Sick of being upset.
Sick of being sad.
Sick of being afraid of new experiences.
Sick of being irritated with Tom and with Life ... etc., etc.

Sometimes I have been unable to change until I got sick of being the way I did not want to be. It's like I have to reach a point where I am too tired to keep fighting God. Too tired of holding the thing which is blocking my joy.

I love it when that happens--even though there's usually a little pain involved. When I stop fighting with God and just let Him make the necessary repairs in my foundation--without me giving Him advice--it's as though He's performing surgery. Sorely-needed corrective surgery.

I told a friend recently that I so do not want what I want. I want only what God wants for me.

She didn't get it. But that's ok. I am also sick of defending myself.

***

Oh Lord, You Are My Chocolate Sundae

I know... "Like, what is up with that title?" Well, I'll ease you into its meaning.

Today the people in all the old houses in all these old-fashioned towns around us are celebrating. Why? Because today we are due for a record high temperature of 68 degrees F. Woo hoo! Bring out the confetti and the noise makers and the party hats!

You'd have to live here to understand. I mean, I pulled out my last year's diary this morning to check what our weather was like last January 13th. It was typical---COLD. Snow everywhere and a high temperature of 8 degrees F. That's what our winters here are normally like--you just get used to it. Ok... you sort-of get used to it.

But today! Sixty-eight balmy, lovely degrees. Maybe I'll putter in the yard--pick up the broken twigs and pieces of paper which get blown about in strong winds. Maybe I'll skip down the street and around the block. And maybe I'll sit on the front porch and read a magazine and have coffee. The porch and magazines and coffee in January--oh my!

But here is my point (finally). This lovely, lovely weather is still only the cherry on top of my chocolate sundae. I mean, even if we were back to the usual 8 degrees...and dark skies... and two feet of snow... Even if there was a blizzard swirling all around my little house with its golden-window eyes, well, I would still be celebrating. Today would still be a good day.

Because like Elwood P. Dowd says, "Every day is a beautiful day." Why? Because Jesus is my whole chocolate sundae. He is my reason for getting out of bed at 5 a.m. in the mornings. He is always good, always sweet, always a delight. And He never changes.

And any other good thing which takes place in my day--any good weather, kind words or trips to fun places-- they are just the cherry on top. But never the whole sundae... never the main thing... never the best part.


***

"Oh,taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." ... Psalm 34:8

Forget that Fair Weather Joy. I'll take the stronger stuff... The Joy In The Midst Of Hard Times kind.

"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." ...copied

***

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Out-Of-Season Plans



Years ago over at Oprah's website I kept an online gratitude journal. I had big plans, big dreams. I was going to save the world with that gratitude journal. People from everywhere would read what I had written--I wouldn't just stick to gratitude kinds of things--I'd write about God and stuff. It would be great.

Well, it wasn't great.

Writing in that journal was one long, painful struggle. I'd sit in front of the computer screen and yawn... and stare... and squeeze my brain so hard, that I think part of it dribbled out my ears. Writing in that thing was torture.

That journal, for me, was a case of writing out-of-season. It wasn't God's timing for me to attempt such a thing. That was purely my own timing and my own idea. Or perhaps it was more a matter of taking a God idea and running ahead with it before it had learned to walk--or had even been born.

There was more for me to learn before God could trust me with writing online. I had to learn to not say any old thing I felt like. To be the directed, not the director. And so many other things it would bore you if I listed them.

Jesus prepared thirty years for a three-year ministry. Most of us are so antsy, that we can't stand the thought of preparing even three years for a thirty-year ministry.

(Hmmm... Did I hear a few "amens"?)

Finally, last July, the right time came along for me to begin this blog. My friend,
That's how it started. Things have evolved since then to where this blog is nothing like I thought it would be. Maybe that's because I don't see myself sitting in the Director's Chair. I see Someone else there and I never know ahead of time where He's going--with anything.

I can see why He's big on this faith stuff. It makes life much more exciting.


***
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven..." ... Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Harvey Philosophy 101



I've told you before that a small TV and VCR sit on top of our refrigerator in our yellow, shadowy kitchen. I had almost retired from cooking from scratch--after all, I've been married 26 years and that's a whole lot of blueberry muffins-- when we placed the TV and VCR up there. And amazingly, I love cooking again. I spend afternoon hours in my kitchen listening to Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart and okay... Kevin James (forgive me) at 5:30 each evening while I make dinner.

And all right, some of you are rolling your eyes at the whole idea of bribing myself to cook from scratch in this mindless, worldly way. But at my advanced age (I am halfway to 90 years old, you know...) you find what works for you, and then you stick with it. That is, until it no longer works for you. If you're wise, that's when you let go of it.

Anyway, for days now, I've been watching the old Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey, while baking muffins and chicken and making applesauce. I love Harvey philosophy. I live by some of it, even. Well, certain parts.

When the Harvey-loving Elwood P. Dowd says, "Every day is a beautiful day," I nod my head and agree. I mean, doesn't every day have the potential of being beautiful? It's what we do to a day, that usually mars it, yet we go around swearing it's the day that mars us, instead.

And then look at Elwood's spirit of hospitality. He's out in the 'highways and byways, inviting them to come in' to his home for dinner. He doesn't even require them to pass the tests most of us would issue first. No, Elwood sees all strangers as potential friends and gladly invites them in. Definitely Jesus would give him an A+ in Hospitality. I hate to think what grade I'm getting in that class.

Harvey Philosophy is about as deep as it goes for me. I like my philosophy to get only as deep as I can live it. Maybe another day I will share more of it with you, but for now, I'll just end with this from the scene in Dr. Chumley's office:

"Mother always told me: 'In this world, Elwood,'"(she always called me Elwood)," you have to be oh-so-smart, or oh-so-pleasant.'
Well, for years I was smart.
I recommend pleasant..."

So do I, Elwood. So do I.


***

The Seven O'Clock Crowd



It's almost seven o'clock in the morning and you will arrive soon. A group of you Quiet Ones always steps in here around seven, usually without ringing the doorbell first. I don't mind. Usually I am prepared for you, though nearly always I am still in my robe, and my hair is brushed--though barely. And often I've already prepared something to offer you as you settle in a chair.

But this is an unready morning. I've been dreaming too much in a pool of light at my little table by the fireplace. Nibbling at the sentences from my devotional books (I forgot to mention those books in my post below). Playing too much with Oreo The Cat. Loving these silent Tuesday morning hours too much to write about them-- just desiring to live them unwritten, instead.

And yet, I am prepared for you. I do have something amazing to offer you, but it's not from my own pen. No, it's from Kelly's.

So here. Read it and keep it with you throughout your day, wherever you go. Don't leave it at a train station or in a desk drawer. No, keep it in a pocket near your heart.

And if you are one of the seven o'clock crowd, I'll see you again tomorrow morning, and hopefully, I'll greet you at the door with words in my hand.


***
"Each morning the day lies like a fresh shirt on our bed; this incomparably fine, incomparably tightly woven tissue of pure prediction fits us perfectly. The happiness of the next twenty-four hours depends on our ability, on waking, to pick it up." ... Walter Benjamin

Monday, January 10, 2005

Some Of You Will Love This

Kids! Kids! I found a blog entry which I just know some of you will love to pieces. This is from a blog I just discovered today called, So I Go.

Read it here. That is, if you dare.


***

Coming When Called



Nearly all my days used to be like this:

I would sense God whispering, "Slow down." To come away with Him for even just a few minutes. To sit quietly and listen from my heart.

You'd think I'd be honored by an invitation from God to spend time with Him, wouldn't you? But when He would call, I would say things like,

"Just give me a minute. First I need to wash the dishes, then run to the store for bread and eggs, and then write that email to Mary. You know what happens if I put those things off. They don't get done."

Hours later, after I'd finished what I had put ahead of God, I'd sit down. "There," I'd think. "I've finished what I felt I should do first. I have a few minutes before I should start dinner and feed the cats and pay the bills."

It amazes me how I can pretend I'm not grieving the Holy Spirit.

What a difference, though, the times I come when He calls. Morning, busy noons, late or early evening. While alone or while with others. In the mood, or out. The times when I grab my sweater and just head out the door the minute He says, "Let's walk around the neighborhood." Or when He says, "Grab a cup of tea and we'll sit at the little table beside the fireplace and talk," and I grab a cup and start pouring.

The difference? He's not grieved. I come away refreshed, inspired and accompanied by the One who is all-wise. He walks around the house the rest of the day with me and amazingly, the necessary things get done. Grace helps me do them--and she is the hardest worker I know.

Coming when God calls--not after--gives my days a holy glow. Almost can I see Peace dancing upon my walls like pleasant shadows of leaves on autumn-tinted afternoons.


***
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me..." -- John 10:27

I am supposed to be following God--not running out ahead of Him, making Him follow me.

***

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Shock Value Post

Sometimes while you're keeping a blog, you get into a mischievous mood. You toy with the idea of writing something which will shock your readers.

So that's what I'm going to do here. Well, sort-of.

I am going to give you a list of the last sixteen books I have read. Why? Because it will shock some of you that these are the kinds of books I read.

Oh, some of you won't be shocked. You'll be greatly amused, maybe even feel a little sorry for me. I've read some of your book lists and just the titles and author's names, alone, impress me. Almost by osmosis, or something, I can feel how 'deep' those books are. I can sense their good kind of 'heaviness.'

Who knows, really knows, how anyone will react to what we write? We are all so different. But I do know this: A fraction of you who have read my blog for a few months will be shocked that these are the kinds of books I love to read year after year:

Friday's Tunnel by John Verney (a children's novel, 1959)
Saturday Cousins by Rebecca Caudill (a children's novel, 1959)
Fair Exchange by Jean Nielsen (a teen novel, 1964)
It's Bright in My Valley by Philip J. Cleveland (a pastor's memoirs, 1962)
The Year of The Jeep by Keith Robertson (a young adult novel, circa 1970)
Mary Cary by Kate Langley Bosher (a children's novel, 1910)
Stand In The Wind by Jean Little (a children's novel, 1975)
Beverly Gray, Senior by Clair Blank (a teen novel, 1934)
Three Stuffed Owls by Keith Robertson (a children's novel, circa 1972)
Andy and Willie by Lee Sheridan Cox (a children's novel, circa 1965)
Three Churches & A Model T by Philip J. Cleveland (a pastor's memoirs, 1960)
The North Woods by William Irving (a young adult novel, circa 1925)
Spice Box by Grace Livingston Hill (a teen novel, 1943)
Diane's New Love by Betty Cavanna (a teen novel, 1955)
To School Thro' The Fields by Alice Taylor (a woman's childhood memories, 1990)
Emmy Lou--Her Book and Heart by George Madden Martin (a children's novel, 1901)

(Pause for the wiping away of tears from either laughter or pity.)

Obviously I don't get much blog fodder from the books I read.

No, I get most of my blog posts from listening.I do a lot of listening. Everyday. At home and everywhere I go.

Some of you know what I mean.


***

Growing-Up-- The Second Chapter



Children believe the world revolves around them.
Children want every toy they see.
Children get mad when they don't get their way.
Children say any old thing they want to.
Children get their feelings hurt--a lot.
Children cry--a lot.
Children want to play all the time.
Children want what is not good for them.
Children have themselves on their mind.
Children are directed by their feelings.
Children blame everyone else.
Children are impatient.
Children think they know everything.

I want to be an adult.

An adult who knows the difference between being childish and child-like.

I want to put away childish things, but hold onto a child-like wonder about God and Life and Creativity and Growing Things.

***

"We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities." ...Bill Maher

"The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny." ...Albert Ellis

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Growing-Up



This Christmas, Naomi gave me a book called, The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly. It's full of behind-the-scenes stuff from that show which was filmed more than forty years ago. It fulfills my nagging need-to-know about one of my favorite programs of all-time.

I've found two things, two people, quite interesting.

The woman who portrayed Aunt Bee, Frances Bavier, is remembered by everyone as being 'nice, except!' Nice, except touchy. Nice, except easily hurt by words not carefully spoken. Nice, except you 'walked on egg shells' around her lest she be offended.

I have friends and relatives like that. Do you? And I'll tell you... If I have a fear of anything, it's of becoming touchy, myself. Because if I become easily-offended, people won't be Real around me. They'll sugar-coat or filter how they really feel about Life. They'll eventually avoid me. All because of a fear of upsetting me and making me say hurt-based words.

But the second thing I noticed in this book, was the way each cast member remembered the man who played Floyd, the town barber. Over and over, everyone spoke glowingly about Howard McNear. Words like, "...there was never anyone like him. Kind, kind man." And Jack Dodson related this story:

"We went to (Howard's) funeral, and I have to say that it was the only funeral I've ever been to where the laughs exceeded the tears. There were a couple of people who knew him well. They spoke in the form of a eulogy -- I guess you could call it that. Oh, but it was funny. They related Howard McNear stories from the pulpit. It was something else. Really, it made a nice thing... It was something else, those stories. And yet, it was all done with dignity. Oh, he was a nice man."

In people's memories, there were no 'nice, except!'s about Howard.

I don't want there to be a lot of 'nice, except!'s remembered about me, either. As a Christian, I want to grow-up and grow beyond childishly getting my feelings hurt. And heaven forbid that I would staunchly defend my right to get offended... or to stay hurt... or to stay sad.

I want a better life than that. Better memories. Like I said, I want to grow-up.


***

The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it... Jean Paul

Friday, January 07, 2005

Angry At God?

I read something this morning which surprised me. Well, a little. It seems there are a heck of a lot of people angry at God right now because of the recent tsunami disaster.

And of course, that's their--that's your-- right. If you want to be mad at God, you are free to take that route. But don't look behind your shoulder in search of me to walk with you. I won't be on that road.

I'll be on this one:

"He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He." Deuteronomy 32:4

The Bible is plastered with warnings that these last days will be filled with terrible times. We have been warned. Like, for a couple thousand years.

And each of us has also had months and years to become close to the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. The One who speaks to the storms in our heart and calms them. The One who provides comfort so that we, in turn, may comfort others.

During times of disaster, people usually become acquainted with fear. Despair. Sadness, hopelessness and depression. It's a little hard to form a strong, peace-centered friendship when you're being thrown around in a ship on a wild, angry sea. It's hard to hear someone tell you about himself if the roar of the waves is in your ears.

And since the future is not going to get any rosier, now is the perfect time to get to know that Friend, instead. Compared to what the future holds, we are still in a semi-calm place. Again, it's plastered all over the Bible what is ahead in the road. And, well, it only gets worse.

But I'll choose white-knuckle trust instead of anger. I'll hold onto that Rock which never quivers or rolls, even though all other rocks around it may shift in the sand.

And I'll not become angry with my only hope.


***
God is still God and He is still good.


***

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Better Dreams



I first saw Carousel, the musical, when I was fourteen years old and it enchanted my heart. It still does. Carousel is definitely on my list of Top Five Movies. (Hmm... I must have at least 25 movies on that list by now.) Oh, I realize Carousel has a questionable theme, but to me, it gets lost in the remaining magic of the film.

I dug out my video of Carousel tonight and forwarded to all my favorite parts. And as I sat and watched the scene where Billy's and Julie's daughter, Louise, dances with the handsome man on the beach, well, I cried. Thirty years later I am still crying over what I consider the most perfect style of dance ever danced upon this earth. The form and line and grace they exhibited, well, literally they snatch my breath away.

But they do more. That dance stirs up all the memories of teenage dreams I once had. Every time I'd watch Carousel or other musicals back then, I'd vow to be a dancer when I 'grew-up.' But then I'd watch gymnastics during the Olympics and I'd determine to be a gymnast, instead.(I did go on to win a gold medal in a small high school for a floor routine.) Or I'd watch ice-skating and determine, well, I'll let you guess.

But tonight my tears during that enchanting dance on the beach were not tears of sadness--not from feeling I've missed out on something wonderful. No, they stemmed from the overwhelming, heart-in-your-throat beauty of two people moving in perfect form together. I was simply grateful that once upon a time 48 years ago, Carousel was made and two young people, now old, were filmed in their prime, dancing in such harmony and grace to perfect music.

And more-- I was grateful that I, too, fulfilled my dreams of dancing. Oh, not in the physical sense. But through the years, God gave me His custom-made dreams for me to fulfill--and they are better than the teenage ones which changed from month to month. These new dreams keep me young and they help me remind others to stay young--and hopeful-- too. And He even let one of those dreams be the dancing one.

For you see, whenever I write, whenever I walk alongside God, I am young again, full of potential and dancing that Carousel dance on the beach.


***
Perhaps the dance of the heart is the best dance, afterall. It can be forever graceful, forever young, even after the body has grown old.

***

Don't Wanna Become a Clanging Symbol

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." I Corinthians 13:1,2

Funny how God can use the computer to show you things.

I've confessed before that I'm always searching for those elusive Wonder Blogs. You know, blogs which make me think... make me gasp with wonder...Blogs which show me the ordinary in a whole new way... ones which strengthen and expand my faith.

And the rare times I find one, it's always a grand and glorious day around here.

Yet, there are other times when I think I've found a Wonder Blog, but later I have to let it go... like when you catch a too-small fish.

I want to be careful when I explain this to you... It's hard. And for the remainder of this, I am only speaking about blogs which profess to be 'Christian.' But I guess I let go of some blogs, non-journal Christian blogs, because soon it feels like they are only handing out 'Christian information.' They don't allow comments on their blog, nor do they get back to you when you email them. Or maybe they supply no way to even communicate with them at all. Or maybe people leave comments, but those comments are never replied to, neither in the comment section or in future posts.

And then it seems like the 'Christian information' they are giving out becomes harsh. Critical. Putting down everyone who ever made a mistake or believed a different way.

And even though they continue to share some truths which I find interesting, if all these other things are going on, I usually let them go. Like the too-small fish.

But those blogs are very good for something. They teach me what not to do. They hold a light up to my own blog and show me its weaknesses and make me gasp in horror when I see some of the same dreadful things trying to creep inside. And then I take my lantern and run around trying to crush those creepy little crawlers within my own four blog walls.

So those blogs provide a service. They reaffirm to me the vital importance and truth of 1 Corinthians 13. Which makes them valuable, even though I let them go.


***
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love..." I Corinthians 13:13

ADDENDUM TO THIS POST: I would love to be given links to your favorite blogs which " make you think... make you gasp with wonder...Blogs which show you the ordinary in a whole new way... ones which strengthen and expand your faith." Really--please tell me about them in my comment box. Thanks.


***

Waiting For The Morning Manna

It's early and the manna hasn't come down yet. So I'm waiting.

You see, in this blog I don't write just any old thing that comes to my head. I save that stuff for my paper diary and journals.

No, when I write in this blog it's to share the morning manna God gives me. He sends down a few little pieces, then He shows me how to dole them out. His manna, His ideas, are always a million times better than mine, so I wait until they come. And then I write.

Sometimes there's afternoon manna, but usually it's the morning variety. Morning or afternoon, it is always sweet and tastes a bit like honey and peace.

But like I said, it's not here yet, so I'll wait. I'd hate to write something which just came from me.


***

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Bringing Peace Along



"You are the light of the world." ... Matthew 5:14 

*****

My grandparents were my reminders that there are real Christians in this world. I'd visit their simple house, with their red-checked table oil cloth and worn chenille bedspreads, and those two people were always the same--peaceful. Calm. Perhaps that's partly why I love vintage stuff like jade-ite and flowered metal canisters now--those things remind me of the tranquility in my grandparents' home.

To mention the term 'stressed-out' and my grandparents in the same sentence is ludicrous and laughable. I don't recall them ever acting stressed-out about anything.

But the wonderful thing was that they took that peace, that Light, with them wherever they went. My siblings and I would ride in the slippery backseat of their old white Ford and my grandparents would sit in the front seat quietly talking, no matter how many other drivers or pedestrians acted crazily around them. They'd never rush us through the Five-And-Dime or K-Mart. We took our time, ambling through aisles, my grandfather exclaiming over the cleverness of whoever it was who'd thought-up certain new inventions.

I loved being in my grandparents' world. It was always a calm, serene place.

The amazing thing, though, is that while I walked in a serene glow with my grandparents, there was a stressful, care-ridden, unhappy world co-existing with our quiet one. I'm talking right around that dreadful year of 1968. It's as though we stood and moved in the peaceful core, while around us spun and spun an out-of-control outer edge. Two ways of living taking place at one time.

I preferred my grandparents' way of living. I still do. And to prove it, I still walk in that peaceful core, which means I do a lot of watching of those people swirling all around me. The stressed-out ones who have no peace, no Light, no joy. And when Grace nudges me, I reach out and--snatch!-- a person from that swirling stream and bring them into the calm center.

With a smile.
A warm "Hello."
A "How are you?"
A "Here, let me help you with that."
An "Oh, you can go ahead of me."

...or even with these essays. I seldom find peace or Light out in the market place, so I take them along with me to share. They are real to me and I so want them to become real to others.




*****

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all."   ... 2 Thessalonians 3:16



First keep the peace within yourself,
then you can also bring peace to others... Thomas A. Kempis 


*****
To read more about my grandparents, click here.

***

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Friendship Seasons



Only a few years ago did I discover that certain friends are given to us for certain seasons in our lives. And when that season is over, it's like squeezing milk from a turnip to try to keep that friendship going.

Well, I've squeezed many a turnip.

For most of my life, I believed every friendship should last forever. That, if I couldn't hold onto a friend for more than twenty years, there was something wrong with me.

So for years I would put 95% of the work into many of my friendships which were trying to die gracefully. I'd write 95% of the friendship notes or letters, or make 95% of the phone calls or invitations out for coffee. And then if a friendship still faded away, I just added that to my list of things to feel guilty about. I'd think maybe there was something wrong with me in the Friendship Department.

But then I got a grasp on those season verses in Ecclesiastes 3 and I saw, really saw, that there truly is a season for everything. There are seasons to hold on--I have two good friends who I've known since I was fourteen. And four years ago, I found a friend online who I'd met even earlier in Jr. High.

But there are also seasons to let go.

Then when I read in a book that friendships come and they go... that certain friends are given to us to help us through certain seasons and then they move on to help others, well, something clicked. A lot of weight dropped from my shoulders and was replaced by truth, which is heavy at first, but eventually sets you free.

I bring this up because this past Christmas I looked at my Christmas card address list at a couple names of old friends--and realized it was time to erase their names. I'd not even recognized that I'd slipped into my old ways with these friends--for years I'd been putting 99% of the effort into keeping these friendships alive. Or maybe it was more like trying to resuscitate them, because 25 years ago there used to be so much life in each.

But for the last few years, there's just been work in these friendships on my part. And well, now it's time to respect the letting go season--and to recognize Grace's shaking of her head.

Sad, yes. Yet there will always be the memories, the gratitude in my heart that these women were there when I needed them. and more than likely, they needed me at that time, too. Friendship is like that. And there will always be the good lessons I learned from their friendship--in every relationship we learn how to be better friends.

And it's partly because of that, too, that I need to let these two women go. Because now I have friends with whom I share hours and blessings of friendship. Friends who enjoy turning around and sharing the gift of friendship with me. I need to be careful to clear away what has died in order to make room and time for what is still very much alive.


***

Monday, January 03, 2005

In The Back Seat



Remember being a sleepy-eyed child
in the dark back seat of your family's car,
staring up and watching the moon follow you home--
and feeling safe, not worried about anything?
Life can feel like that now, too,
but only if God is driving your car.


***
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you."... Isaiah 26:3

For Others' Sake



For a lot of years I lived in a box.

Well, figuratively. I thought the same way I'd always thought and wondered why I felt the way I'd always felt. I believed the way I'd always believed and wondered why I was not growing.

Then I saw that if I didn't step out of that box, I would remain in that box until the day they buried me in it.

So I stepped out and began to die in a different way. And even now, I am still dying a slow death to self-- what I want, what I think and what I feel.

I am dying to:
having to be right,
having the last word,
being well-thought-of,
reasoning like the World does,
being lazy,
being shy and afraid,
worrying,
getting offended,
having to know everything,
being selfish, prideful and stubborn,
always speaking my mind ...and so much more.

It hurts to die.

Well, sometimes. But seeds must die before new life, new growth, rises from the ground. And I must die--must clear away the cluttered mess inside--to make more room for God to move around freely.

And when I don't feel like dying for my own sake, I choose to die for the sake of others. Others who need encouragement and help and new life will only find it when they are touched by the God inside me. That's why the garbage must go. I desire lots and lots of room for God to move around freely, with no restrictions. No obstacles. He's so big and He wants to speak through my heart's windows and step through the door so that He can touch and change others.

And then take up residence in their heart's home, too.


***

“The height of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” ... Albert Einstein.

***

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Acceptance

Acceptance is amazing.

Ever since the day I accepted that Tom and I will move away from this marvelous, old-fashioned town, I have felt such peace. More than the usual amount.

But that makes sense. Always, when I stop fighting God on something, I am left with profound peace. Even if I didn't 'win.' It's strange (stupid?) that I would expect to feel peace when I am fighting God in the first place.

I look back over the years of my life and feel pretty foolish that I fought God about so many things. Oh, maybe not vocally and like a wild woman (I am more quiet than that), but staunchly in my heart I insisted I was right and everyone else was wrong.

Good grief.

Acceptance is the starting point--there is no journey if I can't even get past the starting point.

And acceptance is like the reappearance of the sun when you've had weeks and weeks of cold, wet rain. Like the warmth inside which dries your tears. Like the battle's end.

Over and over I have reaped peace from accepting that things are the way they are... And accepting the past... That things happen beyond my control... And there is only so much I can do, then I must trust God with the rest...And He understands what I do not (earthquakes and tsunamis, included).

Another of my new year's resolutions: Debra, stop learning the hard way. Accept that Father does know best and His plans for you are far more amazing than your own.


***
Happiness can exist only in acceptance." ... Denis De Rougamont


***

Saturday, January 01, 2005

My Heart's Neighborhood



I love New Year's resolutions, actually. I make the usual ones--they give me something to aim toward. If I am aiming for nothing, I will probably hit that mark.

But this year I'm making an unusual resolution, namely, I want to spend more time in the neighborhood of my heart. It's in that neighborhood where Jesus hangs out, after all, making it a wonderful, creative place.

Oh, sometimes I suppose He visits the neighborhood of my head, but that's not where He spends most afternoons. It's not there where deep calls unto deep or where He walks in the cool of the day. No, it's in my heart's neighborhood where all that takes place. Real life and sharing and dreams and such.

Many people prefer the neighborhood of their head and that's ok, of course. Intellect, classes and book-learning is fine, too.

But for me, this year, I'll be writing from the desk in the neighborhood of my heart, sitting here surrounded by the unseen, but the most real. Catching glimpses of wispy children playing in the lane and listening to their morning songs. Using this place as a center for caring--sending out white carrier pigeons with Heart Land messages.

I mention this so if you're looking, you'll know where to find me.

Happy New Year to all my readers, past, present and future...


***
"The cold world needs warm-hearted Christians." ... unknown



***