Monday, February 28, 2005

Speaking of Movies....


Well, I didn't watch the Academy Awards last night if that's what you're wondering... The movies I like best so very, very rarely win any awards. And well, as a rule I don't like movie award shows for a variety of reasons, partly because movies are so subjective, and to me, so is a person's acting ability. But let's not go there....

Anyway, I watched Big Fish, instead. Give me a film flooded with imagination and whimsy instead of a reality show any day. I've watched this movie probably four times and am always delighted with each viewing. I love one of its messages--if we accept people right where they are, we will enjoy them a whole lot more.

Only God can change a person, so in the meantime, why not learn from their good traits and pray about their negative ones?

Well, that's part of what I get out of Big Fish. Oh, and the town of Specter enchants me. I'd love to live there, bare feet and all.

I can't recommend Big Fish without a few reservations, though... I wouldn't recommend it for pre-teens due to some language and partial nudity. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Did any of you see this movie and like it?

Oh and is everyone aware of TV Guardian? It filters bad language out of tv shows, movies, videos and DVD's. You can read about it here. They can be found for a good price at Walmart online and other places as well.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Peeking Into The Empty Nest


I realize why it's called the empty nest, but I wish the connotation wasn't so negative. An adult child flying away is a fresh beginning for all involved. So I'd rather say I'm nearing the New Beginnings time of my life. The New Way for a New Day era.

Well, you get it.

Anyway, Naomi has spent all of February packing her belongings so I've gotten used to seeing the stacks of boxes upstairs and the empty walls in both her rooms. But then yesterday I opened our linen closet down here and saw that her shelf had been cleared off--empty for the first time in 12 years. I stood there with my hand upon the door and in one minute felt a whole gamut of emotions. Sadness for the end of the Naomi Years era. Memories of the layers of childhood-through-adulthood bobbles and beads I've seen upon that shelf. Memories of seeing Naomi open this cupboard hundreds of times.

But then came emotions of anticipation. Another shelf to do with as I wish! All my 1940's homemaker fancies rose in my heart and I refolded our hand towels which had been shoved in the back of the bottom shelf and lovingly, neatly, placed them on Naomi's former middle shelf. My space had been expanded and I was happy to spread out a little.

New things, new times, new ways--expanding to fill the empty places--that's what I want. That's how I want to see this time.

I've spent years preparing for this--rather like gathering things within my heart the same way we've collected things for Naomi's hope chest. Tom and I, too, have collections--hundreds of adventures with just the two of us. We've written a history with just us as a couple and we will continue living out more adventure stories. We will be fine because we have spent time preparing.

And the time is nearing...has even now come a bit..to open my own hope chest and spread the treasure all around. Rest my eyes awhile upon the things which have sat in preparation in deep, quiet places. And then rise to spread my own wings and celebrate with a flight around my new place in Life.


***
It needs courage to let our children go, but we are trustees and stewards and have to hand them back to life--and to God. As the old saying puts it: "What I give I have." We have to love them and lose them. ~ Alfred Torrie

***

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I Want to Be a Leader(?)


Have you noticed how no one wants to be told what to do nowadays?

Years ago I had to face the Authority Test.

Ever chewed glass?

It was like my favorite teacher says, "No one is fit to be in authority until they learn to come under authority."

Man, those were some long, painful years. I whined a lot. Cried. Leaned on God so hard--I think I almost knocked Him over a couple times.

Submission is torture when you don't understand that actually, you are submitting to the voice of God speaking through people. He even speaks through their mistakes because He uses everything. If there is a better recycler than God, I don't know who it is.

God uses people to wake us up. To take our inner trash to the curb. He often has to speak through others because we failed to listen to Him when He spoke to us privately.

It's all about humbling us enough to become leaders, ourselves. There are few things more amazing than a humble leader who is empty of his own garbage...er...agenda and whose words are spoken in pure wisdom. Whether he is a leader of a church, a family, a classroom, a neighborhood or the family cat.

Well anyway, my learning-to-come-under-authority years were horrible. Plain awful. But they got easier in time--all I had to do was die. That's all.

Die to being a know-it-all. To always being right.
Die to becoming impatient with people.
Die to thinking there's only one right way to do something.
Die to wanting to be popular and please everyone.
Die to getting so darn offended all the time.

That's all. Ugh.

But it was worth it. Obeying God is always worth it--even when it hurts so bad that you want to just crawl home and hide there until Jesus comes back.

But if you hang in there through the process, you see the worth only while standing over on the other side.

***

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”–Beverly Sills

“It's surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves. If you're not comfortable within yourself, you can't be comfortable with others.”–Sydney J. Harris

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Queen of Neverland


There is a different kind of Neverland...

In fact, when I was a teenager I was crowned Queen of Neverland.

No, really.

I'd race upstairs and throw myself across my bed and sob whenever my kingdom appeared to be collapsing. And into my pillow, between sobs, I'd whisper oaths like:

"I'll NEVER be happy again!"
"I'll NEVER be able to do what I want!"
"I'll NEVER trust anyone again!"

I'm amazed my bed held together all those years, what with all my flinging leaps, and all.

I remained Queen of Neverland even into my 30's. But I didn't fling as often (slammed a few doors, though.) And as a wife and mother, my sobby oaths changed:

"I'll NEVER have any time to myself!"
"I'll NEVER have any money of my own!"
"He will NEVER change!"
"Life will NEVER be the same!"
"My dreams will NEVER be fulfilled!"


But one gets sick of being Queen of Neverland.

If she's blessed/smart/sensible, one gets sick of being Queen before she turns 40. I've met other Queens of Neverland who are older than forty--they are sad ladies, indeed. Craggy, harsh-faced creatures with tarnished crowns from their spilling tears.

This former Queen of Neverland gladly stepped down from her throne when messengers were sent to my royal court yard with this message:

"Be it unto you, even as you believe." ... Matthew 15:28

When I saw how all my nevering was directing my paths toward the same never-never, negative-negative destination in Neverland, I thought, "Well, no wonder I'm still Queen in this sad place!" And then I declared a new decree:

"Never say never."

And I had to leave Neverland because I'd outgrown it.

I learned a new language and began living a whole new life. Watched some dreams come true and got happy with simple pleasures--for they are everywhere in this new land--

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places..." ... Psalm 16:6

And I've not wasted one single day missing my Queenly days of Neverland.

***

Thursday, February 24, 2005

God Ideas


Years and years ago I heard someone say this: "How can you recognize a God Idea? It's probably something you would never, ever think of doing, yourself."

So true. So very, very true.

Ten years ago I finally started following some God Ideas. Every single one of them sounded wild. Bold. God would whisper His ideas to me and it all sounded like, "You can do this, Debra. You'll just have to walk on water, that's all."

Oh my.

Life got scary, risky in 1995 when I finally crawled out of the Comfort Boat. I shook a lot. People at church commented that I shook a lot standing out there on the water. But it inspired them--they saw how impossible the whole thing was. They saw God holding me up.

God Ideas are always impossible.

That is, impossible without His help. He does that on purpose because He doesn't want me doing anything in my own strength. Nothing. He doesn't want my pride. He doesn't need my filthy rags in His house under His kitchen sink.

All ministry, all helping, must come from Him because only He can meet the needs of other people. He wants to touch people through me. My touch doesn't heal--but His does.

Sometimes I've gotten out of the boat and sunk like a chunk of sidewalk. But those were the times God had called out, "Wait! The timing is not yet Mine." But I've hopped out anyway because it looked like the right timing to me. And I sank. And then God had to dip down His hand beneath the waves and yank me, gasping, back into the boat. For a season.

Walking on water--scary at first. But after time and experience, you step out of the boat with more confidence because you've, many times, seen God's hand appear, palm up, just below the surface of the water. But it appears only after you step out of the boat.

***
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." .. Andre Gide

***

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Movie Recommendation



Okay...This probably makes me a hypocrite after my last post... but I'll risk it.

I want to recommend a movie.

But most of you who read my blog will probably hate it.

(I never said I was good at movie reviews...)

But a handful of you will like this movie and it's for you that I'm mentioning it here--because you're probably not going to read about it any place else. Well, except maybe where I did--at Joshua's blog. If not for him I would have missed it. (Thanks, again, Joshua!)

Yeah...yeah...yeah... so what's the movie, right?

It's called Napoleon Dynamite. It's about a kid in high school. A nerd who knows he's a nerd and yet is comfortable with who he is. It's about two friendships he forms. And more.

It has a 1970's feel to it, yet is set in modern day times. In a tiny farm town so much like one I lived in during the 1970's when I was 11. That's one reason I liked it. I was a loner and I went to a small high school, too, later in a different town. Two more reasons I liked this movie.

Napoleon Dynamite looks like a movie your cousin Fred might attempt to make in a weekend with his 1980's video camera. Except that it's good.

It's quirky. Avant-garde. Slow-paced, but with tons of humor.The good kind of humor--not the bathroom type(which I hate). And there's no language or sex either!

No guns. No car chases. No bank hold-ups. Nobody falls off a mountain or gets blown to bits.

So anyway... For the four or five of you who might just love this movie, I wanted to mention it. Look up a couple (positive) reviews on the Net, if you'd like. Here's one.

Naomi loved this movie--we bought the DVD for her, even. Okay...okay...partly so we could later sneak it from her room and watch it again, ourselves (I confess).

Personally, I can't wait to watch it once more--maybe on Friday night. It's a perfect Friday night movie.

Debra gives this movie two thumbs up... She hopes she didn't just slip down a notch in your eyes by talking about it.

Sometimes you just like a movie because you just like it. (You may quote me.)

***
Anyone else seen this movie and loved it?

Oh, and if you decide to watch, be sure to sit through all the end credits. They slipped a whole other scene of the movie into them.

An Opposite World


"For we are in this world, but not of it..."

Sometimes I go to Barnes and Noble, walk in. and feel like such a foreigner. The books--the thousands and thousands of books-- remind me that I am a stranger upon my own home planet.

In shiny covers these books tell me to live certain ways-- the accepted ways of the planet. And I feel the harsh rub, because the ways of the planet are usually not the ways of God.

I live in an opposite world.

God's book says, "The first will be last," but my planet says "The first will be first, the last will be last."

God's book says, "Freely give and you will receive," but my planet says "Take, hoard and you will receive."

God's book says, "Follow God," but my planet says, "Follow Self."

Books and newspapers and radio and tv--all have been so long bathed in worldly wisdom and are dripping in what appears to be truth--but is now all suspect with me. I am careful now what I pull out of the water--we are each so washed, so immersed in worldly thinking. Much of it--this opposite thinking--is deceptively subtle. It permeates everything, even some things labeled 'Christian.'

The infection has spread.

The world has intelligent-sounding advice and formulas. Yet, should I listen to the worldly of my planet tell me how to think? How to write? How to clean my house, or arrange my schedule to get more accomplished? How to reach my goals, make a sale or raise my daughter?

The books--the shelves and shelves of books of advice and thoughts and beliefs--I'm not even saying they are wrong. But they could just be opposite enough to be incomplete. Half-right. Leading me to a wrong destination by being a few degrees off.

The world's truths could be even stifling. Constructing a box around my mind.

I don't want to come to the end of my days and have God tell me there was a whole different way to live upon this Earth--and I never found it. May I not discover too late that the way to live in this opposite world was to Listen.

Listen to Him, then obey.
Listen to Him, then create.
Listen to Him, then give.
Listen to Him, then write.
Listen to Him, then go to work.
Listen to Him, then serve others.
Listen to Him, then move and live and have my being.

I want, before I die, to find the opposite way in this opposite world. To know God's secrets. To know them and to live them, even if--when--it places me on a whole different track.

Because it will.


***

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Trust


Joy comes in the morning..

Last night I couldn't sleep right away. The loss of Skittles had been too overwhelming, not just for me, but for each of us inside this house.

But then... just as I finally drifted off to sleep, I saw something. Perhaps a vision. Maybe a dream.

I saw myself suspended in the center of a square of pure white light. The light was holding me up--I was watching myself from outside the box of light and simultaneously I was inside the light. In two places at once.

Then I heard a loving, but firm voice say, "Skittles is Fine."

And I knew that Fine meant Healthy.
Happy.
In a Good Place.

I tried looking through the light for Skittles, but I couldn't see her. And I realized I was to trust that she was somewhere farther inside depths of the light.

I was to trust the voice I'd heard.

I was to trust God.

And that's when the comfort came pouring in.

No wonder God says we must come to Him as a little child. Being a child is all about trust. Everyday of our childhood requires that we trust someone for things we do not understand.

There is a God-sent contentment in the center of trust. And I've learned there is no trust without unanswered questions.

I've learned that I'm not to venture out into frustration by trying to figure out what God does not yet want me to know. But instead, to trust that He'll show me what I need to see the very moment I need to see it.


***
Again, I want to thank all of you so much for your prayers for me and my family at this difficult time. We appreciate your concern far more than you realize.

"And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." ... Matthew 18:3,4


***

Monday, February 21, 2005

Grey Day Good-bye



Skittles
April 1990 - February 21, 2005

My sweet friend
Who saw me at my worst
And liked me anyway.
My little Kit,
My little buddy--
Good-bye, Sweetheart.

***

... Before I Wake


"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord
My soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord
My soul to take."

For some weeks this line has haunted me, "If I should die before I wake."

No, not in its literal sense. But in this sense:

How often do people die before they wake to God's love for them?
Before realizing Jesus came to help them live abundantly?
Before walking around with His peace bursting in their hearts?

How many have died before waking to the beauty of Life?
To the grace of living simply?
To the beauty of sharing?
To the enchantment of a sunrise?
To the wonder of a good book?

How many people die without ever taking country drives?
Or taking vacations with the ones they love?
Or watching local softball games on a summer evening?
Or feeling rich in all ways not related to money?

How many people die without ever really opening their eyes?

"If I should die before I wake..."

I want to stay awake--late--
Way past my bedtime--
Awake to it all--
Eyes open wide--
Loving it all--
Not missing a single thing.


***
"Those who look for beauty, find it." ... unknown

"I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)." John 10:10

***

Sunday, February 20, 2005

February


There's only one thing I don't like about living where I do.

February.

February is the longest month of the year, not the shortest, for me. A steep, dark mountain. One that even this Pollyanna finds hard to climb.

I prepare all year, every year, for February. I spend lots of time with God. Practice His presence. Count my blessings--keep them upon the tip of my tongue. Write about my good days and good times. Keep my good memories in a type of store inside my head so that I can go shopping anytime I need something sweet.

February here is dark outside and it takes 11 months of inside light to counteract its darkness. Nearly every February brings something unusually painful. This one is no exception. Tomorrow will probably be Skittles' last day with us.

This has been my finals week. Tests every day. Tests which require all of what I've put into the past year. Tests which require every inch of God I've put in me.

I think I'm getting around a B. Maybe a B-.

But not an A.

Yet the Pollyanna in me--or maybe it's God--says, "A 'B' is better than the C's, D's and F's of previous years."

Well, that's true. I'll let that encourage me.

It's rather like what my favorite teacher always says-- "I may not be where I should be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be!"

Amen to that.


***
From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens -
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye.
- Katherine S. White

***

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Spring Is Coming


Sometimes a winter morning just feels different, as though Spring is coming. I opened some windows a bit this morning to air out the house and the 19 degrees outside did not feel like 19 degrees. They felt like hope. And the hope brought memories of other springs and even summers, times when the three of us have laughed together. And times when I spring-cleaned and the doors were opened and music enticed the outdoors to come in.

I stepped down to the basement and even Spring teased me there. Memories of doing laundry to be taken and hung outside. Memories of the opened windows down there on sunny mornings when everything felt fresh and there was the hum of a quiet week day laced with bird song.

And when Tom and I drove to an estate sale this morning I was amazed that a house was being built! Even with snow all around and these temperatures below 20 degrees. And a building had been torn down and the sun was still out and it hit me-- there is still a world out here and life is still going on.

I've been inside too long. And the times I've gone driving, I've taken the same roads too much and not ventured out far enough.

Oh, but we are so far away from Spring here, technically.

One year I experienced the birth of Spring twice! The year we moved here from Nevada--1993. Tom had lived here since that February and he was engulfed in record-setting blizzards, even in April. But back in Nevada, Naomi and I were waking to trees with green leaves and fields with sweeping new birth.

And then at April's end, Naomi and I flew out here and it was still Winter! Brown, brown, brown winter--and muddy snow--for another two weeks.

But Spring came again and I marveled that I'd experienced her birth twice in one year and what a gift that was.

And yes, often we don't see Spring until May here. Once in awhile she arrives in April.

Or sometimes she arrives even in February like she did today, but only in my Heartland. Only by way of the very fingers of God.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Weaknesses


Need something to be thankful for? You can be thankful that you weren't at my house yesterday afternoon.

Argh.

The three of us had a lively discussion, otherwise known as a big old, ugly, screaming fight. And of all things, it concerned what to do with Skittles after she has been put to sleep. But then, is it ever really about what you are arguing about? According to Dr. Phil--no. According to me--no. It's always about things much deeper--things which are released, like steam, under heat and pressure. Junk you hold onto, inside, way past the proper time to let it go. Unforgiveness which has become rancid.

And that was obvious yesterday because all sorts of things came dredging up from murky bottoms of years gone by.

We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses.

It's good to know what your greatest weakness is. Why? Because you must totally lean on God when you're faced with that weakness. Because then you can get aggressive with it when it tries to rise up. You can ask God to mess around in that area and do whatever He wants--even though you know it will hurt like everything. But that hurt is never as great as the one which comes after you have allowed your greatest weakness to rear its horrible head and just lose control.

My greatest weakness? (And Tom agrees with this.) Becoming angry when I'm not allowed to finish my sentences. Losing control when I'm cut-off over and over while I'm trying to explain how I feel. If you ever meet me, I'll warn you now--you might not want to do that.

I mean, good grief--here I am a quiet, sane, nice person, but just tell me to shut-up and I become a raving, wild-eyed, yelling maniac.

(You think I'm kidding?)

But God has something better for me. Even if this is one of the weaknesses I will always have, He at least wants to change me so that I become less volatile during those rare times. He wants me to keep dying to self so there is less of a need within me to defend myself. Less stuff that I feel I even must defend and explain in the first place.

Trust me, since yesterday afternoon satan has been here reminding me of how far I have left to go to be all God wants me to be.

But oh, how good of God to be here, too-- reminding me of how far I've come.

***

Thursday, February 17, 2005

It Matters


It matters that I pause a lot
In my day--
Find that quiet place--
And listen to God...

And hear from Him
Where to go and what to say
And write and do for others.

It matters that
When I want one thing
And God wants another--
I choose what He wants.
Otherwise, by my journey's end
I'll be far off course--
Like a ship traveling
Just a few degrees off--
And then awaken
To discover myself languishing
In foreign lands where
God never intended me to be--
Depressed and struggling there
Without my companion, Grace.

It matters that I don't choose
Good Enough over Best--
That I don't keep batting away
God's hand when He tries to
Grip the ship's wheel
In difficult seas.

It matters that I stay on course--
Not skipping days of reviewing
God's travel itinerary for me--
Saying I'm following His plans
And yet, in reality,
Following my own.

It matters that I pause a lot
In my day--
Find that quiet place--
And listen to God.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My Yesterday


Sometimes when a day is rough, God cuts you some slack and brings out the sun from behind winter snow clouds and makes Outside sparkle.

And you sit in your sunroom while music is playing and look deep into your house and feel Gratitude for all the cats sleeping upon your old furniture. The light is pouring through your windows, making the sagging, overstuffed chairs look like early Spring and then your heart, too, skips ahead two months to the time of daffodils. Even though you thought it not possible--on that day which had promised to tick only sad minutes.

And God delivers gifts to your door all day, well, they come by way of the computer, actually. Messages from online friends who share comfort they have known--and you smile to be remembered and prayed-about by people you'll recognize in Heaven not by their faces, but by their heart's voice. And more gratitude floods you, up even to your eyes, like the sunlight pouring through the sunroom windows--the light which is making all things appear new.

Later, you walk down the hall and look at The Cat Who Will Not Be Napping Much Longer upon your bed, and then turn your head to see your grandparents smiling back at you from picture glass. And clearly from their garden scene and from Heaven, too, they tell you, "We'll take care of Skittles until you get here." And another smile cheers your heart.

Your husband is actually home during this hard day--not 12 hours at work like usual--to help you through this. He's there to cling to and watch tv with while you hold The Cat Who'll Not Be Here Long. And you know your heart and his are meeting in the space between your chair and his recliner--and slow dancing a comfort waltz.

And then nine o'clock at night comes and with it, a miracle.

A miracle called Comfort Straight From God.
A you-can-touch-it comfort.
A peace which comes like healing oil.
A steadying of your quivering heart.

And you realize that somewhere in the day you walked through the Acceptance Door--and that has made all the difference. The splendor of God is behind that door and He led you there--and even helped you turn the handle.

Oh the light!

And the peace is like nothing else.

***
I am very thankful to all of you who left your comforting, encouraging comments yesterday. Thank-you so very much for each one.

***

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Skittles


Yesterday... Valentine's Day... It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Our cat, Skittles, is nearly 15 years old. She is the last cat remaining from our Nevada Years. She even flew here on a real plane with two cat friends who left us long ago.

This weekend Skittles had problems of which I will spare you the details. So yesterday morning I called and asked if she could be squeezed into the Vet's busy day, and perhaps because of the worry in my voice, they said yes. And so I bundled her into her little carrier--the one she and Lennon and McCartney vie for each night in their room. And we walked out into the rain and the wind and the cold into the car which I'd warmed up for her.

Sitting in the waiting room, I knew what was coming. And later when the doctor kept saying she was sorry and sorry because Skittles has a tumor in her bladder, I just longed to carry Skittles home and pretend she was fine and I'd have years and years to sit with her on our sunny porch each summer.

But you can only pretend about small things. Not about death.

So instead, I sat through the explanations, holding my tears inside, and then waited for the medication to be prepared. The medicine which will not heal her, but instead, make her comfortable for what is to be the rest of her life. Two days, two weeks, maybe one month. The doctor doesn't know.

I brought Skittles home to say good-bye. To what has been her life. And we are saying good-bye to Skittles and the part of our life she has become.

It is hard to say good-bye to a cat who shares so much history with you. It is hard to let go of one we call The Velcro Cat because she has always clung to us wherever we are sitting. She is a lap cat par excellence--never one to scare easily and jump away if we are snuggled in a soft chair and move suddenly. She only clings tighter and melts against our heart and beneath our chin. She cannot be held enough.

And fifteen years is not long enough. I wanted her to live with us until she was twenty. But then yesterday I realized even twenty years would be too short. No amount of time is ever enough.

So we will have to let her go.

I want so much to release her gracefully. With no thoughts like, "We will never have another cat if it means feeling like this." Or, "Life will never again be as good as it's been these years." Instead, may I feel much gratitude that Skittles let me cling to her, too, in hard times. In fifteen years I have cried a lot of tears into the top of her soft brown head. She's been here through all the changes I have shared with you here and she has never brushed me aside when I needed someone to hold.

And yet, this whole past year I've been saying good-bye because I have somehow known these days were coming. Even when her bill of health was clean last October. I've let her spend much time beside me on my bed each night while I watch old black and white shows and fall asleep with Skittles leaning upon me. She has already known extra kindness from all of us in this house because I think we've all known what may come to a cat who is 76 in human years.

And last night while she laid beside me upon my bed, I leaned down and whispered into her ear, "Skittles, I promise you... It will be just like falling asleep. It will be just like falling asleep."

***

Monday, February 14, 2005

Year-Around Valentines


More Valentine's Day...

I've shown you before the Christmas decorations I keep around my house all year.


Here are our year-around Valentines...to remind us of this special day and what it represents to the romantic-at-heart.


This is my homemade (or home-gathered) Valentine plate rack in our dining room. Some antique post cards and newer things which look like old...some gifts from friends. A closer view of the one up top.


The dancing cupids above our bathroom sink.


Kitchen Valentines...

We celebrate a lot in our home. Anything. Everything.

It's a good way to live.

***

Blank Book


Valentine's Day... This morning I pictured my life as a blank book. Or rather, it was blank when I was first born.

What is written all over my book nearly 46 years later? What kind of a scrapbook has it become?

What have I snipped out of Life and pasted there? What has been written by my hand?

In my book, I want to see and read of courageous times. Even if it's just a walk around the park, I want to read that it was taken with a spirit of adventure. Even if I remain a homemaker all my days, I want it recorded that I was a homemaker with courage and a creative, hardworking spirit.

May my Life's scrapbook pages illustrate true heart and stamina.

May those pages not be obsessively neat and orderly, but instead, riddled with adventure dust and gold flecks from years of panning for God, Himself. Years of running hard after Him. And journeying for those missing things--those things God held out just beyond my fingertips to protect me from complacency.

I think I'll look through my scrapbook today. Not to get bogged down beneath the Past, but to learn from it. And to let it inspire me to fill the remaining pages with God-designed adventures. Ones which require bravery and an utter dependence upon Him. Ones He meant just for me from the beginning of Time.




***

Very special Valentine's Day wishes are going out to all my blogger friends with whom I share pleasures of friendship.(I hope you know who you are...)


"Today, see if you can stretch your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily, but also those who need it so much." ... Daphine Rose Kingma

"There is no such thing in anyone's life
as an unimportant day." ...Alexander Woollcott

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Tests


In Journey School, nearly every day is Test Day. But you're not handed a paper nor is it written upon any blackboard. No, but Test Day was announced a very long time ago:

"You will remember all the way the Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, to humble you, and how He tested you to know what was in your heart to see if you would keep His commandments or not." Deuteronomy 8:2

I try to live ready for Test Day--to study ahead and stay prepared--because one never knows when tests will appear.

When I understood tests must come, Life became clearer. Like, when Tom keeps making messes around the house--over and over and over--that is a Test Day.

Will I grow impatient with him and yell?
Will I accuse him of horrible motives for those messes?
Will I threaten to do certain things to retaliate?

(Correct Answer: None of the above.)

If I want an A... If I want to die to being right (and being Queen) and being ruled by my temper--I'll choose God's way of handling Tom's messes.

Oh, the tests!

The "We Don't Have Much Money So Will I Worry?" test.
The "Naomi Isn't Home Yet And There Are Sirens Blaring Outside So Will I Panic?" test.
The "Someone Spoke Unkindly To Me So Will I Get Offended?" test.
The "Will I Look At My Life Through Sad, Gloomy Glasses?" test.
The "Things Aren't Going My Way So Will I Race Around Trying To Gain Control?" test.
The "Will I Obey God and Risk Disappointing My Friends?" test.
The "I Don't Want To Wait For What I Want' test.

And hundreds more.

One must study to pass tests. These tests require humility in order to pass them. Tests require dying. Dying to all within me which is contrary to God.

Passing tests requires recognizing what is going on. It takes listening to good teaching. It takes help from my friends. But more, it takes help from God. It takes realizing when He is working on something inside me and then cooperating with that. Not suggesting that He move on to something less painful. Not working on something myself, alone, without Grace.

But oh the joy when I pass a test--because a little more ugliness in me died and is no longer alive enough to throw a fit. And fail.

And then new tests come. And new junk dies. And new tests come. And new junk dies.

And everyday becomes like college. Your best classes and your worst all entwined. And then to find God sitting at the desk next to yours, leaning over to help you with whatever you need to do.... Ah, Life is good!


***
"I die every day–I mean that, brothers–just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord." ... I Corinthians 15:31

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Journey School


Blogland is great. You risk renting certain movies now because you admire and trust the bloggers who wrote good reviews about them.

Such was the case with The Village. Lots of Christian bloggers recommended that movie, so although Tom and I watch so few horror movies (sooo fewwww), we decided to risk it.

While Tom picked up the movie (and lunch) for us, I did the usual we're-gonna-watch-a-movie routine. I pulled all the dark curtains in our sunroom closed. Put the two window-sized cardboard pieces into the bright windows over the fireplace. (Sunny windows are lovely and I do hate to cover them. But we hate window glare on the tv screen worse.) And then I got out Tom's little old TV tray--the fold-up kind. He likes that thing. Got out my afghan, too, in case I got cold.

And that is our we're-gonna-watch-a-movie ritual.

And then we watched The Village. We loved it. Both of us were thankful that Blogland had encouraged me to mention The Village to Tom. The movie reminded us of the lessons Fear teaches. And Intolerance. We were reminded about Human Nature. And about what to do and what not to do, too.

But then once you really, really give your life to God, you enter what I call Journey School. That's a place where it seems God uses EVERYTHING to teach you things He wants you to know. He opens your eyes and ears. He even gives you a couple of new, hidden sets of eyes and ears. Really! Suddenly you are hearing and seeing spiritual truths everywhere, even while...

...watching movies and tv shows...
...shopping in supermarkets...
...reading books...
...driving your car...
...standing in crowds...
...standing in line...
...taking a walk...

Everywhere, you begin learning important lessons. Lessons which explain God a little better, and Life, too. Lessons which tell you what to do and what not to do. Lessons which make the Bible come alive every time you take a step.

For me, Journey School didn't begn until around ten years ago. I only got admitted into its halls when I wanted God's way of thinking more than my own. When I stopped insisting I had everything figured out and there was nothing new under the sun for me. When I got humble enough to let go of some wrong thinking. Only then, did I get into Journey School.

You don't get weekends off in Journey School. But then, you don't want to get them off.

I'm looking forward to graduation. The ceremony promises to be Heavenly.

***P.S. I very much liked this review about The Village. And a different reviewer mentioned something like this---many people are getting too caught up in the twists/the lack of twists--and so the lessons of the film are going right over their heads. (That is my paraphrase. And after reading negative reviews, that's my opinion, too. It's so not just about the twists! To me, it was like watching a sermon on fear.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Basement Theory


Tom and I have one huge, messy basement.

I'm not kidding. I'm being truthful. We've tried cleaning and organizing it many, many times, but still, it's a big fat mess.

This morning I realized why the basement never gets cleaned out. It's because somewhere inside I'm thinking, "If only Tom would get rid of his junk! The basement would look better and be more organized because my junk isn't really junk at all. It's all good, necessary stuff. Tom's stuff is the problem."

And somewhere inside Tom, he is thinking the same thing, only about my stuff.

So of course you know what happens in the meantime, right? Nothing. The basement remains, year after year, a mess.

This Basement Theory used to be a parallel of our Marriage Theory. My thinking was, "If Tom would only get rid of his junky attitudes then things would be fine. I'd no longer get angry or frustrated about all his annoying faults if only he would get rid of all his annoying faults."

And of course, Tom was thinking the same thing, only about my annoying faults.

So guess what? We kept arguing about the same annoying things year after year and nothing changed. Just like Basement Theory.

But surprise, surprise... Changes finally happened in our marriage when I finally began letting God clean out my half of our relationship. When I stopped waiting for Tom to change first, and instead, let God tear me down and then build me back up the right way---miracles happened.

Real big miracles, like-- I could just close the closet door without slamming it and thinking Tom was leaving it opened on purpose to prove he didn't have to do what I ask...

...and if he didn't like the dinner I'd made--I no longer took it to mean he hated every thing I had ever cooked our whole married life...

... and if he wanted to go out alone-- I could stay home and have a nice, peaceful time, and allow Tom some space-- instead of thinking he just wanted to get away from me.

...and on and on to infinium...

It was funny how Tom immediately began changing when I did. I mean, it was like God began changing my eyesight and I looked at Tom differently. Because I'd started looking at what needed to change in me, Tom's faults no longer looked huge. My own faults looked huge because I'd finally let God point them out to me.

Humility shows you what you never had the courage to look at before. And if you don't get blown away by the horrible things you see in yourself, God helps you leave those horrible things behind and He gives you better stuff, instead. But only if you don't get mired down and trapped in condemnation. Heaven help you if you do that.

And oh, the changes which have come to our home since Humility made his appearance. Changes to both Tom and myself. Changes to our marriage.

We're still waiting for the changes to the basement, though.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Choosing Timely Over Thoughtful


(Warning: You may have to go off into a quiet room and think about this one awhile. Oh, and this is way more than just a matter of semantics...)

I used to be thoughtful.

People would tell me, "Debra, you are the most thoughtful person." Or, "Your little notes and cards are always so nice. It's so thoughtful of you to send them, you sweet little thing, you." And well, more stuff like that.

You know.

But years ago... after I'd been traveling along on this new journey awhile, people stopped saying I was thoughtful. I rarely heard that word anymore.

No, the word changed to a different 'T word.'

Timely.

People began saying this instead- "Oh, what you said/did was so timely." Or, "I've been asking God to help me in that area and He helped me through you." And "Your words were an answer to prayer."

There is a huge difference between, "Debra, you're so thoughtful," and "Debra, God spoke through you."

You see the difference, don't you? I get glory by being thoughtful. God gets glory by my being timely.

Can I give you the nitty gritty on this? It's not good enough to me for people to see a really good, new and improved me. I want something a trillion times better.

I want to be empty of Self. Empty of her opinions, too.

Self talks too loud. Her voice drowns out the voice of God so that she misses opportunities to help.

Self wouldn't know Wisdom if it hit her in the mouth. Self says things like, "Why don't you make a plan to email all your friends each Monday so that way they'll hear from you at least once a week?" But God says things like, "Why don't you just listen to Me and email people when I tell you? That way your notes will be timely and maybe even powerful."

I want people to look past Self and see Jesus. I want Jesus to get the glory for what He did through me. I want that to be really what happened--that He did something through me-- not just what I said happened.

And now you are free to go off into that quiet room and think about that. :)

***
Being a Christian is about much more than just following rules, charts and becoming disciplined. It's about following hard after God to know Him as your wisest friend.

The Awakening


I remember driving down a tree-lined street to church years ago--only one mile away but you can have an epiphany in just one mile.

I saw other people driving to other churches. People who didn't look too happy to be going, or maybe they always just frown while sitting inside a car. I don't know.

But I also saw people in bathrobes walking out to their mailboxes to get the Sunday newspaper. I knew they would step back inside their comfy homes and probably have coffee and read the paper all morning. I saw a woman jogger and watched some kids pulling wooden blue wagons, delivering more newspapers. One man was walking his bull dog.

I looked at all these people and the thought struck me, "What makes me different than non-Christians? Is it only because I have Jesus in my heart and I go to church?"

I came to a stop sign and thought, "We live in the same town and we lead similar lives. We go to the same stores, watch the same local tv news, read the same newspaper, send our kids to the same schools."

And then another thought slapped me--hard. "And I am probably just as sad as they are, too."

Ouch.

I pulled into the church parking lot, turned off the car and knew in my soul that Jesus should make a difference. I mean afterall, the God of joy unspeakable and full of glory lived in me and yet most of my days I felt melancholy. Moody. Up and down, but mostly down.

Something was wrong. I wondered what did I have to offer others if I felt so empty, myself? They already had enough sadness--they needed no other offers for more.

I hesitated. Wavered. Then I flinchingly asked God to show me what was wrong. And boy-oh-boy, did He show me.

As they say, be careful what you pray for. You might just not like the answer.

And yet it just might set you free.

Over weeks and months and years God showed me I could not blame my sadness on other people. Not on hard times or bad days or no money. Not even on the devil, himself, because Jesus had died to give me power over him.

My own, personal sadness was my own, personal fault.

I'd allowed my thinking, my attitude to become like the world's--a world without Jesus was showing me how to think.

It was like Jesus was in my heart, but not in my head.

And that was the beginning of the most enormous change, ever, in my life. What a journey!

And the map of that journey is scribbled all over this blog.


***
"You have turned my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." ...Psalm 30:11

"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The Lord reigns." ... I Chronicles 16:31

"Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain." Isaiah 40:4

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Friends


Count yourself blessed if you have friends who inspire you to...

feed seed and Cheerios to the birds in your backyard...
send Valentines and giggle while you mail them...
sing while driving your car with the windows down...
plant jack o' lanterns in your garden...
hang your clothes outside on clotheslines...
use (and twirl) an old-fashioned fabric umbrella with a wooden crook handle...
wear gingham 1950's aprons...
watch fireflies from retro metal lawn chairs on the back porch...
spring clean your house with opened windows and music playing...
keep scrapbooks and diaries...
slide down stair banisters while everyone is looking...
play your old record albums real loud when no one else is home...
dance in your living room late at night in low light...
save old bread in a freezer then take it to the park and toss it to seagulls in the sky...
spread your table with craft projects on a Saturday afternoon...
laugh when nothing is funny at all...

I have friends who inspire me to do those things. Many whose faces I have seen only in pictures...or only in my imagination...maybe even you are one of the Kodak-faced, inspiring ones.
If so, may I inspire you in these ways, too.

The Fullness of Emptiness


The woman who moved into my house back in 1993 was confused.

I'm suprised she knew how to put on her own shoes.

She thought the verse, "He must increase, but I must decrease," was a euphemism. So utterly symbolic as to become non-practical. You know, a la la verse.

The woman thought she could be full of herself and at the same time, be full of God.

See? I told you she was confused.

She'd sit here on the couch in the sunlight and feel sorry for herself because people misunderstood her. She blamed them for their blindness. She had herself on her mind, so the hurts stayed on her mind, too. She wanted to think about God all the time, but her head was filled with her, instead. And she took up a lot of room up there.

And though Jesus lived inside her heart, He was awfully squeezed and cramped down there because He had to share His room with the junk the woman refused to let go of. Moldy, smelly stuff like jealousy, selfish ambition, being offended, worry, and pride--there were lots and lots of boxes marked Pride.

But one year--not one day--one year the woman on the couch finally started listening to things she did not want to hear. Or rather, to things she'd always thought she did not want to hear. She finally allowed herself to be taught that emptiness would lead to fullness. That a decrease of her, in her, meant an increase of God in her. And an increase of all He is--love and light and joy.

So ping! ping! ping! Over the next ten years she's been letting Jesus empty her heart's house. It's been a slow process, but it sped up faster when she let Jesus deal with the pride boxes. They were in greatest number and He tripped on those the most often--so He wanted those gone first. As many as possible.

You should have seen the woman trying to yank back some of those boxes from Jesus' hands, though. No, you can be glad you didn't see that. At times, she thought she knew better than Jesus what should go and what should stay. It got ugly sometimes.

Jesus appreciates having room to move around now. Oh, there's still some junk, but the woman understands the process now. She's seen what freedom looks like--it looks rather like a spacious room with light streaming in the windows.

When Light floods a room, it is full enough.

Where there is Light, there is no dank darkness. No confusion. It's amazing what Light can burn away..

And oh, what miracles cooperation can bring!

And now, even when dark, snowy days are playing outside her windows, there is still Light. And the woman on the couch smiles a whole lot.


***

"One must be as humble as the dust before he can discover truth." ...Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Mr. Blandings Afternoon



The cold and grey and rain is returning this afternoon and we are due for more snow after a warm weekend reprieve. You know what that means don't you? Around my house it will be a Mr. Blandings afternoon. He and I will be spending time together in my kitchen baking a pumpkin pie--you realize it's not illegal to bake those in February, don't you? Tom and I have been reading that new Eat Right For Your Type book and since pumpkin is supposed to be wonder food for both our blood types, we'll be eating lots of it. Good thing we like the stuff.

Anyway, back to Cary Grant--I mean Mr. Blandings--in my kitchen. He and Myrna Loy will keep me company while I bake and then make dinner. I've written about kitchen life before... but if you were to ask me what was more important--baking for my family or writing in this blog, I would tell you, "The most important one is whichever one God is asking me to do at the time."

If only we could all get a hold of that. If only we'd realize everything we do matters in the eternal scheme of things.

It matters what I do behind closed doors.
It matters that I treat my husband right.
It matters that I respect the job God has given me.
It matters how I represent Jesus while I am driving our car.
It matters how I treat strangers.
It matters how I treat myself.
It matters what I say in this blog.

Excellence---a grace-enabled excellence--- matters. Integrity matters.

And yes, much of this we must grow into. But always I've known, deep inside, that once God shows me something, I become responsible to do what He has taught me. And even if 100 Christians give me 100 reasons why I don't have to live up to that standard, still I will know this is true:

Excellence matters.
You matter.
And nothing--no job, no person-- is unimportant.

Now you'll have to excuse me... Mr. Blandings and I have a date.

That Darn Faraway Glimpse



There are very few annoying things about God, at least, to me.

But here is something I've found annoying: Sometimes God appears to tease you with a faraway glimpse of the glorious dream He destined just for you. Rather like Dorothy, Toto and the gang on that rise overlooking the Emerald City-- that gleaming castled-place where the wizard lived and their dreams would be fulfilled. It was in sight, yet still very far away.

And what did that little group do when they beheld the fulfillment of their dreams? They immediately got off the Yellow Brick Road and began running, careening wildly through a field of flowers (sound familiar?). And wouldn't you know it, they were unaware that the Wicked Witch had put a spell, a sleeping curse, upon those glorious-appearing flowers. And so from least to greatest, the little group began to drop... to sleep... not solely because of the curse, but because they'd wandered off the main road into unprotected territory.

And so of course, someone had to come along to bail them out, in this case, Glinda the good witch. She sent snow which cancelled out the spell and then the group rallied and returned to the Yellow Brick Road, not having learned any real lesson.

Very Israelites-In-The-Wilderness-ish.... Very Impatient-Christians-Today-ish, too.

I was 14 when I received my first Emerald City glimpse. We're talking 30 years ago that I first caught the vision that I would be writing. But along with the vision came the "In The Meantime Talk." I would ask if you've ever heard that talk, but I already know you have. It's silly, redundant, for me to write it out for you, even, but here is part of it:

"But in the meantime, I just want you to be faithful. In the meantime, just do what I ask you to do while I am working on your foundation. In the meantime, just practice in little ways and someday all that practice, all the faithfulness will lead you to that vision I just ran across the screen of your heart." All good advice from God to spare us from 10 or 20 years of bunny trails and bunny traps.

And ok.... A few times I got off the ol' Yellow Brick Road, myself. (A few times??) It's easy to make a lot of mistakes in 30 whole years. But finally--finally--five years ago I became content with the Yellow Brick Road. Got downright happy on it, if you'd like to know.

I finally began enjoying the journey because I finally began enjoying God. And incredibly, the journey has become even better than the dream, because God is better than the dream. Any dream.

And wouldn't you know it..... Right now the dream is finally coming to pass. I've entered the gates of The Emerald City and am having a blast looking around at things up close.

Monday, February 07, 2005

American Idol Musings



Okay... I'm coming out of the closet: I am an American Idol viewer.

I almost feel like Adam on this one, except I would say: "Lord, the man you gave to me-- He did offer American Idol to me and I did partake."

(If you are one of those Christians who does not have a sense of humor, you might want to stop reading this right now.) :o)

No really... I've been analyzing this show. Can you believe some of those people? They honestly and truly believe they have marvelous singing voices. They believe singing is their destiny and they are ready for the limelight. They believe that with their whole heart, mind and soul.

And here is the scarey part--That is very much like our own deceptions.

Sometimes we have believed we were ready for Big Time Ministry so we listened to no one...ran out there... and fell flat on our face. We may even have had the gift, but we didn't have the character to support us where the gift would take us. Hence, another disaster on the Christian plain...rolling over and over in the dust. Crash.

And looking back, we would have done anything to have a Simon Cowell tell us forcefully, "You are not ready." Or, "You are not a ______" (fill in the blank). It would have saved so much wasted time and hurt feelings, lives.

Even the right dream pursued at the wrong time becomes the wrong dream. Perhaps we were called to be office workers instead. Anointed, grace-given office workers, but office workers just the same. Happiness and passion would have been there--if acceptance had paved the way.

But oh... Each time a truly gifted singer stands in front of the American Idol panel and sings-- I close my eyes and enjoy the song with all my heart. The Bible says a man's gift will make a place for him and that is true. My heart has room enough to spare for those gifted singers.

I love recognizing gifted people. I've written about them before.

But even more, I love to see people use their quiet, legitimate gifts. The non-hoopla, non-in-front-of-an-audience gifts. And nothing makes me happier than to see those same people so very happy, very content in doing exactly what God called them to do upon this Earth.

They will most likely never be nominated in an awards show in this World. To enjoy their journey and love God more than the gift or the dream or the praise of men, is reward enough for them.

No, their awards show will come later and we'll all have a heavenly good time watching that ceremony.

***

I See Dead People



No, not really. I just wanted to grab you so you'd read this.

And yet, this is about dead people.

Ponder this... Picture a dead man lying upon a table at a viewing with a flower in his hand.

If someone walks past him and criticizes the way he looks, he does not sit up and hotly defend his appearance.

If a relative stands beside him bringing up the sins from his past, he does not rise with indignation and remind her of her own mistakes.

If his boss slips a piece of paper to him with a long, long list of things to do, he does not become all stressed-out and frustrated and then leap off the table.

If a child pokes him repeatedly, he does not, in anger, bite the child's finger.

If his wife leans down to him to whisper a poignant good-bye, he does not meditate upon his favorite TV show and miss her heart-spoken words.

Dying to self is a bit like that.

But only dying-to-selfers will understand this ...


***
"When your good is spoken of as evil, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence---that is dying to self." ... copied

"There is a time to keep silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Only by dying to self can we recognize the correct time and then act accordingly."

"Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life will lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it." ... Matthew 16:24,25

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Permission To Be Happy


I used to wait to be happy.
I was waiting until...

The nightly news stopped showing tragedies...
The world felt like a better, kinder place...
My daughter was home safe upstairs and not out driving...
My husband was in a great mood...
My house was clean from attic to basement...
Everybody at church liked me...
We had lots of thin green dollars in the bank...
I felt 100% healthy...
The sun was shining and warm...
And I did everything right...


Then one day it hit me--
I was postponing happiness.

I was waiting for all my ducks to be in a row--
When those ducks would forever be spread out upon the pond--
Never, ever in a straight line.

So I began giving myself permission to be happy--
In the middle of an imperfect afternoon.

Happiness was for right now
Because right now God is good--
And He provides joy, even now, in the midst
Of turbulent times.
And He gives me permission, too, to be happy.

And that has made all the difference.


***
"...to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified..." ...Isaiah 61:3

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." ... John 16:33

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Twenty Easy Ways To Stop Growing



(Written from a whole lot of years of personal experience...)

1. Never slow down and spend time alone with God.
2. Don't choose to forgive people.
3. Don't learn the difference between conviction (from God) and condemnation (from satan and yourself).
4. Insist that you don't need to change.
5. Insist that you cannot change. Say "I can't help it" a lot.
6. When you need comfort, run everywhere else first, then to God, last.
7. Stay offended when God or people try to correct you.
8. Believe that God is mad at you.
9. Insist that you've 'heard it all before.' Think inside the box.
10. Always do or say whatever you feel like doing or saying.
11. Sear your conscience by ignoring it.
12. Neglect the gift which is in you.
13. Neglect your spouse/children/health in order to pursue your gift.
14. Stay out-of-balance. Go from one extreme to another.
15. Don't read the Bible.
16. Always have the last word.
17. Criticize Christians who are out doing more good than you are.
18. Stay negative about Life.
19. Have yourself on your mind all the time.
20. And the final thing--let a list like this one totally overwhelm you into giving-up in defeat.

Now smile real big and lets both start growing!

Well, No Wonder!



Sometimes I just don't understand what is going on.

Other times, I just pretend I don't understand, yet deep in my heart, I'm hearing Truth play over and over. But sometimes I refuse to go down that deep to listen closely.

You can get away with that only so long, and then God comes along and gets you to lie still one way or another. And listen.

It's great when you just quiet down, lie down, on your own. Perhaps upon the ground beneath a tree from which leaves are falling like confetti. Or upon your tweedy brown sofa or even down on the carpet of your own quiet office. It's a pleasure to listen to God, to Truth, in such tranquil places. Even hard Truth goes down like Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar that way. There is a delight beyond delights when God calls, "Come away with me for awhile," --and in that moment, we come away. There are rewards, too.

It's better to come when God calls rather than waiting to hear from Him in a hospital bed. Or from inside a self-created dungeon.

The Truth Tape playing in our hearts will set us free...Why do we fear it? Why do we run?

The greater we fear Truth, the more likely it is that we doubt God has a better way than our own.

And simply put, that is Pride.

Pride is a lousy tour guide. He drives the rickiest bus and he takes you to the darkest, seediest towns around the world. Then he drops you off in the loneliest place of all and leaves you there. At first, you insist everything is just fine. You meant to be there, so it must be a good place.

But then you begin to feel sick inside. And how long you sit there in the darkness is totally up to you. But the amazing thing? The Truth Tape is still playing in your heart--it never stopped. You only stopped listening.

But there, sitting on the edge of the gutter, you finally begin to listen--though it hurts--and morning breaks after months of night.

Then through the morning rays, a different bus comes along--a new, gleaming one--and it picks you up.

This time, the driver is God.

And oh, the adventures you have while He takes you to places millions of times better than the ones you used to believe were best. And even though you are now kicking yourself on the bus for having been so stubborn, you're still having the time of your life.

You look way up the aisle of the bus, into the rearview mirror, and God is smiling at you. And that smile heals everything.

Friday, February 04, 2005

People Are Funny



Around 9 years ago, I began teaching Sunday School in our former church. Now, before you fall asleep--this was different. We didn't just sit in a sad little circle on icy fold-up chairs and read from an archaic Sunday School quarterly until the buzzer rang and then afterward, pretend it had been one big ol' anointed time.

No.

Instead, five of us took turns teaching once every five weeks, sharing from our hearts and from behind the pulpit in the auditorium to 30 (or more) people. And it was fun! Our church was experiencing renewal and nearly everyone was changing and learning and growing--those were exciting times, indeed.

Well, anyway, I'd taken a couple turns teaching and people seemed to like it ok, but our pastor told me one night during a prayer meeting that my messages would be better if I'd be more human. More honest. If I'd expose some of my faults and share how God was helping me overcome them. And right there in front of the others, he said he would be grading me the next time I taught.

And ok... even though I didn't think he was even right on target about this--me, being me, decided to take him up on his challenge. If he wanted honest, huh! I'd show him honest! (And you thought *you* were stubborn?)

So the next time I taught, the majority of my lesson was a "don't let this happen to you" type of message. Each of my main thoughts were centered around some funny story of mistakes I'd made. Like the way I'd been so shy, that in city libraries I used to walk only behind the bookshelves, never through the room's center, rather than have people look at me... And how when we moved here to our new state, I'd felt like people were singing and dancing in the streets--I was so looking forward to non-depressing, non-Nevada years.... And how I used to yell at Tom about closing our closet door--until one day God told me to just shut-up and close the door myself(!)

Guess what grade my pastor gave me? An A+. He told me, "Yes! That's exactly what I meant. Share from your heart and your experiences as well as the Bible. Blend them all together and BE REAL."

And too, people came up to me afterward and said that my message had helped them. They'd loved the humor and they identified closely with my stories.

That was a huge turning point for me. I began joking that I'd discovered the simple way to be a successful Bible teacher-- Just spill your guts, add a little humor, and be willing to look like an idiot. And then, using the Bible, show others that if God could help you, He can certainly help them, too.

It works for teachers. It works for bloggers, too. I know because I'm still using that formula today.

***
Before we can share honestly with other people, we first must become honest with ourselves--and with God.

Just Talk Amongst Yourselves...



I've begun at least three dead-end posts this morning. It's not writer's block--I could easily make-up something from the jumble of words spinning in my head, but you deserve better. I've promised God I would always give you something better. No, it's not writer's block, it's more like God block. And that's ok. I've learned to respect when He's presenting the challenge to choose His way or mine. His words or mine.

So feel free to talk amongst yourselves around the table I carried in here (above). And if you are in need of a subject, here is a tiny taste of one of the deepest, sweetest things ever written with a pen. Hopefully, you've read this before and find it tickling your brain, the part behind your right ear, at odd, dappled times of the day...

From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:

What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.


***

To read The Velveteen Rabbit in its entirety, click here.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Why My Interest In Blog Stats



I found your candid comments to my last post interesting and fun. They reminded me that we all blog for many and varied reasons.

Some of us blog to clear our heads of all the words inside spinning like clothes in a dryer. To express our creativity.

Others want to keep a written record of their days so they'll not be lost in obscurity.

Some people write to be heard. To share their story, their opinions, their journey. To perhaps explain why they are the way they are--reaching out for understanding and sympathy from family and friends.

Some share humorous words so to carry a little gladness to people's hearts.

And others use blogging to share their faith...to fling out to the world the One who has given them incredible freedom and joy and hope.

I blog for probably all those reasons, but I go heavy on the last one.

Blogging is the way, the means I have chosen to share with others the freedom I have found in order that they, too, may find it. May find Him.

The numbers of people visiting my blog fascinate me because they represent real people. You. And throughout my days I pray for you--for everyone who visits my blog. I pray all sorts of things for you--fun, peaceful, hopeful things. Glad things for even those who accidentally stumble into my blog and then run madly away after realizing they have landed in Christian territory. :o)

For you see, my stats counter--all those numbers--are rather like seeds in the Bible's parable of the sower of the seeds. To me, each number represents a valuable life--the heart of a seed, if you will. And well, when I see the seeds pouring in, I pray for them--that they will fall upon fertile soil and grow strong, tall and free.

So that is why the numbers matter to me. Each number represents a beating heart, one which matters indescribably to God.

And my referrer's list--that list of your blogs at the end of my right hand column--I click on your individual blogs to see where you are coming from, both figuratively and literally. Then I ask God to let me see your blogs through His eyes--they look amazing that way. I see things that otherwise I would miss. And sometimes I see your requests for prayer boldly printed in the headlines of your blogs, sometimes down in an obscure little corner. But I see them.

So that is why the referrer's list matters to me.

Because you matter.

And that is why I blog.


***

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."...John Donne (1624)

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me..." Galations 2:20

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Blogging:The Return of Teen Angst?



Blogging--sometimes I think it yanks us back to a high school mentality. It's tempting to want to be one of the cool bloggers... To pray the popular bloggers will visit your blog and then return to their own to add you to their blogroll... To aim for an A+ on your posts... To try to impress everyone and be accepted by your peers.

I guess anything we do comes along with similar temptations. Maybe that's why many adults forever act as though they are still in high school--because in some ways, they still are. (Of course that's not anyone reading this! But I'm just saying...).

I remember in my early days of blogging long, long ago, (well, July...), I used to be ecstatic if 15 people read my blog in one day. (Ah, the innocence of starting anything new.) Now I wonder if my readers are bored, straying, sick, dead, or dying if I don't get at least 80 hits a day.

Good grief.

But I refuse to allow blogging to become like recycled high school. And heaven help me if I get blogging contest fever. You know, get all caught up in blog contests which aim to find the best blogs written by Christians or Pagans or Jokesters or CPA's or Tobacco Farmers or Men on The Moon....

God rewards faithfulness, the daily just-plug-away-at-it-and-do-as-He-tells-you kind of faithfulness. Promotion comes from God. And thank-goodness, when He promotes us, it's never too early--never before our character can handle it. Plus, there is no better press agent anywhere.

So in the meantime, I just want to dictate into my blog what I believe God is saying through me. And leave it at that. Whether zillions of people come or only 2 or 3. And I'll be a success if I can keep it just that simple.

Listening



This old Bakelite phone sits on my quiet time table. With my finger in the dial, I swirl it around just to listen to its old-fashioned sound. Sort of a Cary Grant Movie sound. I pick up the receiver--the thing you hold to your ear...hmmm... is that what it's called? There is no dial tone, no voices--ever. The cord on the phone needs to be replaced.

I stared at the phone this morning thinking what a delight it would be if I could just place it against my ear and hear from my loved ones who have already journeyed to Heaven. Many times when a friend has died I've thought, "If only people were allowed just one phone call when they reach Heaven. Just one short call to tell us they'd arrived safely and were having a wonderful time."

Have you ever wished that, too? (Uh-oh...there I go with the 'w word' again.)

But mostly I'd love to pick up that phone receiver and just listen to God.

Some people, though, think they wouldn't like that at all. They feel God would spend the whole time giving them a list of what is wrong with them. That's why they hesitate about spending a daily quiet time with Him. They believe if they slow down, they'll hear more clearly the 'recording' which constantly plays in their head. The one which says, "You're no good. You're a disappointment to everyone. If anyone knew the real you, they'd reject you--so just pretend to be someone, something, else and then the rejection won't hurt as much."

Ever heard that recording?

Problem is--it wasn't recorded by God. We, ourselves, recorded it. As though we left an old-fashioned tape recorder set on 'record' every moment of our years, but it only picked up the bad stuff.

Though I can't lift up a phone and listen to God, still I can hear Him say, "Just as you are, today--I love you. I won't love you any greater as time goes by and you mature--you cannot work for my love. Just open the places which need healing so my love can pour in and begin to heal what time and living and others have wounded."

I hear correction, too, sometimes, but the words are spoken in a language of encouragement with love tones. Because those words are born in God's heart of love and spoken by Him who is love.

I had to slow down to hear Love. I'm still listening--and loving what I hear.


***
He must increase, but I must decrease." James 3:30

"Love is a force more formidable than any other.
It is invisible - it cannot be seen or measured -
yet it is powerful enough to transform you in
a moment, and offer you more
than any material possession ever could."
-- Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D.

***

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What If...



"I think she would be a jolly companion if she would forget herself once in a while."

...From Beverly Gray, Freshman, by Clair Blank (1934).

Oh my...what a pleasant thought...

What if we all stopped talking about how bad we are and instead, talked about how good God is? What if we stopped moaning and started singing?

What if we could begin looking after the needs of others instead of staring at our own weaknesses and sins?

What if we started looking forward instead of backward?

What if we would make room for joy instead of crowding our minds with regret and unforgiveness?

--We might just become jolly companions to one another... We might just have some joy.

***
"Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about other people."...Gibson, Tobias S.

Worry Blindness



She was worried
And her worry grew
And multiplied
Like gritty crust
Across her eyes.
She sat in her chair--
Window light upon her face--
And worried there;
She ceased to see
Beauty.

All outside shown ablaze--
Birds and cedars,
Mountains, farms,
Autumn and gardens
Rivers, barns.
Her children, laughing--
Songs and dancing,
Cats and quiet mists
On morning lakes.
Robins, breezes,
Fountains, friends--
Still there, all--
But invisible to her
Because she worried.

Not until Heaven
Did she see--
And comprehend--
She'd been given previews
Of God's Land--
But Worry had crept
Inside one night
And snatched away her
Truest sight.