Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Going Deeper


In my last post, I addressed feelings and emotions and then Jeanette made a comment which I knew someone would make (thanks, Jeanette!). 

Yes, I agree-- the answer is not to squash down our negative emotions, only to have them surge forth in a flaming ball of fire some future day when it could no longer be contained (and in the meantime, making us physically sick). Heaven forbid.

No, there is something better. With God, there is always a better way.

Remember that Bible verse-- ..."it's the little foxes which spoil the vines"? Most of us have a whole pack of those rabid little foxes inside us, attacking any good root which tries to grow. No wonder it seems we never get anywhere--some of us have been so chewed up by those little red foxes, we are walking around almost more dead than living.

Examples of little foxes?

"I will never forgive that person."
"I've been hurt, so I'm afraid to try anything new."
"She offended me, so it's my right to tell the world about it/her."
"I don't feel well, so it's ok to yell at my family."
"This isn't gossip--it's just a prayer request."
"I've made too many mistakes--I don't deserve a second chance."
"God is mad at me."
"I can't give any money to that needy family--I need every cent for my own family."
"My husband bought what? Well, I'll just go out and buy something we cannot afford, too!"
"That's the last time I help her. She didn't even say thank-you."

And more.

It is not God's way to train those 'cute' little foxes and make pets of them. No, but it's our way. We attempt to live alongside those foxes and keep them as secret pets because some foxes make us feel good about ourselves. Some foxes feel like trophy pets--as though we appear more distinguished with them at our feet or draped around our neck as stoles.

But you cannot train a little fox. A little fox can never be trusted.

Little foxes must be killed.

And God is the great hunter, the only one who can go deep enough to find--and then shoot and kill-- those foxes which are eating us alive. The ones who justify our evil emotions and keep us from growing past them.

My bottom line? It's something I said in a comment box a few posts ago:

"God asked me to come to Him with my hurts and listen to what He had to say. But then He dug even deeper--He began telling me I needed to let go of what it was inside me that caused me to often feel hurt and offended in the first place. He said He had something better for me--and it meant giving people lots of slack and room to grow and the benefit of the doubt--and oh my, what a difference that made! No longer was there a need to heal what hadn't been hurt in the first place."

I can't get that last sentence out of my mind. Whatever hasn't been hurt in the first place, well, it needs no doctor. No opportunity to vent. No tears. No squashing down, stuffing down until it becomes a ball of flames.

"Love hardly even notices when others do it wrong." 1 Corinthians 13:5... Only God can grow that kind of love inside us, because only He is that kind of love.

And I am determined to let Him shoot any little fox inside me which tries to keep that kind of love from growing into a God Garden inside me.


******


"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." ... Song of Solomon 2:15

"But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." ... Matthew 6:15

Monday, January 30, 2006

Emotions


Emotions, feelings, and all that good stuff...

Now here's a topic you don't enter into lightly. I've heard many a woman hotly defend her feelings--sad, rabid or otherwise-- and her rights to them, but you won't hear this woman doing that.

Yet let me add here--if you want to continue being led around by your feelings and being dragged wherever they yank you, well, go for it. Good luck with that.

But here is my goal, a goal I keep aiming toward, one I still firmly (firmly!) remind myself of:

"...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." ... Romans 8:14

Oh my.

When someone accuses me of something, I so do not want to go out, being led by anger or revenge.

When I'm corrected, I do not want to crawl away by myself to bathe in resentment.

When I'm forgotten, neglected or unappreciated, I don't want to allow bitterness to start telling me what to do and how I should feel.

When I'm lonely, I do not want to just start grasping at anything--good, bad, or ugly-- to make the loneliness go away.

When I'm yelled at, I do not want to yell back.

When my great plans shatter into smithereens, I don't want to attend a pathetic, all-day pity party held in my honor.

No, I have already been to the horrible, murky places my feelings led me. And nearly always, it took me months, or even years, to crawl back out of those dark and desperate lands.

I want, instead, to be led by the Spirit of God--I've been to some of those lands, too, and there was not a murky place nor shadow in any of them. Even if those Spirit-led steps took me to hard places (as they sometimes have), even there, I found Light and the encouragement whisper. You know, the one which begins, "Well done."

And once you hear that whisper, you can face just about anything up the stony road ahead.

***

"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and apply myself to them, if they will not apply themselves to me." ~Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1588

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." ... 2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, January 29, 2006

If You Liked Napoleon Dynamite...


... you might like the movie, Smoke Signals. Tom and I watched it yesterday--what a treasure! One moment we'd giggle, then moments later we'd brush away tears. Smoke Signals is on a deeper level than Napoleon, but there are similar delights and surprises. It strikes a perfect chord--not too light, not too dark. Just simply, perfect.

Perhaps we also liked this movie because it took place in our old neck of the woods--out West in Idaho (where we often used to vacation) and over land which very much looked like our old neighborhood, Nevada. It felt like a trip back home, even though we do not call Nevada home. But, well, maybe you know what I mean.

You can read about Smoke Signals here. There's no sex or violence in this movie, but there is some language--I'm not sure just which words, because our handy-dandy TV Guardian silenced them for us. (I've often mentioned here our $49 Wal Mart-found TV Guardian DVD player--it still earns our deep gratitude.)

I can't believe Smoke Signals was made way back in 1998! Where have Tom and I been?

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this movie with those of you who also carry the Napoleon Dynamite gene I mentioned here. While the credits rolled, Tom said, "I'd like to watch more movies like that." I agreed with him.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Well, It's Official...


... I used to worry about Naomi far too much. I know that now.

I can tell because, since she moved out of the house last March, my head feels lighter. So do my shoulders. And I've been more consistently happy than I ever remember being my whole life.

Now understand, I'm not saying that the happiness comes from no longer having Naomi here. No. Of all the thousands of days Naomi lived with us, the vast, vast majority were peaceful, sweet days. Only a fraction were the hard, stressful and uncomfortable days which only a teenager/20-something adult can make happen, like, in a split second, so broad-siding you that you never saw it coming.

No, what I'm saying is that this past nearly-a-year, I've driven around town feeling more peace than worry. Gone are the hours spent on my tip-toes at the front door window waiting for Naomi to come home, late. I've not waken in the mornings dreading a new snowfall because it meant the roads would be slick and Naomi would be driving over them. I've stopped worrying about her cats, her car, her bills and her soap-opera life.

Well, mostly. (I am still her mother, of course.)

All during those years, God convicted me about worrying about Naomi... He reminded me that worry contains fear, and fear brings torment. He told me to let go...let go.... let go... And I tried... and tried.... and tried... But just as I worried less, there would come a new test--a new situation where my trust would be stretched and yanked so far--so far--that I'd even get a bit perturbed with God about those stupid Worry Tests and their frequency.

Let me tell you--it's a complete waste of your life to get mad at God. He knows what He's doing. He's not clueless. We are, though.

But like I said, peace and radical contentment now fill the space previously rented by worry. And I was reminded of that when I read this an hour ago:

"In the spiritual (as in the material) world there is no empty space, and as self, and fear and worries depart out of your life, it follows that the things of the Spirit, that you crave so, rush in to take their places." (From the book, God Calling.)

Exactly. We can't have it both ways and I officially know that now. We can't have lots of worry with lots of peace.... lots of distrust with lots of contentment... lots of fear with lots of joy...

And when God consistently nags us about letting things go, He is only trying to do us a great big favor. He's trying to throw out the old stuff to make room for the new.

And happy is the person who gets that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Always On My Mind



"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You." ... Isaiah 26:3


***

Do you recall when you first fell in love with your spouse? I do. 

I remember thinking about Tom all the time, even while I was at my job (a very prestigious job, indeed--I washed dishes in a tiny cafe). After work, I'd think about him while I walked a few blocks home, then after walking through my front door I'd think about Tom while washing dishes (my own this time), making dinner, talking with him on the phone, watching tv and then slipping into bed, where I'd think about him, about us, some more before falling asleep.

He was always on my mind. And yet? Still I was able to work at my job, run errands and do chores around my cute little house. And while doing each of those things I smiled a lot, dreamed and felt unusually happy. I remember being teased about the silly look plastered upon my face, but I didn't care. 

I was in love and it didn't matter what anyone else thought.

I wrote all that to say this-- sometimes when you talk about that above Bible verse, the one about keeping your mind on God all the time, people are, like, "Are you kidding? I've got a job. I've got a spouse and kids and responsibilities. I've got a Real Life. There's no way I can think about God all the time."

Well, yes, you can. I have a feeling I'm not the only person in this huge world who ever went through weeks and months of my life thinking about the man she loved and yet carrying-on, productively, with all the duties of her life. I certainly can't be the only person who was pretty darn happy living that way, too.

It can be done. We can go through the months and years of our lives with contented hearts and smiling eyes because of having kept our minds on the goodness, the sweetness of God. And as the rest of that verse says, peace will come as the trust grows.

And everybody wants peace, especially peace of mind. Keeping God on my mind while I'm walking and working and watching and talking has brought me trust--because this communication, this relationship, is not one-sided. God thinks about me all day long, too, and when, simultaneously, I think about Him, our thoughts meet and sing and dance together.

The trust grows.
The peace grows.
And people watch.

Monday, January 23, 2006

24 Lessons


All right, all right--you forced it out of me.

 During Tom's convalescence after surgery, he and I have become addicted to yet another tv series on dvd. This time it is Keifer Sutherland's show, 24. (If I confessed just how many episodes we watched last week, I'd lose all your respect.)

Wow. Talk about a show so-intense-that-you-have-to-close-your-eyes-a-lot! You must be courageous to watch this one and you certainly can't let yourself get too attached to any of the main characters. Why not? Because when you do, poof! He/she gets killed. Yikes.

Tom and I sit there practically stressed-out-of-our-minds, squealing things like, "Look behind you! Run!," "No! Don't walk into that dark room alone!," "Oh no! He's going to get killed, I just know it!," "Wait for back-up! Wait for back-up!" And then there's one I repeat over and over when the stress reaches its peak or my current favorite character lies on the ground, dying, "Remember, Debra-- it's only a tv show. It's only a tv show. The actor is still alive in real-life."

Yes, it's that intense. If the typical romantic comedy is about all you can handle, 24 is definitely not the show for you.

Anyway. Yesterday we watched the 5th disc of season 3 and .... (Starting here, I'll be sharing a big spoiler in case you'd like to wait and watch it yourself.)


........it showed a deadly virus being released by terrorists into the air ducts of a large motel in Los Angeles. The hundreds of guests were held at the motel by force by C.T.U. to keep the virus from spreading throughout the city to thousands more people. Within two hours, some of the people began dying terrible, painful deaths. If you had any of the symptoms, your death was immanent. Later in the show, tablets were provided for anyone with symptoms who wanted to take them--anyone who wanted, instead, to die painlessly, as though just falling asleep.

Like I said--this show can be intense.

Well, anyway. I am the holder of the dvd remote in our house and I have been known to pause the dvd and offer Tom my commentary on what we have just witnessed. And last night as we watched the people dying in that motel, I told him, "Wow. Watching this makes me, more than ever, determined to live each regular old day without regrets. It reminds me to not waste my days complaining, nagging or worrying. Instead, I want to live fully and awake and ready for the end whenever it may come, even if it were to come like what we're watching now."

Today may I live peacefully and like the adult I am supposed to be. Not concerned with petty things people are saying about me or limping around with hurt feelings. Not dreading what may happen tomorrow nor crying about yesterday. Not feeling offended if things said to me are not stated perfectly, not worried, afraid, unhappy.

And certainly not gripping this life so tightly that I can't release it gracefully, and without panic, when my time comes.

Instead, just glad to be alive on this one day, Today. Grateful to know God and to know, also, that someday I'll be living an even sweeter life than this one, in a whole other place.


******


One today is worth two tomorrows. ~ Benjamin Franklin

The preciousness of every moment is emphasized with every tick of the clock. Isn’t it a magnificent day today? ~ Bel Kaufman


This is the day the Lord had made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Switching Songs


For Christmas, Tom asked for one of Kimberley Locke's CD's so I bought it for him and for nearly one month, in our car, I've played Eighth World Wonder over and over (maybe to infinity, I'm not sure).

 Kimberley's voice and that song, together, do something incredible to my eyes because suddenly, outside my windshield, the grey, bare-tree winter melts into warmth, nearly-green, even a little golden. That voice, that song, somehow, remind me of all that is right with my life. 

May I always remember how good God has treated me.

Remember when I told you that while I lived depressed and pathetic in Nevada, I used to drive through the barren desert and play sad, bleeding-heart songs? Well, while driving home today with movies and lunch in the car and Kimberly Locke's voice in the CD player, I shook my head and laughed at my Nevada years' foolishness. 

I mean, really. Listening to despairing songs in the middle of my depression? That was like having been stabbed once by a stranger, then afterward, stabbing myself again and again each new time I played a lonely, sad song. And to top it off, expecting that listening to those songs would somehow help me out of my depression.

Wow. It's hard to believe that was even me and fortunately, I left that me long ago. 

Step by slow step I walked myself out of depression by making different choices in what I believed and what and who I listened to. And the neat thing is that every right step led me to a little more light--and when your world has been dark a couple years, even the tiniest ray of light is remarkable and encouraging. 

Then after more steps and more light one day you find yourself riding around in your car, like I did today, listening to happy-sounding songs, singing, and even the dreary winter day outside the windows looks amazing.


******


"Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things..." Psalm 98:1

"Even if you can’t sing well, sing. Sing to yourself. Sing in the privacy of your own home. But sing." ... Rebbe Nachman

Saturday, January 21, 2006

If You Like Victorian Cards...


... you'll love these half-priced Christmas cards from Victorian Trading Company. I order from them every year about this time during the annual Christmas card clearance which you will find here.

So many choices, so little time (and money).

Check it out if this sounds interesting!

End of commercial.... I'll now return you to your own Good Old Days... (see my post below for details).

These Are The Good Old Days


People are funny. I mean, really.

Some people talk much about the Good Old Days and you know what those are, right? They're dead days, but remembered fondly, when you, or people you knew, had great times and felt safe. They're days when recalled, make you smile and wish you were back there in all their golden-hazed glory.

Some people had their Good Old Days in the 1930's. Let's see. That was the decade of the Great Depression when millions of folks lost all their money and walked the streets looking for work so they could provide for their fearful, starving families. That was when many families shipped their children to relatives who could care for them better and other families lost their teenagers to transient lives on trains looking for work across the U.S. There was also the Dust Bowl and the beginning of World War II across the globe, not to mention a few hundred other tragedies and injustices I am skipping.

Some people I know think of the 1940's as their own Good Old Days. Wow, that's when WWII was in full force, thousands of soldiers and civilians died and millions of Jews were tortured and murdered in concentration camps. Those were days of ration cards and of nearly everyone receiving news that at least one person (often more) who they knew personally had died in the war.

The 1950's brings smiles to lots of people who personally remember them, poodle skirts and rock music and all. But I've read that the 1950's was the time of the Korean War, the McCarthy hearings, outbreaks of polio, segregation, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war (remember duck and cover?). Again, I am leaving out hundreds of other happenings/tragedies/incidents.

I could, technically, remember the 1960's as my own Good Old Days. I was a young child who loved the places I lived and the friends and memories I made. But oh my, the 1960's was the decade of the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Kennedy. There was also the Vietnam War, thousands of young men lost and peace marches-turned-violent and tragic.

Some people believe there hasn't been a real Good Old Day since the 1970's. I wonder if they remember the ending years of Vietnam, the resignation (and shame) of the President of the United States, the murders at the Munich Olympics, Love Canal and again, all the other happenings of that time. (I am so not a historian and these are just off the top of my head.)

My point? Throughout all of History, always, the Good Old Days have been ones we carve for ourselves in the midst of the tragedies of life. Since Adam and Eve it's been true--there's always something-- some tragedy somewhere happening to some group of people. Always some war and rumors of war, some natural disaster, some evil people planning to harm good people.

It's always been that way.

And basically, the Good Old Days have always been in our heads, in the way we perceive our earlier years. Years were what they were--what mattered was our perception and the way  in which we lived them.

And even now? These are the Good Old Days--

--for those who do not allow this present darkness to blind them to the good which still exists.

--and for anyone who has the present-sight to create a Good Old Life in the middle of what appears to be days quite dark, indeed.



******

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Do You Ever Save Your Email?


Last week I almost wrote a post about my pet peeves. Perhaps another day I will.

But, in the meanwhile, here's one of them: I hate it when people use sweeping generalizations, usually containing words like "all," "always," or "never." Ones which come to my mind? "All tv evangelists are only in it for the money," "All men nowadays are scum," "Kids today are always spoiled/thugs/shallow," or "Nothing good ever happens to me." Etc.

Well, here's another one, one I come across---this month it appeared on the last page of the latest issue of the magazine, Home Companion (one of the few magazines out there which I still enjoy):

"We don't write letters anymore. We dash off email and text messages. We send our love into the world as ephemeral electrons. It won't clutter out closets, and our children won't have to sort through it when we die. It's efficient, it's convenient, and it's fast. But in one click, it's gone." ... Joseph M. Schuster

Every time I see this re-hashed, negative sentiment I ask, "Does no one own a printer? Does no one print out the extra-special email they receive from friends and lovers? What makes an email so extremely different from an old-fashioned letter? Aren't we still able, in an email, to write and express our deepest, most intimate thoughts with those we love?"

"We don't write letters anymore." Bah! Who says? Personally, I write more letters now than I ever did in the past--only the mode of their transportation has changed. 

And ok, so I don't use paper stationery. But I'll tell you one thing I do-- I save the most meaningful, touching emails I receive. I print them out (sometimes on special computer stationery), trim the edges with my Victorian-edged scissors, then place them, folded, inside my current diary.

You should see my last few diaries. Interwoven amongst their pages are those special emails, post cards, theater tickets, gift bookmarks, newspaper clippings, photos and who knows what else. My diaries are scrapbooks, the collections of the paper-thin memories and highlights of my days. In fact, I dare you to look through my diary-scrapbooks fifty years from now and not feel as though you are holding a fun piece of old-fashioned history, the same way you would feel now, today, if you were to look through such a diary from the 1930's.

Why must some people (notice I did not say 'all') see today as being not nearly as good as yesterday? Is there some kind of a film over our eyes keeping us from glimpsing marvelous things which appear a bit different, a little tweaked because of time and change? 

Why is a new package so often perceived as a bad one?

Well anyway, to satisfy my own curiosity, I'd like to ask you, my readers, Do you ever save your email? And while I'm at it, Are you writing more 'letters' today than you were before you went online?

Please assure me I'm not the only one who is saving my memories for those who will someday look through my closets for treasure.



******

When You Want a Different Talent (Or, Those Poor Kids on American Idol)


Like a few million other people, Tom and I watched American Idol last night (she confesses).

We'd been anticipating it and as always, it did not disappoint. Well, maybe a little. I mean, although it's great fun to hear the awful, delusional wannabe's, it would have been equally nice to hear more from those who could actually sing. All that squawking! And for so long. A few times, peace-loving, God-fearing Tom and I threw walnuts at the tv screen and moaned, "For heaven's sake, put the kid out of his misery!"

Well, anyway, American Idol, for me, is a great case study in human nature gone awry. Those poor kids--the ones who truly believe they can sing, but who, oh my, cannot. Why do they do this to themselves? Why do they buy airline tickets or drive thousands of miles just to stand before judges who will, quite likely, fling the truth at them, "That was horrible. You are not a singer!"? (Actually, with Simon being involved, you're likely to hear much worse-- words which just may sear your soul for forever.)

The reasons for this self-asked-for torture are many and varied, I know. Some people just crave recognition--whether it be fame for greatness or idiocy--it matters not. And well, I do realize the list is endless why nice, decent kids would subject themselves to such incredibly-public humiliation.

But what stands out to me most, year after American-Idol-year, is that thing of not accepting ones own God-given talent. Of craving, instead, a spotlight talent. Of so strongly desiring a gift/calling which will bring (they believe) huge accolades, applause and acceptance by the masses.

It's simple to watch those clueless kids who try out for American Idol and pity them. And yet, how many of us have the exact same mindset? Which of us have wished we had the 'in front of the curtain' talents? The ones everyone applauds, flinging awesome appreciation?

This is way too big for a simple blog post, but all I know is that talents and callings are given to help and encourage mankind--the other guy, not ourselves. 

It is in the giving that we receive. And there is no better gift or talent anywhere than the ones we already have been given. Life gets exciting when you use your own, custom-given gift and if there is no joy in the giving of it, the fault is our own. Not God's, not our parents', our siblings', the general public's, not even Simon Cowell's.

What if? What if all the unhappy wannabe's who spent energy, time and money traveling to the American Idol try-outs had, instead, put all that into discovering what their real talent was? Then afterward, what if they proceeded to develop those talents into something exceptional?

It's hard to imagine a world where millions of people faithfully, masterfully used their God-given talents, isn't it? It's especially difficult because too often what we see, instead, are people wanting what others have worked hard for and the happiness which comes from a job well-done. 

What we more often spy are people longing for fame and appreciation which proceeds some gifts, thinking that fame meets the deepest needs of human hearts.

But it never will. Only God meets those deepest needs. There is an incredible secret there. I hope you've found it, also.



******

Monday, January 16, 2006

What You Might Miss At The Supermarket


Over the last two days I've made sure Tom was resting comfortably in the recliner and had every little thing he could possibly need, and then I have rushed out to supermarkets or convenience stores. 

Quickly, I've walked up and down the aisles to find the apples or frozen meals, and especially, the bagged ice for Tom's little ice machine-thing (which I'd never searched for before in any store, so this has been rough. In case you ever need bagged ice, check first in the darkest, farthest corner of any food store--the ice will probably be there).

Anyway, I zip down those aisles, keeping in mind that Tom's at home in that chair, unable to get up and move around by himself, at least, it isn't wise for him to do that at this moment after having the surgery on his arm on Friday and often being light-headed from the meds and sitting for such long stretches. His shoulder has been in pain and he's often had trouble getting comfortable in the recliner. And well, there's everything else which goes with all this.

But while I scurry down those supermarket aisles I'm also reminding myself that on any day there are always, always people in these same stores who are going through similar situations--or worse. 

I think it was Jack Webb on Dragnet who used to say, "There are a million different stories in the city," and often I think there are a million different stories belonging to the people who must run down to the supermarket for groceries. And there are a million kind of hurts which people have on any given day and a million cares for a million tired caretakers of ones they love.

Who knows where it all ends?

But it's at these times of my life when I remember all this and when I promise myself that in future days I'll look around me while I shop. Really pause in the aisles and see if I can read anxious or worried looks upon shoppers' faces. And better yet, I can ask God to show me specific people for whom I should whisper prayers before I go on my own way and forget.

Who knows what good may come from doing that? Only God does for certain.



******

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Oh, The Stress of It All...




So there I was in the sauna-like waiting room all day yesterday while Tom had surgery on his arm.

 I wrote little descriptive blog posts in my head to you while sitting at a Bistro table in the window drinking the free coffee(!) spiked with my cappucino powder from my purse. 

Anyway, I sat there gratefully feeling your prayers. Truly, it made the whole ordeal a bit easier, especially when the surgeon came out and said he'd found more torn ligaments and cartilage than he'd seen in the x-rays, but he'd been able to, as far as he could tell, repair the whole big mess.

But then I brought Tom home.

It was deja vu of his neck surgery four years ago, you know, the part where every minute he needs me to do three things for him all at one time (while the cats need to be fed and Lennon needs his insulin shot and I need to run to the store for ice for the little ice machine), and the stress makes me feel as though I'm in an episode of 24 where every decision is a split-second one and if I mess-up, the world will be destroyed--and it will be all my fault.

Yikes.

Yep, deja vu of four years ago. But you know? It's ok. It's all done for the man I love and at least he's still here with me. It's only for a season and besides, it's only these first two or three days and long nights which will be rough. And someday, this too, will be just a memory as the other surgeries now are.

And if I can remember this, too, shall pass and that God is with me? All will be well. In time.


***


P.S. I'd keep adding to this, but I've gotta run and wash the dishes which are piling up faster in my sink than the snow outside, snow which I will later shovel out of our driveway...


******

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Of Winter and Surgeries


Tomorrow Tom will have surgery done on his shoulder.

In the eons since our wedding, Tom has had two other surgeries, both on the back of his neck, both in wintertime. 

Winter is not a good time to have surgery. Well k, in a way. There's less going on, at least in our little world where people hibernate inside their homes when snow flies. Sometimes we even have forced hibernation when the newsmen announce you will be ticketed if the police see you driving. Oy!

But I'm rambling. What I want to say is that this time, with this surgery, everything feels different. I mean, I feel different. Usually this time of year feels more like 'Januweary' and my face is pressed against the window glass to absorb any little puny, weak ray of sun peeking through grey snow clouds. Usually I am already counting down days until Spring, whining in my diary about how bleak the bare trees and yards appear and dreading all the weeks ahead when I'll worry each time Tom or Naomi drive on slick roads.

But not this year, for something has changed. Oh, the changes haven't come--poof!--all just this week. No, they began years ago when I stopped relying on everything outside of me to make me happy. Boy, was life one long teeter-totter ride during those first 44 years or so (Hey. These things take time. Don't laugh.).  ツ

Now, instead of acting like an emotional vacuum cleaner trying to suck up all emotional charges from people telling me I'm special and the boosts you get from having friends, money and appreciation, now? Now I get out of bed in the mornings for just one reason--because God is good. And because He is good, it will be a good day inside of me no matter what happens on the outside. 

That's it. When God finally moved up my own personal list of favorite people (it took me decades to put Him there), my life became good. So good, in fact, that even now I can say that January and February are special months, also.

And this January will still be a memorable month even though Tom will have surgery tomorrow, will miss 4 weeks from work and I'll have to do everything for him.  

Still I can repeat this will be a wonderful winter and, truly,you don't understand what a personal miracle it is for me to say that.



******

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Blog Posts...


... for a commercial.

Minutes ago I ordered some adorable Mary Engelbreit Valentine's Day cards and I just had to share their extreme cuteness with you. The original page is here.

I love Valentine's Day. I would tell you that, technically, I love it better than Christmas, but some of my readers would have heart attacks. So I'll not mention that I love it better than what-the-world-calls-Christmas, ok?

Why do I love Valentine's Day? It's more low-pressure than Christmas... you can mail adorable little cards to anyone you have ever known in your whole long life and surprise (and delight) their socks off and make them feel very special, loved and fondly remembered.

And that's just for starters.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog posts...

P.S. And for my men readers, especially, let me remind you that Valentine's Day will be February 14th... better that I remind you now, rather than your spouse/significant other on late-night February 13th.

God, The Great Babysitter?




Man oh man, did I laugh when I read a certain incredible post from Lauren's blog

(Update: Lauren's blog, sadly, is no longer available, but..) ----

She'd expressed her shock at things read in in God Blogs. Someone asked what her expectations of blogs written by Christians had been at first. Why did I laugh? Because my expectations of God Blogs had been exactly the same as Lauren's. Here is how she worded what she'd expected to see:

"My expectations were probably a bit lofty for a bunch of saved-by-grace sinners. I thought we, as bloggers who claimed the name of Christ, would look to the rest of the world as if we were in agreement about most of what we claim to believe. I anticipated that when we commented on other Christian blogs we would do so with love, compassion, understanding, and the book of James in mind. I desired that when non-believers quietly and inconspicuously came to read what we were about, that they would see the difference between the Christian blogdom and the secular and they would deeply desire to be apart of that something very different that we showed forth."

Gee, were Lauren and I naive, or what? シ

And yet, my Pollyanna genes still are whispering, "It's not too late. There's still time to show Blogdom that where Jesus is, there is Love. And Light. Peace. Joy."

But only after humility. Only following the changes God, Himself, can make in His naughty, fighting children, those with the 'voice of one crying in the nursery' (as opposed to the wilderness). Those still whacking each other over the head when they disagree or act-out when they are jealous or insecure.

There is a huge hurting world out there and I imagine that God, The Great Babysitter(?), is just aching to see us, His kids, grow up so He can trust us to heal and not cause further hurt in His kingdom.

Maybe?


*****

"We ought always to thank God for you...because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing." 2 Thessalonians 1:3

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs..." 1 Corinthians 13:4,5

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wanting to Install a Gossip Check




"...take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."... James 1:19

***

Man, if only we as Christians lived by that verse, right?

Those have been my thoughts today ever since I heard on tv one more Christian in the public eye (read: easy target) point out that he'd been misquoted (again) by the Press. He held the proof in his hands and the rare hurt in his voice hurt me, too.

I don't know about you, but it's not enough for me just to have a spell-check in my blog. No, I want a gossip check, too. I want to click on an icon and have it zero in on anything which even resembles gossip. 

And then delete it.

I so do not want to be guilty of causing hurt in peoples' hearts and voices like the hurt I heard today. It's a hurt, a sound, which haunts me still and I cringe to consider parroting bad reports about specific persons in my blog without, first, checking out his/her side of the story. (If you catch me doing that in the future, please call me on it.)

Instead, may I remember the times I valiantly declared certain things were true years ago, yet now, I find those things, false. Or how how I madly ran with only half the story.

I want to mind my own business.

The Bible has much to say about both gossip and throwing stones--and it's not favorable, light-hearted or encouraging.

Well, even though gossip checks haven't officially been invented (have they?) I'm going to, from this day forward, run a manual one.

God help me.


******

"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." ... Matthew 12:37

"So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers." ... 3 John 1:10

Attack of the Killer Pessimists




"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. " ... Helen Keller


******

There have been years and times in my life when I've sat and talked with The Pessimists Amongst Us. Have you ever done that? 

It's quite scary because T.P.A.U. delight in discovering what is wrong with everything. They may frown and appear sour on the outside as they sit across the table from you (or whisper to you from Blogland), but on the inside, they are giddy with negativity. 

They're proud of their expertise at being able to decipher, immediately, why some plan, some invention, some happy person will fail. They revel in 'being realistic' and they quote from the front page of the newspaper as though it was their Bible (and often, it is).

They have seen the future--and it is dark.

You can try to cheer them up, but good luck. You point out the possibility that something good may come out of something bad (Romans 8:28), but they just shake their head, and either they play the, "I'm older and wiser than you, kid," card or else end the conversation with a pitying smile and a, "Okay, believe that if it makes you happy."

 Then, if their dire predictions later come to pass, they are pleased as proverbial punch to tell you, "I told you so."

There's a certain feeling I get around people like that. My hand automatically goes to my throat and my eyes search for a door of escape. After I've valiantly played all my, "Look on the bright side" cards and said what I believed God wanted me to speak, all that comes to me at that point is something like, "Beam me up, Scotty! Get me out of here before my brain is pecked and attacked by this horrible, negative disease."

What's wrong with being a pessimist? Because this post is getting long, I'll just answer that with a little something Jesus said:

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

And that's good enough for me.



******
"Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself, and hates them for it."
- George Bernard Shaw

"Every pessimist who ever lived has been buried in an unmarked grave. Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be."
- Paul Harvey

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Lists We Make



Tom came home from work on Tuesday night with the stomach flu. 

Poor guy--I asked him if he wanted anything for dinner and when I showed him a can of peaches, he ran into the bathroom and, well, let's draw the curtain closed on that.

So then I asked him if he wanted me to run to the convenience store for ginger ale. He did, so I drove down there in the dark. Well, A.) I avoid driving in the dark at all costs and for the sake of all mankind, my eyes not being great and B.) This same convenience store was robbed in November around the same time of the evening. 

But hey, for better or worse, in sickness and health and all that, right?

Well, of course the ATM there was out of order, and I had only three dollars with me so I couldn't pick up anything else I needed--that would have been just too, too convenient. So later, standing in line at the same convenience store where I'd told Tom never to go after dark, I'm of course, using all my newly acquired C.S.I. skills (being a C.S.I. tv show addict). I memorized who stood next to me in case I'd later have to identify the robber from the mug shots they'd show me in my hospital bed.

Heh. But miracles of miracles, I made it home safely with two bottles of ginger ale (so I'd not have to risk my life and return later for more).

Well, next morning Tom called in sick to work because he hadn't been able to sleep and still felt sick. Then in the afternoon, he had to keep his pre-arranged doctor appointment where they told him that, yes, he would for sure have to have surgery on his arm a week from Friday.

Yes, he's having surgery on his arm due to an accident on our stairs where he should never have been in the first place.

Er hem.

Argh. Well, there are more gorey details to that Front Steps Disaster Story, but what it amounts to is that Tom will have surgery on his arm next Friday and will miss 3 - 4 weeks of work. And of course, his arm will have to remain immobile all that time and guess who will have to put her life on hold for those 3 to 4 weeks?

Yet, hey. Do I really mind? Well, yes and no. I'm here to help, after all and when you're in love, even after 27 long, crazy years, you do what you must.

And if you're smart, you just list your blessings, namely, that you still have your love with you, even though he's a little worse for the wear.

*****

P.S. ...Oh! How could I forget? Also this week, our bathtub drain was completely clogged for three days. So yesterday Tom spent 2 hours in the basement unclogging the drain. But hooray, the whole pipe is now clog-free and we can now shower again-woo-hoo!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Everyday Magic




My life is filled with magic.

Now, I hope you are not one of those stodgy, straight-laced Christians who frowned when you read that sentence because you thought I meant black magic or a pull-a-poor-rabbit-from-a-hat kind. Trust me, I didn't mean those.

No, I meant the kind of magic akin to imagination, dreams and delightful surprises on ordinary winter afternoons when snow is falling and logs (or candles) are burning in your fireplace. 

I also meant fairies, but you go mentioning those and some people get weird about those, also.

Earlier I wrote I'll be skipping blogs written by people who feel they're called to suck and vacuum the joy,fun and freedom out of life. The ones which, last month, warned me that there's a dark, ugly side for Christians (and others) to the movies, A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life. Ones which said any parent who plays Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and Easter Bunny with their children is a miserable liar and will pay a price. The ones who pounce upon and chew-up any fellow-Christian who has ever stood for a cause-from-the-heart or made a mistake. 

Yes, those are the blogs I'm avoiding in 2006 and this, in part, is why:

Those blogs sound too much like the voices Francis P. Church exposed in his column written to Virginia O'Hanlon (and to the world) in 1897--the people who "tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside." They are those who never, in this life, will see that "there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond."

And when Mr. Church says, even these hundred and nine years later, "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see," well, I still stand and cheer along with those of you close beside me in crowds so thick, so wide-spread--so joyful--that they overspill the Earth until they touch bright stars and intermingle with the angels on the very edge of Heaven.

I am in that happy crowd of those who sing through the most ordinary days of the world, the non-rattle-destroyers, the real heroes who get up out of their chairs and Try, whether they succeed or not. Because Doers are the brave ones, the ones who deserve to speak, unlike Sitters who scowl and feel free to rip apart those who failed. 

If you are a fun-sucking, Life-sucking, Light-dimming, grouchy old blog-writing Christian, I wish you a new morning when you open your eyes as though for the very first time. May you soon discover the joy which comes from viewing a new Light which reveals a kind of Living--a kind of magic--seen no other way.



******

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15


******

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

So You Think You're Being Persecuted?




The Bible says there's such a thing as persecution for the godly.
And then there's 'persecution' because I was just plain stupid.

Ten years ago there's no way God would have let me have a blog.

No, back then He couldn't have trusted me with the huge responsibility which is Blogging. Constantly I'd have stated things in defensive ways--long lines of people would have crowded into my comment box just itching to to criticize me. And ugh. Rightly so.

Then I would have whined and sighed, "I'm being persecuted in my blog. Poor, mistreated, misjudged me." I'd have fought back and oh dear. God would've been embarrassed to pieces.

No, really.

Here are examples of what I would have said back then and how I would say it now:

Then: Only an idiot would think he could get to Heaven by a different route than through Jesus.
Now: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" ... John 14:6

Then: I don't care what your school or your pastor or your own mother taught you--they were wrong in this case.
Now: While growing-up we learn tons of things, but there comes a time to finally seek God for real Truth--and be willing to relearn some of what we have learned.

Then: What? You don't read at least one chapter a day from the Bible?
Now: One man's obedience is another man's works. Each of us should read the Bible as God leads us, individually.

Then: Huh! Well, someday you'll see that I'm right when your wobbly knees are bowing and your tongue is confessing that Jesus is Lord!
Now: "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..." Philippians 2:10,11


How we speak is equally as important as what we say. We need more than just the right message--we need the right tone stemming from a pure heart.

What a frightening thing to be held responsible for the part we play!  What a heavy responsibility to represent our Father--but one doable via His grace.

How important, then, it becomes for me to die daily so that any persecution which comes my way will be because I was like Jesus--not because I was, like, stupid.

******


"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." ... II Timothy 3:12

"...be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." ... Matthew 10:16


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