Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Solving a Mystery (Or: Why I Don't Write a Book)


Okay... Some of you have asked, over the past two years, why I don't just write a devotional book and have it published. Something the whole world can grasp in its hands.

I'll try to explain.

Seven years ago while I strolled along our tree-lined and huge-old-house-lined streets one morning, I thought, "It's becoming hard to find a morning devotional book which is fun, interesting and always a joy to read." This was before I went online, you know, before I could ask people (like you) to recommend something. I searched Christian book stores and yawned through shelves of the same types of books I'd seen for 25 years, only their covers varied. The same ol' same ol' thing was boring me.

Then just when I gave-up (how often something great happens when I give-up trying to make it happen!)... I found Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance, by way of Oprah's show. I even drove wildly (well...) to the nearest shop that afternoon and bought a new copy (I never do that) and devoured that book over the next three days. Finally I'd discovered something very much like what my mind had imagined--a book of surprises for any day of the year.

And ok.... some of you are shaking your heads (I see you!)... but, well, it was what it was. I mean, I appreciated that book (still do), although okay, okay--I did tear out ...hmmm... five or six pages which sounded quite New Age to me. My book, my money, my privilege to tear-out pages. (Deal with it...please?)

ANYWAY... A couple years later I began dreaming of creating my own devotional book. I was actually taking another walk on those same lovely old streets, attempting to think up a title. That's when 'As I See It' came to me.

By that time, I'd been online for a year and blogs hadn't been invented yet (well, I don't think they had), so I began writing in a gratitude journal over at Oprah's website. It seemed a great way to share with the public this devotional book I thought I should be writing.

Huh. It was a struggle to write in that thing. A pain. Torture. I'd practically sweat drops of blood all over this computer keyboard trying to write meaningful, fun, interesting stuff (it didn't help that I was trying to be Sarah ban Breathnach The Second). And after a few weeks, I gave-up.

Fast-forward three years (or so) and along came blogging. I read a couple blogs, thought I might try it, but nearly quit before I even began. I remember emailing a friend and asking, "Why should I write about my life? Who would want to read about that?" The whole thought of writing in a blog just felt wrong for me. For a couple weeks.

But then I just took the plunge. And two-and-a-half years later here I am.

There is no struggle when I write in this blog. No pain or torture or blood-sprinkled keyboard. In fact, if I even begin to feel any frustration, immediately this comes to my mind: I must be writing this post on my own, from my head--without the help of God or Grace. And as soon as that's realized, I get up out of this chair and walk away and mop the kitchen floor, or something.

So to sum this up, that is why I'm currently not writing a devotional book... not even, just for fun, gathering together the posts from this blog which I believe are bookworthy (the two or three...heh). Grace just isn't nudging me to do write a book--not yet. But she and God are certainly here when I sit down at this basement office desk to write in this blog. At least, it feels that way.

And if they ever start nudging me to write a book, devotional or otherwise, I'll scribble away in that writing flow which will they'll sprinkle all over me to make the whole process a delight. Undoubtedly.

And you will be the first to know about it. I promise. Your encouragement will have played a part in a future book--I promise that, also.


***

To everything there is a season... A time to read books... write books... and a time to just watch Life and take notes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More Grace


I'll never get over what a difference Grace makes!

I mean, lately Grace is all over me to Get Rid Of So Much Junk. You know, that beat-up furniture from the curb, those 20-year-old musty sleeping bags, all those files I believed were so vital, and ceramic knick-knacks (broken and whole), and old ripped, chipped (or just ugly) dishes, paintings, clothes, towels, books, dried-up flowers, weeds and who-knows-what else.

And I especially know Grace was here when, afterward, I feel marvelous, having flung away what, just last week, I believed I would die without.

Grace--my blog is crammed with mentions of her. Like here, here and here. But that's because she's sprinkled my life with 'smoother sailing pills'--the strength, ideas and inspiration to accomplish what should be done sooner and with far less stress and frustration. It's rather like living a whole new life inside of the same old house--a life with a 24/7 helper. A more graceful life.

Grace knows what needs to be done today and she gives me the strength and inspiration to do those tasks. Grace knows what can be left until tomorrow or next Tuesday and heaven help me if I'm doing next Tuesday's tasks (without Grace) while I should be doing today's!

Grace gives me the courage to ask those tele-marketers to never call me back...

Grace enables me to speak to people who otherwise intimidate me (and she reminds me they are human, too).

Grace is that extra hand I need around the house when I'm by myself... and that extra umph! I need to finish washing the dishes before I slip into bed. (And to change Lennon and McCartney's litter boxes when I'd rather do almost anything else...)

Grace is the 'want to do right' when my own 'want to do right' is broken.... and my 'want to be brave' as I'm facing an eventual move from all I've known here.

And lately it's been Grace who's reminded me that if I happen to throw away something I'll later miss or need, then surely, God is able to provide another one.

Grace is the wind beneath my sorry wings and she changes absolutely everything.

What Would You Do?


Since yesterday, this post has haunted me. It was the final thing on my mind last night as I fell asleep and the first thing as I awoke this morning...

I applaud Patty's bravery and as for the rest of us I must ask, What have we become?


***

"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate." 1 Corinthians 13:1

Monday, February 26, 2007

Where We Go Wrong


You'll wonder how I came up with some of these. Let's just say it's a major case of been there, done that...

Where We Go Wrong...

We view ourselves as "Church People" instead of "Christians."

We forget that Life isn't like high school and it's not about being popular in church, our neighborhood or the world.

We judge the effectiveness of our Life's Calling by the numbers of people we're reaching. Ministry starts feeling a whole lot like a numbers game.

We forget that our Life's Calling is not given so we can feed our lonely, little, starving ego.

We make our own plans and then ask God to bless them and make them work (and whimper to our friends when He doesn't).

We forget that God's way are not like ours and His idea of the right time is usually long after ours. We give Him deadlines--and if He fails to show--we put on our work gloves and get busy, ourselves.

We become all about getting, struggling and taking when we should have been more about giving and receiving.

We wear our feelings, like dandruff, on our sleeves and wonder why everyone seems out to hurt us.

We view ourselves through pretty rose-colored glasses and other people through a high-powered magnifying glass.

We forget to keep the main thing(Jesus), the main thing... and veer off the road into ditches... then wake-up with a headache and a heartache, wondering (cluelessly) how we got there.

My Frozen World


This morning looks like this at my house. Again. Still.

And you wonder why Tom and I are dreaming of moving?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Flinging My Stuff To The Winds of Change


Of course, it can be scarey to watch yourself change.

That was my thought yesterday afternoon while I began Phase Two--the readying of our house to sell. You know, that phase where you stand and stare at your rooms with the eyes of a future buyer and then you walk around and pull pictures down from the walls and pack dusty trinkets away from your tabletops until you are left with an air of spaciousness and less-is-more.

That usually traumatizes people, but here's the part which surprised me-- I liked it. The less-is-more changes, I mean. The sun absolutely glared through the windows, just the way I love, and the more I put away, packed away and just released completely, the more giddy and free and pleased with my surroundings I felt.

I felt myself growing-up, willing to see, finally, that the hard part comes when I cling to, and move from room to room (and spot to spot), the person I once was. Especially when she takes up a lot of space.

Usually my older friends say the older they became, the less clutter they wanted surrounding them. They struggled with feeling weighted down by their stuff and desired, instead, to be in control of it... to be surrounded by a few sweet memories from the past, yes, but mostly to be reminded of where and who they are now and where they are going.

Yesterday I understood those things. Through making some changes I saw that I, myself, have changed and in putting away and flinging away old stuff, I've flung away some of the old me. I've shed some of her skin and now I feel--not sadly nostalgic--but lighter... as though each outside change is reflecting an inside one. And the more they match, the more peace I feel.

In all the shuffling around of stuff, I gave away even more books and trinkets and furniture--to share those things, as gifts, with unknown people who are where I was as close as even the day before. Those in a different place and time than where I am headed today.

And I saw this flinging way--my Phase 1-- is still unfinished. And now Phases 1 and 2 are mingling and both feel wonderful and oh so very freeing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Mornings After You Die


Silly me... I think I forgot to tell you that I'm dying...

...to Self, that is. A slow, lingering death, actually.

Yep, I've been dying since 1994, the year I finally began allowing God to kill whole trash piles inside me. You know, those ugly, lopsided stacks of believing I know best... and speaking without thinking first... and being the grandest procrastinator upon Earth... and laziness, fearfulness, shyness... rebellion, discontentment and unforgiveness. You know, all that stuff which holds you down and back and makes God look bad if you're going around telling everyone you represent Him.

But oh, the mornings after you die! It's as though you awaken in Heaven on Earth and this world appears more God-made than man-made. Almost as though you've got this Garden of Eden thing going in the middle of a war zone (otherwise known as Life on This Planet).

You have time to gaze up at the sky and it appears bluer, even new... and there are more trees around than you remember having seen before. Your husband, somehow, has become the best man on Earth and it's as though you can glimpse your children's very hearts and see--not the mischief they are doing--but their good intentions, instead...

... and you no longer care about fame and wanting everyone to know your name. You feel tipsy with Gratitude and you're gladly content with your house, your job and your possessions...

... You look at the faces of your friends, your neighbors, but it's as though you've awakened and realized, "Gee, I really do love that I know you."...

The horns of trains sound like trumpets and you're surprised you never listened to them before... Food tastes better and a steaming cup of coffee or tea appears grander than stumbling upon a chest of treasure and makes sitting in front of a window the best part of the day ...

And you have good days even on sunless, cloudy ones which have no parties or vacations circled in red... and you no longer need music before you can dance. And the best of everything is you realize with a joyful start, "As long as God is with me, I'll be fine." And never have you felt so free.

I believe it was Tozer who said, "It is never fun to die." And that is true.

But oh, those mornings after! They are worth every pain of death, every good-bye to the fragile, up-and-down world your stubbornness had created.

Trust me, I know.


***

This post came to mind while I reread David Grayson's Adventures In Contentment this morning. His books are remarkable, peace-lending, and I hope you have read them. My favorites are Adventures in Friendship, Adventures in Understanding and The Friendly Road.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nancy, My Neighbor


I don't believe I've ever told you about my next door neighbor, Nancy. When we first moved-in 14 years ago, she told me all about the woman and her husband who'd built our house back in 1935 and through the years she's kept me up-to-date on our neighborhood. She's one of those neighbors which a patrolman once told us was helpful to have--she's a watcher at her windows and no foreboding stranger would dare lurk around our windows or doors with Nancy at her watch.

Anyway, Nancy is in her early 80's (I believe) and she's lived in her paint-flaking house for over 40 years. She and her husband raised three children there, one of which still lives at home at around 45 years of age (I know, I know...). Nancy's sweet husband passed away back in 2000--I remember because it happened while we were having our house sided and Nancy's son was finally painting their peeling house a rather fluorescent blue, but his father saw it only in photos because by then he was laying in a hospital. I often mow Nancy's lawn for her because her son doesn't mind a jungle-like lawn. She says he's not a yard person...

Nancy amazes me because last autumn she and I stood in front of her house, talking for a half-hour (we'd not chatted in perhaps a year, yes--tsk...tsk..) and while Nancy told her stories (she's a talker, but her stories are interesting), my back began hurting as it does if I too long stand in one place. But Nancy seemed fine. She is 30 years older than I am, but I was the one searching for a chance to escape for my daily walk. Nancy probably could have chatted another hour about her grandkids and her kids and her sister and our neighbors.

And when I finally did take-off on my walk, I left inspired by this elderly woman's interest and involvement in Life--and by her ability to stand longer than I can!

But anyway, here's why I'm writing about Nancy this afternoon. This will make you smile. I was out shoveling snow again today (big storm last night) and I saw Nancy in her car, back out of her driveway. And then she did something which I forgot that she always does while she pulls the car forward to drive down the street. She turned the wheel and then made the sign of the cross across her forehead and chest. She does that so she'll arrive safely wherever she is going.

I love that. And I love having a neighbor like Nancy.

A Simple Garden-Variety Branch


"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do..." I Peter 1:15

I became a better person when I stopped trying to become one.

No, really! You should have seen me years ago... I'd read Bible verses in the morning and then spend the rest of the day trying to act them out. It was like living on a 'Christian stage' and performing what I'd read in the script.

But even when I memorized the script, said all my lines with perfect inflections of voice, stood on all my correct marks and performed just right--even on those days--when I succeeded, still I failed.

Why? Because, as I read somewhere years ago, 'only God can beget God.' Or in my paraphrase, 'only God can make me act like Jesus.'

Long ago I hopped off the stage-- jumped right down and walked away from the pressure and stress of all that acting. And now there's one set of lines I live by... one sentence bright and bold upon the script I carry:

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

(Okay, technically that's two sentences...)

If I'm frustrated, messing-up, and altogether blowing-it, the only hope for me is to allow the very Life of Jesus to flow through this branch, otherwise known as me. Only He can wash away my imperfections and replace them with His goodness, His love, His perfection.

And that's why I quit trying to be good! Because my goodness could never, would never, be good enough. Even if it appeared to be--God would always know and see the difference.

But if I try to be anything now, I just try to be a simple branch. Just a branch! An ordinary branch who happens to love watching the leaves appear in Spring and the fruit being harvested at Summer's end... not as a result of my trying, but rather, just because of receiving Life from the Vine.

Good-bye frustration.
Good-bye stress.
Good-bye hating myself when I fail.

Hello peace.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Traveling With The Good Twin


So there I was during my Nevada Years living the worst days of my life. Well, some of the worst. But it wasn't all poor ol' Nevada's fault (no, really).

It was mine. And Condemnation's. You know who he is, right? He's Conviction's evil twin.

I mean, there I sat in the Nevada desert broiling inside a mobile home (or freezing inside it during icy winters) and whenever my conscience would kick-in after I'd...

a. complain for the zillionth time about living in this horrid, God-forsaken desert,
b. long for hours to be someplace else,
c. hold grudges against people at church who weren't being nice enough to poor me,
d. whine to Tom about his being away 4 days out of every 8 (due to his job 100 miles away),
e. all of the above and way more...

...Condemnation would plop down beside me and darkly tease, "You messed-up! Again. You cannot help it. You will never change. The people in your life will never change. You will always live in this desert and you will always be unhappy and so you deserve to feel miserable... go for it! And now God is mad at you so you'll need to be extra-good this week so He'll love you again. But good luck with that."

That stupid evil twin! He thinks he's so cool. So logical. So right.

But then there's Conviction. He has just one thing in common with Condemnation and perhaps that's what confuses most people. Conviction, too, sits down beside you and whispers, "You messed-up."

But that is where all similarities end.

Because following that sentence, Conviction tells you, "You do not have to continue messing-up. I am here to change your heart if you'll let me. There is enormous hope for you to overcome this! If you will apologize, admit you cannot do this on your own-- then I will guide you, lead you and show you a better way. So it's up to you--are you ready to move ahead?"

And if you accept his terms, you move on. You walk forward.

You go places, too, with Condemnation. Dark, scarey places with mirey floors which trap your feet. It's all rather like a city of deep pits in a vast, always-nighttime place.

But I prefer traveling with Conviction. You never know where He'll take you, but you know there will be Light and Life and the direction will always be forward.


***

Romans 8:1
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit."

John 3:17
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Something Lite...


Okay...since it's been a little annoying around my house lately, namely, we have a mouse living in our Cozy Room (inside my chair!)... and I accidentally shattered our large serving dish, the one which was a wedding gift 28 years ago... and our daughter's boyfriend is very sick(flu)... and I broke a fingernail, which made my finger bleed.... I'll just show you this fun book from 1954 because it's been awhile since I posted something old-fashioned. Click on photos to enlarge so you can read this vital information...heh...



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Having Fun Instead of Fights


For years I nagged Tom about closing the closet door before he'd leave for work. It wasn't asking too much for him to remove his clothes and then shut the door, was it? Yet always, he'd drive blissfully away (well, maybe not blissfully since, after all, he was on his way to work) and I'd walk into the bedroom, see the opened closet door and start fuming. (And ok, I slammed it once. Or twice.)

And then there were the times I went ballistic when Tom would consistently arrive home late from running errands or when the visa bill would arrive and I'd see some enormous (huge!) charge on it which he'd made without telling me.

And there've been the instances he's gotten after me for the time I spend on the computer, for water left on the bathroom floor (gee, we've had some gigantic fights about that one) and the times he's walked past me while I'm painting walls and nagged me about being careful.

In 28 years, a couple can nag each other a whole lot. I know.

But something which I've noticed (after a few years I'd rather forget)? No matter what our subject of the day, each time we nag one another, two things are always involved. Fear and control.

No, really. Think about it. With the closet door, I wanted to control Tom into closing it because I had this fear of our room not looking nice with it open. After all, we might have company any second, they might tour our room--and if they did--they'd be horrified to see the inside of our closet. And well, it scared me that Tom seemed bent on not doing this one little thing I asked of him.

When Tom would come home late without calling me I'd go wild because I, at least a zillion times, had asked him to call if he was going to be late and it frustrated me that I just could not make him do that. And too, I'd pace around the house, picturing him lying inside our wrecked car (and practically planning his funeral)--not even realizing, myself, that this was a test for me as to whether I trusted God to protect Tom--or not. And clueless me was failing that test!

With the bathroom floor, Tom was afraid the water would ruin the floors/walls and that he would slip and so his lack of being able to make me see that (and try harder) frustrated him. If I'm on the computer when he wants on (and visa versa) he's afraid he won't be able to change our stocks around in time, etc., (whereas I'm afraid I'll miss something exciting here in Blogland).

The things we argue about always LOOK like one thing, but they are nearly always about two things--fear and control. (Your homework is to look at your own marital spats and pick out your own fear and control issues in each one.)

But here is what I'm finding, especially these last five years when I just started getting plain old tired of this childishness... The more control I desire God to have of myself, the less I nag Tom. And the less I nag Tom, the more often I see him--on his own--doing all those little things I'd tried nagging him into doing for years.

Really, I can hardly believe it! Not only does he close the closet door, but he picks up his clothes, places his dishes inside the sink, doesn't spend huge amounts of money behind my back and calls me even if he's going to be 10 minutes late (before I even notice he's late).

But I can hear you now... "Oh, I tried that with my spouse, but it didn't work." Yeah, and years ago I would have said that too. I'd stop nagging Tom for a whole two weeks, nothing would change, and then I'd rev-up the old nagging machine again.

But the change came in Tom only after a change came in me. A heart change. When I finally became sick of my ways, my plans and well, myself, that's when I sought to know God's ways, His plans and Himself. And then it was like pop! pop! pop!... One change after another happened in both of us.

And how nice to put away all the games and plans of manipulation and instead, watch real, true fun begin.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Crawling Back to Kindergarten


"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

We forget that God is not like this world.

Somehow we start believing that spiritual maturity means following our own grown-up heart ("I know what to do. I've been a Christian for ages!")... and that the busier we are, the more productive we are... and that when we are weak, we are, well, just weak... and the first will be first (and the last will be forgotten)... and to sit quietly means time's a wastin' and God will think us lazy... and to run ourself into an exhausted heap (or an early cemetery plot) while caring for others is a good and godly thing...

We forget that God is the God of an opposite world which runs on opposite ways.

Have you ever seen a child (or had one of your own) whose face is turned toward a group of cavorting, mischievous children while you are attempting to tell him something important? And so you have to (gently) use your fingers to turn his chin, and therefore his eyes, toward your face before he can pay attention to you?

I think God does that with us. Like, a lot. Until we stop watching how all His other kids are handling Life... until we let Him train our ear to hear His softest whisper, I think He has to (usually after we've exhausted, discouraged and nearly killed ourselves) use His fingers to turn our eyes back to His. And then He takes our hand within His warm one and leads us to --where? The playground for the big kids? A godly type of college? Graduate School?

Uh, not quite... I believe He leads us across the playground and back into Kindergarten.

God's Kindergarten. And there we stay until we begin to understand this 'opposite stuff'... until we can take a few faltering steps--not by sight--but rather, by faith... until we learn it's by giving that we receive... and that His ways are not ours (and so we must always pay attention to Him, never act like we know it all)... and that when we are weak we are made strong... and Humility will take us to the places which Pride promised (and lied) that it would...

...And that Love for God must come first--and when it truly does--then there comes a wisdom, a knowing, a rest and a calm trust so that we can be led by His gentle touch--and not driven by our clueless heads.

And then, after He sees that we've begun to understand His opposite ways, He takes our hand and walks us over to--you guessed it! The huge, exciting world of, alas, First Grade.

And we are fortunate, indeed, if it did not take us 20 years to get there.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Free? Or Something Else?


"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." ... John 8:36

I know tons and tons of Christians. I think only 10 are free. Okay, maybe 15.

I know, it can be hard to be free!

I mean, when you grade yourself every night as to how much of the Bible you obeyed that day and you just didn't earn enough gold stars for your Progress Chart...

... and when you allow yourself to feel good only when you've been good (and we all know how often that happens)...

... and when you hate yourself when you mess-up and make promises that you'll do better next time...

... and when you're addicted to reasoning and logic and must figure-out what God is doing/not doing (good luck with that) before you can relax and just go to sleep...

... and when you want to know exactly where your step of faith will take you before you take it...

... and when you're praying that everybody in your life will change so that you can be happy--and those silly, stubborn folks just are not changing!...

... and when you believe you've done what God wanted you to, but it turned out differently than you'd imagined, so now you kick yourself (ouch) and second-guess everything you did...

...and well, yes, it's hard to be free sometimes, isn't it? Been there, done that.

That is, until I just gave-up all that trying and trying and trying to be good. Yes, I just gave-up(!) trying to be perfect. I gave-up so God could finally--finally--start doing things through me since only He knows what He wants and how He wants it done.

It was all my trying (and self, self, self) which was clogging this very un-empty vessel, keeping me too busy, too frustrated, too pathetic to be free.

There's a better way. The way of emptiness... the way of letting God make changes... the way of joy... the way of freedom... And I hope you'll never let anyone convince you otherwise.


***

"Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." ... Nehemiah 8:10

Saturday, February 17, 2007

While It Is Yet Today...


Last year I posted how, 20 pounds ago, I should have never complained about how much I weighed, but rather, I should have gone around singing gratefully because I didn't weigh more. I mean, what was I thinking? Now I'm always trying to get back down to that weight which I thought was heavy years ago.

Sigh.

So carrying that thinking a bit farther, these are my thoughts lately:

Today my sweet, loyal husband and I are together and may I treasure each moment with him while I still can...

Today we live just a couple miles from our daughter and may we appreciate that nearness, for we'll not always live in this town...

Today our two cats are ten years old and (relatively) healthy and may I take the time to play with them on these sunny winter afternoons...

Today I can still race up and down our stairs, almost like a woman in her 20's... I can still shovel snow, take long walks and ride a bicycle--may I celebrate those things, for they may not always be so...

Today my husband and I live independently, we have good friends... our parents and siblings are still living... we own a nice home... drive a nice car... and enjoy freedoms because we are Americans...

... any of those may vanish in a moment... May we appreciate these great moments, each one, while they are yet here, never gazing back, wishing we'd not walked through life with our eyes upon that which did not matter.


***

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts... and be thankful." Colossians 3:15

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nice? Or Obedient?


God led you all the way... to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands...Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." Deuteronomy 8:2,5

Lately if you came looking for me, you'd find me upstairs in my Dream Room watching the second and third seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And you may be amused, but I'm learning a lot while watching them.

I'm discovering the most while I watch Mary being Nice (with a capital N). So Nice to everybody, in fact, that week following week, her Niceness leads her from one sticky, uncomfortable place to another, giving the writers fodder for dozens of funny episodes as we watch Mary squirm her way out of messes, situations over her head, having to resort to living in frustration, making excuses (as in, downright lying) and hurting peoples' feelings by bailing out, in the middle, of that for which she volunteered.

All for the sake of appearing Nice. To everybody in her tv world.

And watching Mary in the middle of her Because-I-Couldn't-Say-No messes, well, it becomes funny. The center core of a classic tv comedy. But it's become a great visual lesson for me, as well.

Years ago on Oprah, the question was asked, "Does being nice mean letting everyone treat you like a doormat?" I never forgot that show. (By the way, the consensus was 'no.')

Does God want me to be nice? To me, I think He'd prefer that I be obedient. To Him.

And sometimes that means saying no to others, sometimes not even knowing what I'm supposed to be doing at that moment instead. Sometimes God is more concerned that I obey the "No, not this time," which I'm hearing in my heart. He might just need to be reassured that He really is first with me--that He really does call the shots--instead of people.

And sometimes He wants to see if I can love Him enough to face other people being mad at me because I declined doing them a favor... if I can bravely walk with Him while others around me don't understand my choices... and whether He can use me to test others' hearts--and be ok with that. (I pray, "Use me Lord!" but what about the times He uses me where I come off appearing like the bad guy, er, girl? Can I be ok with that?)

Being nice--being kind--is good and is usually the order of the day. But often true, no-holding-back obedience will lead me in a different direction. God knows exactly what He's doing and He has a specific place mapped-out to meet me at the end of my journey. And how sad if, instead, He must go searching for me elsewhere because my Niceness took me to someplace else... leaving me with my journey incomplete...

...because I was so Nice.


***
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galations 1:10

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Confusion Not Spoken Here


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

Sometimes I come across Christian blogs which, in my opinion, should be titled, "Making Christianity As Complicated As Possible."

I hate complication.

A few times I've read where people are unsure what "walking in the Spirit means." They'll ask (in a leary, rhetorical way) if it means always praying and asking God things like...

"Should I wear my red socks today or my green ones?"
"Should I buy the muffins with chocolate chips or without?"
"Should I wash the car after I wash the dishes or before? And should I take the trash out before or after dinner?"

... and stressing and straining to hear His answers, lest they make one wrong move.

And then usually (after many words and much reasoning) they conclude that we should just trust that God lets us to do what we feel is right, especially in the small things. That what matters most is how and why we do what we do... and that these little things don't really matter to Him at all anyway.

Well, what I believe comes somewhere in the middle.

I try to live a Listening Life. I don't stop and hold an old-fashioned prayer meeting lest I make a disastrous move and choose Tide instead of Arm & Hammer, but rather, I try to live daily with an ear (or two) always open to anything God may want to tell me... to any change He may want to make in my plans. Instead of shopping on a Tuesday morning like I always do, He may impress upon me to stay home because He knows (though I don't) a woman from church is going to call me, saying she's being tempted to commit suicide. And I need to be home for that phone call. (That did happen.)

Or He may want me to clean my house the day before I usually do, because He knows there's going to be an emergency on my regular housecleaning day so I'll be unable to clean for days if I wait (that's happened tons of times).... Or there was the time I felt I should walk down to our church at an odd time of day because (unbeknownst to me) a faucet broke and was flooding a room (and so I was able to call the pastor and helped save the particle board floor).

I do believe little things matter to God... there's that verse about little foxes spoiling the vines--I cannot shake that. Besides, too often I've seen Him use small things to bring about big happenings, so it becomes vital that I remain pliable... prepared to crumple-up my plans at just a whisper of that still, small voice.

But what matters most, to me, is that I desire to be led by God and not by my own reasoning and logic. Personally, I don't believe God wants me to figure things out to dizziness or confusion or even to my feeling oh-so-clever and smart, but rather, I believe He wants me to hear from Him.

And yes, many people would disagree. But this is the way I live.

God's ways are not mine or anyone's--they are much wiser and they save time and money and even lives. And more than anything, I long to keep my ears tuned to His ways and never, ever resent--or totally miss--His interruptions as I go about my days. I had too many years of being led by my head--and I've already been where my head led me.

And oh, how I don't ever want to wander back to those places.


***
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace..." 1 Corinthians 14:33

Valentine's Day!


So it's my favorite day of the year and there I was in our back entryway slinging on my long back wool coat over my nightgown and robe at 5:30 a.m. And while Tom ate his oatmeal in the Cozy Room and watched snowy scenes on the news, I slipped on my gloves and a knitted hat and burst out into the 10 degree F. darkness and shoveled two long lines through 8 inches of heavy snow so Tom could get out of the driveway and drive down snowy roads to work.

And you'd think I'd dread shoveling snow, the kind which comes down wet and settles like concrete, but I don't. Not really. During winter I cannot take my daily walks so shoveling is amazing exercise (I would look like a balloon each winter without it). No, I don't mind and I'd rather be the shoveler in our family because Tom has that bum leg and slips in snow, but more, he is the bread-winner, the bringer-home of money, and I am his partner. I keep things on the homefront calm and clean. That is my job, one of my parts in this partnership.

Well, when I'd shoveled just enough for him to get out of the driveway (I'll finish the rest in little increments throughout the day), I removed all my winter paraphernalia and collapsed in my chair next to Tom's in the Cozy Room and saw all the school cancellations on the news. If there is a single school open today in our half of the whole state of New York, I am unaware of it. They are all closed.

And at first I thought I could hear all the cheers of children, but then I thought, oh no! It's Valentine's Day and what about all the classroom parties? And I could only hope that they were held yesterday instead--they certainly had warnings--there's been so much hype about this snowstorm for days that you'd think Buffalo had never, ever seen snow before, according to the weathermen's excitement.

But still it's Valentine's Day and I have that heart glow, even though Tom, an hour ago, drove to work and will be gone for 12 hours. Still the warmth and delight are here while I think about all the Valentines I mailed to friends, more than I'd ever mailed before... and I'll think about all those smiles which came because of them. I'll recall, too, how Naomi called at 7:00 this morning to ask if I wanted help shoveling snow... and all of you who are never far from me--how I take you with me wherever I go (or don't go, as in, when I stay home).

I'll shovel snow all day and drink my pretend coffee all day, too, and be happy and feel loved because God is here and He's given me this 28-year-long partnership with my husband, one which grows better and closer as the years sail by... and they are sailing by so very, very fast.




***
Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends who drink coffee or tea and chat with me in Blogland!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How Many Remotes Does It Take To Watch TV?


While I'm waiting for the laundry to finish spinning (and also while waiting for this next huge snowstorm to strike) I thought I'd tell you something I've been meaning to say...

Currently, for Tom and I to watch tv, it takes using 5 tv remote controls.

Five. (Or is it 6?)

Now, I'm not even certain I can explain just why that is, but as of a month ago, he put together this set-up in our Cozy Room using a flat-screen computer screen and a little tower thing beside it, then some kind of machine below those (a tuner?) and the dvd player beneath those and the vcr beneath that and I think there's another machine below that. I'm not sure. I am the most un-technically minded person you will ever meet.

So, to avoid spending real money on a flat screen tv and cable or satellite (etc., etc.) we are now required to use 5 (6?) tv remotes just to watch a tv show. Or a dvd movie. Or one on video. (Try keeping track of--and not losing--6 remote controls!)

I think I need a college degree in computers--otherwise I may never be able to watch LOST again. Or 24. Or anything.

You should see me. After a month, I still don't get it. I still have no clue, really, what I'm doing. No, I just grab a remote and press buttons until something happens which looks right. And if nothing right or good happens, then I grab the next remote... and the next one.... and the next one. I just sort of feel my way through, like a ship out amongst a few icebergs.

The first morning Tom went to work and left the whole tv set-up on, I panicked. I told myself, "Oh no! I'll have to leave all those machines on all day long. I can't remember how to turn them off!"

Oh well. Like I told Tom the other night, if there's one good thing about this set-up where you can never just mindlessly push a few remote buttons, it's that it could very well keep our brains from atrophying. And at our age, that's a good thing.

Always Here, Always With The Right Words


It's early morning and I'm excited. Oh, not because there will be any party or country adventure or phone calls from old friends (well, not that I'm aware of)...

...nor do I have planned any neighborhood walks (too cold) or shopping trips (no car--Tom took it to work) or anything exciting arriving in the mail (well, perhaps a Valentine or two)...

No, it's a Normal Day and I love Normal Days--now. Years past, when I was what one might call young, I thought I needed more adventure, more appreciation, more fanfare, but what I really needed was more of God. More closeness, more times of listening, more awareness of His presence during even the most mundane tasks around my house (making them mundane no longer).

I remember that strong, strong need to feel appreciated and how it drove me to almost obsession. Well, forget the 'almost'--I was obsessed by trying to collect friends who would appreciate me... and by attempting to be special and talented in the eyes of people at church... and by trying to be the most excellent homemaker, wife and mother on the planet.

Well, it didn't work. I mean, the harder I tried to suck appreciation from people, the more desperate I felt. The more unappreciated I felt, actually.

Then God came along. I mean, I was already a Christian, but it was like He rose from a chair in some back room of my heart where I'd placed Him and He asked, "Have you had enough of doing things your way?" And well, I was so exhausted and empty and bummed-out from all my get-appreciation-schemes that I finally said, "Yes."

And only then did things begin to change... Only when I stopped looking to people to give me what only God could, did Life actually feel great on Normal Days. Why? Because God became my encourager--and He was always around my house. He never left on vacation to Hawaii or went camping or had company and couldn't spend time with me (like my friends did)... He never got exasperated with me (like my family did)... And always, even when I made mistakes, He still made me feel appreciated, loved and treasured... but only (I have noticed) when I wanted more to hear from Him than others... when my first move was--and is--toward Him.

And over time and years --although I still value encouragement from others-- the encouragement and friendship I value most (and need most) is that which comes from God... this Friend who knows exactly what I need, this Friend who never says, "I'm out of here," because He's upset or because He cannot fit me into His schedule.

So like I said, I'm excited about this Normal Day!


***

John 15:15
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

Monday, February 12, 2007

High School Meme


Okay, remember how I said I'd slowly share the Six Weird Things About Me meme because you probably couldn't handle it all at once? Well, this meme (stolen from Judy) will be the third weird thing about me (you'll see what I mean. Trust me.)

Year of graduation: 1977

1. Who was you best friend?
My wild and woolly friend, Tara A., who at that time went by Tammy. We were juniors together and she helped shake some of my fraidy-cat-like qualities from me, for which, all these 31 years later, I am still grateful.

2. What sports did you play?
(My first reaction to that question was, "Are you kidding? Me?") But then I remembered that I was, in my senior year, a gymnast at a tiny high school. I even won a gold medal, but just because I was the only one who'd previously been to a much-larger high school where I took gymnastics instead of regular ol' p.e. for the whole year. (Loved that, since gymnastics was the only gym-like-sport I could ever do well.)

3. What kind of car did you drive?
Ha! I didn't get my driver's license until I was 24 (being the fraidy cat I mentioned above). Tammy, my wild and woolly friend (see #1) had just gotten her license, so I rode along with her while she practiced driving her stick-shift VW on the hills of Auburn, CA (scary times! But oh so fun.)

4. It's Friday night, where were you?
Hmmm... Most likely home reading a book or out with the church youth group at a fun event.

5. Were you a party animal?
Hahahahahahahahaha.

6. Where you in the "In Crowd"?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahah...

7. Ever skip school?
Are you kidding? Miss Boring Goody Two Shoes?

8. Ever smoke?
Uh, no.

9. Were you a nerd?
Not even.

10. Did you get suspended/expelled?
(See #7)

11. Can you sing the alma mater?
Hmmm... I went to three high schools (count em' three!), but I don't recall any of them having an actual alma mater. Hmmm... I can still recall a few cheers, though.

12. Who was your favorite teacher?
Mr. Peckham and Mr. Clarke (both who, a kazillion years later, I still write to occasionally.)

13. Favorite Class
English

14. What was your school's full name?
Like I said, I went to three. Live Oak High School. Placer High School. Chester High School.

15. School Mascot?
Acorns......Hillmen.... Volcanoes

16. Did you go to the Prom?
Somehow I managed to get through high school without attending a single dance (I know, I know...). Though once, Tammy and I went to the cast party for The Music Man (in which we were cast as townspeople... good times!) and there was dancing there.... which we stood and watched a few moments.

17. If you could go back and do it over, would you?
Oh my, nooooooooooooooooooo. I so love being an adult, like, a million times more. The only way I'd even consider going back is if I could take my 47-year-old wisdom along with me. Then maybe I'd consider it. Maybe.

18. What do you remember most about graduation?
The way we all insisted that the ceremony be held outside in the football field-- and then the way we watched the lightning that night off in the distance (fortunately, it never did rain)... and the way that, truth be told, I wished I could be a senior a while longer. My senior year was my favorite.

19. Favorite memory of your senior year?
Being a teacher's aide to Mr. Clarke (my math teacher), and winning that gold medal I mentioned above.

20. Were you ever posted on the senior wall?
Honor roll-wise, yes. Popularity-wise, no.

21. Did you have a job your senior year?
Just lots of babysitting. Lots. Of. Babysitting.

22. Who did you date?
My senior year? No one... though I had a long-distance romance which began the summer before that and ended early in my senior year. His initials were S.M. I was too shy and too late in coming to that school my senior year...

23. Where did you go most often for lunch?
Home, at least during my senior year. We lived only two blocks away. Other years it was always the cafeteria or, until Tammy rescued me, I did spend the first two weeks of my junior year eating alone on a hillside behind the school buildings overlooking the town... I was new and didn't know anyone and preferred sitting alone out there to sitting alone in a crowded cafeteria, displaying my loneliness to all. Tammy changed all that--she was the leader of her crowd and she (literally) pulled me to their table, where I loved sitting for the remainder of the year.

24. Have you gained weight since then?
Uh, thirty years later? Hasn't everyone?!

25. What did you do after graduation?
I went and worked at my first real job... As the night-time, closing janitor for the A&W restaurant just a few blocks from my home. I worked alone and actually used to walk home by myself after midnight. Ah, those were the days.

But like I said--I prefer my adult days!

Bet You Can't Guess...


So back in the days when I used to be into crafting big-time, I made this faux turquoise necklace (which looks more turquoise-like in real-life and not as faded. Click to enlarge.). I will give you three-and-a-half seconds to guess what the turquoise-like-stuff really is, so let's count:

One potato.
Two potato.
Three potato.
Four.

Give up? They are pieces of potato! (Now, you can't say I didn't even give you a clue, because I did!)

Yes, I saw this idea on a craft show back in the old days when we used to have cable tv. You just cut up a potato and skewer each piece with a toothpick. Let it totally dry a few days and then paint with turquoise paint and a little black paint, too, and then string on clear fishing line (or the equivalent).

And no.... ten years later these are still not the least bit moldy nor do they smell funny.

(I just know you are asking.)

Deeper Than The Seen


"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

That's the verse I read in Dallas Lore Sharp's, The Hills of Hingham this morning (if you like David Grayson's books, you'll love The Hills of Hingham).

I saw that verse and thought, "Hmmm... That is slowly becoming my whole life."

I mean, I clean my house but I do not hate to, because it feels very much like--not drudgery--but obedience to God. And obedience in things which appear tiny and humdrum to us, in His reality, are not tiny and humdrum at all. No, I go on washing our dishes year following year because God gave us those dishes and I need to care for them. I straighten the rooms of this house because it's one way of taking good care of this house--and this husband--which God gave to me.

Where's the drudgery in caring for God-given presents? (Well, it's been inside my head a number of times, sadly.)

When I'm doing what God expects of me, it becomes simple obedience and that is an eternal thing. Something which matters, period. Both in small tasks and large, both now and later in Heaven when looking back.

It's all around me, this walking by faith and not by what I see. Such as when months pass without my hearing from friends--I then enter a sort of faith mode when I believe, peacefully at heart, they are still my friends even though I've received no email to confirm that. And likewise, I'm walking by faith when it takes me weeks to respond to friends' email, when I believe those friends understand my procrastination and do not throw me overboard into a sea of impatience.

...and likewise, when others offend me, it's by faith I can see what's happening underneath, elsewhere inside them where "hurting people hurt other people" (my favorite teacher's quote)...

This possible huge move states away to Virginia (and finding the right house)... the prayers that I'm praying for our daughter (and the refusing to worry)... the believing for Spring in the middle of this frigid winter which refuses to warm... the trusting God with my old-lady-future... this giving God time and room and space to make changes... the not trying to figure out everything complicated (but rather, waiting calmly here for His answers)...

I am walking far by faith, not by sight, getting farther along these years than in previous ones where I walked by what I saw and undestood with my eyes and head. I'm walking now almost as though in a whole other unseen land.

And I'm loving it because there's a cleaner, brighter sheen to everything in that unseen place.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My Movie Theater


Here is where I've been all this sunny day... sitting inside my own theater, right down there in front of the screen (sometimes even with popcorn). And while the classical music plays, I watch birds skim the acres of sky and stare at tree branches leaning and dipping in tune with the icy wind. Sometimes a silent plane will swim across all that blue in the distance or a squirrel races up bare branches and into his winter nest. Oh, and of course when people walk past on the sidewalk below... especially while walking their dogs in their own tiny sweaters...

But my favorite scenes are the ones where geese sail by in V's, honking their confusion at all the ice... And other times I like best to watch white, puffy clouds racing one another and reminding me of childhood afternoons beneath blue skies so very far away in time and land.

This is one of those dreamy, 'Be still and know that I am God' days and I've been only too happy to comply. There is no better theater Companion to be found... and nowhere would I rather be than sitting right next to Him.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Twenty Degrees!


You know it's been cold when the morning tv weather man says you'll have a high of 20 degrees F. (and sun!) and you spin around your kitchen, happy-dancing and walking around for hours with a song in your heart, feeling like Spring will come flying down the street, spreading warm, enchantment dust, anyday now.

May such simple things always make me happy...

As for the continuing saga of whether we'll move to Virginia, or not, Tom is being told the longer he can wait, the better things will be with the job there--we'll need to wait one more month before we hear more details. Which is more than fine with me since we're only just now glimpsing a light at the end of the sorting-through-our-junk tunnel. And there's still all the painting I will need to do before we put the house on the market, as well as all the repairs, plus, having the carpet cleaned and lining-up a real estate office and oh my... Yes, the more time we're given, the better things will certainly be at this end as well.

Tom and I are finding the more we declutter--the more we take things to Salvation Army and view them as our tiny gifts to the world--the better and freer we feel. We should have done this eons ago and kept at it all along. Oh well, live and learn.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Speaking of Valentines' Day (Yes, Again...)


Today I felt ten-years-old again.

You should have seen me at my desk in front of my sunny Dream Room windows. There I was with my first batch of Valentines, complete with their pink polka-dot envelopes spread all over. I sat there with paper doilies and stickers and penned little messages on the backs of the cards then used my heart-shaped punch to make confetti from some Valentine bags I bought years ago, all of this while my classical music played, the cats napped on the bed behind me, and like I said, while the sun shone and I felt like 10 and in the fourth grade all over again.

You know, there was that feeling that you're making little surprises for your friends, ones which will bring smiles to their faces and hearts, as well as to your own face and heart, too, when the big day arrives.

I love Valentines' Day. Dare I ... am I bold enough to tell you it's my favorite holiday? (I guess I am, since I did just tell you.)

I feel sorry for the people who hate that day. Really, they miss out on this delightful feeling of being a rampantly-creative child... and of sharing a bit of yourself with others just because you want to. I feel bad for those who hate Valentines' Day because already they know their husband or boyfriend will not give them a gift or card for a myriad of reasons--out of being clueless or forgetful or out of rebellion of being made to show ones love on February 14th.

Does Tom always remember to do something for me each Valentines' Day? Nope... it's rather a hit-or-miss thing with him. So am I dreading and hating the thought of next Wednesday? Are you kidding? The foundation of our marriage is so not built on whether Tom gives me a card, or not. (Generally you don't stay married 28 years if it is based on that.) No actually, I'm excited that February 14th is next week... thrilled that, for this pretty red-and-pink-heart holiday, I can send cute little cards with pink, Love-stamped envelopes through the mail and not be thought weird or childish or lame.

And for those who say they hate Valentines' Day for the sake of their friends or co-workers who are single or widowed or just alone, well, I would say--do something about it! Be the first person to show those people love on the one day they previously dreaded. Give them a card or candy or flowers and let this become, instead, a day they will remember because you took the time to make it special... because you cared enough to show others they are not alone at all.

Magic Everywhere


Yesterday morning while shopping at our town's 'new' (2 years old) supermarket, I had a few serendipity moments. Usually music wafts through the aisles, but none played yesterday and the air felt pretty quiet (perhaps the sound system froze--we are so cold here lately!).

So anyway, there I was in the dairy section when a worker in the next aisle began whistling, loudly, for all to hear. What did he whistle? The theme song from Leave It To Beaver.

I loved it. There I was, Mrs.-Cleaver-Wanna-Be, pushing my cart down the aisle to that jaunty Leave It To Beaver tune. And giggling.

But there was more! After that, he whistled (very well and I liked the echo-ey sound) the theme song from the old, I Dream of Jeannie tv series, followed by the song from My Three Sons.

Lovely. Fun.

And just right for me, Mrs. Retro Homemaker on that frigid morning of sub-zero wind temperatures. Later I even made it halfway out to my car still feeling warmed and delighted by the magic of the whistling on a regular ol' Tuesday morning (and then I froze).

I know someone in our town who tries never to shop at that supermarket because each time, something happens which leaves her feeling all sour and hating our store. She walks in expecting something to go wrong and--always--it does.

But when I go there, I walk through the doors expecting to be blessed and surprised by a delight. Such as last week: The checker had scanned all my groceries, placed them in bags, then she brought out the sales' flyer from hidden depths beneath, tore out the $5 off $50 worth of groceries coupon, and saved me $5 by scanning it. With wide eyes I thanked her (I hadn't looked at that sales flyer at home. Hadn't spied the coupon.) and she simply said, "I don't do that for just anyone."

Now, do I know her from outside the store? No. Have we ever had a meaningful conversation inside the store? Not really. I just sometimes use her check-out lane when I shop there, I try always to smile and once in a great while we chat a little, though truthfully, she kinda intimidates me because she often appears a tad grouchy. But there you go. Lesson learned. Stop judging people, Debra, by the way they appear!

...and keep on expecting miracles and blessings wherever you go, even on the most normal of normal days.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"What Is That To You?"


"Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them... When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." John 21: 20-22

Now there's a couple verses which will set you free! Might even make you more popular around Blogland...who knows?

I mean, for way too long I let myself feel discouraged and intimidated when I'd listen to my Christian friends telling me about their latest Christian exploits and good deeds and ministries. You know, how they were reading hours of the Bible and praying each day and going to church every night and how their kids were 'on fire' and becoming little ministers and how God was using their whole family to change, well, the whole, entire world.

And I'd have to practically hold my head up with my hands to keep it from drooping in discouragement or intimidation or guilt (whatever). And I'd walk away with this weighty "I-just-can't-keep-up-with-the-big-kids' feeling draped over me like a curtain.

But how wonderful to really get--once and for all--Jesus' marvelous words: "...what is that to you? You must follow me." Wow! Took me long enough to realize we all have different callings and gifts and talents and ministries--and a unique friendship with God. We each have different roads to take because we're all meant to be blessings and a help to different people. And not all people will respond to every testimony, every life journey.

I felt actually refreshed when I realized what matters is that I obey what God is telling me to do. Not that I keep up with anyone. Not that I arrive in Heaven with the same testimony, the same story, my Christian friends had. For actually, if I do, then somewhere I probably jumped the unique track God placed me down on to follow.

And here's the best thing--when I truly get a hold of minding my own obedience, instead of everyone else's, then I can allow others to live their own lives and believe things I, myself, don't' believe. Because there comes a kind of trust--a knowing that God can get through to anyone if I can but give them some slack and pray some prayers instead of arguing with people in their comment boxes (for example), believing that if only I can change their minds, they'd be ok.

Instead, I'm finding a changed mind isn't even enough--God is all about changed hearts (which will bring about changed minds in due season). And only God can change a heart, anyway. So then my time becomes better spent--not concentrating on trying to show people where I think they're wrong--but rather, concentrating on improving my love walk toward everyone.

In Blogland and beyond.


***

"... but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you..." 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Monday, February 05, 2007

Learning How To Separate This From That


Do you ever do things and not understand why you do them?

Here's my prime example of that: I'll watch wonderful old black and white movies or tv series, then I'll pop downstairs here to the computer and research the actors who interested me most. I'll read about their life at the Internet Movie Data Base--and then nearly always-- I'll feel sorry I did.

Why? Because often my favorite stars from these old shows, well, they usually died young of some disease ... or were murdered... or committed suicide (or had children who did so)... or were married a zillion times... or were alcoholics... or basically just lived one sad, painful year after another.

I'll read their outlined biographies and feel bummed-out about their (sad, depressing) life for a day or more and regret that I read about these people in the first place.

And then the next time, I do it all over again.

Years past, if an actor had had an awful life/death, I would then avoid watching more of their movies because I couldn't sit there and just watch the movie, no, I'd sit there feeling horribly sorry for the actor... what he/she must have suffered during the filming.... and I'd peer deeply into their eyes, wondering if they'd had any clue about their awful, future demise.

Or something a bit related to that--if a current star in his/her private life stood for everything which I was against--even if they appeared in a movie with morals that matched mine--well, I would boycott their films (quietly, with no fanfare). I could not separate who a person was and what they did. (As my favorite teacher says, I couldn't separate their 'who' from their 'do.') I held their beliefs against them and avoided any show they appeared on, good or bad.

Ok, probably half of you are thinking, "What's wrong with that?" And the other half are shaking your heads and muttering, "For goodness' sake... Grow-up!"

Well, I did grow-up. Mostly, I've crawled out of my overly-sensitive skin, with only an exception or two (which I believe is still allowed, given this freedom of choice thing from God...)

I mean, I can think of two actresses (still living) whose movies I avoided for 20 years (!) simply because they, outside of their movies, stood for things I hated. Yet in the past couple years I've watched a few of their films and I must agree--they are superb actresses. I can admit that now and I can enjoy them on film. And no, they haven't changed--but I have.

And as for the older, now-deceased actors whose lives were tragic--I can view their movies now, too (on the most part). Finally I've come to terms that Life is all about our choices and our choices take us places. And Life has never been easy, almost never goes the way we plan, but it's always an adventure... And to any life there's a beginning and an ending--God planned that and only He knows what that end will be... and I need to leave all those details to Him. And mind my own business.

But what I'm noticing most is my growing ability to separate what people do and what they are. And with that one thing has come the ability to love those whose choices are so very different than mine--and to pray for them.

It's hard to pray for someone you cannot stand.

God gives me no strength to hold grudges, but He gives me all I need to hold people--His creations-- up in prayer.... to pray for those who oppose God and harm themselves... and to watch their movies when I choose to do so.


***
John 3:17
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.