Thursday, June 30, 2005

Soul-Satisfying Contentment




Soul-Satisfying Contentment.

For me,
It wasn't in a wedding
or a marriage
or in bearing a child
or buying a house
or a car or a cat or a sofa.

For me,
It wasn't in a church
or a church position of authority
or an outside job
or all the money I wanted
or books
or gardens
or movies
or vacations
or food
or parties
or in collecting stuff.

For me,
It wasn't in being thin
or pretty
nor in the right hairstyle or clothes
or in friends
or being well-liked and accepted.


It wasn't in going to college
or in cramming my brain with facts
or using 9-letter words to impress others
or in being right.

For me,
It was only found in
friendship with Jesus.

Halo Scan Blues

Argh. So we all switched to Halo Scan because Blogger Comments had become unreliable. And lately I've been convicted to try answering my comments more promptly, trying to set a good example and all that stuff. 

So of course what happens? Halo Scan is now going bonkers.

Lately when I go to comment about all your marvelous comments I get messages like this after just making one simple comment of my own:

"Please wait at least 30 seconds between posts (another -41744 second(s))."

Hmm. Do you think I should sit here and count 41,744 seconds before trying again?

Hey, why not? I have nothing better to do.

Good grief.

Well, if you don't see a comment from me about your comment, please assume I tried. My comments are there--honest they are. And every one of them is ultra-witty and clever. Can I help it if Halo Scan has switched to invisible ink? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Energy (Or The Lack Thereof)




Summer is not my favorite season. Especially when we're having the hottest one here on record since 1967. 

Well, our tv weatherman said we are heading that way.(I wanted to slap him.)

Heat and Humidity and I do not get along. We fight a lot. And by the time I'm finished fighting and complaining and whining, I have even less energy than I had to begin with.

But I'm (slowly) learning to not waste my feeble bit of energy on complaining about what I cannot change, but rather using wisdom when the sun bakes the house.

I am learning to walk around slowly on these mornings after nights which never did cool and just doing what I can. Accepting that. 

Then I'm saving sit-down jobs for afternoons when I can sit in front of the air conditioner. To get my housework and gardening out of the way early, rejoicing I got any work done at all.

And to be thankful that we are "human-beings" instead of "human-doings." That God is more concerned with who we are--what's going on inside-- than what we do

And that He wants to be our source of physical strength as well as emotional, mental and spiritual strength, too. I remind myself of that on these ridiculous, hot summer days.

And knowing that? I realize I'll be fine--and this, too, shall pass.


******


"When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but on the abundance that's present--love, health, family, friends, work and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure-- the wasteland falls away and we experience joy in the real lives we live each day." ... Sarah Ban Breathnach

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Breaking Free From Shyness




After my last post, Sherry asked me just how I was set free from shyness and so, I'll tell you as best I can. If anyone has not yet read my post, The Curse of Shyness, it would help you understand this better if you'd read it now.

Back in the 1990's I told God --- and meant it -- that I wanted Him to do WHATEVER He wanted to do with me, no matter how much dying to self or embarrassment or humiliation it required. I wanted to have more of Him in my daily life. I wanted to become more like Jesus.

I'd said that many times before, but this time I'd grown sick of the way the way I was. I truly wanted to change, to move past the brick wall I always seemed to hit when it came to making heart changes.

Well, because my shyness was going to keep me from experiencing a whole new, bold walk with God, He had to deal with it quick. So He began showing me through many different people the selfishness of shyness, the restrictiveness. 

Basically He said it was  cheating me out of the fullness of the life He had planned for me.

Once I saw that, I repented of it--for holding onto shyness out of fear and pride like a shield. I'd heard years before that "shyness is pride in disguise" and I'd been offended when I heard it. (Proud? Who, ME?!) But now I saw it was true--so much of my shyness was fear of looking foolish or sounding ignorant. 

I'd had that. In spades.

And then came the scary thing--God told me (again, in a myriad of different ways) that I would have to walk out of my shyness. That I'd  have to take the first step alone out of obedience to His voice, and then He would meet me out in those nervous places of boldness. In other words, I would have to 'do it scared.'

He told me I'd obeyed the voice of Fear long enough--now it was time to push past that and obey His voice, instead.

So for months and then years, God asked me to do some pretty wild things, especially at our church. He asked me to become an adult Sunday School teacher, to stand in front of the church and give encouraging words (all with my pastor's blessing, of course). 

God asked me do and say things no one else was doing or saying. Yikes.

He had me helping people at the supermarket to pick up things they had dropped, offering to help them find things and allowing them to step ahead of me in line, etc.

All of those were things,for 30 years, I'd convinced myself I could never do. 

For decades I'd let fear and pride lead me around by the neck while telling myself I was helpless to fight it. And yes, without God, I was. But with Him and with His timing? I could do all things He asked.

Obedience was the key. 

The radical, whatever-You-say-and-right-when-You-say-it, kind. Without that obedience, I would still be a scared rabbit today. But I'm not.

And yes, it took months, even years. We spend years getting ourselves into messes so we need to allow God some real time to get us out of them. God's in no hurry, so why are we?

It's important that I add that God simultaneously worked on other areas of my life, breaking down walls, all leading to one thing: to rely upon the Holy Spirit and not my own words, thoughts, brain, strength. 

But Him--always Him. And that made a huge difference in the area of shyness.




******

Learning From Others




I won't whine to you about how our yard sale went yesterday. I got all the complaining out of my system when I told my favorite email group about it. Let's just say I'm glad it's over.

And yet, the people are always what make those sales worth the trouble to me. The sweetest people come, look over our stuff and they laugh and chat with us and others who they don't even know. The feeling, at times, is almost party-like.

Of course, not everyone is like that. Some people strut up the aisle, then back down, speaking no words, then rush back to their cars. Those are the people out on a mission to find treasure.

One woman bought the bread box I'd found at a yard sale when I was first married way back in the 1970's. I tried to strike up a conversation with her and she just kept giving me yes or no answers, so I let her leave. Perhaps she was in a hurry, but I think it was more that she was shy like I used to be. She had a cowering look I recognized. A look which says, "Please don't make me talk because I'm afraid I won't know what to say."

And in just that tiny exchange I understood why, back then, people were always saying I was hard to get to know, difficult to understand and that I appeared cold and aloof. 

How often shyness is misinterpreted as conceit!

But I don't hear it now, because God has changed me much. But He couldn't change me, couldn't break me out of my shyness trap, until I wanted to be set free to talk, laugh and care for others. And that only came after I stopped staunchly defending my right to be shy if I wanted and just tough to you if you didn't like it--or me.

And I had to stop saying, "I can't help it." Oh my, what a crippling disease that is.

I've written before about the curse of shyness. I'm still celebrating that I've been (mostly) set free from it. I'll never stop savoring this taste of freedom. 



******


"And the day came when the risk (it took) to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ... Anais Nin

Friday, June 24, 2005

Life Yard Sales




Tomorrow we're holding our annual yard sale. 

For two weeks I've searched through drawers and cupboards for things I no longer need or like. I am even letting go of at least 100 books--perhaps more. My criteria for the ones I kept? They have to make my heart race a little when I think of rereading them.

I had many books which created not even a tiny blip in my heart.

It's good to get rid of what no longer means anything to us. To accept that we change and grow, and that losing interest in certain things is fine and a part of life. I used to let that very thing confuse and bewilder me. I used to race around trying to resuscitate and ride long-dead horses (so to speak). But there comes a time to give things away--release them-- even if they originally cost a lot or were gifts. If they served a purpose, they were worth the price. But a thing kept too long is a thing which weighs us down.

Life is one big growth process--or it should be if I want to stay healthy--and there is an ebb and flow to everything, rather like tide water. Things come, things go. People come, people go. Likes come, likes go.

Of course, some things or people, stay in our lives forever. But nearly all of them change as well. If we're wise, we'll give them space to grow, even if we don't always where they've wandered.

There is no growth without change. Once I stopped dreading change, I began growing--a bit faster, in fact.

There is no growth without letting go of weights, burdens and negative influences. Growing requires lots of letting go--usually having to release our grip just when we've gotten used to routines, etc.

I'm thankful for our yearly yard sale for it shakes the clutter from my hands and opens my eyes. Yard sales keep me being unable to move around in freedom.

There's tremendous freedom in letting go and a great promise of growth in welcoming change.



******

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Anger, Part Two




In order to be set free from a nagging kind of anger, I believe we have to get deep-down, gut-level honest.

"Confess your faults one to another and be healed..."

There is a good kind of anger and a bad kind. The good type alerts us to the fact that we (or others) are being mistreated and something constructive needs to be done to remedy that. The bad kind of anger? A type of monster--not always loud and vocal, but silent and seething, too-- who bites at our very souls.

The latter is the one I'm writing about here. And there is only one cure for it: we must allow God to shine His spotlight upon it so that we can see the monster exposed and how we, ourselves, have fed him his two favorite morsels: Control and Unforgiveness. Oh, he has other favorite foods, but I believe those are the two he craves.

Control--People who must always feel as though they are in control are the ones most susceptible to anger. Why? Because in this world, that sense of control is constantly challenged. Life and people are forever in a state of change, so control-hungry people are forever fighting against that change. Their goal? To make people and situations obey them, but it's like holding sand in their hands--and sand eventually disappears when winds of change come bearing down upon them. And the winds are always swirling.

Unforgiveness--Usually it crouches down inside a heart's darkest places and believes itself to be hidden.  The physical body can escape only so long and then it will have to succumb to the knife of unforgiveness and the wounds are often blamed on everything under the sun, but not that very knife.

How does God shine His spotlight? How does He let us know He is ready to work on an area of our lives so that we can be set free? For everyone, the ways are not the same, but here are some I've seen Him use:

If He's wanting to work on our need for control:

Suddenly all that we think we are controlling shifts, rather like the plates beneath the ground in an earthquake.
Our supposed control is challenged and broken on every side and we find ourselves in a constant state of trying to glue it all back together.
We turn around and poof! There's another sermon about control.
People start handing us books written about control or those titles jump out at us when we visit a bookstore or library.
We come across blogs posts written about control.
We turn on the TV and they're talking about control or it's in movies we watch.
We find ourselves yelling a lot, flailing our arms and making a lot of noise because we are losing control or because we are not wanting to let God deal with it and are then finding ourselves utterly uncomfortable.

Have you ever been beneath that spotlight? I have, many in many different as well, areas God wanted to change in me.

Why does God want to change us? So we'll become more like Jesus. 

To react as He would so that we will be examples of wellness to a sick world. So that we not turn people away from Him, but to Him, instead. And for our own sake--to teach us the ways of a healthy spiritual, mental and physical way of living. 

He cares that things like unforgiveness not eat at us like a cancer. He cares that we live in wisdom--that we thrive in such a way that we make people question just where our source of Life and Hope and Peace and Love is coming from.

And it is all about Love--even when it doesn't feel that way at all.

The answer? Cooperate with God. 
When He shines the spotlight, don't turn it toward an 'easier area' we'd like to change. 
Don't deny what the light exposes. 
Confess our faults; it will bring healing. 
Take each step God asks of us, no matter how small or how silly it may appear to be. 
Then match our steps with His and He will walk us up the path to wholeness.


******

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Angry? Who, Me?




Meg asked me to write about anger.

It's funny. Two years ago I was having sinus problems for the first time and God led me to a terrific book called Sinus Survival, by Robert S. Ivker, D.O. He wrote that 90% of his chronic sinus patients have had problems with anger. So of course when I read that I said, "Well, that's not me!"

Ha.

(Note to self: Anytime I immediately come off with, "That's not me!," chances are, it probably is.)  γ‚·

He then went on to quote another doctor, David D. Burns, who wrote that, "unhealthy, negative emotions--depression, anxiety, excessive anger, inappropriate guilt,etc.-- are always caused by illogical, distorted thoughts, even if those thoughts may seem absolutely valid at the time."

And then wham! He gave Dr. Burns' list of thought distortions and it was like reading my past and present diaries. Good grief:

1. All-or-nothing thinking. You classify things into absolute, black-and-white categories.
2. Overgeneralization. You view a single negative situation as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
3. Mental filtering. You dwell on negatives and overlook positives.
4. Discounting the positive. You insist your accomplishments or positive qualities "don't count."
5. Magnification or minimization. You blow things out of proportion or shrink their importance inappropriately.
6. Making "should" statements. You criticize yourself and others by using the terms should, shouldn't, must, ought, and have to.
7. Emotional reasoning. You reason from how you feel. If you feel like an idiot, you assume you must be one. If you don't feel like doing something, you put it off.
8. Jumping to conclusions. You "mind read," assuming, without definite evidence of it, that people are reacting negatively to you. Or you "fortune tell," arbitrarily predicting bad outcomes.
9. Labeling. You identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying, "I made a mistake," you tell yourself, "I'm such a jerk... a real loser."
10. Personalization and blame. You blame yourself for something you weren't entirely responsible for, or you blame others and ignore the impact of your own attitudes or behavior.

Whew! Can anyone else identify with one or two of those? 

Dr. Ivker also says when we're young, many of us are taught that having anger and expressing it, is wrong and we should repress it, instead. And after years of repressing it, we automatically hide our anger in a secret place inside without even realizing we're doing it. And once you've got a bunch of bottled-up anger, it's going to eventually shoot to the surface. And if not dealt with correctly, it will start seeping through our bodies in forms of disease--sinus problems, arthritis and other degenerative diseases.

When I was young, people told me this kind of information and holistic teaching were nonsense. Non-biblical, useless nonsense. Sadly, many of those same people sank, like ships, into anger, bitterness and thirst for control and now are suffering in their bodies every single day of their lives.

I don't plan on being part of that group.




******


In my next post I'll share some healthy responses to anger. For now, I'll give you some time to recover from the shock that perhaps, like me, you've got some re-thinking to do.


******

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Soul Ties




Eliz asked me to explain what I meant by "Forming soul ties with someone from the opposite sex" in my last post.

Soul ties. Over the years I have watched soul ties steal hearts, destroy marriages and wreak havoc with the children of those marriages.

I would define soul ties as allowing yourself to feel closer emotionally to someone of the opposite sex than you do to your own spouse. To look at that person as your true kindred spirit, to believe that person understands you better than your spouse. Loves you more than your him/her.

Soul ties are dangerous. You can leave me messages in my comment box declaring otherwise, but I'm sorry, (or not sorry); I cannot believe otherwise. 

With my own horrified blue eyes I have watched soul ties between men and women who are married to others, lead to marriage break-ups, emotional distancing in marriages, utter confusion in children as they watch their parent's emotional infidelity and even, horribly, I have seen adultery happen and pregnancies outside of two (Christian) marriages take place. 

And I've seen the devastation ripple outward among relatives of both couples involved--aged parents, grandparents, adult sisters, brothers and their families, aunts and uncles and cousins, friends--which those hurts sear like a knife.

Soul ties start small, innocently. Letting the strings of the heart go just a little farther outward, as one would unwind fishing line on your pole in a lake until woosh! Something heavy is caught at the other end. 

But this something is not a prize, instead, it's a monster waiting to pull people beneath the waters of the lake. A tragedy one cannot release from the line with just a quick twist of the wrist.

Usually, the only cure? A complete break of communication. Of any kind.

No excuses.



******

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." ... Proverbs 4:23

Monday, June 20, 2005

Subtle Ways To Ruin A Marriage




1. Speak so often of your spouse's faults, that you eventually forget he/she even has any good qualities.

2. Barely spend any time at home.

3. Express more loyalty toward your children than to your spouse.

4. Spend very little time alone with your spouse. Rarely go out on dates.

5. Form soul ties with someone from the opposite sex.

6. Rarely go on vacation with your spouse and your family.

7. Take your spouse for granted. Put him/her near the bottom of your priority list.

8. Yell during arguments. Call your spouse names. Seldom let him/her express how they feel.

9. Play the Blame Game. Blame all your relationship problems on your spouse. Hold a grudge.

10. Always have the last word, the last dollar and the last piece of cake.



******

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Marriage On a Sunday Morning




As he usually does, Tom called me down from my dream room this morning before he left for work. Just as I reached the bottom of the stairs, Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade began playing on my record player and as I hugged Tom good-bye, I told him, "Let's dance." And we held each other and swayed to the haunting melody, right there in our living room--at six a.m. on a Sunday morning and everything.

That's what marriage is all about.

Oh, not just the dancing, but the moving in one accord. The making adjustments in the way we dance because of Tom's polio-stricken leg. The way Tom supported my request for a morning dance.

The sweet calmness, even though this next year is so up-in-the-air concerning where we we'll live and what we'll do for a living. The knowing our families won't like our plans, but realizing we must follow God anyway if we want to fulfill His plans for our life together.

The non-rushed, non-stressed-out-ness of Tom before he left for work. The being organized enough, peaceful enough, to have time for an impromptu dance.

The way Life still feels extremely good even though we've become empty-nesters.

The comfortable way I feel with Tom even in my short purple summer robe and with no make-up.

The growing-up and growing-old together and still being crazily in love, even after having faced hard times these past 26 years.

That's what marriage is all about.

And the music plays on.




*****

Friday, June 17, 2005

Postponing Happiness





I've begun a whole lot of sentences in my life with, "I'll be happy when..."

I'll be happy when our bills are paid.
I'll be happy when we move to a bigger house.
I'll be happy when everyone likes me.
I'll be happy when I feel better.
I'll be happy when the weather cools down.
I'll be happy when the weather warms up.

--and many more.

Only a few years ago did I learn that in reality, I was postponing happiness. Putting it off for a future, glorious day when everything fell into place in utter perfection.

Right. Like that's gonna happen.

So I decided to just be happy now. To give myself permission to be happy even with the unpaid bills, the small house, the disappointed friends, the aches and the uncomfortable weather. I started choosing happiness instead of waiting for it. 

Many days I consciously choose to override my discontented feelings with contented ones, instead. Every day God is good. Every day there is a reason for thanksgiving.

No wonder I have so many good days now. No wonder everything looks different this other side of 40.



*****



Choose you this imperfect day to be happy.



******

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Today Is The Day!




As a teenager, I super anticipated special days laced with parties or school trips or family journeys with anticipation running over as though from a glass. 

Yet my mother would tell me, "If you don't count on things too much, then you won't be disappointed if they don't happen." But I rebelled against that sad belief and kept on dreaming of big days and grand times ahead.

But now at mid-life I still amaze myself because I wake-up, stretch down to my toes, throw the covers back and smile secret smiles all the way to the kitchen. I make my pretend coffee in the microwave in my soft-yellow Fiestaware cup, hook my finger into the handle, then carry it carefully up the stairs, still smiling. I play my old Glenn Miller record, sit on the bed beside the breezy window, sip my coffee and start dreaming.

And I thank God that this will be a wonderful day if only for the fact that He will match all my steps and whisper hope and love and encouragement to me every summer minute. Every minute that I turn my head to listen.

I thank Him that this day, and all my days ahead, will be amazing simply because He is. Just because He's present, I can count on more smiles, dreams, secrets and more being used in aiding others in opening their eyes to see Him standing beside them, also. 

(Usually they're surprised to glimpse Him there!)

This day is guaranteed to be one of the very best I've ever had because God is the very best. Come what may, He will be here and when there's joy? He'll be here to share it. And if there be sorrow, He'll be here for that, also, with comfort.

But I am anticipating scads more joy than sorrow today!

Sorry, Mom.

******


"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." ... Psalm 23:6

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's All Spiritual

.


Some people feel that reading your Bible and praying a lot and going to church means being spiritual.

This is what I believe:

When I'm running errands, it's spiritual. I am taking God out among people who do not yet know Him, becoming 'a living epistle read by all men' out in the highways and byways.

It's spiritual when I'm supermarket shopping, bringing home healthy food for my family so that we can live the length of days God intended and thrive in wellness, sharing love and Jesus with all our strength.

When I am shopping I'm relying on the Holy Spirit to help me make wise decisions and putting excellence into practice, leaving this place better than I found it, to smile into another person's eyes.

While loving my husband, it's spiritual. I'm obeying God according to His Word, loving in both word and deed. This is my chance to love my husband in the same way God loves me--unconditionally.

Cleaning house is a spiritual activity for I'm creating a clean, healthy environment for those people and pets God gave me. I'm serving God and man, caring for my godly presents, acting out of gratitude.

When I am dusting, mopping, washing, I'm being given a chance to meditate upon God, even walk with Him, learn from Him as I perform these simple tasks.

While sitting in a dentist's waiting room I can pray silently for all those sitting around me, perhaps being given a chance to speak encouraging words aloud.

When taking walks I can commune with my Creator, perhaps speaking to my neighbors about the hope alive within me.

To live in the moment with God on my mind--that is spiritual. That is life-changing, incredible.

And that is my goal.


******

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Housework Philosophy 101



Wow, I've read that some folks actually hate housework. Oh dear. What housework haters miss!

Our homes are canvasses for expressing our inner selves. Others glimpse our quirky sense of drama, playfulness or love of color when they step into our doors so why despise keeping orderly the world we create? 

Caring for that hardwood flooring for which we prayed can be smile-inducing. The double sinks we had installed, the new gas stove, the kitchen island we dreamed about--cleaning with a grateful heart keeps that initial joy we felt when these items (finally) arrived.

And yes, when we own beautiful things it's easier to happily care for them. Yet if I have mostly old? Perhaps by keeping my brass-rimmed glass coffee table clean, God will then know I'd act responsibly with the distressed aqua wood one I'd much prefer. 

It's those annoying little foxes which spoil the vine. It's my who'll-even-notice-the-dirt? ways that make God wonder whether He should trust me with something newer, better.

If I see my home's items as coming from Him, I'll willingly, gratefully care for them. Right?

Housework, yes, can be a burden if our attitude says so. Or it can mean providing a clean environment for my family, a gift I can daily give them (even if, ok, they seem barely to notice). But God sees--and blesses, rewards.

Hey, I can even pray for them while pushing around a vacuum or dusting. Also, if I avoid the martyr thoughts, I'm free to dream all sorts of wonders while wiping down counter tops or sweeping the kitchen.
Go bringing my creative mind to mindless tasks and who knows what will happen?


I can play my favorite music while cleaning--loud if I wish (and if I'm alone). Or have you ever tried watching a live tv show and jumping up during the commercials to do housework? Gee, I accomplish much from my To Do List that way.

I think it's the lies we hear which trip us up. The ones which exclaim, "It's all menial. Anyone can clean a house--just hire out for that. With your talents? You have better things to do."

Yet it all matters. Everything we do 'as unto the Lord' is important today--and--will mean much some future day when this life is finished--and our work is done. 

But faithfulness is eternal. 

I like to think that housework is one more way to "Serve the Lord with gladness," and in that light? The dread of cleaning slips away, leaving gratitude and a what-can-I-do-next-to-serve-others anticipation, instead.

And of course, the joy of an important job done well.











******

Monday, June 13, 2005

Mindful of Future Days



One afternoon I stood ironing Tom's shirts up in my dream room while watching The Road To Avonlea. A strange-to-others-but-not-to-me thought came to me as I swished the iron back and forth: "If Tom should die before I do, I will be thankful that I always ironed his shirts and pants. That I took the time to make sure he looks nice when he goes out around town."

Ok, that probably sounds a little weird to some of you.

But what I'm really saying is that I believe love considers another person's welfare first. Ironing isn't my favorite thing on Earth, but I do it so that both Tom and I will look our best. So that we won't look like sloppy, wrinkled Christians. (By choice, we don't have a clothes dryer--if we did, I would be certain to remove the clothes immediately so that they came out unwrinkled. Same concept.)

I like this definition of wisdom: Wisdom is to do today what you'll be satisfied with later.

Later. I like to think about later. I often ask myself, "Years from now will you regret that you did/did not do this deed? When you are in Heaven, will you be able to look back at yourself and be truly contented with what you see? Will you have lived fully and obediently?"

Sometimes, by asking those questions, I'm able to stir myself out of the old recliner and move my tend-to-be-lazy self into action. Thinking ahead has saved me from having a much longer list of regrets.

And that's a good thing.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Clarity

.

I awoke this morning thinking about Clarity.

How, when I've lived through years without something I needed or wanted, it was often because I was all foggy about Clarity.

Instead of "letting my requests be made known," I've, instead, whined and complained about not having what I wanted. I've looked at what others had and just wished I had that, too. Or I've made mental lists of things I don't have and then gone around frowning.

None of that is Clarity.

Instead of just telling Tom what I would like for my birthday, anniversary or Christmas, I used to turn those times into a test for him to see if he could read my mind. A final exam to see how well he knew me. How well he had listened to my complaining over the previous months.

Tests are not clarity. And again, neither is complaining.

I have walked through Life too much in the fog of vagueness. Wanting something, but not knowing quite what. Being too busy or distracted to sit down and get concrete pictures in my mind of what I'd like to have or where I'd like to go or what I'd like to do--and thus, not being able to write things down. How can I refer back to a non-existent list of vagueness?

I have been sick, and instead of praying for healing, just whined about how lousy I felt. I've forgotten to ask God what He wants me to have or be or do, and then pray accordingly. Specifically. Instead, I have blamed Him for what I felt was missing, when in reality, I wasn't clear on what I was asking. Or I wasn't asking for the right things.

Or more likely, more tragically, I'd only thought I'd asked for something, but in reality, I'd only complained about not having it. Or wished for it instead of praying.

God is not a wish-granter. He is a prayer-answerer.

Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.

May I always remember.

***

"...but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." ... Philippians 4:6

"You have not, because you ask not." ... James 4:2

Friday, June 10, 2005

Legalism or Obedience--Which Is It?


Right-off-the-bat disclaimer: This is so not the last word on legalism. This is just as I see it.

Over the years, I've felt that God has asked me not to:
Swear,
Drink alcohol,
Watch 98% of R-rated movies,
Drive over the speed limit.

And I've felt He's asked me to:

Tithe,
Submit to my husband,
Live excellently out in public,
Live excellently in my home.

For me, that's all basic obedience.
Other people (not you, of course...heh, heh...) just might label it as legalism.

But here's where my basic obedience would become legalism: If I were to race around playing Holy Ghost Junior and I told you that you must:

Not swear,
Not drink alcohol,
Not watch R-rated movies, etc., on down the line.

Just because God has instructed me to do/not do those things, it does not mean that He's told you the same thing. Maybe He will tell you later and then it will be your responsibility to obey. But if God asks me to do something, it does not give me a license to insist that you do the same thing.

For one thing, when God instructs me to change, He sends Grace along to help me change. When I instruct you to change, I cannot give you Grace--so I am only giving you a burden. Something you are incapable of handling on your own.

Of course, God could speak through me as confirmation of something He's been trying to tell you already. That would be an act of obedience on my part. That's something different. But that's something which should only be done in utter humility and it probably wouldn't hurt me to have a bit of fear and trembling to go along with it.

But here is what becomes another big problem-- When, because God hasn't told you to do the above types of things, you assume He hasn't told me, either. And you then boisterously stand up and cry, "Legalism!" That is just as wrong as my trying to shove my God-led obedience down your throat.

Again, this is how I see it.

I think the Bible gives great advice when it tells us to let our words be few.

Maybe if we all just plain lived what we believed, instead of just arguing, er, talking about it-- maybe this world would be a kinder place... Especially if we could give people room--and time-- to grow. Especially if we could trust God to speak to others--and if we could trust others to listen for themselves.

***

Thursday, June 09, 2005

W.W.B.H.?


We're all familiar with W.W.J.D.?, right? But have you heard the new one? -- W.W.B.H.?

I can guarantee you haven't heard it before. Why? Because I made it up. Can you guess what it stands for?

I use it all the time. I ask myself W.W.B.H.? whenever I go to estate sales, yards sales and antique shopping (not that I even go antique shopping). I've used that term so often that now Tom even uses it, also.

Give up?

It stands for, "What Would Blondie Have?" As in, Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead of the 1930's and 40's movies. As in, what kinds of things would Blondie use to decorate her quintessential, oh-I-just-love-it 1930's house? (I know, I know. You are so grateful I explained that to you.)

W.W.B.H. helps keep me focused. It helps me to not look to the left or right. When I walk past tables full of cool, shiny-new paraphernalia which still tempts me, I can now just keep walking by because Blondie would not have had that stuff in her house 70 years ago. My house will never resemble Blondie's if I'm always filling it with modern things. It will always look a little modern, a little old-fashioned, and a little confused if I just grab things without asking myself W.W.B.H.?

It's good to know exactly what your goals are. To put them into words. To paint clear pictures in your mind. It's good to ask ourselves, "What do I really want? Who do I want to become like? Where do I want to go?"

I have done so much wandering in my life--doing a little of what I wanted, some of what God wanted and a whole lot of what other people wanted. I had no clear direction, no painted pictures in my mind, no specific goals. I was always a little this, a little that, because I had nothing specific to aim for. How could I aim for a target if there wasn't even a target to begin with?

Things are different now. I'm learning to listen to God's very specific goals for my life--and aim for them, instead of wandering willy-nilly, hitting and missing things along the way. But as always, in order to hear, I must listen. Listen oh-so closely.

And then step out--again--usually on water. That's often where listening takes me. And of course, it's never enough to just listen and then do nothing about what you've heard. There's always a whole lot of walking-it-out to be done.

***

"Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise." ... Ephesians 5:15

To read a wonderful article about the woman who played Blondie (Penny Singleton), click here. It's written by Ann Jillian, the actress, who attended church with Penny.

For sample pictures of the interior of Blondie's house, click here. . Scroll down.

Do you have your own unique W.W. saying? I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Heat + Humidity = Uh-Oh


Summer days are here again... We've had three hot, humid days, though not of the Totally-Unbearable-Just-Wanna-Die variety, thank-goodness. But the kind where you go around blessing and all but kissing your air-conditioner.

Heat+Humidity, for me, equals one big Uh-Oh. It changes my life. Instead of having a leisurely sunrise quiet time, I save it for ten-ish, and instead, race around cleaning the house in the cool of the morning. I have been known to straighten the house, vacuum, dust, wash dishes, water plants, sweep, do a load of laundry, feed the birds, water the yard and then paint a wall--all before 9:00 a.m. You should see how fast I can move when I know that afternoon humidity will come rolling-in like fog. For in afternoons like those, I become a near-invalid.

No, really.

It's wild how a perfectly healthy woman like me can be flattened by something invisible. But it does happen--and that's when I hobble to our bedroom, collapse on the bed and retire until the summer evening's heat has broken like a fever. For hours I sit inches from the air-conditioner and bless its inventor and even the Great Inventor of the inventor, if you know what I mean.

Some things are the way they are. And I can either whine and kick and complain, or I can make the best of it. In this case, I can use my afternoon downtime to read and think and meditate and grow closer to God. I can look at it as His way of slowing me down and keeping me close to His heart.

And I guess I'm mentioning this so you'll know why I've not been faithful to blog-talk to you in the mornings. Please remember it is nothing personal, and nothing is wrong. It's only that for me, intense humidity means I must make changes. Summer humidity is my challenge to go with the flow. To keep a flexible, God-led schedule. To use wisdom to order my days.

It may not look like it or feel like it-- but it's a good thing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Time Changer



On this hot, muggy afternoon Tom and I glued ourselves to our little air-conditioner and watched the Christian movie, Time Changer. We loved it. Loved the 53-minute documentary on the DVD afterward, too.

It reminded me of how little credence I used to give to integrity.

I would fudge on using cents-off coupons and think, "Well, it's just a way to beat a lousy commercially-soaked system."

A little, tiny lie would go rolling off my tongue and I'd shove down any conviction with a feeble excuse.

I'd nag Tom or put him down and then ignore the conviction to apologize....

...and then I'd wonder why I wasn't happy. Why I went around feeling that twinge of guilt all the time. Why I was moody. Why people weren't running up to me and asking, "What must I do to be saved?"

Time Changer reminded me today that obedience matters. Excellence matters.

Not legalism--no... no... no! True excellence, true obedience is not legalism and it grieves me lately how often some excellence is immediately hushed and harshly, wrongly labeled legalism (but that's another post). Rather, obedience and real excellence are a deep, deep desire from the heart to serve God.... to do what He tells you, even if no one else is doing that one thing... It's a response to a heart-change only an excellent God could make in a woman or man.

It matters that people be able to count on me to keep my word. It matters if I try to fulfill my commitments--to finish what I start, even when I don't feel like it. It matters if I try to do my best every day to obey God in a myriad of little ways--in all those tiny areas behind closed doors, as well as outside of them, too. And it matters that my life not just be one long loopy string of compromises. Those are the goals I want to grow into. I am aiming for those things.

Perhaps most of you have already seen Time Changer, but if not, I highly, highly recommend it. I was glad our local Hollywood Video store had it. I hope it will find its way into many, many homes.

***

Saturday, June 04, 2005

One Day Can Make Such a Difference






My oh my. I can hardly believe myself, for I'm actually looking forward to moving! You can't believe it either, right?

But ever since yesterday--deciding to move South, not West--I've felt such a great sense of relief. As though I'll be able to continue living this Mayberry Life after all. 

Truly, I'd tried hard to accept that this phase of life was just that--a phase. A temporary blessing. That I'd have to live the next thirty years in a land where I no longer felt at home or like my true self.

But now it appears Mayberry Life will continue, only in a different locale. Both Tom and I are very excited now about someday moving--and yet we don't have one single concrete detail! We don't know what kind of a job he'll have for certain. We don't know the state in which we'll settle.

It doesn't seem to matter right now.

Yet we do know we will find a beat-up old farmhouse which needs us-- and in a place where the cheapest one is **not** over $250,000. That, and the general direction is about all we know.

We are thrilled to finally be in agreement and are elated to feel like God is leading us somehow through the desires of our hearts.

Everything looks different today than it did yesterday morning. I do believe Grace arrived in the afternoon with her suitcases of Courage and Hope!

The lesson for me and for those of you who are reading this?

Never believe that things will never change. Never believe your best days are over.

Instead, always believe that everything can change for the better-- if you'll only wait until tomorrow.



*****

Dr. Phil tells couples to make a plan they can both be excited about and hey, I believe that's what Tom and I did yesterday. Guess he knows what he's talking about, after all.  ツ


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