Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Making Preparations


In my last post, I mentioned living prepared to comfort others.

Now as I watch coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, I am asking myself more questions.

Am I prepared to handle such a devastating crisis if it were to happen to me? Since I believe the Bible, I also must believe what it says about these Last Days, namely, that things will only get harder in just about all arenas of Life. Am I getting prepared now for rougher times down future roads?

Am I letting God change me from the inside out? Am I letting Him take away, brick by brick, my need to control people, places and things in my life and instead, give that control over to Him? 

In disasters such as floods, I would venture to say the loss of control is what leads to incredible frustration. If I've already given that control to God--my whole life in reality--that frustration would, hopefully, be replaced by the trust I'd already come to rely upon in difficult daily situations. 

Or, instead, am I experiencing much wild-eyed frustration already in the daily, tiny annoyances and illustrating my smallness as in this verse: "If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!"... Proverbs 24:10?

Trust requires unanswered questions. Do I so trust God now that, no matter what happens, I'd be able to remain sure of Him, His care, His love, His goodness?  Or would I yell at, question and accuse Him and basically, fall apart?

Can I obey Him now in small things such as--if He tells me to stop watching CNN's coverage of disasters because it's lowering me into a sad pit so deep, that it will take a miracle to lift me back up--will I turn it off the minute I sense His voice? Will I do whatever it takes to obey Him and keep the channel between Him and me clear and unobstructed? Or will I just sit there like a zombie and miss chances to be a light and a help?

Many people will disagree with this--that's ok. But as for me, I would rather die than, out of my confusion and distrust, accuse God of terrible injustices. Yes, His shoulders may be broad, and yes, He knows we are but dust, but He still has a heart which can be made sad by my questioning of His goodness, especially after all He's done for me.

I want to get prepared now for whatever is ahead up the road so that I'll not risk hurting the One I love best in all this world. 

These things take time. Growth, real, lasting, stand-firm-against-that-mountain growth--require years. That's because relationships take time and history--none more so than my relationship with God. And it's that relationship which will, ultimately, get me through any crisis.

I'm starting now. I'm getting prepared now before it's too late.

******



"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him..."... Job 13:15

Monday, August 29, 2005

Living Prepared To Comfort




With this latest hurricane I am being reminded that I want to live my life prepared. Prepared to comfort others in an emergency. Prepared to offer help in any appropriate way.

The time to get prepared is always before hard times and catastrophes. In the middle of day-in, day-out life--that's the best time to prepare. If I wait, it will be too late. May I use my time wisely now, in silent, peaceful times, to grow in grace and humility. To cooperate with God and not miss His voice and His instructions which, if followed, will always have me in the right place at the right time offering the right kind of help.

Here's a note I found on the internet a few minutes ago--a note which reminded me of the need to be ready--to live ready to encourage and to be kind:


'The haunted look in someone's face'

From the mailbag:


I overheard two women talking about Hurricane Katrina on Thursday. One woman said "I don't care what they say, I think all those projections are wrong and I think it's gonna come to New Orleans". After looking at the projections online I immediately dismissed her as a quack. Of course, now that I am bunkered down in a hotel room in Alexandria with six other people, five cats and two dogs, I kinda wish I had listened on Thursday.

I wanted to share our experience here in Alexandria. The entire hotel is filled with people from New Orleans, Metairie etc. You can see, every once in a while, the haunted look in someone's face as it finally hits them: "I may have nothing left tomorrow".


And when that look starts to cross someone's face one of the employees here walks over, cracks a joke, pats your shoulder, or just talks to you to make you feel better. These amazing people are handing out blankets and pillows and opening the doors of every conference room, ballroom, and whatever-is-left room in this hotel to house everyone they can fit in the doors. There are dogs and cats of every size and shape in many of the rooms, and no one working here minds in the least. And it isn't just the hotel. Every restaurant, every local who passes by had some kind word to say to comfort all of us today. I have never felt so welcome, so comforted in the face of devastation, as I have felt here in Alexandria.


I can tell you that I won't sleep a wink tonight. I will watch the weather channel, check the Hurricane Bunker notes, and say a few prayers for the people, the city, and life as we knew it three days ago.


- Claire, from metro New Orleans



******

Sunday, August 28, 2005

There's Something About Them...




There's a Christian tv station in our area, one which many people complain about. 

Tom and I try not to mutter along with everyone else--we believe our words are important and we prefer to pray rather than complain.

Well, that's our goal anyway.

But this afternoon on that Christian tv station, a young Korean woman sang a song about making choices to hold onto anger and sadness-- or Jesus and Hope. How it is a choice. And well, it wasn't that the words were amazing or her voice, incredible--but it was anointed. As in, it was as though the Holy Spirit was standing right behind her backing her up. 

It wasn't about her performance--it was about something, Someone, flowing through her words with a high dose of freedom. With the power to shake people from their complacency and back into grace and joy and peace.

How do I know? How could I tell?

Because that's exactly what the Holy Spirit did for me while she sang.

Oh, not that I was in any deep doldrums, but I'd just needed something--a joy zap, or something. Something to shake cobwebs and restore some light.

Sometimes we get that directly from God, one-on-one. Other times we get it from stepping into a church to pray alone. Or God shows us we do need each other so it comes while attending a church service, sitting with a friend or reading a passage in a book.

Or it can arrive from a simple song on tv on a slow, summer Sunday afternoon.

There's something about people who have been set free, folks who walk with God. They bring Him along wherever they go and it's surprising what He does to others who cross that path. Who knows how God touches people through us? Who knows the extent or the long-stretching ripples of that?

And who knows what could happen if we all walked with God like that? With that awareness? That power?





******

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]..." ... Luke 4:18

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Giving Freedom




When we first moved to New York, we lived with a widow in our church for two weeks until our house finished going through escrow. This woman had books all over her house and one day I picked one up. I never forgot what I read.

I don't recall the title, but it said something like: By the time our children turn 12 years old, they pretty much know what we believe about most things. We've told them what we believe over and over.

When our children reach the years 18 - 21, we need to give them their God-given freedom. It's a freedom which is rightfully theirs, a freedom we all need in order to become what God intended us to be. If that freedom is not extended to our adult children, then we are holding them back from becoming who God created them to be. 

We had freedoms at that age and our kids must be given those freedoms, also. If we refuse, there will be rebellion and a breakdown in the relationship-- and the fault will lie with us, as parents.

I read that when Naomi was 13 and it never left me. 

It haunted me, helped also, to work-up to giving her that freedom by 'extending the line,' (I pictured it like a fishing pole line), a little bit more each year she was in high school. You know, rather than suddenly releasing the entire line when she turned 18--and feeling the dreadful shock of that. 

It helped me keep my mouth shut many times when she did turn 18 and 19 and beyond and she made choices I would never make.

But oh my--still, there is almost nothing harder in this life than letting go of our children. I mean, truly letting go. Standing back and watching them make their own mistakes. Not saying "If you would only have listened to me." Being a support instead of a know-it-all nag.

Only if you've been there can you know what I'm talking about.

Yes, we can still offer advice, and yet that advice needs to come from a heart led by God's wisdom and His timing--not by a clingy, controlling heart. The difference is wild and huge.

I'm thankful that I read that passage in that book while I still had time to get used to this idea of letting go. It saved me from making 1,000 mistakes.

I think I only made 500 mistakes, instead. γ‚·

Looking now at the good relationship we have with Naomi, I'm thankful that with God's help, I was able to give Naomi her freedom when the right time came. Not in a lump sum, but year after year, a little at a time, until the line was so extended that she was already quite far out in the Lake of Life when the final snip! of the line took place.

And it didn't hurt as much as it could have or as deeply as we thought it would.



******

Monday, August 22, 2005

Passing The White-Glove Test





I mentioned to you earlier that my parents will visit us for the first time since we moved to New York in 1993. I'm surprised I've not written more often about this huge event because, for four months, it's been the utmost thing on my mind.

If you've followed this blog very long, you may have noticed the absence of words written about my parents. I guess that's because I have one of those awkward relationships with them which so many people have.

Rather than describe it or rehash the past, I'll just tell you what I am thinking now. For these past months it's been on my mind to fix up our house so beautifully that perhaps, finally, my parents will get the message that Tom and I are all grown-up. I want them to look around at our home and our things and think, "Hmm.. it appears they've made a very good life for themselves out here in this state where we've always thought they should never have moved."

I want them to finally get it that I am no longer 17 and an emotional yo-yo. (During our last visit, I couldn't believe how often my mother brought up how I felt about things at 17 and even younger. Sigh. )

If only they'd view me as the 46 year-old-woman that I am. If only they could see that these 12 years living thousands of miles away, have been the most life-changing, incredible years of my total existence.

Oh, we talk on the phone and email and have flown out there to visit them. But this upcoming visit of theirs--that will be the biggest test and I'm trying not to feel as though they're coming to examine this life which we have created for ourselves.

But already, I see the flaws of my careful plans. I could parade before their eyes everything wonderful about my home and town, yet still, there's no promise they'll appreciate it as I do. That is because, basically, we are as different in our likes and loves as the proverbial night and day. Always, our treasures have resided at opposite poles. 

So what it boils down to is this: I need to cut it out. All of this. All of the fixing,painting and rearranging with my parents in mind. I need to return to my earlier mindset of making a cozy home for Tom and me and for Naomi when she visits. This is not my parents' house. Tom and I love our home (most days) which comes in handy since we're the ones who have to live here. Or rather, who get to live here.

And we believe moving to New York was the best thing we ever did.

And more--we love the people who we have become while living in this state so far away. We took a different turn than the one my parents wanted us to make and we discovered, around the bend, something more marvelous than we'd dreamed.

God had to take us to a faraway place in order to finally change what needed to be changed within us. That's the way we see and understand it to be--and we'll always be grateful.

And that's what matters most.



******

Bike Lady Reborn




Another mini-vacation weekend from my blog. Years ago I learned the difference between being faithful to a thing and being faithful to God.

They are wildly different.

If I am faithful to a thing, I will neglect other areas which should be addressed and attended to and enjoyed. But if I am faithful to God, the thing will get done the very best way because I'll be responding with His wisdom, not my own. I will miss-out on nothing of real importance and the people in my life will not feel neglected, either.

But that's a whole other post.

Tom had one day off this weekend and we watched a movie in which I saw something I am now dreaming about. The college-age daughter in this movie rode home from school along a river on an old Schwinn-type ladies' bike. She wore a longish floral dress with a blue cardigan sweater over it and her long hair floated behind her.

Oh my, it was like seeing the woman of my deepest soul. That is exactly who I am way down there deep and now she is begging me to let her come out and take a bike ride.

Tom is such a sweetheart--I paused the movie and told him I want an old bike like that and look--isn't that girl very much like a younger me? He agreed because that is how I looked when he met me. He got excited about painting a bike in original old-bike-colors for me then setting me off to spin around these pre-WWII neighborhoods. And right after the movie, he looked in the classified ads for an old bike for me--he called about one and left a message.

I can't wait till we find one. I'll ride around our neighborhoods with long wavy hair floating and be known as That Woman Who Looks Like She's From The 1950's. Maybe I'll search for vintage picnic dresses at Salvation Army and grow my hair long.

Besides, I'll need longer hair when I get my bike or else how will it flow behind me, touching the small of my back and completing the image of that woman deep inside who wants to ride an old bike and look like a 1950's vision before it is too late?




******

P.S. Lennon is doing much better! The vet was very happy with Lennon's blood results on Saturday and so were we, of course. Thanks so much for your prayers--I appreciate them far more than you realize.




******

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Wasted Hour




In October my parents will visit us for the first time since we moved here 12 years ago. 

They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and this trip will be in celebration of that as a gift from my sister, brother and myself. All summer I assumed we were going with Plan A, but then my sister--who is planning the bulk of getting them out here, which I appreciate--emailed me and told me about a Plan B.

Well, I'd spent months with Plan A in my head and when Plan B came along, and it involved my dad doing some driving back here in Insane Driving Territory, suddenly I got frustrated.

Yes, me. I got frustrated and for an hour my sister and I emailed each other back and forth. To sum this up, she called my parents and found out what they wanted, which is really, a basic, do-able Plan C. It's something we can all live with.

But here's the tragedy. After all the emailing, all the frustration--which fortunately, felt like This-Was-My-Old-Life-So-What's-It-Doing-Back-Here-Now?--after all that useless emotion, I walked up our basement stairs and saw that it was now dark outside.

I was disappointed. I'd missed the sunset. I'd skipped sitting outside a while and watching my neighborhood play before the evening's end. I'd missed time on our porch with Lennon while I looked through decorating magazines for new ideas. I'd foregone sitting up in my dream room watching sun rays go from red to grey while Glenn Miller played Moonlight Serenade.

And it all made me wonder, "What if I come to the end of my life and, looking back, see thousands of such wasted golden hours?"

Such sadness because I could never get that hour back. I'd squandered it on frustration over nothing. Even thought it was frustration-worthy, still it was a waste. Frustration shows me I'm still trying to control the world, my world, which of course, I can't. But I can control myself because God does give us self-control and when I pay attention to how I'm doing in that area, it leaves me little time for the my-world-is-crashing frustration I used to sit inside constantly.

Well, guess what what I will not being doing tonight and guess what I will be doing instead?

My life changed when I realized I had choices in how I react to situations. I am not helpless and not a victim--I am a choice-maker when it comes to my emotions and what I do with them. 

And God is the one who gives me power to love this life He gave me and to make the most of it. He gives me the power to have joy in the midst of hard times. You can keep your other kinds of power--that's the kind of power I want.



******

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Prayer Request




"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6


******


When the Bible says 'everything', I like to think it means 'everything'.
When the Bible says 'all', I like to think it means 'all'.

Call me a wild and off-base Christian if you want, but that's what I believe.

Some bloggers say you should never pray for yourself.
Some say you should only pray for yourself if it involves a spiritual thing.
Others say you should only pray for yourself if you are dying.
And others say you should never pray for little things, only big things.
Some say you should never pray for little things while you are at church.
Some say you should never pray for material wants or needs.

Ackk! Let me off that merry-go-round.

Like I said, I believe in praying about everything.

And so right now I am going to ask you to pray for our cat, Lennon. He's the diabetic cat who I give shots to each day. The vet called this morning and said Lennon's blood numbers are horrible--through the roof. After all these weeks, they've only gotten worse, not better. After all those shots and all my attention to detail and trying to do everything just right and being brave and hopeful about the whole thing.

Lennon is the sweetest cat on earth. He can do tricks like a dog and he sits beside me on our porch steps. I love that cat. He is my buddy.

If you, too, believe that we can pray about anything, I would very, very much appreciate your prayers for Lennon.

Thanks.


******

Kissed By God




I took a walk this cool morning along our streets which are tree-lined and old-house-lined, too.

I was enjoying the shade, the quiet and thanking God for it all when whack! A leaf swooped down and brushed my cheek.

It was sudden. Sweet. It took me by surprise and stung a tiny bit and was, for a second, overwhelming.

I thought, "I've been kissed by a leaf."

Then I thought, "Or maybe I was kissed by God."

When you spend every day with God, you see Him in odd places and gasp! There you stand, looking around at all the folks who are just passing Him by, people with unopened eyes. 

And you long for them to see Him, also.


******

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Time-Out For Breakfast




Tom and I ate breakfast this morning on our sunny front porch.

I tied on my apron and made waffles in the old iron and then we took the waffles outside, along with the newspapers from Sunday and Monday. We sat at the table in companionable, peaceful bird-chirping quiet amongst all these pre-WWII houses, many with front porches of their own.

But we broke the silence at times and shared articles of interest with each other from the pages before us and then we'd return to our reading and our munching.

We especially enjoyed the article about the couple who'd been married 74 years. The 100-year-old wife is immaculately dressed by 6 a.m. each morning, with lipstick and pearls, even. LOVE THAT!

Some people say you have to work at having a good marriage. Hmm. I guess you can look at it that way. But to me, that sounds rather like,"You must eat spinach if you want to stay healthy." Or, "You must visit the dentist regularly in order to have good teeth." And well, when Tom and I do things or go places, our times together do not taste like spinach nor do they feel like going to the dentist. They do not feel like work, either.

Instead, it feels like cozy fun. It feels like what I said at one point during our meal this morning in my best broadcaster's voice: "Ahh. La Casa (our last name). The very best in patio dining."

This may sound odd, but I enjoy our 26-year-old marriage. We're having too much fun to work at it.


******

Monday, August 15, 2005

Reading God, Reading People




In my last post, I mentioned looking at people in order to really see them.

This is something God is still working out in me, the residue leftover from my decades beneath a curse of shyness. The days when I could look no one in the eye, but always averted my gaze. I became such a professional at that--you'd hardly guess that's what I was doing.

But oh, what I must have missed.

I want to see what is going on! To drive to the supermarket and around town realizing there are people who are carrying enormous burdens-- women who's husbands have lost their jobs. Parents of sick children, people who have have just attended the funeral of a loved one or have just returned from the divorce lawyer's office. Folks who, themselves, are sick and may die soon, people who are afraid of nearly everything.

I want to be able to pick those people out of a crowd and then ask God, "What do you want me to do for them?"

More than twenty years ago our pastor's wife told us this story. Her sons' high school principal lived just down the street from her. For two weeks, off and on throughout the day, she felt a burden in her heart for the principal's wife. So she prayed for her, yet that didn't seem to be enough. Still the burden persisted.

Eventually, she felt as though she should walk down to the principal's home and speak to his wife. One day she knew she could postpone it no longer, so she walked down the street to the principal's house. She was a nervous wreck-- she had no idea what she would say when she got there. She knocked on the door and the principal's wife opened it and just stood there. She was not known for being friendly--there was no smile upon her face.

My pastor's wife said, "I'm not quite sure why I'm here. I've been praying for you, and well, God told me... I thought, well.... Maybe you needed a friend?"

The principal's wife burst into tears. She'd been desperately lonely and had been praying for a friend to be sent to her.

I want to be able to read God and to read people, too. I don't want to reach the end of my life only to be horrified that I was consumed by my own needs. That everywhere I went, it was as though I walked down city streets and stared in big plate glass windows in order to watch only myself walk along.

May the song in my head not be, "What About Me?". May all my Me's not drown out the You's.

Instead, may I walk through this life with my eyes and ears wide open and then to have the courage to do something about what I see.



******

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Supermarket College




Ann's comment to my post, The Great Shopping Cart Debate, is a perfect way to begin this one:

"Lessons are learned everywhere. Think of it---without shopping carts and corrals, I might actually believe the state of my soul was fairly good."

"Amen!", like, a million times. γ‚·

Back in my early days of Supermarket College, this is what I learned:

God is very concerned about my attitude toward others. It matters to him that I not sputter and fume if I race around a corner and come upon The Supermarket Slowpoke. You know her, don't you? She's anywhere from 60 to 80 years old and walks the speed of a sleepy caterpillar. God wants me to not only show patience as I'm standing behind T.S.S., He wants me to go even further--to have compassion and patience in my heart. 

To God, it matters that I put items away in their proper place if I change my mind about buying them. He cares that I not leave a head of lettuce next to the cans of tomato sauce. He cares that I not be that lazy or that thoughtless about the employees who will waste time carrying the head of lettuce away --if it's not spoiled first. And because God cares about things like that, I should, also.

God cares that I pick up what I drop and in advanced classes, He asks that I pick up what other people dropped earlier. Not only is this combating laziness, but it's sowing good seeds--perhaps someday I will be old and will need others to pick up after me.

Smaller lessons? Choosing foods wisely when feeding my family, saving money by reading the price per ounce stickers on the shelves, resisting temptations to buy junk food and items we do not need. Budgeting and buying enough to last are other lessons.

Yet there's also letting others go ahead of me in line if they have fewer items than I do. Or waving them ahead if they have even more, especially if they look tired. Which brings up another lesson--learning to look at people and really see them. Reading their eyes, seeing their needs and having a heart to help where I can.

And learning to listen, striking up conversations with people in line. Once the woman behind me told me she'd just been diagnosed with cancer, so I listened to her and then told her I would pray for her. Other times I've listened to the checker tell the person ahead of me her problems, and then when my turn came, I've told the checker I would say a prayer for her.

Always people respond with a smiling gratitude. Never has anyone said, "No! Do not do that."

This is longer than I thought it would be. Yet so many of those lessons center around one thing: Going to the supermarket not just for groceries, but for reaching out to others, like the highways and byways Jesus spoke of.

And perhaps He wants me to shop there with eyes wide open to the needs of others instead of thinking selfish, complaining thoughts about high prices and over-crowded aisles and squeaky shopping carts and cranky people and crying kids. 

I'm still learning to see the needy world. I have been in Supermarket College for ever so long.



******

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Colleges In Your Own Backyard




In many ways, my tendency to think outside the box is what has always made me feel different than most people I have known.

Take this thing about college. Nearly all my friends in the past 26 years that I've been married, have returned to college. They've entered large buildings where they pay huge sums of money for either self improvement or a better job. Or both. Or they've paid to take classes online.

Well, you know how the Sixth Sense kid saw dead people everywhere?
I see colleges everywhere.

I've told you about God University and a couple classes (here and here) which I took there.
And I've already told you about Homemaking College.

But there are many, many more places of higher learning. Places where incredible make-your-life-better lessons are free for the learning if only we'll open our eyes.

There is:

Supermarket College
City Library College
Dealing With Church People College
Staying Happily Married College
Raising Children College
In-Law College
Neighborhood-Living College
Internet College
Blog Land College
Movie Theater College
Gardening In Your Backyard College
Driving In Traffic College
Going On Vacation College
Department Store College
Estate Sale College
Life Experience College

--- and more.

Since Jr. High, I have refused to think like everyone else--and that has made all the difference. I love seeing the invisible, (and it is fun attending invisible colleges), but I've had to get used to the strange looks and the try-to-be-like-most-people lectures.

I'm not going to write about what I learned at each of these colleges, but in my next post, I'll outline a few things from my days at Supermarket College. Stay tuned. You won't want to miss it.  ッ



******

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Great Shopping Cart Debate




Oh fun! I found another shopping cart mini-discussion going on over in Mel's comment box.

I love those because, truly, it's not about the shopping cart at all. It's about obedience, rebellion, sacrifice and putting others first.

But for now, I'll pretend it is about the shopping cart.

Eleven years ago I was like everyone else. After unloading my groceries into my car, I'd leave my shopping cart wherever I darn well pleased. Sometimes I'd spend 90 seconds trying to get it to stay in the utmost left-hand corner of my parking space. I'd turn the wheels a certain way so that the cart would not roll into any of the cars near it (or mine). So that it would stay after I left and allow someone else to park in that space.

Of course, instead of spending 90 seconds doing the great shopping cart balancing act, I could have spent just 30 seconds rolling it into the designated corral.

But hey.

Well, at that same time (11 years ago) God turned my life upside-down. Suddenly, I couldn't get away with squeezing my shopping cart into that tight corner. Why? Because weirdly, in my heart, I kept hearing, "Just put it where the signs say to put it." And being from the "Go-Ahead-and-Make-Me Generation," it actually took me around three weeks to finally give-in to that nagging little voice which I'd come to recognize in recent months because I heard it every time I turned around.

So I began putting the silly cart away in its corral, even though that meant getting soaked by rain or having to wait for cars to pass by or needing to walk 11 car spaces down the parking lot. And then the amazing thing--low and behold, one day I heard Joyce Meyer talking about how God had, years before, convicted her about the same thing. How He used the supermarket to teach her many lessons about obedience.

If I had false teeth, they probably would have fallen out.

But the sad thing was this--that same day, I realized that, had the Holy Spirit not convicted me before I heard Joyce speak about the shopping cart deal, I, more than likely, would have said, "Well, that's fine for her, but I'll just wait till God tells me the same thing."

And when I realized that, I was horrified. I so do not want to be like that. 

I don't want to wait for two angel appearances, three writings on the wall and a voice from Heaven before I'm convinced I should obey one simple sign. I don't want to be a fleece-laying, I'll-do-it-my-way, prove-it-to-me-first Christian. 

Instead, I want a heart that is hungry to obey God and those in authority. And when supermarket owners post signs in their business, may I respect that authority by obeying those signs.

May I put other people first. Not laziness or stubbornness. I want to go beyond written rules and beyond what I'm asked--and move to the beat of excellence. 

The supermarket is a remarkable place for learning Life's Lessons. I've learned my share and had my heart exposed there. Many times.

And I haven't always liked what I saw.




******

Now Is Amazing




Call me crazy, but I love this growing older stuff. (So far, anyway.) Some people always talk about wanting to go back to their 20's or 30's-- not me. Uh, no.

I'd never return to the days when I spent (wasted) sorry hours meditating about what was going wrong, playing it over on the screen of my mind. The money and relationship and house problems. And then complaining to people in the key of whining and thinking 'poor, unappreciated me'. Complaining, thinking all those things, then wondering in confusion, "What's wrong with me? Why aren't I happy?"

Duh.

No, I'll stay right here, thank-you. In learning to enjoy God, I'm coming to enjoy Life.  Here where, as long as I have Jesus, my days will be not just ok, but amazing--simply because He is. He brings enchantment to stay-at-home days and paint, clean and laundry ones. 

You won't spy me attempting to sneak peaks into the future, either. Oh my, no. I don't want to see ahead because only when Grace is beside me can I handle my daily portion. And when it comes to the future, Grace isn't there yet to help me .

Today is better than good, even incredible because God is here in Today. No matter what else happens, His presence will be the sweetest part.


******



"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8,9

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another Movie Recommendation




Last night Tom and I watched The Man Without a Past. I hardly know what to say about this film, so I'll let Roger Ebert say it here.

It was after nine when we began watching this movie, so we intended only watching half, then finishing it today. Traditional mid-lifers, we fall asleep early most nights. Er hem.

But there was no sleeping during The Man Without a Past. It's a movie made in Finland--one of those treasures where you don't mind reading subtitles. We believe it was supposed to take place in modern times, yet the whole feeling was extremely 1965. 

It's a slow-paced film, so if you prefer fast-paced thrillers, forget this one.

So decent, really, and not one single instance of swearing (though I don't promise there is none--just that neither of us remembered any.) The only reason it is rated PG-13 is for the very violent scene in the first five minutes (I closed my eyes). 

We loved the parts with the Salvation Army workers. Listening to their songs, you'd think this was a Christian film. There was such sweetness in this film--and yet a lot of unkindness, too. In fact, early in the movie I paused it and turned to Tom and said, "You know... For the first time in my life I can understand how people in other countries could easily size-up the United States according to our movies-- how they might assume our people and our Country look and feel exactly like any movie may happen to portray them. Because that's exactly how I'm feeling right now about Finland... like, 'Remind me never to go there because the people appear to be so mean and unfeeling.' But good grief! I'm making that judgment after watching only 15 minutes of this movie. What a good lesson."

Anyway, read Roger Ebert's review for a closer look at what the movie is about. It was haunting, a film that sticks with you for days. And when the night watchman's wife says, "We were lucky to get this place," -- "this place" being a big metal shipping container in which they're living, well, maybe that will shake you as it shook me, also, especially when you glimpse the shipping container neighborhood.

We all have so much. Oh, how grateful we should be.

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P.S. If you enjoyed the movie, Dear Frankie, you will most likely enjoy this one, also.

Moving On And Growing-Up


Have you ever read John Mason's book, An Enemy Called Average? I am rereading it early mornings. As always, it's terrific--just looking at the title of it is enough to jolt me into acting right.

Here is a passage I thought I'd share with you. This is something I had to learn for myself--and once I did-- I finally began growing in places where, before, there had only been stagnation year after sorry year:

"Everybody gets knocked down. It's how fast he gets up that counts. There is a positive correlation between spiritual maturity and how quickly a person responds to his failures and mistakes. The greater the degree of spiritual maturity, the greater the ability to get back up and go on. The less the spiritual maturity, the longer the individual will continue to hang on to past failures. Every person knows someone who, to this day, is still held back by mistakes he made years ago. God never sees any of us as failures; He only sees us as learners.

"We have only failed when we do not learn from the experience. The decision is up to us. We can chose to turn a failure into a hitching post or a guidepost.

"Here is the key to being free from the stranglehold of past failures and mistakes: learn the lesson and forget the details. Gain from the experience, but do not roll over and over in your mind the minute details of it. Build on the experience and get on with your life.

"Remember: the call is higher than the fall."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Women And Leadership




There are blogs I read sometimes written by women who are trying to fight their way into leadership positions in their churches. 

I read them and smile because I used to believe much of what they do--that if a woman is going to get anywhere in the church, she's going to have to 'fight her way to the top.'

Key words: "used to believe."

I never leave comments at these blogs because my words would not be tolerated there. So I'll speak those words in my own blog instead (where they may not be welcomed, either).

I have found this verse to be true:

"A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men." Proverbs 18:16

God does not just give each of us gifts then tell us, "Run with that! Do with it as you will--use wisdom or don't--it's up to you." Instead, I believe He spends years preparing us to use our gifts wisely. He knows 'it's possible for our gifts to take us where our character cannot keep us'. He also knows that however many people we can help, that's also the number of people we can hurt.

There's been enough people hurt by ministers who ran out ahead of God before their character was tested and humbled. There have been enough ministry disasters along the horizon of the Past.

And since I'm talking about women here, what God wants are women He can trust with the gifts He uses through them. And I have to question whether God could trust these women in places of true leadership:

Women who write in their blogs that men in leadership in churches are jerks, imbeciles and not to be trusted, that most males are clueless as to how to minister to their churches and the outside world. Women who hold clandestine meetings to discuss ways to get around church leadership in order to do their own thing and are bitter about the doors closed to them and are still blaming men for closing them when it may very well be God, Himself, who has closed those doors.

(Yes, I've actually read these things online.)

God is not so mean or such a tease to give us gifts we are never set free to use. If we are at a place of frustration because we're not being allowed to use our gifts in the church, it is good to recall: "God opens doors which no man can shut." When He sees we're truly prepared to step into a leadership role, no man on earth and no demon in hell can stop that from happening.

Whatever our gifts, there is always a place to use them no matter where we may be spiritually. We all have neighbors, we live in towns with needy people. We all have the Internet. What is it that stops us from cooperating with God and starting small while He further works on our character? 

Dare I say it? I believe it is pride.

Years ago our pastor in Nevada said something which has never left me: He said, "If you feel you are called to be a leader, look behind you. Is anyone following you?"

Over and over I have seen simple, humble women year after year faithfully do all the small things God asked of them. And along the way they grew to a point where they were highly trusted and respected by both men and other women. And then this verse happened in their lives:

"For not from the east nor from the west nor from the south come promotion and lifting up. But God is the Judge! He puts down one and lifts up another." Psalm 75:6,7

God promotes us, not man. If there's any true promoting to be done, it has gone through God's hands first before it passed through the hands of any man in authority.

If only we could all realize God's realm is not like the world's. His ways are not our ways and we do not get promoted in God's kingdom by fighting, calling names and bullying. If anything, that's what gets us demoted.

God promotes those with the humility and faithful heart of Jesus and those who He's prepared to lead. True leaders are true servants. God has a specific plan for each of us and He knows exactly the moment we are ready to step into that plan.

And when we are ready there will be a place--the perfect one--in which for us to serve. After all, that's what true leadership is all about--serving those in need. And again, people in need--they're everywhere.



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"For man's anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires]." James 1:20

"You're not fit to be in authority until you learn to come under authority." ... Joyce Meyer


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Coercion or Inspiration?




There's a tv commercial which Tom and I hate. 





We turn the station or mute it every time it comes on. The sad thing is that it's a commercial for a well-known children's charity. The even sadder thing is that the spokesman stands there for two minutes telling us in sarcastic, belittling, condemning tones why we should give to this charity. You begin to feel like he's your disappointed father who never thinks you'll amount to much. Or that high school teacher who had it in for you.

It's awful and like I said, sad.

There's a tv evangelist we never watch anymore, though we used to try. We believe most of the same things, yet during his sermons he always sounds angry. He frowns and ridicules the people in his congregation by telling sarcastic jokes about them. I really don't understand how they can sit there and take it except perhaps they believe he's talking about everyone else, but certainly not them.

I don't know. All I know is that we cannot watch him, either, though like I said, we have tried--many times. We even have friends who think he's the greatest thing since kleenex.

So what's my point? I would rather inspire than coerce people to give and to live a wonderful life for God.

Maybe I'm extra-sensitive in this area because I've had to greatly change my own tone. At times I still slip and get 'preachy under-tones' and Tom or my relatives will remark about it. But those times have lessened as I've let God change me from the inside. He's done more than work on my tone--He's worked on my heart. 

To me, the greater miracle is when people act in love because God spoke to their hearts through anointed words and kind deeds, not by going through the motions out of the guilt someone dumped upon them. It's more touching (and lasting) when others are inspired by watching someone live a godly, selfless life. 

Are there ever times to speak firmly and with heated passion? Of course. Look at the way Jesus spoke to the money changers in the temple and the Pharisees, too. But He was being led by the passion of God in both those incidences. And that is wildly different than my being led by frustration or bitterness or a bad attitude and seeing everyone else as money changers and Pharisees when they are not.

Coercion and inspiration? Totally different. To me, inspiration will reap greater results because others are being led by their hearts rather than by invisible, forceful cords around their necks.

 Inspiration allows us to breathe and run in freedom--and we can live a pretty incredible life that way.



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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Update on The Sign


In my previous post I told you about the sign I saw on the porch of one of the lovely old houses in a nearby neighborhood. It says, "And They Lived Happily Every After." (For more info. see my post below.)

Well, today I drove over there on my way back from running errands, not even shaking with fear as I would have years ago. (What a relief to be out from under the curse of shyness!) Anyway, the husband was home as well as his adorable little curly-haired girl and boy, Rosalie and Wally, both of whom kept asking me my name. Their mom was out playing league softball on this cool Saturday morning.

So anyway, I told the dad I loved their sign and I asked him where they found it. He said he thinks his wife bought it at a craft fair and that she loved it, too. He scribbled down my phone number and said he'd have his wife call me if she had more information about it. And while all this was going on I stood there on the porch with the adorable little ones asking me my name over and over (I gave up telling them after repeating it three times) and memorized the sign because most likely, I will try painting my own.

But I looked down at the children, too, and I wanted to tell their young dad that he and his wife are at such a magical phase of their lives. I wanted to, but I didn't, because sometimes when you say that to people, especially while the children are talking non-stop, the parent sputters and chokes and says, "Yeah, right." But still, I should probably say it anyway because later it may come back to them and slow them down, even a moment, to really look and See their children. Kids move and grow so fast and if you're not careful, the time vanishes and you're looking back at only shadows of Life as it was but can never be again.

But I digress.

Yesterday online I found some signs with the same line, but compared to this one, they were small and boring. This one had pizazz and for right now, all I can do is describe it to you in case you'd like to paint your own.

The board was approximately 8 inches tall and 4 feet long.
Across the top and bottom were two lines of checkerboard painted in cream and dark blue alternating squares. There may have been a little heart at each corner of the board--I'm not sure.
The center of the sign was cream and brown sponged together.
The lettering in the center was, I believe, in dark blue. It said, And They Lived Happily Ever After.
After the words "And They" there was a thinnish dark red heart just a tad taller than the lettering, and sponged with bits of black. And there was another heart after the words "Lived Happily".

Well, that's how I recall it looked. I may try painting mine soon. I'll let you know if the mother calls me back--maybe I'll give her my line about her being at a magical stage of life if I can slip it into the conversation. Perhaps she needs the reminder.

Come to think of it, don't we all?



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