Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Firecrackers or Apple Seeds?

As the new year approaches, the thoughts of children everywhere turn to firecrackers! Stands pop up along roadsides with enticing signs offering two for one deals. The air on New Year's Eve will be filled with the sounds of pops and whistles causing neighborhood dogs to quiver in fear.

Now I enjoy a good fireworks show as much as the next person, but I've never been one to get into the homemade version. My children are like every other child who wants to fill the night with noise, while I worry that they'll hurt themselves in their haste. But, New Year's Eve usually means firecrackers nonetheless. That's what started this random thought.

When I think of firecrackers, I remember they make noise, they can be fun to watch, they can hurt you if you're not careful, and they don't last very long. Sounds like a lot of people I know....and that's the point. Remember, I'm not a big fan of firecrackers...I'm drawn to something much quieter...like an apple seed.

In the Bible, Jesus told the parable of the sower and in that story, some of the seed fell on shallow earth and sprang up quickly. Since these seeds had no real root, they just as quickly withered away. Some of the seeds fell on good soil and grew and produced 30, 60, 100 fold. Therein lies the difference in a firecracker and an apple seed.

As humans, we are often drawn to the flashy, quick rise to fame of the firecracker. What we forget is that the flash only lasts for a moment...fades quickly at best and can be dangerous at worst. Unfortunately, many young Christians are like those firecrackers. Sometimes in their zeal, they even manage to hurt those around them. They mean well, but like the firecracker they can be full of noise and then leave nothing but a puff of smoke behind them. Come to think of it, that's not just young Christians...that's people in general!

Contrast that to the lowly apple seed. Nothing really flashy there. Plant it and you'll have to wait a long time to see any results. Before that seed can become what it was created to be, it must die to itself...something we don't really see. Then slowly, that seed will grow into a shoot, then a sapling, then a tree, then finally...after what may seem like an eternity...the tree will produce fruit. Inside each seed lies the potential for thousands of other seeds, each with the same potential to feed those around it and grow. Have you ever met someone like that? You just get the feeling when you're around them that the fruit and wisdom they offer didn't happen quickly. It is precious fruit that took a lifetime to develop...and they don't look much like seeds anymore. While some are young in years, they have obviously died to self. Others, while they have had a lifetime to do this, somehow just resemble wrinkled old seeds...or firecrackers that have simply burned out.

Every New Year, people make huge resolutions like firecrackers...quickly made and forgotten. If instead, we can remember life is much more like planting a seed, perhaps we'll begin to see the difference in ourselves and those around us. It's not too flashy, and it's not much fun to watch, but if we're living for more than just the moment, we'll realize it's the way to go. Here's wishing you happy planting in the New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rainfall and Potholes

The other day, as I was taking my son to school, I passed a spot in the road that I've learned to avoid because of a persistent pothole. As I carefully slowed in anticipation, I thought about the fact that this pothole has been "repaired" many times, but after every heavy rain, it appears once more. Once again, those 'random thoughts' started turning in my head.

That pothole shows up after every heavy rain. Maybe the problem isn't the rain, maybe the rain is simply revealing an ongoing structural problem that is simply being given a bandaid to try and repair it. That's alot like our lives. Rain doesn't cause the problems, it simply reveals them. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust alike, the difference is how that rain effects them. Life is going to have problems, but often we blame what is happening to us on the problem when in fact it is a "structural defect" within us that is simply being revealed.

Perhaps my problem isn't lack of funds; perhaps it is how I have set up my lifestyle. Perhaps the problem isn't my health; perhaps it's the choices I've made or my lack of self discipline. Perhaps my problem isn't that grouchy person I have to work or go to school with, (or even live with); perhaps it is my low self esteem or lack of patience or selfishness (how dare they ruin my day!) Perhaps the problem isn't my teacher or boss; perhaps it is what kind of student or worker I have shown myself to be. Perhaps the problem isn't what the person said or did; perhaps it's my anger. You get the picture.

This analogy can go into many different realms. Perhaps the problem with anything isn't what we perceive it to be. Perhaps it is simply revealing an area we truly need to make changes to in ourselves or our nation. Since I can't seem to do much about the nation, (see earlier blog about no one asking me!) then I guess it's up to me to make the changes in me.

If I don't like the way my kids act, I might need to look at my behavior toward them and others. (They do learn from me, especially that which I wish they didn't!) If I don't like the way my neighborhood is, perhaps I need to look and see if I'm making a difference there. If I don't like the way things are done at my job, perhaps I need to look at what part I might play in the problem, whether in attitude or action. If I don't like the way my government is doing things, perhaps I need to look at what I am doing to make a difference in that area. Now, I realize there are areas that "hit us" that we had nothing to do with! We can't control those things - only our reactions to them. Maybe the reason for our storm isn't so much for us, as to help someone around us see how we go about weathering what life throws at us. Maybe they need to watch us "fix the potholes" so they will know how to accomplish the same in their own lives.

We all have "potholes" in our lives. It's up to us to take the time and effort (and sometimes painful expense - metaphorical and sometimes actual) and fix it. Putting another patch on it may seem to work for a while, but rest assured, it will rain again. If you don't want to constantly have to avoid that pothole, you're gonna have to do something about it.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy "Pothole Fixing" New Year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why a stable?

The following "random thought" actually came about a year ago while teaching in Kid's Church just before Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard this before....in fact, I had never thought of it before the words began to come out of my mouth that Sunday morning.

It was a typical Children's Church service a week or two before Christmas. I had a wonderful group of kids, most of whom I had known since they were born. These children knew the Christmas story quite well, so making it real and new was quite a challenge. I had told the story and tried to paint a picture so that the children could experience the story anew. It was then that I asked the question - "Why was Jesus born in a stable?" Of course, the response was "Because there was no room in the inn." Then I asked a question even I hadn't considered before. "Why wasn't there room at the inn? Did God forget to make reservations?" Of course, we all laughed at such a ridiculous question. Obviously the birth of Jesus being in a stable was no accident....but why would God allow His Son to be born in a stable?

It's not like God didn't know when Jesus would be born. Yes, the city was crowded, but couldn't God have made room for this family in an inn somewhere? After all, He's God! He knew when the angel told Mary she'd have a son that they would be making this trip 9 months later! He could have made arrangements! I understand that there are many different views as to what this stable might have been, but it doesn't change the fact that a stable isn't a place for a baby to be born! That's where animals are born....animals like sheep and goats and cows. The kind of animal you'd use for a sacrifice.

You know, every time I think about that, it causes a lump to rise in my throat. Jesus, the King of Kings was born in a place where sacrifices are born. He was laid in a manger - the place where the animals would go for food....The Bread of Life, Jesus - born as a sacrifice.

This Christmas, as you take time to read the original Christmas story, may your heart be filled with the knowledge of God's love for you. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lessons in the wind and the leaves

I'm not sure where this blog will take me...but it began with the wind.

Yesterday, I tackled the job of raking the front yard. We have a beautiful popcorn tree that just a few weeks ago was full of the most beautiful colored leaves. Now they all lay at my feet and covered every square inch of my yard. I knew the weather was going to turn and if I was going to get this done, now was the time. So I raked, and raked, and raked. To make matters more interesting, the wind kept blowing and scattering my leaves. I offered up a prayer - okay, it was more of a complaint..."Come on, God! Give me a break!" For a moment, the wind turned and blew with me instead of against me; I smiled only to then immediately experience the wind shift again. It was then that one of those random thoughts hit.

From here on, this blog may seem redundant, stating the obvious for the oblivious. Yet, it is something I must remind myself of daily. Can I thank God in ALL things, not just those I see as a blessing?

As I raked and the wind turned against me again, I realized that the same wind that blew my work away was bringing a cool refreshing to my sweaty brow. It caused leaves to dance in merriment up to the unbelieveably blue sky. I could get angry and "shake my fist" at the wind, or I could take a step back and see things in a different way. Instead of working against the wind, I needed to shift my position and work with that wind....see the gift that it brought in the midst of difficulties.

Now, I know wayward leaves pale in comparison to some things people are facing today, but perhaps in them there is something we can learn. Do I fuss and fume when things don't go "my way"? Do I stare in disbelief when life hands me pain? Do I forget to look up and see if perhaps that which is causing me frustration is at the same time blowing in something else I need? Am I willing to be thankful in ALL things?

That same popcorn tree had given us shade all summer long when we needed it. It had painted a beautiful picture to welcome me home during the first few days of fall. It will serve as the backdrop for our nativity this Christmas. I thanked God for its shade and colors, could I thank God for its barrenness as well? Would I lift my eyes from the mess at my feet to see the hope? There truly is hope. Even in that emptiness, there lies the hope of a new season.

I don't know what wind has blown into your life lately...job loss, loss of loved one, loss of a hoped for future. It sounds trite, but I understand. More importantly, God understands. That wind that is "messing with" your plans may also be bringing blessings and hope you have not seen. Though it seems that all is crashing around you....look up. Your strength and hope are there. You can not see them, just like you can't see the wind. But just like the wind, you can feel it and know He is there.

This Thanksgiving, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of cooking, cleaning, and holiday activities, may you feel the cool wind of His presence and know that He is there. That is something we can truly be thankful for.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Not me...How the mighty have fallen part 2

This topic keeps rolling in my mind so I guess it deserves a second chapter.

I have started back to running this week, a feat which is far more difficult than it was even a year ago. As I force myself to put one foot out the door, I am reminded of thoughts I had when I was at my running "peak". I was talking to a fellow teacher and encouraging her to come and run with me when she revealed that she had once been an avid runner, even completed a marathon. When I asked her what changed, she said she wasn't sure...she just quit running. Right then and there I must have thought what was to become the topic of this blog. "Not me! Now that I've discovered how great exercise makes me feel, I'll never stop." Famous last words.

Now I find myself in that same position. I'm not really sure what happened. I just stopped running. I've put back on the weight I had once lost and tasks that were once simple are again becoming difficult. Stress threatens to take a major toll on my body and nothing fits anymore!

It didn't happen all at once. It was really a series of small compromises. An ankle that hurt a bit, a change in schedules, a running partner who couldn't meet with me anymore, a couple of cold rainy days. One small thing after another and the next thing I knew, more than a year had passed. Oh, I tried to convince myself I hadn't fallen back too far. I still looked in shape to MOST people. I still had more energy than other women my age. I still ..... well you can fill in the rest. But inside, I knew. I knew things weren't what they used to be...what they could be. I was making little choices that were leading me away from what I wanted to be.

Isn't that what happens to us spiritually as well. We see someone who has fallen and we think, "not me! I'd never do that." Bet they thought the same thing.

I read a devotion recently by Charles Stanley that really pegged it. In that devotion, he mentioned Solomon. In his youthful arrogance, Solomon was probably sure that he'd never turn to false gods. Yet we find him in 1 Kings married to a number of wives who had false gods and Solomon began to turn away from what he knew was right. Dr. Stanley writes, "the fact that God didn't instantly react to his rebellion must have made rationalizing the next marriage even easier...." The truth is, every compromise led Solomon farther from God. I wonder if at some point, Solomon didn't look up and wonder, "How did I get here?"

The path to compromise is easy. The path to obedience is often difficult. Compromise doesn't really take any thought at all. Obedience requires that we be aware of our choices and recognize when the path of least resistance is actually a step toward a slippery slope of destruction.

The good news is, God is constantly reaching for us, willing to catch us and point us back in the right direction. I truly wish the road back to obedience was easy, but sometimes it's about as easy as climbing a steep rocky hill after we've fallen a hundred feet. We feel our bumps and bruises and many times the thought of giving up is easier than the desire to get back to the path at the top of the hill. But as painful and difficult as it is, it's worth it. When we return to our journey, we're perhaps a bit wiser and less likely to be arrogant and think, "not me."

As I force myself to go out on this cold day for my scheduled run, may I become more aware than ever of how my daily choices affect my future. May I recognize how today's decisions affect tomorrow's reality. I don't want to become so blinded by the days' activities that I find myself wondering in a few years, "How did I get here?" Nope, not me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oh how the mighty have fallen...

That's a quote from Samuel talking about Saul after his death. Don't really know if it fits this blog, but since it's been rolling around in my head all day, I decided to use it.

I have been humbled....by my 10 year old son. He has been begging me to "spar" him in TaeKwonDo. I don't take TaeKwonDo, but I do practice a little Krav, so I felt I was up to the challenge. I should have known from the headache I woke up with that this wouldn't be a good day to spar, but I bargained with my son anyway. I told him if he did well on both his tests that day, I'd spar with him that night. The little rascal made an "A" on both tests! I had to keep my word, so I ran to Walmart to get a mouthpiece and then we rushed to his do-jang so he could humiliate me.

Now in theory, I held my own. In fact, I hurt today. Yes, I did manage to get him down on the ground about 6 times, but he got in quite a few points himself. I am now bruised, achy, and very much aware of my advancing years! I have been humbled. And I've decided (after spending about a day in the mullygrubs over my age) that being humbled is right where I needed to be. For from this position, I am forced to admit my own inabilities and look UP to God who is my strength, my hope, my all. I wonder, if Saul had allowed himself to be humbled, would the verse "oh how the mighty have fallen" ever have been written?

As I get older, I find more and more that, to put it mildly, I am an idiot. I think I can do anything! It's so easy to trust in my own abilities - to do the job, to protect myself, to pay the bills, to...you fill in the blank. The truth is, I can't trust in myself at all. The older I get, the more I realize I am not immortal or invincible. I know that seems idiotic - but many of us live that way! We think we will live forever and our bodies won't give out on us like they did our parents. We'll never make the mistakes they made. We'll never get old.

I am reminded of an event that I witnessed many years ago at a youth camp. One of the younger youth pastors (who was QUITE sure of himself and his abilities) was arguing that women couldn't possibly do what men could do. They were certainly no match on the athletic field. The women there had to listen to his bragging and wish we could somehow show him he was wrong. A few hours later, we were on the field for the final challenge - the ultimate track and field event. As I watched youth and counselors showing off their abilities, I had to admit, I hoped this young man would not win...but what happened next was more than I could have hoped for. As they ran toward the hurdles, his foot caught and down he went. When it was evident he was okay, I turned toward my friend and said, "What was it that goeth before a fall?" and we laughed so hard our sides hurt. By the way, a young lady won that race...way to go Lori!

Funny story, except now, I am the one who has tripped over my own pride. Now I am the one who must be willing to look up and ask for help. I'm the one who thought I could do anything. I'm the one who has to admit I'm not as young as I used to be. I recently heard that Billy Graham said he was prepared for dying...but he hadn't been prepared for getting old. I'm starting to identify with those words!
I still don't like this getting older thing and I really don't like admitting that I'm not superman! I guess I thought I was pretty "mighty". Being humbled isn't what I'd call fun, but hopefully now I can get back to growing into who God wants me to be. Now I can allow my son to become the protector instead of me. Now I see that I need to "pass the baton" on to him so that he can run this race for God's glory. My body is starting to fail me....but I'm not done yet. I'm allowing God to pick me up, dust me off and help me, for as long as I can, run for Him...hopefully without falling so much this time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Time to point a finger

Okay, we're finally nearing the end of this election and I feel like it's finally time to point a finger at the real problem. It's the Demogans....I mean the Republicats....it's those other guys!

Isn't that just like mankind, to try and point a finger at someone and say they are to blame for our troubles. It's not new, this kind of behavior goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed Eve...that woman that God gave him. Gee, I guess he was really trying to blame God. But as humans, we never want to say those awful words..."It's my fault."

I see this behavior all the time in a classroom. When work isn't done, students are quick to make excuses (and usually blame their parents for keeping them out so late. Don't worry, we rarely believe it's the parent's fault.) If they are doing something wrong in class, they are always eager to deflect the blame by pointing the finger at someone else. "He did it first!" When that happens, my mother's words always come to mind- "When you point a finger at someone else, you have three pointing back at yourself." That got me thinking. Is it possible that in this time of national crisis, we need to realize that we have three fingers pointing back at ourselves?

Oh, I know. It's not our fault. We're not in charge. Funny thing is, I thought we were a country of "We the people." The government does have a lot of power, but maybe it's time we start admitting that a lot of what's going wrong is our own fault. We have bowed to the gods of convenience and comfort. We want what we want when we want it. Delayed gratification isn't an option. We have stretched ourselves thin and when things go wrong, as they are known to do, we are unprepared. We've shouted and worried, but have we really prayed? In the Bible, God promised that if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and seek His face then He will hear from heaven and heal our land.

Maybe it's about taking responsibility for our actions and our IN-action. It's about making our children accountable for their actions when they do wrong. It's about time we stopped doing what is easy and started doing what is right. It's about realizing that we have been guaranteed the right for the pursuit of happiness. Happiness isn't really a destination, it's a journey.

I, along with many others, am worried about the direction this country is headed, both financially and morally. But I can't stand back and figure it's someone else's responsibility. I can't point the finger and shift the blame no matter how bleak the future looks. Much like the character of George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life", I have to accept that sometimes life doesn't give me what I wanted. I can't quit or point a finger at someone else. In that movie, there is one point where Uncle Billy loses the Savings and Loans deposit. George doesn't point a finger at Uncle Billy, in stead he says "I have lost the money." Even though he was completely innocent, he took the blame. You don't see that kind of integrity very often any more.
I wonder if I can have that kind of integrity. Am I willing to stand and make a difference in the world that I come in contact with every day? It may mean standing up to those in power and making my voice heard and then doing everything I can to make the world around me a better place. It may mean that life is uncomfortable sometimes. In all this, I have to believe that ultimately, what I do makes a difference. Remember in that movie how different things would have been if George had never been born?
I will vote this coming election day, and when the voting is done, I will support whomever becomes my president - even if he's not my choice. Then everyday that follows, I will do my best to remember, the finger that points toward the one responsible is really pointing back at me. I doubt I'll ever change Washington, but maybe I can change the street where I live.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" - no matter who wins the election.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sacrifices made

My sister shared a story this week that really tugged at my heartstrings. A friend of hers, who had just had a baby, was headed back to teach her class after maternity leave. Her 2 1/2 year old son was feeling quite at odds with her decision. First he gives up his place as the youngest child and now Mommy has to go back to work. He of course asked her why she had to go. As any mother would, she lovingly explained that she had to go to work to help make money for the family. In his innocence, her son held up a chubby little hand clutching a quarter. I could almost hear his little voice say, "Here Mommy, you can have this. Now you won't have to go back to work." She tried to explain it wasn't enough...to which he replied, "But it's all I could find."

Now at this point every mother who has ever had to return to work feels a lump rising in her throat. After I wiped away a tear, I started thinking how often we forget the sacrifice made by teachers. We often see them as some person who only exists from the hours of 8 to 3...or 4 if they stay late. We usually only think of them when our child is having trouble, or when we think they aren't doing enough to teach our child. We forget that while they are teaching our precious child, plus about 25 others, they are away from their own.
Yes, I realize many mothers make the sacrifice of having to return to work after their child is born, but teachers face another challenge as well. After being with the children of others all day long, they return to their own homes and deal with their own. Of course, teachers' children are normal children. They have good days and bad. They sometimes get sick in the middle of the night. They have homework that someone has to help them with and even at times get into mischief that requires correction. They tell their parents about projects the night before they are due. They sometimes make poor grades....but mostly, they want time with the most important person they know - Mom. Mom, otherwise known as Mrs. Teacher during the daylight hours, does her best to find energy and words to share with their own children. Then, after she puts them into bed, she prepares for another day of teaching the children of others.

This past week, when my own child was being less than stellar, I went to visit one of her teachers. This woman is a wonderful teacher...who is also a wonderful mother. She found the patience to help me guide my progeny into the way she should go. The thing is, I know she was probably wishing more than anything that she could just be home holding her own baby instead grading papers, meeting with a parent, attending endless meetings filled with more paperwork, planning new ways to reteach the same material to students who simply didn't pay attention the first time, and making copies in preparation for the next day. I know, because when I asked about her baby, her eyes sparkled with that look only a mom can get. I asked myself, "Have I forgotten that sacrifice these wonderful people have made to help guide my child?" Too often, I'm afraid the answer is yes.

So for all the teachers out there...and those who serve others everyday...I salute you. My prayer for you is that each day you have those moments when someone realizes your sacrifice and says thank you. I pray that your energy will be renewed so that when you walk through the door to your own family, you still feel like "playing". I pray that for your children, there will be people like yourself who share themselves to make the world a better place. I wish I could offer more than those prayers and this blog, but "it's all I could find."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Broken crayons

A friend reminded me tonight of a conversation we'd had a while back...I'm not sure if the thoughts are entirely original, or if I'm repeating something I read somewhere. Either way, it's worth sharing.

As a teacher, I am a sucker for fresh school supplies. I love post-it notes, new pencils and notebooks, colored paper clips, you name it. But by far my favorite new school supply is a box of crayons.

Almost everyone knows the absolute joy of opening that new box and smelling the new crayon smell. You gaze down at the row of colors, all unused and perfectly sharp, and you begin to create. Perhaps it will be a rainbow, a castle, a futuristic car, the face of someone you love, or simply your name in curly cues and fancy swirls. You can't wait to use them, yet you almost hate to dull the first one as it glides across your paper.

Contrast this with the crayons children bring home in their backpacks at the year's end. Those crayons are broken, worn down, used and reused again. They have already created masterpieces....but they are no longer treasured. These crayons are tossed to the side in hopes of a new box to replace them.

What a shame. In being so enraptured with the new crayons, we forget to see the potential in the broken crayons we already have. These crayons are the ones that can be molded and blended to create colors beyond what any box can provide. These crayons can be peeled to expose the perfect side for shading and adding color to the sky. These crayons are ready to be used without fear of marring their perfection. These broken crayons truly do create some of the most beautiful pictures.

Of course, there is an analogy here....sometimes we see people, dreams and ideas the way we see these crayons. Everyone wants the new ones, the fresh ones, the ones that seem "perfect". Unfortunately in doing so we often overlook the ones that are "broken". We forget that in brokeness, we can find beauty. In brokeness, we are made whole. In brokeness, new "pictures" are created that can touch our world. Those around us that seem broken or worn out are some of the richest "colors" there are to be found. Whether it's a dream that has faded, a person who the world sees as "broken", or a life that feels worn out...in our weakness, He is made strong. There are pictures yet to create.

May your day be filled with beautiful pictures today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Come as a child

Today in church our pastor was speaking on who the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to, and when he got to the part of those who were childlike, my ears immediately perked up! I got excited not because I am childlike - although I sincerely hope I am, but because this is a blog topic I've been mulling over for about a week. I take that as a signal that now is the time to write this blog.

What exactly does it mean to "come as a child"? What characteristics does a child have? For many, the answer is that a child is innocent and trusting - well, that may be a baby's description, but for those of us who have worked with children, a very different picture emerges. Children can be so full of life that containing them is a challenge. They are sometimes loud, runny-nosed, smelly, and just plain messy! What about those characteristics?

I really liked what our pastor said about being childlike as opposed to childish. To be childlike meant to be without cynicism...full of wonder instead of doubt. That is a pretty accurate description, but I think there's even more. So, with hat in hand, I submit a further definition of being childlike.

Anyone who is a parent knows the joy of going to pick your child up from the sitter and knowing that when they hear your voice or see your face, that child will come running and shouting your name, eager to be picked up. You are their hero and they are SO glad to see you. That fades with time and as they get older, they tend to ignore your presence - even seem embarassed by it. I want to be the child who eagerly RUNS to my Father God knowing that He has come for me! I don't want the cynicism of time to dull that excitement of knowing my Father is near.

Children also are notorious for hugs and kisses - even if they aren't especially neat when they feel the need to give those hugs and kisses. Jam all over their face - no problem. Gooey mud on their fingers - they don't even give it a second thought. No matter what kind of mess they are in, they eagerly run to their father and wait to be picked up. Too often, when I find my life is a sticky, gooey mess, I think I have to clean myself up BEFORE I can come to my father. Instead, I should just run to Him...He can clean me up much better than I can clean myself. He doesn't turn away and tell me to go clean up before approaching Him - He stoops down to pick me up and return my embrace. I've found myself saying to my own child - "My aren't you a mess," only to have them laughingly agree and reach out for me to fix it.

When a child is hurt, they immediately look for their parent. They know the one who can take the hurt away simply by holding them. I see this in my own children, even though they are now older. They may hold it together, hiding their pain - until they see my face. Then they crumble and just allow me to hold them. At times, when life has beaten them down, they lash out at me. I don't like it, but I know they aren't angry at me. They are frustrated and need to vent. They know no matter what they say or do, I love them. I have had time myself when I railed against the injustice of life to my Father. He is not afraid of my anger or angry at me in return. Instead, He listens, allows me to rant and rage and then reminds me of His Truth that helps me go on in peace. For my anger, He gives peace in return.

Children are sure that their parents can fix anything. It only takes one or two feeble attempts before they come with broken pieces in their hands and beg you to fix it. I wonder how often I forget to take the broken pieces to my Father God to let Him make things new again.

Children believe they can do anything their parent tells them they can do. I was sure I would be a doctor or veterinarian or great artist - all because my parents said I could do it. Yet, I doubt God when He tells me I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Funny how getting older changes things.

A child is filled with the awe and wonder of creation (thanks for pointing that one out Pastor!) My children were constantly filled with wonder at a rock, a flower, a turtle, just about everything when they were young. Yesterday, we went on a nature walk and once again we slowed down enough to marvel at a spider in his web. Maybe it's not just that we forget to be filled with wonder, maybe we forget to slow down enough to see it.

A child is filled with compassion. When they see something that has died, their hearts fill with sorrow - even if it's only a small bird. Have I allowed my heart to become so hardened that it no longer feels sorrow for the helpless...even the birds and opossums? Yes, I know I can't go around crying over ever creature that dies, but do I still feel at least a little sorrow for what sin has brought into this world? That is what caused all this - sin....and mine was a part of that.

A child is always looking to see if their parent is watching. Mama, watch me! How many times have I heard that? Am I still just as eager for my Father's watchful eye? Do I seek His approval above all others?

At times, I have found others who think that an optimistic outlook is simply the mark of someone who just does not understand how dreadful things are. Make no mistake, remaining childlike is NOT easy in today's society. It takes a concentrated effort to find the good in all situations and people. Still, it's worth it....for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

Now, I have to go and deal with my child who is not acting very childlike, but who is acting very childish right now. You can figure out which one.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


As I got into the shower this morning, I noticed my knee was stinging quite a bit. When I looked down, I saw the reason why. I was sporting a lovely new "strawberry" on my right knee, compliments of a friend. I also had an aching jaw, compliments from another friend on the same evening.

Now before you think I hang out with some really tough friends, or think I've been in some sort of street brawl, let me say - these were all a result of a recent Krav training workout. These wounds were truly from friends and I actually treasure them....the wounds and the friends.

Let me explain. If you have read any of my earlier blogs about Krav, you might remember that one important aspect of these workouts is having someone who will push me to my limit. It's important in these self-defense workouts to test myself occasionally not in hopes that I will ever have to use these skills, but in hopes that I WON'T! During this week's particular workout, I was clipped in the jaw by one of my friends and then in a practice drill with his daughter, I rubbed my knee raw. (By the way, I wouldn't ever really attack either of these people, not only because they are my friends but also because they pack a pretty mean punch!)

These new "trophies" , as my son refers to them, are evidence that not only can my friends be counted on, they love me as well. To begin with, both somewhat "pulled" their punches. They did not come at me full force. They also gave me chances to "hit" back and didn't take offense at my puny efforts. And of course, all this got me to thinking about a principal from Proverbs that says "Faithful are the wounds of a friend...." (Prov. 27:6)

I am so thankful for these friends...not only in self-defense but in spiritual growth as well. I realize I do have friends who will lovingly "push" me to my limits. Sometimes they even do what to some might seem like striking out, but in fact they are only helping to strengthen me in areas of weakness. They never lash out at me full force, they "pull" their punches keeping in mind what I can stand, always checking after the session to make sure I'm not hurt too much.

I need friends like this; we all do. I know I need people who, when they see me faultering, will take me aside and give me a "punch" back into reality. They aren't doing it just to see me stagger backwards, they do it to help me correct something that may be causing harm or to strengthen me in areas I am weak. I think the grown-up word for all of this is "accountability". No matter what we call it, we need it. I don't want to be surrounded just by those who tell me good things, (although I do really like and need to hear occasionally what I do well!) I also want to have people around me who challenge me to be more than I am. I want to have friends who will occasionally hit me with the truth...all the while checking to make sure I'm okay. And the truth is, I know if I should ever be in danger, these friends are the same ones who would join in the fight with me - physically or spiritually.

Yep, faithful are the wounds of a friend. Good news like that makes me want to look at my bruises and smile.

Monday, September 29, 2008

what's in the water?

Okay, this one has been on my mind for a couple of days now. It's based on a scripture that, for lack of a better word picture, keeps "bubbling up" inside me.

"Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." - Proverbs 4:23-27

When I first started thinking about this verse, I kept getting a picture of people throwing trash into my wellspring! Oh, let's be honest...I've been tossing some of it in there myself! Then I wonder, why is my heart sick...good grief - just look at what I've been drinking! Some of the garbage is found in the form of television...mostly fluff. Some is wasted time, some is just allowing life to toss its refuse my way. That's the garbage that's easy to clear out. A few swipes and it's gone. Some garbage, however, is much more toxic and difficult to remove. That kind of garbage comes for me, in the form of failure, fear and dread. There's been a lot of toxic waste to choose from lately. Some is wrapped up in the election, some is wrapped up in the news, some isn't even wrapped...it comes special delivery and dives right in! I find that I not only partake of this stuff, but I spill over onto my family and everyone around me! Surely I'm not the only one who has barrels of toxic waste waiting to bob to the surface with each passing wave!

I've decided that I'm taking a stand. (Gee, that's scary to write!) I'm choosing to guard my heart. I may have to consciously block some garbage that wants to come my way, and I may have to reach in and clear out some refuse that drifts in, but I'm going to keep this spring clear. I don't want to look into my life and see some polluted river with dead floating fish and green slime that looks like it could crawl out of the water and eat me! I don't want my wellspring to look like some sort of Ganges river filled with the ashes of dead dreams and false gods, (not to mention sacred cows!) I want a spring that bubbles and is clear and fresh and cool....one that sustains life and hope.

Yes, I know things look bad, but I'm also going to keep my eyes focused straight ahead...directly before me. (That's the second part of that verse that I'd forgotten until I looked it up!) It's a funny thing, whatever you focus on, you tend to veer in that direction. When I'm running, if I focus straight ahead and lift my head, I do much better. I feel better and I have hope that the goal is within reach. When I drop my head, the race becomes difficult...it's much easier to quit. If I look in either direction, I find my steps are following my gaze. I have to ask myself, am I looking down at myself, outward to the problem, or am I focused on the goal?

Whether we look at what is happening in our lives as garbage that tries to muddy the waters, or as something that tries to distract us to look its way, either way we must guard our hearts. We can not simply drift along and go with the flow...as tempting as that may be. It is time to set our eyes on the goal - the One who is the Author and finisher of our faith. Guard our heart so that out of it may come clean waters for the thirsty soul.

I plan on reminding myself of this the next time I buy groceries and the bill is so staggering it makes me ill. I will remind myself of this when my children act like, well, children. I will remind myself of this when life becomes so daily that I find myself not living for the moment but waiting for the someday. I will guard my heart, fix my eyes on the goal and travel on. Care to join me?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Krav has taught me about the Christian walk..

This could be a rather long post, so you might want to get a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable...that is if you decide to read on.

As my aching muscles were recovering from a recent Krav workout and I was trying to convince myself I needed to go for a run to build endurance, I had one of those 'Random thoughts' that usually leads to these blogs. During those moments of trying to get one foot in front of the other, I realized I could find a lot of parallels between Krav and my Christian walk.

For those who are not aware of what Krav Maga is, it is a form of self defense. It works off using moves that come somewhat naturally and trains you to use them in the most effective way - I say Krav teaches you how to go home alive. My instructors usually call the moves our "tools" that we have in our "toolbox". That is where the parallels begin.

Krav takes what comes naturally and uses it. In life, when we are struck by an attack from the enemy, we will usually do what comes naturally. We will use what we know how to do. If, in Krav, I only know one move, I will use that move over and over trying to get away. It might not be the best move, but of course it's better than none! It would be better if I knew a number of moves with which to defend myself, but in the midst of battle is not the time to try and learn a new move! The same can be said of spiritual battles. If all I have in my "toolbox" are a few scriptures, I will use those over and over again. They may not be the best for this particular battle, but they are better than nothing! When I am in the midst of battle won't be the best time to try to learn new scriptures either. I've got to use what I know. The time to learn how to use my weapons isn't in the midst of battle, it's long before an attack ever comes. Those scriptures, just like my Krav moves, have got to become second nature to me. They have to be a part of who I am.

Krav also works best if you are in good shape to begin with. It doesn't rely on strength so much as quickness and endurance. I get more out of my workouts and training if I do a little maintenance and endurance training in between sessions. There is reasoning behind this. If I should ever be in a situation where I find myself attacked, a quick tap on the nose probably isn't going to deter my attacker. I won't be playing, I very well might be fighting for my life and that tap will only serve to anger them more. I have to know that should an attack come, I am ready to fight until I can go home....alive. I don't know how long I will have to fight. Hopefully my first defense will be sufficient, but if it is not I am ready to continue on. The spiritual connection to this is pretty obvious. The devil isn't going to attack and when I use one scripture simply say, "Oh well, she is prepared, let's go home." My enemy seeks to kill and destroy...I have to be able to stand no matter what. I have to be ready to fight until the battle is won. That comes from spending time DAILY with the Lord and in His Word. I have to build myself up in faith so that in the time of testing, I can stand.

Another parallel I've found is that during my Krav workouts, the areas I'm weakest are the hardest to convince myself to do. I HATE push-ups, mainly because my upper body is weak. I LOVE the kicks because my lower body is strong. I can use what I'm good at, but at times I have to be ready to use what I'm weaker in as well. My adversary won't always attack where I am strongest. I have to recognize my areas of weakness and work to build those up as well...even if it's difficult and I don't like it.

Of course, as with any martial arts, Krav trains that you don't go out looking for a fight. I am however ready should I ever find myself under attack. While I make it a practice to walk around aware of my surroundings and steer clear of things that put me into unnecessary danger, I also know that I can walk without fear. I am able to go into situations knowing that if I had to, I could protect myself. More importantly, I can protect those that I love. While I don't go out looking for a fight, should anyone ever harm one of my children or the children left in my care, they will definitely have a MAJOR fight on their hands. One of the drills we do has to do with fighting off one attacker and then chasing down another one. Why would I ever do that? Why to protect my child of course. I'm not in this just for myself. I'm fighting for those I love as well. (I hope you are finding the spiritual connections in all this even if I don't spell it out. When the devil attacks me, I get mad. When he attacks my family, I attack back and will not give up until they are free. I'm sure parents can identify with these sentiments.)

Finally, in Krav I train best when I have people of like strength...or those who are stronger than me. To push myself to where I need to be, I have to have someone who will challenge me to push on. In my Christian faith, I need the same thing. I need people who will help me sharpen my sword, as iron sharpens iron. I need to be challenged at times to make sure I can use my weapon should I need to. At times, I help others who are just learning or who don't yet have the endurance. I'm glad to do that. However, to push myself to what I need, it is important to surround myself during times of training with those who make me reach down deep and find strength I did not know I had. One of the reasons I feel that I could possibly survive an attack physically is that I have had training partners who pushed me to the point where I felt the "overdrive" kick in. They also helped me identify my areas of weakness so that I could grow.

I hope I never have to defend myself or my family against an attacker. I may go home to be with God NEVER having to physically fight. With spiritual matters however, I know I won't have that luxury. I fight an enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy my life...and that of my family. The moment I forget that enemy is real, I let my guard down and become vulnerable. That enemy is real, but my God is much more real. He has given me weapons of warfare; my job is to know how to use them.

Having said all that, it's time to go our for some endurance training...a run and some time spent in prayer.

even if no one notices

This one will be short.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of helping with the Labor Your Legs Race with the Pine Belt Pacers. As I was setting up to be a course monitor, I noticed a small patch of white flowers growing alongside the road underneath my feet. Since I had a few minutes waiting on the first runners, I stooped down to take a closer look.

There were quite a few of these delicate little flowers, all in full bloom. No one probably ever notices them...they are so small and close to the ground. That didn't matter. They bloomed anyway. After all, they weren't necessarily blooming for someone else anyway. They were blooming because God had created them to.

Now I know I am using personification, but it made me think of the verse in the Bible that talks about "consider the lilies". Well, I am considering the wildflowers. They may be small, not nearly as spectacular as a rose or some other more noticeable flower, but they bloom just the same. They brighten the small area where they are. I was fortunate enough to be there to see them, but they weren't blooming for me. They bloomed simply "as unto the Lord."

Would that I could live my Christian life this way. Caring not for recognition, but "blooming" where I am as unto the Lord. Maybe I will be noticed, maybe not. I, like many others, wish I could be great at SOMETHING. I run, but I'm not really that fast. I write, but only a blog that very few will ever read or care about. I fail on a regular basis as a wife and mother. I teach, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for "Teacher of the Year" award. Let's be honest, I'm never going to be the greatest at anything....except being me. But really, that's all I've ever needed to be.

It would be so amazing to be considered the best at something, but maybe that's not my destiny. Maybe my life will consist simply of "blooming", even if no one notices. I live for the day when I can hear my Savior say, "Well done." Come to think of it, maybe that one little flower was also blooming for me. Perhaps, that's a part of the plan. We are to "bloom" as unto the Lord, then when the time is right, someone will see...and a life will be changed. Lord, help me to live my life as unto You...simply because that's what You created me to do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is the Christian life routine?

Okay, it's been quite a while since I've blogged. The muse just hasn't been stirring! I sensed that was about to change however when in service last week, I had one of those "random thoughts."

The sermon was about the Kingdom of God and how the Kingdom is Righteousness, Peace, and Joy. I had heard sermons about keeping your peace and joy, but when Pastor began to talk about walking in Righteousness, the wheels began to turn. Let me begin by stating that by Righteousness, I'm not referring to some set of rules and regulations. I'm talking about walking in obedience to the voice of God as He leads you. We know that when we are saved, we receive the Robe of Righteousness, but walking in Righteousness has more to do with following God on a daily basis....walking WITH Him as it were.
Anyway, as I remember, Pastor was talking about how we as Christians sometimes get to a point of obeying God about something, and because we either are unwilling to submit or we just sort of "put off obeying", we get off the "path of righteousness" and take a detour. We're no longer heading in the direction we thought we were, but instead we're going around in circles. It's much like what the children of Israel did in the desert...circled around the mountain. We eventually come back to that "lesson" or "place of decision" where we are once again presented with the option of obeying or "making another round." I had heard this before...but somehow this time I "heard" a different part.

As Pastor illustrated his point by walking in that circle, it occured to me...that's when the Christian life gets "dull". I've heard it before..."the fire is gone, I feel like I'm not growing, this life has become routine." To be honest, I've felt it myself. So what happened? I got off the path and started walking in circles. It's no wonder it felt dull. The scenery wasn't changing much because I was simply walking in circles, covering the same ground I'd gone over so many times before....much like running around the track over and over again. Of course it would be dull!

However, if I am walking in the path of righteousness that God has mapped out for me, well that is anything BUT dull! Each day can be a new adventure because God has planned something for me to learn, a life for me to touch, or simply a day of rest in Him. I love that song by the Newsboys..."Wherever we go, that's where the party's at!" That song strikes a chord in me (pardon the pun) that reminds me that wherever I go, I'm supposed to make a difference. Why? Because wherever I go, I take Jesus...whether I realize it or not! But that's a whole different blog!

So what's the point? I guess it boils down to this....if you think the Christian life is dull, perhaps it's time to stop and ask yourself if you've moved off the path of Righteousness. I know I'm going to keep a close eye on myself...just in case I start thinking life is getting too routine.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Me and my big mouth

Okay, I did it again. I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. Those that know me well figure this is just a part of the daily routine of being my friend. I've even had someone tell another person, "Don't take offense, she didn't mean anything by that. You've got to know her - there is no malice in her words." (Okay, so maybe they didn't use the word malice, but the overall meaning was that there wasn't a mean bone in my body....or maybe they meant there wasn't a thought in my head, I'm not sure which.) And to tell the truth, I DON'T mean offense! Most of the time I'm just looking for ways to make people laugh and enjoy life a little more. As for when I DO have an opinion, I know some people don't particularly agree with it, but I'm really okay with that. Especially if it pertains to something I really feel strongly about. My past blogs probably show evidence of that.

The problem is, ever since this election came up I feel like I'm walking on eggshells about every conversation! It's as if everyone is choosing sides! To be honest, my candidates never even seem to get this far in the process. Most were gone very early in the process! It's almost as if my support for someone is the kiss of death! (That really should encourage anyone who disagrees with me on who to support!)

Now in writing this, some will probably wonder how I could NOT support their candidate. It's simple - I don't know who to believe anymore. I don't know either candidate personally. I'm not sure I know what they believe about anything - I get my information from others (sometimes laughing referred to as "news sources"). I know I don't agree with some things about either candidate - but as to date, no one has called and asked my opinion. They don't really care. To be sure, they want my vote - but not necessarily what I think about things. My husband has a saying, "They didn't ask me." My daughter's response was, "Face it Daddy, they're never going to ask you."

I said all that to say this, if I offend you with any comment I may or may not make about your favorite candidate - please forgive me. I'm thankful I live in a country where I CAN have an opinion. I will probably say something stupid again very soon; some things are just a given. I apologize ahead of time. As for the things I blog about - well, hardly anyone reads those anyway. But, if you should and are offended by what I write, I'm okay with that. The things I cover in my blog, I feel pretty strongly about. That doesn't necessarily make me right, but it is what I BELIEVE.

When it comes to the election and the candidates, I BELIEVE I'll try and keep my mouth shut on them till after November and then I will open it only in support of our president and in prayer that he may be lead by God in all that he does. (If Hillary had gone all the way to the White House, that prayer would have been that SHE might be lead by God in all that SHE does.) I don't pretend to know anything about politics, but I do know these are perilous times we live in...may God lead each of us to do what He has created us to do....and if that should be president for some of you someday - don't forget to ask my husband about things.....he could really use the laugh.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What were they thinking??????

Well, since it's pretty much official that I'm the world's biggest fuddy duddy, I might as well add fuel to the fire.

This topic has been on my mind for a while. What were they thinking? No, I'm not talking about the movie The Dark Knight...although the question does apply. I'm talking about the way we approach life. What are we thinking might be a better title.

If I base my life on the Word of God and follow the admonition that whatever is good, pure, honest, of a good report - to think on these things, (Phillipians 4:8), then my way of doing things will understandably change. For as a man thinks, so is he. (Proverbs 23: 7). The question is, am I thinking on things that are good, pure, honest, of a good report? Do I choose my movies, my tv shows, my music based on this or do I simple go with the flow...downstream.

Do I spend my time finding the good in others, or do I lean toward seeing their faults? Do I look for the good in each day, or spend my moments complaining about what didn't go right? Do I fill my thoughts with garbage or do I fill them with the things that fit Phil. 4:8? I don't even have to answer that...basic human tendency is to gravitate toward the negative....but I guess that's the point. I'm striving not to be more human, but more like Christ in all that I say and do. Not that I'm holy or anything...I'm as flawed as anyone you will ever meet - more than most I'd say. No, it's not about having achieved, it's about wanting to be more like Christ so that the world sees HIM, not me. Christ found the good in people, even the vilest of sinners and forgave those that hurt Him. He did not condone the behavior and say "Well, that's just the way things are today." AND - He didn't pick up their ways of doing things as we often do. (Kind of makes me wonder who the rap stars of His day were...and how he'd have reached out to them.) Yes, Christ is the model, but do I follow Him?

What did Christ fill His mind with? What I fill my mind with will usually determine how I act, or re-act to the world around me. If I fill my mind with fluff - you know the stuff that's neither good nor bad - then I probably will react in ways that make no difference to the world around me...or worse, in ways that harm. If I fill my mind with things that are evil, I find myself gravitating toward reactions of fear, hate, etc. and we know where thoughts like that can lead. But on those weeks when I have really spent time with God in His word allowing Him to teach me, then I don't react, but I act and even I can see the difference it makes.

I'm tempted to go off on what I see has become the mental diet of teenagers, but I won't. This isn't about preaching to teens, it's about examining my own life. I did overhear one teen tell another that it's just the way they think...God understands. I have to believe that God does understand and it breaks His heart....that they have been duped by the devil and his lies. They have taken the bait that they have to be just like the world. I hope that someone will be able to speak into their lives and help them see the truth.

Seeing the Dark Knight made me realize how as a society we fill our minds with violence, evil, and every manner of wickedness and because it's packaged the way it is, we call it entertainment. We listen to music that glorifies infidelity, and hatred and don't even realize we've allowed the thoughts access to our head. Am I willing to look at what I am allowing into my life for what it is and truly question it? Is anyone? Am I willing to ask myself would I allow a garbage truck to back up to my house and drop every manner of filth into it and never question the way I allow tv, music, and movies to do? Or, am I willing to say "create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me?"

I can't change the world...but I can allow God to change me.

For those who have seen, or plan to see The Dark Knight, this is a great site....don't worry, it doesn't tell you not to see it: http://www.dare2share.org/students/the-dark-night-of-our-world

For a really good study on Phil. 4:8, I found this blog. Thank you to Susan Godfrey for putting in the work to find the original meaning of the words true, honest, and of a good report.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An unpopular opinion on The Dark Knight movie

Well, be forewarned, many will not like my opinion about the new Batman movie. That's okay.

I went with my daughter and friend to see the new Batman movie...not that I had any real desire to see it, but my young teenager wanted to see it and I'm of the belief that I need to be aware of what she's watching and what is popular in the culture. So I went. Within the first few minutes of this movie, I knew this wasn't the Batman I grew up with...or even the Batman of previous movies. This movie was far more evil. There, I said it...evil. Sorry. It wasn't the scary factor that got to me, it was the sick evil that prevaded the character of the Joker. It made me sad to realize that the horror portrayed was in some ways reality. It was real enough that the young actor who played the Joker tried to escape it and lost his life in the process.

Now I realize I'm sensitive to this kind of thing. I make no apologies for that. I don't really want to get to the place where that kind of thing DOESN'T bother me. What bothers me even more was that in this theater, there were small children...being exposed to this kind of darkness. I'm not shaking a finger at any parents. I assume they had no idea it would be this way...but still, they saw images of evil in a large format. I leave any conclusion as to what effect that might have on them to your imagination. And my child was there - along with friends. Of course, I'm sure they figure my opinion is just that of a mom...a fuddy duddy in the highest form. Again, I'm okay with that. I did what I could. I spent the entire movie in that "tunnel" that leads up to the theater, praying for the minds, hearts and souls of my child, her friends, and those small little ones in the theater. Yes, I know that's weird...I'm okay with that, too.

So, in my unpopular opinion, this is a movie you really do not need to see. Of course, that won't stop most people.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why we have to tell you we got it on sale

Okay, this one will be a short post.
Have you ever noticed that when a woman is complimented on something she is wearing or a decoration in her house that often she will volunteer to the complimenter the following information...."I got it on sale!" Sort of like those T.J. Maxx commercials where the woman goes on and on about her designer clothes that she got at such a great price. I bet you guys wonder why we do that, don't you.
The explanation is quite simple. We tell you about the sale for the same reason you feel the need to tell us how many points were on that buck you killed. Or how long you fought that fish to reel him in! Or how .... well, I've run out of comparisons. Simply put - it's all about the hunt. We're just hunting different things....and it's our right to brag!

You're not from around here, are you...

This Sunday, my family and I went out to eat at a local restaurant. When our waitress came to take our order, with her first sentence I could tell that she wasn't from around here! Sure enough, she was from South Dakota and her husband was stationed at the nearby National Guard base. Since meeting her, the phrase "You're not from around here" had been turning in my random thoughts.

We've all met people that immediately we pegged as to what group they were a part of or what area of the country they were from simply by their mannerisms and way of talking. Some people are harder to peg than others, but some simply stand out. I got to wondering, do I stand out?

When I first moved to Mississippi from Alabama (yeah, I know that's not that big of a difference), people told me the phrase "Once you get that Mississippi mud on you, you never get it off." In my naive way of thinking, I simply commented I'd use Tide - cause it got everything out! Now, of course, I realize they meant once you've lived in Mississippi, you show signs of it no matter where you go....by the way, I happen to think of that as a compliment.

There are many things we use to identify things and where they are from. One of the more distinct ways I notice things is by their smell. Everyone knows certain smells go with certain things. For example, no one can mistake the smell of wet dog with anything else, and we can tell when we're around someone who has been smoking or drinking. Growing up, I worked at the local burger place and I could hardly wait to get home each night and wash away that "grease" smell. However, more pleasant smells are identifiable to us as well: the smell of a puppy, or of a little baby (sans dirty diaper of course), the smell of biscuits baking or of cake in the oven, the smell of rain, the smell of gardenias and magnolias, the smell of that store in the mall where they periodically spray the clothes with their signature scent, the smell of Daddy's shirt or Mama's perfume. Some smells simply make us want to linger, close our eyes and just experience them.

Therein lies the point of this blog.

In the Bible, it says that when Moses came down from the mountain after being with God he absolutely glowed, (paraphrased). We've all been around people who are like that....there is something about them that absolutely draws us to them. We want to linger. It's as if they carry the "scent" of being with the Father. Just by meeting them, you know - "they're not from around here." I'm not talking about words or phrases they use - anyone can mimic that. I'm talking about that indescribable something that draws us to them.

I've heard the quote, "they will know we are Christians by our love." What I wonder is, will they know Christ loves them by my life? Does my life bear the marks of being with the Father? Will they be drawn to Christ because of the unmistakeable scent in my life that only comes because I've spent time with Him. Will they want to linger and find out how to have that same aroma of love in their lives? Will they discover that our Father God isn't someone to run from, but to run to?

Will I stand out from the moment they come in contact with me? Will something in my life say that this is not my home....that I "ain't from around here"? If not, then I guess I need to spend more time with Him.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cleaning for company

Okay, it's been a while since I've blogged, but I try not to write unless the "muse" really strikes and obviously, it hasn't struck in a while! Must be summer.

Today, I finished up a wonderful weekend at our church with friends at a Loving Well Weekend. The guest speaker (via tape of course) was Beth Moore. Anyone who has heard her teaching can tell you she has quite a way of relating truth through stories....maybe that's what helped stir my "Random thoughts" again.

In our small group, we were discussing that as women we tend to beat ourselves up sometimes over words we've spoken, or things we've done or left undone....the list goes on and on. Of course, if anyone asks us how we are doing we'll just say "fine". We don't let anyone get too close or see what's really going on inside. We play it safe....everything is just "fine". Of course, as many emails will tell you (mostly those attempting to interpret the difference in male and female speak), fine is anything but. That's where the picture started to form in my head. The picture of my daughter's cleaning.

Now, let me begin by saying that my daughter has really grown in her cleaning since her early attempts, and I'm very thankful for the wonderful help that she is! (Have I sufficiently covered myself so that she won't stop cleaning? I sure hope so.) However, in her early attempts at cleaning, there was more "hiding" than real cleaning going on. You know what I mean. The counters in the kitchen would be spotless! Everything was magazine perfect. Anyone would be so happy to call that kitchen their own. Things got kind of interesting however when I started looking for things.

"Honey, where are those bills I had on the counter? I need to pay them." Or, "Where is the can opener? It was right here and now I can't find it." You get the picture. You see, in the early days of cleaning, she would simply take whatever was there and stuff it away...as long as you couldn't see it, it was okay. I have found some of the strangest things in the strangest places after one of her cleaning sessions. Sometimes the cupboards would be packed so tight, when I opened them, all manner of things fell out on my head.

Right there is where the word picture REALLY hits home. Her cleaning isn't all that different from the way I sometimes deal with life. How many times have I simply stuffed the garbage in my life into some "cupboard" so that everything on the outside looked picture perfect? Instead of really dealing with anger, hurts, whatever - I find ways to put it away, presumably to deal with later. Only I don't deal with it later. I just stuff some more stuff in there the next time I need to look "perfect" and the next time and the next time until some poor unsuspecting soul (usually my husband) opens up the "cabinet" looking for something only to have all my garbage pour down upon his head. I hope you can see this picture as clearly as I do right now. My poor loving husband standing there with piles of emotional garbage falling around him and all he really wanted was a cup of coffee.

I think that for many of us, it's time to start cleaning out the garbage. Whatever the past has dealt, or just left lying around on our counters, it's time to either use it, or get rid of it. It is no longer acceptable to stuff it into the cabinet of our hearts and minds like a ticking time bomb or loaded cabinet waiting to spill out onto those around me. There is no need to hide the hurt or rehearse the hurt or frame it and look at it each day. It's time to toss it. It's time to accept my less than magazine perfect life and realize I have been blessed beyond what I could ever hope or imagine...and garbage stuffed into the corners doesn't fit who I am called to be.

If this somehow spoke to someone, I pray your day be blessed with an abundance of sunshine in the dark corners and joy as you allow God to help you "toss out the garbage". It's a decision that we have to make everyday. The good news is, after a while it gets easier to do. Garbage thoughts don't have a chance to build up cause we get rid of them when they hit the door....not store them away for later.

So that's my Random thought for the week. Next time I'll try and write about something lighter - like why women get so excited about a sale!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why anotherbattlewon?

Okay, I'm obviously just learning to "do" this blogging thing. I just discovered a message left a week ago from someone! I've really got to do better on my new blogging commitment.

The message I received asked "why anotherbattlewon?" Thanks for asking! It's not deeply spiritual or anything. It's sort of a "mantra" I came up with when I started running. Since I'm not very fast - and I seem to be getting slower with age and injuries - I had to find some way to encourage myself to do what I knew I needed to do! Running was a sport I took up a few days after my 47th birthday. My first race was the Petal Y's 5k in 2006.

I actually started "getting in shape" around the time of Katrina - didn't we all! What with battling the heat, sawing and hauling logs from the trees that were in my house, washing clothes my hand, etc. I began to rediscover a level of fitness or lack thereof! The fact that the only channel available to us after the hurricane featured the second season of "The Biggest Loser" didn't hurt either. With all that for motivation, I started getting myself in shape by MOVING! At first, when we were finally able to start getting back to normal, I went to the Y and used the exercise machines there. Then after signing up for the race, I found how much fun running could be and decided I'd like to give it a try.

Like most of my "commitments" to get in shape, I was pretty hit and miss. Then I met some people from the Pine Belt Pacers. (You can check out their website at pinebeltpacers.org) On the last day of that school year, as I was walking out to my car, I saw "Coach Becky" setting up for that afternoons 5K training at the Thames track. I definitely wasn't in the mood to run. I was exhausted and had just gotten some news about a former student that pretty much knocked the wind out of my sails. Becky encouraged me to come on out and give the training a try. After getting home, I decided that going back would be a better use of my time than sitting on the couch. So I put on my old tennis shoes and headed back to the track. That day, I discovered how good exercise could be for helping me shake off the blues or feelings of being overwhelmed by life. I was able to clear my head and think.

As I plodded around that track, it occured to me that I'd won a battle. True - it was a small battle, but I for once I hadn't allowed my feelings to stop me from doing what I needed to do. I hadn't "put it off till tomorrow". That's where the saying "another battle won" was born. As I ran, (some would say walked quickly) around that track, I'd run it through my head....every day I run is another battle won. That saying got me off the couch more times than I could count! Before I knew it, I was enjoying some of the "benefits" of running. I lost weight, I felt much better - as in stress didn't have as great an effect on me, and I even got a little faster!
Now, another battle won fits a lot of areas of my life - even blogging! For years I've thought about doing some writing, but always put it off. After all, I wasn't very good, (just like I'm not very fast) and it takes time and....well a hundred other excuses. By blogging, I'm winning another battle against procrastination in my life. I may lose some, but at least I'm winning a few more!

So, that is the story of "anotherbattlewon". Thanks for taking the time to read it.
By the way, if you're interested, the Pine Belt Pacers are doing 5K training at the Thames track once again! You can check out their website or I'm pretty sure you can just show up on Tuesday evenings with a water bottle, a pair of running shoes, and your own version of anotherbattlewon!
Have a great week!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Just being myself .....isn't all that easy.

We’ve all heard it – “Just be yourself, and you’ll do just fine.” Great advice – but I find I have a hard time just being me. Certainly I can’t be alone in this. I read every day how we as a society compare ourselves to the women in the magazines, etc. and find we just don’t measure up. I look at others and see that I’m not as smart as, or as pretty as, or as talented as, or as patient as….you get the picture. I find myself wishing constantly that I could be a homemaker like this person, or as good a teacher as that one, or could cook like my friends, or entertain like they do.

But it’s not just that I find others better at things than me. I find I’m just as guilty at finding fault in others. Well, at least I’m not as….you fill in the blank….as that person. Problem is – I’m not that person. I have no idea what their life has been like up to this point. I have no idea what God has planned for them that they are either struggling with or growing in. I’m not them. I’m supposed to be me. I’m just not always comfortable being me so I try to deflect responsibility by comparing with others!

I used to see it in my students…”How come he gets to….”, “Well, she did….”. You get the picture, a whole lot of looking at someone else instead of looking at themselves and where they are. How many times did I hear, “It’s not fair!” Baby, if life were fair, I’d be taller, richer, and my students would be more obedient. It’s not about fair…it’s about living where you are each day. It’s about looking to God to get direction and taking responsibility for you.

This brings me back to being myself. I’ve been reminded this week of the time when Jesus was talking to Peter, who wanted to know “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 21:21-22) It’s not about what someone else has or does; it’s about what He’s called me to be. The purpose He has for me isn’t the same as someone else’s, so comparing is ridiculous! I may not be a part of the Body that is lovelier, or more noticeable, but I am an important part of the Body all the same…and I have a job to fulfill.

No, I won’t get younger, or prettier, or a hundred other things. But hopefully I can become more like Jesus each day – and He’s the only one I need to compare myself to. I will not attain perfection, but each day I can show a little more of Jesus by allowing Him to shine through the ‘me’ He has created me to be. No, I don’t always like who I am, but thankfully God isn’t through with ‘me’ yet.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Running thoughts...

Well, now that school is out, I finally have time to get back into my exercise routine. About 2 years ago I started running for stress relief and fitness and was getting pretty good at it. I was by no means the fastest, but I was holding my own in most races. Then, after running my first half marathon, I let life get in the way and I pretty much just stopped running. I never intended to stop...only to sit out for a while, but life has a way of filling in the empty spots with something and before I knew it, I hadn't run in almost a year.
I knew I'd be slower when I finally tied on my running shoes again, but I had no idea how much ground I had lost during those months of inactivity. What had once come easily was again a trial. Every step was a struggle. Make that every step IS a struggle. Even now, after trying to get back into the swing of running I'm struggling to regain lost ground. I am far more "out of shape" than I realized. Tonight, I tried my first Spin class....that's when it really hit me just how far back I'd fallen.
For those who've read my blog, you know there's a spiritual connection coming in here somewhere - and you're right. As I sat in my Bible study tonight, I had the thought that when we aren't actively seeking God and studying His Word, it's a lot like not exercising. We may think that we can pick up the Word and be right back where we were when we left off, but we can't. If we're not actively growing in Him, we're actually losing ground. Just as I struggle now to find my pace in running, if I stop growing in Him, I'll find myself struggling spiritually. It doesn't happen all at once. We get "busy" and let our study slip and before we know it life fills in the empty spaces and we turn around and realize it's been months since we've spent time with Him...really spent time with Him. I don't want to find myself in that position again. I want to thirst for Him like I thirst for water after a hard run....and nothing else can satisfy.
Okay, one more "running revelation" before I end this blog.
One day while out running, I was thinking about the phrase "run after God" and it started to puzzle me. If God is the one who draws us near, and He is like the father in the story of the prodigal son who runs out to meet his wayward child, then why do we have to run after Him? I began to wonder if this was some idea I had come up with from songs and such that wasn't based on scripture. In researching, I discovered the verses about running the race and about walking with God, but nothing about running after God. (Anyone who knows of such a verse, please let me know!) Evidently, this running after God was in the same vein as 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' and 'God helps those who help themselves'. In other words - a man made idea.
As I meditated on this, I felt as if the Lord was prompting me to not be in such a hurry all the time. All He required was that I WALK with Him. I didn't have to try so hard to 'do things for God'. I was simply to WALK with Him...and at times we would run together. This has changed the way I do a lot of things, including how I run. It's still hard to get out there in this heat and put one foot in front of the other, but now on my runs I try to be aware of the blessings around me....the evidence of God that truly surrounds us. I try to meditate on the scripture that I'm studying at the time, or pray for those who come to mind. And at times, I simply walk...with Him.
I don't know about anyone else, but I don't ever want to go back to sitting on the couch again - either physically or spiritually. Life is too short to waste it on something like that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The spice of life....

The other day in my 5th grade class, one of the students happened to ask about my sons ethnic heritage. Of course, being 5th graders, the question came out more along the lines of, "What is he?" I've long since learned to bite my tongue and not blurt out 'Human, what are you?" because I know they simply want to know what his ethnic heritage is. "My son," I replied, "is Chinese, Korean, Caucasian, Filipino." To which one of my sweet kids blurted out, "Jalapeno? Did you say he was jalapeno?!?"

Now, not only is that funny when you hear it, but it struck that 'Random thought' nerve in me when I realized my son has definitely brought spice into our lives.

Almost eleven years ago, we decided that we wanted to adopt again. (For those who haven't read the story of our first adoption, check out God made.) Now our daughter was adamant that she wanted a baby sister. We decided to leave it up to God. We filed the papers and began the wait. Of course we were anything but idle during the wait, we were after all chasing around a two year old! This time, however, the wait seemed to take forever! After almost a year of waiting, I began to wonder if perhaps God didn't want us to adopt again. Perhaps I had forced the issue. We were so blessed with our daughter, maybe I was being selfish wanting a second child. And still, we waited.

Then the call came. There was a baby boy whose birth mother had chosen us. He was 3 weeks old and if we were willing, we could pick him up the next day. The excitement must have carried us, because in 22 hours, we put up a Christmas tree, put up a crib, told our daughter that we were getting a baby boy not a baby girl, bought formula, clothes, etc. and drove 4 hours to meet our new son. He was the most beautiful little boy I'd ever laid eyes on. His jet black hair and big brown eyes melted me...and so did his beautiful birth mom. She was such a gift to meet. I think of her and her parent each time I look at my son's big loopy curls and freckled nose.

She asked us to keep a family name that she had given him. Of course we said yes. We'd already chosen his first name based on the fact that we'd never met a kid with that name who wasn't a great kid, (teachers - you'll understand that!) His middle name was to be my maiden name. So we decided to add her family name after my maiden name. That is, until I called my mother to tell her she had a grandson. When I told her his name, she said I should change it to where the name the birthmother had given him was first. All I could ask was "Why?" "Because," she said, "when you put that name first, his whole name is your grandfather's name."

Now that may be confusing, but in essence, by adding her family name to the two we'd chosen, we were naming our son with my grandfather's name. For me, this was a confirmation from God that not only were we to adopt again, but that we were to adopt THIS child. And believe me, with him, we've needed that at times! Life with our son is never dull! There was the time he went running up and down the hall with a towel tied around his neck jumping and running, jumping and running. Finally, he leaned exhausted on the door frame and said "Daddy, I'm having trouble flying! I keep on landing!" There was the time he learned to write his name and wrote it on a name tag at the Bethany Picnic. When he went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, he sighed, "Oh no! I did it again! I wrote my name backwards!" Then there was the time he decided to run away from home - without evem a diaper on...don't worry, he only got as far as the door. Oh, life has definitely been full of spice since he came along.

I heard in a Bible study this week that when something that comes so naturally to others doesn't come naturally to you, then you are a candidate for the supernatural! It is so humbling to think that God looked down at our family and heard our cries and gave us not one, but two beautiful children. God does hear the prayers of His children, and though the answer may seem long in coming...it is coming.

My son once said, "I wish I'd been born in your tummy." All I could say was, "I wish so too, but God had other plans. He put our family together for a purpose. We needed to have two children just like you, and the only way for that to happen was for him to have you grow in another mommy's tummy and in my heart. We are a forever family, put together by God. If that's not spice in life, I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

God made.....

We have always known what a blessed family we were. Since our daughter entered our lives through adoption over 13 years ago, we have been a family living with the constant reminder of God’s grace toward us. When we were blessed three years later with her baby brother, we knew life would never be the same......

Most families begin the same way, man and woman fall in love, get married and have children. For us however, things didn’t follow the pattern they were supposed to. I met my husband in Jr. College. He was sitting on the air conditioner - right above the sign that said “Do not sit on the air-conditioner” and it was love at first sight. Of course, it took us 5 more years to get to the married part. Soon after we married, we decided to start our family…only things didn’t go according to plan. Things rarely go according to my plan.

Our story isn’t unique, many couples go through the heart-ache of discovering that having a baby isn’t an option for them. Since we realized that the love in our heart didn’t require that the child be “flesh of our flesh”, we decided to adopt. Unfortunately, the adoption fell through and we found ourselves heartbroken and questioning God. I didn’t understand why God wasn’t hearing our prayers….why it seemed that the world was crashing down around our shoulders and there was nothing we could do except ache. Life lost its color and joy. Laughter left my heart for a very long time. God did slowly heal the hurt, but there was still that empty space in me that longed for a child. Since I wasn’t willing to be hurt like that again, I often said that God would have to send a telegram telling me Himself that we were to adopt again. Eight years later that telegram came in the form of an invitation to a Bethany Christian Services banquet.

At that banquet, we heard adoptive parents speak, a birth mom speak, and we saw countless pictures of happy children who had found their forever families. Before the night was over, we knew that we were on the road to adoption once again. Nine months later, our daughter came into our home. With her came laughter like refreshing water to a thirsty soul. I never knew how much I could love someone until I held her in my arms. I also realized what a sacrifice her birth mother had made in choosing adoption and I prayed for her….I still do.

As our daughter grew, we were blessed with joy that words could not express. She was and is the apple of our eye. We talked wherever we went and she was becoming quite expressive with her language. As we would drive, I’d point out the beautiful colors in the sky and ask her, “Who made the sky?” She would respond, “God made the sky.” I just knew that we had a child prodigy on our hands.

At the park, I’d point out the flowers and ask, “Who made the pretty flowers?” Her response would be, “God made the flowers.” What a joy! My child was so smart!

When we’d see butterflies, I’d point out their beautiful colors and ask, “Who made the butterflies?” She’d answer, “God made the butterflies.” Obviously, my child was destined to become a spiritual giant!

Then one day, I walked into the living room to find the floor covered with crayons! I put my hands on my hips and said, “Who made this mess?” She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said very matter-of-factly, “God made the mess.”

I still laugh when I think of that day, but her words make me realize afresh and anew just what a miracle working God we serve. Through all the turmoil, He brought laughter. He gave us hope where there had been only heartache. Where there was emptiness, He brought fullness of joy. Where there were wounds, He brought healing. He truly did give me the oil of joy for the ashes of mourning. Though I did not deserve it, He gave us the most precious gift and He did what no one else could do.

No, God didn’t make the mess….but God certainly can take the mess and make a miracle.

Next time, maybe I’ll tell you about my son!