Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come





I am aware that a blog about Christmas on New Year's Eve seems a bit odd, but that's the way 'random thoughts' work...they come from the strangest places.
This morning as I was getting dressed, the thought of the coming new year was on my mind. Usually, I'm quite hopeful about new years, but for some reason this morning I sensed a sort of foreboding that reminded me of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
For those who have never read the book, you really should give it a go sometimes. It is beautiful story with each character symbolizing so much. For example, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a mass of contradictions. He is old - yet young, winter - yet spring, filled with memories of happy times yet mingled with grief....he's a lot like most people's memories. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a giant, filled with the here and now...much like our days. At times it can be difficult to think of anything other than what you are dealing with right now...it seems like such a giant, yet like the Ghost of Christmas Present, it is short lived and come tomorrow, this day will be gone. Each day brings troubles of its own. Then there is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Of all the spirits, Scrooge fears this one most, and rightfully so. This Ghost represents the unknown....guess that's why it came to mind today on New Year's Eve.
We stand at the brink of a new year, a new decade, and no one can tell what the future will bring. It will certainly be filled with opportunity, and probably some sadness as well. There will be times of plenty, and times when our month lasts longer than our money. There will be change, and yet things will stay the same. To be honest, that makes me rather uncomfortable. I like routine. I like knowing what will happen next. I'm still busy dealing with the giant of today, I'm not ready for some unknown future!
In all this, I can have hope. For while I do not know what the future holds, I know who holds my future. I have a promise I can cling to: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" 1 Cor. 2:9
Come what may in 2010, God is still on the throne, He is still God, and I can trust in Him. Happy New Year to us all, and God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This little light of mine.....


This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine......That was one of my favorite verses to sing with the kids in Children's Church. I always loved seeing them get to the part when they said, "Hide it under a bushel -NO! I'm gonna let it shine." They sang that part with such fervor you could hear them all the way down the halls.

The Bible refers to light in Matthew 5:14 - 16, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." This comes right after the metaphor that we are to be 'salt', (see yesterday's post.) But what does it mean to be light?

This one is a fairly simple idea, after all we did make a children's song out of it. We are to shine our light so that all men may know the Good News, but how we go about doing that, well - that's a bit more difficult.
I, for one, love light. I open up all the windows, turn on every light in the house, and paint the walls in such a way that the entire room reflects the light! The more the better! I am loud in everything I do and I like the world around me to be bright and shining! I am, however, painfully aware that this light, like my personality, can be at times irritating.

Take my husband for instance. This is a good man, a quiet man, a godly man....but he doesn't see light the same way I do. He wears sunglasses to protect against the glare. He turns off the overhead lights because they give him a headache. He wears a baseball cap almost all the time to help shade his eyes. He closes the curtains to keep the light inside the room subtle and soft.

Light can either draw you toward it or make you shy away. I love waking to the gentle light of morning streaming through my window...however, having someone flip on the light switch suddenly makes me pull the covers over my head. I am drawn toward the warmth of a glowing candle, but I turn my gaze from a bright spotlight. The bright beacon of a lighthouse would be a welcome sight in a storm, and yet the gentle nightlight that helps me make my way down the hallway at night can be just as welcome. (Hey, nobody likes stumping their toe in the dark!) Different light is needed at different times.

The thing is, the light has to get out into the dark places to really become effective. While we gather together to "trim our wicks and replenish our oil", the church building isn't the most effective place to let our light shine. After all, we don't really need another candle in a room full of light....we need it in the dark places. We are needed in the world.

In the book, Tale of Despereaux, Boticelli tells Roscuro, "do not go up into the light. You will regret it." According to the passage, rats are not supposed to like light, yet Roscuro is drawn to light as a result of Gregory lighting a match in his eyes. Once having seen this light, he cannot shake it's pull on him. The could be no place darker than the dugeon where Roscuro lived, yet one small glimpse of light forever effected him to want more.

Light can change our views on so many things. For example, sometimes our problems don't seem as overwhelming in the light of day. In the dark hours of the night, the burdens can seem almost too much to bear, but once the sun comes up, hope comes with it. Many today have lived in darkness for so very long that they have lost all hope. They need light, but no artificial light will give them hope....it must come with the Son. Someone must be willing to share the light that they have found.

What does all this mean for me? Well, in a nutshell, it means I need to take the light I have been given out into the world. It means I have to be mindful of those whom I am with...not everyone is ready for me to throw back the curtains and turn on all the lights - they need a little light at the time. It means that even if I feel like I can only be a small nightlight to keep someone from tripping, that alone can be a good thing. It means that I can trust God with the results. Once a little light is seen, it forever draws the recipent to want more.

But hide it under a bushel - no....I can't do that. No matter what, I'm gonna let it shine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Please Pass the Salt


By now, those who know me know that I don't cook. Well, at least I rarely do. I just can't seem to get it right; something is always a little off. Of course, like any good mom, I give it a try and have managed to somehow keep us all from starving, but I am in no danger of winning any cooking prizes any time soon.
I envy those people who can taste something and know just what ingredients it contains and know just what is needed to make it perfect. I don't think I'd know what any herb or spice tastes like, with the exception of salt, and I even have trouble with that sometimes.

Nothing is quite so tricky as finding just the right amount of salt for food. Too little and my grits taste bland and a little like the bag they come in. Too much and they are suddenly inedible. Yes, I know you can add potatoes to something you have over-salted, but who wants potatoes in their grits?

This whole salt thing got me to thinking about something from the Bible. According to Matthew 5:13, we are to be salt of the earth. According to wikipedia,  "Salt is a necessity of life and was a mineral that was used since ancient times in many cultures as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification."

I love the idea that as Christians we are to bring flavor to life. We are to bring out the natural gifts in others, much the way salt enhances the natural flavors in food. Unfortunately, at times I'm afraid my cooking abilities spill over into my spiritual life and I "over-salt" my world.

Don't get me wrong, I truly believe in sharing the Good News of Jesus with those around me....but yesterday I saw an article that reminded me of over-salting food. In this article people were berating others for NOT wishing them a Merry Christmas in a department store. Now, I'm for Christmas as much as the next person, but becoming irate at not being wished Merry Christmas when I buy yet another un-needed gift for someone strikes me as a bit off. It's sort of like dumping the whole box of salt on my meal....it just doesn't make sense.
To me, salt should bring out the natural gifts in others. It should make you thirsty for the Living Water of the Word, and it should be just enough so that you want more. If you dump too much out at once, instead of wanting more it simply drives you in the other direction. (How do I know this? I told you I was a lousy cook!) I don't think that's what the gospel writers had in mind.

I have to ask myself, am I being salt to the earth? Am I living my life in such a way that others want more of what I have, or am I keeping it all to myself? That makes things dull and tasteless. If, however, I am allowing God to use me to find the good in others, to seek out those in need and share what I have been given, (that need doesn't have to just be physical needs by the way), and if my life can somehow signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification, then perhaps I've finally discovered how to use my seasoning well in life.

The rest of that verse talks about salt losing it's flavor....that it becomes so mixed with other minerals that it no longer has any taste. I have seen times in my own life when I have become so like the world that I was in danger of losing my "taste". It is a delicate balance to be in the world and yet not become so mixed that I lose my effectiveness. That doesn't mean I have to separate myself and live in some commune, but it does mean I have to be aware of the influences the world can have over me. I can't simply dump out my salt on others and run, I've got to keep my heart right while I "shake out a little salt" as I go. I don't have to worry about running out because God provides an endless supply when I'm using it the way He intended!

I may never find myself being the focus of some cooking show, but I truly hope that somehow I can learn to be "worth my salt" in life. I'm off to see who's life I can add some salt to today. Care to join me?
Tomorrow, perhaps we'll talk about being light.

Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after Christmas....


Yesterday was Christmas...so of course that makes today the day after Christmas. I know, I'm amazed at how quickly I catch on to things like this.

On Christmas Day, my son came into our room at 6:03 to let us know it was morning. Of course, I found that statement debateable, so my husband and I told him to go back to bed...it was too early. Fifteen minutes later, he was back again; we told him to go to back to bed until 6:45. With that, we got up and started a pot of coffee and proceeded to "hide" the last two gifts underneath the covers of our bed. We then got our coffee, sent Levi in to wake his sister and waited for the festivites to begin.

Now that the kids are older, it's definitely more difficult to buy for them. Samantha was happy with the bag her gift came in on her first Christmas; Levi was only a month old at his first Christmas so he was happy with a warm bottle and dry diaper. Trust me, they are far more difficult to please now.

As the children opened each present, I watched their faces. They were happy with their gifts, but I could tell they were hoping for more. When everything under the tree had been opened, we asked if they were happy with their Christmas. Samantha, who has learned to be polite even to us, said yes. Levi said yes, but you could tell his heart wasn't in it. It was then that I asked Levi to go and get my glasses from my room.

As he left the living room, I whispered for Sam and my husband to follow so we could see if he discovered his "gift". I caught him with his hand on the covers - he had found his sister's gift...so his face now had an expression of guilt mixed with disappointment. I asked if he had found his as well. What followed was one of those times when you WISH you'd had the camera ready. He hurried over to the bed, flung off the covers and his face went from forlorn to estatic in less than a second. Finally, he'd gotten what he wanted! The gift we had somehow managed to make him think he'd never get.

All day long he played with his gift and then would come to us to tell us about it. At times, it wouldn't do what he'd hoped until he'd worked to learn more about it. It was a day filled with excitement.

Today, he's sleeping late. I'm sure he can't wait to play with his gift again, but even that won't rouse this sleepy head from bed on a cold, cold day. That's what got me to thinking those Random Thoughts.

We all know that Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the time when we reflect on the greatest gift of all - Jesus. But what about the day AFTER Christmas? What then?

Do we lose some of our excitement? Do we forget what a gift we have received, the one we thought we'd never get? For some, it stays exciting for a while, but even that will fade in the day to day. For some, if it's not what we'd expected it to be, we get downright angry in our disappointment. What then?

The only gift I've ever received that hasn't broken, gone out of style, gotten old, or let me down is the gift of Jesus. I started to say it had never disappointed me, but to be honest, there have been times I have been disappointed because I thought it was going to "do" something that it didn't. Still, even in that I have learned to realize that it wasn't really disappointment so much as forgetting what the gift truly means.

I have to ask myself this question on the day AFTER Christmas...will I remain in this state of joyful surprise at receiving the gift I truly wanted, or will I allow the newness to wear off and become routine? Will I wake up each day excited about the discovery of this gift, or will I soon begin to "sleep late" because it is no longer new? Can I find a way to make it "Christmas" every day in a new way, or will it simply become the day AFTER Christmas? What about you? What will you do?

John 3:16: " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Lamentations 3:22-24, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A story worth repeating.....


This is a repeat of a post from December 2008....but perhaps a story worth repeating.

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.

John 1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Uncomfortable


I had just settled down on the couch wrapped up in my blanket with my hot chocolate when one of the kids yelled, "Mom, come see this!" The last thing I wanted to do was get up...I had just gotten comfortable! Of course, I could stay right where I was...and possibly miss one of those "memorable moments" that make life so sweet, or I could put down my hot chocolate, push off the covers and go see. Yep, I got up from my "comfort" to go and see.


I'm convinced that life is filled with those times that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes it's the "shoes too tight and don't fit" kind of uncomfortable. In those times of my life, I have discovered that I may have fallen into a rut and it's time to move forward...letting my "shoes get too tight" catches my attention and I realize that which I once did is no longer a fit.

At times, it's that my "pants are too tight" kind of uncomfortable that catches my attention. Perhaps I've gotten slack in doing what I know is right, filled myself with too much spiritual junk food and neglected the pure meat and milk of the Word. I haven't exercised my faith and then I realize I've gotten spiritually fat and lazy.

There is the uncomfortable that you feel when you realize you are in the wrong place. Imagine walking into a classroom the first day of school and after a few minutes, you discover you are in the wrong room. You want to sneak out, but there is no way. It's obvious you've made a mistake...the key is remembering that everyone makes mistakes like this sometimes. Admit it and go on.

This latest uncomfortable, however, hit me by surprise. It wasn't the painful sort of uncomfortable...it was more like the "I'm happy doing what I'm doing sitting here on the couch" uncomfortable. I was presented with an option to reach out beyond my four walls in a way I hadn't before. I have to be honest and say, I didn't want to. I'm happy with my little crew and sometimes I feel like I'm just keeping my head above water with them! I felt like we'd hit a moment of rest when I could curl up on the couch and do nothing for a little while. That's when I heard that voice inside that said, "Come see this..." It was the unmistakable call of God to step out of my comfortable and believe Him for something more. This wasn't an opportunity I'd looked for, not even one I'd have ever imagined. As a matter of fact, this opportunity looked for all the world like a battle! Definitely not what I'd hoped for.

I'd love to make believe my first reaction was "Hooray!", but in truth it was more of a "Not now" complete with whine. Still, I know that voice and I know that when I hear it, there is something I don't want to miss. I can choose to stay on the couch and be comfortable, or I can put down my hot chocolate, throw off the covers and "come see." I push myself, somewhat unwillingly, off the couch and start walking.

To be honest, right now I'm still in the wish I was still on the couch stage of this uncomfortable, but I know that I really don't want to miss what He has to show me. I don't want to get to the place where He no longer calls me to "come see." I know there is a moment ahead that I don't want to miss.

How about it? Anyone besides me been uncomfortable lately? Makes you wonder what God is up to, doesn't it. I, for one, can't wait to "see."

Isaiah 40:3 - 5(NASB)  "A voice is calling, clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

snow


It snowed last night. This isn't amazing if you live in one of the northern states, but down here it's cause for schools to shut down, roads to close, and everyone makes a run on the grocery store like a hurricane is coming. You see, we just aren't used to snow this far south!

I admit it; last night I was like a little kid. I sat at the window and watched for the snow to finally come. I'd hear reports of others nearby getting snow and wondered why we weren't seeing the fluffy white stuff here. Then finally, at around 10:30 or 11:00, it started to snow. This was wondrous, like no snow I think I'd ever seen before! The flakes were huge and fluffy and falling so slowly to the already wet ground. It took a long time for it to stick; the ground was already so soaked from rain. But it was beautiful. I thought about my morning run and how totally unique it would be. Snow....

This morning I slept late (so much for a morning run) and awoke to snow still on the ground. It is still beautiful, but now it's starting to melt. What had seemed so wonderful last night now just seemed messy. I'm not sure why melting snow seems so much wetter than rain, but it does. Perhaps I'm getting old, but the idea of playing in slush just didn't seem very tempting to me in the clear light of day.
What had been covered last night was beginning to be revealed. Instead of white blankets, I'm starting to see crab-grass peaking out. Instead of waves of pristine purity, I can see the mud. Instead of snow covered roof tops, I'm greeted by the icy drip, drip, drip of melting snow. Hmmmm, there's a random thought in there somewhere.

As long as what was underneath was covered, it all looked pretty good. Sort of like people with the masks they wear. They seem like they have it all together - life is perfect. Underneath is a different story. Everyone has their own crab-grass, mud puddles, and annoying drips in their life. We may be able to cover them up for a short while, but they are still there. The snow doesn't seem quite as special when you see what is peeping out from underneath. What is needed isn't a cover-up, but a working from within.

Lord, help me to allow You to deal with the parts of my life that are not perfect....that are annoying or even downright ugly at times. I want to enjoy the pure snows that come knowing that they aren't covering up, but simply adding to the beauty that already exists. I want to scoop up pure white snowballs of joy without having to avoid the sticks and twigs and bits of mud that try to mar the picture. I want the beauty of Your love to shine through. I want to fully enjoy the snow.
 
Psalms 51:7 "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Facebook versus the Cardboard Cutouts


Hi. My name is Donna and I'm addicted to facebook. There. I said it. I have been known to rush home from work just to see if my little "notification" box is full. I check status updates with my coffee in the morning. I attempt witty remarks about the most inane details about my life...and love reading those same remarks made by others. Yes, I am addicted.

Still, I have to stand up in defense of this social phenomenon. With a full time job and two busy teens, it can be difficult to find time to visit with friends. (Don't even suggest the phone...I really hate talking on the phone!) With Facebook,  I have reconnected with friends from grade school (which, believe me, was a LONG time ago!) I have laughed with co-workers, cried with friends who live in different cities, and learned of the upcoming marriages, births, and anniversaries. I find I can reconnect with lots of friends on a daily basis! Most importantly, facebook helps me overcome  "cardboard cutout syndome".

We all are prone to suffer from the CCS (Cardboard Cutout Syndrome) at one time or another. CCS is that condition where you forget that other people have lives. It's almost as if, without meaning to, we treat others as though they are simple cardboard cutouts whenever we aren't around. They just sit there and only come to life when we walk into the scene. Oh, we actually know that they have lives, but it just never crosses our minds....I've had bosses like that. They thought my one reason for existing was to do something for them. They thought nothing of calling me in early, having me work late, etc. After all, once they were done with me, I'd simply go back to being a cutout again...waiting on them to require my services again. I don't think they meant to be that way; they were just so wrapped up in their own little world it just sort of happened.

I'd love to say I wasn't guilty of treating others like cardboard cutouts, but in the hectic pace of daily life, I'm afraid I, too, could fall prey to CCS. I don't mean to be selfish, but it is one of the easiest traps to slip into. I sometimes feel like I am a walking example of the Toby Keith song..."it's all about me, all about I, all about number one oh my me my, what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see....it's all about me-e-e!" That is, until Facebook.

Facebook is the cure for CCS! With it I can sort of stay in touch with my friends even in the busiest of days! I know who had a great workout, who has a headache, who has a song stuck in their head, who has a birthday, who....well, the list just goes on and on! While I may not have great long conversations, I can share a quick joke with a friend that I used to work with. I can ask for help with a recipe from my girlfriends. I can see pictures of that new grandbaby and the smile on grandma's face. I share funny stories with parents about their kids. I can share a scripture each day with my niece that I don't see nearly often enough.  I can know that a friend in a far away city needs prayer. All friends who mean so much to me, and there's not a cardboard cutout in the bunch.

So yes, I am a facebook addict, but it beats falling into the trap of the cardboard cutout routine.
Thanks Facebook for giving me so many opportunities to remember friends!

Philippians 1:3 "I thank my God every time I remember you."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What not to wear....


I admit it....I have no fashion sense. I would love it if someone would nominate me for the television show, "What Not To Wear." Yes, I will gladly be humiliated in front of millions of people if you will give me a makeover and show me how to shop for a whole new wardrobe.....

I can't be alone in this...otherwise the producers of the aforementioned show would run out of candidates for their makeovers! Plus, I recently had a conversation with an old friend on the difficulty of finding clothes that are appropriate and fit. (My fluctuating weight doesn't help in that department!) The place we feel this the most is when we are trying to get ready for church.

Church is the one place where you would hope that clothing wouldn't be an issue, but we live in the south.... I remember when I was little and my mom would try to get her little tomboy dressed for church in "appropriate" clothes. I hated it. The shoes were the worst. She always wanted me to wear my patent leather shoes (which had to be polished with a cold biscuit) and I always wanted to wear my tennis shoes, (which didn't even have to be clean!) We usually worked out a compromise. I'd wear that ugly scratchy dress she picked out, but I'd wear it with my tennis shoes....at least sometimes she let me.

Come to think of it, little kids really know what it's all about. They feel like a princess, so they wear their princess dress. They mix their favorite Elmo dress with pokadot rain boots and a flower barrette. Oh, and don't forget the zebra striped umbrella to complete the mix. Red cowboy boots make perfect sense with a Sunday suit for a 3 year old. And while we make shake our heads in disbelief, nothing is more precious to us than the expression of love on that child's face. Must be kind of how God looks at us. When did we lose that?

Now that I'm older and picking out my own clothes, I find myself staring into the dark recesses of my closet and uttering the mournful, "I've got nothing to wear." Why is it so difficult to get ready on this one day of the week? I know the scripture says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart." The problem is I'm going to church with other "mans and wo-mans". Sometimes those "wo-mans" can be downright picky! I usually try to avoid those folks. Unfortunately, I'm not able to avoid myself and I am the worst I know at picking myself apart!

I want to be more like Jesus and look at the heart....maybe that's where it all begins. Instead of staring into my closet trying to figure out what to wear, I should be spending my time looking into my heart. I could be spending time in His Word making adjustments and washing away impurities. Of course, I still have to get dressed, but perhaps instead of making sure my shoes are perfect for my outfit, I can make sure I've put on the shoes of the gospel of peace. Who cares what blouse I wear if I've put on the breastplate of rightousness! Purses....nope. I'll carry a shield of faith instead. I'll be a "sharp dresser" if I make sure I carry the Sword of the Spirit. Of course, no outfit is complete without a cute belt....mine could be one made up of truth that holds everything together. Oops...almost forgot the importance of a good hair day....mine will be perfect with the helmet of salvation.

So, for a while at least, don't be surprised if you see me coming to church in jeans and, of course, tennis shoes. I really don't mind if you look at me funny....I'm going to be working on learning to see you, and myself, as Christ does. Wow, we've never looked better to me!

1 Sam. 16:7b "...The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The story of the running dogs....


This morning I participated in the local Thanksgiving 5 mile run and as always, I had a Random Thought along the way.

While we were out there in the biting cold wind, I noticed one runner had his dogs with him How cool I thought! These were obviously dogs that were meant for speed...I thought at first they were greyhounds, but finally heard someone say they were "whippets". These were two very good natured dogs...with each other and people that is. They didn't like any other dog that came near them. It started early with a beautiful dog that come up to greet them and then continued all through the race. It didn't matter what kind of dog it was...exotic Siberian Huskies, Redneck American Bulldogs, Good 'ole boy labradors....they were ready to argue with them all. That's when the thought struck me. Here were two dogs that were the fastest things on the race course, and they were so busy arguing with other dogs they weren't really running.

The dogs' master really had his hands full trying to keep those dogs on course. They wanted to pick a fight with every dog they met...and there were lots of very friendly dogs on this course. Friendly didn't matter to them...and they let everyone around them know it.

Made me wonder how many times I have given my Master fits by arguing with those around me instead of "running the race"....I might get along with those who are like me, but I'm often too quick to judge those who are different, and in the process I stop running the race that is before me.

So, today at least, I'm going to try and focus on running the race God has given me. If you'd like to run along...you're welcome to join me, but I'm not going to be distracted by our differences. I'm not going to give my Master fits.....I'm just going to focus on the finish and running with Him.

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." Mark 9:33-35

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sometimes I feel like that chipmunk....


Ever have one of those dreams that sticks with you for days? I don't mean anything scary...just something that you know somehow has a message in it. Two days ago I had a dream like that, so of course now you get to read about it.

In this dream, there was this little chipmunk. Cute little thing - sort of like Chip and Dale of the old cartoons. There was also this beautiful woman and she was holding a shotgun....the biggest shotgun I'd ever seen - more of a bazooka! She was calling out to this little chipmunk in the sweetest voice - "Come here little fella. Come on. Come here." All the while I was screaming at the poor little fellow at the top of my lungs, "Don't do it! Run! Get out of here! Run!!!!" That little chipmunk was just looking back and forth between the two of us, mouth full of chessnuts, trying to figure out which way to go. Then of course, I woke up.

This was one of those dreams that the minute I woke up, a thought came into my mind. "Not everything that calls out to you sweetly intends for you good and not everything that yells at you means it for harm."

Simple. To the point. It got me thinking. Of course, we all know about the lure of evil things like drugs and alcohol that call out sweetly and then destroy, but what about other things that I am more prone to fall victim to? How many times has the couch called sweetly to me to just sit and unwind while something inside  is screaming at me that I need to go for a run or, more importantly, turn off the tv and spend time with my family? How many times has my mind tried to tell me that I "deserve" some treat - just put it on credit, while my better judgement is screaming, "NO! Don't do it!" How many times have I succumbed to the urge to be sarcastic toward someone else when inside I know what is really called for is mercy and forgiveness and a kind word. How many times have I fought the battle of listening to gossip when I know what I need to do is walk away and pray? Please tell me I'm not the only one who is at least sometimes tempted by the "sweet" voice that means me harm.

Just like that chipmunk, I stand confused at times. Turning and looking back and forth between the sweet voice holding a shotgun and the crazy old lady yelling at me to get out of there! I may even see the shotgun, but I convince myself that it's not meant for me. Yeah, right. I know that as soon as my temptation gets a clear shot, she's gonna blow my head off! Yet still I stand there in the valley of decision. Why? That's a good question. Why?

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." Joel 3:14
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Deut. 30:19

For an interesting view of those "smooth words" that lead to death...check out Proverbs 7.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Like Thanksgiving Dinner



I love Thanksgiving. It is probably my favorite holiday...all the fun of visiting with family without the stress of buying gifts and juggling schedules. Thanksgiving is a time when family really comes together.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving wasn't quite as special as it is now. My family was small and we didn't really plan a big meal for that day. My mother would bake a chicken and tell us it was a small turkey...we really didn't need a big bird. Thanksgiving day was pretty much like any other day....then I married a man who has a big family. Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning!
Starting early in the day, the house is filled with people. Everyone is welcome and you just never know who will stop by. It was all pretty much a shock for someone like me who had never known the rowdy celebration of lots of relatives coming by. Still, it's part of what I've come to love about Thanksgiving.

That's where today's Random Thought comes in. I got to thinking that going to church on Sunday is a lot like Thanksgiving dinner. While we do worship (eat) alone during the week, there is something special that happens when we all come together bringing our offering to the table. There's the uncle that tells the same joke a hundred times, but everyone loves him for his ability to laugh at himself. There's the crazy old aunt that brings the rolls because she's really not a very good cook, (that one would be me). There are the cakes that are brought by those who are just learning to cook...so they are lopsided but loved because of the one who made them. There are the traditions you look forward to with each approaching year. Each person brings their special gift to the table...and should someone come empty handed - they too are welcomed simply because they are there. Together the celebration is more sweet. The people aren't perfect, but they are loved. The best part of all, is that our Father waits at the window to greet us, and when He sees us coming, He runs out to tell us "welcome home".

Yes, Sunday worship is a lot like those Thanksgiving dinners...the ones we knew, or at least wish we could have known. As a family, we learn and grow together and celebrate the life given to us by our Father God. During this Thanksgiving season, I pray that you will find a church home that you can call family...because while you can worship alone, there is something special when family comes together.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How do you honor a life?


Today I had the unique opportunity to attend two events honoring two very special people. Now, I doubt these two people have ever even met, but both have impacted the lives of hundreds, make that thousands, of people...

The first event took place early in the day as people of all ages gathered together at the local high school track to honor "Coach" Becky Ryder on her 65th birthday. The plan was for Becky to run for 65 minutes around the track while others came to join in the fun. In addition, this event became a fund raiser for the Oak Grove Track Team.

As I hobbled along the track with others, I was struck by the variety of ages and people who were there. Teenagers ran alongside children who ran alongside their parents, and in some cases, their grandparents. Everyone had a smile on their face and the joy of running could be seen with every step...even the painful ones. That's when the random thought struck...what a wonderful way to honor a life, by carrying on the torch. Coach Becky has inspired thousands of runners through the years, not just to run, but to live life to the fullest and enjoy every day. I don't think I have ever met anyone with a greater gift of encouragement than Becky. She has a gift for seeing in others what they sometimes cannot even see in themselves. She also has a gift for really enjoying life...not just sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. The people who "ran" with her today were just a small sample of the many lives she has touched.

Tonight, I had the privilege of honoring another wonderful friend as he was surprised by his family with an 80th birthday party. Once again, I was almost in tears as I watched friends and family tell funny stories and precious memories of the difference Howard Myrick has made in their lives. I know personally, I have grown from watching his faithful walk with the Lord for the past 22 years I have had the joy of calling him friend. Those who were there tonight were a testimony of that walk. Why, even my children are a testimony of how he has touched those around him. Since both of my children are Bethany babies, without the work he has done with that organization, I have to wonder if that miracle would have even come to be were it not for his faithfulness. His life has touched the lives of others in so many ways....some that he will never know about this side of heaven.

Both these people were honored today for the way they have lived their lives, and it got me to thinking. How do you honor such a life? How does a person honor their father or mother or whoever it is in their life that has made a difference? Simply by continuing on the work and carrying the torch. Both Becky and Howard have "lit a fire" in the lives of so many people. They are changing the world around them in positive ways. We honor them, and others we love, by sharing what they have shared with us. It's not just a once a year thing....we do it every day - not just in the words that we say, but in the life that we live. That's how you honor a life.

So to Becky and Howard and many others in my life who have made such a difference, we honor you...not just with our words, but with the life we now live. Thank you for being you.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3 - 6

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saying grace...


Okay, I will admit that I am not big on saying "Grace" before meals. I have joked that I prayed over the groceries when I brought them into the house and that pretty much covered it.

Of course, at huge family gatherings I joined in on "blessing the food," and if one of the young children in the family wanted to say the blessing, we always stopped to hear their precious voices saying "God is great, God is good...." Still, I really don't make it a habit to stop and pray before my meals. Blame it on the fact that I eat in a cafeteria full of noisy students and only have 15 minutes to eat, or blame it on feeling uncomfortable bowing my head when others around me are not....

Truthfully, I try to live every moment of my life by my faith. Not praying at meals doesn't make me love God less or anyone else love Him more....but that's not really what this blog is about. It's about a random thought that I had today.

As I was riding to work, listening to the Christian radio station, I heard a mom talking about her little one saying "Grace" over the meal and chapping her little hands inviting God to join them. That caught my attention. Maybe I've been looking at meal time prayer all wrong. Maybe instead of some perfunctory habit of saying a memorized prayer, stopping to pray is actually inviting God to actively participate in my day. I can get pretty busy in a normal day...stopping to re-adjust my thoughts would be a good thing! Instead of waiting to the end of the day, I can check myself midway through the day. Sort of like checking in with the Father...making sure I'm still moving in the right direction. I know I love it when my kids "check in" with me. It is simply making that quick word or touch that helps keep us connected.

I know I probably won't start bowing my head in the cafeteria anytime soon, but I think maybe I will start taking the time on a more regular basis during my days to simply "check in"...to invite God to be a part of what is going on all around me...to ask Him to help me see things through HIS eyes. I want to make sure I check myself on a regular basis to see if I'm "saying Grace".....those words of love that acknowledge that God is directing me. I guess it's not just "saying" grace - it's speaking it to a world that needs to know His love.

Knowing me, I'll need re-adjusting often. Since I pretty much eat all day long I should have lots of opportunities to invite God to do whatever needs to be done. Besides, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have lunch with!

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Rev. 3:20

Sunday, November 8, 2009

There I go...talking to myself again.



It's an old joke...you see someone talking to themselves and joke about it. The thing is, we all do it; talk to ourselves, I mean. I used to say I was just looking for some intelligent conversation, but the truth is, I'm looking for someone who will listen to me.

That's just it...we listen to ourselves. Sometimes we think we don't. We catch ourselves and what we are saying by the phrase, "Listen to what you are saying." But even when we think we AREN'T listening...we are. Our bodies and spirit are listening 24/7 to a surround sound of ourselves. We are constantly being affected by what we are saying. Makes it even more important to "be careful little mouths what you say."

Occasionally, I find myself in a real funk. I'm in a bad mood and there seems to be no good reason. The weather may have changed and it does play havoc with my body as I get older, or the stress of my bank balance getting low may put stress on my already weakened cheerful disposition, but truthfully, I have no good reason for my bad mood. If I am honest with myself, my bad mood may be a result of talking to myself again. I may not be doing it out loud, but I'm talking to myself all the same. When someone does something that I don't like, I may hold my tongue - which is a good thing, but inside myself I complain and argue with things I wish I could say. Oh yes, I'm constantly talking inside.

I have to wonder if others do this. I think they must because even in the Bible we have a record of the David saying "Why so downcast, oh my soul?" This isn't some new phenomenon that only crazy old lady teachers experience. It's human nature. We listen to ourselves....the key is to be careful of what we are saying. Change our focus. Speak words of life instead of the other kind.

When I fail, which happens quite often...stop saying negative things to myself. When I succeed, be careful of who I tell myself the credit belongs to. When life destroys my dreams, remember the one who can raise dry bones and speak new life into them. When my bank account gets low, remember that my Father holds me and every situation in the palm of His hands and has promised to work all things for my good and His glory. When others hurt me, I've got to trust that the Lord sees and fights my battles for me...and I must choose to let things go.

This is not an easy thing to do. It's much easier to fill my days with the influences of the world and its way of doing things. No one is forcing me to fill my life with negative things.  I choose what I watch on tv, listen to on the radio, and words that I repeat. It's pretty easy to go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. It is a lot tougher to change direction and go against the flow. For some reason, as I typed this, I got the mental picture of lemmings all rushing toward the edge of a cliff. I'll bet going against that stampede is tough....but going with it is certain destruction.

So, for today at least, I'm going to watch what I'm saying to myself. I'm going to try to "be careful little eyes what you see, little ears what you hear, and little mouth what you speak." Like Psalms 42:5, 11, and 43:5 say, (which by the way shows me that I will have to repeat these things to myself OFTEN), "Why so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." Seems like it's gonna be a little tough to stay in a bad mood while I'm doing that.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalms 19:14

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I admit it....I hate change.


Okay, I admit it....I hate change. Oh, there are some areas I'd love to see some change in..for instance, the number on my bathroom scale - I'd like to see that change to a much smaller number. I'd love to see the amount in my checkbook change to a much greater amount. I'd love to see the amount of unmatched socks left in my laundry basket downright disappear! Unfortunately, I don't want to make the changes necessary for those things to happen....okay, I'm not sure anyone knows how to tackle the sock problem.

The point is, I am a creature of habit. I like to do things a certain way and like most people, I feel like my ways are best (that's why I do them that way.) It takes a lot of convincing for me to give up my old habits in exchange for new ones. Occasionally, all it takes is someone showing me a better way, but more often I have to be pulled kicking and screaming into a new way of doing things.

My students are reading a book right now about life during the Great Depression and it has me thinking. A lot of people went through really hard times then, and yet they not only survived, they came out stronger. Many were forced to make changes they didn't want to make, move from places they had no intention of leaving and many were forced to stay when they really wanted to go. Yet somehow, they grew. Some of our greatest examples of architecture came out of the years of the Great Depression. Movies that are today considered to be classics - made during the Great Depression. Many of the modern things we take for granted have their roots in that time period of change. Great creativity was born during this time of change.

Today, many are once again going through a time of change, and it's not necessarily change they were hoping for. All this got me to thinking about a story I once heard my pastor tell about what happens during autumn when the leaves begin to fall from the trees. They change colors - actually, the color that was there all along is simply being revealed. (Sounds like a lot of people I know - especially the one who looks back at me from my mirror each day.) Then slowly, these leaves let go of the tree...something old has died. That seems sad, and I'll admit it often is. However, there is a hope in the fact that those old leaves will be replaced with new growth. If the old does not fall away, the new can not come forth.
Now, I'm pretty sure that trees aren't out there moaning about the fact that the leaves they'd grown so accustomed to for the past year are now gone. It is a part of the process....not just in trees, but in me. Letting go of the way things have always been is a part of growth. I don't have to get rid of the things that make me who I am - my roots, I simply need to realize that the fringe parts aren't always going to stay the same. That which served me well for so long may have reached the end of its time.

Today's blog seems to have gone in a bit of a circle....sort of like life. I may not like it, but change is a part of that life....good change and change that is sometimes painful. Both are for my good if I will trust my Creator and His plan. I still hate change.....but knowing it's for a reason gives me hope.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 26, 2009

Have you lived today?


For the past few weeks, I have had the joy of having a student teacher in my room. I love having student teachers because not only do they learn from me, I also learn so much from them. Of course, there's the usual new ideas of how to teach, but there's also so much more.

To begin with, I finally get to "take care" of some things I usually put off....like putting away my files. There is an amazing amount of paperwork that goes along with being a teacher and to finally have time to get it all done is such a blessing. I will miss that, but I have learned how much better each evening feels with my family when I know that my desk at work isn't piled high with unfinished odds and ends. Now that I realize that, my next task will be to figure out how to keep up with the paperwork once my student teacher is gone.

I also learned what it's like to be a student again. I sit at my desk, observing for the entire day....and get very sleepy. No wonder my students act out at times. They are BORED!!! It was such a gift to be able to see things from the other person's point of view for a change. Keeping that in mind may help me be more patient and hopefully more creative with my lessons. School is the only place in the world I know of where you are required to sit, listen, and not get up without permission. That's asking a lot from anyone, much less from someone who has the energy of a small nuclear plant bottled up inside them!

In watching my student teacher, I learned there are other ways to do what I am doing. Perhaps they are very different from my way, but they work just the same. Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of the reins and allow someone else to take charge. Growing means allowing others to shine sometimes. I'll be honest, letting go is very difficult for me. Difficult can be good for you if it allows you to grow.

Mostly, I've learned how much I miss doing what I was created to do. When I finally got the chance to get back in front of my students, the rush was unbelievable! I absolutely LOVE what I do. Oh, I hate the paperwork and having to deal with discipline issues, but I LOVE TEACHING!!!! I think that is because it is what God created me for. When a person operates in their gifts, there is such a rush and a joy! I know when I am simply going through the motions, but when it flows....oh my!

For years, I ran from the idea of becoming a teacher....it was the last place on earth I thought I wanted to be. I was amazed when the road of life finally led me into the classroom to discover this is where I was meant to be all along. I wonder how many others have run from the gifts of God because they thought those gifts would shackle them, or create a miserable life for them? When I was in my 20's, I was certain I knew what God had for me...now I realize I'm just barely beginning to understand how the paths of life lead us to where He wants us to be.

Yes, I'm learning a lot from my student teacher....I'm learning to keep up with the little daily items that threaten to overwhelm my life...the paperwork and tiny irritants that if I allow them to stack up will steal my peace. I'm learning to get them out of the way as soon as possible. I'm learning to look at things from the view of the student once again. Living life in the other person's shoes isn't always what I imagined it might be. In that, I'm learning empathy. Mostly, I'm learning that I want to live my life with that sense of being used by God for what I was created for. I know that not everyone has the same gifts...what a boring world that would be. But what if we all allowed God to use us in our area of gifting every day? What if I allowed Him to use me to encourage others no matter what I was doing? What if I remembered that my job is so much more than just a job? It's the place where God has allowed me to use my gifts for Him!

God has promised that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly...have you lived abundantly today?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What did you learn today?


Remember when you were a kid and you would come home from school and your parents would ask "What did you learn today?" When we were very small, we'd rattle off a hundred things about our day, but as we got older, the response was usually, "Nothing," or "I don't know." Neither of these were the answer our parents were hoping for.

I know when I ask my kids that question, I'm hoping to hear about their day...what is going on in their lives....who their friends are and maybe a little encouragement that they are actually LEARNING something while they are at school. I also know that when they are able to tell me what they are learning, it goes down deeper into their understanding and perhaps helps them retain the information. Still, when I ask, I get the same response we gave our parents, "Nothing."

Today I got to wondering, what if our kids could ask us the same questions? What would our response be? More importantly, if our Heavenly Father asked us, "What did you learn today?", what would our answer be? I'm afraid too often my answer would be "nothin'." Now of course we know that we are learning something all the time, or at least we should be.

When we first are saved, everyday is so filled with the wonder of God's love, we could rattle off for hours what God was showing us...but after we've walked with the Lord for a while, our response becomes more like a child in Jr. High. Like our own children, the problem isn't that we aren't learning, but that we aren't paying attention to what we are learning. It's not getting the chance to really sink in because we are on auto-pilot, not really trying to get the most out of life's lessons. Perhaps our minds are on what's for lunch, or on our friends, or on some problem that in a few weeks we won't even remember, but for whatever reason, we just aren't paying attention. Some of it sinks in...but we don't really know WHAT we are learning. It's all just "stuff."

How different could my life be if I paid attention? What if I asked God each day to help me see what He was trying to teach me that day? What if I was consciously aware that even in the daily grind of life, there were lessons to be learned? I might be learning how to be patient, or how to experience joy, or how to keep my mouth shut and LISTEN (yes, I admit again this one is difficult for me.) The point is, if we're alive then each day brings SOMETHING we can learn...even if it's just how to listen. We're not supposed to be here just taking up space...everyday brings a new opportunity to grow and learn. Life isn't just some random series of events....there is a purpose to each day.

Okay, so the question remains...."What did you learn today?" Maybe by asking ourselves that each day, life's lessons will really make the connection. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Do I really believe it?


Last night I was watching a middle school football game and the "Random thoughts" started to flow. There on the field and the sidelines were 30 plus players giving it all they had trying to win the game. In the distance, you could see lightning filling the sky and the rain poured down. A few loyal parents spotted the metal stands wishing they would call the game so we could all go home. The scoreboard did not completely reveal the battle that was taking place, since only the other team had a score. The faces of the players, however, showed the anguish as play after play failed to provide needed points. The players slid around on the field, slipped as they tried to get traction, and watched as passes intended for their hands fell short or slipped from their grasp. One player in particular was so frustrated with having to play a position he felt he wasn't good at that he wanted to give up completely. I can relate. We've all been there....feeling like what we were doing wasn't making any difference at all in the "game". Like we're in over our head doing something we AREN'T comfortable with and watching someone else play the "position" we feel is rightfully ours.



That's what got me to thinking...do I really believe what I say I believe? Do I really believe the promise of God that He works ALL things for my good and His glory? If I do, it should make a difference in the way I deal with every situation....even the ones where I feel like life just isn't being fair. For if I do believe this to be true, then I must realize that no matter what is before me, God has allowed me to deal with this for a reason....and it ultimately will be for my good and His glory. I may not like it, but then again, I don't always like exercise and that's good for me. I know that's not nearly the same, but it helps me to put things into context. The question is, can I work willingly and wholeheartedly at whatever I do, as though I was working for the Lord rather than people? (Col. 3:23) It can become my act of worship when I "deal" with unfair or difficult situations by giving my all and doing things with a cheerful attitude - without grumbling and complaining. Okay, I admit, I have trouble with that one too.



As I watched that young man on the sidelines throwing his helmet down in frustration, I wondered how many times have I "pitched a 5 year old fit" because I didn't like my current lot in life? Can I instead learn to look at what is directly in front of me as an opportunity to worship? Can I approach every situation remembering that there is something I can learn from it? Do I truly believe?



I have experienced times in my life when I wasn't so sure of what I believed. Times when I questioned if perhaps God had forgotten me or if maybe He had "missed it" this time. Yes, I admit it, and I think if we are all honest, we've all been there at some time or another. The good news is that with time, I've been allowed to realize that YES, God will work things for my good and His glory if I allow Him to. Would I actually CHOOSE to go through these trials again? Probably not, but I'm learning that I don't always choose what is best for me. Guess I've got to trust the One who knows me better than I know myself, and the One who knows the plan and purpose for my life. Do I believe that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it? (Philippians 1:6)


Do I really believe?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One of a kind


You know, I could probably fill a library with books full of Levi stories. Levi is my son. This past weekend, Levi provided us with yet another story for the books.


We were visiting my family in Alabama and most everyone was at the pond drowning plastic worms. As I watched from the kitchen window, the peaceful scene that lay before me was right out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Pawpaw was there, along with his sons and their daughters and then there was Levi.....standing under a tree....looking straight up.


I knew something was up, pardon the pun. That's when I saw Levi take his rod and reel and throw them up into the tree....and they got stuck. It was obviously time to go and see what was going on.


When I got out there, Levi's dad - my husband - was continuing to fish, his uncle was shaking his head in disbelief, and his sister was ignoring the entire situation. The rod and reel had fallen from the tree by now and I could see why Levi had been staring up. His lure, the second one that day, had gotten hung in the tree. There in the middle of the pecan leaves was a small blue and white fish with a bright green tail. How it got into the tree I still have no idea. Maybe he was trying his hand at "fly" fishing.


It took a while, but I finally got the lure out of the tree. All the while, all I could think of was "only Levi". There's no doubt - Levi is one of a kind. Levi loves life. Levi LIVES life! It's almost as if he is constantly trying to fit as much into every minute of every day as possible, and in the process he often winds up in the middle of some hilarious situations. As my husband puts it - with Levi, at least it's never dull.


As crazy as all this makes me, I'm a little jealous of my son. He is always searching, always questioning, and yes, always making mistakes....because he's out there living life. It's as if he's already discovered that the only way to live is to not be afraid to make a mistake. I wish I could manage to live for the Lord with the same fervor. What's the worst that can happen? I'll make mistakes and....well, come to think of it that wouldn't be that much different than it is now. The difference is the sense of fun and adventure I see in Levi...the laughter I see in those around him...and the chance to see God at work all around me.


Yep, Levi is one of a kind. What a great way to be.


"Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way." (Colossians 3:17, Message version)






Monday, October 12, 2009

Time for some cleaning


Today I had the wonderful experience of visiting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in their new home. I was so excited to see how they had been blessed and get the chance to visit with family. I was also excited for my husband and son to get a chance to fish in their new pond. They had a great time, and perhaps in my next blog I'll get the chance to write about Levi throwing his fishing rod up into a tree, but for now my random thoughts are going in another direction.

While we were there, and the kids were busy drowning plastic worms in the pond, I asked my sister-in-law if perhaps there was something I could do to help. She paused for a moment and said something along the lines of "If you're serious, I could use the help wiping down the insides of the cabinets." Of course I was glad to help! I find that I do my best "visiting" when I have something to do! If I sit too long, I tend to fall asleep. Anyway, we grabbed a couple of pails of water and started to wipe down the cabinets.

Now they haven't moved in most of their "stuff" yet, so wiping down the cabinets was actually a pretty easy job! It was simply a matter of opening the doors, wiping out the little bit of dust that had accumulated, and then moving on to the next one. I was enjoying myself as I visited and cleaned. The job took very little time with the two of us working together and was much more fun than working alone! I then started thinking, I have tomorrow off, I'm going to clean out MY cabinets when I get home.....that's when reality, and the random thoughts hit.

You see, my cabinets won't be nearly as much fun to clean for a couple of reasons. One - my cabinets are full of STUFF...that's a nice generic word for clutter, chaos, and confusion. To clean out my cabinets means pulling everything out, sorting through the mismatched tupperware bowls, tossing butter containers (why DO I have so many empty butter tubs anyway?), and then cleaning dust brought in by children, pets, and time. Hmmmm, maybe I don't want to clean tomorrow. My cabinets are too full to make this chore anything other than hard labor. Not the way I want to spend my day off. So, of course, I'm putting it off.

My cabinets are a lot like my life right now...full of stuff, so cleaning out what shouldn't be there is even more difficult. I only want to deal with the things that are dirty, but the confusion of clutter and too much stuff is slowing down the process! I've got things out of place (as in my priorities have gotten scrambled.) I have cabinets full of empty butter tubs (as in junk in my life that I've held on to for some reason, but it's really still just junk.) I've got the dust that comes from living life (as in the problems that life throws at you on a daily basis - some big, others not so big, but problems all the same.) It's so much easier when you have empty cabinets...when you haven't yet filled them with obligations, regrets, disappointments, and failures.

The good news is that Jesus came to give us life, and life more abundantly. When we give everything to Him, he gives us a fresh start - sort of like those empty cabinets. Keeping those clean is easy! Just a quick wipe and it's done! Of course, dishes will have to eventually go inside...we don't live this life alone. The trick is to NOT fill them with things that shouldn't be there. By keeping a close watch on them, they can stay clutter free and easy to manage.

In life it takes the same kind of thinking. I want to be able to keep my heart and mind clean...and that means letting go of the clutter and misplaced priorities. It means I've got to take the time daily, or at the very least, weekly, to make sure I've cleared out the clutter. In case you haven't noticed, clutter is sneaky! It multiplies when you aren't looking! I'm pretty sure it actually reproduces, but I can't prove it. I do know that like the clutter in my cabinets, the clutter in my mind can become so overwhelming it seems impossible to deal with. The only way to conquer it is a little at a time....clearing out what doesn't belong.

So, tomorrow morning I'll wake up, get my cup of coffee and tackle at least ONE cabinet. I've decided this is the only solution....cause I can't just move. I've found that no matter where I go, there I am....and clutter will follow me there!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What's inside your gumball machine?


I mentioned in an earlier post that I was learning to deal with frustration. I know, after 50 years on this earth, it's about time, but seems like there is something new going on here.

I know that a lot of people are feeling the stress of everyday living right now. The economy had shortened our paydays or lengthened our months or something because I always have extra month left at the end of my money. When I look around, I see more and more people who seem to be on edge and I have to wonder if their months have suddenly gotten "longer" too. Let's face it, life can be downright tough sometimes. Seems like everyone is looking for answers. I have been known to mutter that if one more person asks me one more thing I'm liable to just go bouncing off the walls! Yep, life is "shaking" us all. That's where today's random thought comes in.

Imagine that you and I are like huge gumball machines....and life seems to be continually trying to get something out of us. Problem is, the only thing you can get out is whatever we've put in. As long as it's the normal everyday stuff, we're fine. Then along comes that BIG test that grabs you up and shakes you around till your "gumballs" are rattling against the glass. You know you're going to spill out....and whatever is inside you is going to go EVERYWHERE! It won't just be the normal gumballs, but every "prize" inside you will come out.

I'd like to believe that inside me you will find the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.....really having to work on that last one. Instead, I'm afraid that lately when I've been shaken, the yuck prizes have come tumbling out: cheap rings that fall apart the first time you put them on (vanity), temporary tattoos of skulls and crossbones (popular "wisdom" of today's culture), or sometimes something that you can't even recognize or figure out....(guess that would be my incoherent babbling). No matter how you look at it, it's not what you wanted. Like gumballs, whatever is in there comes tumbling out, bouncing and rolling and going all over the place. I so wish that it was the fruit of the spirit that was rolling out, going into new areas and changing lives.

So, how do we fix it....okay, how do I fix it? I can't give out what's not inside. It's time to realize that I can't go non stop and never take time to clean out the old and refill with the refreshing Word of God. No one can. If we don't make a conscious effort to refill with God, life will make sure we are so "busy" that we don't even realize we are no longer filled with the fruit of the spirit but have cheap imitation goods instead....that is until someone "shakes" us really hard. That's when you find what's REALLY inside. If it's not what you hoped, there's still time to refill....cause trust me, life will be sure to shake you again.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

blocking the water's flow


It's been quite a while since I've written anything. I'd like to blame it on the school year starting, but in truth I believe it was something more.


About 9 weeks ago I had one of "those weeks". You know the kind; everywhere you turn it seems like you run into a wall. I had too much month left at the end of my money, the kids needed glasses, shoes, etc, etc. etc. Normally, I do pretty well at the juggling act, but sometimes...well, sometimes I'm just an explosion looking for somewhere to happen.


It was a really HOT day (like we have anything else in South Mississippi), and I had just one too many things go wrong...and I lost it. I got angry at someone and while I was "polite" as all good Southern girls know we should be, I made my displeasure known. It felt good....for about 3 hours. Then, as I had time to cool down, I could hear the unmistakable voice of the Lord telling me I needed to go back and apologise.


Now, I of course worked to "justify" what had happened by going over all the things that had gone wrong and how that person had been in the wrong with what they had done. I could almost picture the Lord sitting there, calmly letting me spout off, and when I was finished those words came back again. You need to apologise. But God! Even as I reasoned my way through it all, I knew that nothing else would do short of that apology.


That's where things started getting tough. School was back in session and I was pretty much "stuck" from early morning till after dark each day and there was no way I could get to the place of business to say I was sorry. They had "normal" hours and as any teacher can tell you, there's no such thing as "normal" hours the first few weeks of school.


I would think of the incident at the weirdest times, knowing what I needed to do. Unfortunately, I could never seem to remember to go on those rare afternoons when I could leave the school before 5. That is until yesterday. Yesterday we had staff development, so I knew I'd be able to leave the school during lunch and make my move. Of course, when lunch time came, about three different things happened to slow me down and it was looking like another opportunity was about to be lost. This time, however, I was DETERMINED to right the wrong. I managed to rush into the business and say my apologies and still get back to the school relatively on time.


Now, like all my blogs, there is a random thought in here. As the weeks crawled by, I noticed that until I obeyed, the creative juices just didn't flow. The "Random Thoughts" that had come so easily had almost dried up. Now, perhaps it was a guilty conscience, or perhaps it was that the gifts just could not flow with this huge unresolved bolder sitting at the mouth of the stream. There was a slight trickle, but I could tell that something was definitely blocking the flow. Once I did what I knew I needed to do, the flow began to slowly return. I don't necessarily feel some great weight lifted, but I can tell that obedience has done some sort of work in me.


In all this, I have hopefully learned a few things. I wish I was better able to handle the daily stress of life, but the truth is - I can't. No one can. Your buttons are going to get pushed in this life, almost like someone going up to a gumball machine and shaking it to see what comes out. The only thing I can do is to make sure that I fill my "gumball machine" with the fruit of the spirit so I'm not embarrassed when it comes spilling out!


To be honest, I'm not doing a really great job of that right now.....but that's for another blog.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A.D.D. or A.W.D.


Today in worship, I became acutely aware of God's presence and I thought about how often I go through my days wishing I could sense His presence more. That's when I started thinking about how A.D.D. I tend to be and decided that in spiritual matters, perhaps I suffer a bit from A.W.D. - Attention to the World Disorder.

Since I am a teacher, I am well aware of how difficult it can be for a child who has A.D.D. to focus on what is important in the classroom. An overload of stimulus makes their brains take a detour from what they should be concentrating onto just about everything else. They often become frustrated and act out...or they withdraw from the very things that could help them. I heard the lead singer from Casting Crowns say he suffered from dyslexia and ADD which meant it was hard for him to read well and if he somehow managed to read well, his ADD still messed things up. I wonder at times if I am not undiagnosed ADD myself. I find I am easily distracted from what I need to get done, but over the years I have learned techniques to deal with my "random thoughts".....such as using them to write a blog. :)

Back to today's random thought. As I contemplated the fact that God is always with us, but somehow we don't sense it, our pastor began to talk about the very same thing! I was so excited I wanted to raise my hand and say, "I was just thinking about that!" To quote our pastor, "It's wonderful to know God is everywhere, but being in a place where you are AWARE of his presence is a whole other thing. When we focus, we become less aware of our surroundings and more aware of God." Yep, there it is. We are all a little A.W.D.

A.W.D. is being ADD when it comes to God. Instead of being able to focus on Him, we are so easily distracted by the things of the world. We have allowed the things that are not eternal, things of this world, take our focus off of God....and we start to sink under the weight of it all.

The Bible is full of stories where man got his focus off God and onto the things of the world with disastrous results. One of the most evident was when Peter stepped out of the boat and tried to walk toward Jesus. He did just fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but the moment he lost focus and started looking at the waves (the things of this world) he started to sink.

It happened to others as well. Different things pulled their focus from God...sometimes they were problems, sometimes they were things we'd think of as blessings, but once they lost focus - their troubles really began!

To paraphrase today's sermon, when our focus is right, we sense His presence and with that we find Purpose, Power, Protection, and Provision. With these come the greatest benefit - Peace. The key is to FOCUS!!!

I tell my son all the time...Focus Levi, focus! He's a lot like me, easily distracted by the shiny and new, or overly occupied with the one little thing that seems wrong. Once our focus is off, it's really tough to get us back to where we need to be. We're a little like the dog on the movie "UP" who could barely finish a sentence if a squirrel ran past within a hundred yards of him. Before you know it, we're off chasing something that is irrelvant in regards to what we're supposed to be doing! Unfortunately it doesn't take much to shift our focus from Sunday morning worship when we felt God's presence, to a place where all we can see are the things and problems of this world.

Yep, I admit it. I have A.W.D. but the good news is, G.O.D. is much bigger than any other letters of the alphabet combined! He is patient and willing to help me focus on Him. His GOODNESS OVERCOMES DISTRACTIONS....(G.O.D.)

When I wonder why I don't sense His presence, I can check to see, have I just lost focus. Am I seeking Him in the everyday of my life? In His presence there is fullness of joy! (Psalm 16:11) If I'm not sensing His presence, I'm not experiencing true joy! It doesn't mean that life will suddenly become a big picnic, but it does mean that nothing the world uses to distract me can separate me from Him or His joy if I will keep my focus right....if I'll keep my focus on God.

Psalm 51 gives us a prayer that we can use to help us "re-focus". "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And renew a right spirit within me.

I don't mind being a little A.D.D., but I surely don't want to have A.W.D. As the old song says: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Take time to focus today. He is with you...you might just suffer from A.W.D.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A battle of the mind


Today was a beautiful morning in South Mississippi and a great day for a race. That's what I should have been thinking, but truthfully I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head and get a couple hours more sleep. Still, I got up because I had promised friends I would be there to support a good cause.


When the run began, I found my usual place in the back. I had no illusions that I would have a great race...I simply wanted to finish. The whistle blew for us to begin and I took off at a fairly slow pace. This would be the first time I'd run in weeks and I didn't even have time to warm up...guess I'd just consider my first mile the "warm-up."


I was surprised at how good those first few steps began to feel. I had a bit more "pick up" in my feet than I thought I'd have and even though the race began with a slight incline, I quickened my pace just a bit. When I finally allowed myself to check my distance, I'd covered half a mile. Not bad. I just might be able to pull out a decent run after all.


It was at the one mile mark that the random thought hit me. I had just had an "argument" with myself about whether I should stop and walk or keep running, and I realized, it wasn't that I was out of breath or in pain. I was tired, but not to the point of exhaustion. If I stopped running and walked, it was because I'd lost the battle in my mind.


I started thinking about "battles" we fight in other areas of our lives and it occurred to me that most of them are won or lost in the mind. It is in our mind that we either quit or endure.


There is a verse in Titus that ties in with this and it caught my attention. It is Titus 2:2: "Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." I never really thought about the fact that it is the older ones among us who need to be reminded to endure. Perhaps it is because we have convinced ourselves that since we are older, we should have an excuse to tire more quickly...to stop before the race is done. For some, it is even an excuse to not begin the race at all. Think about how many times you have heard, "I'm too old for this." Just because we are older, does not mean that we should no longer endure. Romans 5:4 says: "For everything that is written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." When we look to the scriptures we can find that encouragement that helps us win the battle of the mind.


Caleb was 80 when they entered the promised land. When it came time to divide out the land, he asked for the hill country! That would be the most difficult to settle, but he was ready for whatever challenges might come. Caleb had long ago won the battle of the mind. When he went in to check out the promised land, he believed not what his eyes saw, but what God had said. He didn't worry that the promise had "expired" like some out of date coupon. He did not consider his age in whether or not God could do what He had promised. It wasn't even a factor. God had promised it, and that was enough.


I finished the race today, a bit slower than I would have liked, but I finished it all the same. I can't say I completely won the battle of my mind, but hopefully I learned a few things along the way. It is time to turn more to the scriptures to find the encouragement that I need to endure...not so much in races, but in the spiritual battles I face. If I am following the promises of God, then He will be faithful...the question is, will I endure? This is a battle of the mind that I want to win.