Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The little lost onion...

By now my dirty little secret is out. I am NOT a good housekeeper. I know, this shocks some of you. Okay, so it shocks NONE of you, still, even I didn't think I was this bad.

It all started about a month ago when I got this idea that I should take some time and reorganize my pantry. I'm out of school, so now would be a great time. Of course, I persuaded myself that I could do it later. I didn't really "feel" like doing it right then. I don't know if I was waiting on some great inspiration....not that pantries are all that inspiring anyway, but for whatever reason, I didn't "feel" like tackling this project. It could wait till later.

Life kept right on rolling by and occasionally I'd think, "I really do need to get to that pantry while I have time", but of course something else would always take precedence....something like taking my kids somewhere, doing the laundry, watching the news, taking a nap...I'd take just about anything as a viable excuse to put off doing what I knew I really should do. I still just didn't "feel" like doing it.

A couple of days ago, I came in my kitchen door and was greeted by a rather unpleasant odor. "What is that smell?" I asked, to which my son replied..."It's the dogs. They need a bath." The dogs may have needed a bath, but something told me that wasn't what I smelled. I checked the trash and the fridge (since we all know I let things grow in there) but found nothing. Oh well, I'd find it later....when I felt like it.

Today, I went into my pantry to grab a pack of gum before I went to the gym...there was that smell again. Something told me this time I'd better stop and find the source because now I recognized that smell...it was an onion that was past its prime. I looked everywhere in that pantry....moved everything - twice! Finally, I happened to look into a back corner behind some graham cracker pie shells...and I found it. Because I care about the those who might read this before a meal, I'll skip the yucky details. Let's just leave it that this onion had seen its better days a long, long time ago.

To my defense, that onion had been hidden. My daughter sometimes helps "clean" up the kitchen and has a habit of stuffing EVERYTHING into the pantry. Those who have children who help clean may understand this. Sometimes she puts things away and it takes me weeks to find them. Since I wasn't really looking for this onion, it just slipped quietly and pungently into oblivion. It took quite a bit of cleaning to get rid of the "remains".

What's the point in sharing my culinary and housekeeping fiascoes? It has something to do with a quote I read this morning. It was by Thomas Huxley and it was a principle of success. "Do what you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not." If I had gone ahead and cleaned that pantry weeks ago, I could have saved myself a real mess (and a stinky one at that!) I simply put it off....and if my procrastination only affected my pantry, it probably wouldn't be any big deal. Unfortunately, I could name a lot of different things I have "put off" till I felt like it, only to find myself looking at a real mess or worse, finding that it was too late. I don't know if others deal with the bad onions of procrastination, but I have a feeling we all do. One author stated that procrastination isn't really just being lazy, it's being rebellious. Ouch!

Proverbs 27:1 says, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Saying I'll do it later is acting as though I've been promised tomorrow. I may say I'll get around to it, but what am I waiting for? What's worse, every time I "Put it off" till later, the task becomes more of a weight around my neck. If I put off enough things, I can eventually become so weighted down that I can't seem to move. Why not just obey quickly and be done with it? Truthfully, it always takes less time than I feared it would and it feels so good to have it done!
The onion is gone now, and the house smells much better...but the lesson remains. "Do what you need to do, when you need to do it, whether you feel like it or not." Procrastination has a way of stinking up your life, like an onion pushed back in the corner....eventually it will make its self known. I think I've had enough of that.

(I discovered an interesting lesson online dealing with procrastination. Here's the address should you want to check it out. http://www.nobleinstitute.org/2006/10/12/cut-me-some-slack-the-sin-of-procrastination/ )

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh-h-h-h, THAT hill.

The other day I was sitting in a meeting and made the statement, "I'm not over the hill yet..." and one of those random thoughts hit me. If this "hill" is my life and I'm around the half way point, then yes....I AM over the hill.

Okay, this may be elementary stuff to a lot of people, but truthfully I had never thought about what the term "over the hill" actually referred to. It was something that came up at birthdays....usually in the form of black balloons and obnoxious black decorations...usually brought by a much younger, yet equally obnoxious friend. Still, I never really had connected it to any kind of real meaning. Now I'm starting to realize that "over the hill" refers to reaching the half way point of your life, the top, and then starting down the other side. Since I am now 50, I guess it's pretty safe to say I am "over the hill".

Think about it. If you have ever run up a huge hill, you know what I mean. It seems to take FOREVER to reach the top and the idea of going down the other side never really crosses your mind. You're just trying to conquer the hill. When we are younger, we are trying to make our way in the world, conquer our fears, and reach the pinnacle of our success. If we are lucky, the top of the hill plateaus for a while and we get to jog along at an easier pace allowing our heart rate to adjust....but for every up there is a down.

When you first start running down, you kind of like the new feeling of speed you are experiencing. You actually look kind of fast, maybe even cool! Then, after a few more steps you find yourself accelerating toward the bottom at such a lightning speed you worry a little that you might fall (and can't get up...) The bottom is coming at you MUCH faster than the top ever did....sort of like the feeling you get when you say "time is passing so fast". No, time isn't moving faster, you're just getting closer to the end of the hill. (I heard once that life was like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. This "over the hill" run is just the same thing.)

I guess that in this analogy, my daily appointment with the treadmill or the track must be my attempt to run up the down escalator....slowing down my descent to the bottom. I know I can't stop it, but I'm in no real rush to get there. I don't really want to just "sit and ride" on this trip. I have no idea when I will reach the base of this hill, but when I do I want to be giving it all I've got.

Sitting down and just waiting for the bottom of the hill is, however, not an option. Each new day brings with it a work that needs to be done. In John 9, you find the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed. the disciples were asking their usual stupid questions (which makes me feel much better when I have to do that) and this was the response: Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light." (emphasis mine)

When I finally reach the bottom of this hill, my workday will be over....but for as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light....cause I'm supposed to allow the light of Christ to shine through me. There isn't really time to sit and wait for the bottom to arrive....as long as I'm on this hill, I'm supposed to be doing the work of the One who sent me.

So there you have it. My version of over the hill. No matter where you find yourself on the hill of life, I hope you are shining His light for all to see. We'll work together and I hope I can safely say..."See you at the bottom" when we run into the arms of Christ and hear "well done, my good and faithful servant."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Too old?

Recently I was invited to attend a meeting for people 50 and older. I can't begin to tell you how that made me feel...other than old. Up to this point, it hadn't really occured to me, but evidently I have now moved into a new phase of my life. I'm not sure when it happened, but evidently I have entered the phase of life known by some as "old." It seems that just yesterday I was facing the prospect of "getting old enough" to....drive, vote, live on my own, start a family, etc., etc., etc. Then suddenly I turned around to discover I was now "too old."
Now some of the things I am too old for I don't mind. I'm too old for the Olympics...not that I ever had the talent or desire to participate in them in the first place. I am too old for mini skirts...but honestly those were uncomfortable in the first place. I'm too old to trick or treat...but I never was much for going door to door begging for candy. I'm too old to be cool...okay, that one bothers me a little.
I watched a show the other day which featured the lead singer of KISS and his family. I remember when KISS was the epitome of pushing the edge...now the lead singer is nothing more than a dad trying to be cool and missing the mark...seriously. On stage, he still rocks, but at home he's just as middle aged as I am...richer, but still middle aged....and definitely not cool.
On the flip side, I am now old enough to be President of the United States...not really something I want to do. I can also join AARP...another thing I really don't want to do. I am almost old enough to get discounts on food at restaurants. (I will admit that one is nice.) I can get a parking place closer to the entrance - which is stupid. I am not disabled...I can still out run some people half my age. I can.....well, I guess that's about it.
According to the results from a search engine, I am not too old to: get pregnant, for motherhood (which anyone can tell you is MUCH more difficult than just the pregnant part), to skateboard, to get a record deal, to learn a new language...the list really does go on and on.

Still, I'm not really thrilled with the whole idea of getting older. I don't like that my eyes refuse to work, my body evidently has decided to become a fat storing machine, and my skin seems to be permanently creased. Mostly, I hate the feeling of being invisible...no longer needed. I'm beginning to feel a little like some sort of antique plate. I don't want to be put on a shelf and dusted, occasionally brought out for fancy occasions. I want to be used!!! I don't want some special effort made to "include me", I want to be a part of the everyday workings of life. So what if I get cracked or broken in the process...make me into a table top mosaic or something, but trust me, I'm far from being ready to just sit.
I spoke with a friend last night who is a good deal older than me. I told her the worst part was feeling like I was no longer needed. She nodded and said, "If you think it's bad now, just wait." Not exactly what I was hoping to hear, but I have to admit I know it's true. Our nation has always celebrated and admired youth. Legend has it that one of our early explorers, Ponce de Leon, spent his entire life searching for the fountain of youth in Florida, (which might explain why so many older people move there to retire.)
I wondered what the Bible had to say about aging...after all, it has survived popular opinion for thousands of years. Psalms 71 talks a good deal about getting old...and declaring the goodness of God to future generations. (I assume that means they actually listen.) But my new favorite may have to be Psalms 92 (especially verse 14): The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; (13) planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, (15) proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him."
Okay, I admit it....I'm getting older, but don't count me out yet....there is still fruit to bear and a work to be done....keep up if you can.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another day on the scales

That did it...I was officially ticked....furious...... "don't get in my way" kind of mad. After a week of diligently watching what I ate and working out faithfully I stepped onto the scale to discover I had gained ANOTHER pound. Now I was over two pounds heavier than I was when I started! I wanted to kick something...and myself. I walked around in a blue funk for most of the day. I begrudgingly tried to continue to make better eating decisions, but instead of working out, I took a nap. Even as I closed my eyes, that number loomed in my head.

Now, I can almost hear some of you saying the proverbial "Muscle weighs more than fat...you're just gaining muscle." If that is the case, then maybe I should quit teaching because at this rate I should be ready for a life as a professional body builder by August. Let's be brutally honest...I don't care if it's muscle or fat that I'm trying to squeeze into my jeans...what I really want there is a little air....a little breathing room between my stomach and the waist band would be a welcome change!

I know I can't be alone in this frustration...if I were then diet pills and weight loss programs would be something seen only in science fiction. (By the way, have you noticed in science fiction the only people that are overweight are the villains? Think Jaba the Hut from Star Wars...see what I mean?) I know others are struggling, but it doesn't really make me feel better. I want to be supportive of them while being slim and trim myself. I want to be "Bob" or "Jillian" from Biggest Loser fame who pushes others to be their best...I don't want to have to fight this battle myself. But maybe it's in fighting the battle that I can learn to help someone else. I can sympathize with the frustration people feel when they watch someone eat a triple hot fudge sundae and never gain a pound while they lick the spoon after serving their kids ice cream and gain two. I'm learning to understand the feeling of "why try" when faced with doing what's right only to be confronted with failure. Maybe weight isn't the only thing I gained yesterday...maybe I gained a little compassion along with it.

This morning I reluctantly climbed back onto that scale. The two pound weight gain was gone, and I was greeted by my old familiar number...the one I started with. I had allowed my entire day to be ruined by something that would be gone with the dawn of the new day. I stopped to wonder how many other things in life I have allowed to steal my joy only to discover that with they too passed from view with the dawn of the next new day. In Lamentations 3 (the root word of Lamentations is lament....and I guess I have been lamenting that things weren't going the way I wanted...) the Bible yet again gives hope: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

(You know, that is "portion control" that I think I can definitely live with.)

This really isn't about some arbitrary number that glows up at me from my morning weigh in. This is really about realizing that each day has battles of its own that we must face...and each day holds blessings that can easily be ignored if we become too preoccupied with our losses, or in my case, with "gains". It's about realizing that the sum of my life will be not in the number on the scale, but on how I lived each of my days....
I'm going to try to make today one I can smile about. Care to join me?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why try...

I stepped on the scale again, hoping that this time the numbers would be smaller only to be greeted with the same number I had seen the day before. "Well," I tried to encourage myself, "at least it isn't getting larger." You know what happens next. I try to better the next day only to find that this time the number goes up again. I can almost hear that nagging voice inside me say "Why try?"

We have all had those moments when we try to do our best in some area only to meet failure - again. For me, that battle has shown up lately in the area of my weight and more importantly, in my fitness level. Just a few years ago I was feeling great, I had dropped about 20 pounds, I was running daily, and I felt like I had the energy to take on the world. Then life interfered, which it has a habit of doing, and slowly I stopped running and the weight came back, bringing a couple of friends with it. I found I was saying "I'm tired" a lot, my clothes no longer fit, and my headaches were returning as well. I was not happy with me. So I decided it was time to lose the weight and get back to my former level of fitness.

At first, I tried to start back running. I soon discovered that my body was going to kick and scream every step of the way. Not only could I no longer run as fast as I did 2 years ago, now I was even slower than I had been when I first ventured into running. Where I had been running 5 and 6 miles, now a single mile was a chore that never seemed to end. I gave up.

Next, I started counting calories and actually watching what I was eating! What a concept. Now here is the part where I'm supposed to say the weight started coming off...but it didn't! It seems those 20+ pounds have grown quite comfortable on my 50 year old frame. Once again, that little voice inside said, "Why try?"

Why try? Good question. For many, no matter what they do they seem to meet discouragement. We've all known people like that. They try and fail and give up; try, fail, give up. It's a short cycle for some because they soon figure, "Why try?" We've all BEEN people like that. So what is that something makes a person "Fall seven times, get up eight" as the Japanese proverb says? What takes them beyond "why try?"

What could make someone like George Washington Carver, who wasn't allowed to attend college because he was black, sit outside the classroom just so he could learn? What would make someone like Ben Carson go from a zero average in 5th grade to turning his life around in such a way that he later became a world renowned brain surgeon? What could cause someone who has lost a leg to an accident to push past the pain to retrain themselves to run so that they can complete a marathon? You know all these people had to have heard in their hearts, "why try".

I'm not sure what that something is, other than hope..belief that there is something more for them if they are willing to try.

When I first started running, there was a friend who "coached" us and she told me I had to start calling myself "a runner". I didn't want to claim that for myself....I just didn't see it. Others around me were much faster, much more athletic, much more able. Consistently, she told me, "You are a runner." I don't know why she believed in me, but she consistently encouraged me and challenged me beyond where I was. I still remember the race when I wrote by my name, "I am a runner." I didn't win, but something inside me changed that day. I started calling myself as a runner, and eventually I listened and believed. When I was unable to believe, she seemed to believe for me. She helped me hang on and not give up.

Maybe that's a part of the key. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 10, "Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up." Notice that when two are walking together the phrase used is "if they fall" and when one walks alone it is "when he falls." This walk of life isn't meant to be walked alone. It is important to surround ourselves with people who encourage us...not just those who say sweet things, but those who push us to become what we can be. That "iron that sharpens iron" that is talked about in Proverbs 27:17. We all have a need for someone in our lives that can push us to believe in the gifts God has given us...someone who will push us to TRY.

Why try? Because something deep inside says "Yes, you can." This isn't just about weight loss or fitness, this is about life. It's about knowing that while I may not control everything around me, I can decide each day to try....to pick myself up and go beyond where I did the day before. I can look for ways to not only be encouraged, but to encourage those around me....and at times to simply encourage myself! I know that at times I will fail, but when I do, I will start all over again. It's about deciding that for today, I will not only try....I will believe.

See you at the races!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why state the obvious

You know, sometimes I worry that what I write is just too obvious. You know, something everyone already knows, or as my son would but it, "Well, duh." So why write about these everyday random thoughts if they are so obvious?

There actually are a couple of reasons I write. One is so that I can process the information myself. Like many women, I need to talk it out in order to process my thoughts. When we first get married, our poor husbands think they must somehow have an answer to what we are talking about...they are "fixers" by nature. What they don't realize is that we don't need them to fix it, we just need them to listen to us so we can verbally process the information. One of my favorite movie lines is from the movie Crocodile Dundee. They are in New York and the girl is on her way to see the psychiatrist. Dundee asks why, are you nuts or something? She explains that here in America when you have problems you go and talk to your psychiatrist. Dundee's response is, "Why? Don’t you have any mates?" I'm so thankful for all my "mates" who listen to me or read as I process information.

The other reason for stating the obvious is that for some, it's not yet obvious. I was thinking the other day that I take for granted that everyone knows the Bible stories or spiritual principles that I have known for years. I forget that at one time, I didn't know them either. One of the advantages of getting older is that you accumulate some really helpful information along the way. Some is pretty everyday kind of stuff: baking soda is good for cleaning and getting out odors, you can get up oil spills in your garage with kitty litter, you can make really good hash browns out of left over french fries, (my sister in law taught me that one this weekend). But some things go much deeper and can make a difference in the way we deal with life.

The Bible tells us we should share these stories. Deuteronomy 6:6 - 9 puts it this way: "Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates." We are to share what God is doing and showing us with others. Yes, to some it may be obvious, but there are others who are hearing for the first time.

It's sort of like teaching a young child their colors. When my babies were just learning to talk, I'd say things like "Bring me the red truck"....now I of course knew my colors and what a truck was, but they were just learning. By including things like color in my everyday conversation, they assimilated the information naturally. I doubt anyone can remember when they learned that red was red...it has been a part of their information bank for so long they no longer think about it...that is until they start to teach their own children colors.

The point is that we sometimes need to state the obvious. While for some the information may be something they have heard before, we cannot stop sharing. There is yet one other reason to share. Humans are notorious for having leaky brains. We tend to forget things unless we are reminded of them on a regular basis. I know I can't go into the store for more than 3 items without a list or I will forget at least one. I may get 20 others that aren't on the list, but I still forget the one I needed. We learn from others, and we learn from our own past. Stating the obvious reminds us of God's goodness in our lives, "lest we forget".

How about it? Why not take some time today to "state the obvious" with me. Go ahead and tell the "old, old stories," because for some, they are not old at all.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lessons learned in the hedge...

Today I went out to begin some much needed yard work. Those who know my gardening ability, (see "I Didn't Mean to Kill Them") are probably cringing right about now, but it was becoming obvious some work needed to be done. My box hedges were starting to look more like Walmart bags than boxes so I set to work.

I began the tedious job of shaping my box hedge with the manual clippers....I'm not sure I should be trusted yet with power tools. Things were going quite smoothly when I happened upon a dead branch. I of course removed it only to discover my "box" hedge now had a hole in it. That is also when I discovered the vine.....such a pretty little fern type of a vine was growing in my hedge. I pulled on it and it seemed to grow right before my eyes. There seemed to be no end to this "delicate" little fern. I don't remember ever seeing this type fern in my yard before Hurricane Katrina, but now it seemed to be popping up everywhere. I had to wonder if this had played some small part in killing that particular area of my hedge.

As I worked to remove the plant, I had a flashing image of the Kudzu we had seen on our trip back from the mountains. It seemed to be everywhere, covering trees, poles, wires, even houses. For those unfamiliar with Kudzu, it is an invasive species of plant that was brought over from Asia to feed cattle and control erosion. The problem with Kudzu is that in North America it has no real predators or enemies and it grows unchecked. Once it begins to take root, it is almost impossible to get rid of. It grows over native species of plants and trees and literally sucks the life from them by cutting them off from the sun. Kudzu has been known to cover entire houses so that they are no longer even recognizable.

There are a couple of parallels that I thought of with my little vine, kudzu, and my spiritual life. That vine, and kudzu, in their proper place are fine....the problem comes when they are introduced into a place where they don't belong....then, instead of being beautiful they are destruction. In our lives, this can be something good that simply takes the place of something else, or it can be when we try to be someone other than who we were created to be. I know I've been guilty of doing this in my life. Perhaps it is that I see something that works for someone else so I try to do it just like them. I try to make their "call" my own. The problem with that is it tends to choke out the life in me and makes what I've been called to do ineffective. I have to remember that I was created for a purpose and that it may not be the same as what someone else was called to do. The Bible puts it sort of like this in 1 Corinthians 12: 4- 6: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. " While I can learn from others, I can't be someone else, I can only be who God has called me to be. Trying to do otherwise only frustrates me and chokes the life out of the gift He has given me.
The second parallel may make even more sense. That pretty little fern seemed innocent enough at first, but given time to take root it seemed to be taking over. Sin is a lot like that. At first, it doesn't seem like any big deal. It's just a little thing, even pleasant...but given time it takes root and doesn't want to let go. It becomes like that kudzu and tries to cut you away from the Son. Just cutting it down doesn't really work. If the roots are allowed to stay, it will rise up over and over to try and gain back its place. It would have been so much easier if it had never gotten the chance to gain a foothold, but now that it has, you've got to deal with it. Ignoring it won't make it go away....it will only grow until the original plant is bound up, weak and ultimately destroyed.

There was still one more lesson to learn from my gardening adventure. I moved from my box hedge to my rose bushes only to discover the "fern" had taken root by them as well and wrapped around almost every branch. My roses didn't take to the trimming as well as the hedge had. They "bit" me almost every step of the way with their thorns. I had to wonder if I do that to others who try and help me. Do I bite and snap at those who love and care enough about me to try and de-tangle me from things that hold me back? I finally managed to get the rose free from the vine, but the roots of that vine are still there. To get rid of them, I might have to completely move the rose and risk killing it. It's going to take someone who knows more than I do to get rid of this weed. I have a feeling this is simply an area I will have to work to constantly keep in check....sort of like areas weakness in my life.

I'd like to say that the pruning process is over for my plants, but I know this is just the beginning. Really beautiful lawns take a lot of work. If I truly want these plants to be beautiful and fruitful, I'm going to have to prune again, and again, and again. As long as they are alive, they will be going through the pruning process....sort of like me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

But I paid my money.....

You know, I'm the only person I know who joined the weight loss group at work and somehow managed to GAIN 3 pounds. I'm serious! Every one else in the group was dropping weight like it was a hot potato, except me. I actually put on weight! When I jokingly complained to a friend about it, she asked, "Did you follow the plan?" Well, no...but I paid my money! Isn't that enough?

Right about now you are either shaking your head in disbelief or laughing because you have done the same thing. Anyone who has ever joined a health club only to then never darken the door again knows what I'm talking about here. I have to wonder just how many treadmills and stair climbers are currently being used as coat racks in America today. We won't even go into the number of exercise videos that are gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I know I'm not alone in this....it's all about the difference in want to and commitment. You see, I want to lose weight, but until I'm committed to it, nothing is going to happen. I can join the groups, pay the fees, even watch the videos, but until I commit to doing something, I'm just spinning my wheels.

What is that something inside us that moves the mere "want to" into committed reality?

I found a number of quotes about commitment:

“There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”

“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.”

“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.”

As for me, I think maybe I decide something sounds like a good idea and see others doing it and get all excited, but I don't take the time to count the cost. I'm not always willing to do whatever is necessary to see the dreams fulfilled. Dare I say it? I'm lazy. The truth is, most dreams come with a lot of hard work and risk before we can see them become reality. We have to get off our duffs, risk failing and perhaps even look foolish.
There are some areas of my life where I know I am committed....but even in those areas I can see where my commitment can easily lapse into mere wanting if I'm not careful. I'd like to be like the author of Philippians 4:12 - 16 (Message translation): "I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it."

In every area of our lives, it takes focus, consistency, belief that we can do it, and of course some good old fashioned work. And as for the weight loss, I'll keep working on taking that from the "want to" to the "committed" level, because it's become quite obvious....just wanting to is not enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why don't you ask?

I'm not even sure how to start this post.....it all started this morning as I was getting ready for work. The house was completely quiet and I could actually think, a rare occurrence when you have kids. I began to think about some of the things I would like to do in life. You know what I'm talking about...those dreams again. The "if money wasn't a problem and you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do in life" kind of thoughts. That's when the question came to mind...."why haven't you asked?"

Do you ever have those moments of realization that sort of leave you dumbfounded? This was one of those moments. I don't think up to that point I realized I hadn't asked. I was "believing for it..." but I'm not sure I'd ever asked. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I was even clear on what I wanted to ask.

Why hadn't I asked? Good question. Let's see, there's fear. Fear that perhaps what I want is far beyond me. Fear that I actually might get what I'm asking for! Fear of the responsibility that comes with the answered prayer. Fear that I don't really know what I want or that maybe I ask for the wrong reasons. Yep, fear is probably why I haven't asked. But today, a friend posted a facebook status that seems to go with this line of thought...."Faith can move mountains, fear builds them."

I don't know if this blog is just for me, or if there are others out there who have dreams that they haven't had the courage to ask God for, but it seems like every where I turned today, I heard that same question...."why haven't you asked?" In Matthew 7, it says: 7-11"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better? "
Maybe you haven't asked because of pride...that same kind of "I'll do it myself, I'm not lost, I know exactly where I'm going, I'll figure it out on my own" kind of pride that keeps some men from stopping to ask for directions. I'm just going to leave that one for you to make your own analogies.

Maybe you're not asking because you feel unworthy...you're right. You aren't worthy. None of us is worthy of answered prayer...but that's beside the point. God doesn't answer because we are worthy...He answers out of love. Isaiah said "Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips...." and in response, God cleansed him and then called him to go out. (Isaiah 6) It's not about whether we have done something, it's about what God has already done.

Maybe you, like me, are afraid of the responsibility that goes along with what you are asking for. Gideon could relate. When God called him, his response was pretty much, are you sure you got the right guy? "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter." Yet God used Gideon, even with all his doubts and fears.

I saw a church sign the other day that bothered me. It said, "Faith moves the hand of God." I think I understand what they were trying to say, but that struck me as saying that somehow a person could make God do something. I think perhaps a better phrase might have been "faith touches the heart of God." He is looking for someone who has the faith to ask....

So how about it. What are you believing God for? Have you asked? Even if the answer is "no", you can know it pleases our Father that we asked. Asking opens the door for direction that we may know His will for our lives, and that's what what we're really looking for.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Octogenarians and speedos

While relaxing on the balcony during vacation, I happened to glance down at the pool below...and that's when I saw him....the octogenarian and the speedo.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for senior citizens leading an active lifestyle...especially since I am getting closer and closer to that status myself, but some things are just don't seem right. A really old man, or old woman in a teeny tiny bathing suit is one of those things. I don't care that a bunch of movie stars are now flaunting the fact that they are getting older and still look good in a swimsuit. Most of us don't look like them. Shoot, even they don't always look like them without a team of trainers, dietitians and air brush artists!

But back to my senior citizen in a speedo. While I commend this gentleman on keeping himself in shape, I'm not sure the rest of the world was ready for this sight. If he'd been swimming, I'd have figured this was just his work out gear...I can understand that. But he wasn't working out...he was reading...in the pool....he wasn't even tanning! So I don't get it. Why put yourself on display like that? Guess that's a question for any age. Why are we putting ourselves on display like this...and for whom?

I agree the human body is a marvelous work of art, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it should be displayed for all the world to see! To be honest, that doesn't just go for senior citizens...it applies to young people too! As a teacher, I have to spend a good part of my day asking students to either pull up their pants or adjust their tops so that they aren't displaying themselves to the general public! Some "works of art" can only truly be appreciated by those who love them. If displayed to the general public, they can become common. Even great works of art aren't hung out on street corners for all the world to see...they are protected, even treasured. If seen everywhere, these works of art become just another advertisement.

I hope my old guy in the speedo enjoyed his day....but I have to admit it didn't help me start mine the way I had hoped.

Vacations and going home

This week has been one adventure after another. We've ridden roller coasters, seen awesome shows, met people from all over the world, walked about a hundred miles, gotten a bit lost and confused, and made some memories....but none of it compares to coming home.

We spent almost a full week in Florida on a family vacation. I always look forward to these since this is the one time it's just the four of us together with no real distractions...except that now the kids have cell phones they are constantly texting friends during the trip....but at least they are with us in body. There was always something interesting to do or see, but no sight we saw compared to the beautiful green countryside we saw as we drew closer and closer to home. When we finally pulled back into our driveway, I really relaxed for the first time in almost a week.

Mind you, I thought I was relaxed a few times on the trip. Sitting out by the pool and reading a book was great! Sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee seemed grand...but it just wasn't the same as home. It's sort of like that popular song by Chris Daughtry, "I'm going to the place where love and feeling good don't ever cost a thing.......I'm going home, back to the place where I belong, where your love has always been enough for me." Home is where I know I belong.

Maybe that's it....the rest that my vacation offered came with a "price".... isn't that just like the world. I could have all the adventure I could stand; a multitude of pleasures awaited me; entertainment was all around me; I could have it all....for a price. But when I came home, here I knew the price had already been paid. It might not be nearly as exciting, but here there was something that the vacation couldn't really offer - rest.

This year, my children also found a new diversion...the arcades. As I watched my children play in the "arcades" and saw that growing discontent of never being satisfied. They always wanted to try one more game and win one more prize. I also observed as some of those who had "won" at these same games then tried to lug a huge stuffed animal all around the hot park for the rest of the day. I have to wonder just what they will do with that toy when they get home. It became a burden to them while they were there and will probably become another one when they get home. Yes, lots of momentary satisfaction, but no rest....and all came with a cost.

We, (well, my children), rode every roller coaster they could find, sometimes waiting almost an hour for their chance to ride. After a while, one of them even commented that they didn't want to ride one of the coasters they had ridden over and over because now it was "boring." It no longer held the thrill it once had.

I know we had fun, but at the end of each day I could see the exhaustion written on my family's faces - usually in a cranky attitude. We needed rest...real rest. It was time to come home.

A lot of people spend their whole lives looking for rest. They try the adventures, the luxuries, and the entertainment....yet they are never quite satisfied. This world will offer you a lot of things, but all these come with a cost. In contrast, the cost for rest and peace have already been paid. It's time to come home...to the place where you belong...where the price has already been paid on Calvary. Funny thing is, along with the rest comes the adventure of a life time...nothing else can even compare.