Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The lost onion, revisited

The following is a post from quite a few years ago. Thankfully, I haven't had any more "lost onions," but it came to mind again today after about the third devotional today that mentioned "smells," both good and bad. Today my prayer is that my life will be a pleasant aroma to my Father in heaven and to those around me.....
 Ephesians 5:2 (NIV)
"and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

 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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cross training...

This topic has been on my mind for a while now. I'd wonder, "What about an article on 'cross' training?" Then I'd think, naw - it's probably been done to death already.

Today I decided to look it up and find an article on the kind of cross training I meant and post it to my face book wall, which is what I do when I am trying to avoid doing actual work - I either "pin" the idea or post it and give the illusion of productivity.

I typed cross training into Google and came up with 331,000,000 results (in .31 seconds!) 

The first one that came close to what I was looking for was about training to share the gospel "across cultures." Not quite what I was looking for. I looked on and the post that followed that one was for a company that recycles computers. Seriously? Finally on page seven I found a link to a group called Men at the Cross with a series on training men to share Christ...still not quite what I was looking for, (even though I did bookmark it to read later.)

After getting to page 15 of my search without finding what I was looking for, I finally stopped. Seems there is a LOT out there about getting our bodies into shape through training "across" the disciplines, but there is very little about doing the same for our souls. 

I get it. One is a WHOLE lot easier to discuss than the other. Interdisciplinary training physically yields results the world can see. We get better at our sport, look better physically, and of course get the benefit of bragging about how much we work out...and the world likes that. The other "cross" training, however, isn't quite as accepted by the world. It is the training that says to follow Christ we must, "take up our cross and follow..." We don't like to follow. 

In America, we pride ourselves on pulling up by our own bootstraps. We are tough! We are leaders! We do things "our way." We even dare to want our sandwiches prepared, "our way." One of my favorite quotes from a movie is "My way, no highway option." We are strong, we are invincible, we are....sorry, almost broke into a song from the 70's there. Still you get the point.

But Jesus gave another command. He said to take up our cross and follow Him. Give up our dreams, our desires, our plans for life and lose everything that we might think is important. To follow Him? Where? What does He have planned? 

I'm not sure this is the "cross" training I want. Where are the motivational posters? Where is the blaring music in the gym? Where are the cute outfits that I just KNOW I will one day fit in without looking like a partially popped can of biscuits? This kind of "cross" training looks HARD!

I kind of like the world's cross training, mainly because it's all about ME. This cross training is about GIVING UP me. It's all about HIM. 

That "cross" looks uncomfortable. It looks hard. It looks rough. It doesn't look fun at all! 

But the thing is, Christ hasn't asked me to take up HIS cross - that is one I could never have carried. He simply tells me to take up MY cross...the one I already have. It may seem larger to me than that of someone else, but then again I don't really know what theirs looks like. Each day, I get the chance to "cross" train by picking up my cross and following Him. I get to choose what to do - follow or not. THAT is real cross training.

There are no motivational posters on the wall (well, I guess all those scriptures I post on my facebook wall might count...) There are no "competitions" to prepare for....except the ones against the enemy and those are not really that much fun. As for cute clothes, well, I guess you could print yourself up a t-shirt if that helps, but that's not really what it's all about. 

This "cross" training isn't the kind that pops up in a Google search, but it does pop up in God's search. The Bible says His eyes go to and fro looking for those totally committed to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9) 

I have a feeling there is a LOT more to this "cross" training than any Google search could ever record...and I'm just starting to scratch the surface. For now, I'm doing my best to figure out how to "grab" this cross of mine - where to even start trying to pick it up. 

Thankfully I have a patient "Trainer" who never condemns, always encourages, and knows just how to motivate me when I want to quit....and a "high-five" from Him means more than anything else in the world.

Cross training....it's just not what I thought it would be.

Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
 Matthew 16:24-26
The Message (MSG)
24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No need to know my name....

I used to say, I don't care so much what you call me as long as you call me to supper. Yeah, I know it's an old joke, but I'm kind of old too. Anyway, the subject of names has been on my mind.

Today on my run I got to thinking about a family I know. I've seen them on and off for years at the races, and I'd seen the kids at school, but I didn't really know them. In fact, I didn't even know the parents' first names! I always knew them as D.'s mom and dad or K's mom and dad...and from what I could tell, they were fine with that. I understand. I'm fine with being known as Samantha and Levi's mom. I love being their mom...well - most days anyway.

Lately, however, I've gotten to know this family just a little better and I see another side of them. It's at this point that you expect me to say I'm getting to know them by their name...uh - no. I still have problems remembering names. I have gotten to know them by something else. I've had the chance to see them as one of God's kids! I have had the chance to see them a bit closer and see that not only do they love their kids and do everything in their power to launch them in the right direction and develop their gifts, they do it because they truly love God!

Now, to some that might be a "duh" kind of statement, but we all know those parents who do what they do for THEMSELVES. They want the kids to looks good for THEIR sake. They want them to succeed for THEIR sake. Don't embarrass THEM. That's not them impression I get from these guys. Everything they do is because they love their kids and want what's best for the kids! 

I once heard a speaker, Joe McGee, say we shouldn't discipline our kids when we've "had enough" but that instead we keep all the discipline about them...it's supposed to be whatever will help them grow in the Lord and who they are meant to be. It's really not about us. These parents seem to reflect that precept.

Now that I'm getting to know them better, I can also see that these parents do all that they do because they truly love God! They are GOD'S kids! It's like they live their lives not focused on themselves but instead focus on God and on launching their kids toward what God has called them to be.

I get the feeling these parents are quite fine being known by their kids' names and even MORE fine being known by God's name. They don't care if they ever gain fame or fortune, but that they reflect Christ and His name in all that they do.

I want to live my life that way. When people say, "I've heard of you," I want it to be because I've reflected God's name. I want it to be because my children are living a life that brings honor and glory to Him. I want it to be that we are known not so much for our name, but for Whose we are.

So, there's no need to know my name...doesn't really matter what you call me as long as you call me His. Oh, and don't forget to call me for supper!

John 13:34-35 (MSG)

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The difference a verb makes

Today as I went for my run, I passed a neighbor working in her garden, admiring how well the flowers were blooming - at least that's what I imagined she was doing. I called out as I passed, "Your flowers look beautiful!" and then ran on down the road. As my feet pounded the pavement, I heard in my head - "Wrong word." 

What? Beautiful? 

"No, wrong verb."

Looked? Then what?


The difference in a verb. They looked beautiful versus they ARE beautiful. Those flowers ARE beautiful because God made them. 

I wondered how often do I make the same mistake when I look at life? I decide what is beautiful by how things LOOK, when God sees them as they ARE. 

The flowers that I passed truly are beautiful, but they were just as beautiful when buried in the ground, waiting to push past the dirt into the sun. They were just as beautiful when the buds were forming in awkward fashion, wondering what it might be like to spread out and show their colors. They will be just as beautiful once those same colors start to fade and wilt, and they will be just as beautiful when they droop their heads at the end of summer and wait to bloom again. Every stage, every moment, is a part of what God created and it is beautiful.

This time of year we have Japanese Magnolias that bloom and brighten the corner where they are. I always worry that we'll get our characteristic Spring freeze that will destroy the blooms, but they don't. They just bloom. They simply do what they are created to do.

Can I look at my life, myself even, and think "beautiful"? Can I realize that there will be times of waiting and wondering what is to come? Can I enjoy the moments when everything seems right and full of color and light without focusing on the past or worrying about the future? Can I recognize that the winter can be just as much a part of God's plan as the spring? Can I trust in Him?

No matter what stage of life you find yourself in - the winter, the spring, the summer or fall - life is beautiful. You are beautiful because God made you.

Happy Spring, my friends!

Matthew 6: 30-34
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.