Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu and The Things That Matter to You

Education is good, but too much information- which can come through education- might be overwhelming. If you want to be an informed, upstanding good citizen, you should listen to the nightly news. If you want to be sane, sober minded and healthy with peace and perspective, you might not want to listen to the nightly news- at least not listen to it too much. It's a coin toss, really.

Wow, what a ride we are having in this nation. It's been a roller coaster. Between the upheaval in the economy, the drastic downturn in the stock market, the escalating unemployment rate, the horrific housing market, and now the threat of swine flu, we are all asking ourselves if we mistakenly woke up in the middle of a nightmare! And if that is the case, it seems we're trying to find a way to get back to restful sleep so that we can possibly wake up in a better part of this dream. When will things get better? Can they get better?

I'm not a medical expert, and I'm not a financial seer, and I'm not a prominent government leader with power to make some fast concrete changes that would affect the masses, so I may not seem to be anyone you should listen to. And you shouldn't listen to me if I speak from my own insight and human perspective.

But let's just see if we can tap into the great mysterious underground of God's Wisdom and Love and see if we can find something very concrete to stand on here. Nobody is looking for another Kum-by-ya song or some rote prayer or some foolish human proclamation of peace when there is no peace. It seems we're all looking for the most concrete, most grounded thing we can stand on- at least in these times.

This is not what we were looking for years ago. Years ago what we were looking for was an exhilarating ride into greatness or wealth. We were looking for fast trips and luxury and more and more things to satisfy our longing for More. Some of us were looking for career advancement, recognition. Some of us were looking for romance or for Mr. Right- and the T.V. show, The Bachelor, became a great fun way to vicariously help someone find their true love. In years past, rock solid BORING stability was not what we were looking for.

But that's what many of us are looking for now. Peaceful days. A Cook out with true friends and loved ones by our side. A glance at our kids and a sigh of relief that they're all healthy and safe. A look at our bank account and a feeling of peace that there's enough- not much- but enough, enough to pay bills. A job to go to- never mind it being a great job or having a promising future. These are the things that we are finally content with. And we're content with these simple things, now, because we're in scary times. And scary times make people take inventory of what is the most needed in their life.

I think, then, that we might possibly be in the best of possible times- only because we are grounded into reality, called upon to take an account of our life and of what is true and what is necessary and what is loved; only because we are experiencing tremors and rumblings and de-stabilizing events and so we want the most rock solid thing that we can find now. We want Stability. We want Strength. We want Security... and where is it??!

It's Here. HE IS here, I should say. God is with us.

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. Psalm 46:1-3

I love how Brenda Waggoner brought up a powerful quote from Oswald Chambers, in her book Fairy Tale Faith: "Oswald Chambers says that if we are to have 'staying power during the alarm moments of life,' we have to be grounded in God's basic truths." We are experiencing the "alarm moments of life." Right now.

Well some of us have been spouting off Bible quotes about God's love for years, some of us have been writing about how God is Powerful and that we should believe in Him, and some of us have been aware that there is a God who created the world and that He supposedly is Able to Keep us From Falling- but now we are going to have to live those beliefs as purposefully and intently as a marathon runner trains and zeros in on that last mile.

We've got to be pit bulls of the Faith, not pampered and spoiled poodles. We've got to laugh in the face of danger, not at any one's misfortune and not because we are insane or foolish- but because when our laughter rings out, by faith, God laughs too. Joy electrifies a troubled situation. Peace permeates the prison and the locked doors split open. People walk out into the sun shine and declare they are not going to be afraid. Not while they know the most amazing truth that God not only will reign and be Strong- but that He will reign in their life and be Strong on their behalf.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Can You Tell What I Believe?

I'm going from reading a beautiful and rather soothing book, The Noticer, to reading a book that is so direct and caustic in tone that the author, Larry Winget, is described as "the pit bull of personal development". You might ask if I'm crazy for selecting his book to read or if I just have a mini death wish. But it's for the very fact that I don't want to be crazy or at all unstable or imbalanced that I deliberately choose books to read that are outside of my comfort zone.

It's good for me to not have everything delivered to me on a silver platter. (But if I could have Tea and toast with marmalade, delivered to me on a silver platter once a week, I'd take it in a heartbeat!). And if Truth needs to come at me disguised in tough words and sharp, straight shooting observations, so be it. The main thing is that you get more and more of the truth; that your eyes get opened, that light and revelation come.

Everyone knows that famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave, "I Have a Dream"- but not everyone knows what your particular dream is- do they? Everyone has a dream. Even the most placid and methodical of us have a dream deep inside- even if they don't think they do.

Some people just have a dream that they will one day be free from anxiety. Some people have a dream of something more concrete- like owning a BMW Convertible. Both those dreams sound good to me, but one of them is more crucial to a prosperous life- and it isn't the dream of the BMW. You can live without a BMW but you can't live with anxiety and fear choking the life out of you. That is not living it up. That is not the abundant life.

Just the subtitle of this book makes me remember the truth that we, as humans, sometimes sabotage ourselves- though we forget that truth, ignore that truth, or rebel against the thought of it being true. And I think self-sabotage might come from the root of not wanting to love yourself. To really love and care for your soul, you have to free yourself to receive God's goodness and to believe His promises of provision and care. You can't have a bent in you that rejects good- even if its at a tiny almost invisible level.

My best friend, Mu, and I chatted by phone yesterday morning and we wound up discussing mental health and the battle that today's Christian has to not only hold his or her steadfast convicitions, but to also live this abundant life Christ talked about. And to live an abundant life you have to be healthy in your spirit. "Out of you shall flow rivers of living water" Christ said, but sometimes instead its rivers of tears and weeping over what troubles us, what we're anxious about, what assails our spirit and makes us unwell.

For all the proclamations we Christians make about God's Love, and God Bless You, and Thank God, and God is Good- we really might not be believers- true believers- of these statements. Whether we are real believers of these truths will show up in not only what we give to others of ourselves, but in what we are willing to receive- directly from the hand of God, and from the hand of God expressed through others.

Lately I care very little about details of doctrine, and I am caring much more about the reality of what I believe as it is expressed in not only my words and actions but in my thought life and mind-peace in particular. This is my latest thought- that the best witness I can be for the reality of Christ in me, the Hope of Glory- is that troubled people, anxious people, worried people (and I think there's a lot of them in this world, don't you?) that these people, if they were hanging out with me for a day, would say that their experience with me resonated with grace, peace, soundness of mind, healthiness of spirit.

This experience I'm having with knowing the reality of the peace and grace of God so concretely that I am healthy in my emotions and thinking- this experience is powerful. It's powerful not just because it is Abundance, it is Strength all the way to my bones- but it's powerful because it touches others. It can cause a ripple effect that surges into waves of blessing. It's powerful because a healthy mind at peace and at rest is going to wind up being sought after and prized more than having a convertible or a million dollars.

That's what I'm thinking today. Do you see what I'm talking about here? I'd love to know your thoughts.

And may your thoughts today be sound and healthy and stayed on Him.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What You've Possibly Been Searching For


This book is a bit confusing at first (is it a memoir? fiction? a self help book phrased as a parable?), somewhat pedantic and preachy at times, but possibly one of the best books I've ever read- as far as it being A LIFE CHANGING READ. And frankly, that's why I read books.

Yes, there's times when I read for an enjoyable breezy ride that distracts me from my momentary troubles. And then there's times when I read memoirs, in particular, and am engrossed in the pain and the beauty of someone's actual life and thereby moved and provoked to appreciate my own life.

But for the most part I read hungrily, thirstily- like a woman in the desert searching for a spring of water. And what I'm searching for is Truth. Revelation. Wisdom. Something concrete and foundational to stand on- cause I don't like feeling shakey or sketchy in my thinking.

The Noticer, by Motivational Speaker Andy Andrews, is a book for someone like me, then. Perhaps its because the author of the book might have just taken a similar route in life as I have: he's gone through some good and some painful times, has questioned about what it all means, has read voraciously and with intent to learn and glean, and now he wants to share the bounty in his basket.

This book is not sensational or sizzling, or intricate in plot and character development. It might be slow moving at times, or it might be a little too fairy tale like. What's with this character, Jones? Is he an angel? Did this really happen as Andrews writes it? How embellished is the story or how much has it been crafted with poetic license in order to turn it into a living parable? These are the issues I have with the book.

But the blessings in this book make me say- who cares about all of that? Does a drowning man care about the saving person's background and style? No, he only cares about the rope being tossed. And this is what Andy Andrews throws out to the reader: his own wealth of experience and his accumulation of insight and PERSPECTIVE from having read thousands of books, biographies, historical accounts of people in crisis and what these people learned. Andrews then presents to the reader a simple story that has a prophetic undercurrent.

If you know how to put your ear to the ground, so to speak, and listen for the rumbling of God's voice or feel the presence of God through someone's words, then you will love this book. I say that firmly and I say that prophetically. If you're hungering for the beautiful peace and hope that come from getting a new look at life, at yourself, you will feast your way through this book.

I went through this book with a pen and marked the statements that spoke to my heart. I marked up the book a lot. I felt certain statements and insights were directed at me specifically. For example, when I read "I say to you that, as you lay your head down tonight, you are sleeping on fertile ground" -I felt as if I had received a blessing and a proclamation. It was true. It is true. I suddenly saw it and believed it in a way I couldn't have agreed with before.

People who struggle with worry, and fear, regret over old age, questions about making right choices- you'll read this book and think it is a gift from God that you did. At least that's what I think you would feel. And if you didn't feel blessed and surprised by this book's influence on your life, maybe it would be because you had discovered some of these truths and powerful principles already. Maybe you are filled with a lot of wisdom already.

If so, please write a book and share with us all this bounty of blessed insight and perspective. 'Cause that's what Andy Andrews did- he prepared and set out for the reader to enjoy all that had brewed within him, all that he had learned from having been burdened and then blessed to have been relieved of. He shared his life and he shared all that he has read over the years, through the words of a character named Jones.

And more than that, he shared a key. Take it if you want. Use it to open the door. The door to what, you ask? Well, only you could know that.


*I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger Program. Check it out: Thomas Nelson


Friday, April 24, 2009

Opening the Treasure Chest of Wisdom

I'm having the time of my life, lately. That it coincides with Spring, warm weather and sunshine (we're going to hit the high 70's today!! woo-hoo!!) just adds icing to the cake. A lot of this joy I'm feeling has come from my perspective changing on things, and my perspective has changed because of who I'm talking to and what I'm reading.

Let me tell you- I am one wealthy person! Well, at least when it comes to access to books and ideas. I have a great huge public library (well, I don't have it as in own it, but I might as well own it with the way I have complete access to all the benefits of it and none of the responsibilities that go with ownership except that of returning my books on time). This library is literally within a couple miles of my house, and I practically salivate at the thought of going to it- which happens to be at a rate of 3-4 times a week, usually.

I'm a book hog- and I don't make any apologies. Now my daughter has joined the rank of Book Hogs United and we both plan our trips to the library and what we're picking up when we get there as if we were miners talking about a pending gold strike.

I'm about to update my reading list (side column) but for now, let me say that I'm reading 3-4 books at the same time and I don't want to get through these too fast. I don't want the journey to end too quickly.

Here's a brief nugget of wisdom that came to me today after reading just a bit in two of the books. You might say that I'm coming up with a few enlightened conclusions of my own after compiling the honesty and wisdom and truth and perspective that I get out of these books: I am a person who has battled through some trials, but I never realized that in battling so long and so hard, that I might get to the point where I might not be able to just relax and enjoy Times of Refreshing- if they came.

And they have come- these times of refreshing, this season of coming out of the trench and realizing that its not all about battles and challenges. Sometimes its about laughing and living and loving and lightening up. Seriously- I need to be a bit more frivolous and light hearted and....dare I say...irresponsible. I only say that because I know myself- and for me, leaning towards irresponsibility, instead of tightly clenched and stoic responsibility, is a good thing. Its needed. It's high time. Enough of adversity. It's time for....Hmmmm. Time for something else.

If God uses adversity and trials to polish us and purify our hearts, then what is the opposite of adversity and what does this Opposite accomplish in our lives? I think the opposite of Adversity is Prosperity- and in this time of political and economic unease and despair, even- how the heck do I think I should be feeling prosperous, much less actually be prosperous?

Well, I'll get to that. For now I just want to tell you, my readers, that I feel like a kid in the candy shop. I'm finding out that God hides joy under heavy boulders. That there are surprises- good surprises- ahead of me, and not just calamity, catastrophe, and cautious times.

I want to tell you about one excellent book, in particular, that I'm reading- but I'll be writing a thorough review of that in a couple more days. For now, you might say I'm a walking review of it. See me grinning ear to ear and my shoulders relaxed and my eyes sparkling and reflecting a zest for life again. It's not always uphill.

And by the way, nothing big or significant has happened in my life these past couple days. I didn't inherit a million. I didn't win a trip to Bermuda (but I 'd like to!). I just dove into some great reading, opened my heart, felt God touch me through these authors- through what they were saying, and what I was then saying to God- and now I'm just walking with a lighter step and a sunnier outlook.

You might say I feel like a prosperous woman. And that's probably the first step to prosperity after all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Winning Combination

Last night was pizza night. Normally Friday night is the night we make homemade pizza, but we moved it over a couple nights due to other events happening, as well as the fact that you have to be in a creative, fun loving, happy mood when you make pizza at our house.

First, my husband Bill puts on some Michale Buble or Tony Bennett and the music gets us feeling light hearted. Then the homemade pizza dough gets divided into 3 pieces ( 4 pieces when our son is home from college) and Bill, Abby, and I each start stretching the dough in our pans. Abby makes a cheese pizza and will add bits of buffalo chicken. Bill does a veggie style pizza with lots of onion and green pepper and mushroom. I love doing a mushroom and sweet sausage pizza- when I remember to buy the sausage earlier in the day.

The flour flies, the music plays loudly, the dog gets under our feet, and in the end- twenty minutes later- we have 3 gorgeous pizzas coming out of a hot oven. We feast on them and feel creative and well fed and full. Life is good. Our pizza night is always a success.

But we have other nights when we are out of sorts, not creative, and the meal is slightly burned or flat tasting. it could be that our Pizza night always turns out to be successful because we've been at this for a couple years now. We've tried different sauces, I've doctored the pizza dough recipe, and we've been getting sillier and more wild as we make them. We look forward to Pizza Night because we've come to expect a great experience and great flavor.

The winning combination of success and more success is hard to find. Usually what we experience is success, then failure, then a bit of success, then lots of failure- and if we stop there, it could be a long time before we experience success again.

Trying something for the first time, and then trying it again, is an important ingredient of Success. So you could also say that Risk taking is essential to Success Making. You try something, and therefore you risk something. There's not a lot of sure things in this life. Instead, there's a lot of Maybe-but Perhaps Not-Then Again Maybe.

So many Christians try to make the Christian life sound like its a sure thing- that you get instant peace with God, a fulfilled life, great sleep at night, and no worries because you've now Got God. I don't know that we ever "get God". We don't get what He's up to. We don't get why He allows things to happen in our life. We don't get the full benefits of knowing Him- because we rarely know Him fully. We know Him in part. We see Him in glimpses and in rare wonderful moments. And then we lose sight, or we lost perspective, or we lose the joy of risking and reaching out and trying to find Him again.

I've had some incredible successful moments in my walk with God, where I had epiphanies and revelations and experiences that were intense, meaningful, satisfying- as in cold water given to a sun scorched soul. I've also had some failures in my walk- times when I felt frustrated with God, when I thought God was all about the gain that you get from only pain. I've had times when I couldn't see Him or feel His presence, and I felt deep in darkness and despair, only to suddenly get a sighting of Him that lit up my day and my heart and made me feel wonderful and sad at the same time- because I doubted that He would ever show up again. We're both sad whenever I doubt Him.

The winning combination of success and failure, knowing God and then forgetting what you knew of Him, gaining ground and then losing ground- this combination is our life. Failure can be a stepping stone to success. Going through dark times can mean that experiencing the wonderful times is even sweeter and more fulfilling.

All the nights I've burned dinner, or over cooked the chicken till it was leathery and dry, are forgotten on Pizza Night. On pizza night we live it up. We relish the taste, the experience, the joy of trying to get the winning combination. WE eat the fruit of the labor of our hands and we're glad we got the chance to try something, fail, succeed, and in the end get a mouthful of something so good that we want to do it again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Simply Sensational

The dog is clipped, the house is clean, and there's even a warm coffee cake cooling on the counter- a sign that I felt enterprising (and hungry enough) to bake. I came back with a load of groceries this afternoon, and while I was out earlier, I even ran in the parking lot while I was returning my shopping cart to the stall. This elderly gentleman smiled at me and I think I knew what he was thinking- go ahead and run, run while you can. Run while you're strong enough to run.

It's good to feel like a weight is lifted from your shoulders. Today I decided to just enjoy life- and in particular, this day. This is the only day I can claim, right now. And today I have a strong and young enough body to prance across a parking lot and vigorously stir up a thick coffee cake batter. Today is what I tackle and what I enjoy- if I dare to.

So it's a simple Saturday. Hope your Saturday is sensational as well- even if you're not doing sensational things. Sometimes just doing some simple things, and doing them with a light heart, makes all the difference.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home Base Bliss

Thank God for the birds chirping outside or I would forget it's Spring. Sometimes I'm wrestling with issues from my past like someone dealing with snow removal and the snow never stops coming. There's got to be a time and place when you just forget "dealing" with stuff and you decide to just breathe, take a deep breath, smile, relax, and be -what feels like to you- slightly irresponsible and carefree.

Harry is content and at peace- and that is amazing because he got clipped and shorn the other day, like a sheep at the shearers. But this was a different experience for him. The truth is, the grooming place where I had been taking him really didn't care to have Harry return. They said they would groom him if I really needed to bring him in, but there was a sound of resignation in the woman's voice when she said it. I knew what she meant: don't bring that skitzy, nervous, pooping dog in here, please!

So I didn't. I found someone who comes to your home, parks in your driveway, and clips and cleans your dog from the little shelter of her minivan equipped with doggy bath, generator, air conditioner, grooming table. And this sweet woman was not some battle ax of a woman, but a sweet talking blonde wisp of a thing. Harry loved her.

She spent three hours in her van with him and when he emerged, he looked like a little lamb, and acted like one too. He wasn't cowering and acting neurotic and rushing to a corner to hide for three days, like he would have if I had taken him somewhere to get groomed.

"He kept staring out the van window and he knew where he was, so he didn't seem to be that scared" she told me.

It's good to feel like you know where you are- that you're safe at home base. I do happen to know several people who struggle with fear of leaving home, fear of open spaces, fearing of treading new ground in new places. I have a lot of empathy for anyone who struggles to come out of their shell, out of their home, out of their past.

It's a lot of work to clip a nervous dog- and its a lot of work to stabilize someone who is nervous and full of anxiety but maybe doesn't have all the words to aptly describe why they're experiencing what they're experiencing.

My husband and daughter and I are celebrating our dog's recent experience with Success. This past grooming experience was successful. The dog is no longer matted and dirty and his ears are clean and healthy now. But more than that, he's not traumatized or further induced to avoid the groomer with even more hysteria. No, he might just walk out, the next time, and greet the groomer happily, and jump into her doggy spa van and let her do her thing.

So I'm thinking that maybe I should also try to deal with the things that scare me or trouble me by deciding if I really do need to deal with them head on, feet first, plunging into them like a scared swimmer jumping into ice cold water. Maybe there's a way to find better places, better relationships, better scenarios. Maybe I can spend more time authorizing myself to choose better and choose wisely so I spend less time as a victim or as a unwilling participant in a scene that I didn't have to enter.

All this wisdom and musing can be attributed to the fact that I got to observe my dog go through something that, this time, wasn't an ordeal. This time it was palatable. Next time it might even be enjoyable.

And that's what I'm heading for: enjoying life, enjoying the fruit of the labor of my hands, enjoying the journey. Because there's choices along the way. And I want to make good ones. I don't always get to choose what I'm going to go through- but when I do, I want to choose well.

Now I'm off to walk the dog and notice the birds chirping. It's a good day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stale Marshmallow Bunnies and New Thoughts on Grace

The marshmallow bunnies are all on clearance and there's rainbow colored jelly beans everywhere you look. Easter is over. We're in the midst of Spring. This should be a bright sunny season of our life. But just because its Spring and just because Christ rose from the dead and we can, potentially, have a life of victory and overcoming power, doesn't mean we do. Well, we do- and we don't. It's that already-but-not-yet syndrome of the Christian life that we're always wrestling with.

Just because I celebrated Christ's resurrection on Sunday, doesn't mean that I live a life of new thoughts, new hopes and new dreams. I don't. A lot of old stuff creeps into my life and I deal with moldy thoughts and decaying dreams. I sort through a lot of stuff, mentally, and am always trying to figure out what is outdated, what is lost or futile, and what is locked in lack of grace. I should probably be concentrating on more on where the grace is, where the light is- but its human nature to mourn and regret and look back.

I'm reading Jon Katz's latest book and its beautiful and sweet and troubling. He had a troubled childhood. He loves animals. He's a gifted writer. So what results from that combination is a story about his life on a farm with his animals and the underlying feelings and memories we have when we're stroking the top of our dog's head, or feeling soothed by their weight as they lean against us, sighing with contentment. We're comforted by our animal companions, but we're sometimes enjoying their companionship while feeling alone at the same time because these pets know nothing of the weight of pressures and responsibilities we face.

My dog, Harry, is usually contented and at rest. He lives to be near me- and if I'm not available, he'll take my husband or kids as second choice. He mourned my son's absence for a while- when he went off to college- but now Harry has adjusted to the changes in our household.

That's the key thing- isn't it?- adjusting to the changes that take place in our life, however small or large they may be. Seems to me that those who are agile and quick to adjust to change do better than those of us who wrestle with why the change is occurring instead of getting with the reality that Change has occurred.

If you're going through a trial or challenge right now, a dog's warm furry body pressed against you as you stare vacantly out a window might comfort you some. But it can't take away the feeling of weight or worry. And meditating on the power God has to raise the dead can help you lift your eyes and ask Him for help- but it can't take away the scenario you face. You're going to walk through the valley of the shadow of death: maybe death of a dream or a hope you had, maybe death of innocence or naivete, or maybe its the death of a plan you had to get you someplace- any place but where you are.

I take comfort in the fact that for everyone who heard the news of Christ's resurrection, there was disbelief, a sense of incredulity, doubt even, and denial. How can it be? How can LIFE occur when all is lost, gone, or without breath? How can I think it's not over when I was told it's all over?

God likes to rattle our cages. He loves to cheer up the downtrodden. And He especially likes to prove me wrong when I tell Him I'm too weary to get excited about anything because life is too uphill.

That's when God turns the tables, turns my world upside down, and makes me go flying deliriously downhill like a skier shooting down the mountain- only now its not a terrifying trip but a coasting down over the very mountains that I had just been trying to climb. God decides when you can't take anymore- and He's a very good judge of our actual abilities to cope.

And when we feel like we're at the edge of what we can stand, He has an experience in mind that changes what we think about ourselves, our God, our trial, our life. It's an experience of grace. And it will be there when you need it most.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Guy with the Guitar- You Know Who You Are

What a great Easter celebration we had yesterday. At church, in the middle of worship with a choir backing up the main worship leader, they started a new song and there was a voice singing- an incredible true beautiful voice- and we didn't know where it was coming from.

"Who's singing?" my husband asked. "It's a different voice. It's not the main worship leader- but I can't see who it is that's singing because there's so many on the stage".

"It's the guy with the guitar, I think. The electric guitar," I whispered back. Or maybe it's a bass guitar- I don't know much about those instruments. But I do know a good voice when I hear it.

It wasn't a good voice as in trained, professional, or even superior sounding. It just rang out so true and so clear and so haunting that it drew us into worship. This guy was talented. But he was more than that. He has been hidden. He's still a bit hidden- at least to us. We don't know his name. We don't know his background. We don't know if he has a desire to pursue a career in singing- or if his own talent and beauty is hidden even from himself.

I hope he knows what a gift God has given him. I wanted to say something to him after church, but I didn't see him until we were walking out the building. I'm going to try to find him next week and let him know how touched I was by his part in the worship team. I want to let him know he has something rare and true and honest and soul searing; that his voice may have a rare anointing on it. That even though he may have tried to pursue a singing career or a segue way into the music industry and maybe met with some obstacles, to not give up!

Or maybe he is already on his way. Maybe the doors are wide open and he has experienced favor and success and encouragement all over the place. I kinda doubt it (being the pessimist that I am! Well, a reformed pessimist who is open to being optimistic). Most people meet with more defeat than they do success. At least early on. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

But I'm not about to let that influence me entirely. I love to see people find their way, pursue their dream, get on track, or get back on track if they are off track. I love to see a gift make way for someone- and this young guy has a gift.

Guy with the Guitar, you might not know who you are....yet. You might not realize what a talent you have and that its worth pursuing that uphill course to fulfilment of your God given dream.

But I know who you are: you are amazing, talented, gifted. And you touched my heart this past Easter Sunday. A song rose in my own heart, right after you sang. And this song is still ringing out today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Smell Roses

It's Good Friday. I told my daughter, yesterday, that today, Good Friday, was going to be a day we would treat differently. We wouldn't spend the day trying to do what we wanted, when we wanted to, as though we had all control and power over our life, as though we were in complete control over our destiny and there was No One who held our life in Their Hands.

So I started my day, after my husband left for work, feeling a bit puzzled as to what I should do next. I found myself drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes, and I do mean, literally, the book. I read it through- from chapter 1 to Chapter12. It reads like a friend talking to you, who has questions about life, advice gleaned from experience, and a great respect for the unknown and the unseen things of God. It addresses so many issues of life and then, in the end, answers none of these issues- because, really, it's all a mystery.

I knew a pastor who spent every New Years Eve at the local Garbage Dump, reading the book of Ecclesiastes. He said that was the best way for him to start the New Year. He was a melancholy contemplative sort of guy, and I loved how he addressed the agonies in life and answered so few of my questions and how I had more questions than ever after he preached. Not more confusion, mind you- just questions. And I think that's the sign of a good pastor and a wise man.

Maybe Good Friday is my New Years Eve. I'll skip going to the dump because our town dump is not a quiet place to be. I'll commemorate this day that Christ was crucified by recognizing my life begins because of His death. I can have a Happy New Year and a joyful new day because of what He did for me. This is one thing I know for sure. This is not a mystery- the fact that He died and rose again. It's truth. But it is a mystery why He loved us so, why He loves us still. It is a mystery how He leads us and how He guides us and where we are going and why we are where we are.

Here's what I gleaned from today's reading: "Truth is beyond us. It's far too deep" (Eccl 7:24)- but that doesn't mean I shouldn't seek the Truth. I also contemplated what the Writer was alluding to: that what God does and what I actually see happen may be two different things. What I think I see God doing in my life may not be what is actually occurring! (Eccl 8:17). If I share with you my plans for this week and then tell you next year that I never wound up doing what I planned to do, you shouldn't be surprised.

It's like sitting at the local Dump and thinking you smell roses. Life can be that way. You can think you are heading toward a God ordained thing- and find out you don't see God anywhere in the picture. Or God can be definitely at work in your life and you don't see a single blessed thing.
Or you may think you are so on the right path and suddenly find yourself at a dead end.

The writer of Ecclesiastes would probably nod his head and say, "Yes." Yes to our misunderstanding what God is doing in our life. Yes to the fact that we could smell roses at a Dump. Yes to the hunger we have to know what is going on. Yes to the fact that we glimpse a bit of His Hand at work, here and there, now and then- and don't realize what a privilege it was to have had that glimpse into majesty.

I also found out that in addition to spiritual things like respect for God and right living, the writer of this book thinks you also need some very practical things to make it in this life. Things like hard work, good food to eat, real guts, courage, and the nerve to do something even when you are not even sure it will make any difference at all. "You never harvest what you didn't have the nerve to plant" he writes (Contemporary English Version).

It's a holy day today. But its also just another day. It's Friday- but it's also New Years Eve for me. Because something new is happening. I see some things, and then again, I don't know what the heck is going on in my life at all. As in the dark as I am, I'm also wise- for knowing that I know barely anything at all, except for the most important thing, the fact that HE LIVES. And everything else in my life can take its place under that Fact.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Harry's Close Call

Harry is lying on the floor, stretched out, sound asleep, exhausted. He had a close call this morning. A very close call. We were supposed to slip him in to the Groomers at 7am for what they call an express grooming. This way he would be in and out in less than 2 hours, and he wouldn't be upset or agitated, supposedly.

But we got to the groomers at 7am and she wasn't there. Harry was yanking at the leash, panting, having accidents on the floor, frantic to get out of there as soon as we got there. And lucky for him, the groomer called in sick.

So we came right home and Harry is out for the count. He will probably sleep all day, that's how relieved and exhausted he is from the sheer terror of an almost-appointment at the Groomers. Never mind that I had prayed over him all day yesterday. Never mind that I talked to him in my most soothing voice and tried to convey that his appointment with a very light and momentary affliction would be for a moment but that the benefits of a shampooing, clipping, cleaning, shaving (etc) would be for a ...well, not a lifetime, certainly, but at least it would last for a couple months before the agony would have to take place again.

The things we have to go through...and go through....again and again. Not that every trial is supposed to be cyclical. I'm convinced that I go through some trials too many times, and that if I could learn my lesson- or at least learn what I'm doing wrong or what I'm failing to do- maybe I wouldn't have to go through some of the trials I go through so often.

Then again, there are some trials that are very much part of life and part of growing and part of learning. Some trials you cannot avoid. Some trials you can. And this is where many of us ponder and reflect on what we're experiencing: is this an unavoidable lesson in life I had to learn or is this an agonizing trial I'm going through because I made a stupid mistake or I took a wrong turn and now I am going down a bumpy road and hating this agonizing experience?

I wonder if Harry looks at me with those soulful eyes of his and questions why I would torture him at the groomers every three to four months. (It should be every 2 months but you see, there I am, trying to help him avoid the trial). I'm not trying to make him go through a trial. I'm trying to help him stay clean and free of ear infections and painful matting. But he might think I'm just trying to make him go through a painful trial. I'm not- but there seems to be no other way to get him to this improved healthy state of post-grooming other than to go through the grooming experience- the trial that it is- to get to the results of the grooming.

I don't think God is big on trials. I don't think it's His modus operandi for all our growth and learning. But trials seem to be the route we often have to take to get to the results God has in mind for us. Trials come. We go through them. We kick and scream or cry or agonize. But God is not singing a happy tune the whole time, relishing our pain. He may just be singing a calming soothing tune, like I do to Harry, to help us as we go through the trial.

Let's get to the other side of this trial, shall we?- the Lord says. He is not going to leave us as orphans in a storm. He is not going to enjoy watching us agonize or struggle. He's not a Sadist. He is the Lord of the Harvest. He has fruit in mind. Beautiful fruit. Wonderful outcomes. Lasting joy. And I've got to keep that in mind...especially in the midst of any trial.

Friday, April 03, 2009

It's Right Under Your Nose

Our son, away at college, misses home- but not that much. He's enjoying his life down south, his classes, his social times with friends. I couldn't be happier about his happiness. As he approaches the end of his freshman year at college, it's clear he is in the right place, he sees that he is, and we are all feeling the results of that truth: peace, contentment, a sense of satisfaction and relief and thanksgiving to God.

Sometimes you can tell what is making you happy. Sometimes you don't know what is causing your unhappiness and frustration. And sometimes things are good- but you just don't realize it- and the answer is right under your nose.

I was so touched by this Scripture passage I was reading this morning because Jesus is lamenting over His people not seeing, not realizing, what they have when they have it. He's their Answer. He's their Prince of Peace. And yet they missed this truth. He cries out to the city,"..."If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42).

What makes for peace in your life? For me, it's a day when my dog is not disturbed and causing problems, my daughter's home school lessons are going smoothly, my bills are paid, my creativity is unleashed and my possibilities are still open, my future looks bright, my health is good, my loved ones are well,... I guess it does take a lot to make me happy! Maybe happiness isn't the word, but it does seem to take a strong combination of things to give me a real sense of peace and well being.

Or I could just focus on the Lord, and see Him for who He is and Where He is in my life - which is everywhere- and take a deep breath and feel so blessed about what I know, what I really know.

What do you know, right now, about what brings you peace? What do you see in front of you- and what don't you see? Because the reason I ask this is that I'm starting to realize there are many things I haven't been seeing yet they have been right in front of me. And apparently this is an age-old problem that humans have. We're slow to perceive the blessing and the presence of God. Jerusalem, the city of God's favor, missed the greatest Eternal Favor of all time: Jesus Christ Himself sent to be their Redeemer.

It's one thing to sort of see something, it's another thing to absolutely know it and therefore you live as though you know this truth. That's what that word means in the verse "If only you had known...". And the things which lead to peace, quietness, and inner well being and a sense of rest and relief from anxiety- well, these things are all wrapped up in One being. He is Our Peace.
He brings us peace. The things which lead to peace are not hard to find. He is not hard to find.

And that's what I'm seeing, right in front of me, today. That's Who is knocking at the door of my heart- and I see Him, and I'm taking a deep breath of peace. It feels good.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I"m Certain of This

I told my husband over coffee, this morning, that he wasn't as good a listener as he used to be. He sipped his coffee, listening to my little rant, and said nothing.

"See? That's what I mean!" I said with a bit of exasperation in my voice. (Okay, more than a bit). "You used to comment more on what I commented on. I need your feedback. I feel like I know more of what I'm thinking if you comment on what I'm thinking 'cause then I can see if what I'm thinking is clear and sound or if it's crazy."

You're probably thinking to yourself, That poor man- what he has to put up with! But really, this guy knew exactly what he was getting into 20 something years ago because I was this verbal and this overly analytical when he knew me then!

I like to hear what my husband is thinking about what I'm thinking. He's very sound and sensible, and he's slow to speak but when he says something, he means it.

I always thought that the Apostle Paul was kind of like this too. But lately I've been seeing him in a whole new light. People who know God can know His will, but that doesn't mean we know the Whole will of God and are cognizant of it at every moment. Our minds would split open if that were the case because God's will is overwhelming...for us , not for Him.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians 16 about the collection of money for the Christians in Jerusalem, and was looking at Paul's instructions when I started to note something interesting. As spiritual and strong in the Lord as Paul was, he was still a man, and therefore he was often in the dark about God's will even when he was walking in the light.

Notice the wording here from verse 4 through 7: "And if it seems appropriate...I am planning to travel through Macedonia... It could be that I will stay a while, perhaps all winter... I want to come and stay awhile if the Lord will let me...". If you feel like commenting under your breath, Make up your mind, Paul- don't worry. That's what I felt like doing too.

Making up your mind about what you are doing and where you are going and if God wants you to do something, is a another aspect of God's will- His forward looking will. There's the sense of God's will for you today: don't lose your temper, give grace, be slow to anger, be abounding in love. That's God's will for you right now.

But then there's also the sense of what is God's will for you tomorrow and next year? Because you have to make certain choices in life that affect the rest of your life ( choice of college, choice of career, choice of spouse, choice of friends) you do need to know God's will. As we can see in this 1 Corinthians 16 passage, Paul seemed a bit fuzzy on what and where he would be next week and next year. But the good news is that I don't think he made those fuzzy sounding statements with a heart of anxiety and fear.

God will make it clear ...where you need to be next year.

God will make a way...when you feel you can't even make it through today.

I can say those statements with certainty- even if I am uncertain about what He will do and what He wants for you- as far as particulars. It just could be that He wants you to feel as uncertain as you do about what you will do- but certain of His love and His will to guide you.

I am planning to write more on this subject...if it seems appropriate. It could be that I will write more tomorrow...or perhaps the next day. I'm not sure yet.

But whatever I eventually decide to do, however meandering a path I take, or however uncertain I feel, I'm certain of this: God WILL make a way. And I'm also certain of this: today is a good day to KNOW that you can know not only His will, but the God of Heaven and Earth, Himself- Savior, Way Maker, Everlasting Father, Almighty God.