Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Absorbing Verses Takes the Daily Challenge

Do you ever have one of those days when your curled up early in your favorite chair, sipping coffee and wholeheartedly wanting to meet God and absorb (my new banner and favorite word) some scripture to live by that day and then you read the verses and think, Oh dear, what's going to happen? That was my morning.

I'm studying James this summer. It is a great book chock full of so many things I would like to get right. So this morning I'm happily reading along and then,

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.
James 3:17-18

Now I'm looking at these verses and I'm thinking I got trouble with a capital T. I can usually feel the days my reading will get specifically challenged. Satan loves trying to whack me in the knees with exactly what I just vowed to God I would get right. To bolster my resolve, I read it several times and took off for the day in prayer.

Work went smoothly most of the day. So far so good. Days now are somber and quiet. In the struggling economy, we are particularly hard hit. We have gargantuan problems to solve. I am not in charge and those in charge are not necessarily decisive or people of action. We have been thinking about the problems too long in my opinion. My challenge: Keep my place. Support. Be patient. Pray. Be respectful. Should be easy. Except there are days I want to shake someone and scream, Let's just get on with it. Do something!

Anyway, Satan lurked in the background until mid-afternoon when I typed a letter for my boss intended to go to some people he feels aren't doing enough to help with the situation. Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns. Oh my goodness. James, remember the verses, pray, pray harder.

I typed the letter thinking this is a mirror of us. It made me really frustrated so guess what I did. I copied the letter and edited it so instead of pointing the finger at someone else, it brought the focus right back to us or more pointedly him. Yep, the message was pretty clear. I printed it, I prayed, I hand wrote an encouraging note at the bottom. I let it sit at my desk for a while to "cool off" and then I laid it on his desk. Done.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.
Were my motives pure? No.
It is also peace loving.
Do I want to cause discomfort to spur them to action? Yes.
Gentle at all times.
Could I have expressed my feelings in a different way? Probably.
Willing to yield to others.
I am not in charge. God will take care of this. Not me.
It is full of mercy and good deeds.
Did my action encourage or bring down?
Well I tried to encourage. I doubt it was received that way.
It shows no partiality is always sincere.
I was sincere, but I didn't choose a good method.
And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

I'm not feeling very good right now. First thing in the morning, I need to absorb these verses again and then have a heart-to-heart with my boss. In case that sounds odd, my boss is also my dad. Yeah, I know that's a whole other dimension I just goofed up. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Absorbing Life

I started watching Titanic tonight. I haven't seen it since it's 1997 theater release. That theater is gone now, turned into a live music dinner club. I haven't wanted to watch the movie again since my relationship with my movie going friend met the same fate. But forgive me, I'm distracted.

The opening scene immediately draws me in. This is a superbly crafted film. But it doesn't take me long to get distracted, again. I start thinking about visiting the Titanic museum in Branson last fall. Now, watching the movie and seeing a familiar dress, china, watching them walk the grand stairway, all make me wish I had taken more time to absorb the opportunity. People's lives, and the end of them, memorialized for us to understand unparalleled optimism and the tragic plundering of hope and belief.

I feel a twinge of regret knowing there are so many opportunities I haven't taken time to absorb. Countless places I've been and things I've done I wish I could go back and do right. Give it the time and attention it deserves and know I haven't shortchanged the experience.

D.C. is on the list, but give me a break I was in high school. Mature scholar that I was, I chose to hang out at the hotel running stuffed animals up and down the elevator and getting into shaving cream fights instead of going to the Pentagon. Good grief. I lived in Colorado for six years. I never went to Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, Royal Gorge Bridge and countless other things I wish I had. What was I thinking?

What am I shortchanging today? There are opportunities to absorb. Every day. As much as I enjoy them, I'm not talking about a tourist attraction or museum. I'm talking about life and I often shortchange it. I've read books recently I can barely remember. I scurry through four jobs at once in the name of efficiency. Sadly, none is done quite as well as if I had given it my full attention. I do so many things that dissipate like fog at noon.

How about people? People really matter. Talking with friends, lunch together. Visiting with my mom and dad. Spending time with family. I won't always have the opportunity. Why birth regret by doing things half way? It scares me to think each time I am only partially in a conversation, they know. Maybe next time they won't bother. Do I give the impression to my friends and family that they aren't important enough to deserve my full attention?

I want to absorb opportunities now. Really, I do. I just need to get better at it. I imagine rich, living color memories and deeper, more rewarding relationships from a life fully lived. I'm going to give it a try. How about you?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick Takes - Take 6

1. I'm trying on a new attitude. Well, not new, I just get out of the habit of using it and forget how good I feel when I do. It's like pulling my well worn sweatshirt out of the closet after summer. I forget how relaxed and good I feel slipping on my favoritest most comfortabliest clothes. Yes, I know those aren't words. but the feeling of my favorite sweats is too good for the correct verbage. I just read "Who Moved My Cheese". A quick reading book with some really good reminders about dealing with change. (See #5)
The best cheese quotes for me are:
1. What would you do if you are not afraid?
2. When you change what you believe, you change what you do.

I googled the book and found a 10 minute video that covers the story. Give it a try. If I weren't so tired because of #2-3, I would spend half the night figuring out how to put the video directly

Try the link for dummies (that would be me)

2. I live in the heart of America. July means fair time. Projects to complete, or not. Guess sewing the dress will have to wait until next year. Baking to do, which she gets to do again for State Fair. Cakes to decorate. Best of show-again. Oh yeah, my girl is awesome!

3. Speaking of fair time. If you have never experienced the thrill of completing last minute project stress, final baking, more stress and rush to the fair praying you have everything needed to enter all the projects and handle any unforeseen catastrophes because there is always at least one tragedy, which really is a run on sentence, because it feels like holding your breath while running a multi-day marathon, Gasp! You really should experience the joy just once.

4. HOWEVER, this year I scored big time. After giving myself an attitude adjustment, filled with prayer and constant admonishment that if we didn't get say, 18,000 projects done, life really would continue. I was standing in the building in the midst of the check-in tornado when a friend from church walked by and asked how I stay so calm. TOUCHDOWN!

5. School is just around summer's bend ushering in my year as president of the Music Boosters. A position I was coerced into, one which I have dreaded for several months, one which I have been convincing myself I don't have time for, will do terrible and forget every job I'm supposed to do thus letting every music parent down and ruining the next several years of hopeful student anticipation of melodic greatness. Ugh. I've know this cheese was going to move, I just wanted to Hem about it until I read that book this week. Now I will embrace the year, picture myself organized, competent and excited about getting people on the bandwagon. (Bad pun).

6. Should it bother me to go days without thinking of anything I feel is worth sharing? I've read a variety of writing advice recently ranging from: A. Write everyday to B. If you can think of any other way to make a living besides writing, do it! Hmm.

7. I'm amazed at how many people don't know how to count change. I bought gas this week and gave the man a $50. He actually grabbed a piece of paper and wrote out the subraction problem of 50.00 - 34.73. At least he got the answer right. Computers and calculators aren't all that. My math skills are dummy'un down from lack of use. So'z my vocabulary and spelling for that matter.
Well, I better quit before I prove myself totally inept at writing anything close to interesting, but that reality probably occured to you back at about#4 (I hope not #1.) If you are reading these words right here at the end of my tired and tiring life in a nutshell, KUDOS AND THANKS A GADZILLION!
Visit people who actually have a proper vocabulary, can spell with the best of them and entirely captivating takes on their week, at Conversation Diary.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quick Takes - Take 5

1. I determined to have more fun this summer. For the most part, it is a good working plan. I haven't found as many things to laugh about this week though. A local family is reeling from the sudden and untimely loss of their husband and father. Complications from a fall and head injury led to his death yesterday. He was just a few years older than me and graduated with my brother. The whole community is shaken. I can't imagine what his wife and children are feeling. I can only lift their hurt in prayer.

2. I'm slipping the wrong direction on the scale this summer. WAY wrong! I exercise regularly, but I'm not seeing progress. I hate it that only a few summer clothes fit right now. So, these last two days I've had only juice, lots of water, fruit, no pop, only one cup of coffee-decaf. Can anyone say headache? Ok, I did have cake last night. I know, I know. But I invited my bible study ladies over Saturday night and I'm glad I tried this new recipe early. BooMama raved about Veronica's Caramel Buttermilk Cake. Mention caramel and I'm all over it. Even though it didn't turn out totally delici-oh-so, I'm determined to try again! It's caramel, I simply must.

3. I'm ticked. I'd say I'm buzzed, but you might think I've been tipping a few and that is sooo not me. The bees are back. Ugh! My porch piller is home bees-again. They were here when we moved in. Two times we have successfully had them gassed out or whatever the bug man does to send the varmints on their way. We haven't seen any for eight years or more. Now the very day I send out my invite for the party, I see them buzzing their ridicule. Where's the justice in the world?

4. I do have one funny for this week. If this has made its way to your inbox already, please make me feel good and laugh anyway. I thought this was hilarious. The pictues is a little blurry, but I hope you get the idea of this redneck fire alarm.
5. I'm really hungry. This juice thing better pay off, big time.

6. My daughter is gone this week with Esprit de Corp. A youth singing and drama group, a ministry of a local chruch. More than once this week people say in that tone-that sympathetic, I understand your lonely misery tone-how quiet it must be with her gone, you must miss her so. To which I reply, "I'm good, time flies while she is gone". Of course I think of her tons and pray lots, but God is getting me ready for when she is set free on the world. Progress.

7. My dear friend observed recently that I have high expectations for myself. Or maybe she said I was too hard on myself. Probably both. I've thought about that this week and wonder what is the right attitude? How do I live up to the potential God gave without driving myself and people around me insane? When is enough, enough?

Enjoy the weekend. I will. For other quick takes visit Conversation Diary.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mailboxes and Circles

Summer is time to grow.

I gave up on vegetable gardening years ago when I finally wised up and realized my piddly attempts at producing food only went to bugs and rot. Man, am I bad at vegetable gardening. But I love flower gardening. Mostly perennials. I'm too cheap to put much money into annuals even though I love seeing splashes of color blooming everywhere. I compromise by buying two eight packs of flowers and planting them in the most strategic places for impact and visibility. Kind of like putting up a good front so people think I do a lot when I really don't. But that sounds like a different post.

Anyway, the annuals are divided between my mailbox and a circle planter close by. I try to get them off to a good summer with plant starter and water and all the things petunias need to thrive. Here's where my annual lesson begins.
You see the same pack of flowers, started with the same care, planted only about 20 feet apart take on a very different life. The flowers in my circle planter are already four times bigger than their sisters at the mailbox. It's frustrating.

The mailbox is surrounded by heavy, tough soil. It is full of clay and rocks and gravel from the road and sits on a slope. Water is hard to hold. The nutrients the flowers need are just not there, but the weeds certainly are. I have to carry water to those flowers every day in the peak summer heat and fertilize much more often. I cover it with mulch, but it doesn't seem to stay. Those brave little blooms have to fight for their life.

The circle flowers on the other hand have it so much easier. I wonder if it makes the mailbox flowers jealous. I get that way sometimes. They have fertile black soil full of earthworms, they are covered in a deep layer of bark mulch and get water when I run the lawn sprinkler. What a cushy life. They are naturally surrounded by everything they need and hardly have to work at flowering.
God teaches me with these flowers. I want to be prolific for Him. Thrive and bloom profusely. I'm like these petunias. More often than not, my life has been at the mailbox. Planted in places that are tough to hang on to my identity and grow. Even harder to blossom. It has been, at times, very frustrating and tiring to say the least. Come on, I want to have the life of the circle flowers. I get it sometimes when I think God knows I need a reprieve. But, back the mailbox I go.

God shows me through caring for my flowers, how important it is to feed my soul. I need daily water through His word. I need regular nourishment through church and fellowship. The tougher it gets the more important this is. For some people in the bible God seemed throw all kinds of support their way. David had Jonathan. Ruth had Boaz. Others like Job and Jeremiah had to fight harder.

I watch for mailboxes and circles. People who cross my life and are living in the mailbox rocky hard soil. They need water. On the other hand, it is easy to forget to care for the circle flowers. I should not overlook circle people believing they have everything they need. It may look like it from the outside, but they still need care.

My struggling puny blooms from the rocky mailbox are just as precious to God as copious cascades of readily produced flowers. Whether I'm at the mailbox or the circle, my job is still to bloom to the best of my ability.

There is a way for each of us to be in the circle, for each of us to thrive. Put the right nutrients into the mix-daily time with God and nurturing relationships. Let's put that into other lives. Let's be a circle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


There are times we don’t get the luxury of simply being Misplaced. Sometimes our lives are completely ripped out from under us. A few words spoken or unexpected events can forever alter our life.

There’s been an accident.
We’re forced to lay off employees.
I don’t love you anymore.
The tumor is malignant.

It hurts to have our lives ripped apart. Alot! So many of us have heard words that changed our life forever. Those times can seem so pointless and more dead than alive. Whether we see it coming or are caught totally unprepared, at least in our mind, the result is the same. Pain.

God, where are you?
Don't you see I'm hurting?

I sat with a friend recently and listened to the fresh raw wounds of life getting ripped apart. I felt utterly inadequate except for my ability to say, I know. I've been down this road. I'm a long way beyond one round of being ripped apart. I can see the past without pain. Don't get me wrong. It was hard. But, can I stop my friend's pain? I can stay beside her but honestly, I wouldn't want to stop the hard journey she is just beginning. You see, there is a master and a masterpiece involved.
God, what is going on?
Can't you take this away?
Stick it out. Believe it or not, God does have a purpose. He does not abandon. He is rolling up his sleeves, picking up his sculpting tool and shaping another part of his masterpiece. You. Me. Yeah, masterpieces.

Ok God, but what can I do?
I have no idea, help!

Esther was ripped from her life. Twice. As a young girl, both her parents died and she had to live with her uncle, Mordecai. Think of the loneliness and fear she must have faced. Then as a young woman, Esther was taken from her home to the palace and thrown into the pool of candidates to become queen. I don't care what fairytale stories you can tell me, this does not sound like the makings of one. She was a Jew in a foreign and intimidating place where failure meant she was ruined for life. Talk about pressure. Well, the princess became a queen, but instead of a fairytale ending, her real challenges were just around the corner. Her people were threatened with extermination.

Now what?
Are you kidding me, God?

It is so easy to respond to pain by flinging "how come" and "why me" at God. Esther's situation was not going to change. There was no going back. Her life was ripped apart and it was moving on with or without her. How did she respond? Esther trusted God. She did have fear, but despite fear she was obedient and never compromised her faith.

What did God do for Esther? LOTS! He was preparing her for the biggest job of her life-to stand in the midst of attack and help God save a nation! WOW! Do we have something incredible like that in us? Maybe not that big, but I bet we do have something special we can do for God. But let's get back to how He prepared Esther.
  • God gave Mordecai as a protector. He raised Esther as his own and taught her about faith and God.
  • God placed Mordecai in the palace before Esther. Its like God going before her. God established Mordecai there so he knew the King's ways and laws. This enabled him to give Esther wise advise.
  • God gave Esther strength and encouragement through Mordecai. He knew God and he understood Esther. When Esther waivered afraid to talk to the King, Mordecai bolstered her resolve.

The ripped apart, ugliness of growing up prepared Esther better than anything. Uprooting prepares us too. I learn from Esther that God not only prepares us to be uprooted, he prepares ways to thrive while we are taking root and putting on new growth. God gives relationships to bring us through hard times and encourage us to grow. God both is and gives us protectors. He goes before us. He gives us strength and encouragement.

As I pray for my friend, I pray that this encouraging relationship will flourish. As I look at my next go around at getting uprooted, I want to take the lessons from Esther and do something special for God.