Monday, October 29, 2007
I just finished watching the DVD My Best Friend with my two sons. It's a throughly delightful movie!
There's a quote in the movie from the book, The Little Prince used in reference to the subject of friendship. The quote was:
"if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you'll be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world …"
The movie made me think about this quote.
I think in order to be someone's friend we all need to be tamed; to be taught how to act right and be their friend. I think in order to have friends we have to be willing to take the time to tame people; to put up with their annoyances and teach them what we want and need.
To be patient; with both them and ourselves.
What do you think "taming" means?
The messages tell me that I'm important and that I need to take care of me first and that I deserve, for the most part, anything I desire.
This simply isn't true!
Want to know why I think these messages are all wrong? At the simplest level these messages are wrong because they just plain don't work. At a higher level these messages are wrong because they go against what Jesus Christ teaches.
I've never ever personally experienced or heard of anyone else who could tell me how putting themselves first or living for their own pleasures brought them peace, joy or happiness. I know, from my own selfish blunders, that putting me first in the marriage relationship is a sure way to ruin everything. I'm finding repeatedly as I "suck it up" a bit and try to seek to do things for my husband and to please him, that two things occur. The first is that peace reigns in our home. The second is that my husband tries more and more to do things for me and/or to please me. I also know that when I give myself whatever I want all the time, be it food or anything else, that those "things" I wanted so badly fail to bring satisfaction.
Then there's the fact that I accepted quite gladly the salvation of Christ. I made the trade - my sin for His holiness - my acceptance of His sacrifice in my place on the cross. Part of this acceptance was that I agreed to make Him Lord of my Life to become His follower. Now I know that following Christ is a process filled with His grace and mercy as I fail, but it does mean that I follow Him verses me. One of Jesus statements that I come back to frequently (because I need to change the way I think) is John 12:24-26:
24-25 "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.
26 "If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
(This is from The Message paraphrase)
So I've got to, by God's grace and mercy and power, learn to die to my self. Does this mean that I deprive myself and don't take care of me? I don't think so. In fact I think that I have to be able to ensure that I get legitimate needs met and take care of myself in a healthy manner to be able to live in relationship with others.
I have some ideas, but I'm not totally sure what all it means to die to myself. I am certain that it means that life doesn't work when I'm the center of the universe, when it's all about me. But what else does it involve? What do you think?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
This morning the pastor was making a point and referred to something in Psalm 100. Since the Psalm is short, I went ahead and read it. As I sat there reading the words my heart began to rejoice within me at their beauty:
1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Psalm 100 (The Message)
God is indeed all powerful and generous and good. I am so thankful for all He's given me. I'm so thankful that He is loyal and I can always count on Him. When I go outdoors and see the magnificent world He has created I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm awed that He lets me into His presence.
I like the BBC "Miss Marple" series. My family is puzzled as to why since they find these boring but I enjoy them.
Last night as I was watching one it hit me how show after show you see how people really appreciate Miss Marple's friendship. Of course it's just a mystery show and all but what struck me was that she always takes her friends seriously and believes them. When they express to her their concerns she does not brush them off. If they think they've witnessed a crime and the police and/or others think they're being imaginative, Miss Marple believes in them. You hear her saying things like "you think that something is wrong here and I know that you're not a fanciful person so of course there's a problem".
What a wonderful quality in a friend. A person with this characteristic is one with whom others would feel safe enough to share their concerns.
I want to be like that for the people in my life. I want to take the time to really listen to them, take them seriously when they have a concern and not just offer quick-fixes.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
As mentioned previously, I've really been enjoying working through a bible study workbook ("Discerning the Voice of God" by Priscilla Shirer) with a group of women at church. As I was doing the homework this week I read the following statement by Priscilla Shirer and had one of those "yeah preach it sister" moments:
"God has given us a combination of scriptural guidelines and freedom. Each believer must determine what God would have her do personally. The Holy Spirit knows your stage of spiritual development and will direct you accordingly. His job is to instruct you in the way you should go and give you details concerning the issues of your life." After this statement she goes on to talk about how we should neither press upon others our specific convictions or freedoms in those areas where scripture is not outstandingly clear and we each must do as the Holy Spirit leads us personally.
Part of why this meant so much to me was because, like everyone else, I've experienced that yucky "Christian condemnation" that makes us Believers so attractive to those around us. As I read this I was reminded of an incident that happened to me a few years ago.
I have a good friend Paula. My youngest son had a good friend I'll call Ben. Ben's mom I'll call Susan. Now Susan was very intent on being a godly woman. She was diligent about what her children could watch on movies and such, what they could read, even what they could eat. She home schooled her children and the family rarely missed, if ever, going to church together. Paula and I were both single moms at the time. I had a demanding job that I loved but which required an enormous amount of time/energy/creativity. But God blessed me through that job and I was able to support my family. However, I often felt that "mother guilt". You know if you've ever been there exactly what I'm talking about - our clothes were always washed but the clean ones never made it out of the laundry basket until we grabbed them out to wear, my family always ate dinner together but too often it was procured from fast food establishments, I made sure that my children made the straight A standard but couldn't tell you what their homework was about, I didn't quite make it to every school awards assembly or performance due to work but I did make it to most.
Well one Sunday after church my son was gonna have his pal Ben come to our place and Susan was delighted because this would give her and her hubby some much needed alone time since she'd managed to farm out all 3 of their offspring. However, unlike the homes her other children would be going to, before Ben entered my home Susan felt the need to have a discussion with me. It just so happened that my friend Paula was sitting beside me that day while Susan enumerated all the things she did not allow her Ben to do because, she, Susan loved God and of course children shouldn't do these things. Apparently Susan wanted to ensure that I didn't corrupt poor Ben (BTW did I mention that Ben was 12 years old at the time? Did I mention that I knew both Ben and his sister well because I'd taught them in volunteer situations at the church for the past several years and Susan never volunteered to help with anything?). As Susan went on and on I kept noting in my mind that I let my beloved son do all of these things that Susan insisted were bad and her son should never be around. It's hard to explain but somehow the whole thing felt really condemning from Susan to me. I would have thought it was just me but when Susan had finally left and Ben and my son went off to play at bit before we left church to go home, Paula turned to me and said that she was sure glad that Susan had finally stopped talking because she'd been about to slap her!
Paula volunteered with kids at church too and really cared about both them and their parents. She's outrageous, irreverent and funny. But one of her best qualities is that she accepts people just as they are. She practices Love and Acceptance . She enjoys people right where they're at and embraces them being themselves.
At this stage in the game of life I'm into self acceptance - I am who I am.
One of the things I'm not is very social. Oh I like people all right and, when I get to know them, I enjoy people. But I just really suck at the getting to know them part. Making Friends isn't easy for me.
This fact of my lacking social skills hit me afresh last night at this "appetizers with the principal" thing at my son's middle school. First of all I most likely wouldn't even attend such an event because I've gone to the "breakfast with the principal" thing (they alternate and do an evening, then a morning, event every other month) this year and once a year is enough for me to feel informed. But last year the PTA ladies asked me to take notes at the one I did attend and I said that if they ever needed some help, just let me know (although I'm not so social I'm still basically a decent, helpful sort). So, I ended up taking notes at all the meet with the principal events as well as the PTA meetings. Then I noticed that when the beginning of the year paperwork came home this year that my name was listed as secretary on the PTA board - how'd that happen?! I guess it's an example of that no good deed goes unpunished kind of thing.
Anyway so there I was at the appetizers and smooze with your child's middle school administrative people. Only remember, I smooze not. To make matters worse, my understanding was that the event was from 6:30-7:30PM and my son (who should appreciate that I'm doing all this at his school but actually who could care less) is at football practice which ends at 7:30PM. The practice is less than a block away but I'd told him to wait and let me pick him up because it's dark by that time and there aren't any street lights in the area. The smooze fest started on time I guess, lots and lots of people were there eating and talking. But, and this is what I mean when I say I'm not very social, the REAL event didn't start until 7:10PM and I just kept thinking about the fact that I had to leave by 7:30PM. Fortunately I saw that it wasn't going to end on time so before the principal ever started his ramble I'd set up with this other PTA gal to finish taking the notes for me when I left.
But I was bored and uncomfortable that whole pre-event (the event being the principal giving his talk in my mind) time. I forced myself to walk around and smile and try (most of the time in vain) to think of something to say to those few people I knew in the crowd. I've only lived here a year and it's a small community so most of these folks appear to have known one anothers' families for years and gone through school together. I couldn't stop this feeling in the back of my mind that "normal" people would enjoy this kind of situation. Good food they didn't have to fix and people to hang out with and visit. I spent most of that 40 minutes sitting by myself in the back of the room once I'd ran out of people to say hello to. Worse to my "credit" was that I actually know I enjoyed watching these people interact with one another more than I would have enjoyed talking with them.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Today God showed me that an area in my life where I knew I had a weakness is actually a stronghold *. Then He encouraged me with this absolutely delightful scripture in Psalm 119:25-30 (from The Message Paraphrase) :
I'm feeling terrible—I couldn't feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life's dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don't let me down!
I'll run the course you lay out for me
if you'll just show me how.
I adore how this passage seems to speak what my heart says.
As I become aware of my deficiency as well as my utter powerlessness to do anything about it, when I come out of denial and recognize the depth of my own depravity - I feel terrible! Yet how awesome that as the Psalmist said about God " When I told my story, you responded".
How awesome that He is available to train me in His "deep wisdom" and He will help me "understand these things inside and out". What hope this gives me that things don't have to stay the way they are! God is showing me the truth and how to change. Then I read on and see that it is by His Word, the bible, that I will be built up again. Not my thoughts and reasoning (I've tried that plenty of times to no avail). That it is in His goodness that He will " grace me with your (His/God's) clear revelation" so that I can understand His word.
I love the line here " Barricade the road that goes Nowhere"; this whole concept of Him not letting me go my own way that leads to nothing. I want but to go on His paths; the "road to Somewhere".
I want to think some this week on what it means for me to " post your (His/God's) road signs at every curve and corner".
I am captivated by the passionate language here - " I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me". That's my heart's desire and as I read this the desire within me grows. Like the writer of this Psalm, I look to God alone to show me how.
I'm so grateful that He is willing.
* If you'd like to learn more about what are spiritual strongholds and spiritual warfare, you can sign up for a bible study below. Please note that your email will only be used to send you the bible study.
Children don't come with how-to manuals. Each child is different. Every parent sees things differently.
But, for what it's worth, this is how I manage my two sons still at home with regards to school work. I make the standard clear and then let them do things their way and as long as they ethically continue to meet the standard. My thought is that, if they're meeting the standard, then what they're doing must be working for them even if it's not the way I would do it. If they don't make the standard, then I get involved and help them manage their time/requirements.
I have one who's in 8th grade and another in 9th. The standard is that they must get all As. They're in California public schools and they're both really bright so there's no reason for them not to meet make all As. Up until this past semester report card (which came today - hence my journaling about it) they've met the standard.
I think my middle son (there's two at home but a third off at college) spends too much time on the computer playing games but I've resisted getting into it. As long as he spends time daily in the bible, does his chores, attends church and gets all As, I let him him manage his own time. But today when we received his report card in the mail I found that he has a C in Honors Geometry and a B in Honors English. I know it's his first semester of high school and I know he's in football, but he knew the standard and he's spent plenty of time on the computer. So today we started our new plan:
Each day he brings me his math and English notebooks and shows me what's due. For math he has set homework every day. Now I've got to tell you that I in no way remember geometry but I can check to ensure his work is actually completed and has a semblance of reasonableness. I can also have him bring up his class on Edline on the computer and see how he's doing on his tests. If he has As on each test, I'll assume his method of studying is sufficient, if not, we can discuss methods he must try implementing. For English he has a word of the day every day and once a week he is tested on these words cumulatively. So we will now review all the words daily. He will also show me papers that are due and again go on Edline on the computer to verify his progress in class. I now control when he is able to be on the computer.
My aim here is to eventually fade myself out again. I firmly believe that my sons need to learn to be independent. I wasn't involved in my oldest son on such a level and he did very well in school and is doing well in college now. But each person is different and I think my middle son had two things going on: 1 - Adjustment to high school and extracurricular activities demands, 2- Testing to see if I really meant what I said. If he gets all As on the next report card, he can take the reigns again and keep them as long as he continues to meet the standard.
I was thinking he'd be upset at me. I'm glad to find that his attitude was more along the lines of sheepish and he wasn't at all belligerent. I pray that he will become independent and responsible.
There is one book that I've found helpful for this teenagers-at-home season of my life. The book is Boundaries with Teens
Monday, October 22, 2007
Today as I was going about my daily life I was thinking about how blessed I am, how grateful I am for my life. I found myself going through a list of all the wonderful things in my life; the beautiful mountains behind our home that I can hike, each of my sons - all three are different and each of them is a great person, how my husband John brought me a bouquet of flowers this weekend and then left a single bud in a small heart shaped vase on the windowsill, how much I enjoy my time in the bible, the interesting books I'm reading right now, how much I'm enjoying our puppy that we got from the pound last year, the list went on and on.
Then I thought about how, if someone were to describe me, I might not sound so great. I'm in my third marriage, I'm overweight, I'm on the shy side. As I thought about it, I most obviously have made plenty of life mistakes and I'm certainly not one of those people who would say I'd never change a thing because, given the chance, there are things I would do differently. But I'm grateful for my life today. I can see the grace and mercy and goodness of God.
But I also realized it's all about where I choose to focus. I can look at the mistakes I've made and learn from them and move on or can stay stuck. I can choose where I let my mind stay. I can choose to develop a lifestyle of Gratitude. I'm reminded of the verse in Philippians 4:8:
This is a quote from The Message paraphrase and I really appreciate the way it reads. I want this to be how I life my life.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Here's a delicious recipe we found for a spread on your bagels. With some fruit on the side it makes an awesome brunch meal! (Of course, I always like Cooking with Avacados)
2 ripe California Avocados
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
- Crumble feta cheese into a bowl.
- Peel and chop up avocado and mix with feta cheese.
- Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Let sit for 30-50 minutes at room temperature to let flavors blend.
Last night my husband and I went to see the movie "The Kingdom". It was an excellent movie; I was surprised by the poor ratings given on Yahoo Movies reviews.
But I don't want to talk about the movie per say, I just want to think about something someone in the movie said. It was in the scene where the director of the FBI is talking with the attorney general. It was actually just one little scene in the movie. The attorney general is upset with a decision the FBI director has made and is basically telling him that it's going to cost him his job. The FBI director responds with the idea that a long time ago he realized that the day would come, sooner or later, when he would not have his job any longer (for whatever reason) and he's at peace with that. In fact, he goes on to explain that it is because he's come to terms with that fact, that he can do his job the way he believes is right. The FBI director phrased this as he can do his job not on his knees, but in charge doing as he sees fit. It was a small, side scene kind of thing, but I noticed that it not only impacted me; several people in the audience cheered about the FBI directors' statement.
That statement, to my mind, was a profound one about leadership. We can stop worrying about pleasing everyone (which of course we know we can never do anyway) and making the right political moves when we no longer carry the burden of having to "keep" our position. Once we do that we can focus on doing what we believe is the right thing.
That's one of the things my career has taught me about life in general. Whatever the "position" in life is, a job/volunteer position/marriage role/relationship/community status/etc., we have to keep it in an open hand. In my life I've found that as I make a conscious decision to trust in God that He has me, and will keep me, right where He wants me to be and I can always count on Him to provide all my needs, that I am free to do the right thing. I've got to admit that sometimes what is right is not always clear and the situation before me still requires a response "right now". In those times I just pray for wisdom and give it my best shot. Whatever the consequences, I will stand up and take them because I'm secure in knowing that I did the right thing to the best of my ability. Even more than that, I'm secure in knowing that my future is in God's hands.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
One of the things I'm so grateful for in life is how God does give direction when I ask.
This morning I woke up early and my mind started thinking about a friend I have some issues with. A friend who I feel like the situation may not be very equal; I'm feeling like this is a relationship where I'm giving but my needs are not getting met. As I lay there in bed I recounted in my mind all the ways this person isn't measuring up. I thought about having a sit down conversation with this friend; but I hesitated, maybe I'm being selfish or just too hard on this person. Or perhaps my concerns are valid but now is not the best, or most effective, time to discuss my concerns. So I prayed about it.
A few hours later I found out about some stressful things going on in this friend's life right now and I thought hummmm....maybe now isn't the best time. I prayed and asked God for direction and now I'm finding out some circumstantial information that makes me lean toward not talking at this time. But I wasn't quite sure yet so I prayed and asked God to please let me know if now's the time for me to just be silent and wait on God or if now's the time to talk with the person.
Then I came upon this passage as I was having a time to read the word and pray at the beginning of my day:
So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
Romans 4:19-21 (The Message)
That line about "Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault." really stood out to me today. I felt like it was the second time I was pointed in the direction of not talking with the friend now (if ever). That my words would just be all about finding fault instead of extending grace.
As the day wore on and I became immersed in the activities of the day. But a few times things came up that reminded me about pleasant things with this friend and I found that I no longer had the desire to focus on problems in the situation.
As I look at my question to God I can see How he used circumstances, the bible and my heart as I was seeking Him to provide direction. God definitely speaks; as I increase in my ability at Discerning the Voice of God I'm better able to recognize His Guidance.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I'm about 2/3 through this book I've been reading entitled "Duty First" by Ed Ruggero. The subtitle is "A year in the life of West Point and the making of American Leaders". I'm reading it because my oldest son is in his second year at West Point.
Repeatedly, throughout the book, you get this theme of how things are structured at West Point to put the cadet through hard times. To ensure that cadets are in stressful situations where their environment is outside of the realm of their experience. To put them in situations where they may very well fail. For superiors to allow underlings in their chain of command to make decisions; perhaps even the wrong one. The belief being that we learn most when we're out of our comfort zone and that we learn just as much, if not more, from our mistakes. Of course, since West Point is a USMA, there is also the belief that these experiences will allow these young people to become competent soldiers.
What initially hit me was how much I agreed with the fact that to ever lead we've got to get past the fear of making a mistake. To learn to make decisions in an imperfect world where the choice we'd most like isn't one of the options. I was blessed once to have a boss who really invested in me and taught me in a similar fashion. Purposefully structuring stressful situations, letting me take charge and make decisions (even if they were the wrong ones). For me it was a three year period of time on my career path, before I took my own facility, and it was the hardest three years of my life. Yet it was the best in some ways and I grew the most I can ever remember. But I was 40 years old. What hit me like a ton of bricks is that my son is learning this way in an intensely-structured-to-build-a-leader environment and he, like most of the cadets there, was only 18years old when he started at West Point!
Perhaps the thing that most profoundly moved me in this book so far is what the author says about Major Rob Olson (throughout the book there are interviews with cadets and professional staff at West Point):
"Olson's comments sound a lot like the aphorisms with which the cadets like to decorate the barracks. But he lives this way; it is the source of his calm demeanor and confidence: He has found a job he loves, he has taken the time to figure out what's important to him."
Interestingly enough the author wrote this about what Olson said of himself:
"I love the Army." he says. "I'll truly regret leaving when the time comes, but the Army doesn't define me. It's the thing I do. My family, my relationship with my wife, they define me."
It's so simple, but not easy - finding out what's important to us and living with those priorities paramount in what we do, and finding a job that we love. This is the stuff that contentment is made of.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Sometimes it's easy to go through life in kind of a haze; just going through the motions. Not really being "present". It really sucks for people like my husband and sons when I get that way.
Recently I joined a bible study group at church. We're going through a bible study by Priscilla Shirer entitled # "Discerning the voice of God".
As I was doing today's devotional for the study, one of the scripture passages really stood out to me. It's just so beautiful:
"Forget about what's happened;
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say 'Thank you!'
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me."
Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)
I remarried close to 2 years ago and we moved to this beautiful, very small, town close to 1 year ago. Since we moved here I've had a challenging time finding my place in this community and my local church. I have yet to make any close friends. I feel a bit like I've been in an emotional desert and was encouraged that God would provide for me.
I also felt prompted not look to how God did things for me in the past and try to be guided by that; but to just be alert and see how He's going to work now. No pre designed scripts; just living life each day as it comes.
Remaining right here, right now, in the present and watching for what He is doing."
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Introduction: Did I ever tell you that one aspect to my character is trite?
Current situation: Panic – that’s what I’m feeling! I can feel panic’s gnaw right in my midsection. I think I’m gonna be sick! I’m looking at the previous promotional board; the work of a skilled craftswoman; and I’m watching mine emerge……………oh well humility is a Christian virtue – right?! And blogging is most definitely a nerve settling experience.
I came to this point thusly:
We moved to a small town around a year ago and began attending the local community church. Much to my delight, although the church is small, my two teenage sons who’re living at home both really like the youth group. I am blessed each week by the music and praise time, testimonies and practical teaching. I am able to participate in a bible study group for women and watch both my personal maturity and comfort level with some of the local women grow.
So I wanted to give back.
I said I’d be willing to help out any way that they could use me. Requests for assistance are infrequent. There has been the time someone in the church’s neighbor had twins with health problems and several of us took them dinners, help setting up for a girls event, giving a ride to an elderly bible study attendee who didn’t live close to the church or helping set up in the mornings for a few months each time the bible study met last year. These were all easy.
Recently a request came for me to do a promotional board for the fall women’s event at the church. I said yes without giving it a thought. Yes, I know, how dumb could I be! I thought about the promotional board and had all kinds of great, creative images in my mind. What I didn’t think about is that, to be quite candid, I really suck at most things which involve craft skills – cutting, gluing, lining up fabric – somehow I can mess up the simplest of these things.
Well I finally got down to actually producing this board today. First I had to take apart the material/papers/etc. on the board from the women’s ministries spring promotional. Now THERE was a wonderful promotional board – looked like something out of a magazine.
During my thinking on the board phase I’d decided to cover the board with new material since the other, lovely, board was decidedly and gloriously spring. I wanted mine to give a fall theme look. So off I went to Wal-Mart and purchase a fabric that I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on it. Now at this point I need to bring to light the fact that I’m kind of what some might call “odd” or “different”; now don’t get be wrong – I love and accept myself just fine – it’s just that I’ve noticed in life that I often march to the beat of a different drummer than the mass. So of course now that I’m looking at this wonderful fabric I purchased, I still think it’s oh so wonderful (green is my favorite color and the fabric is a repeat print of small light green leaves with partial gold outline on a slightly darker background) but am beginning to see that this may not be a fabric that has a huge general appeal.
In fact, now that it’s done I can see the fact that I’m not talented at crafts is rather apparent. The fabric isn’t smooth on the board as the previous one was and the overall feel is rather amateurish. But this is the best I’m capable of and I made a commitment to produce the promotional board so tomorrow I’ll put it up in the church foyer.
You know what? People do like candy! I have two small, shallow, bright green and yellow bowls. I’ll put those in front of the board and fill them with the green Mike & I mini boxes I’d purchased at Wal Mart for Halloween. They’ll blend in with the color scheme and hopefully add more attraction. At least the information is clearly displayed.
I think next time some kind of crafty endeavor is requested of me I’ll simply ask what else I can do for them!
My mind needs opening. I have a void of thinking that causes me to benefit from the thoughts of others. Recently I’ve began to read some of the great Christian mystic writers.
One such author is
I want to quote here from
St John of the Cross - "These times of aridity cause the soul to journey in all purity in the love of God, since it is no longer influenced in its actions by the pleasure and sweetness of the actions themselves, . . . but only by a desire to please God. It becomes neither presumptuous nor self-satisfied, as perchance it was wont to become in the time of its prosperity, but fearful and timid with regard to itself, finding in itself no satisfaction whatsoever; and herein consists that holy fear which preserves and increases the virtues. . . . Save for the pleasure indeed which at certain times God infuses into it, it is a wonder if it find pleasure and consolation of sense, through its own diligence, in any spiritual exercise or action. . . . There grows within souls that experience this arid night (of the senses) care for God and yearnings to serve him, for in proportion as the breasts of sensuality, wherewith it sustained and nourished the desires that it pursued, are drying up, there remains nothing in that aridity and detachment save the yearning to serve God, which is a thing very pleasing to God. "(The Dark Night of the Soul, i, 13. Peers, op. cit., vol. I, p. 393.)
Thomas Merton – “The joy of this emptiness, this weird neutrality of spirit which leaves the soul detached from the things of the earth and not yet in possession of those of heaven, suddenly blossoms out into a pure paradise of liberty, of which the saint sings in his Spiritual Canticle: it is a solitude full of wild birds and strange trees, rocks, rivers, and desert islands, lions, and leaping does. These creatures are images of the joys of the spirit, aspects of interior solitude, fires that flash in the abyss of the pure heart whose loneliness becomes alive with the deep lightnings of God”.
Sometimes you’ll see the words “My crazy Life!” but you never really know crazy until you’ve entered the world of a schizophrenic.
Because I’ve worked for years as an administrator of psych facilities, and because I have a paranoid schizophrenic sister, I notice people who are schizophrenic. I don’t just assume they are homeless bums or difficult people in the video store; I see what’s really going on.
Just the other day I was in a small neighborhood video store and a lady and her boyfriend came in. As the lady started getting upset at her boyfriend and the store clerk she became loud and abrasive. When the lady left the clerk heaved a sigh of relief; boy had that lady been a real b_ _ _ _! Since I sort of know the clerk from prior visits I talked with her and explained that the lady was schizophrenic and was not really in control.
Mental illness really is just that – an illness. People can not help that they have this disease and they truly suffer from it. Even now days with the oh so much better anti psychotic medications, the drugs still have lots of side affects and many choose not to take them. The problem with refusing to take medication is that it leaves these people with delusional thinking. Their delusions torment their lives and make them extremely difficult at times to be around. Frequently they also hear voices in their heads. Interestingly enough, I’ve never met someone with positive voices in their heads or positive delusions that enhance their lives.
I could be one of those, what my 13 & 14 year old sons call “emo people”. I could tend toward being a depressed kind of person. I “work” if you will, really hard to avoid that. I seek to think on the good things in life, enjoy those things that bring me pleasure, and to constantly be thankful to God for all the ways He’s blessed me. I consciously seek out seeing the hand of God in my life each day and all the blessings that are mine. I am a grateful person who enjoys life.
But life is not this tidy box that I sometimes try to make it. Not everything has a clear cut answer or is fix-able.
Schizophrenia is one of those things I can not fix. My heart aches for my sister. She is someone who chooses not to take medication and in fact, due to her paranoia, she thinks it’s all of “us” who cause the problems. She receives a small disability check each month that she’s certain is because she has some “physical problems and can’t work”. Sometimes I won’t know her where-abouts for weeks on end and then, when I do, I’ll wish I didn’t. My mom has no boundaries and doesn’t handle the situation appropriately/effectively – yet how do you handle such a situation “appropriately”?! I feel guilty to admit this (so I’m doing it on the world wide web – go figure) but I’ve kind of removed myself from my family in general for a lot of reasons (it’s way beyond the typical dysfunctional family; on a scale of 1 – 10 for dysfunctionality my family would score 11!). I call my mom once or twice a week to visit and make sure she’s OK. At least once every other month I go visit at her house with whomever is there and enjoy them in that exact moment. But I work real hard to not get sucked into all their stuff because I can never make it better and it always makes me anxious/angry/frustrated/sad.
Over on the left side here I've got the verses from Lamentations 3:20-30 printed. This is the thought process that I cling to in a world that I can't always understand.
Monday, October 8, 2007
If you're a night time person like me, mornings can be a real challenge.
By taking the time to do these 8 things the evening before, I've found my mornings to be much less trying:
- Make a to do list for the next day
- If possible, do one item on that list to make the next day easier
- Clean the kitchen sink
- Spend 5 minutes reading/watching/listening to something that inspires me
* Does menu planning with grocery lists sound like a good idea, except that you find yourself overwhelmed just thinking about it?
If you'd like some help getting started with the whole menu plan/grocery list thing, I have a email course series, Seven simple steps to menus and grocery lists, that can help. It's 7 simple emails that come at 3 day intervals. Each email includes a 3-day menu plan with corresponding grocery list. By the end of it you'll have 3 weeks worth of menu plans with grocery lists.
All you need to do to receive this mailing is to sign up below. Please note that your email will be used only to email you the 7 emails of seven simple steps to menus and grocery lists.
But they enjoy this nutritious, easy, quick, pico de gallo recipe. (I enjoy cooking with fresh tomatoes) Instead of tortilla chips, I'll have it with wheat thins or even just as an accompaniment with BBQ chicken breasts or beef.
Pico De Gallo Recipe
5 Roma tomatoes washed and stem part removed, cut in halves
1/2 green bell pepper washed/seeded, cut into 5 parts
1 bunch cilantro washed and stems cut off
1 bunch Mexican onions (similar to green onions) cleaned & with green stems removed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
In a food processor put in bell pepper, cilantro and onions; chop until relatively fine.
Add tomatoes and barely chop; so that chunks of tomato are present.
Remove and mix in salt, garlic powder, cumin and oregano.
On several levels I have trouble keeping track of time.
Among those close to me I am famous (notorious?) for becoming totally absorbed with whatever I'm doing and not noticing how much time has passed. This has been known to make things take longer than I originally tell people it's going to take.
I have forgotten important dates and not done things that I regret not doing. This makes me feel like I'm losing a piece of my mind.
Recently I found a system that works for me in my personal life. Since I go to the computer every day to check emails, my websites, etc., I have a long narrow piece of paper now taped to the right hand side of my computer. This paper does not cover the screen of the computer. On it I list the upcoming 6 weeks of important dates/events so I will not forget. I only put really important stuff that I just can't forget on this paper so it never has too many dates.
So far this has helped me out a lot and I haven't missed a date since I started doing this 4 months ago.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
I think most Americans have it all wrong when it comes to financial security.
The most profound words on this topic that I can think of were some that Jesus had to say:
“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.” (Matthew 6:32-34)
He said so much in these few words! Life isn’t about getting. Of course you can’t tell that when you turn on the TV and see the commercials or listen to the radio or drive down the freeway. We are bombarded with the idea that having stuff is where it’s really at. (BTW-ever heard George Carlin’s routine on Stuff. Very funny and true.) It’s as if we think that somehow our stuff gives us importance or happiness.
Not only do we, as a culture in
But Jesus went beyond that. He presents a whole different approach to life. He speaks of steeping your life with God-reality, initiative and provisions. What a better way to go!
I’m so grateful for God’s mercy and grace in my life. I mess up so much but He’s still good to me and I can always count on Him. In my career it’s a kind of underneath the surface knowledge that people who do what I do (licensed nursing home administrator) are sometimes fired quickly by companies to make situations go away. Let’s say a department of health surprise survey is going bad for a myriad of reasons, it’s always easy to say it’s that bad administrator’s fault and just fire him/her to buy time and get things in order. That bothers a lot of my colleagues immensely but it’s never stressed me. The reason is because God is my source and He blesses me with my job to use my talents/gifts/skills and provide for my family. But my real source for my family is Him. So I never have to be worried; I can just be obedient, do what I believe is right at work and leave the rest to Him.
Yep, Jesus’ way is definitely better.
I want to spend time meditating today more on His words here.
I have a new philosophy regarding entertaining. The philosophy is this: Bless People.
I needed to come up with a philosophy because I’m definitely NOT one of those really together people. I’m one of the vast majority of people who tends to feel a bit sheepish around the really together ones.
I used to get uptight when I’d have people over. Everything had to be as close to perfect as I could possibly make it.
But then during my 6 year sojourn of being a single mom I met Paula. Paula was a single mom of sons like me and we became good friends. Paula & her sons lived with her parents. Paula loved to have people over for a meal to hang out , relax and enjoy. Their house wasn’t always perfect; sometimes I’d see cobwebs, or the bathroom wasn’t all that clean, or there’d even be dirty dishes in the sink. But everyone always loved going to their house. One day I asked myself why and the answer came back at various levels. At one level it was because the food was always good and the atmosphere friendly. At another level it was because it was a safe place; at Paula’s house you could be whoever you are and you would be accepted and cared about.
As I thought about it I realized that life is busy and rushed and it’s a blessing for someone to come over and relax and not have to fix their own meal or clean up. Me not stressing about everything being perfect creates a relaxed atmosphere in our home that people pick up on. I also thought about it; if my house isn’t all that big or rich or perfect – people get to feel better than me instead of intimidated by me. I want to make the people who come into my home feel special. I want to fix food that I know they will like but that I can fix a large portion of before they ever get there. That way I can focus on them and enjoy their company when they are there. I can listen to them. Make them the center of my attention and ensure that they are introduced to, and feel comfortable with at least some of the other people who are there.
I’ve been in my current marriage 2 years. We bought our current house together in a small town that is new for both of us almost a year ago If I had to say, I’d classify myself as an introvert But I do like people.
This past Sunday was my husband’s birthday and I invited our neighbors (on either side as well as across the street) and family to our house for a casual BBQ. We ended up with 26 adults & children and 3 babies. It was bliss to realize that I wasn’t all uptight! Instead I enjoyed the people there and made sure that everyone was introduced to everyone else. I spent time really visiting with everyone. I ensured that people interacted with each other and that everyone had someone with whom they could visit. By the end of the day it was obvious that everyone had enjoyed the event.
This philosophy seems to be working for me. I’ll provide an update on how it continues to work in a couple of weeks. We’ve invited a single mom and her teenage son over after church for lunch on the Sunday after next.If you'd like to reach out to others in hospitality but could use some help with the how-to, sign up below for the mailer "Eight steps to Easy Entertaining". Please note that your email will only be used for this specific mailer.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
EASY SUGAR COOKIES
Bake 8 minutes in pre heated oven and, even though they will not be brown, remove cookies from oven. Let stand 2 minutes before removing from baking sheet.
Makes close to 4 dozen cookies.
The Passionate Marriage
by Al Janssen
Song of Solomon
Why is Song of Solomon in the canon of Scripture? The story is more than 3,000 years old. It tells of how King Solomon discovered a beautiful woman and fell in love with her. There is no mention of God in its eight chapters. In fact, the open expression of sensuality makes some uncomfortable, wondering if such words should even be published in our holy book.
Jewish and Christian scholars generally agree that Song of Solomon is part of Scripture for two reasons. First, it upholds a picture of marital love as it was intended. Here is a glimpse of what God desired when He joined man and wife in the Garden of Eden and told them to "be fruitful and multiply." For centuries marriages have occurred for many reasons — for economic or political benefits, because the families got along, because the man needed an heir, because it was convenient and that’s what young people did. But marriage primarily for reasons of love has become commonplace only in the last couple of centuries, and not in all parts of the world.
Is that what God really wanted marriage to be — an expression of passionate love? In the Song of Solomon we glimpse the possibilities: Man and woman can thoroughly enjoy each other for life within the confines of marriage. Whether marriage emerges from a romance or is arranged, God's intention is that every married couple experience the fullness of romantic love for each other.
This article is excerpted from The Marriage Masterpiece, a Focus on the Family resource by Al Janssen, published by Tyndale House Publishers, copyright © 2001. All rights reserved.
Married couples should enjoy a sexual relationship that is expressed body-to-body, heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul.
By Lysa TerKeurst
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said, "Some would say 'having sex' and 'making love' are one and the same, but there's an important distinction between the two. The physical act of intercourse can be accomplished by any appropriately matched mammals, as well as most other members of the animal kingdom. But the art of making love, as designed by God, is a much more meaningful and complex experience -- it's physical, emotional, and spiritual. In marriage we should settle for nothing less than a sexual relationship that is expressed not only body-to-body, but heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul."'
It's easy to understand how to connect with your wife body-to-body. Like the song goes, "Just doin' what comes naturally." Understanding how to connect heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul is more challenging. These deeper connections are not only possible, but essential in binding two whom God joined together inseparably.
The great "sex"pectations of our society constantly flash the message that being connected body-to-body with another is all about the pleasure that can be gained through the encounter. What if we viewed it as something much more meaningful? For your wife, making love is not an encounter; it is an experience. It's not something that is turned on for thirty minutes and off for the other twenty-three and a half hours of the day. For her "experience" to be complete, she needs YOU to set the stage for making love by connecting with her heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul throughout the day.
Before you start rolling your eyes and shaking your head, think back to the days before you were married, before you connected body-to-body. Remember the thrill of discovery? The days when you laid the foundation of your relationship by favorite foods, connecting heart-to-heart? Finding out what makes her happy, her dreams for her future, and hopes for her tomorrows, She still wants you to share these things with her, only now on a deeper level. No longer are they just her dreams, she wants her desires to be your dreams too. And she wants YOU to share goals and aspirations that are tucked away in your heart, as well.
One of the most meaningful times of my marriage was when Art made my passion for writing and dream of being a published author, a dream he could dream with me. How thrilled I was to catch him reading my manuscripts not because I asked him to but because he wanted to. How fun it's been for me to see "our" dreams become a reality. And, oh, how attracted I am to him when he tells me how proud he is of me. When we connect heart-to-heart, I desire to be connected body-to-body.
I also want to connect soul-to-soul with Art. Recently we determined that this area of our marriage needed to be worked on, so we decided to make it a priority to do a nightly devotion in our bed before we turn out the lights. This has been a wonderful way to melt away the stress of our day and soften any quarrels and petty arguments we may have had earlier. Reading a couple's devotional book or God's Word and praying together gives us a fresh perspective and helps connect us in that deeper soul level. There's something about our home at night when the kids are in bed and we are alone reading, talking, sharing, and praying that has made our relationship incredibly intimate.
Why not take an inventory of your intimate relationship with your wife and together answer these questions:
What is the difference between having sex and making love?
Is there anything about our intimate life that could be improved upon?
How can we better connect heart-to-heart?
What are your dreams for the future?
Do we regularly connect soul-to-soul?
How could we make connecting soul-to-soul a priority?
Is there anything I need to seek your forgiveness for in this area of our lives?
What do you love most about our marriage?
These are not the kinds of questions you fly through at the breakfast table while wolfing down coffee and toast. Let me encourage you to set aside some time to get away with your wife where the two of you can be alone and uninterrupted. If finances are tight, get creative. Pack a picnic lunch and go to a quiet park in your area. If you can afford to get away overnight, trade baby-sitting with another couple or ask Grandma and Grandpa if they'd like time with their grandkids.
Art and I discovered a wonderful bed-and-breakfast that we steal away to a couple of times a year to have these types of discussions. There are no TVs, just beautifully piped-in music and lots of time for sweet conversation and connection. We leave the ups and downs of life behind as we escape to a little place we are sure must be a little like heaven. We schedule our special time in advance and determine that no matter what deadlines might be pressuring us to delay or cancel our trip, we don't forgo this investment in our marriage.
From Capture Her Heart, by Lysa TerKeurst. Copyright © 2002, Moody Press. Used with permission of the publisher.
Both of these articles were found at: http://www.family.org/marriage/ where you can find lots more great articles as well as other resources.
Currently I'm reading a book Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. It's fascinating reading. I want to post an excerpt from the introduction here:
"The emotional complaints of our time, complaints we therapists hear every day in our practice, include:
disillusionment about marriage, family, and relationship
a loss of values
yearning for personal fulfillment
a hunger for spirituality
All of these symptoms reflect a loss of soul and let us know what the soul craves"
As I read this I thought about how, as a society, the mainstream culture in America, we really have ignored our souls.
We read self help books. We seek to improve; almost as if perfection is an attainable trait. We seek to be control of our lives and frequently the lives of those around us. We live in pursuit of entertainment, power, intimacy, material things, sexual fulfillment and status. We somehow think that if we can find the right job, or relationship, church or therapy it will bring us these things we pursue. But if we lose our soul, none of these things will be satisfying.
Jesus once said:
"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 saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?"
(Mark 8:34 The Message)