Saturday, July 25, 2009

To Judge or Not

An acquaintance of mine recently posted a note on facebook about morality, good and evil, and grace. Her point was that what is determined "moral" by society changes, but God intended for His creation to be good. Even though wickedness exists, He offers redemption through love. Since He is the Creator, He is the Judge. As mere humans, we are to love and not judge.

I agree that society's mores, or the current accepted moral attitudes, change. Yes, at various times in history, Christians were slave owners. People of many religions have engaged in "holy wars," seeking to eliminate those who believe differently. What has been deemed right by religious leadership has not always been right in God's eyes.

As politically correct as so many try to be, the fact is that we all judge. We all have our own ideas of right and wrong and decide whether the behavior of other people match those ideas. The problem is not that human beings judge another person's behavior. The problem is when we proclaim that judgment verbally on someone else and decide in our own minds to classify that person based on their behavior, or worse, discriminate against them or intentionally hurt them because of their behavior.

The job of a courtroom judge is to decide whether what someone did something wrong and what the most effective punishment should be. Even though we all judge what we see as right or wrong, we don't have the right to act as a judge does.

Ultimately, God will judge all people by what is in their hearts and will determine their punishment. Even when it seems the wicked prevail, I believe they will ultimately get what they deserve. Back to the good old proverbs: "The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment" (Proverbs 10:16).

We are responsible to discipline our children and stand up for what is right. If I have an opportunity to act upon what is right and prevent harm or abuse from coming to others, I should do so. In general, however, I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. Whether they do things I agree with or not, God's Word proclaims love for all. If I take on the name of Christ, I am to determine what is right and wrong for myself, and hope my example speaks for itself. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and that should be our primary motivation for all we do.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Deep Thoughts

The hum of the dehumidifier
The whir of the computer's fan
The tap-tap-tap of the keyboard

If all people were to disappear
From the planet forever
I would not know it
Here it is quiet. Here it is still.

The sandals, still warm
The dirty kitchen towel
The 2-liter of diet soda

If all the treasure of the world
Were hidden in my house
I would not know it
Here it is cluttered. Here it is full.

Empty iced coffee cup
Empty cup of yogurt
Empty box of candy

If all the food and drink
Were here for me to consume
I would not know it
Here I am content. Here I am full.

Bundle of wood
Thermostat turned off
Temperature of 71.

If all the cool breezes
Were to blow into the room
I would not know it
Here it is comfortable. Here I am cool.

Mind full of dreams
Heart full of desires
Body trying to keep up

If God were to send the answer
To all my prayers today
Would I know it?
Here it is safe. Here I am.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So Weird

Thanks to Chuck Shepherd and his website www.newsoftheweird.com for a lot of laughs today. This was my favorite story:

Kendrick Pitts, 20, and his brother Marquise, 19, were arrested in May in the ladies' room of a small office building in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they were hiding in stalls after being chased by police investigating a stolen truck. Their ruse failed when they tried, using falsetto voices, to persuade the cops that the only people present were women. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 5-5-09]

Doesn't that sound like a scene out of a Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler movie? I can just see two gangly young man crouched on top of toilet seats, answering in squeaky voices, "No, officer, no one here but us girls. Heehee."

I found out today that I can't think and write. I tried to write one name on my white board at work and wrote down the name of the person I needed to call. I even typed a word I heard on the TV instead of the word I intended to write. Yet, sometimes I can't "think" of anything to write. How weird is that?

Even the spelling of weird is, well, weird. The rule is ""i" before "e," except after "c" or when sounded as "a" in neighbor and weigh." Yet, the word weird itself is an exception to the rule.

I want to be an exception to the rule. I'm not much of a rebel in the traditional sense, but I don't like to be one of the crowd either. I like to think outside the box. I like to find that idea that no one else could come up with. I like to stand up for what's right even when it's not popular. I like to take care of people in unique ways.

I hope I never end up as a headline on "News of the Weird." However, if you choose to think of me as odd or unusual, I won't mind. I am what I am.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Changing Course

I've been in a funk. I've felt helpless to change some situations in my life. When depression attacks, it is insidious. First you feel out of control. Then you feel that since you can't change your situation, there's nothing to look forward to. You begin to feel you really don't matter, and that nothing else does either. You stop caring about the people and activities around you. You long to curl up into a ball forever.

Today, something snapped me out. There was a voice inside my head that asked me if I really wanted the people who are making my life miserable to win. Would I want them to know how much power they are wielding over me? They don't own me. I'm not trapped. Who says I can't make my own choices, choose my own destiny? There's a way. I just have to stop feeling sorry for myself and take action.

Besides that, what on earth do I have to feel sorry for? I live in a fantastic country. I have friends and family who genuinely care about me. I have a loving husband and amazing children. I have my health, and a decent income. I have my intellect, my wit, and my creativity. I have a Creator who has paid the ultimate price to be an intimate part of my life.

I am not my problems. I am bigger and better than them, and I'm not a quitter. Even if I do mess up, it's an opportunity to learn and grow. I don't have to have a perfect life to enjoy it.

Of course, there are other remedies that have helped with my new attitude. Extra sleep, physical activity, and oh, yeah, the chocolate have all had a part. I know that it's going to take a lot more for me to actually change the path that my ship is sailing. I just know I can't reach my destination if I jump ship.

There's also nothing better to have on board than some chili-flavored chocolate. Yum!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Doughnuts

Legend has it that Hanson Gregory, a native of Camden, Maine, conceived the idea of the ring doughnut at the tender age of 16 while aboard a trading ship. 

Young Hanson didn’t like the way the fried cakes served on the ship were wonderful on the edges but soggy and greasy in the middle. 

At first he took a strip of dough and tried to make it into a circle.  Then, using the lid to a tin of pepper, he punched a hole in a glob of dough.  After frying it up, he found it to be the finest he’d ever tasted.

He shared his inspiration with his dear mother, and she began to send them to Rockland, where the idea continued to spread to bakeries far and wide.

Thank you Mr. Gregory, for brightening up office break rooms and Sunday school classes and giving us something to dunk in our coffee.

Thank you for tender yeast doughnuts covered in a light glaze.  Thank you for cake donuts that melt in your mouth.  Thank you for making room in the middle to put custard and cream and jelly.  Thank you for a place to spread rich, gooey frosting. 

Thank you for early mornings at the Dixie Cream with my mom before a long day of running errands.  Thank you for grocery store bribes.  Thank you for my first cup of coffee.  Thank you for the Dunkin’ Donuts just off campus.  Thank you for my first taste of Krispy Kreme down south.

At some point, someone pointed out to me that one doughnut comprises your entire recommended fat allowance for the day.  So as beautiful and as wonderful as they are, they have become less a part of my life.  I still cherish the memories, and delight in an occasional cream-filled, chocolate-frosted long john.  Or a glazed blueberry cake doughnut.  Or a chocolate frosted cinnamon roll with chopped nuts on top.  Mmmmm.

Okay, where’s my husband?  He’s supposed to be here by now with the doughnuts!

Sources:  encarta.msn.com; allthingsmaine.blogspot.com

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

I am always amazed at how much a book like the Bible that was written millenia ago can have application to today. I was reading in Proverbs 12, and the first verse has the word "stupid" in it. If my kids knew that the word "stupid" was in the Bible, they prbably wouldn't understand why I tell them not to use it. I suppose it's not really a bad word, it's just that it's usually used to describe a sibling, which gets on my nerves. What's even more ironic is the context: "...he who hates correction is stupid." I'm not sure I'll convince them to love discipline, but it helps to have the Bible back you up.

In just one chapter, I found so many pearls that speak to me today. "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown." To me that says that marriage matters, and what you do and say affects your spouse and family. It's not all about me.

"...Men with warped minds are despised." Sometimes I get sick of hearing comedy on TV that is all sexual innuendo or bathroom humor. At least God feels the same way.

"A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal." I never realized God cared for animals so much. Of course I hate to see an animal hurt or mistreated as much as anyone else, but I didn't know that the Bible deemed animal ownership in such high esteem. Kudos to the pet lovers of the world!

"A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." I guess I'm a bit of a fool. How do you not respond when someone says something offensive or insulting? On the other hand, I know how foolish I must have appeared when I've made a big deal out of nothing. Like I tell my kids, if someone calls you stupid, and you don't think you are, ignore it. Consider the source.

"The way of a fool seems right to him. but a wise man listens to advice." I've been there before. I know myself best, right? I know what is the best path for me. In hindsight, it's better to listen to the advice of wise people than have to face "I told you so."

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." I can see this one two ways. First, don't worry so much, it'll bring you down. Second, a simple word spoken at the right time can really lift someone's spirits.

Hope that little bit of wisdom brightens your day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rainy Day

I love being outside just after it rains, when it's cool and all the humidity has dissipated. The sunlight is pale and flickers between lacy white clouds. Everything is beautiful and fresh, washed clean by the rain.

Even though the rain is inevitable and necessary, it is glorious to bask in the light and stillness that follows. In fact, without the rain, the sun wouldn't seem as important or as lovely as it does when it radiates heat and light from between the dissipating clouds.

In life, the rain, clouds, and storms are inevitable, too. It goes against everything in my perfectionistic nature to believe that bad things will happen, but it's true. I long for some idyllic world of constant peace and joy. And yet, in the words of Eurythmics, "Here comes the rain again."

Even Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble," (John 16:33) so who am I to get frustrated and disappointed when things don't go the way I think they should? As a human being with limited understanding, I'm going to curse the rain at times, so to speak. Sometimes, though, after the passage of time, I can see how the rain was necessary to help me to grow, in the same way that plants need both the rain and the sun to be healthy.

When bad times come, it's easy to get wrapped up in the pain, the injustice, and the weight of the problems. There are three things to do when the rain starts falling.

1. Keep hoping. Even when the storms come, the sun is still there, just hidden beyond the clouds. Even in Olympia, Washington, where you can expect to see rain about 64 days out of the year, the sun still comes out when the rain stops. No matter what it is, this too shall pass.

2. Take charge. Even if you can't stop the rain, you can keep from getting wet. Get out the umbrella, the raincoat, and the boots. Do what you can to make the situation more manageable. Enlist the support of friends and family. Learn from today so you are better prepared for tomorrow.

3. Keep it together. Did your mom ever tell you it was okay to be out in the rain because you won't "melt'? Your skin is impervious to water, and it can't get you. In the same way, you are not your problems. You have value and significance above and beyond whatever it is you face.

True joy continues in all kinds of weather. Then you'll be "Singin' in the Rain."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

True to You

"You've got to take care of you." The wise words of a friend echoed through my head all day. When I first thought about it, I was a bit defensive. "I take care of myself," I thought. I eat, sometimes, and sleep, when I can, and..." I didn't have a very convincing argument.

I'm coming to realize that I've put myself in last place for too long. I'm a chronic people pleaser. I think I most often used the word "no" in the sentence, "no problem." It's not only that, but I really want to change the world. I want to give my time and energy to all the good causes out there. As I've said "yes" to more and more, at times I've found myself with a Herculean schedule that gives me no sense of accomplishment or goodwill, but a growing sense of resentment and apathy.

Life is all about balance and boundaries; it seems I just choose to learn the hard way. I could never live in a world where my main focus was pleasing myself or making myself look good. Yet, there is something to this taking care of you, which is so foreign yet fascinating to me. I know it's a biblical concept. I know Jesus took time away from healing people and teaching them about God to renew himself. Certainly nothing I do is as important as his job, yet sometimes I act as if I'm indispensable to those around me.

I haven't made any big changes yet. I'm still meditating on the concept. I'm trying to observe my reactions and decision making process when asked to do something. I really tend to consider everyone else's thoughts and feelings before my own. That may seem like a good Christian thing to do, and it is, if I don't leave out my feelings altogether. In the end, if I don't make a decision that I am comfortable with, no one really wins. Even God said He likes a "cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). He doesn't want me to do anything merely because I "should" or because people will think badly of me if I don't.

A good craftsman sharpens and cares for his tools regularly. Otherwise, his handiwork suffers. So, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. But if I don't make sure my basic physical and emotional needs are met, I can't really help anyone. How can I change the world if I can't change myself?

I'm not real clear what this taking care of myself concept will lead to. I hope it leads to better health, and a better outlook on life. Of course, I still want to change the world. One step at a time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Greed be Gone

I'm done with greed. I'm done with millionaires embezzling more money and retailers complaining because people aren't buying more stuff. It's horrible that it took something like a recession to bring some people to their senses about what really matters in the world: not money, power, or prestige, but friends, family, and simple pleasures.

I heard a snippet of something on the radio about Jim Baker and his realization that the majority of folks in prison were there because they got greedy. The drug dealers didn't want to get high, they wanted money for better cars and more things. The embezzlers, the swindlers, the thieves, just wanted more money, more stuff. It's probably safe to say that some of the murderers were motivated by something related to money or things.

Did they ask themselves if it was worth it? Did they stop to think, I'm risking jail time for a nicer car? A bucket of bolts with a shiny new paint job and more horsepower? Really?

As the director of admissions at a nursing home, I get frustrated with family members who are overly concerned with their parents' money. If mom and dad were saving for a rainy day, the nursing home is about as rainy as it gets. Yet, if it's a necessary step to provide adequate health care, what are they going to use the money for anyway? It's their money. No one should cheat their parents out of the care they need just to maintain their inheritance.

People who are addicted to gambling are usually motivated by greed, by the hope that they'll win big and be able to afford everything they've always wanted. The thing is, greed never satisfies. It always wants more than what it has. Is it any wonder we hear all about the movie and sports stars who's lives are falling apart? They want more stuff, but it doesn't make them happy. It doesn't bring the satisfaction or fulfillment they crave.

A better way is to live like the line in the song "Turn up the Music" by Point of Grace: "Have what you want, but want what you have."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cheer Up

Today is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day.  I have been unable to locate the origin of the holiday, or find out which president may have bestowed such an honor on a day in mid-July.  I’m hoping it isn’t a ruse by the greeting card companies of the world to sell more cards and stationery.

I imagine more people are lonely than would seem to be, or that would even admit it.  I always think of the old widow, sitting at home alone, no family or friends to call on her.  I don’t actually know anyone like that, but it’s a very compelling picture.

I also tend to think of a lonely person as someone who is more introverted and has fewer friends.  Actually, introverted people tend to like alone time, and may be less likely to feel lonely than someone who really enjoys having people around all the time.  When the party’s over, then what?  Can you feel lonely in a room full of people?  Absolutely. 

A lonely person is longing for a companion, a connection, someone to walk beside.  Even though I work in a social services type position in which some disconnection is necessary to maintain your sanity, I’ve found that small connections make a difference in maintaining the working relationship with a client. 

These small connections make others feel a little less different or outcast.  They realize they are not the only ones in their circumstances, or the only ones who think or feel like they do.  Maybe they belong on this planet after all.

So, celebrate National Cheer Up the Lonely Day.  If that means visiting Aunt Betty in the hospital or Uncle Maurie in prison, by all means, do it.  Send a card to a long lost friend, or an email to an old school mate.  Spread some seeds of cheer, and enjoy the blossoms they produce. 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Laugh it Up

“We love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
We love to laugh
So ev'rybody can hear
The more you laugh
The more you fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more we're a merrier we!”

Mary Poppins’ Uncle Albert laughed so much he ended up on the ceiling.  His laughter really brought the house down, or at least it seemed like it. 

When you think about it, what makes us laugh is really complicated.  Everyone’s sense of humor is a little different.  Some people enjoy sophisticated, intellectual, dry humor.  Others like silly, slapstick, goofy humor.  Sometimes your sense of humor may change with your mood. 

I love puns and plays on words.  Check out this one from www.ahajokes.com:

A farmer was milking his cow. He was just starting to get a good rhythm going when a bug flew into the barn and started circling his head. Suddenly, the bug flew into the cow's ear. The farmer didn't think much about it, until the bug squirted out into his bucket. It went in one ear and out the udder.

Okay, that wasn’t side-splitting or anything.  There’s something about the cleverness of a good pun that tickles my funny bone.  Demitri Martin is that kind of funny.  His show combines sketch comedy, word plays, and a sophisticated goofy humor.

He’s one of the few modern comics I enjoy.  So many are based on hurtful stereotypes, are blatantly sexual, or use profanity for every other word.  Whatever happened to the classics:  Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Robin Williams?  I like commentary comics, too, like Jerry Seinfeld or Bill Engvall.  Our culture is so completely absurd at times, it’s great to laugh at it.

My best memories with friends is when we laugh so hard that our sides and faces hurt, tears spring to our eyes, and we have to cross our legs.  It’s usually not anything in itself that is all that funny, just that one comment leads to another until everything seems funny. 

Laughter is a saving grace.  It has healing properties, both in the human body and soul, and in relationships.  As author Erica Jong writes, “Humor is one of the most serious tools we have for dealing with impossible situations.”

Laugh today.  It truly is the best medicine. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ID please

Identity theft is scary.  In the 1995 movie, “The Net,” Sandra Bullock’s character’s identity is taken over.  A computer hacker has made it impossible to use her credit cards, and has given her a new identity complete with a police record.

Although I hope I never have to deal with it, I cannot imagine the huge headache it would be to prove to people that I am who I say I am. 

I wonder how many people allow their identities to be “stolen” in different ways.  I was watching “The Cosby Show” today and Denise was commending Sandra and Elvin for dropping out of graduate school to follow their own dreams.  She was proud of them for not trying to become carbon copies of her parents.

I’m never one to commend or encourage quitting.  I do think it’s a good idea for someone to follow his or her own path.  It’s something that the Bible reminds parents, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Psalm 22:6).

I believe who we are is a combination of what is given to us at birth, how our experiences shape us, and what we decide to be.  At some point we become self aware enough to try to sort out this combination and decide who we really are. 

About the same time, we realize that other people have different ideas of who we are and what we should do and where we should go.  Sometimes it’s a slight pressure; sometimes it’s extremely painful to deal with.  Either way, if we don’t make an effort to figure out who we are, we cannot made adequate decisions to move forward, to grow in the direction we wish to go.

I read about a depression therapy where the client is encouraged to come up with 10 positive assets about themselves, and ask friends to help if necessary.  Then he is supposed to keep the file and add to it whenever someone says something affirming.  What a great way to start discovering who you are. 

I’ve used this quote by E.E. Cummings before, but it is so apropos:  “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On With the Show!

Sometimes it feels like nothing you do or say makes a difference in your world.  Sometimes it feels like no one knows you exist.  Sometimes it feels like you’ve accomplished nothing in your life.  Sometimes it feels like you’re just a cog in a giant machine.  You ask yourself, “why am I here?”

I heard a song on the radio today ”Something to Say” by Matthew West, that seemed to answer that question.

You’ve got something to say
If you’re living, if you’re breathing
You’ve got something to say
You know if you’re heart is beating
You’ve got something to say
And no one can say it like you do
God is love and love speaks through
You got it, you got it
You’ve got something to say

Do you believe that we live in a world where every human being has a designated role, a part to play on the grand stage of life? 

If you’ve ever been in a dramatic production, you know that every member of the cast is vital to the ongoing action of the play.  I didn’t always think so.  I had a minor role in the opening scene of a three hour play at the community theater.  About a week before opening night I decided I really wanted to attend my daughter’s dance recital, which conflicted with the Sunday matinee.  I asked the assistant director if she thought she could fill in for me. 

Apparently it didn’t go well.  She missed some cues, said some lines in the wrong order, and generally threw everyone off.  I felt bad, like I had let everyone down.  Fortunately, part of participating in a production means you go with the flow, and no one (generally) holds a grudge.  I just didn’t realize how important such a small part could be for setting the stage for the entire show.

There’s a limit to the metaphor however.  You may have heard, “There are no small roles, only small actors.”  More than that, however, I think everyone has a starring role in their own lives, and they decide the size of the role they play in others’ lives. 

As the song suggests, only you can play your part, say your “lines,” so to speak.  You have been given a mind and a heart that are uniquely you, giving you unique perceptions of the world.  You have a responsibility to play your part, to take the leading role in your life and realize that people are counting on you to participate in their lives. 

Listen, there’s the director now:  “Places!” 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why I Like Chocolate

The rich sweetness of chocolate is my answer to everything.  It’s for celebration, for consolation, for pain relief (physical or emotional), for PMS, for dessert, for appetizer, for snack, for love, for encouragement, for excitement, for relaxation, for pleasure, and for fun.

One of my favorite books as a child was “Chocolate Fever” by Robert Kimmel Smith.  It is a classic.  In the book, Henry loves chocolate so much he eats it on everything and at every meal.  When he breaks out into brown, chocolate smelling spots, his doctor calls it “Chocolate Fever.”  The medical community is so fascinated with his case he has to run away to avoid their constant attention.

I like Henry’s style, although I have yet to eat chocolate on mashed potatoes or noodles.   I like it best plain- a Hershey’s Dark or other fancy bar.  I also like it wrapped around nuts or caramel or more chocolate and nestled in a heart-shaped box.  However, the chocolates with the fruity nougat fluff I could do without.  Chocolate and fruit only go together for fondue, with the exception of frozen bananas and chocolate covered blueberries. 

I like chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  I like cookie dough ice cream with chocolate syrup.  I like chunks of anything chocolate in my ice cream.  I like chocolate peanut butter pie.  I like buckeyes.  I like chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I like brownies with unmelted chocolate chips in the batter.  I like hot chocolate and chocolate milk.  I like chocolate covered coffee beans.  I like lava cakes and chocolate mousse and tiramisu.  In fact, don’t even mention dessert to me if there is no chocolate involved.

Chocolate is good for you.  Technically it’s made from a bean which means it’s a vegetable.  It has flavonoids which protect the heart, lower blood pressure and balance hormones.  It also contains serotonin and caffeine that make you feel good.  It’s the ultimate comfort food.   

So even if I drink a chocolate protein shake for breakfast, eat a Boston Cream pie flavored yogurt for snack, pick out all the miniature candy bars from my boss’s candy basket, and raid the house for a few Hershey’s kisses when I get home, I’ll never be extreme as Henry.  But I will never say “no” to chocolate.

Source:  Stibich, Mark.  “Health Benefits of Chocolate”.  About.com.  http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rites of Passage

Do you remember your first lost tooth?  Do you remember wiggling and wiggling it, maybe before it was even loose?  Did you ever go to extreme measures, like pliers or a string tied to doorknob? 

My son’s first tooth is loose.  He’s in no hurry for it to come out, although he played with it all through the church service this morning.  He first noticed it while dining out a week ago.  He complained of a sore tooth while biting into a slice of pizza.  “Is it loose?” I asked.  He wiggled it, and sure enough, it could bend to a 45 degree angle.  At 6 1/2 years old, it had been a long time coming.   

His older sister was adorable.  She put her arm around him, and with a knowing smile, asked to see and touch the premier tooth. 

Apparently, her cousin reacted the same way when his younger sister had her first loose tooth.  She’s only 5 1/2, but lost her third tooth today.  It was barely hanging on to begin with, and again, it was a slice of pizza that did the trick. 

As my kids grow older, their experiences bring back memories of my own.  I don’t remember my first loose tooth, but I remember my last.  Maybe I counted, but I knew this was the last one.  I had pulled it out on Christmas eve when I was 9 years old.  I was wondering whether the tooth fairy or Santa Claus would pick up the tooth and leave a quarter.  (Inflation has hurt the tooth fairy as well).

I’ve celebrated so many firsts with my kids… first words, first steps, potty training, kindergarten.  Birthdays that seem to come faster every year.  They are growing, learning new skills, and thinking more critically.  They ask questions I have to think about before I can answer.  Sometimes my answer is “go look it up on the internet.”  I don’t know who invented macaroni!

I wonder what types of parents they’ll be (assuming they are) and what kind of careers they’ll end up in.  I’m sure they’ll break my heart along the way… isn’t that part of parenthood?  I just hope that in the end, they know that they are beautiful, they are loved, and they are created for a purpose.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence

Fireworks have marked celebrations for centuries.  First there’s the zoom of them shooting into the air, the brilliant explosion of light and color, and then the big BOOM as the sound catches up. 

A fireworks display always reminds me of that line in the National Anthem: “and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”  It reminds me that on the other side of the world, there are folks who may be viewing fireworks that aren’t pretty or exciting, but a matter of life and death. 

Throughout the history of our country, men and women have voluntarily put their lives on the line in the fight for freedom.  Their families, too, have paid the price for independence, for unity, for democracy. 

The national anthem was written by Frances Scott Key, who was detained by the British during the war of 1812.  As they attacked Fort McHenry, he sought a glimpse of their emblem of freedom, the American flag.  After witnessing the battle throughout the night, he and his companions knew that if the flag was still flying, their cause still lived, and freedom would go on. 

The actual song Key wrote has several verses.  The last verse talks about living in appreciation of the victory and peace that comes at the end of the war justly fought, in praise of the One that preserves our country, and flying the flag in celebration of that freedom:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I love fireworks and picnics.  However, I am taking a moment today to remember brave men who declared themselves an independent country on this date, 233 years go, and all the men and women since who have fought to preserve it.  To freedom!

Source:  http://www.lightchamber.org/gfs_bjdocs/prophecy/prophFSKey1.htm

Friday, July 3, 2009

Roller Coaster 11

“Chelsea, this is Wendy.  Wendy, Chelsea.”  Chelsea flashed a genuine smile and nodded. 

“Hi!” she said.  So, where do you know Jason from?” 

“My dad’s in the hospital,” she replied, suddenly feeling vulnerable.  Why was she telling a stranger about her problems?

“I’m sorry,” Chelsea answered sympathetically.  “Hope everything goes okay.” 

Wendy nodded silently and took her seat.  She was grateful for the music that was beginning, signaling the beginning of the service. 

As the service began, Wendy tried to follow the songs, prayers, and other elements of the service.  Jason was there to point at a hymn number or cue her to pass the offering plate.  The pastor was a good storyteller, and she listened as he described the scene of Lazarus’ funeral in exquisite detail.  His point about life in the midst of death resonated with her.  It made her think how her dad would want her to live, even though he was facing death.

After the service ended, she allowed Jason to introduce her to his parents, his grandmother, his brother, and his other sister.  “Would you like to go to lunch with us?” asked his father.

“Um, I can’t.  I have to… to get back home.”  Wendy was in no mood for an afternoon of making conversation with strangers. 

“Let me walk you,” Jason said, taking her by the elbow and turning her toward the doors.  Apparently, it was more of an imperative than an offer.

When they reached the outside door, Wendy started to protest.  “I’m fine, really.  I’m just around the corner.”

“Let me walk you,” he repeated, more gently this time.  My folks will be talking for at least another fifteen minutes.  She shrugged, turning away to hide the amused smile that came to her lips. 

“If you insist,” she agreed.  Her walk was slower than it had been on the way to the church.  She found herself wanting to prolong her time with this intriguing young man with big dreams and a bigger heart.

“What did you think?” he asked, “Of the whole church thing, I mean.” 

She frowned.  Was it that obvious she was new to the whole church thing?  “It was good.  I liked the music and the preacher was really good.  Everyone seemed really nice, too.”

Jason smiled and nodded in agreement.  There was a slight pause, then he spoke again.  “It’ll work out, you know.”

She shrugged.  “I know.  I just have to learn to deal, no matter what.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

God's Plan

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" -Jeremiah 29:11

I've had this verse on a plaque that I received from a good friend about 9 years ago. I keep it in my office on my desk. I usually find a lot of comfort in it.

It seems that I've spent most of my adult life trying to figure out these plans God has for me. Whatever I’m doing, after a time I start to ask questions. The problem is pretty much summed up by The Clash: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" The dilemma dips into that whole philosophical question regarding providence and freewill: "Is life like a line already drawn, or is the line yet to be drawn?"

My take is that the line is yet to be drawn, but that God, seeing the big picture, already knows what it looks like, and knows how to get you from point A to point B, if you are willing to trust in Him. On the other hand, I also believe in pursuing your dreams and taking steps toward your life's goals. On the third hand (if that were possible), a verse from Esther often haunts me: "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). Sometimes you're where you're at for a reason.

I feel like the captain of a boat in the midst of a vast expanse of ocean. Using a compass, I make slight adjustments here, and slight adjustments there as I try to move in the right direction. I'm not sure exactly where I'm going, but I have a general idea. It just seems like it would be so much easier to know what the land ahead is going to look like before I got there! It sure is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day concerns of ship maintenance and deck swabbing and leading the crew. When storms come, I wonder if I'll ever make it at all.

I pray. I pray for answers, for guidance, for patience, for wisdom- not just for myself, but for all the people I come into contact with each day, struggling with relationships, health issues, employment (or lack thereof), and tough decisions. I want to provide answers, to fix things, to make it right. Only God can do that. He has plans to give us hope and a future. So be it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking is seems so necessary today. I watch TV, write, listen to my kids, text... all at the same time. At work I'll be on the phone while I check my email and fill out paperwork. I'll drive, listen to music, talk on the phone, and go over my next appointment while in the car. How did we ever survive without the ability to do so many things at the same time? How did we ever communicate without ready access to phones, email, fax, social networks, texting, and IM?

Having a few days to myself, I've realized that I get a lot more done if I focus on one thing at a time. I write twice as fast when I turn the TV off. Granted, my mom probably told me that 20 years ago when I tried to start my homework in front of the TV at 9:30 at night. Household tasks are much more rewarding when you start and complete them the same day. I had also forgotten the joy of a good mystery novel, read without someone asking where something is or if I can help with something.

I think we cheat ourselves by trying to do too much at once. We lose our ability to focus on a quality conversation, to do a job well and completely, to slow ourselves from the frenzied pace our electronic devices allow. It's okay to turn them off. I have to remind myself that I don't owe it to anybody to be on call 24-7. I have permission to disconnect for a while. Remember the old days when you'd call and leave a message on an answering machine and hope to hear back within 24 hours?

I know it's probably not possible to avoid multi-tasking altogether, especially as a parent of two children. I remember the day that I decided I had reached my limit with multi-tasking as a parent. My children were 2 years old and 3 months. I believe I was trying to feed the not-so-hungry baby while my toddler was spilling food and throwing toys at the baby. I decided two children were about all I could handle.

On the other hand, there is a definite sense of peace and accomplishment when you set a goal, start a project, and then finish it, without the frustration of constant distraction. It may take some work to get rid of the distractions, but it is so worth it. Still, I look forward to having all my distractions back home with me soon!