Thursday, November 29, 2012

An act of kindness and a tolling bell......

I just read this today and THIS is what it's all about!

An NYPD officer bought a shoeless homeless man a pair of shoes.

On Nov. 14, NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo, who was on counterterrorism duty in Times Square, saw the older homeless man without shoes sitting on 42nd Street. DePrimo, 25, left and then returned with a pair of $100 boots he bought at a nearby Skechers store.
"It was freezing out, and you could see the blisters on the man's feet," DePrimo, a three-year veteran of the department who lives with his parents on Long Island, told the New York Times. "I had two pairs of socks, and I was still cold."

I want this to be second nature to me, because this is EXACTLY what Jesus has done and does for us.  He sees our need.  He fills it....exceeds it.....overflows it!  Because His love is unconditional.  We are His!

Unmet needs diminish us.  John Donne put it best....

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him.  And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.  The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all.  When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member.  And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. 
And those most famous words...

No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.  

The bell is tolling for me!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

~A Charming Life

While watching the season 4 finale of Sons of Anarchy, the show started with a song that immediately enchanted me.  Juxtaposed against Sons' ominous setting of lies, murder, mayhem and dark alliances, this sweetness of this song overflows.

I downloaded it, and LOVE listening to it over and over.  It reminds me that I have a most charming life.  In fact, all things considered, I think we all do.  We are "so loved" by our Creator.  What's more charming than that?  Take a listen and a read:

This Charming Life
by Joan Armatrading
I wanna be with you all the timeEvery dayEvery nightYou're my deja vu
It's sounds obsessiveBut I think it's fineWhen you're gone all I do is to think of you
I live and love with youThis charming life
I live and love with youThis charming life
You know you came into the room aloneBut when you leftThen I found that you took my heartIt sounds so corny yes I know it doesBut truth is the shade that I choose to wear
I live and love with youThis charming lifeI live and love with youThis charming life
Every government must pass down a lawThat says the sun has to always shineThat everybody gets the chance to say
I live and love with youThis charming lifeI live and love with youThis charming life
Every morning when I open my eyesYou're the first thing that I seeLady luck she really took to me
BecauseI live and love with youThis charming life I live and love with youThis charming life

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cowardice, Writing and Risk

You wouldn't know it by this blog, but so much of my "recreational thinking" is about style and spirituality.  When it comes to style, I have no problem writing about that.  I mean, I can wax eloquent on the virtues of leather skirts, the perils of platform heels, the joy of thrifting and even the philosophical aspects of fast fashion, what it is and why are we drawn to it.  While many may disagree or not share my aesthetic, it really doesn't matter to me.  Life and death aren't hinged on it, and for the most part....there are no "wrong" thoughts.

Spirituality, on the other hand, poses a bigger problem.  This surrounds the heart - what we hold most dear.  For many, there's no wiggle room and disagreement, often, is tantamount to heresy.  That's the background I come from.  There is "right with God" and "not right with God" and even one's political leanings have serious implications in one's standing in the Christian community and (in the eye's of many), one's standing with God.

So, when it comes to writing about how I feel about these things, I'm a big ol' pansy.  A coward.  Yellow.  Scared to offend.  Scared to be wrong.  Because we're not talking shoes here, we're talking real life and death.

It's possible, we're also talking a colossal ego!  What in the world makes me think life and death hinge on me and my opinions and beliefs.  Don't get me wrong, when it comes to what I know about God, my saviour and the sacrifice He made and the gift he gave to me, I'm not confused and there's not much gray area.  And either someone believes the same as I on those or they don't.  My opinions, changing or no, really aren't going to make anyone believe anything.

But it's not central theology that we believers disagree on (most of the time).  For me, what I stated above is central theology.  God in the flesh, loving us who have turned on Him and tried to become our own God, sacrificing Himself for us, so that we could "get" how much He loves us.  NOT because we are worthy or deserving or have earned it; but because of who and what HE is.  That, to me, is central theology.  The rest are beliefs, opinions, sincere thoughts about scripture, convictions, but in my mind, it's not the base on which everything rests.

So having said all that, I'm going to make a conscious effort to be more brave.  Brave about what I think.  What I feel.  Brave enough to let my comfort zones be challenged.  Courage to look into the face of dissension and love the dissenter and even learn from him/her.  Courage to love my brothers and sisters in Christ enough to trust the Holy Spirit to show us ALL what is right, true, good, holy and virtuous.  And courage enough to be wrong.  Or even be right.  Or be neither but just be me.

In taking this first ice breaking with myself step, I'm going out on a limb with some things that I believe and while, for most, this limb trip is uneventful; for me, a pleaser and "avoid confrontation at all costs" is a huge big deal.

  1. After holding to the ban on gay marriage ideal for so many years, I no longer feel strongly about that.  In fact, as far as I'm concerned, if two homosexuals want to commit to each other in marriage, I don't think that they should be legally deterred.  I think our Christian community's stronghold on this has been a "can't see the forest for the trees" issue.
  2. I don't believe being "Christian" is synonymous with being American or vice versa.  In other words, there seems to be way too much emphasis on us being called a Christian nation.  We're not a Christian nation.  We are a nation with people of many faiths.  And while traditional Christian principles were applied in writing our constitution, we haven't always practiced those.  
  3. It doesn't matter to me if prayer is allowed in schools, if "In God we trust" is on our money, or if the Ten Commandments are on the local courthouse wall.  It's not about the show, it's about the heart.  "In God we trust" written on our money doesn't earn us brownie points with God and if we really DON'T trust in God, then stamping it on our money is worth less than the paper which carries it's imprint.  On a side note, it's ironic that we put this on our money, which is often the one thing we actually trust more than God (more on that later).
  4. I don't like the term "Christian".  It's used only 3 times in the Bible and only once was it used by someone who actually was a believer (1Peter 4:16).  I feel like it has become a marketing term at best or a role at worst (more on this later, too).  To sum it up, I'm a believer.  I'm a child of God.  Not because I've kept any rules or that there is more good than bad in me (I don't even think I can claim that!), but because of who GOD  is and what He's done for me through Jesus.
  5. I think sincere brothers and sisters in Christ can disagree HUGELY on a wide range of issues. 
  6. Every believer is my brother or sister in Christ.
  7. I actually believe what Paul said, "The greatest of these is love".
  8. I think it's really hard not to judge, no matter how hard we try.  But I also believe it's one of the most hurtful things we can do to each other.
Well, this is enough for now.  I NEED TO DO THIS.  I need to write these things down.  I need to take a chance on being wrong.  And most of all, I need to use the gift of communicating, that God has given to me.  THIS is the parable that keeps playing over in my mind.  

13 “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour. 14 For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. 18 But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:13-30). (emphasis mine)

I see myself in these lines in bold.  I've been afraid.  I've seen God as a "hard man".  I've been afraid to offend.  I've been concerned about the opinions of others.  And so often, I've hidden my talent to "keep it safe" for God.  Being human is risky.  Blogging about things near and dear to the heart is risky.  There's risks and traps everywhere in this world.  Some may not like us.  Heck, some may hate us for any number of reasons.  

But the one place that is risk free is being tucked inside God's love for me.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Neither Rich Nor Poor

"Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."  Proverbs 30:8-9  ESV

This makes a beautiful verse, no?  But if I ask myself, "Is this my prayer?"; I'm not liking my response.  This verse is like others that are beautiful to read, and make great tweets and greeting cards, but are not as easy to live.  You know the ones:  Love your enemies; Turn the other cheek; Sell all your riches and give to the poor; Blessed are the meek.  And really, the list could go on.  But in this moment, it's the one above that I'm thinking of.

Yesterday morning was a typical Friday morning.  My husband and I drank coffee and he did the bills.  THE DREADED BILLS!!!  Why does it seem to me there's never enough?  Even as I write this I'm ashamed.  I WANT to be content with what I have; but often I want what others have...(okay, now we can add 'Thou shalt not covet' to the list).  I don't mean that I want to take it away from them, I mean I want it too!  The vacations, the designer clothes, the restaurants, the shopping, the jewelry, the shopping, the cars, the shopping......  

There's just so much to want!!

But that's completely contradictory to this verse!  Now this isn't about obedience to God's word. The Bible isn't a rule book, it's a love letter.  It maps out our Father's love for us, from our creation to today.....and that love is unconditional and never ending.  My love for my kids isn't contingent on anything.  So when I tell them things, it's not arbitrary rules so that I can test their loyalty to me; it's because I know what they're going through and I can help them.   

That's what this is to me.  It's not a rule to follow, rather it's a guide for living.  For living the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.  

So how can not being rich be a good thing?  Isn't pursuing wealth the American Dream?  As I read this and other similar verses, I know in my heart that they're true.  When we have much, we tend to forget God.  In our minds, God has become an ATM machine...we put our prayers IN and He pops OUT financial resources.  Because we just can't get ENOUGH.   Material satisfaction alludes us.  It's always just one more pair of boots away.  A larger house.  Just a little bit more income.    Satisfaction is far from us.  It's the bait.  It's the rabbit on the end of the stick as we're racing down the track.  It's the whip on our backsides that spurs us on.  Because somehow, we really believe that just a "little bit more" will make us happy.

I've found that happiness is easier to obtain than contentment.

A few years ago, you would have heard me proclaim, "I just want to be happy"!  But I'm finding that happiness is fickle.  If someone had told me that I'd get to live in an apartment like I'm living now; but I wouldn't be able to eat out much, I'd have said, "Who cares?!  I'd be so grateful just to live in such a nice place, I wouldn't care if I NEVER ate out!"  In the abstract, we think we'll be "happy" if only (fill in the blank).    But the reality is that as soon as the "if only" happens, we up the ante to the next "if only" because the happiness buzz is a short lived wears off fairly quick - usually in the time it takes for the next In Style magazine to show me the latest shoe!  Now, I'm living in that fabulous apartment that was only a dream a few years ago, and I find myself with whiny "why can't I ______) thoughts.  

Contentment, on the other that's the trick.  Contentment is what I yearn for now.  "Having food and raiment, therewith be content"  Contentment - having what I need today and not wanting more.  NOT. WANTING. MORE.  That's the hard part!   

Contentment is basically satisfaction.  Like a baby that's just gotten it's fill of milk and sleeps peacefully, knowing that when he awakes, more milk will be there.  Babies don't worry.  Heck, CHILDREN don't worry. They're pretty easy to please...feed them and snuggle them and they're satisfied!   But those easily contented children grow up to be striving adults.  Always striving for a just a little bit more.  

And this treadmill of running frantically, wanting just a little bit more, just doesn't turn off.  Actually, it's the same with so many things in our lives:  
  • Just a few more pounds (I thought I'd be happy at Sz 10, but Sz 8 is teasing me, oh wait, I can get to Sz 6!)
  • A more thoughtful husband (Yeah, he works hard, but he just doesn't encourage me the way I want him to)
  • A better job (I make a good income, but I think I want to be challenged more and make even MORE money)
  • My kids are healthy and happy (But this isn't the life I planned for them.  I wanted them to be a _______.)
See?  It just never ends.  

So that's my goal.....contentment.  Happiness is easily scored high.  But it's addictive and it always takes a little bit more each time to get happy.  Contentment, however, requires nothing more than gratitude and faith.  Gratitude for what I have.  Faith that my needs will always be met.  

And the wants?  Well, those are pretty fickle too.  If I can't have what I want (which frankly, changes ALL. THE. TIME.)  I can want what I have.  

THAT'S contentment.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When believing feels like work....

Today I heard about an awful situation regarding a pastor that I'd heard of and read his books for years.  And as I was looking up information on it, I came across a blog of a man who used to be a believer, but stopped believing.  He is now an athiest and his reasoning resonnates with me, as I have felt some of the things he mentioned.

We no longer have to filter our lives through the Bible and our beliefs. A Christian friend of ours was telling us recently about how much she enjoyed watching Sigourney Weaver’s newest TV show, Political Animals. However, some of the language and sexuality bothered her.
I told her we watched the show too, but we no longer worried about language or sexuality. I told her we were free to watch whatever we wanted to watch and all that mattered was whether or not the show was good.  This pretty well explains how we now live our lives.
We are free to experience life without the Christian Bible filter. We are free to do what we want, watch what we want, and go where we want without worrying that God is going to judge us or chastise us.
As a Christian, I believed Jesus set me free but really what Jesus did was put me in bondage. It was atheism that set me free, atheism that gave me the freedom to live my life freely and openly.
We are now free to love and laugh without restraint. We no longer have to love what God loves and hate what God hates. We are now free to love what we want to love and hate what we want to hate.

Can I just say here that I get it?  To a point.  But anyway, for the sake of not being redundant, here is the comment I left.  I'm sharing it here because for so long I've wanted to express some of this.  I've wanted to get it out, but was afraid what my believing friends would think.  Silly, isn't it?  So here it is....

I stumbled upon your post because of the Jack Schaap situation that is going on now.  I was an IFB church member for 10 years and we really looked up to FBC Hammond.  But it's this post that really got me.  I have felt the way that you feel.  Tired.  Always wrong.  Always trying and never succeeding.  I remember thinking, while I was in the middle of it, that life was basically miserable...miserable because I had to continue on trying to "be right with God" or suffer His punishment OR if I walked away, God's wrath would follow me and my children would go to Hell.

I went through a time where, while I didn't stop believing, I put everything Christ related on the back burner.  It just wasn't important.  I had lost my mother to cancer and a year later, my 20 year marriage ended painfully.  I really just didn't consider God, but if someone had asked me, I would still have said I believed.

So much has happened since then...I read The Shack and cried.  While I know it's not the Bible; it showed me another picture of Christ, of God, of His love for me.  I also met the man who is now my husband and he showed me God's love through his own love for me.  He didn't judge me.  He didn't put me through 100 questions.  He knew I was a believer that wasn't making God a priority and he just loved me.  I can't even TELL you how that felt!  It's been difficult for me not to picture God as "The judge in the sky" that's just WAITING for me to mess up.  That can NEVER be appeased.  That is IMPOSSIBLE to please.  That's what He was to me and I'm ashamed and sad that I believed that about Him.

I'm free now to be ME and to be accepted of my Father.  Like you, I'll watch something I want to watch unless my conscience tells me otherwise.  I no longer worry about being "right with God" because I AM right with God; because of what He did for me.....because of His unconditional love for me.  God is LOVE and THAT'S what God looks like.  LOVE.  Amazing, beautiful, unconditional, amazing LOVE that's not contingent on what I do or don't do; it's because of Who He is and what He is.

Often, I don't like to use the term "Christian" as, to me it carries with it a set of rules.  Like "If you're a Christian, you'll........." (fill in the blank)  or "A good Christian does ......" and so being a Christian seems like a goal, a vocation and it's not.  I'm a child of God.  I'm His child.  I hurt people sometimes when I should help.  I think thoughts I shouldn't think.  I'm selfish when I should be more giving.  I focus on ME way too much.  But God KNOWS this about me and LOVES me more than I've ever been loved.  I am sooooooo thankful that everyday I FEEL that more and more.  I would never want to go back to the "get right with God!!!!!" mentality and I truly understand why you feel the way you do.  I'd love to see believers just get back to being children, delighting in their Father and letting His delight in the flow over them.

To be honest, I'm tearing up as I type this because it's so incredibly personal to me.  And I just feel so awful and sorry sometimes that we've misrepresented our Father so much.  In my way during that time, I did the same thing.....I know I misrepresented Him.  I also know He's forgiven me for it.  Peace.....Serene

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meant to be....

Isn't she lovely?  This picture is the quintessential CANDY BAR FROM GOD!  After a wonderful morning of hitting yard sales, I was parking my car when I caught sight of this beautiful painting out of the corner of my eye.  It was propped on a wall and I didn't know if it was for sale or not, but I was completely captivated!

I walked over, just to get a closer look and a man came out of the garage.  I told him what a fabulous painting this is and he remarked that he loves it, but his fiance hates it.  Well, when the fiance hates something, that something has a shelf life!  And my girl's shelf life was UP in that household!  In my mind, I just KNEW he was going to be asking for at least $100 for the painting, and so I asked trying to give the impression that I was just curious.  I almost dropped my teeth when he said, "Well, I was asking $25, but I'll let her go for $20."

Excuse me!  Did I hear that right?  I swear, I couldn't get to the bank fast enough!!  He held it for me and I brought back a $20 bill and the girl was mine!

That's a great enough story right there.  I mean, this amazing picture for $20????  Thank you Jesus!!  But when I got it upstairs and started looking at the tag attached, I saw that it was from a company called Uttermost.   I snooped around the site trying to see if this painting was on it and if I could see how much it sells for.  I found the painting and my heart skipped a beat when I saw the title:  Serenity.     Are you kidding me??  Meant. To. Be.  Nothing coincidental about this....just my Father being so sweet to me!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Beauty of Being Private

I've loved Dan Fogelberg's music for most of my life.  His song, Longer, is to me, one of the most beautiful (musically and lyrically) songs ever written.  This morning I was creeping around on Youtube looking up various songs of his and came across another old favorite, Same Old Lang Syne.  

It's relatively common knowledge that this song is autobiographical, but I was so surprised to read the account of the "old lover" that he was referring to in the opening line of the song.  According to Song Facts:  

"After Fogelberg's death from prostate cancer in 2007, the woman who he wrote the song about came forward with her story. Her name is Jill Greulich, and she and Fogelberg dated in high school when she was Jill Anderson. As she explained to the Peoria Journal Star in a December 22, 2007 article, they were part of the Woodruff High School class of 1969, but went to different colleges. After college, Jill got married and moved to Chicago, and Dan went to Colorado to pursue music. On Christmas Eve, they were each back in Peoria with their families when Jill went out for egg nog and Dan was dispatched to find whipping cream for Irish coffee. The only place open was a convenience store at the top of Abington Hill, at Frye Avenue and Prospect Road, and that's where they had their encounter. They bought a six pack of beer and drank it in her car for 2 hours while they talked.

Five years later, Jill heard "Same Old Lang Syne" on the radio while driving to work, but she kept quiet about it, as Fogelberg also refused to reveal her identity. Her main concern was that coming forward would disrupt Fogelberg's marriage.

Looking at the lyrics, Jill says there are 2 inaccuracies: She has green eyes, not blue, and her husband was not an architect - he was a physical education teacher, and it's unlikely Fogelberg knew his profession anyway. Regarding the line, "She would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn't like to lie," Jill won't talk about it, but she had divorced her husband by the time the song was released."

In a time where it's become commonplace to capitalize for personal gain on every opportunity and situation, it was striking to me that Jill chose to keep quiet about her role in such an iconic song.  She put her friend's marriage above her own personal interests.  

I think this struck a chord with me because I find it fascinating how social media and the internet have illuminated every aspect of our lives, from the mundane to the pivotal.  There's almost nothing we won't share publicly.  We status update our real time feelings and frustrations.   We're open about who did what to us and why AND what we think of it.  We tweet our whereabouts, eating habits, and grievances.   So many of us have come to be very transparent about our lives and feelings.  And that's NOT necessarily a bad thing.  

But Jill's story reminded me that it's okay to keep some things close to the heart.  That some pieces of ourselves shouldn't be for sale.   They aren't commodities to be traded for money, notoriety or the oft coveted fifteen minutes of fame.   They're special.  They're private.  AND they could have a ripple effect in the lives of others that may not be fair to them.  

The fact that Jill wouldn't even discuss the line alluding to her relationship with her former husband, showed amazing discretion on her part.  Who knows her reason for keeping quiet on this?  But I admire the fact that she didn't use this momentary spotlight to justify, explain, or condemn.  It was enough to simply not address what was personal to her.  

As I read this, immediately I thought of Luke 2:19 "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  Maybe some things are best left in our hearts, being pondered by us.    

"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets.  But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved every way that a person can be saved.  I don't even have a picture of him.  He exists now....only in my memory."  Old Rose from Titanic

Maybe it's good and appropriate for me to tuck some things into my heart and keep them there like a flower pressed in a book to commemorate a sweet memory.   Maybe I'm not being a hypocrite or phony if I don't share EVERYTHING, but demur the temptation to be a completely open book.   Could there be an amazing beauty in taking some things with us to our graves?

Monday, April 30, 2012

There's always enough

The other night in our home (Bible study) group, we got momentarily sidetracked from the subject at hand (some of the BEST discussions are had this way!), and began talking about miracles.  Specifically, do people still believe in miracles and do they still occur?  Immediately this brought to mind something that happened when my daughter was still a baby.

A Mexican woman from our church had come to our house on a Monday evening in a bit of dire straits.  I can't remember her exact predicament, but my then husband was her pastor and I think she had come to our house because of an issue she was having with her husband.  She had a baby and absolutely no money.   We got her settled down with a possible course of action, but she still needed money for her baby's formula (or some necessity of that magnitude).  We gave her the last $15 we had that I had set aside for diapers, and sent her on her way.  At that time, I was a stay  at home mom of 3 small children, with my daughter, Sonja, still in diapers,  and we had one paycheck every Friday which I budgeted down to the last penny.

 I had noticed that morning that she was almost out of diapers and was planning to buy some  the next day.  The next morning I was changing Sonja's diaper and remembered, "Oh crap!  She's almost out of diapers and we gave the diaper money to ______ (wish I could remember her name)".  Sonja had a hanging diaper holder that hung from the end of the crib.  I started to count the diapers that were clearly just covering the bottom of the carrier, to see how bad the situation was.

Then, something just told me not to count them.  No voice from Heaven.  No angel walking in the room.  But as I was leaning over to take a good look in and count, I just felt like, "Don't count them, just take what you need."  And that's what I did.  For the entire week, every time I needed to change Sonja's diapers, and it was certainly a lot, a diaper was there.  I never counted them, I just took what I needed.  On Friday, payday, I finally hit the bottom of the diaper barrel and they ran out.  But from Tuesday morning to Friday, that diaper carrier kept handing up the needed diapers.

I don't think I tell that story enough, to myself or to others.  I get very nervous about coming across super religious.  I don't want to over spiritualize everything and honestly, I've never been very comfortable with people who say "God" or "Jesus" in every snippet of conversation.  That's just not me.  But maybe in my zeal not to be a zealot, I've held back what someone else might need - some assurance that God really does care about the minutia (like diapers) in our lives.  That miracles indeed still happen and they're not rare, but rather abundant when we look for them.  And that, (and I do love this!) there's ALWAYS enough.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Can't we all just get along?"

Call me crazy, but  when Rodney King lamented those words, I think that was one of the most profound statements ever uttered.    The profundity lies not in the circumstances in which he made that now famous statement, but in the simplicity of the truth of it.  In fact, even the tone he had when he asked that question strikes a nerve.

"Can't we all just get along?"  What makes that so difficult?  

"Can't we all just get along?"  Can't we all just accept each other's differences and not consider it our personal mission to change others to match ourselves?

"Can't we all just get along?"  Can we be disagreed with and not become disagreeable?

"Can't we all just get along?"  Is it complete compromise to not demand that someone else submit to my point of view?  If I don't compromise my point of view, but rather treat respectfully someone who doesn't share that view, am I wrong?  

"Can't we all just get along?"  Is it possible for me to allow someone their point of view, their convictions, their passions without trying to evangelize them to my views, convictions and passions?

"Can't we all just get along?"  Does every opposing view have to be a threat to me?

This has been something that has been simmering inside of me for a while now.  It seems sometimes that we just thrive on disagreement.  The current political season seems to be a catalyst for contention.  And what's interesting is that as believers on all different sides of the political spectrum, we often claim God's blessing on our battle with each other.  There are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, etc who love the same God I do and yet take radically different stands on issues.  

And it's not just politics.  Among Christian churches, it feels so often like we're more drawn to the things that divide us than the fundamental truth that unites us - God loves us and sacrificed Himself for us.  NONE of us deserve God's love, but (Oh Thank you Jesus!!!!)  It's a gift.  Now, of course, as members of the same family (God's) we express ourselves differently.  Do I really consider your differences in how you serve our God as an offense against our Father or against myself?  And if it's an offense against God, is it MY job to set you straight or does God retain that for himself?  And if it's an offense against me, can I put my own fragile feelings aside to preserve our relationship?  "Can't we all just get along?"

I thought that maybe this was just an issue for the Christian community until I read a blog post by a Muslim blogger, Hijab Revival.  Seyma has a fashion blog in which she demonstrates how her clothing styles reflect her religious beliefs on modesty.  This lovely woman is covered from head to toe and looks gorgeous doing it!  Who could find fault with that?  Apparently some have.  Seyma expressed her frustration with an apparent climate of criticism in her community ("It's so easy to point fingers at one another and forget ourselves in nasty dialogue that it soon becomes OK to give Islamic advice in a demeaning manner")  stating, "I know of so many non-hijabi sisters who are the perfect model of modesty and have the kindest manners and then I know hijabi's who are so rude, arrogant and crude that they would turn anyone interested in Islam right off. "

When I read that, I thought, "I hear ya!  Amen!"  No, a follower of Islam I'm not.  But, I've experienced the same sort of microscopic inspection of my spirituality by my brothers and sisters in Christ and sometimes a much stronger climate of love from nonbelievers - much like Seyma describes.  

And so I keep coming back to those words, "Can't we all just get along?"  Let's face it, we're called to love before we're called to fight.  Paul clearly said that we could have every gift, incredible knowledge, or even martyr ourselves, but if we don't have love, then it's all for nothing.  Faith, hope and love abide and he's crystal clear on the fact that the greatest of these is love.  Jesus even said, when questioned about the greatest commandment of the law (He was asked by the Pharisees, fellow Jews), He was not confused.  

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Again, I'm not talking about compromising your principles.  I'm just saying let's not demand others compromise theirs.  I want to err on the side of love and acceptance.  When it comes to politics, I'll vote my conscience and then leave it in God's hands.  I'm not going to war with those same people whom God loved enough to die for.  When it comes to moral issues, again, our teaching is pretty clear.  We need to take the log out of our own eye before we go searching for the splinter in our brother's eye.  
Yes, Rodney, we CAN all get along.  Now I just hope we will....

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dreams. Proof of Creation? (Not that we need proof!)

After a fitful night of dreams, I woke up exhausted!  Seems crazy that I can sleep deeply enough to dream, but wake up so tired from said dreams.  But this morning, after I hit the alarm clock twice and was trying to recall those nocturnal mental movies; I had a bit of a revelation.  How can evolution be true if we dream?    

Now let me just say, I'm really NOT interested in having an evolution versus creationism argument.  The way I see it, even if evolution was true (and it may be to a certain extent), it would still only be possible with a Creator creating the substance from which we evolve.  Since I'm not much invested in the debate, it's not something I spend a lot of thought on.  However, it's actually the FIRST thing I thought about this morning.

I'm going extract this from my brain and put it into words and hope it loses nothing in the translation!  If we originated from a lone cell, an explosion, a cosmic accident or any similar scenarios, that may explain how we biologically function; but it doesn't explain our dreams.  Dreams aren't scientific.  Okay, I'm sure there's scientific research, but dreams are so relative.  They're vary from person to person.  And they're  put together through our subconscious.  I'm not even talking about what dreams mean; I'll leave that to Freud, but rather that our subconscious stays awake and puts together mental moving pictures from the memories and data stored in our brains.  The very fact that our brains can do this to begin with speaks to a higher intelligence than a cosmic accident.

I had a dream a several nights ago that I remember rather vividly.  I won't go into detail, but so many of the images and even a song in the dream were completely new to me.  I realize on some level that there's no way those images could be new, because I can only dream from what's in my head, right?  But it fascinates me that my brain can take electrical impulses and cell centers and work seemingly independently of me.  How can cells thrown together and grown over millions of years EVER produce that kind of functionality or creativity?

To my mind, it's just logical (didn't mean to bring Spock into this!) that we're created in the image of God.  And is it any surprise that our Creator is creative?  As He spoke the world into existence and created us, isn't this where the ability to dream even comes from.  Don Miller, spoke of certain mysteries that we accept as part of Christian Spirituality.  Dreaming and how we were amazingly crafted are parts of that mystery.

If we were simply impulsive and biologically need driven creatures, then what I've been told about evolution would make more sense to me.  But the fact that we are human beings who DREAM, a function that's BEYOND natural biological command; that's creation that came from our Creator.  And that's how I ended my night and started my day.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Winning the Lotto....Special?

   Not since Leona Helmsley uttered those infamous words, "We don't pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes." has anyone been so completely unlikable.  Until today.  May I introduce you to Paul Horner.  Until he won one third of Maryland's Mega Millions Jackpot, he was the second wealthiest man in Maryland.  Now, however, that has changed and it looks like he's inched his way up to the top wealth spot in the state.  

So what him so unlikable?  Here's how he responded to questions about his new mega million good fortune.

     "This will help me fix up one of my estates in the Cayman Islands that I've kind of let go in recent years. I've also been thinking about buying a couple more Gulfstream G550 jets, so I think I'll go ahead and do that now." Paul goes on to say, "I'm actually kind of bummed about winning because I know there is really no way around paying the full amount of taxes that I'll owe on this. I guess for a moment or so I'll have to join the 'regulars' and pay my fair share. Maybe when I'm done paying all those taxes I'll go down to a local bar and have a domestic beer with the common folk there, just to get a quick taste of what that's like," Horner laughs. "To be honest, most of this money will probably end up going to campaign contributions for Rick Santorum."

Apparently, not concerned with winning over the "regulars", he further went on to detail how he chose his winning numbers.

"When I played before I let the riffraff behind the counter pick the numbers for me, but this time I went with numbers that have a special place close to my heart. I currently own two Bugatti's. I have four mansions. I own twenty-three different multinational corporations. I spent thirty-eight million dollars on my last yacht. I own real estate in forty-six different countries and my girlfriend is twenty-three."

Real nice guy, eh?  But what's even more interesting is what lottery official, Tim Perkins, said concerning Horner's win....

 "I'm kind of sad that this thing is finally over. That money was growing into something really amazing. With all of that money you could feed most of the world's starving children, or provide clean drinking water in a third world country. I'm pretty sure there is no god when a guy like Paul Horner becomes the winner of something this special."

To be honest, this statement hurts my heart more than Horner's inflated ego, diarrhea of the mouth meandering.  I'm certainly not faulting Mr. Perkins for feelings.  I mean, it does seem a bit cosmically out of whack, for a multimillionaire to win the lottery (now, WHY was he even playing?).  But the lottery, nor any sum of money, really isn't something "special".  It doesn't even come close to merit that term.  At the end of the day, it's just money.  Contrary to what we sometimes are tempted to believe, money is not the cure for the earth's ills.  I would imagine that none of the lottery winners were planning to provide clean drinking water to other countries or feed starving children.  I WISH that were the case, but the sad reality is that it probably isn't.  

Money is the LEAST of the blessings God gives us.  I have no clue why Paul Horner won the lottery.  But in doing so, all he won was cash.  That's it.  Money's not love.  Money's not happiness.  Money's not joy.  Money doesn't buy immortality.  And most of all, money's NOT eternal.  In fact, it's fleeting.  And even  if Mr. Horner dies a very wealthy man, if he's never experienced God's love, he hasn't even TOUCHED on an abundant life.  

 God IS real.  He is loving.  And He DOES care for us more deeply and more completely than we can possibly imagine.  He even loves, cares for, and died for Paul Horner.  It's a fortunate lot we all are that God's love isn't a personality contest!  Now THAT'S "special"!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dionne Warwick helps me sing to God!

Another song that I was listening to in the car and immediately thought, "I could sing this to God!"  Is it sacrilegious to imagine that Jesus loves to dance to this song?  I don't think so!   I could get absolutely fat off the musical candy bars from God!

Here are the lyrics:

Then Came You by The Spinners and Dionne Warwick

Ever since I meet ya, seems I can't forget ya.
The thought of you keeps running through,
the back of my mind.

Everytime I'm near ya.
I get that urge to feel ya.
Just touching you and loving you, makes everything right.

(tell me how you feel baby)

I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you.
I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you. You!

Now that I have found ya. How did I live without you?
(I don't know baby)

It's plain to see, you're all I need, to satisfy me.
I'm so darn proud of you. I want to sing about ya.
(sing it, sing it, sing it baby)

You're all I know, You made love grow, by touching my hand.
I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you.
I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you. 
Hey, then came you.

Oh-Oh I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you.
I've never knew love before, then came you, you. then came you.

(with your loving touch).

You know that I never knew love before, then came you, then came you.
I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you. 

(I've got to hand it to you baby, you got the power of love, got the power of love Baby)

I've never knew love before, then came you, then came you.  

And here's the song:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aretha's Natural Woman....A gospel song?

As I'm sitting here at Starbucks, getting frustrated with html and pictures, Aretha Franklin's strong soulful voice comes over the speakers. Natural Woman is her classic ode to a wonderful man, who's come into her life and turned her upside down life, right side up.  As I'm listening to the words, I start thinking, "Wait a minute.  This is what God has done for me!"  If He'll forgive me for calling Him "Baby"; I could sing this song to my God.  Take a look at the lyrics and see what I mean.....


Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel uninspired
And when I knew I'd have face another day.
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you
Life was so unkind.
Your love was the key to my peace of mind (WOW!  Life really was unkind.  And my peace of mind comes from no one, but my Savior, my Father, my Friend)
'Cause you make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural woman.(It's God Who made me a woman and it's His presence that makes me thrill to show the world this nature of Him)
When my soul was in the lost and found(HELLO!!!  Ever feel this way?)
You came along to claim it.(Yes He did!!!!  And really, He's the ONLY one Who can!)
I didn't know just what was wrong with me(Okay, I still feel this sometimes, but in the most "I think I may be NUTS" way!  But truly, what was wrong was that I was looking for my worth in THINGS and PEOPLE.  A never ending disappointment to my self worth)
Till your kiss helped me name it.
Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm livin' for,(No!  There's no doubt!  Because what else is there?  WHO else is there that has the words of life?) 
'Cause if I make you happy I don't need to do more.(The key words there for me is "I don't need to do more".  Really?  I really don't NEED to do more?  Oh. My. Gosh!!  Truly, what sweet freedom!  God DOES delight in me!!  He IS happy with me!  I can rest in His unconditional love.  No vying for His attention.  No trying so hard to follow a set of rules.  And NO feeling daily like He's displeased with me!  I just love this verse of the song!!)
You make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural woman.

Oh, baby, what you've done to me(Made me His own!)
(What you've done to me')
You make me feel so good inside(Yes He does!)
(Good inside.)
And I just want to be 
(Want to be)
Close to you(To just draw up so close to the Source of all LOVE, who or what else can give me that kind of joy?)
You make me feel so alive!(Absolutely!)
You make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural, natural woman.
You make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural natural woman
You make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural natural woman