Monday, December 28, 2009

It's December 28 and I'm ready for Christmas

Yesterday on the drive to church (Sunday, December 27) I saw a Christmas tree already tossed out on the sidewalk for the refuse workers to pick up. The pick-up schedule for yard waste is bright and early Monday morning. I suppose the tree owners had had enough of that tree and just couldn’t take it for one more day, let alone another week until the next pick-up.

It made me sigh a little to see that naked tree lying on the sidewalk. I just wasn’t ready for Christmas to be over yet.

Actually, I never achieved the “fully prepared” level before Christmas. We stayed busy doing all the things we do for the Christmas season. You know. Eating meals with groups of people we don’t normally eat meals with because special occasions dictate we need to have party.

Musical programs. Oh, the musical programs. There’s a separate one for every age group. I love them, but they do fill up the calendar, especially with all those extra rehearsals.

There’s decorating (Is it just me or was there an inordinate amount of glitter in all the decorations and cards this year? ) Oh, yes, the cards, and the packing and the shipping and all the other postal necessities.

Shopping, which I didn’t do much of this year.

Wrapping. Not much of that either.

And travelling. I honestly can’t remember the last time I woke up on Christmas morning (having to stay in town on Christmas Eve for the communion service at church) and didn’t have to travel several hours to get to any family. Christmas day means we get in the car and go somewhere else.

It’s all fun and I love the Christmas season.

Much of the preparations are so meaningful. I went caroling a couple of times and each time my heart was moved by how the people we sang to expressed their appreciation for our visits. The program the children presented at church was a clear offering of the gospel and was blessed by God like never before. I was so overwhelmed by it I hardly had any words afterwards. I received several Christmas cards with pictures of families I don’t ever get to see in person. I love those because for a few minutes I feel connected to all my long distance friends.

But does it have to be over so soon? We spend at least a good, solid month getting ready for Christmas. I think we should spend another month just enjoying it.

Or maybe we have it backwards. Maybe we should spend less time in preparation and more time just soaking it all in. After all that’s what the shepherds and the wise men did on the first Christmas. They didn’t spend a lot of time getting ready. They received an invitation and went straight to the Savior. They didn’t plan a party or send a card. They just went to see the Savior.

We were reminded of this yesterday in Sunday School:

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:9-11

They worshiped him.

I just want to do that little bit longer. I don’t want to be “getting ready” to do that. I just want to worship Him.

He’s coming again and when He does, I don’t want to be caught up in any excessive preparations. I want to save my energy and efforts for the praise and worship that will take place when He does come. All it takes to get ready is a prayer:

I know I’m a sinner and that I need a Savior. I believe You, Jesus, are the one and only born into this world to die for my sins and for that reason, I want You to be Lord of my life.
That’s all. No decorated trees that will be discarded to the sidewalk . No glitter. No extra rehearsals.

Get ready now. Then, O, Come, let us adore Him. Today.

Even if it is 3 days after, or 362 days until Christmas again.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:17-18

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Intentional Intentions

I've been intending to write this post since the weekend after Thanksgiving. That's at least how long I've been thinking about it. (I'm still trying to find my rhythm again, but working on it).

I intend to do a lot of things that I never get around to doing.

And you know what they say... the road to you-know-where is paved with lots of good intentions.

Then there are things that I do that have nothing to do with original intentions.

Like this, for example.
This is one of my precious Fiesta tumblers. The intention of its creation was to hold a fruity, breakfast beverage. I put pens and pencils in it.

There are other pieces in my Fiesta collection that also don't get used for the purpose they were intended. Like my pitchers. I couldn't find any pictures of my own pitchers (OK, I didn't really look very hard), but a quick Google image search tells me there are others who also misuse their pitchers.
Fiesta pitchers make very lovely vases. I think I've used my Fiesta pitchers as vases more often than I've used them for liquids. The only thing I really ever use a pitcher for is iced tea, and if you're going to make tea you need to make at least a gallon and Fiesta pitchers are just too small for that. So, in my house they hold flowers.

I looked around my computer desk and found a couple of other unintended things.


I've already admitted that I have a issue with pens (you can read about it here). That's another story. Today it's about the cups. And the pitchers. And all the other things not serving their original purpose because I've filled them up with something else. I fill them up and call it creativity and resourcefulness.

Like I said, I've been thinking about these intentions since the weekend after Thanksgiving. That's when we decorated our church sanctuary for Christmas. The people in charge of decorating the sanctuary for Christmas really take it seriously and it always turns out lovely.

The building structure is very traditional Baptist architecture built in the middle of the historical district of an Old South rural town. That's a blessing and a curse. It's a rectangular sanctuary with tall ceilings and large stained glass windows. There are wooden pews with dark red velvety cushions. The pews are in three sections with the center section being the widest. No center aisle. Up front on the altar/stage/I-never-know-what-to-call it section there is white, heavy, wooden pulpit furniture. There's a huge proscenium arch, behind which is a cove that houses a cranky, old pipe organ and some more wooden pews for the choir. Behind the choir pews and elevated above everything else is another recess - -the baptistry (spellcheck wants to make that baptistery, but that just doesn't look right to me).

The baptistry has tall, white, wooden doors. I'm not sure why. To keep people out? To keep people in? Well, back to that in a minute...

Here's a visual peak just to get some perspective. That's Rhonda back there standing behind the tree (and she's not a short person), just so you can see how large that evergreen is.


Now. Here's where the pens in the cups and tumblers come in. And the creativity and resourcefulness. I present to you, The Baptistry.

We close those doors, hang a 10 lb. wreath on them, cover the ledge with red, satiny cloth and holiday poinsettias. It's beautiful. And well done. That's the real thing too, no tacky plastic here. It's creative. And resourceful.

And not at all what it was intended for.

That's the part that makes my heart hurt.

We truly have paved the road to hell and shut the door to heaven with our good intentions and filled it up with our own creative and resourceful purposes. Those doors should be open. It should be filled with water. The water should be warm from the frequent use and cloudy from all the sins that have been washed away.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10).

That is Christmas.

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:19-20

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Beat Goes On

Two or three weeks ago, Scott and I were sitting on the couch mindlessly trying to find something to watch on TV. Scott was flipping through the channels. He stopped on the movie Drumline. We came in on the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this movie in its entirety, but in all my channel surfing days, I have caught this final culminating scene several times. Something about that last snare beating showdown always makes me stop and watch.

From what I gather from that final scene, it is an underdog struggle kind of movie centered on a band competition. The final face-off comes down to the rhythm sections of the final two opponents. Both sides beat the heck out of those drums all the while they were spinning and dancing and who knows what else. In the end, the top dogs lost because they disrespectfully beat on the other line’s drums. The underdogs won because they showed some class by keeping their own drumsticks to themselves (oh, just go rent the movie. It’s a lot more effective to see and hear it yourself!).

ANYWAY.

As I watched the blur of those drumsticks moving back and forth and listened to that click-clack cadence get more and more intense as the competition grew fiercer, something hit me. BANG! Like a big bass drum. Or maybe some really loud cymbals. It’s the rhythm. My rhythm! That’s what’s off with me. I’ve lost my rhythm.

Not my dancing or foot tapping rhythm, but my living rhythm. I’ve been clapping on the offbeat since about April. It’s just taken me this long to realize it and to begin to try and get it back.

Yesterday in Sunday School we talked about hope. What are we hoping for in the next year? Saying out loud that I hoped the next year would have none of the icky that this year had helped me see it. And I began to faintly hear it. Ahhh, a quiet little tapping.

The icky of this year that threw me off?

Well, there were my friends. One of them died. In her 40’s. That’s not supposed to happen, is it? Circumstances I can’t do anything about have taken two other special friends out of my regular day to day circle. The quick pace of their chatter in my ears leaves me with lots of quiet. I miss them.

Then there’s my family. My dad was diagnosed with cancer. My 86-year old dad has lived through a heart attack, open heart surgery, prostate cancer surgery, all kinds of skin cancers, a lawn mower accident that took one and a half of his fingers, and a long list of other medical maladies. This chemo has about done him in. It has also sent my mother into orbit because she just doesn’t process new information like she used to. I don’t really know what to do for them anymore or when to do it. I can no longer read their sheet of music.

Oh, and my church. I’ve loved church since I was a little girl. When I was a teenager, I was the only one under 30 that would show up on Wednesday night. That’s how much I loved it. Still all these years later, everything in my life is based around my love for the bride of Christ, often at my own personal expense. So needless to say, I was knocked off balance when the leadership there very NON-lovingly told me that I did not live up to the standards and expectations they had for me and that I needed to sit down and shut up or else. What? All I was doing was trying to look out for someone else’s wellbeing, not even my own. I don’t even know now to march in step with that.

Then, there’s my job. There are just two of us in our office. The boss and me. It’s been a tough year with the economy the way it is and all. The boss turns 65 in January 2010. With business slow and that social security eligibility date looming for him, he announced his retirement for that date. I spent weeks posting the job announcement, collecting resumes, reviewing the resumes, taking all kinds of phone calls about the position, wondering about all the what-if scenarios that might take place after he was gone, and getting slightly depressed over all the variables and unknowns. Then, over a long weekend earlier this month, he changed his mind. He’s staying one more year. Well, OK, I can get back in that groove, but my, oh, my, all the worrying and speculating I wasted on it!

The only major area of my life that has not been rattled this year is my marriage. Then again, Scott and I have always, always, always, marched to completely different drummers anyway. (insert your favorite Thoreau quote here). I think continually trying to hear each other’s drum is what keeps us together. He picks us all the extra beats that I miss. We truly live a syncopated life together.

Once the Drumline movie inspired me to label my situation as a rhythm problem, I did what I usually do. I went to scripture to try and find out what God might say about such a thing. I did a little research (admittedly, not a lot, but still—I used a concordance and a lexicon. That counts for something, doesn’t it?).You know what I found in the Bible about rhythm? Nothing. It might be in there, I just didn’t find it.

The closest I came was:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away… a time to be silent and a time to speak… I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 4

Well. I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m not ready to throw it away yet. I get more and more ready to speak up every day.

Scripture also says that to God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. Not only do the number of days belong to God, but so does the rhythm at which the days pass by. Some days are soooo long they seem like years. Some years fly by so quickly that it seems like just weeks between birthdays. In all of them, God is the one beating the drum.

Just one more thing….
(and a spoiler alert...I'm about to REALLY embarass myself).

When Scott was in high school, he was the drum major for the James F. Byrnes Marching Rebel Regiment Band. Apparently, that’s a big deal in South Carolina. His mom told me on several occasions how she prayed for him to achieve that position if it would help him with this career down the road. He’s still pretty good at this beat-keeping business.

Me? I’ve always had trouble keeping up. When I entered band class in the 7th grade, I started out playing the drums. I blinked my eyes every time my drum sticks would hit the snare head. I could never see the music because my eyes were always closed. That lasted about a month then I switched to the woodwind section. A couple of years later, I was in the marching band for one and only one football season. I just couldn’t cut it and eventually gave it up.

I just wish I had been more in tune to God’s cadence at the time and not the one I was conjuring up myself. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and embarrassment.
Please don’t let this happen to me again. If you see me swaying out of step, remind me again to get my fingers out of my ears and listen for God’s rhythm that makes everything beautiful in its time.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fallen

We have a multi-million dollar project at work that is relying on state and federal grants to be completed, but is being held up by another division of federal bureaucracy. The term limit on the grants will expire before the project is completed if the specific agency holding up the progress doesn’t get everything in order and file the appropriate paperwork, which has already put us behind in the schedule and definitely over budget. Yes, I work for the government. In South Carolina.

We live in a rural county with a higher than average unemployment rate. Not much happens here. We don’t get a lot of attention on the state government level. We’re the ones that usually have to kick and scream to get state officials to notice, and we don’t normally have all that much to kick and scream about. So, it was unusual when the Governor’s office called us and said he wanted to come meet us and talk about the project.

And that he did. The black sedan pulled up and parked. He and a driver got out. The two of them and my boss and I went into a construction trailer where all the woes of our project were laid out. Governor Mark Sanford seemed genuinely interested in our project and problem. He was interested in being educated about it. He asked more than once how he could help. A little over an hour later, the two of them got back in the black sedan and drove away.

Before they were even out of the drive, my boss said, “There’s one lonely man.”

I imagine Gov. Sanford has lost a lot of “friends” because of his recent behavior. He’s still getting grief over it.

We joked a little about the Gov. having to come slumming to the rural counties where nothing ever happens in order to find someone who will really needs him, or at least needs the power of his office and authority.

Our project is further along the process now and even potential future needs are on the Governor's radar. So the truth is, we do need him and the power of his office.

I’m not here to defend or defeat any of Gov. Sanford’s actions regarding his family or mistress or travel arrangements or money. All I know is that he messed up, he knows he messed up, he admitted his shortcomings, and now he’s trying to make the best of a bad situation.

We’re not all public figures or celebrities that make the news, but we’ve all messed up. We’ve all done things where the consequences knocked us down a notch or two from our comfortable perches. We’ve been taken down to a level lower than we’ve ever been before. It’s ugly and dirty. It hurts. It’s embarrassing.

But when you’re down like that, look around. There are people already down there who need you; people who can’t even see your ugly because they’re squinting so hard from their own pain; people whose need is greater than the shame of your fall. When you’re down, serve. That’s when you’ll see lives redeemed. Even your own.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Psalm 103-2-5

Friday, October 2, 2009

Getting Ready


I went to visit my parents this past weekend. They live a little over 3 hours south of here. It was not really a spontaneous trip, but sort of. I’ve been trying to find some time to make the trip, but little obstacles either at my house or theirs kept me from it. When I saw a small window of opportunity last week, I decided I better take it.

I had been thinking about it but had not really made any actual preparations to go, or be gone. Once I crossed the bridge from thinking about it to actually doing it, I rapidly started making that mental list of tasks I needed to complete before I got on the road.

I was going to make the trip by myself because Scott was already committed to some things here. I wasn’t going to be gone long, but it did involve packing an overnight bag. I needed something to sleep in, something to wear the next day, and as always, two extra pairs of underwear just in case.

Then there are all the bathroom products. We don’t travel that much anymore, so we don’t really keep a separate stash of that stuff in miniature sizes. At home, Scott and I share the same tube of toothpaste, bar of soap, bottle of shampoo, hair dryer, and a few other health and beauty products. Before I left, I had to make sure I had everything I would need packed in my bag while still leaving Scott with everything he would need. He’s very discerning man and is particular about his grooming needs. And trust me; you really wouldn’t want to see him without the benefits of shampoo and a blow dryer.

It required a trip to Wal-Mart.

Then there’s all the media. Was the battery on my iPod fully charged? Do I have any minutes on the pre-paid phone I use just for things like this? Don’t forget to put my Bible in my bag along with the book I’m currently reading. Oh, and the GPS.

I also couldn’t forget the little cooler for my snacks and Coke Zeros (and for bringing Scott some Sonny’s BBQ on the way home).

There are some other things I always do around the house before I leave on any trip that lasts longer than 24 hours. It’s that thought of “what if something happens” that persuades me to do these things.

What if I have car trouble and end up having to stay longer than I planned?

What if a tree falls on my house (not a far-fetched notion in my neck of the woods!) while I’m gone and someone other than Scott has to go inside my house?

What if someone comes to visit Scott while I’m away? What if it’s someone that needs to spend the night?

It goes on and on.

So, in preparation and anticipation, I do things like empty all the trash cans in the house and take the bags out to the bin outside.

I made a pitcher of tea and put it in the refrigerator. Just in case. While I didn’t do it this time, I usually throw out all the leftover food in the fridge.

I tried to get all the laundry done and put away. If something happened to me, I wouldn’t want Scott to have to deal with it without a stack of clean underwear and hankies in his dresser drawer.

I cleaned the toilets.

Once I finished at home, I had to go to the office and do the same thing. Check all the emails and voice mails and respond appropriately. I had to clean off my desk, put all the pending stuff in one stack each labeled with an instructional sticky note (as a reminder to myself when I got back, if nothing else!), and then file everything else where it belongs. I mean, what if something happened to me and someone else had to some in, sit at my desk and do my job? It would be difficult enough without my efforts in trying to make it easier for them.

I had to call my parents and tell them I was coming and approximately what time I would arrive. I had to call my sisters and tell them too.

I stopped by Scott’s office to give him a hug and kiss and tell him I love him, then I drove through Sonic to get a Route 44 iced tea for the road.

I did as much as I could and finally got on the road to see my parents.

My Dad is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He’s halfway through the treatments. When he gets the second half behind him he’ll have radiation to deal with. I’ve never had chemo, but I know it’s hard, especially if you’re 86 years old. The doctors have said that the type of cancer he has is treatable and curable. They did not say the treatment would be easy. I guess it’s what they don’t say that is always the hardest to understand.

He is a survivor of a heart attack, open heart surgery, surgeries for other types of cancers, WWII, three daughters, 50+ years of marriage, and who knows what else. He has always been the kind of person that once he sets his mind on something, there is not much that can change his mind or dissuade him from pressing on. He told me that this chemo has been one of the hardest things he’s ever done.

I tried to remind him that this was only temporary. There is an end to it. I tried to help them experience less stress and more hope.

There wasn’t much else I could do, or that they would let me do for them.

On the 3-hour drive back home, it’s all I could think about. It’s only temporary.

I empty trash cans. I make pitchers of tea. I buy extra toothpaste and pre-paid phone cards. I leave instructional sticky notes on yet-to-be-done stacks. I kiss my husband. I visit my parents. Falling trees. Unexpected guests. Car trouble. Cancer. Chemo. Memories.

All temporary. There is nothing in this world that I can prepare for that is not temporary.

But that “what if” question still burns in my heart. That “what if” won’t let me get out of the state of preparation. I have to keep trying to help the people and things around me get ready, but not for anything in this world.

One day there will be no more temporary anything. Falling trees and car trouble and cancer and dirty laundry and all the things I’ve left undone – they will all be gone.

Eternity is permanent. Forever and ever to infinity and beyond.

All the more reason to prepare.

"Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1Peter 3:14-15

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Say what?

Father, forgive me for I have been silent. It has been almost a month since my last blog post.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Quite the opposite, really.

Funny thing though. It seems the more I have on my mind, the less I say.

If you’ve ever held a somewhat serious conversation with me face to face then you know what I mean and how that plays out. I have to think long and hard about something before it can ever get past my vocal chords and out of my mouth. That mind-to-mouth-relay delay is the cause of a lot of anxious silence in my conversations. It drives Scott nuts. He can look at me and tell that my mind is working, but my lips are squeezed tightly closed. “Just spit it out,” is often what he says to me when he sees my face in that “I’m-thinking” contortion.

Alas, that has been my dilemma for the last month or so.

I’ve been thinking about my father-in-law and his most recent 10-day visit to our house.

I’ve been thinking about my boss’ upcoming retirement and everything that means for our office.

I’ve been thinking about my dad and his cancer treatment.

I’ve been thinking about my mom along with the joy as well as the difficulties that her upcoming 80th birthday brings.

I’ve been thinking about my sisters who are both completely different from each other and even more so from me, yet still sharing some of the same characteristics and how all that affects the two previous things on this list.

I’ve been thinking about my husband’s continued frustration with his work and purpose.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m still trying to figure out how to manage the loss and the change that resulted from my lifelong love of church being abused by its leadership.

See there. I’ve already said too much. How can I let those things slip out without explaining the depth, detail and meaning of each and every one of them?

So, I remain silent.

The curious thing about all this is that I am a WORD person. Ugh, how I hate the NUMBERS. I prefer word games like crossword puzzles and Jumble and Boggle and Scrabble and Pathwords. Not so much the Yahtzee and…. I can’t ever think of any other numbers games because they are just not fun for me. They are more of a chore.

Oh, and add to the previous list above: I’ve been thinking about reconciling my checkbook but not ever actually doing it.

The hesitation in getting my words out is usually because I’m trying to consider just how the person listening will actually hear what it is that I’m about say. Will they fully understand? Will they hear it like I intend it? Will they really know what I mean? Will they think I am absolutely nuts? Will they think I’m being critical of them personally? Will they hear it in love? How can I say this so they will know exactly where I’m coming from? How can I say everything that I’m thinking in a short, concise, clear manner? How can I be absolutely clear?

It’s the hearer of my words that hangs me up.

Sometimes, no matter how long I hesitate or how much I carefully consider my choice of words, they still get misunderstood.

I guess I can understand a tiny, little bit of what Moses must have felt. He classified himself as slow of speech. Yeah, me too.

Once his bush began to burn, though, that fire led the way for him for the rest of his life.

Even when his audience wasn’t really listening.

God gave Moses his mouth, helped him speak, and taught him what to say.

God gave me my mouth and is teaching me what to say. He will help me.

So, if I ever get to the point where I can immediately respond and speak what’s on my mind in a serious conversation, you can bet that I will have already thought long and hard about the topic before I ever even got involved in the current conversation. I’ll have taken what He’s taught me to heart.

Which is to say, once I finally start talking I probably will say everything single thing that’s on my mind. Without hesitation. Look out. The woods might be on fire.

Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." Exodus 4:10-12

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advertising my flying cheerleader days

I tried out for the cheerleading squad when I was in the fifth grade.

By that time in my life, my oldest sister was away at college. The middle sister was taking the school bus to the junior high school in the next community. Both Mom and Dad left early every morning to get to their jobs. I was pretty much left with getting myself to and from the elementary school I attended. It was about a one mile walk through the neighborhood from our house to the school.

(Really, this is NOT my I-had-to-walk-5-miles-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways-to-get-to-school story. It was a different time then. There are different threats these days. Taking it slowly on long walks to and from school was one thing us latchkey kids did to pass the time so we wouldn’t be at home alone so much.)

I remember watching the bedroom clock every morning waiting for exactly the right minute before setting out on my hike to school. I had the walking distance perfectly timed so I wouldn’t get there too early. The mornings weren’t so bad because of the anticipation of the walk and of the school day. It was the afternoons when I got home that were hard. Boring. Lonely. A little scary sometimes.

I think that’s why I tried out for cheerleading even though I wasn’t the cheerleader type. I needed some afternoon entertainment; something to fill up the empty hours. (We didn’t have all the homework kids have now).

I didn’t make the squad first time I tried out, but I did the second time. That was about the time things started changing in the cheerleading world. Things were moving from saddle oxfords, Keds, and sweaters to jumpsuits, mini shorts, and boots. Our squad was the first to wear the blue mini shorts jumpsuits that zipped up the front and black knee high boots. I was 10. (There are no pictures, thank goodness).

I told my parents about staying after school for the practices the week or so before the try-outs, but I don’t think they took me seriously. Like I said, I just wasn’t the cheerleader type. The day the actual try-outs came and my name was called, I was so excited that I think I ran that entire mile home because I couldn’t wait to call my mom at work and tell her. She didn’t believe me. I can still hear the skepticism in her voice as she asked, “Are you SURE?”

That cheerleading squad turned out to be a little pathetic. We weren’t very good. At all. And the newness of the knee high boots and mini shorts style was not as widely accepted as appropriate as the trend-setting sponsors had hoped. It was a second rate kind of group. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every single minute of every single practice and every single game. But we were pitiful. I just didn’t know it at the time.

I thought I was a good cheerleader. What I didn’t admit was that there were so many others that were better than me. Since I wasn’t really the cheerleader type, I realize now that maybe part of the reason we weren’t very S-U-C-C-E-S-S-ful (do they still do that cheer?) was partly because of me.

That scenario follows me.

After college, I worked as a flight attendant. It was exciting and fun and I put my heart and soul into it. I thought I was a pretty good flight attendant. People who knew me back when I got hired for that job most likely thought to themselves, “She’s just not the flight attendant type, is she?”. The airline I worked for was one that none of my friends had ever heard of. One reason I no longer am a flight attendant is because that airline is no longer in business. Again, maybe since I wasn’t really the flight attendant type in the first place, perhaps I’m a tiny bit responsible for their downfall.

Fast forward a few years. I got a job in advertising for a department store. The store isn’t on the level of Macy’s or Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s a department store that a lot of people wrinkle their noses at. My job was copywriting and graphic design. I learned a lot at that job as I put my heart and soul into it. Still, I wasn’t quite the best at it because though the stores are still around, all the advertising has moved to the corporate conglomerate instead of continuing to do it regionally. Maybe my contributions were partly the reason for that transition.

I have gotten sucked into a lot of things that were exciting and fun and even a little educational. For whatever reason, I have thrown myself into them and tried very hard to make it work for me. I try so hard. I try to do everything right. I try follow are the rules correctly. I try to meet all the expectations and exceed. I bet I get on other people’s nerves trying to be the little miss perfect.

Those things that have drawn me in never seem to last very long.

That often leads to the conclusion that there’s not much I am good at (maybe not rightly so, but still, my mind goes there for a bit…).

This is often, thankfully, followed by another opportunity to do something else.

Which is followed by my cry to God, “But I’m just not good at that.”

To which He responds, “Well, I’m glad we finally agree on something. Now let it go and let Me handle it for you and show you just how good it CAN be! Go ahead, let go. Try it. It will be exciting. And you might learn something.”

"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me." That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn't bear to let go. As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom? Let me tell you, it's easier to gallop a camel through a needle's eye than for the rich to enter God's kingdom." Matthew 19:21-23

Monday, August 10, 2009

Have you ever seen an alien with arthritis?

A few days ago my friend Steve’s facebook status was something about how being at Lowe’s was somewhat of a religious experience for him. Several people, including me, posted comments to his status. Some of the comments were analogically clever (not mine) about tools and possibilities. Some comments were just snarky (yes, mine). Steve responded with his own comment saying something like Lowe’s is the only place Noah could get enough gopher wood to build that ark.

That got me to thinking about old Noah.

Genesis 9 says that after the flood Noah lived 350 years and that he was 950 when he died. According to my math, that means he was 600 years old when he finished building the ark. Without any help, mind you.

Can you imagine building an ark all by yourself right now in your life? At your age and in your current physical condition?

Me either. And I’m not even 100 yet.

How did a 600 year old man do it?

That got me to thinking about all the other people in the Bible that lived multiple centuries. Adam lived 930 years. Adam’s son Seth lived 912 years. Enoch lived 365 years. Moses was 120 when he died. Methuselah lived 969 years, for heaven’s sake.

Why don’t people live that long anymore? Google has all kinds of different answers for that question. Scientific climatic changes caused by the flood. Measuring years by fruitfulness rather than by the actual number of sunsets and sunrises. God time vs. human time. Inaccuracies in oral histories from the tendency to over exaggerate for emphasis. On and on.

The truth is, I don’t think anyone really knows for sure.

Here’s my unsubstantiated analysis for why we don’t live hundreds of years any more: It’s just too hard now.

I think God’s original plan for man did not include death. I think the original plan was that we would all live longer than Methuselah and in God’s company, forever and ever, amen. I think every day we lived that way would have gotten better and better. Sweeter than the day before, if you will. It’s not hard to imagine living hundreds or even thousands of years like that.

But we messed that up with that original sin issue and all.

Praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus to bring us back to the living forever in God’s company plan. In the meantime until I can see Jesus face to face, I’m here living on this earth.

Living on this earth is not like riding a bicycle. It does not get easier every day that you do it. No wonder He told us to become like little children. It was a lot easier then. He knew it would get harder with every birthday.

Yeah, I can learn to tolerate some things easier with a little practice. I can do a little preparation to make some things more manageable. I can find some laughter and some joy along the way and some funny people to share it with.

Overall, though, it’s tough. I face more and more challenges with every single day that I live. I get especially bothered by the challenges that I face that are beyond my ability to do anything about. Throw a few other people and relationships in there with all their separate issues, and voila, you’ve got a recipe for shortening anyone’s years.

A few of the people that are blessed with being a part of my situations and circumstances really add to my personal challenge. It happens often. Someone will say or do something that makes me think they have absolutely lost their mind. I think to myself, “What in the world were they thinking!?” That thought progression always leads me to go a little further towards another conclusion: perhaps they are not the looney tune; maybe it’s me. Every single time that brings me back to the fact that I am truly a stranger and an alien on this earth. This world is not my home.

I am reminded of that almost every single day.

Which makes me oh so thankful I don’t have to live to be 969.

Which makes my 40’s not look quite so bad.

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3-4

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unto the yeast of these

I bought a pair of flip flops at Publix for $6. Green, of course. The reason that’s noteworthy is because I’m not really a flip flop sort of girl. One, because I have cold feet most of the time. If my feet are cold, everything is cold. I usually wear socks and closed-toe shoes. Two, I have really ugly toes. Most people’s toes are somewhat rectangular with a circular tip. Mine are round. Just plain round. One or two of my toes have a little twist. They actually look kinda like yeast rolls. Or maybe doughnut holes. And my toenails are wavy, not nicely curved or even flat. Just not a pretty sight, so I usually keep them covered to save others who get squeamish at such sights.

But back to the Publix flip-flops. It was an impulse purchase. We went in there to buy bananas. Scott prefers Chiquita bananas over Dole or any other brand, and they are hard to find locally. We can always count on Publix though. We don’t have a Publix close by. The nearest one is about an hour away, so it is truly an adventure to get to go there. It always makes me a little giddy. Just as we entered the door, there was a flip-flop display along with all their other summer goodies. I got caught up in the moment and just couldn’t resist.

I finally had something to wear that said “summer,” even it was something that’s not really “me.”

I’ve had a bit of a difficult time with the summer apparel.

Last year in preparation for a trip to Florida with my sisters, I ordered a swimsuit online. You may ask, “Who is crazy enough to order a swimsuit online?” Well, I’ll tell you who. I am. I simply refuse to take a swimsuit into a department store dressing room with all those lights and mirrors. I scare easily. It’s bad enough at home in the dimness of my own room.

Anyway, when the package came in the mail, I ripped open the plastic wrapping and pulled out the bottoms. They were cute and really fit well. Along with that I received a notice stating that the top had been back ordered. They provided a promised ship date. It was OK, I still had time before the trip. When the anticipated ship date came, instead of the back-ordered top, I received another delay notice. Then another. Then another. Finally a notice arrived informing me they had cancelled my order because they could not deliver the goods after all and would be refunding my money. I would rather have had the top.

So, I went on my trip to Florida topless (only in my suitcase, actually. Never out in public). I took the bottoms with me to Florida thinking maybe I could find a match in a store there. No such luck. I eventually sent the bottoms back for a refund too.

This year our planned trip was to Kentucky, not Florida, but still I wanted a swimsuit for the hotel pool. I started earlier this time. Ordered online. Yay and hooray, I received both pieces this time. However. I don’t know if I ordered the wrong size or what. The top was great but the bottoms just wouldn’t do. Not at all. Talk about looking like a yeast roll. I would rather have gone topless like last year than to wear these bottoms in public. I sent them back and ordered an exchange of a different style and size, hoping it would still match the new top. Just a few days later I received the replacement. Ick. Still not good. Sent it back too, ordered another replacement. It arrived. Yuk. Not only a yeast roll this time, but an old, stale one. I lost track of how many times I sent bottoms back ordered a replacement. The last one is still in the backseat of my car. I threw it in there thinking I’d take it back to the post office, but then realized I probably could have just bought another whole suit with all the return shipping charges I had paid. Just didn’t have the heart to bring it back in the house.

So. This summer’s almost over now, which means two summers have gone by without a new swimsuit. I think maybe it’s some conspiracy to keep me out of a swimsuit altogether, which I am NOT inclined to argue with.

Which brings me to another issue.

I went for my annual GYN exam a couple of weeks ago. The first thing the nurse asked me to do was step on the scale. I told her no. Really. I said, “Not today.” She was very sweet and sympathetic. She looked at me a little sadly, like maybe she felt sorry for me, but mission accomplished. We moved on to the exam room, bypassing that cold, cruel scale. While I didn’t say it out loud, I was thinking to myself that everything else they make me do during this appointment is humiliating enough. I don’t need the added embarrassment that little lead weight would throw in my face as the nurse pushes it further and further over.

Do they really need to know how much I weigh or do they just want ME to know how much I actually, really and truly weigh and not just what I imagine myself weighing!?

Hmmm. Maybe the doctor’s office is in on the conspiracy to keep me out of a swimsuit.

Or maybe it’s the yeast rolls they’re trying to keep out of.

Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast." Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let's live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This is driving me crazy

Have you ever noticed that many bank parking lots are tricky? Most of them have one-way drives. I’m guessing maybe that’s because of the drive-thru teller windows. It might also have a little something to do with security, although I’m not entirely sure about that. I mean, I don’t really think a robber is going to pay attention to a one-way sign in an attempted fast getaway. However, trying to travel speedily the wrong way down a one-way drive crowded with cars all headed in the opposite direction might prove detrimental to an escape.

Either way, and whatever it is, I’m sure there is a reason for it. If they go to all the trouble to paint arrows on the asphalt and put up directional signs, then there definitely must be a good reason even if I don’t really know what it is.

My office is in a bank building. I don’t work for the bank; we just lease space on the second floor of the building. I’m in and out of our office, and therefore in the parking lot, at least a couple of times a day. We also have a bird’s eye view of the parking lot from our second floor window. And we watch.

The parking lot here has one main entrance from the road. The main entrance is NOT also an exit. It’s a one-way deal. There are other outlets from the other side of the parking lot, but the main entrance from the roadway is a one-way drive. The parking spaces are diagonally aligned in the direction of the one-way traffic flow.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again. A car enters the parking lot from the opposite direction and travels the wrong way up that one-way drive. They are usually customers who want to go inside the bank instead of using the drive-thru teller lanes. For some reason they just don’t want to drive the extra 9/10 of a mile further down the road to get to the appropriate entrance to be in the correct direction for the parking spaces. I’m sure they see the Do Not Enter sign but deliberately choose to disobey. Then, because they are travelling in the opposite direction of the lot plan, they have to do a 3-point turn in order to get their car somewhat in between the white lines of a parking space. And even with the 3-point turn, they never quite make it, which creates problems for other people trying to park adjacently.

Crazy thing is, when they come in that opposite direction, they pass by a section of the parking lot where the spaces are perpendicular to the drive, not diagonal, so no 3-pointer would be required. Which, by the way, is probably exactly why those straight parking spaces are there - - to provide a place to park so you won’t have to go the wrong way up the one-way drive. Of course parking in those spaces would mean you would actually have to walk a few extra steps more to get to the door of the bank.

Yesterday I was standing out on the walkway by those one-way, diagonal parking spaces waiting for my lunch date to pick me up. Sure enough, a woman drives her Buick up the wrong way, does the 3-pointer, and puts it in park even though one tire is still over the white line. She got out and as she walked by me she said with a humpmf, “I know I’m not supposed to come in that way. But I did.” I hadn’t said a word to her. I was just standing there. I had my sunglasses on so she couldn’t even really see my eyes to know if I was looking at her or not. I guess she didn’t see me when she first drove up, then when she realized I was standing there, felt the need to comment.

I’m curious. What are these people thinking before they pass by the Do Not Enter sign?

Maybe, “It’s just little ol’ me. It won’t matter.”

Or, “I’m just one little car in the midst of all these others. No one will notice.”

Or, “Just this once won’t make a difference.”

Or, “If I hurry, no one will notice.”

Or, “Just this once won’t make a difference.”

I am struck and convicted by the fact that I don’t think anyone really seems to be thinking about anyone else but themselves. It’s just me and my way.

We don’t consider beforehand the opposition we might meet from others actually going the right way. We don’t really think about becoming the cause that stops progress. We don’t consider how placing ourselves just over the line becomes an obstacle to the one next to us. No one thinks about what an example they might be setting for some younger person watching. No one wants to think about the guilt they might feel if they get caught. We won’t let ourselves think about any actual consequences for going the wrong way.

No. The thinking is more along the lines of: Even though I know it is wrong, this way is more convenient for me. This way, I won’t have to travel as far. This way, I won’t have to walk as many steps. I’m in a hurry and this way is faster.

But does that kind of thinking really get me anywhere but further down the wrong road?

Oh, that I could always, in every situation, see the right Way.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why do children have to die?

The past weekend Scott and I went to the upstate to visit with Scott's dad, my father-in-law. We call him Pop. Scott's sister was there too. Sunday was the 2-year anniversary of my mother-in-law's death and Pop wanted his family to be together on that day. Pop wanted Scott to sing in his church on Sunday the song Scott sang at her funeral.

My mother-in-law was on hospice care for nine months before her death, so there was a lot of time to think about her funeral service. Nobody actually did much talking about it, but everyone was thinking about it, and I think everyone must have been thinking something different. Pop was absolutely sure he wanted Scott to sing. Scott was absolutely sure that he would never make it through trying to sing at his mom's funeral without losing it. Scott spent all of those nine months telling me so.

When my mother in law did finally leave us for heaven, not only was Scott grieved, he was also a nervous wreck about the whole singing or not singing business. Pop has always been stubbornly persuasive with Scott. In the end Scott decided it was easier to say yes and struggle through it for Pop than to say no for his own personal relief.

During the funeral and with his agreement beforehand, I spent every minute up until it was time for Scott to sing trying to distract him from what was going on in the service. I guess a better way to say that is that I was trying to help him keep his focus on nothing but singing to help prevent him from losing it. When the time finally came and he got up to sing, a voice came out of him that I had never heard before. And it was beautiful. Scott made the sacrifice and let himself be used of God to bless others. I'm convinced that it was the voice of the Holy Spirit that I heard that day.

So, here we are two years later. Scott did sing that same song in his dad's church on Sunday. Lois was the reason we were all together that day and she was definitely missed, but it was a little easier to celebrate her life this time.

Later that afternoon as we got ready to leave Pop's house to head back home, another funeral procession was underway. Pop's house is right across the street from the cemetery so standing in the driveway, we had front row seats.

We had to wait for the procession to drive by before we could get out on the road. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was Heather Brooke Center's funeral. She was a 8-year old little girl who was shot four times by the estranged husband of her father's girlfriend. It is a sad, sad story (you can read about it here). None of us know the family, but it didn't matter. We were still moved by what we saw.

There were hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles in the processional. One motorcycle even pulled the casket behind it in a carriage. I'm willing to bet that most of those riders didn't know the child either, but they wanted to pay tribute to this special situation.


Scott, who has sung for countless funerals for people ranging from those he didn't even know to his own mother, said, "but it's different when it's a child."

I stood there on the driveway in the sweltering heat. I had a napkin in my hand that I had been using to wipe perspiration off my face. As the cyclists drove by, a time or two I found myself waving my paper hankie at them before I realized what I was doing. Then, I was wiping the tears from my eyes with it. Again, I didn't know the child or anyone in her family.

But it's different when it's a child.

I have two good friends that are close to my age. They don't know each other because they live in different cities and are from different times in my life, but they have something in common besides having me as a friend. Both of these women lost sons to cancer before they ever reached double digits in age. I know that the death of those little boys changed their lives completely and forever.

I never knew Blake or Tyler either. (The anniversary of Tyler's death is this week too.) I didn't meet their moms until after they were gone.

I don't know how Ron & Cindy and Linda & Bobo have managed to beat the odds and stay married in spite of how difficult it must have been.

I don't know how they managed to continue to raise little girls after that, teaching them to love a brother they never really knew.

I just don't know. As I sit here and think about it I just can't imagine what it must be like.

Then I hear a voice in my heart and maybe I understand a little better.

"It's different when it's My child."

And I know it's the voice of God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's in your house?

I had lunch with a friend today. She and I and a third friend try to get together for lunch once a week. Emphasis on the TRY part. We always plan on it, but it doesn’t always work out. Intersecting the schedules of three busy women is no easy task, but we do try. Today it was just two of us.

Our goal of getting together is to help and encourage each other in our own spiritual walk. We have a 3x5 notebook of index cards filled with scriptures we have attempted (again, emphasis on the ATTEMPTED part) to memorize. We share our prayer needs and pray together. We try to keep the conversation focused on how God is working and moving in and around our lives at that particular time.

Today, when my friend asked me what God was teaching me this week, I told her that God has had me looking around my house. I’m looking to see what’s in there. Really.

Elisha is the one who made me start thinking about it. There’s a story in 2 Kings (chapter 4) about a widow whose husband died leaving her and her two sons with a great deal of debt. The man that all the money was owed to was coming to take the sons as slaves as payment for the debt.

Elisha asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

Turns out all she had was a little bit of oil.

After she followed a few instructions from Elisha, she filled not just a few, but many empty jars with oil. She ended up with more oil to sell which brought in enough money to pay back the debt with enough left over to live on.

The oil was in her house all along.

That’s what has stuck in my mind. It was in her house all along.

When I told my lunch buddy about it, her eyes got big and she could hardly wait to tell me what she’d been thinking all week.

She’s been studying John 2. There was a wedding going on there and they ran out of wine. After a few instructions from Jesus, they filled all the empty jars with water. They ended up with not just wine, but the best wine.

They started with empty jars. And water. Those things were in their house all along.

Those things were already there.

God took the provisions that the widow and the wedding party already had and made more than enough to go around. And made it the best.

My friend asked me, “What is it that you don’t have enough of that you need?”

Oh, my. How do I answer that?

I have plenty. I have more than a lot of people in this world and I am grateful for it all.

Still, there are some empty jars in my life. Emptied of things that money can’t buy.

But I’m going home to look again. I know I don't have any wine, but I do have a little oil. Whatever else is there, I know that God can and will use it to fill my jars if I follow His instructions.

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." John 2:5

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I did and still do

OK. There. It's done, finally.

I've been trying to get that picture posted all week.

I was out of town last week, and couple of days the week before too. Getting back in the swing of things after being away for a while gives me a headache. I want to whine about it because I like the road trips better than I like going to the grocery store and answering the phone at work and sorting laundry and piling up dirty dishes in the sink. Plus, there's a holiday at the end of this week, so nobody really wants to do anything anyway. Including me.

Except that I really, really, really, wanted to show off these roses. It's just taken me a week.

My sweet little husband put these roses in the church last Sunday in honor of our 23rd wedding anniversary. Sunday was actually the date of our anniversary.

Someone asked him at church that day, "At what point did you know it was going to stick?"

His answer: "June 28, 1986."

Good answer, honey. Good answer.

Buying me flowers is not typically something he does. And that's really OK with me. He's the kind of person who doesn't like to see the same scenery twice, so when he does something for a special occassion, chances are he will do something different the next time.

I am so-o-o-o-o not like that. Which is why I love him. He really is everything I am not.

We always do things completely differently. It doesn't matter what it is. If I start something on the right, he starts on the left. If he thinks something needs to go up, I'm looking down for it. I survey my options before I decide and then go, he goes on ahead to see what all the other options are and then decides. He looks at absolutely everything all along the way, I hurry up and get where I'm going and then and only then do I take time to look around. He drives fast and walks slowly. I walk fast and drive slowly.

We do, however, often have the same goal. We just never seem to have the same idea on how to get there.

So, I have no idea exactly how we have managed to stay married and happy for all these years.

But we obviously have had the same goal all along: keeping it stuck.

And it has.

I love you, Scottie.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kentucky wild Catts

I didn't go to church yesterday, which is unusual. I'm always at church. Scott and I spent the day traveling instead. We traveled through four states and this is where I woke up this morning:

Scott said this picture was appropriate with me in it because of the slogan and/or web address. Is he saying I'm wild? I think he meant that as a compliment. ;-)

Anyhoo....

So, back to the church thing. Like I said. I'm always there. Except for yesterday. And even though it is one of the most consistent things I do always and forever, I did not miss it one single bit yesterday. I was even a little giddy as we drove past church after church with cars in the parking lot, thinking to myself "nanny nanny boo boo, y'all are at church and I'm not!"

I think that's a good sign that it was time to take a break from it.

But I made up for it today.

I heard several wonderful men of God speak today. One of them was Michael Catt. He's the pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. They are the ones that made the Fireproof movie (and Facing the Giants and Flywheel).

Oh, oh, oh, what a message.

Here are some highlights:
  • Everybody either knows Christ or needs Christ
  • Carnal people won't care about lost people. Only spirit filled people will care about lost people
  • There is a difference between being just welcomed and truly wanted
  • If you're slinging mud, you're losing ground
  • A great problem in our churches today is the presence of an absence - the absence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Whatever your choice is regarding living in the spirit or not, either way there are consequences.
Wow. He said more in that 30 minute message than I've heard in several months of Sundays. Made me glad I came all this way to hear it.

I'm not going to want to go home.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

Friday, June 19, 2009

Miss Daisy's cantaloupe


I bought a cantaloupe this week for 99 cents. Yay! I was so excited because usually they cost two or three times that. Mmmmm, yummy. It’s one of my favorite summertime foods. I bought it at the Piggy Wiggly. Every time I say Piggy Wiggly out loud I always think of Driving Miss Daisy.

Scott and I saw the play at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta a couple of years before it ever became a movie. When it eventually came out on DVD we just had to buy it. It has become one of those movies that we find ourselves pulling quotes from that seem to aptly apply to the clunky state of affairs we often we find ourselves in around here. Like…

“Highway robbry.” (that’s not misspelled, that’s just how Miss Daisy pronounces it.)

Or,

“Now that’s between me and Mr. Werthan.”

And,

“You’re a doodle, mama.”

In the story, Hoke (the old black man) and Miss Daisy (the old Jewish woman) were put into a situation by Boolie (Miss Daisy’s son) where they had to build a relationship that on their own, neither one of them would have chosen. It took Hoke and Miss Daisy a lifetime to learn to get along and really understand each other. I think they tried to accommodate each other without acknowledging that they were being accommodating (I think that’s a Southern thing!). In the end you recognize the great value in their strange and wonderful relationship.

So what does that have to do with my cantaloupe? Well, I didn’t get to eat much of it right away because I had to go to see my own mama. Actually, I went to take my dad to a doctor’s appointment, and my mom is part of that package.

They live in Georgia, about three hours south of here.

Miss Daisy lived in Georgia.

I went to chauffer mom and dad to the doctor.

Hoke was Miss Daisy’s chauffer.

Therefore, I am Hoke.

OK, not really.

I love my parents but I don’t always know what it is that I’m supposed to do for them. I don’t always understand what is it they want or need me to do. Like Miss Daisy, they rarely ever actually come out and say it.

I think it will take a lifetime to learn to get along and really understand each other.

So, I just keep sitting here in the car waiting for the directions. I’ll hear them eventually. And I when I do, I will go. It is, after all, their ride.

In the meantime, my dad still likes to take a spin behind the wheel. Every time I go to their house he always takes me on a golf cart tour around the property to show off all his flowers and trees and fruit and vegetable plants.

You know what I saw on the tour this time?

A cantaloupe vine.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. John 6:37-38

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh, my ottoman

Today my friend Linda and I were talking about how when something goes wrong, it is usually not just one something. It often ends up being a whole season of things going wrong. The past month and a half have been that way for me. On top of all the bad news about the economy and all the global distress, my own little world has been spinning way out of my control lately. More than once in the last couple of weeks I have ended up in a snotty bucket of tears just because I couldn't handle one more thing going wrong.

I was so tired of the "What else can go wrong" phase, so tired of the gloom. I needed some relief. Scott has sensed it too and has done a good job at trying to make me laugh.

I think I've mentioned before that Scott has an accelerated propensity for wordsmithing. I mean, he makes up his own words. He has recently come up with a new word for an old piece of furniture. Here's a picture of it.


It currently sits at the foot of our bed. There is a matching chair in the living room, but our bedroom is larger and has more space so that's where it's ended up. It also gets used more in the bedroom. Scott sits on it to put on his shoes and socks. And to take them off. You can see from the picture that it is lower than the bed. The foam cushion on the top is also a little, well, worn. When you sit on it you sink down into it and your knees end up higher than your rear end.

OK, I'll give you a minute to get that picture in your head.

Got it?

Now. That picture is the basis for Scott's new moniker for it.

The Squattoman.

Let me say that again. Squattoman.

Which had me laughing until I was crying. Again.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. Luke 6:21-23

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What would they say?

I just got back from a funeral. We seem to be surrounded by a lot of that lately. Death, that is. I'm not usually the sad or weepy type at funerals, especially if the one who has passed was a believer in Jesus Christ. I just get homesick for my real home, not this temporary one. It just reminds me that there is eternal hope beyond this life and this crazy world I'm living in right now.

The same thought has plagued me after the two most recent deaths. Selfish as it may be, this was my thought: What did they say about me when they got to heaven and saw Jesus face to face?

Not that I would be their first topic of conversation upon arrival in heaven, mind you. But somewhere after the initial homecoming party when they needed a break from all the singing and dancing and they sat down to chat about all the old home folks. Not that that's even theologically sound, but if it were...what would they say about me to Jesus? What could they say?

Would they tell Jesus that they felt loved by me?

Would they tell Jesus that they knew I loved Him?

Would they tell Jesus that they saw His work in my life?

Would they tell Jesus that they never understood me?

Would they tell Jesus that they wished they had known me better?

Scott sang at the funeral today. The song he sang today, he has sung at countless funerals throughout his ministry. Whenever he sings it, he always gets a few more future requests from others to sing it at their funerals when they go too. If you're preplanning your service, I'm sure he will be happy to add you to the list if you wish.

The lyrics of the song are what I want them to say about me if they see Jesus before I do:

She sings because she's happy, she sings because she's free; she knows Your eye is on the sparrow, and she knows You watch her.

This video is not from the funeral today (actually not a funeral at all); but it's Scott singing the song. I know most of you have probably seen this before, but it's worth watching again.





Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm ready to fly

I came across this picture this week. Yes, that’s me, bottom left. Over 20 years ago.

Seeing this picture evoked a whirlwind of memories and emotions. I could go on and on about all the things it made me think about…

…Like the day I got the phone call informing me I had been hired to fly the friendly skies. I was so excited not just to have a job but to have THIS job. The first person I called to tell was my mom. She was NOT excited.

…Or on the Friday night flight out of New York I kept telling one of the girls I was working with that the man in the back row was so very handsome. He was handsome because he looked a lot like Warren Beatty. It never occurred to me that it might actually BE Warren Beatty. I finally realized that it really was him on the Sunday night flight back in to New York when he was sitting with Geraldo Rivera. Duh.

…Or the day the turbulence was so bad everyone on the airplane got sick. One fellow passed out. I sat strapped in the jump seat in the back of the plane and kept throwing airsickness bags down the aisle and people kept reaching over to pick them up.

…Or the day a minister from the Baptist state office gave me an in-flight sermon about how I was contributing to the demise and eternal damnation of all the poor sinful passengers by serving them alcoholic drinks.

…Or the many flights I sat looking out of the window as we followed the Hudson River and banked around the Statue of Liberty. It was a beautiful site. I don’t think planes are allowed to do that anymore. I wish I had taken pictures.

…Or the many mornings I ate nachos for breakfast in the Miami airport. Before 8 AM. Or, for that matter, all the stinking peanuts I ate in-flight. Mmmmmm.

…Or the beaches it took me to. Key West. Nantucket. Martha’s Vineyard. Naples. Miami…

Like I said. I could go on and on.

When I saw the picture, I felt a little nostalgic and sad because I don’t lead that kind of life any more. I’m not that person any more.

I also felt a little relieved. For the very same reasons.

I’ve come a long way and a lot has changed in my life since then. No, I’m not completely satisfied with where I am right now. But I can’t help but think that in 20 more years, I will not be living the life I have right now. Things will be different. I’ll be looking back at pictures taken in 2009 and I’ll be flooded with memories and emotions again. And I’ll be a little sad that I don’t lead this kind of life anymore. And a little more than relieved too.

My life is in His hands.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dust on the Table

Have you ever had that moment when you read a familiar verse in the Bible, one you've read a thousand times or maybe even have memorized, and all of sudden it hits you like something you have never heard before? And then you think, WOW, why haven't I ever seen it like this before?!

It happened to me recently with Psalm 23. Yes, a very familiar verse. But this time it was much more personal than it ever has been to me.

I had been unknowingly and unwillingly thrown into someone else's unsettling circumstances. It was nothing I planned, nothing I intended, nothing I even imagined, but there I was - a little speck of dust sucked up by an evil vacuum cleaner. And it was very clear that they didn't like my particular variety of dust.

In the midst of it all, one morning I grabbed a little devotional booklet that I pick up at church every month. The devotionals in the booklet are brief one-pagers that include one verse of scripture, about 4 or 5 paragraphs of inspiration, and a one-sentence prayer. I don't usually use this booklet for devotions, rather, I read it when I need a quick inspiration or Word.

This particular day the verse was Psalm 23:5.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
I read that verse and realized I would be sitting around that table later that day. I had an appointment scheduled with the vacuum cleaner operator. And they certainly felt like the enemy. When I read this verse I realized that God had prepared that table for me. FOR me. And He had anointed me with oil to protect me from being penetrated by the evil of my enemy.

Psalm 23 wasn't just a chapter of comfort any more. It was written about me. For that particular day.

After that, I couldn't seem to get away from Psalm 23. I came across it in reading and in conversations over and over again.

It all reminded me of a study I took at least 15 years ago, Prayer Life by T.W. Hunt. In that study one of the assignments was to write your own 23rd Psalm. Hunt explained that David was a shepherd, so he wrote using his own personal daily language. He wrote about things he knew and dealt with every day - shepherds, green pastures, rod, staff, those kind of things. The assignment was to use our own buzzwords and write our own.

I went through my stack of study notebooks last night and found mine (yes, I hang on to all those things....for years). Here is it:
  1. The Lord writes my story; I don't have to find the right words or even make it rhyme.
  2. When I follow His outline, the storyline takes me to such peaceful places.
  3. The things He writes always leave me wanting more. He has not only written the script, but has given it the direction that will always lead me back to Him.
  4. Sometimes the words He's written are painful and make me cry, but they are always followed by words of love and compassion.
  5. You write my story in such a way that other people can read it too; even those who want to write their own ending to it.
  6. You have given me so many words; they often spill out of my mouth with very little prompting. You have written Your words on every day of my life and because of that, there is no end to my story.
Psalm 23 is only six verses. You should try writing your own.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

Monday, May 11, 2009

Peggy and Promptings



Peggy and I became fast friends as freshmen in college. Our dorm rooms were right across the hall from each other. Her roommate was the quirky, eccentric chick on the hall; mine was America’s sweetheart. She and I were the “real” people somewhere in between those two extremes and we found a connection with each other there.

My memories of her from those college days are that she never hesitated much when it came to going for the most out of life. She was a music major. She changed from piano to voice because she couldn’t lug those 88 keys around with her as she lived life to the fullest, but she could take her voice anywhere she went.

It wasn’t long before she fell in love. We were sophomores when she and Ken got married. Several of us on that dorm hall wore the blue pleated skirt bridesmaid’s dresses in the wedding. I was her Maid of Honor.



When she left the dorm and started her life as a newlywed, naturally we were not as close any more, but we still kept up with each other. I remember the first time she invited me over to their cozy little love nest and she made homemade soup.

Her first son was born before we graduated from college. It was another step in the separate ways our lives took.

After graduation, I moved away.Then I moved back. And got married, and then moved even further away. She and her husband had another son. And another one. And another one. And then she and Ken divorced.

We kept up with an occasional email. We’re not as close as we once were, but the memories of our friendship remained cherished and favored.

Sometime right before Easter this year, I got a burden on my heart for Peggy. I didn’t know at the time where it came from or why the burden was so marked and heavy on my heart. (You can read about that here).

We’d had a little communication by email so I knew she was ill. But, really, I had no idea.

My heavy heart led me to call her a few times. We never really got to “talk.” I got to hear her voice again. She got to hear me say, “You’re in my prayers.” That’s about all.

As the days went by so did the short but sweet attempts at communication. Facebook updates, mostly. I kept looking forward to a long, intimate girlfriend conversation with her.

Before I knew it, April was over. April ended on a harsh note for me. Some unexpected distractions in my own life kept my focus on things other than Peggy or that burden I had felt. I was busy staring at all the broken pieces in and around my life that had accumulated and piled up all around me over the last couple of weeks. I was fully engulfed in grieving over all that brokenness.

Then I got a wakeup call about my friend.

And an answer to where and why I had felt such a burden.

And another reason to grieve even more.

Peggy passed away.

She was only in her 40’s.

She died of a cancer I can’t even pronounce – leiomyosarcoma

I don’t know why things like that happen. But I do know that God’s hand was in my life because of it. I know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit was the one prompting me to reach out to her just weeks, days really, before her death. Although I didn’t get to talk about any details of her life or her cancer with her, I did get to hear her voice again. I cannot tell you just how loudly that voice is in my memory right now. The Holy Spirit made that happen.

I have been reminded how important it is to follow His promptings.

I can say this from experience: Today, if you hear His voice . . . Listen. And follow.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ... Psalm 95:6-8

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I've been expecting you - - or not

A lot of years ago I had a young friend who was struggling in a young marriage. I wasn’t that much older than she or that much more experienced at the time, but I did offer her one piece of wisdom I had already struggled over and come to terms with myself.

She expected her husband and her marriage to be a certain way, and neither was living up to it. I told her to eliminate her expectations. Not lower them; forget them. Put away the measuring stick for a while. If you are not measuring to see how someone or something compares to your personal standard, then the likelihood of disappointment is decreased.

If you constantly compare something/someone with where it actually is to where you think it should be, all you will ever see is the gap in between. Sometimes it helps to just see things and people as they really are without any surrounding, calculating comparisons. Try to see them like God sees them.

Now I know that God looks at all of us and sees the potential of who we could be. I also believe that we should do that with each other. Where I think we get into trouble is when we start assigning markers to the steps of someone else’s potential. Like saying, “isn’t he old enough to know better?” Or, “doesn’t she know she shouldn’t be doing that?”(And, for the record, I’m talking about adults here. Not children.)

When we set those markers, we’ve imposed our expectations on them. It’s one thing to want and hope and pray that things and people will turn out to be what we want them to be. It’s a completely different animal when we transfer the sole responsibility of living up to our expectations on to them and then punish them when they don’t.

Last time I checked, the convicting and refining work of the Holy Spirit was not my job.

So, why am I thinking about all of this?

Recently I was told by someone that I didn’t live up to the expectations and standards they had for me. It was not in my marriage. It was at church. I was shocked by the confrontation. It was…unexpected. I had no idea that such standards had been placed on me.

My reaction? Of course I was hurt. I thought I was striving to lead a Godly life. I regretted that anything I said or did unintentionally caused someone else to become so angry and confrontational. Honestly, it felt more like they were disapproving of who I was rather than of anything I had said or done. I felt unjustly condemned.

Then, I began to think…the one who confronted me should not have handled it in the way that he did. I thought about all the different ways that whole situation should have been approached. Someone in his position should have taken into consideration…

Ahhhh, there it is. He’s not living up to my expectations either.

So.

I’m throwing out my measuring stick. The gap is gone. My expectations are gone. I’m looking to see more clearly what God sees.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My shrub nubs

My, oh, my, the bizarre-ity I've lived the past few days. The events and surprises that have come my way are certainly blog worthy. Except that I'm not that kind of blogger. I mean, I can't sit down and immediately rant about what just happened. I have to ruminate for a while before I can begin to write it down. So, I've got a lot on my mind, but you'll have to check back in a fews days (or weeks!) to find out what it is.

Scott's been a victim of my bizarro world activities lately too. He told me several times over the last 24 hours that he just wanted to come home after work today and work in the yard. Do some mindless physical labor. No thinking. So that's what we did.

Now, just in case you did not know, I am not really a yard person. We both let the yard work slip way down on the priority list once we moved to the woods. We tried to keep it up at first, but it became too difficult to keep up with all the shedding trees. It was a never-ending, losing battle. Going au naturale was a lot easier. Easier, yes; lovelier, no.

If my dad saw my yard he would declare, "Depart from me, I never knew ye." His greener than envy grass and plant and flower and fruit tree and pepper plant self would be so embarrassed for me and my grey moss and brown leaf ground cover.

But, alas, it was time. We needed the distraction and the yard needed some attention. I started out today trying to re-pot a couple of ferns, but soon realized I didn't have any potting soil so I gave up on that. Then I got out the hedge clippers. The bushes along the front of the house had been spawning spindly arms that almost reached the roof. Those shrubs needed to be chopped. So I got busy. And busier. And busier. And busier. Did I mention I'm not a yard person? I have no idea how to trim a hedge, or a shrub, or a bush. I now no longer have shrubs. I have sticks growing out of the ground. I don't know what happened to all the leaves. I guess I got a little carried away.

There is one bright spot in this shrub escapade. When I first stepped behind the bushes I noticed a little lump of something brown up close to the edge of the house. From where I was standing it looked like a little pile of poop. There were flies buzzing all around it. I figured it belonged to Marbles the Cat, but I thought it was odd that she hadn't covered it up. She always covers it up. There are a lot of brown leaves around to help her with that. Plus, I've never seen her poop so close the house. But I kept cutting my shrubs, working my way towards that little pile of poop. Once I got up to it I took a closer look. It had little tiny feet. Four of them. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was not a pile of poop but rather a decomposing mole.

I suppose I can still blame that on Marbles.

Last year moles ate the roots of my plumbagos. While Marbles napped. You can see the pictures of that and read about it here.

Oh, she's come so far.

I hope I'll be able to say that about myself when I'm finally able to write about what's really been going on this week.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14