Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wow! What a Ride!

2010 was incredible!  I set some personal goals at the beginning of the year; some were met, some are still waiting.  As for Scott and the girls, they put up with me for another 365 days!  Sometimes they were the reason for the paths we chose and the detours we made, and sometimes I was responsible -- they were always gracious enough to go along for the ride.  Either way, it was a heck of a year, and I've LOVED every minute of it.  You make it easy and you are worth it!

Steven and Joe, my heart and prayers have been with you every day; I long for your return in 2011. 

So, "Goodbye 2010, and thanks for the memories and growth you left behind!"


Olivia's Authors' Tea

      Chichester's Senior Prom

 Summer Storm

   April DooDah Parade



 Scott and His Mom


 Drama Queens

PA Renn Faire

 Sick for Halloween :(

Isaiah 26:3-4

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Will Be Haunted By Three Spirits...

Isaiah 32:3-8
 Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
 The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
 No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
 For fools speak folly,
their hearts are bent on evil:
They practice ungodliness
and spread error concerning the LORD;
the hungry they leave empty
and from the thirsty they withhold water.
 Scoundrels use wicked methods,
they make up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just.
 But the noble make noble plans,
and by noble deeds they stand.

As parents, what do we do when our child is being hoodwinked?  Human nature urges, "Confront that liar and give him a piece of your mind!" -- or worse, your foot.  Mom counsels, "Slow and steady wins the race.  Just keep talking to him; you stay on the straight and narrow, and your child will too."  The voice of Experience kibitzes, "It's deja vu all over again!" (Sometimes the little Jewish woman who lives inside my head sounds a lot like Yogi Berra)  Scott suggests, "We need the ghost of Marley to summon the spirits and show her what is really going on; to float her over there so she can see what is really being said."  Wouldn't that be cool?   

I don't doubt, many of us have to deal with an irresponsible relative who makes your child all manner of promises they have no intention of keeping.  Or an ex who, motivated by sheer spite, deceives or coerces a child into abandoning those things -- or people -- he truly loves?  Or a child who is so spoiled rotten by others, only you (or so it feels) are left to be the heavy, the tightwad, the funsucker?  Will they ever see the forest for the trees?  God says, "Yes."

God is a God of justice, especially when it comes to people who lead His children astray or do them harm.  God has hand selected you, the parent for His child, to do what is best for them.  If you are walking with God, seeking His will and praying for wisdom -- for yourself and your child -- He will not let you down.  What comfort we can take in His promises to us!

Monday, December 27, 2010

What a Dog Knows

Our "delicate little flower," Tinkerbell, has a favorite toy -- her Kong ball. She loves Kong more than anything. She can't wait to play with it; she can't wait just to have it between her paws -- to know it’s right there, beside her. And if she can manage to engage someone in a game of fetch, all the better.

Yesterday she did just that, and she had Scott doing the fetching! You see, he’d thrown the beloved Kong under the fence and out of her reach. She waited nearby, all the while, her eyes shifting anxiously from the spot where Kong had last been seen to her “daddy,” the one she knew would help her in her darkest hour. She was sure he would come to her rescue; she would have been disappointed and confused had he not. Her initial petition for help was less like a pleading, but more like a “this is too far for me – you will have to do it.” She did not wait hopefully or uncertainly, she waited confidently, eagerly for him to do that which he always does – provide, give, restore…

To paraphrase: if a dog knows – beyond the shadow of a doubt – what her “daddy” is willing to do for her, why are we insecure and skeptical when we approach the Throne of Grace.

 Hebrews 4:16 (New International Version, ©2010)
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Got a Twix?

Upon meeting my former counselor, an immensely "grounded" person who helped me through one of the darkest periods of my life, at a gathering last week...

H (with a warm, serene, therapist-like smile): Hello, Judi!  Good to see you.

Me: It's good to see you, too. (Probably not "good" as in a social, have-been-looking-forward-to-it sense, but more an ironic, full-circle sort of way)

H: How have you been?

Me (beaming): Wonderful! How have you been?

H (somewhat undecidedly, and not exactly "Eeyore-ish," but as if on the cusp of meltdown): Oh, OK.

Me (on the inside): Whoa.  How's that for surreal?
      (on the outside): Pass me one of those darling little cocktail weenies, please. 

Ok, not really. I don't say "darling," and I don't eat cocktail weenies, but the uncomfortable silence was the social equivalent, and the line "How 'bout them Eagles?" wasn't really appropriate for the situation.  Although, let me take this moment to say,
"E-A-G-L-E-S!  Go Vick!!!"  Now that's surreal!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

To: You, From: God

Shopping, wrapping, adding to my list, then doing it all over again, and again, and again. It’s all over now, for the most part, but what is this stress and anxiety we go through over the Christmas season and its gifting tradition? Are we truly trying to find the perfect gift for those we love, or trying to maintain – or worse, exceed – a standard? And what do we do when we encounter the recipient who’s reaction to the gift we overspent on and stressed over, is to say the least, flat. Are we indignant? Do we hurt? Maybe even vow to never put ourselves through that again? “At least not for her!” Imagine if he, or she, never even opened the gift, merely tossed it aside with no indication they were even “saving it for later?” Indifference, disregard for whatever effort we put forth, nothing for us in return.

Two thousand years ago God gave His Gift to us as freely as He gives it today. He has not withdrawn it based on our indifference, or procrastination, or rejection, or even hatred of it. He does not gauge His deeds based on reciprocation or reception. He does not give or retract based on our politics, or social standards, or self-worth, or efforts. He gives because of Love, His Love, Perfect Love for each one of us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

But for the Grace of God

The holidays are here – nothing like stating the obvious.  Perhaps it is just the giving of thanks or the “good will toward men,” but I have been deeply moved by the level to which my family and I are blessed.  Daily Bible reading and prayer have changed my life, as well – who I am and what I wish to become, my perspective on everything -- from dealing with those with whom I rather not, to dealing with those ugly sides of me I didn’t even acknowledge just a short time ago.  Seeing those without jobs, without homes, who only months ago set their alarm clocks, pulled clothes from their closets, grabbed their morning coffee and headed out to work, unaware of  how things would be today – those with mouths to feed, just like me.  Watching movies like “Ghandi” and “Sarafina,” for Christine’s study of World Cultures; realizing just how pampered and ungrateful we, as a nation are (a condition which has left many of us numb and, comfortably, ignorant).  Looking back to a spoiled little girl who jacked up much of everything she touched during her teens and twenties (and a sizable portion of her thirties) strictly because of her self-indulgent, bitter sense of entitlement. 

None of us is guaranteed good health, or good parents, or tasty food, or even a roof over our heads – so isn’t it about time we stop acting like we are, realize the level of blessing most of us enjoy, wake up to the impermanence and frailty of it all, see the beauty in simplicity and help one another out?  Why stand in judgment of those who are in need?  Why turn a blind eye or deaf ear to those who work tirelessly to change things?  Why continue living in arrogance and entitlement, as if any part of our existence is earned, pledged or deserved?   

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ranting and Raving -- AGAIN

Wow.  Once again, so much time has passed -- more than I said I would allow, anyway.  The creative part of my brain has been on serious overload, and I am one of those people who, when overloaded, check out.  I put on my favorite mental PJ's, grab a pint of Flatline Fench Vanilla, and do nothing mentally but let all those neurons fire.  I allow all those thoughts, warped as some of the poor dears may be, to romp around the mental monkey bars while I wait until most of them go away; I pour my physical energy into basket weaving, ice sculpting, well-drilling -- anything other than what the little voices in my head are telling me to do.  Whatever thoughts are left after this cerebral shock and awe, I figure must be pretty important or, at least, like the cockroach, are strong enough to withstand any further purge --I may as well address them.

Like, Zahra Baker.  I stumbled across this story before it even hit most major outlets and, that day, it struck a cord with me.  Outside of the obvious horror and sadness of it all, outside of Zahra's genuine, warm, bonnie smile, I've not figured out yet, why?  Of all the tragedies suffered by all the "innocents," why did this one resonate so loudly for me?  But it's here; the thoughts are with me.  I'm just still sorting through them.

Then there's the "gay" thing.  Daily we are bombarded with stories about gays -- gay bashing, gay bullying, discrimination, gays in the military.  Now I read stories about the Methodist church refusing membership to a homosexual man and I think, "What are we doing?"  Joining the church is not the same as leading the church.  My membership in the Methodist church does not even "allow" me to vote, as there is no voting -- The Council chooses pastors!  In almost thirty years of membership I've gained, honestly, nothing from my "membership" except the dubious privilege of having personalized envelopes for my tithe!  Let me ask you this -- if a member of your church -- an active, tithing, serving member of your church calls you at 10PM, in tears, begging for you to speak with her husband who is sitting in front of her, revolver loaded, contemplating suicide, and God knows what else, children sleeping down the hall, and your answer to her is, "I can't -- I've injured my foot and, per doctor's orders must sit here with it propped up.  Don't you have Pastor ___'s phone number?" -- is that when you say, "But thank God, we don't allow gays up in here!!" or "But I do have those nifty envelopes!"?

Lastly, reality.  I can't say enough -- or little -- about the nonsense perpetrating as reality these days.  I see my daughters getting wide-eyed and "swoony" because of the adults (if you want to call them that) they're exposed to, who couldn't find a shred of responsibility in their debt-filled, designer lives with their GPS's.  I've seen both of my sons lost to instant gratification and "adults" who entertain it, encourage it, fund it -- then place a 911 to the "responsible, boring, mean" parent who will don their homemade cape, ride in on their ten-year-old, paid for horse, and fix things.  I'm angry, disgusted, and praying everyday for my children and their role models -- myself included.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just Parent!

I am arrogant, and judgemental.  I know this and have been praying about it.  I am learning to speak the truth in love, and when I can't, I ask God to keep my mouth shut.  Disclaimer aside, here goes...

Neither Scott nor I are "crowd surfers."  We don't get into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, or harbor any burning desires to see and be seen.  In the last few weeks, however, weather being what it has -- beyond beautiful -- we have been out and about  enjoying various public events.  We have commented-- quite truthfully -- in annoyance, on parents who absolutely refuse to discipline their children.  How many times can you tell a five year old "I really mean it this time" before even she figures out, you don't really mean it at all?  Or how many times can you place your three year old in time-out, only to again become so engrossed in your phone conversation about your new diet, oblivious of his ingestion of deer pooh, before you figure out it's not working?  I am annoyed and perhaps, I am being judgemental, but I also wish to speak the truth in love - love for my children and the next generation of Americans they will attend college with, serve on school boards with, and marry.

Discipline.  Nothing wrong with it.  It keeps us from overeating.  It keeps us from getting too little rest or drinking too much.  It also keeps our children from growing up thinking there are no consequences for their actions. 

My son has been in and out of jail since he was 17.  He knows there are consequences; I taught him of consequences.  It is his arrogance and the insidious work of lawyers (and those who keep paying ridiculous monies for them) who allow him to test or escape those consequences.  I pray for his suffering.  Radical?  Inhumane?  I say, LOVE!  I want something big enough to hit him, big enough to drop him to his knees, big enough to compel him to cry out to God for forgiveness and grace, big enough to raise the quality of his life to something he never imagined.

What is this idea that we all have to feel happy, comfortable, content, loved, appreciated, and just plain positive all the time?  How is it that no one seems to be able to deal with bad feelings? or thinks that they don't deserve to feel bad?  What is this entitlement we are teaching our children -- and we are teaching them!  By not allowing them to feel the sting of guilt or shame, or their consequences, how can our children ever figure out how to make things right on their own?  How will our children ever know the satisfaction of a job genuinely done well if they receive praise for everything they do, rather than "suffer" the learning experience of failure?  Where will they develop their tenacity?  How can a child learn the redeeming value of an apology if we allow them to avoid offering one because of their embarrassment?

And what of parents?  When do we discipline ourselves to put down the cell phone, log off the computer, throw away "mother's little helper" and just parent?!  It's ironic to me that my generation grew up despising parents for their addictions -- prescription drugs, alcohol -- all those things we watched our parents do to escape the pressures of jobs, war, parenting, divorce.  And now?  Some of the addictions have changed, but an addiction by any other name...  We all need "me time" -- whether you soak in a bath, work in your woodshop, or read your Bible.  Perhaps there needs to be some creative scheduling if your "me time" is watching "Burn Notice" while your eight year old tests explosives in the laundry sink. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Fall.  Beautiful weather.  A county full of fabulous things to do.  Today we left it to a vote.  And I lost.  Another car show.  Another fall festival.  Really not a loss -- time with my best friend and our bubbly, beautiful ladies -- however...

Not much to say about the car show.  The ladies like the paint; they live to play the punch-buggy game.  But beyond that, they can cover Carlisle in fifteen minutes or less.  Scott and I have learned to be quick about it.

The fall festival...  I know they say (whoever "they" are) that you make your own fun, but let's face it, some events can use life support.  Six cars in the lot, near gale-force winds, and twice as may empty tables than cars in the lot.  Uh-oh.  Five to twenty dollar donation?  For...?  No food for another thirty minutes -- leaving us plenty of time to...?  It wasn't looking good, folks.

Well, let me tell you -- a few bales of hay, a little face paint, and you've got yourself a party!  No really. 

"For the girls' sake" I gave it a go, and pointed them toward the first craft table with a forced "Hey, look at this!  You wanna make a pumpkin?"  Madison's sarcasm is flawless for a soon-to-be ten year old.  But Olivia was already in the chair.  That's my girl!  It wasn't long before Maddy was sucked in.  The girls decorated these adorable pumpkins using products from the farm -- a "parent-approved" foray into playing with your food.  Things were looking up!  Next were the corn husk dolls, a suggestion met with suffocating silence.  Medic! 

While Daddy stowed our food art in the truck, we checked the lay of the land.  A scavenger hunt?  Really?  Well, I'm all for scavenger hunts, but the kind that involve school mascots, road signs and pictures taken in funeral homes.  (What can I say?  I'm a derelict at heart.)  I didn't think it would fly.  Turns out, the scavenger hunt was perfectly easy, but contained enough items to make it last longer than a yawn.  The guy who passed out the necessary accoutrements was pleasant and enthusiastic without being plastic -- just enough to draw the ladies in.  Bonus!  It was a great way for them to think a little about farming, and look at things they take for granted, in a whole new way.  And prizes!  Popcorn on the cob -- another fun lesson for later!

Face painting -- FREE! (music to my ears)  Freshly pressed apple cider -- delicious!  and FREE!  Butternut squash soup, two types of salad with fresh (not grocery store "fresh") greens, roasted mushroom soup, muffins, desserts, a radish "bruschetta" -- food worth the wait!!  Top it off with a hayride that was better than any other -- thanks to a wonderful host (and, I'm told, quilt maker) with a slightly warped sense of humor.  Activities were in full swing as we left, and the place was getting packed.  As we bade farewell, I stopped and readjusted our donation in an attempt to measure up to the fun we had.  I can't say enough about it, but Hillside Farms Harvest Festival was slammin'! And...

truly the best loss I've "suffered" in a long time!   

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Psalm 88

I have been reading the Book of Psalms for about, 88 days now.  Every couple of days I come across a Psalm that, I think, could easily be my favorite one; every couple of days, I find another.  Psalm 88 is no exception, but for the fact that, as far as I can tell, it is like no other.  Just read it. 

This is a song, Folks -- a song.  Personally, I've never read any song in the Bible that remotely resembles Staind, but this is probably as close as it gets.  During my "darker days," I was a huge fan -- Staind is sexy fueled by angry and depressed.  My favorite group since my teens has been Pink Floyd -- more neurotic than sexy, but always depression resulting in rage.  I identify -- to a point.  That point is where the only solution is rage, violence, hatred, or simply more depression.  My faith refuses (Thank God!) to allow there are no solutions. 

Psalm 88 is unlike any other in that there appears to be no solutions, no end to the despair.  Other Psalms, for instance, cry out to God for redemption, mercy, His loving forgiveness; before the Psalm is over, the author is rejoicing in the assurance God is near, He will save, and all is well.  While these songs and ruminations may be uplifting in the short-term, what about those who feel untold despair?  What about those who are living with pain and depression every day, hour after hour?  What about those who really do have no way to change their circumstances, or no one to advocate their release?  With no disrespect, do you think ten verses later they're whistling "Victory is Mine?"  Sometimes despair is a season.  Sometimes loneliness is a pit.  Sometimes, ten verses later, our circumstances are no better than they were when we opened the Word, and our hearts are just as heavy.  We are human.  We worry, we fear, we grieve and we fail.  Then, as Christians, we worry, fear and grieve over our failings as Christians.  The questions and doubts we feel do not coincide with what we know to be true.  Why can't we just feel it?  I believe this Psalm is for us.

Just look at verse 1: "O Lord, the God who saves me..."  First of all, would this psalmist be speaking to or writing to a God he doesn't believe would listen?  Secondly, the psalmist says "the God who saves me."  Not "saved," past tense, as in the one who redeemed him at some point, but saves -- present tense, and implying timelessness.  He knows God is there; I believe he even knows God will eventually rescue him, but for right now... this is how he feels.

Verse 5:  "I am... like the slain who lie in the grave."  Not dead -- feeling like it, maybe even wishing it perhaps, but not dead.

Verses 9 & 13:  Still, "I call to you, O Lord, every day."  "I cry to you for help, O Lord."  Why, if he has no faith?  Why, if he truly believes God has abandoned him?  Why, if God will not save?

Lastly, the psalmist himself:  Does anyone get that his name is Heman? From what I gather, Heman means "faithful."  I don't see this as being lost on him at all.  I see pleas cried out and tears shed by a lonely, desperate, but faithful individual.  Pleas and tears recorded by a loving, faithful God, just for me, a sometimes lonely, desperate, but faithful individual.  Commiseration through the ages.  Assurance that others have been where I've been, felt what I've felt, expressed it without fear of reprisal, and remained faithful, even when it lasted for a season.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank God I'm a City Girl

I am a country girl and a loner.  If I had my druthers, we'd be living on acres of land, raising livestock and reading books, devoid of any and all human interaction beside what was absolutely necessary, and considering a bigger place the minute we saw traces of smoke from the neighboring ranch's fireplace.  I don't like concrete, traffic, noise, light pollution or the smell of steam from a hot dog vending cart.  I like grass stains on my butt, rich black soil under my nails, driving 30 minutes on winding country roads to get to a grocery store -- the grocery store, and the "woody" smell of horse manure.  That being said, God is good.

As it stands now, from my bedroom window I can see at least six houses without really trying.  The brick and concrete that makes up our home smells musty and pungent with the humidity, and I can usually tell who is barbecuing, who is cooking greens and who is having Italian by the direction of the breeze.  The neighbors who aren't double-parking are parking over our drive; those who aren't screaming to their boys down the street are blasting Notorious B.I.G. until my ears bleed.  If the kids aren't dropping their trash on our front steps as they walk home from school, they're standing in the middle of the street defying you to hit them, as you drive to one of the six convenience stores in the area because you don't feel like going "all that way" (2 miles) to any one of the five grocery stores .  That being said, God is good.

Just last week a fire devastated apartments in South Philadelphia.  From what I've heard, 14 families were displaced; nothing was left.  Saturday a drive was held at 2nd & Jackson for the victims of the fire -- donations of cash, gift cards, clothing, electronics, toiletries, food and toys for the families that were left with nothing more than the clothing on their backs.  One of the victims was present --a young man who jumped from the building, was hospitalized, and was driven to the event by a hospital worker yesterday.

Scott and the girls and I arrived about an hour after the drive had begun, our little bags seeming so inconsequential to us.  As we neared the park and saw the flurry of activity, the columns of green plastic bags stacked against the chainlink fence, the friendly faces of neighbors and volunteers...  Well, it was moving.  Generosity had lit its lamp in the hearts of so many people.  A mail carrier stopped in the middle of the street to unload his bounty; not one person raged or steamed about the traffic and chaos.  People of all ages milled about, wanting to do so much more, to reach out to others in need, to stay here in this sphere of humanity rather than return to a world of of hate speech and petty gripes, dirty sidewalks and noise pollution.  Here on the playground it had all come together -- we could believe in one another, we could trust in the charity and kindness of others.  We were acutely aware, not just of the needs of others, but of ours as well.  Here, in the city I learned, once again, I am a part of something.             

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dual Avicide via Uni-Lapidation (or Killing Two Birds with One Stone)

Wow!  I never thought it'd be almost a month between posts, but it's been crazy -- both bad-crazy and good-crazy!  I even joined a Christian writers' group in my area -- stoked on the idea of pursuing this writing career thing.  As usual, life interfered.  I haven't made one "meeting," and haven't been on the website more than twice since I joined.  My "Reading Journal" -- a list of all the books as I read them, some comments or residual emotions -- which I kept so faithfully, sits untouched in a "Documents" file somewhere.  It's just as well, I guess.  My reading has been reduced to doctor's office magazines and high school textbooks.  My "Personal Journal" receives an entry about once every six weeks, or so.  The irony of that is, that with so much stuff going on, now is the perfect time to be documenting it all!  Hence, this post.  If you will indulge me in my attempt to kill two birds with one stone...

A Grocery List:  Do they ever stop eating?! 

Open Windows: 47 degrees by night, and 72 degrees by day -- little to no humidity! This is the weather that summons us to fall festivals and local farms, South Street and parks, demanding we enjoy every passing moment of it, rather than attend meetings, dust, write in journals or read books!

A Sewing Box: Cooler weather, of course, brings the need for longer pants. Longer pants mean hems, particularly for those in the house with chunky little legs like me! At this point, two pairs of jeans still await; after that third trip to the mall I have to squeeze in at some point, there'll be a few more to lie in queue.

Therapy Bands:  Those colorful, stretchy bands that make it so easy to do the exercises prescribed by the physical therapist, and wind up staring at you from the eye hooks you asked your husband to screw in to every piece of 1x3 in the laundry room.

Vitamins: I hate taking them; I forget to take them. The results of my upcoming tests depend on them. My family depends on me to take them. I love my family, without a doubt, but I am sometimes afraid.

Legal Letters:  Reminders my oldest is still struggling, I miss him, I long for him and I fear for him.  Reminders that a chapter of my husband's life is nearing its end, a new one is about to begin, and I am scared.  Reminders that others need my help even when I am sick or tired,  when I don't have all the answers, or I am afraid of the answers.

My Office:  Bills to be paid, words to be written, lessons to be taught and planned, cleaning to be done, and a husband who loves me enough to give me my own place to do so!  I read my Bible here, I pray here, and I grow closer to my Savior and those who love me, here.  It is here, in the presence of my God my fears are relieved. I am blessed!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lessons From History

Last night we attended the Paoli Illumination, an annual event held at Paoli Battlefield to commemorate the Paoli Massacre of September 20, 1777, an unexpected and prodigiously brutal attack on American forces during the Revolutionary War.  In a word -- well, there is no one word.  Throughout the evening I was struck by so many perceptions and emotions, one of the first being, "I never even knew this existed!"  I wouldn't even call myself a history "buff," but I am definitely an enthusiast.  A childhood of my mother's interest in the Colonial Period proved contagious, and many years of homeschool history's byproduct, the desire to "bring history to life" for my children, made me think I was pretty knowledgeable, particularly about our area's role in the War for Independence.  As they say, "You learn something new every day!"

On a contemporary note, the air was crisp, the sky relatively clear, stars visible, and the moon, though not quite full, still beautifully luminous.  If we'd not been drawn to this place by an email announcing this event we certainly would have missed this glorious night!  Add to that scene, a trail of luminaries stretched across a field, the presence of "ghosts" in period costumes, and the reverent and historic significance of the location, and you've got yourself the makings of goosebumps.

There really is nothing better than experiencing history just as those who made it lived.  Walking in their steps, seeing things by the light in which they saw, hearing shots in the distance and the shouts of those who were struggling fiercely for the freedom of a brand new nation.  At this actuality, one can't help but be moved by the selflessness, the courage and the tenacity of those who gave life and limb for posterity.

As we reached the end of our tour, the folks working the admissions table and some of the earlier vignettes were gathered at the "entrance" for a breather after what was, I'm sure, a long day -- 21st Century volunteers, eating pizza, talking with friends and family on cell phones, disabling car alarms to trade straight-lasted shoes for more comfortable New Balances from the trunk.  These ordinary folks so dedicated to the preservation of our history and the evangelizing of generations, they sacrifice countless hours, untabulated costs, personal ambitions, and social invitations, just to educate and "entertain" my family and me for an hour or so.  And as much as that sacrifice makes me want to drop an extra donation into the jar the next time we attend (and we definitely will!), it is minuscule compared to that of those who fought and died on this field some two hundred thirty-three years ago.  That, my friends, is what's known as a reality check.    

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love: God's Gift of Himself

Thank you, Father, for love. 
The love of friends and family, even pets,
that gives us just a glimpse of Your love.

Your perfect love, no one can compare;
Your perfect love, so immense we cannot comprehend.

The love of those around us, simple enough we can grasp,
but complex enough we are drawn in our thirst to You.
The love of one another, forever before us,
pauses and impels us to regard You.

Your perfect love, faithful beyond all measure;
Your perfect love that is without condition.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Gift

Each summer, Scott labors over our garden -- faithfully planting, watering, trimming.  This year's weather was so humid, although the garden was beautiful, I chose to enjoy it -- mostly -- from the window.  But now, the mornings are cool enough, I can grab a liter of coffee and enjoy one of the best gifts anyone has ever given me -- my husband's version of "Longwood Gardens" (so say the haters).  There's the constant flurry of squirrel activity -- flicking bushy tails, tree branches waving under their weight as they swing from limb to limb, nails scratching bark and the "crick, crick, crick" of their call.  I hear the honk of a rippling black arrow long before it flies overhead.  Splashes of bright color peek from still-green leaves, though most of the garden has been cut back, prepared for its winter repose.  The squeal and hiss of brakes on the street out front signal the arrival of a new school year.  And, almost as if on cue, a leaf falls. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuning In -- to God

Every morning on my way to work, God and I talk.  Days off, when I'm not laughing in the face of circadian rhythm it is much easier to get up, read my Bible and spend quality time in prayer in my room.  But, through the week, the place I can remain quiet and alert, is during my drive.  Although having quiet time in my car helps me to circumvent the temptation to reset the alarm and go back to bed, there is always the temptation to listen to some music instead -- especially when we've been out in the car the previous afternoon, and as I start the ignition in the morning, some cool new tune comes on and coaxes me into its riffs.  "Just one song," I think.  Or even, "Well, I've been really good the last couple of days.  I prayed longer last night before bed.  I can skip it just this once."  Its not long before I'm back down on my knees and begging forgiveness.  Not because God has laid out some divine judgement, but because without Him I am nothing.

David expresses it perfectly in Psalm 30:

When I felt secure, I said,
"I will never be shaken."
O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

In today's vernacular, The Message says it, just how I feel it:

 When things were going great
I crowed, "I've got it made.
I'm God's favorite.
He made me king of the mountain."
Then you looked the other way
and I fell to pieces.

Sure, God lets us suffer the consequences when we make dumb choices -- what loving Father wouldn't?  Does He enjoy inflicting pain or dishing out "just desserts?"  No more than anyone would their own child or grandchild.  But sometimes, it doesn't take anything close to that to remind us Who brought us to "the mountain."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A "Hands-On" Approach

This morning as I sat down to read my Bible and pray, I asked God to speak to me -- to show me what "words of wisdom" (my thoughts, not His) He would give to guide me and train me through my day.  As I read through Psalm 29, my initial impression was, "OK, another praise song -- can't get enough praise.  That's nice,but where is today's lesson?"  Reading it again, I thought, "Interlude."  Sort of the way people view verse after verse of genealogy right in he middle of a good story.  "Today must be something of a 'skip day'."  Third time.  "OK, power, glory -- I get it.  Certainly they are qualities of God not to be ignored."  One more read through -- only I couldn't just read through.  The words leapt off the page!  Wow!  "The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon!"  Now, I've never seen the cedars of Lebanon, but I have seen the redwoods in California -- amazing!  Majestic!  Monumental!  Hard to believe anything at all could break them.  But the voice of God does!

"The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness?"  Earthquake!  With only His voice!

"The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth."  OK, time to dish, here.  My husband had a vasectomy a long time ago.  A few years ago we even discussed a reversal; we decided against it, but that has never stopped either of us from wondering "what if?"  I have thought from time to time, I would be absolutely thrilled if God intervened and gave us a child -- I know Scott would be.  "The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth."  With only His voice, God controls reproduction for mankind, the animal kingdom, plants and trees -- everything!  He spoke the word thousands of years ago, put it into action and still maintains it today!  He can choose to deliver the deer early, or not at all.  He can choose to give a child to a couple who might never have had one, or choose others to serve Him more passionately.  His voice is so powerful, so magnificent, it can make the earth quake and the frailest of creatures seek its breath in the big world of the living.

And then, there's the piece de resistance... verses 10b and 11:

"the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!"
How can we not feel peace to know that God is in control of it all?  To know that God is still on His throne today, watching us, listening to our prayers, protecting, admonishing and teaching us?  That's peace, to know that the One who strips the leaves from the trees autumn after autumn -- or not, if He so chooses -- is at work in our lives day after day, hour after hour! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Timeless Idea

Lately, I have been reading the Book of Psalms.  I've just gotten started, but as usual, am struck by the relevance of the Scriptures.  Time and time again, Scott and I have shaken our heads in disgust at those who operate with no qualifications but their own advancement or gratification.  We hurt for the innocents who are caught up in others' quest for "the good life" -- for themselves, others be damned.  We wonder at the unfairness of it all.  How can the righteous be expected to continue that way, when unrighteousness seems to prosper others to no end?  How can God allow some folks to toil like a couple of hard-working stiffs while those who refuse to take care of the responsibilities they have, go on to receive all the glory, all the perks? 

Now, we know our frustration is based on worldly ideals, childish viewpoints and temporal gratifications, but let's face it, we are human and living in an imperfect world; we're bound to feel that way sometimes.  The author of many psalms, David, did too.  In Psalm 12 David talks about wickedness that seems to surround him: "...the faithful have vanished from among the children of man," he says.  "Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak."  Was it truly "everyone?"  Most likely not, but it seemed that way to David; he was clearly burdened by it.  Psalm 10 tells of the wicked who prey on the poor, scheming against them, and then boasting of their greedy deeds.  They deny God, murder the innocent and plot against the helpless, looking to ensnare them in some sort of trap.  David's concerns were valid.  He wanted to see justice; he wanted to see the Kingdom of God prevail.

By the end of the psalm, we see David turn it around.  He talks it through, so to speak and always comes back to the same reassurance -- the reassurance that God, our God is the Capital "G" God.  The One True God is loving, faithful, just, all-powerful and all-knowing.  He will protect us, He will do what He says He will do, He is a God of justice, He can do whatever He wills, and nothing gets by Him.  He is not the God of imagination or ethereal ideals; He is real, and is as committed to mankind today as He was in David's day.

Just as Scott and I hash things out from a human perspective, maybe just to vent or hear out loud just how tired it sounds, we always come back to the same conclusion -- God is in control.  We reestablish just how important it is to give it over to Him -- and we do.              

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear Lord, Bless Me with Simplicity

A little while ago I realized I am high-strung -- one of those things that everyone else has figured about you before you actually see it yourself.  My life is fabulous.  I have the best husband in the world, kids I love like crazy, a beautiful home -- lots and lots of blessings; I could go on forever.  Problem is, I tend to get a little caught up in "What's next?"  I tend to worry about getting it all done in one day, or making the most of every minute.  "If I have time to clean two rooms this afternoon, isn't three better?"  Better why?  "If I can squeeze in one more errand, I'll be ahead for tomorrow."  The problem with that is, tomorrow I'm thinking the same way, and figuring if I have so much extra time by the end of the week I can tack a couple more projects to my list.  (That, boys and girls, is called OCD.)  It doesn't stop there.  With all of my "piling on" and "making the most of my time" -- not efficienly, irrationally -- I have developed little quirks.  Eating too quickly, grinding my teeth, not being a good listener, tension in my neck and shoulders to name a few.  At some point, I began to notice that death grip on my toothbrush, or the panicked looks from my dogs as our relaxing morning stroll turned into training for the Boston Marathon.

Each day during my quiet time I pray for God to make me "usable."  Now the things I consider make me "unusable" never seem to be the things that God wants to work on.  For instance, I know I am judgemental, and for a while now I have been praying for God to show me how to love others the way He does, to help me to see others as He does -- through the eyes of love.  God, however, is interested in making me more aware of  my crazy obsession about time and accomplishment.  So how does that work?  Well, come to find out, one of the things that makes others so "intolerable" to me is the way I see them as lazy or slow.  The lady in the line ahead of me who insists on writing a check but must wait until her order is completely rung and bagged to begin digging through that disaster of a purse of hers, or the guy who thinks that leaving the back end of his land yacht six feet over our drive is "good enough for government work."  How do I keep from pummelling these people?  God changes me.

As I wolf down my breakfast, I ask myself "why," and pick up a book for a couple of chapters of "me time."  As I find myself plenty early enough, but still trying to break the land speed record on my way to work, I set the cruise control and lean back.  When the lady with the ridiculously bleached blonde hair sits in her car at 11 o'clock at night jamming to Gospel music and smoking God knows what, I wonder what she is going through and how I can serve her, instead of tsk-tsking at the lazy, trashy, hypocrisy of it all.  And those days when we load up the family truckster and head to a local farm to buy produce -- a venture that is sure to take at least an hour, as opposed to fifteen minutes at the co-op -- it is the smells, the colors, the feel of a warm summer day, the excitement and enjoyment of our family that reminds me, simple can be better.  This world is imperfect, others are imperfect, I am imperfect; my days will not always go as planned, my life is not a solitary one, but one that impacts and relies on the lives of others.  By reducing and refocusing expectations for my own life, I can stop pressuring others to be what I think they should be and instead, walk -- not run -- with them to discover what God would have us become.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Prayer Changes... Me!

Have you ever been sick?  Like, down-for-the-count for more than a day or so, sick.  For a Type A personality, it doesn't get much worse than that.  In fact, when I get back in the saddle again, I'm worse.  I fly through the house on a cleaning frenzy 1) because I feel as if there are all kinds of germs just lurking there, trying to get me or my family again, 2) because I haven't had my hands in anything for a day or so -- it's a way of getting back my control over my responsibilities with a fresh, clean start, and 3) because, compared to how I was feeling, "I'm on top o' the world, Ma!" 

In Psalm 6, I get that from David.  He is at a low point.  He should be -- he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed.  What's worse than catching a cold?  Not eating or sleeping properly, kissing on your dog, standing at the bus stop with wet hair -- asking for it; David asked for it and later, regretted it.  At the start of Psalm 6, he is sick with grief; he has cried, he has ached, he has groaned in his repentance and yet, he is still troubled.  He begs for relief.  Three stanzas later, it comes.  Now did this process really take only a matter of minutes, of written words?  Doubtful.  But the point is, David felt renewed, back on top, but not because of his efforts (He'd already found his plan was a debacle), but because THE LORD had heard his prayer, THE LORD was on his side.

Looking at the nature of David's condition in the first place, we can see that the Lord had never left David's side, but David had left Him.  Nevertheless, God in His infinite mercy and grace has provided a way for David to feel renewed and restored again -- prayer.  We know that God forgives, we know He sent His Son, Jesus to stand in the gap for us and suffer our punishment, but as sensual ("sensual" as in relating to the senses) flesh he knew our need to feel that union, to feel that oneness with Him.  Just as David, through prayer had experienced that reunion with His Heavenly Father, prayer restores us today, to a place of oneness with Him.  Prayer is not only our way to truly communicate our sorrow for sin, our need for forgiveness, our desire for God to heal or change lives, but it is a way to reach up, grab His extended hand, and once again, walk with Him as we should have been.  

Thursday, July 29, 2010

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Some folks tell me I'm a little intense, somewhat intimidating and maybe even a little "hyper" from time to time.  I'll admit, when I am passionate about something I can be very goal-oriented and exclusive-- even when I'm passionately adverse to something.  And, maybe, sometimes I get my feathers ruffled just a little too easily, but is it any wonder...

For instance, one day I answered the phone at work with my usual greeting, "Philadelphia Feeders, Judi."  First words from this guy's mouth -- I kid you not -- "Is there a management person there, or just you tonight?"  Really ?  Wrong, on soo many levels!  First of all, could he really tell by my voice whether I am management or not?  I wanted to say, "Um, yeah, Minion.  I am the Regional Manager.  What now?!"  Secondly, "just you?"  He actually said that -- "just you."  OK.  "Fact is, Sir, it is just me here tonight, and -- Oh, my, the phones have started ringing off their hooks!  Why, look at that!  I'm going to have to put you on hold for a minute."  Two hours later...

Then there is the best question ever: "How do you spell [_____]?" (you fill in the blank)  Then: "Are you sure?"  Wait a minute, you didn't know how to spell it (you probably have a paper hanging on your wall with a few prestigious signatures and a fancy seal, and you're probably my boss, by the way) but now you want to question my answer.

Or the "paperless company" that requires me to print copies of reports I send out via email or complete on line.  Or the warranty on a sofa that doesn't cover a manufacturer's defect, but will cover damage that results from jumping on the furniture in golf cleats, launching it from a third story window, through a ring of fire and into a vat of mayonnaise.  Or the store that advertises the start of a sale on Sunday, but doesn't get their order in until Thursday.  Or the woman with the foo-foo dog that sees my two snarling, foaming, rearing meatheads and asks, "Safe to approach?"  (My answer is usually, "Well, it depends on what your goals are.")  Or any of the number of idiocies that seem to occur in any twenty-four hour period. 

Then again, considering we live in a world where Lindsay Lohan is headline news and reality TV is entertainment, maybe I should just set the Cruise Control and head to the back for a relaxing cup of coffee.    

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summing It All Up

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Jude 1:24,25

Believe it or not, this has got to be my favorite passage in the Bible.  It just screams victory, power, Providence, encouragement and safety!  What an amazing God we have -- to provide a way for us to not only leave this earth in victory, but to live in victory as well!  He can keep us from failure and self-imposed grief.  The choice is ours to trust and abide; we do not "go it alone."  He has made a way through the blood of His Son Jesus, for us to join Him, not only when our mortal bodies cease to function, but to join Him every minute of every day in His presence in prayer, in boldness and victory, as pure and holy children.  Jesus celebrates upon entering God's presence with us by His side.  Truly He is the One True God, worthy of ALL praise and honor, glory and majesty, with dominion and authority over everything that ever was, is or will be!  Praise God what comfort that brings!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Your Servant is Listening

God speaks all the time, through His sunrises and through the kindness of those we encounter in congested rush hour traffic.  Sometimes it's as big as the formation of mankind itself; sometimes it's as small as the cry of one newborn.  Sometimes, if we are not quiet, if we are not seeking His direction, if we are closed off from fellowship with Him, we will miss it.  This week, I almost missed it; in fact, I'm still not completely sure what it is.

The morning radio program I listen to on weekdays has featured a series on friendship: how to choose friends, the importance of friendship, the consequences of allowing circumstances to choose your friends for you.  Helpful, I thought, especially since I have been deeply wounded by friends, and I do not actively seek or desire relationships.  Additionally, there was a lot of valuable information I could pass on to my children.

Then there was an incident in which I felt betrayed by someone who unknowingly made some statements that injured me.  I felt alone, and I lashed out.  I thought I'd uncovered the Godspeak in that, when I realized that I had put my confidence in someone other than the omniscient God I desire to serve and, through no fault of his own, my friend did not "perform" the way I had anticipated.  Shame on me for feeling alone, when God is always with us!  But, He was not finished.

There was the debate over the benefits of sending Christine to school as opposed to continuing to homeschool.  It was pretty much the same arguments: socialization, a "taste of the real world," routine and responsibility.  I won't get into all the back-and-forth that occurred in my head, but my position on "socialization" remains the same as always:  How often do good teens change the lives of "bad teens" for the better?  How often does it work in reverse?

Lastly, came 3 John 1, this morning's devotions.  This letter from The Elder to Gaius speaks of two very different men that were at work in the church of his day. One, Demetrius was known as a man of good character, a man of truth; the other, Diotrephes was a slanderer who had issues with authority, who "put himself first," who bullied others into conforming to his truth less ways.  Clearly, the Elder encourages his reader to follow the example of the former, Demetrius friend of the church.

So what did all this talk of friendship and examples, all these adages and verses mean?  Is God encouraging me to put the hurt of past relationships aside, and open my heart to new friendship?  Is God cautioning me about a "friendship" that may be subtly developing, that I may be unknowingly encouraging, that needs to be brought to an end.  I'm still not quite sure yet, but I know God is speaking, and I know it's time to listen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Place to Call Home

Last week, when I posted a little piece about our preparations for and ensuing vacation, my cousin contacted me and mentioned recalling memories of his summers at the beach.  That triggered more of my childhood recollections as well, particularly those of seaside summer days, or revival week at a nearby camp meeting,  My upbringing entwined itself with church activities and was designed to be wholesome, if not disgustingly "vanilla" by today's standards.  That's OK, though.  Throughout my life, in times of darkest despair or stomach-churning confusion I had something to return to, some basis to draw me back to the One Who loved me and created me, even if I had gotten where I was by running from Him.

I have to admit, the emotion of the "altar call" drew me to give my life to Christ -- more than once.  I even developed a certain disdain for "Just As I Am," and the booming voice of fire and brimstone preachers lowered to just above a whisper as they beckoned, "Come, just come.  God is waiting for you right now."  I'd nod my head in Amen when other pastors preached against this "smoke and mirrors" technique that "confuses the real reason why we're here -- lifelong commitment -- with thirty minutes of regret."  Truth is, later in life, when I'd collapsed in exhaustion from all that running, or I'd gotten myself so lost I didn't know which way to turn, it was not some verse of Scripture that drew me back within the stone walls of God's fold.  It was the longing to return to those "easier days," riding home from the shore, late at night, sun burnt and sandy, lying across the deck in the back window of my parents LTD, listening to the seams of the road whirr-thump underneath us.  It was sweltering evenings at revival, sitting on rickety wooden chairs with my brother and I tucked between our parents and fanning ourselves with old "palm frond" fans from the local funeral home.  It was army blankets and picnics at Westinghouse during Dad's lunch break.  It was wearing out crayon after crayon over sheets of paper covering the rough concrete steps of my parents' front porch, when we'd run out of things to do, or couldn't find an inch of shade in the yard.  It was emotion, plain and simple.

Emotion drew me back to a time when I felt safe and loved and "home."  Emotion made me want that again, though reason may have reminded me "you can't go back."  Emotion drove me to finding the roots of that upbringing, roots that ran deeper than leaves on my family tree, leaves that blew to the far reaches of the country, or whithered and died.  Emotion that kept me searching for the Rock on which to build my life, and later my home. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thanks a Lot (Eew)

In my Scripture reading this morning I was brought to 2 Peter 2:7.  As a Sunday School kid from way back, I can honestly say I never recall Lot being portrayed as a "righteous man."  In fact, I remember getting the impression Lot was a "screw-up;" the kind of guy poor Abraham was constantly having to bail out.  Lot gets to choose the land and, in his greed chooses land that will eventually "torment his soul" (2 Peter 2:8)..  Lot gets abducted, and Abraham rides to the rescue.  Lot and his family are influenced by the world and Abraham pleads with God for his nephew's safety.  Lot is preoccupied with his position and showing hospitality to guests, but demonstrates incredibly bad judgement in offering up his own daughters to an angry, depraved mob. 

I mean, really, doesn't this guy remind you of the family member that everyone tolerates strictly because they are family?  A Cousin Eddie kinda guy who always uses your name for a reference just before he defaults on that Rent-A-Center payment.  The guy who moves from one end of the country to the other, seeking some big windfall, always in need of a place to stay or some cash in his pocket.  In my neck of the woods, we call Lot a freeloader and Abraham and enabler.  God calls him righteous.  Obviously there is way more to this Lot guy than I've been told.  After all, isn't the story of Lot usually a cautionary tale?  I decided to do a little research.  Here's what I found:

What you see is what you get.  Yessir.  Lot was selfish, with a selfishness that cost him most of his family and from what we can assume, his wealth, when he was forced to leave it behind while fleeing the city.  Lot was immature and relied heavily on Abraham's wisdom and experience.  Lot straddled that fence enough that he could keep one foot planted firmly on each side; that is, until the fence gave way.  Lot may have even thought he was doing Sodom some sort of service -- keeping a Godly man within its borders and, perhaps, on its town council; maybe Lot thought he could save the city.  Well fine to preach outside the peep show, but if you wander inside, the only one that's gonna change his ways is you.  Thinking you can save anyone is pure arrogance.  And his offer of two virgin daughters to the dregs of the city?  Pure insanity when we read the words, but have we ever done something so low, so despicable just to save our own hide?

Lot was human, through and through.  Easy for me to sit and judge; easy for all of us to say, "Me?  Never."  But despite Lot's sin, God counted Him righteous.  Sound familiar?  Romans 4:5,6  tells us that works, just for the sake of works (in other words, not as an outpouring of our faith in God) are credited to us and not enough for the justification of sin.  But faith in the God who can remove sin "as far as the East is from the West?"  That is God's definition of righteousness.  Lot didn't succumb to the evils of Sodom; Lot did put his neck on the line for the "strangers."  When his own wife turned to a pillar of salt, Lot kept moving away from sin, resisting its pull on him.  Maybe Lot wasn't one of God's greatest spiritual leaders, but he had the right idea.  Believe God, and it will be counted as righteousness.    

Monday, July 19, 2010

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Several years ago I attended a church workshop on stewardship and money.  I was so inspired I developed a plan and worked it to the letter.  Despite a tight budget and financial problems, I found a sense of order and responsibility when it came to managing my money.  When Scott and I married, I realized just how difficult that can be, even with the best partner; occasionally we struggle to find synchronicity when it comes to purchases and investing.  I am a saver, not a risk-taker; I believe in an almost puritanical existence when it comes to spending.  Scott appreciates "the finer things in life," and believes we should enjoy the blessings God gives us; after all those of us who carry mortgages can not simply stop living for the next fifteen or thirty years.  Sometimes Scott's way makes me feel as if I am fiscally flailing; I long to get back that feeling of order and responsibility.  What I've found is that I have allowed money to control me.  Somewhere between between the single life and marriage I panicked.  Perhaps past experience, fear, maybe both motivated my choices and I went from controlling our money to being controlled by it.

Most of us are familiar with money as "the root of all evil."  You only have to watch the news to see what the love of money produces in our athletes, movie stars. musicians, politicians, lottery "winners" -- adultery, excess, disregard for the law and others.  Folks who were "raised right" or known for being "level-headed" and "down to earth" have had their lives turned upside down by money.  But what of "working class dogs" like us?  Well, don't go thinking we're relieved of the "curse" of money.

2 Peter 2:19 says "...a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him."  Whatever.  Drugs?  Rage?  Debt?  Yes, yes, and yes.  If I pay my bills every month, if I watch my budget and clip coupons, but obsess over every dime I spend beyond that which God commands me to control, money has become my master.  If I fear debt so badly, I rob my family of a happy, healthy wife and mother, I argue with my husband, I clutch at purse strings as it they were all that mattered, I am controlled by money just as if I were the worst of greedy corporate thieves.  The energy I put into worrying about how we will pay for something would best be put into prayer or Bible study or rejoicing for God's goodness. 

God is good -- all the time.  Sometimes we need to spring for some ice cream or treat the kids to a day at the zoo to remember that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Passing It On

I think most couples would agree with me when I say that having children makes you appreciate the times you are alone with your spouse.  I'm not sure I would as completely enjoy the nuances of our life if we didn't spend at least some time losing track of one another.  For instance, within the routine of life, particularly during the busy school year, I forget to stop and notice just how handsome my husband is.  When I'm sitting there watching him, enjoying a quiet dinner just as I did in our "dating" days, it all comes back to me.  Likewise, the love my husband and I share makes us appreciate our children.  As much as we love being "honeymooners" again, knowing the children will be home soon, our home will be full of noise and activity, and we will have others with whom to share our happiness and on whom to shower an abundance of love cultivated during our time "alone," makes us dizzy with anticipation.

Our lives in Christ need not be any different.  Christ has such a love for us, He shares it with us over and over, day after day.  We should make our quiet time, our time alone with Him, of such caliber and priority that we are overflowing with love and excitement to share His love and our story with others.  When was the last time you felt that eager to share Christ's love with others?

A Word to the Wise About Family Vacations

This is the story of a Family Vacation. Due to the nature of "family" and "vacations," please use your discretion when reading this to small children.  Names have not been changed, for no one who ignores National Lampoon's warning can be judged innocent:

Scott and I are no strangers to travel, nor was this our first overnight excursion with our family.  Needless to say, we ignored all the warnings and approached this endeavour with a "we-got-this" attitude.
The first incident came only moments after leaving the house, in one of those places where you are close enough to think about turning around, but far enough to know you are risking mutiny if you do.  "I forgot my bathing suit!"  Going to the beach?  Really?  "No worries, I'll buy one on the boards."  Later, while unpacking:  "You know all those new shirts we bought for the trip?  Well, they're hanging in my closet at home.  How much do you think shirts will cost?"  Then there was the milk, and the DVD's and eventually, the phone charger which I left not at home, but plugged into the wall right next to the toaster in our cute little apartment by the beach.  (Which became, by the way, more little than cute after three days and more rain than we'd ever anticipated.)
Check-out required us to vacate our free spot on the lot by noon; at 10:30 AM we began our search for alternative parking so we could walk the boards one last time.  (Why is it, my husband and I would never dream of visiting the same mall twice in the same week, much less four times in three days?  One more screen-printed tee and I'll...)  On the bright side, I have to say our fifteen minute search for parking was better than the thirty minute search for dinner, due to an address typo, the night before.  Problem with metered parking, it requires an unlimited supply of quarters; the girls coughed up 45 of the dollar-45 and we were on our way.  Bicycles, fatigue, and drizzle drove us to the car shortly before noon.  "Tell me again why we left our free spot only half a block from the beach?"
Sun burnt and longing for home we felt our spirits lift as we crossed the Walt Whitman into Philadelphia.  That is, until it all unravelled.  The driver's window refused to go up after passing through the tollbooth, Scott began yanking on it in frustration, I sniped at him to wait until we got home before he broke it completely or killed us all and then, she died.  Yep, my poor truck could go no further.  Just a week before vacation we'd had so much work put into it, the service writer at the dealership signed us up for a rebate program -- and, at 5%, we got a sizable rebate!  Now, here we were sitting in a black truck under skies so hazy, with skin temperatures that would rival a pack of iguanas, waiting for a tow.  By God's grace, Scott had talked me into joining AAA just a month or so ago.  The representative assured us help would be there within thirty minutes, and there'd be no need for a vehicle to pick up the family -- this driver had a "really large truck."  Perhaps her definition of large never accommodated a 6'1" man and his four ladies.  With no desire to subject our hero to fines unimaginable, I'll just tell you he got us home, and my Pig Mobile back to the dealership where it was greeted with shaking heads and gaping jaws.

As with all fairytales, this one has a happy ending.  It may not have been what the Go-Go's had in mind as they bopped around stage singing, "Vacation -- all I ever wanted," but I can't say it was as bad as anything Clark Griswold experienced.  Without sounding too cliche, we're home, we're healthy, and we're happy.    

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Party's Over

Scott and I have just spent the last three and a half days together as a couple.  Just us.  We talked and laughed like we rarely have opportunity to do.  We stressed over...nothing.  We went to the most remote areas of the park with no one asking us to hike a mile and a half to the nearest bathroom because they "really have to go -- now!"  We watched movies that were unsuitable for those under the age of 17, we ate lots of things that were good for us, got plenty of rest and ran with scissors.  It was "Lord of the Flies: The Middle Aged Edition."

In a few short hours, anarchy will be a distant memory and children will descend upon our home like locusts in Egypt.  Their conduct will resemble that of children who have ingested cotton candy laced with Pixie Stix and chased it with a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew; they will be intoxicated with the anticipation of three days at the shore.  (The electronics world has not yet come up with a breathalyzer to measure this, but I can assure you the reading will be over whatever legal limit they eventually prove dangerous -- to parents.)  They will ask more questions than we are prepared to answer.  They will want to pack immediately, leave immediately, and arrive immediately despite our reservation two days from now. 

**Scott has just come in with an update -- 5 hours, 9 minutes, and 45 seconds 'til "go time."**

Well, looks like time is ticking.  I'd better rock!  Besides, I've gotta get packing myself -- truth is, the party's just getting started!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What a Team!

A lifelong neighbor of ours passed away earlier last week; he was a great guy, and I know he is sorely missed by many.  The funeral was yesterday -- the gummiest, steamiest, wettest day so far this summer.  I was dreading mass in a church with A/C that had been coaxed to start only minutes before, and pews that could have been used during the Spanish Inquisition.  Thank God, He is full of surprises.

The sermon was based on Matthew 11:30 -- "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  The image of the yoke was common in reference to the restrictions an older teacher or rabbi would put on his followers in order to teach them.  The concept of the "yoke" is this:  A farmer "yokes" or binds an inexperienced ox or plow horse to an experienced one in order to teach and train the younger one the skills necessary to get the job done as a team -- routine, pace, the "language" and direction of the farmer.  A yoke is the piece of wood that was custom-fitted to each team to keep them functioning together as smoothly and comfortably as possible.  If the yoke was a poor fit it could cause both animals pain or allow the 'newbie' to go rogue, upsetting the whole process.  Hence, Christ's word -- "easy."  The Greek is "chrestos," which means pleasant, fit for use, profitable, not harsh.  It is not a yoke that chafes or irritates, but mellows, surrounds and guides us to success, providing we yoke ourselves to the One who will never leave us or forsake us.  Imagine your partner for life is the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God of the Universe!
After the sermon, I had such a wonderful mental image of my Brother, Jesus Christ and I joined together, yoked together, forever, a team throughout.  I wanted to shake the priest's hand and tell him that if he ever wanted to come to the "dark side" we'd love to have him, but figured I'd best thank him appropriately and keep the line moving.  But if I see my neighbor in Glory, I'll be sure to give him a nod. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Upstaging a Boycott

Apparently there is an e-mail circulating regarding NBC's "Today Show," and it's decision to allow a same-sex couple to enter their annual (?) wedding contest.  The e-mail requests, I guess, anyone opposed to same-sex marriages or concerned for the traditional family unit to boycott, not only these episodes, not only the Today Show, but all NBC programming.  Let me just say, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have even seen the Today Show (outside of the 15 minutes waiting for the Dental Assistant to call me to the chair -- those heathens at the dental office watch the Today Show, you know).  So, I guess, by default, you can add me to the list of boycotters, however, it almost makes we want to watch just to prove how ridiculous and trifling I think this whole campaign is.

First of all, I never understood the "boycott" concept when it came to television.  Oh, I get the whole thing about sponsors and such, but isn't TV largely a secular industry to begin with?  That's like heading to the local bar and protesting the use of profanity!  Why do we insist on expecting "The World" to act like Christians?  This IS NOT an all-Christian nation -- hasn't been for years; it may have been founded that way, but we gave it up!  We stopped evangelizing, we stopped supporting our churches faithfully, we got wrapped up in our own quarrels and nonsense and splits, whatever -- we lost it

Besides, doesn't each television set come equipped with an On/ Off switch?  You select the things you want to watch, and fore go the things you don't.  When was the last time anyone boycotted Target because they sell revealing swimsuits on the rack next to modest one-piece suits?  If you don't approve television at all, the local Rec center would love to have your donation.  If we're "taking back control of our country" why don't we start with our own homes?  Christian Book Distributors has a great selection of DVD's on the life of Christ and the Apostles to watch with our children.

Add to it, this is the boycott of an entire network!  You mean to tell me that everything available on this network is worthless?  So, if there was a show you watched every week that instilled family values, that provided wholesome enjoyment -- "That's it!  Pull the plug!  No more "____" for us; NBC is showing gays on another program, in another time slot."  As many splits as the Christian church has regarding the language of the Bible, ways to serve Communion or perform Baptism, you meant to tell me you agree with every word that comes from your pastor's mouth?  A local Christian radio station has a wonderful talk show on Saturday morning; I listen faithfully even though I do not agree with everything the pastor says.  When that show concludes another program about "health products" begins.  Some of these products I believe, are nothing more than snake oil, and I choose not to listen; I tune to a different station, simple as that.  Do we boycott entire stations or churches because a sermon or hymn supports capital punishment? or supports Republican ideology?  If boycotting all of NBC makes perfect sense to you, why were you watching it in the first place?

Lastly, the homosexuality issue.  I spent years of my life as a legalist.  I didn't know it; I never saw it even though the Bible clearly speaks against it.  Praise God, He has brought me to a point where I see it.  I still have a repulsive tendency to be arrogant and judgemental.  Those sins make me hate my human nature, but they still exist within me; I struggle with them daily.  I am not perfect and know I will never be until I leave this earth and abide with my Heavenly Father in Glory.  Every time I find myself bitter and angry with judgement I long for the perfection of Glory; my bitterness makes me sick of myself.  I know, however it is God's timing and God's "show."  He is working in my life in a multitude of ways, but rarely the ways I desire at the speed I wish he would.  For that, I say, "Thanks be to a Sovereign God."  But I see my sin and pray daily for His Spirit to work within me.  I know that means I am on my way to healing though, because that's what happened with the "legalism thing."  Did I love God?  Yes.  Did I want to serve Him?  Yes.  But my legalism was getting in the way.  God revealed that to me.  That didn't necessarily mean He took it from me overnight.  Time and time again, my little "legalism alarm" went off when I was saying or doing something with anyone other than God as my first purpose.  Gradually it became -- is becoming -- second nature.  A work in progress.  I don't believe being gay is OK in God's eyes.  Then again, neither is being arrogant and judgemental.  I don't think God sees my sin as any worse or better than the sins of others.  The World wears its sins in the open; we wear ours under the cloak of God's righteousness. But we are all sinners whether we accept God's forgiveness or not. I don't believe it's my job to say, "He/ she should be completely 'healed of' or 'released from' this sin because they call themselves a Christian."  If we were all called by the names of our sins, if our sins were laid out in the open, obvious to all, wouldn't we be boycotting everyone?  Why do families crumble when someone gets outed, but Uncle Ray who cooked the books at his firm still gets a place at the table on Thanksgiving?  Does someone want to boycott Broken To Breathless because I struggle with sins of arrogance and self-righteousness?  Maybe they could boycott all of Blogger? the Internet? PC's?  If you decide not to watch something, shouldn't it be your choice, because you don't want those values in your home?

Will I be watching? Nope, but I wouldn't have been watching anyway. Will I boycott? Maybe I already am, but only by default. What network does "Cold Case" come on?