Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Meat and Potatoes Kinda Gal

Jeremiah 15:16
16Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,” my conscience sung to me as I popped the last of the cheesecake into my mouth.
“Why can’t vegetables taste like tiramisu, and hot fudge sundaes have fourteen calories?” I wondered.  No doubt our eight year old wonders that from time to time as well. 
Well, it’s not always easy to do the right thing, though the benefits are huge!  Just imagine what you would look like if you did eat nothing but hot fudge and cheesecake.  Eyuck!  Now, let’s slim things down a bit.  Envision yourself the picture of health, thriving on carrots and green beans; strong and bursting with energy on asparagus!  We are willing, after all, to punish our children when they refuse to do what’s best for them – vegetables included.
But what about what’s best for us as adults?  What’s best for us spiritually?
Last year I decided it was time; I was going to read the Bible in its entirety.  Having grown up in the church and attended Christian school, I was pretty confident I had at some point, read most of it.  Additionally, I was “pretty bored with the whole thing.” 
“In the beginning…”  Yeah, yeah, I know – bland, tasteless. 
So I decided to start off slow – one chapter a day.
Talk about thriving!  Talk about bursting with energy, fired up for Jesus, lean and mean with the Truth!  I read ten chapters daily.  I can’t get enough!  The benefits to my heart are unspeakable; my vision is better, brighter, clearer!  God’s Word is sweet to the taste!
“A moment just to start, a lifetime in my heart!”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are You a Real Success?

As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. (2 Chronicles 26:5b)

How much more simply can this be said?

How is success generally measured in our society today? Riches? Fame? Looks? How intensely do we pursue success? What methods do we use to pursue it?

Seeking the Lord brings success. The success that comes from knowing all of your needs, forever, will be supplied. The success that comes from knowing, no matter what ills or trials befall you, there is none that can destroy you; Jesus is with you through them. The success that comes from knowing, your most valuable possessions are kept safe from moths, rust, thieves – in the treasuries of heaven. The success that comes from knowing, whatever it is you are trying to overcome – addiction, heartbreak, joblessness, a life seeming to spiral wildly out of control – success is yours for the taking. There is power in Jesus’ name.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When It's the Little Things that Make a Difference

I am blessed – beyond measure, beyond anything I could ever have imagined. As I walk the halls of my church, I realize what a privilege it is to be able to kiss my children at the door of the same Sunday School building where my parents kissed me. I utter the same parting words my parents said to me: “Behave yourself,” or “Have fun,” or “Learn as much as you can!” Bittersweet is moving through the crowd, looking into the aging faces of those who mentored me, befriended me, scolded me, even babysat me. I can almost hear the voices of Sunday School Teachers Past telling me to read my Bible, obey my parents, pray every day… “God loves you! You can talk to Him about anything!”

And so I did. Tests for which I hadn’t studied, lies I had told – I begged God to reverse the consequences of my sins. He was my good luck charm, helping me find things I’d misplaced or win game after game of Parcheesi (of course “re-rolling” when I thought my dad wasn’t looking didn't hurt).

My prayer life has matured since those days, but the fact still remains, I can talk to God about anything. 2 Kings 6:5 - 7. Typical day, cutting some wood; one of the guys takes a swing, and – PLUNK – the axe head lands straight in the river. I know that look – the one that says, “Are you serious?” Then the realization, “Aw, shucks! I borrowed that!” But Elisha knows just Who to call; God’s mighty hand lifts it to the surface to be retrieved by the borrower. Just another day in “Believer-ville.”

Not only was this an easy task for the One Who spoke the earth and stars into existence, but it was a simple mishap He was glad to fix. Just as a straightforward word from a friend, or an honest compliment, or a seemingly insignificant effort on the part of a spouse can brighten your entire day, God is not too big to do the same for His children, or too self-absorbed to know what something like that can mean to us.  God knows us.  He knows when we need a good throttling; He knows when it takes a whisper. He knows that sometimes it's as elementary as getting us off the hook for a borrowed axe that can change things around. No matter how big or how small, He wants to hear it from us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Aaah, Family Gatherings (This is not fiction -- you couldn't make this stuff up)

My dad always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  So, "The food was great."  Having said that...

Went to a family function about a week ago.  Having previously worked in the restaurant business, I know dim lights hide a multitude of sins -- food splattered on walls, dusty light fixtures, the reaction on people's faces when they have to do that fake air kiss thing with people they don't remotely care for, or don't really know.  In this place, I couldn't even see my feet -- PERFECT!

So, here we are, all smoochy-smoochied and settled in.  The children are slamming back Roy Rogers and Shirley Temples like Domino sugar had set up shop in the front parking lot.  It's a free-for-all in Minorville; Mom and Dad are so busy making nice with the natives, the kids are ordering Red Dye #2 with a side of outta-control.  One of the little nippers manages to inhale so much junk in so little time, Dad takes a call from Guiness Records right there at the table; the deal fades when said nipper empties his stomach contents onto the floor right in front of the salad bar.  But, there's still hope.  He's now squeezing lemons into his ice water, dumping in every sugar packet his little arms can reach, and slurping up what doesn't run down his shirt, with a spoon.  Maybe he can clinch some sort of record for projectile vomitting. 

Meanwhile, Uncle Warbucks in his $300 tracksuit begins to circle.  Since I'm on a roll here, allow me to take a moment to offend almost everyone: Tracksuits are for the track, and workout gear should only be worn by those who look like they've experienced at least one workout since high school.  Anyhoo, Perry Ellis here has just divorced Wife #Who's-Counting and he's staring down my sixteen year old.  He leans over to my husband and I to remark how beautiful she is.  OK, a compliment.  "Thank you."  Not that I had squat to do with it, mind you, but in an effort to be gracious...  But that's not enough.  No, why would it be?  This is a guy who thrives on lighting people up, ticking them off.  "You know, if I married your step-daughter I could be your son-in-law."  Oh, no he didn't!  "You could also be prosecuted," I say without blinking.  Scott says nothing, but to his credit -- Uncle Deliverance still has his face and his dental work in tact.

Ralph, the vomitting bambino is now swinging on a bar rail and dragging himself across the restaurant floor.  His brother is screaming and elbowing people in the bread bar line.  And I am worried whether my ladies have napkins on their laps?  Are you kidding me?

The irony in this whole thing, is my husband and I are considered somewhat freakish -- outcasts, because we don't want to associate with (read: endure) this kind of thing.  We don't think it's cute, funny, relaxing, or enjoyable in any way.  It's downright embarrassing.  But we are ignorant and thoughtless when we honestly voice our opinion and refuse to attend.  We are embarrassing.

Lucky for us, we have another function coming up in a couple of weeks.  Dare to hope that Ralph and Uncle Tom will be there?  It just won't be the same without 'em.  Cue banjo music...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Somebody Wanna Help Me Out Here?

In all seriousness, I have a question:  "Am I as bad as people say I am?"

I don't like hanging out with the girls. I don't like sitting around kibitzing about what someone else wore to last week's PTA meeting (Homeschoolers don't have a PTA, and if they did, I wouldn't go!) or discussing where to get the best eyebrow wax (I don't have eyebrows either; I'm 45, they were one of the first things to go.  Deal with it!)

Apparently, this makes me anti-social.

I HATE -- oh, was I too vague?  Let me clarify, H-A-A-A-T-E talking on the phone.  My ear sweats, I get a crick in my neck, and I usually get whatever disgusting goo I'm mixing in the kitchen all over the phone.  I also keep a very odd schedule.  So when you call me on Tuesday, don't expect a call back until Friday -- maybe.  Unless you need an immediate answer, in which case I will try to put aside my aversion to earsweat and call you back soon.  But just to chat?  If you didn't see my obit, I ain't dead; I will assume the same for you, and we'll chat when I see you.

Apparently, this makes me irresponsible and bitchy.

I don't email jokes, nor do I respond to email jokes I receive.  It's a joke!  If we were hanging out and you told me joke would you expect me to say, "Ha!Ha!Ha!" or make a face like one of those stupid emoticons?  Maybe you'd prefer I told you a joke you had heard twelve times in the office, just like most of the email jokes I get through interoffice email marked "For Business Use Only."  And Facebook, tweets, causes?  Weren't computers supposed to make our lives easier, enable us to "do the things we really wanted to do" with all the free time we'd have?  Judging by standards others believe I should maintain, I've always wanted to feed fake farm animals, air dirty laundry at alarming speeds, and verbally support non-violent schools in every state.  I have to ask, is there a cause for violent schools?

Apparently, this makes me lazy, bitter and snooty.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm hearing is:
Because my family is more important to me than any other individuals on the face of the earth, because I love to cook and clean for them, because I work part-time out of the home, help my husband with his business in our home, write, homeschool, walk my dogs once a day for exercise and spend the rest of my time in the Word (reading), around the Word (church and church groups), about the Word (practicing it by serving others)... I heed help.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Do You Hear Yourself?

My new favorite show is "Hard Time" on NatGeo.  I've occasionally wondered whether God has a purpose for piquing my interest in prisons.  Maybe prison ministry.  Hopefully not prison in general.  But I guess one is His choice, and the other would be left entirely up to me.  Anyway.  I hear so many of these guys talking tough, posturing, trying to maintain an illusion of control.  My favorite is the guy freshly released from prison, in his early thirties, ninety-three dollars in his pocket and riding shotgun to his new accommodations at mommy and daddy's house.  Still he brags, "I made myself who I am today; I am responsible for everything I have right now."  Oh, the irony.
9.3 million or ninety-three cents, I pray no one will ever hear me brag I have achieved anything in life!  If you do, stop me in my tracks IMMEDIATELY!  All I have "earned" by a temporal sort of definition, all I was ever given, was given at God's discretion and by His grace.  Understand, that as human beings who have thumbed our noses as the very One Who breathed into us the breath of life, and determined to do this thing on our own, we are entitled to do nothing but go it ALONE -- in a most desolate sort of way, a way that leads to certain death.
In spite of this, God gives.  Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue recently gave an interview in which he states, "I'm so blessed, and I don't know why."  Well, I do.  But it doesn't come without a price.
"See, I knew there had to be a catch," you say.
Well, here it is: You have to put it to God use -- not a typo, not "good use" -- God use.  He gives to us as stewards.  Think about that.  Although you are controlling, managing, distributing, allocating -- you are doing it for someone else; you are a servant of the master.  Or in this case, The Master.  It does not belong to you.  Though you may allot some for you salary, even that you can't take with you.  The gain itself -- money, brains, good looks, athleticism, musical talent, even great health -- is temporal; the stewardship is of an eternal nature.
I pray today that not only do I humbly give due thanks to The Giver of Good Gifts, but I recognize and with all my energy fulfill my responsibility as His steward.
And, having said that -- Scott and some of my friends have been on my case for several months now about "stepping things up" -- writing a book, getting published, following my dream and my calling.  I know I need to be a better steward of my talent.  So, there it is -- my committment to taking my own advice.              

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's Not Always the Thought that Counts

I was just admiring how my husband's brain works.  Just a little background here -- when I first met Scott he was, let's say, a little rough around the edges.  (Some say "scary")  His lifestyle was more conducive to murder-suicide than growth and development.  He still remains high-strung, but it is tempered with much happier, healthier choices; I choose to believe he is using his powers for good instead of evil. 

For example, one day I was admiring a couple of wooden dog crates.  Scott said, "I can build them."  Three prototypes later (Bishop kept eating his way out) and an entire wall unit dedicated to canine comfort and storage...

...we have personalized dog crates that Ethan Allen would envy.

The other day we dabbled in a discussion about "assisted reproductive technology," provoked by th issue of Social Security benefits for children conceived after a parent's death.  Scott casually tossed about euphemisms such as "Fast Freddie" and "Johnny Appleseed" to describe the paternal winner in the race to conception.  We wound up on opposite sides of the argument, as we usually do, but it's never dull, and it's never personal.

But what caught my attention today was his prayer.  The simplicity of it all, the submission, the love and care that went into each thought -- a man praying for the will of One Whom he wishes to honor and glorify, asking God Almighty's blessing on his family as specifically as if he were filling out a written request, admitting his inadequacies but approaching the King of Kings with the confidence and familiarity of a child curling up on his father's lap.

We often joke that, left to its own devices, Scott's mind can be a very dangerous place.  I guess it's a good thing Someone Else has control of his heart!