Friday, November 29, 2013

A CASE FOR HATE

I played sports in school.  My coach would yell things like, "My grandmother can run faster!" and "C'mon Ladies, You're slow as molasses!!"  Speed shaming.  I hated it.

My daughter's in the Army.  Her DS yelled things that aren't at all fit for print, and made my high school coach look like Mother Goose.  Loser shaming.  Disgusting.

And now there's Maria Kang.  A mom who was thrust into the limelight a month or so ago for making less-then-fit women feel lazy.  She's baaack...

I watched the News the other night.  I heard the report of how she bashed curvy women and said that women who are even the slightest bit overweight shouldn't be at all proud of themselves.  This was the News.  Not ET, or TMZ or any of those other ridiculous acronyms that churn out fodder to incite the masses.  This was the News.  I turned to Scott and said, "I supported her before, but why doesn't she just focus on encouraging others instead of bashing them?  Talk about how great you feel instead of how disgusting you think we all are."  If you build it they will come.

Well, here it is.  Maria Kang's original Facebook post:
"While I think it's important to love and accept your body, I was a little peeved because while I feel like it's ok to love and accept your body, I think we're normalizing obesity in our society.
"We need to change this strange mentality we are breeding in the U.S. and start celebrating people who are a result of hard work, dedication and discipline. I’m not bashing those who are proud and overweight, I am empowering those who are proud and healthy to come out and be the real role models in our society."
Do you hear the hate speech? "a little peeved..."  Can you see how bigoted she is? "I feel like it's ok to love and accept your body..."  And then, there were those words -- "normalizing obesity in our society."  Who does she think she is???  "Celebrating people who are a result of hard work, dedication and discipline?"  Is she nuts?  You mean, instead of loathing them?  Instead of allowing our envy to metastasize onto full-blown bitterness and derision?  Instead of holding ourselves to a higher standard and giving our children real heroes to emulate?  This woman is from Mars!!! 

Sarcasm aside, not only did even the Nightly News perpetuate this witch hunt, not only did Maria Kang speak with encouragement and truth, not only were her comments a challenge to "out" complacency, lower standards, jealousy and success shaming, not only did my daughter and I (and countless other kids, teens, and adults with loving coaches, teachers, therapists and mentors) learn lots about pushing ourselves and finding strength to meet our goals, but I will be reposting Ms. Kang's comment on my Facebook as a challenge to myself and those I love to provoke and confront ourselves in ways we never dreamed, to be kind to ourselves, and to be healthy examples for our children.

Black & White Friday

FACT ONE: Yesterday (by a scarce 8 hours or so) most Americans sat around tables brimming with food fit for kings of old, and gave thanks.  To whom (or to Whom) and for what depended largely on the folks gathered there.  Many bore in mind "those who are not as blessed."

FACT TWO: Many of those same folks are today, trampling others, cutting others off in traffic, depressing their horns and extending their middle fingers as they see their coveted parking spot ripped from them, in this exercise of greed known as Black Friday.

FACT THREE: (Ask my daughter) "Momma doesn't leave the house on Black Friday."

I do this not out of protest, or superiority, or even some secret knowledge of Cyber Monday years before it was ever labeled such.  I do it because I am as short-tempered, intolerant and greedy as the next Momma.  Some alcoholics lick their lips at the sight of a bar; some angry folks grind their teeth and tighten their hands around a purely clairvoyant steering wheel at the sight of a Black Friday ad.

The irony and hypocrisy between Fact One and Fact Two are best left for another day.  The blessing I have experienced serving, and being served by some of "those who are not as blessed," and the truth that blessings are directly proportional to the altitude of your attitude, are best left for many days to come.  But my weakness?  That is right here and right now, in black & white.

  "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
 

 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

PREPARE...to fail

 
 
Wow, when I decided to insert this video, I had no idea I would wind up with a ginormous picture of Francis Chan at the top of my entry.  Anyhoo...

A while back I heard a radio interview with Chris Plekenpol, a former Army Captain who began ministering to a homeless man, and eventually offered him a place to stay.  His book Stumbling Souls, explains the transformation he experienced.  A short time after that, my Bible study read Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  If you haven't yet clicked on the life-sized link, the foundation of Chan's book is the incredible, crazy love God has for us, and what happens when we begin to demonstrate that love toward others.  Other challenging books I've recently read were Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and Radical, by David Platt.  The message I get from all of these books is: Are you ready to go out and do something different, do something obedient, do something out of real love?

Since then, I've read C.S. Lewis, John Piper, Tim Heller, Steve Brown, etc., etc.  I've listened to countless sermons by Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Dr. Oliver B. Green and of course, my own pastor.  The message I get from these folks is: Are you ready to fail?

I don't think anybody stares face to face with a challenge, prepared to fail, but I believe those of us who are indeed trying to live by the direction of the Holy Spirit, need to seriously consider this outcome. 

For instance, Jesus never called folks to go buy some sheep on credit -- live in victory!  He never said, "The public is really gonna love your stance on not cheating the poor."  His very own cousin wound up a party favor -- his head anyway -- a victim of Herod's drunken machismo.  And what was with the outfit?  I'm sure GQ or Oprah would not call John the Baptist for interviews, were he around today.  Maybe Springer.  By the world's standards, many of Jesus' followers were losers -- exiled, beaten, stoned, beheaded, boiled -- and those are just some of the ones recorded in the Bible.  What about those in less than ancient history? Jim Elliot, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, victims of the Nag Hammadi massacre, those sitting in prisons today!  Untold numbers imprisoned, discriminated against, disowned by families, starved.  Following the way of Jesus is not easy, nor is it popular.

As a kid, one of my favorite shows was Batman.  Every episode, Batman or Robin would find themselves victims of some loathsome villain and his or her despicable, but imbecilic sidekicks.  As Batman struggled to get free, the villains would laugh maniacally and nod to one another, assured of success this time.  But this was Batman; he was a super-hero; he could do anything.  And in minutes he would be free, BIFF-ing and BAM-ing his way out of the crooked lair and setting everything right for the citizens of Gotham City. 

Well, this is no Gotham City, and sometimes "heroes" fail, and sometimes "heroes" suffer.  If I truly desire to obey God's will, I have to accept whatever He has in store.  Reputation, image, popularity, and success are ideas that depend on human existence to even have any value.  The results of humility and faithful obedience are much larger than my life in the here and now.  As Jesus demonstrated almost 2000 years ago, the victory of the Christian life is not always the victory of today.  Sometimes it comes later... 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Do You Meme?

I've noticed this rash of memes among my Facebook friends.  I get it.  They're funny; they're cute.  They sum up the entirety of your existence in eight words or less.  However, if everyone on my extensive list of friends (currently, 112; funny, last week I thought I had 115) posts 2 memes each day, that's 224 -isms and -ologies I must wade through simply to ascertain the outcome of your trip to Disney, or the sex of your first grandchild.  Chances are, I am already quite aware of your stance on Obamacare, gun control, cheesy chicken, or dumb people.  I really would just like to know how your day is going.  I like the pictures of you and your niece at the park.

But, since you have subjected me to your philosophies, you have opened the door for my OPINION!

Let's take this one:

Probably coined by some well-meaning individual, looking to simplify the issue of doubt and the remedy of prayer.  Cute.  Truth is, sometimes when I experience doubt, it's because I have been looking up.  Because I have been wrestling with the serious issues of my faith, God's plan for me, contradictions I see and hear daily that make me wonder what, on earth, God is doing.  Jonah was not happy that God decided to spare Nineveh.  To the people of that city, Jonah must have looked like he hadn't a clue.  And, if God is going to give out free passes to those who don some potato sacks and dust, despite their vile actions in the past, what am I doing by trying to walk the straight and narrow?  The Christian life is not such that it can be summed up in clipart.  It is difficult, and not for the self-sufficient.  God's plans are not so easily revealed that a quick prayer or peek into the pages of Scripture will "clear things up in a jiffy."  Some times our greatest doubts can spring forth from seeking God at the greatest heights.

Or my personal fave:

 
NOT true, and NOT biblical.  1 Corinthians 10:13.  It talks about temptation.  It talks about the Lord giving us a way out -- HIM -- not handling it ourselves.  That's all I'm sayin.'
 
Lastly:
 
Of course I can't actually find one at the moment.  No doubt, there will be several when I get up in the morning.  But those adorable little promises that by simply sharing a picture of Jesus, He will do something wonderful in your life.  The chain letter of my youth without the letter.  Well, if Jesus is going to make me wealthy, or pretty, or successful just because I share on Facebook, I'd better get crackin.'  After all, I didn't do a blessed thing and still got saved! 

God's Grace for a Back-Stabbing Skeez

Those of you who have spent more than fifteen minutes in a local church, are probably on a committee.  Church committees were probably the poster children for recruitment long before Uncle Sam ever pointed a finger.  It seems to me, though, they have to be.  I mean, let's face it, the pay isn't great -- "$0? Hmm, $0.  Let me think about that."  No experience necessary.  "So, what you're saying is, I know nothing about architecture or structural integrity, and I'm perfect for the job?! What's that? And so was the guy before me? Hey, would you mind if we stepped outside?"  Your selflessness and exceptional efforts will be carefully scrutinized by a committee of folks who do little more than sit around and carefully scrutinize the volunteer service of others, and then tell their friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on...

So, when the church I was attending was desperate for committee members to organize a local event, I figured I would do my good deed, and sign up.  The chairperson was a friend of mine as well, so I wanted to help her out.  The event was five months away, and though it wasn't a huge endeavor, I'm one of those people who cannot stand waiting until the last minute.  (Funny how the girl who did her homework at 2AM, or in the bathroom as she was brushing her teeth, or on the bus, or in homeroom has become this neurotic individual.)  Plus, as far as I could tell, I was the one and only person to put their name on the dotted line, so to speak. 

Three weeks later, I had heard nothing.  So, I figured my friend, the committee chairperson, was having a difficult time getting the ball rolling.  I emailed her a list of ideas -- creative ways to make our event a huge success!

A week later, when I asked her if she'd received the email, "yes" was her response. 
"So, what did you think?"
"I have to run them past the pastor's committee."
"OK!"  Headway!  I can be so na├»ve.

Two weeks after that, the answer was the same.  And two weeks after that?  You guessed it.

So, I took another look at those suggestions.  In silence, self-evaluation, right?  I tweeked, and cut, and embellished, until those "creative ways to make our event a huge success" were "ingenious ideas to bring the house down!"  Ok, maybe not, but they were a little more user friendly, not as daunting or work intensive, but just as fabulous.

Reality set in when, eighteen days after that, I received the email stating that the following Sunday, the committee would be rolling out the plans for the event, and one of the other members had, at the last meeting, graciously offered to do the presentation.  At the last meeting?!  What meeting? What other committee member? I thought we were friends?  Suffice to say, it all went downhill from there.  I confronted Ms. Chairperson, my friend, "my sister," who constantly talked over me through the entire ordeal, who completely dismissed my feelings, and deftly turned it around to make it seem as if I were out of my mind and somehow, very pathetic

"Why didn't you say something sooner?" 
"Oh, my fault, I didn't assume the worst about you weeks ago."

Come event day, I was placated with a job in the kitchen.  Friendship over.  "Sister," a backstabbing skeez.

SO, here is the question -- one with which I too often struggle:

Fast forward to Glory.  The crowd is going wild.  Jesus is in the house!  Everybody is dancing.  Hands up!  Happier than a camel on hump day.  I look over, and there she is.  Does my face instantly drop?  Do I feel the urge to rip off her nail tips, welling up inside me?  "How did she get here?!" 

Of course, I know the answer to all of the above, this is a God thing -- NOT a Judi thing, after all.  But we all so want to think we act the part, all the time -- and others should, too.  The answer is grace.  God's grace for me.  God's grace for backstabbing skeezes -- even though I can be one.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Facing the Reality of a Heart Transplant

As I fired up "Bible Gateway" to do my devotions today, I was met with the "Verse of the Day:"

Romans 15:7 ~
"Therefore receive one another just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God."

"Receive."  Such a unique way of putting things, but what would that really look like?

 That's a little "much" for me...

Couldn't do the beard...

REALLY creepy...

The Amplified Bible says, "welcome into your hearts."  Bad enough I should "treat" others as Christ treats them -- as Christ treats me (see Fruits of the Spirit, for instance).  You can treat someone well, and roll out; you can bite your lip through your entire service to them.  But to truly welcome someone into your heart is a full-time venture, a real experience, a heart transplant -- mine to Christ's.

 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ch- Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

Transition.  It's the word people use when they don't want to freak others out with the word "change."  For instance, when your employer says, "We are in the midst of a transition."  What he's really saying is, "Everything is about to change.  I cannot guarantee a moment's stability, and I'm really not even sure why I am telling you this because I cannot say for certain you'll be around by the time I'm finished this sent--  Oh.  Wow.  Sorry."

But not all transitions are bad.  I generally listen to Country or "Contemporary Christian" (I loathe that classification, BTW) music, but from time to time, I will make a call.  It goes something like this, "Hey, I'm going off the grid for a while.  Love you.  I'll talk to you later."  This is Scott's warning that I am no longer answering the phone, the door, the "History Facts" quiz on the back of the cereal box -- nuthin'.  But I am OK.  Then, I will put on some Jazz, or Dubstep, or Classical or, or New Age; I might even throw in some Floyd, or Tool, or Metallica.  The transitions in the music are exciting -- like getting more than one song for your buck!  You're not sure what's coming next, but the first part was so good, you're safe to assume what is to follow will be just as good, if not better.

I have been studying the Book of Psalms for the past couple of months.  So many Psalms begin in anger or disappointment.  My psalm for this morning was Psalm 77.  He begins troubled, overwhelmed, in anguish; he cries out -- why? how long? have You really turned Your back on us?  It is when the writer considers how good things used to be, that he determines to hold on to those things through this period of transition.  He decides that, though transitions may be difficult, or unexpected, or completely out of his control, they are not beyond God's control.

The God who composed this life is still on His throne, and based on the first movement, we are safe to assume what is coming next will no doubt, be a masterpiece!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

HEY, PHILADELPHIA!!!

Did you know we have a sister city?  Yeah, I know!  Who knew, right?  Well, we do.  In fact, we have a few, but it's this little one in Russia that seems to be causing all the flack.  It's a cute little town with a population just shy of Philly's.  It's name is Nizhny Novgorod, or Nizhny for short.

Now, here is the issue at hand.  Mayor Nutter is facing a bit of pressure to cut ties with our dear sister of 20 years because it seems she has banned homosexual literature.  Yep.  Does it get any worse than that?  One of our illustrious former mayors would have probably dropped a bomb on her by now, but that's another story for another day.  Anyhoo, certain factions are crusading to dump our disagreeable sister, and I couldn't agree more.  Here's my argument:

1) All free thinkers and rubes who have the gall to disagree with popular opinion need to be taught a lesson.

2) Separation of church and state (the current, popular translation - not the one that says the state needs to stay out of the church's business) is obviously the first step in separating sex and state.  If Mayor Nutter is called to task and cuts off Sister Russia, there can no longer be any issues amongst folks who wish to see the state recognize gay marriages -- once the state is out, it's out!

3) It's a wonderful thing to have the fifth largest city in America dictate how to run the fifth largest city in Russia.  Those poor, ignorant folks in Nizhny need our help!  Arrogance is always a good characteristic -- the rest of the world loves Americans for it!

4) Once Nizhny reaches our enlightened status, they can beg to be back in our good graces.  Who knows, maybe then they will have surpassed our enlightenment and can tell us how to run our city - sort of like Mother England did with the colonies back in the 1700's.

5) If Philly divorces our little sister over banning certain literature - in its own city - or over any other difference of opinion, that will give a whole new meaning to extortion.  You disagree?  I want a divorce.  You smoke within the confines of your own car?  Relinquish your driver's license.  You like mind-numbing reality TV?  Oh ok, you can stay.  But, you don't participate in casual Friday?  You're fired.  You don't speak Russian?  You are dead to me (or however they would say that in Nizhny Novgorod).  Everyone knows, the best way to woo someone to seeing things your way is to make ridiculous threats. 

6) Lastly, and this is the one I really want you to let hang there a moment...

Philadelphia public schools banned prayer and Bible reading 50 years ago.

Anniversary

"Where were you?" 

There aren't too many of us who, on this day, need an explanation.  Some were standing in line at Starbucks, manically checking their watches.  Some were breathing a sigh of relief after waving a rowdy brood off on the school bus.  Those of us from the night shift were slumbering blissfully.  And others?  Well, we know.

"But where was God?"

I have been asked that question a few times since 9/11.  The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Hurricane Katrina.  Moore, OK. Big theology for such a tiny blog.  But here's how I see it.

He was on His throne, just where he was when the sun was peeking above the horizon that morning; when birds were trilling and the skies were bathed in color.  He was keeping His eye on us, just as He was the day that really nice guy from the towing company helped you change that flat and get you to your sister's wedding in time.  He was as generous as the day you bought that house for a steal, or found the $20 when you were low on gas.  He was just as sovereign as the day you landed that great job, or got an A+ on your math test, or asked her to marry you (and she said "Yes!")  He had a plan, just as He did the day Hitler committed suicide in that bunker, or Nelson Mandela was born.  He was with those who perished that day, just as He was the first time you heard the cry of your perfectly healthy baby boy.  And He is with you today, even as you doubt His existence or His power or His love for you...just as He was the day you somehow decided He wasn't. 

So when all the cool stuff was happening...

"Where were you?"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Are You Looking For?

That sinking feeling when you realize you have lost your phone. Your keys. Your wallet.  Your kid.  Yep, my ex-husband and I lost our daughter at the beach one time.  I don't think there is a worse place to lose a child.  Add to the usual possibilities -- abduction by any one of hundreds of strangers (God forbid) or a terrified, wandering child -- the possibility of her being swept out to sea and, at the very moment you are standing there wondering what to do next, she is drowning and her tiny voice cannot be heard above the roar of the waves.  Guilt.  "Why were we ever allowed to reproduce?!"  "Why didn't I...?"  Then blame - "Why didn't you...?"  All the while, frantically searching.  Once our Teenie Weenie was found, we hugged her and kissed her, and certainly vowed to be more vigilant, but it really threw some cold, hard sobriety into an otherwise playful day off.

Luke 15 tells three stories of loss.  First, the shepherd who has one hundred sheep.  When one strays, he leaves the others to find it.  "When he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders."

The second is a woman who loses one of ten coins -- perhaps her last ten, perhaps coins of great value.  She frantically works to locate the one that is lost.  When she does, she calls her friends in to rejoice.

The third is a son.  A son who, though he has a will and has decided to wander from home, he has rendered his father a victim of great loss.  His father does not pound the pavements in search of him; he does not put up posters or offer a reward.  But we see his father searching the horizon, longing everyday for his lost son's return.  "And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming."  A great banquet is held to celebrate.

What strikes me here, is the increasing value: one percent of the shepherd's wealth, one tenth of the woman's, half of the father's.  Possessions, to a life.  And yet, the scenarios are the same: loss, search, celebration.  We seem to resolve all loss with the same instinctive behaviors.

Luke 19:10 tells us that Jesus is no different: "For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost."  There are those who are lost.  The Greek here is "apollymi," a word meaning in peril, loss ruin or headed for destruction.  But Jesus brings hope!  He seeks them.  The Greek for seek is "zeteo," and means to strive after -- active and emotional search; one definition even says "to crave or demand."

All this to say, I have been challenged.  Do I resist talking about what Jesus has done for us?  Do I halfheartedly wonder if the opportunity will come up -- maybe somebody who is really nice, who really seems receptive?  Or do I actively seek out those I believe to be in peril, headed for destruction, lost?  Am I looking for opportunities, or simply waiting for them?  Am I believing that God can do anything, or am I weighing the possibilities on a scale that is "much more rational?"  The Bible says, no guilt; no blame.  Just find them.  Oh, and then?  Celebration!





Thank You, Lisa Harper!


 
"There once was a little girl who wanted to be very good.  She felt all alone in a very big world, and wanted desperately for someone to love her for her.  She had this idea that one day her handsome prince would show up on his beautiful white horse and sweep her off her feet.  But in the darkness and loneliness of the night, she heard a voice telling her it was a silly idea - a very silly idea.  After all, what would a handsome prince on a clean white horse want with someone like her?  In fact, the voice told her that not only was she silly and hopeless, but she was dirty and unworthy, and no matter how good she could ever be, she would never be good enough."
 
Is this your story?  For many it is.  It is mine.  It is Lisa Harper's also. 
 
I had the privilege of listening to her speak at Women of Faith, this past weekend.  She spoke of knowing Jesus as the payment for her sins, and her Savior from eternal death, but never really experiencing Him as the lover of her soul.  She tried to please Him, because after all, He is this big God who is holy and just and righteous, and sits on His big throne just watching for us to step out of line, ready to spring into action and hammer us into submission.  But she had never really known the freedom that He purchased for us at the cross.  Listening to her put into words so many of the frustrations I experienced while trying to be good, knowing her journey with Christ and for Christ is as recent as the last decade, and witnessing the impact she has (an entire arena silent and breathless as she told her story), gives me hope.  Hope that I can share the truth with others who are trying to reach Jesus or goodness or peace; hope that I can make a difference in the lives of others because Jesus has made such a difference in mine!

Monday, September 9, 2013

But God...

"Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot."  (Proverbs 25:19)

I have a missing tooth.  My old dentist used to tease me; every time he looked into examine my teeth he'd rib, "Still hasn't grown back, Huh?"  That's how long it's been missing.  And that's how big of a coward I am about getting it fixed.  But I have never gotten used to it being MIA.  I chew on the opposite side.  I avoid that area all together.

Unless you are a Wallenda, or have a backyard full of dogs and the darling little gifts they leave behind, chances are you pay very little attention to where you step.  I also have arthritis in my knee and stress fractures in both feet.  Humidity and showing off both remind me of my limitations.  I hobble very gingerly about until the pain subsides.

Proverbs says to trust in someone that can fail you, or give you such pain you want to slap your momma, or will crumble beneath you at any moment, is foolish.

But God...

Psalm 91
 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”
 

I WILL NOT Carry a Purse!

There is this place called "Girl World," that completely unnerves me.  I have to speculate, that like most neighborhoods or prisons, there are good areas - like Main Street or NVU (a place for non-violent offenders) and bad areas - like Skid Row or Maximum Security, meaning I probably shouldn't generalize, but my experience in Girl World rarely turns out well.

I have always been overweight.  In Girl World this is akin to eating your boogers.

I have never been feminine.  I would much rather go to a car show or have my fingernails removed, than go to a Tupperware demonstration or wear lipstick.  I don't carry a purse and therefore, do not attend purse parties.  I have an reasonable fear of wicker and therefore, do not go do basket parties.  I do however, like beer and football and boxing and making lots of noise, but won't go to those kinds of parties (see Addictions 101).  I'd rather shoot it and eat it, than cuddle it and dress it.  Stuffed animals are vile, and ruffles are strictly meant to be potato chips.

I don't speak the language in Girl World.  I don't understand why "You're looking better," is not a compliment, and why anyone with a shred of human decency would ever say, "So, you decided to go retro, huh?"  My mother taught me it is not polite to cancel plans with someone because something "better" came along, and never, never discuss a party in front of someone who is not invited -- and if you're not sure, don't assume.  Who knew that Bible study would be code for drinks and gossip?

So I asked Scott the other night if he thought I had changed.  I mean, I wholeheartedly committed to seeking My Savior's direction in everything just a few years back.  I feel as though with every mile of this walk, I gladly give up more to His direction and utilization.  I want to bring glory and recognition to Jesus more and more each day.  "So have I changed?"  Scott, being the loving, gracious, wise man that he is, of course answered in the affirmative.  But, Scott is also brutally honest; I knew I had received an accurate assessment.  To corroborate his account, someone recently had paid me the highest compliment I could ever imagine -- she told me that when it came to being a Christian, "I was the real deal."  High praise indeed, and due only to Christ, but man, did it lift my spirit!

Inevitably though, Scott wanted to know what was up with the question.  "I don't resonate with women," I said.  "They don't like me."  After Scott, in his tender, gentle, sometimes profanity-bedecked way asked why I would care, I said, "They never have."

Years ago, I was crass, and pretty brutal in my approach myself.  I craved attention and made sure everyone noticed my presence; I was shocking, and inappropriate, and tawdry.  I gossiped like I had invented it, and would tell someone off at the drop of a hat.  I had impenetrable walls built around this vulnerable, tiny, wounded girl, and "ALL GIRLS KEEP OUT" was posted in red every ten feet.  Only the worst guys got the key.  Understandable why I never survived Girl World; I never want to be that person again.

Recently I have come to realize that just because I walk with Jesus DOES NOT mean that, girls - even Christian girls - will accept me into Girl World.  I have changed.  I believe that, on the whole, I am moving more toward being the person Jesus wants me to be.  I want others to recognize I am not the person I used to be; I want others to see that I am trying to do what is right because I love Jesus.  But just because I don't speak the language or wear the war paint doesn't change Who or where I follow; God equips me for whatever He calls me to do.  I also know that God created me to like dirt and worms; I find comfort in the smell of grease and gasoline because He made me that way!  I do not have to like nail polish, but if I get called up to go to Girl World and preach, maybe I'll find a shade or two that I can live with.  But I WILL NOT carry a purse! (maybe a satchel)

The Tale of a Love Lost

My employer is currently ranked 53rd on Fortune Magazine's list of top 500 companies.  As I stare at that simplistic, direct statement, I wonder why I would care.  I care because I love the company for which I work.  I care because I have lived almost 25 at this address.  I care because I have established relationships and made memories - good and bad - within this family.  I care because I have represented and bragged on my employer.  I care because I have learned so much within the walls of this building.  I care most of all, because I feel UPS has forsaken everything Jim Casey and his partners established in 1907.

Obviously, I never knew the man, but years ago Jim Casey's writings were required reading for supervisors.  Entire workshops were laced with his mantras; meetings began with readings from his works or the company's Policy Book - a book not about dress codes or payroll, but a book about fairness and family, service to its customers - internal and external.  A person's writings say a lot about who they are (it is my prayer that my words remain fragrant and laced with the love of Christ).  To me, and I believe to those who went before me, Jim Casey was committed to a legacy of partnership and camaraderie ("We Address Each Other on a First-Name Basis." The UPS Policy Book), of success as a unit ("One measure of your success...will be the degree to which you build up others who work with you. While building up others you will build up yourself." Jim Casey, 1945) and of reputation and service as the catalysts to financial prosperity.  The following statements are Jim Casey's, and recorded in Our Partnership Legacy:

In 1944: "An expanding business is the only way to provide opportunities for our people."

In 1947: "Are we working for money alone?  If so, there is no surer way not to get it." [italics mine]

In 1949: "Good management is not just good organization.  It is an attitude inspired by the will to do right.  Good management is taking a sincere interest in the welfare of the people you work with.  It is the ability to make people feel that you and they are the company -- not merely employees of it.  Good management is your worthiness to have and hold the confidence of others." 

And with regard to service: "Anybody can deliver packages...The one thing we can have to offer that others will not always have is quality." (1946)

Simply from these statements alone - statements I was once encouraged to learn and adopt - I have considered United Parcel Service's founder, Jim Casey to be a wise, values-oriented man of noteworthy character.  A true leader who carried his beloved company - his family - through birth, two World Wars, a Great Depression, foreign wars, and the advent of the Technological Age, leaving behind a humanitarian ideology that earned him a well-deserved place in the US Department of Labor Hall of Fame, and the hearts of those whose lives he touched. A fair assumption, don't you think?

I cannot tell you the last time I have attended a training or teambuilding workshop.  We no longer meet one-on-one with our employees to discuss their job performance or our performance as supervisors or employers.  Gone are the days of selections read from the Policy Book, or Founders' Day celebrations, or recognition dinners, or anniversary gifts, or safety awards, or limo rides from the building upon retirement.  I have seen jobs eliminated while upper, upper management folks receive obscene raises for their "exemplary work."  I have heard every excuse in the book as to why we no longer recognize employees - from strikes, to 9/11, to recession, to expansion, to "times they are a-changin'."  I have stared at polished faces staring at me from atop the ladder of success - faces that have never been dirtied by the black dust that attaches itself to everything within a five mile radius of a UPS hub, faces that have never looked over their shoulder to see if anyone was watching as they tripped over a "hub snake", faces that have never beamed with accomplishment as they "turned" an aircraft in record time, faces that have stared into textbooks and smiled at interviews and stared back in the reflection of their brand new luxury automobile, but have never fallen in love with the United Parcel Service that I have known.  

Maybe my statements are those of a bitter, washed up Willy Loman of a person, but I don't think so.  Others have shared these same sentiments and ideas.  I hope that others still will heed our call to return to a company of which Jim Casey would once again be proud.

The Smell of Fear


 
 
A November 2012 study published in Psychological Science, suggests that not only can humans smell fear, but it is contagious.  Strangely enough - I can't imagine who comes up with these tests - perspiration from two groups of men was collected as they watched fearful images or disgusting images.  When two groups of women were shown images and exposed to the scent of the collected perspiration, they either scrunched up their noses in disgust, or widened their eyes in fear, despite the images they viewed having no correspondence to either emotion.  OK, let me just say, the septicity or communicability of disgust is very inconclusive here, as I believe the entire experiment to be highly disgusting!  But the idea that fear is not only perceptible but contagious, makes me think (and that, alone can incite fear).
 
I have never been exactly comfortable in my own skin.  Truthfully, I have known few people who are completely "secure."  When it boils right down to it, most of us harbor some deep insecurity with physical appearance, social status, financial position, sense of lifetime accomplishment or even spiritual certainty.  I am terribly insecure about operating within the realms of "girl world."  I don't speak the language; I don't enjoy many of the activities; I blanch when I imagine their assessment of me, and worst of all - I don't carry a purse. 
 
Years ago, when I had to compete foolishly believed I had to compete with my ex's new girlfriend, and my husband's ex-wife, my eating disorder began to rear its ugly head.  It seems to smell my fear - know exactly when to emerge from the pit in an effort to obtain my company right down there with it.  My ex had no longer wanted me because I didn't get dressed up nicely, because I had gained weight, because I "couldn't even wear a little lipstick!" Which, BTW, I loathe -- greasy, waxy stuff that gets on your teeth and leaves that hideous ring around the edges of your lips as it wears, unless of course, you reapply which I obviously don't, because I don't carry a purse!  I had failed at being a girl.
 
My husband's ex was thin, and dating, and grew up with sisters.  I am not, and wasn't, and didn't.  I could weigh 13 pounds, and I would still have no waist, no boobs, and flat butt.  I am built like a linebacker; in a crowd, my shoulders are registered weapons and my legs make some varieties of indigenous trees look like saplings.  How would I ever measure up?
 
So I gorged, and I starved, and I purged.  A couple of tablespoons of relish for dinner, a 1/2 gallon of Moose Tracks for lunch the following day... 
 
THEN, I got myself into - not a size 6, not a "group" - I got myself into the Word!  And I gotta tell ya, I began to see the world.  I began to see what fear looks like.  I knew what it looked like in me; bulimia and I have been friends since 7th grade - the longest close friendship I've been able to maintain! - but I began to see what it looks like in others, and it was startling!  God revealed to me His perfect peace through the promises of His Word.  Each time that peace washed over me, each time I rested in knowing I wasn't ________ enough for others, I began to see that I was ________ enough for my Father.  He loves me no matter what!  Even sitting on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, eating half a crockpot of meat gravy (that's spaghetti sauce with meat in it, for those who were never married to an Italian) with a fork, He loves me!  And it was through that perfect peace, I was able to see the pandemic of fear that holds others so tightly in its grip.
 
I've never been out of the states except a trip to Canada when I was about nine, or so, but it seems to me that the "richest, most blessed, strongest nation in the world" - our very own - has fallen gravely ill under the plague of fear.  The media exploits it.  When do you ever remember thunder storms to be cause for a 15 minute segment at the beginning of your local news broadcast? and 24+ hours of news coverage, usurping all other scheduled programming, to cover a story about which they "don't have all the details yet," but will keep talking, and speculating, and alarming you, and impressing upon you the "gravity of the situation, as details come in?"
 
And litigation?  Our courts are filled with some of the most frivolous suits and bills one could imagine.  Just sit an hour or two in your local municipal or family court - it'll shock you!  Adults refusing to give their neighbor, their ex-husband, their local merchant just a little bit of leeway, fearful that if they do, their lives will spiral into ruin, others will catch wind and try to take advantage as well, they will "lose face."  Must win.  Must stay on top.  Mean girls.  Bullying.  Exploiting government assistance.  Retail theft.  Mishandling of funds.  Gambling.  Abuse.  Fear.  Control.
 
God's peace reminds me that I have the God of the universe fighting for me (Ex. 14:13-14).  He loves me (Rom. 8:37-39) and He will never fail me (Deut. 31:8).  I can trust His Word is true, or I can rob a bank.  I can lean on His mighty arms, or I can tear someone else down to make myself feel better.  I can cling to Him when my employer begins to eliminate jobs, or I can lend credence to the gossip, and doom and gloom circulating around the water cooler.  I can workout until my muscles tear and my bones break, or I can focus on pleasing My God with my thoughts, my speech, and my actions.
 
My ex and his girlfriend, and Scott and I went to dinner last night.  Because we wanted to.  We shared appetizers, and talked, and laughed.  Just like friends do.  Turns out peace is contagious, too. 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Am I Blessed?

Working odd hours means I have to DVR "Longmire."  Working odd hours means people assume I'm not doing anything all day.  Working odd hours means I'm crawling under the covers just as the sun is blasting through my bedroom window.

However, working odd hours means I catch folks just as they're drowsily posting their last thoughts on Facebook, or they're being tormented by all those terrible things that go bump in the night.  A friend of mine was having just such a wakeful night last week.  My text alert went off some time around 1 AM.

"You are blessed," I texted.  "What could possibly be keeping you up at night?"

Well, it seems, time is passing and he doesn't quite see his life shaping up to be as he expected.  Now, far be it from me to ever suggest clothes, or cars, or money makes the man, but when it comes to opportunities, this guy's had 'em. 

"How am I blessed?" he asked.

I was stunned.  I mean, this was legit.  This guy honestly did not see what he had going.  He'd never been on food stamps or public assistance.  He'd never been forced to shop at discount stores.  He has multiple vehicles.  He has traveled.  He stays with a friend -- a great person, by the way -- in a beautiful home.  He has a job, a child, a life.  This was not some ingrate with a leaky diaper on Santa's lap.  He didn't get it.

"I know it could be worse," he texted.

I meet so many people who have no idea where their next meal is coming from, or how they will pay their utilities.  Their need is tangible, and the blessing of having their needs met is a box of food they put in their car or strap to the back of a bike.  But what of those whose plate is full, but hearts are empty? whose homes are warm and dry, but hearts are cold and drier still?  This poverty goes unanswered -- even by those who suffer it.  My heart is breaking for this guy.  He is in a world full of people, and still alone.  He is armed, ready, and standing with lights on, doors bolted shut, yet, he is afraid.  His need seems so much greater.

And it is.  Far greater than I.  I cannot throw him a Giant gift card and yell, "Use your coupons for extra savings!".  I cannot point him toward the clothing ministry and tell him to have at it.  His need must be addressed on the battlefield of the supernatural.  His need must be wrestled and pinned to holy ground.  I must take responsibility for the poor of heart just as I do the poor of purse.  I must lay his cause before his Creator when he will not.  I must point him toward Living Water each time he comes to me in thirst.  And I must pray.  With as much prayer as my knees will take, I must pray that one day he can answer the question, "How am I blessed?"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Probably Shouldn't Have Done This

So here is the issue: not what to write, but what not to write.  You see, for me writing is cathartic.  I have this awkward, impulsive nature that tends to engage before my brain has even gotten out of bed.  When I respond to a difficult situation, I either stammer foolishly -- I have already concocted, on average, three different responses which emerge tangled and garbled into one because my brain has actually failed to choose a single one of them -- or I reply, "Thank you," to the deb who has just complimented me on my manicure -- and not until the door to the ladies room eases shut, do I remember I haven't had one. 

It is pen to paper, or unmanicured fingers to keys that helps me make some sense of it all.  It is writing that helps me process all those feelings of inadequacy that others seem to enjoy taking out on those around them.  Unfortunately, with all the information which bombards me every moment of every day, and all the things that tick me off, or make me happy, or confuse the devil outta me, at the end of the day, that's a lot of writing. 

For instance, at some point this morning the Will Rogers quote, "I never met a man I didn't like," just popped into my head.  Not enough for me to consider it strange and continue making oatmeal cookies; I had to know how and why it suddenly got there.  So, I turned to my favorite investigative vehicle -- Google.  Did you know that Barry Manilow actually recorded a song, "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like?"  The thing that was truly shocking to me, was that it was included in his 1991 album "Showstoppers."  I'm remembering back to 1991, and can't recall the market for that distinctive Manilow sound, as being very vibrant.  As if that weren't enough, the lyrics include the word "highfalutin," which in its definition includes the word "bombastic."  I do recall "bombastic" as one of my vocabulary words in about 7th grade or so, but I honestly do not recall ever having used it since.

It is not until I realized I have watched almost the entire Youtube video (Manilow performs his song on a show hosted by Joan Rivers -- most likely sometime before her ninth or tenth facelift.  She wears a gold jacket, he is wearing an ultra-feminine red and black color-block jacket over a black mock turtleneck.  Aaah, the '90s.  No diggity, no doubt.) that I realize the chicken I have grilling on my 1990s George Foreman grill is now burning on my 1990s George Foreman grill.  As I frantically pry tonight's dinner from George's grip, I have already begun considering the possibility of having multiple children named Judi.

I've never really liked my name, and while the "i" makes it more unique than others with a "y," I have, thanks to my mother, inherited a certain level of annoyance with people who have known me for years and continue to spell it with a "y."  So, would I continue to spell my name with an "i," and my progeny's with a "y," simply to differentiate?  Folks would probably insist on spelling theirs with an "i."  Not really something to which I should be devoting a whole lot of time and concern. 

And then I begin thinking of how intolerant I can be.  I would think Will Rogers would be ashamed.  I mean, if he knew me.  Which he didn't.  But, at least, I know he would have liked me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Spilling the Beans

Empty

A word that, to a Christian, can be like Pavlov's bell. 

When used by someone to describe their life, it can cause us to instantaneously begin belching out Bible verses and phrases like "peace like I've never before known," and "joy unspeakable," (yet somehow we will continue to find the words to speak about it).

People seem to use that word to describe feelings of loneliness, purposelessness, fear, grief, and almost any other feeling that accompanies trauma as intense as the death of a spouse, or as superficial as the closing of your favorite dry cleaner. (Hey, some folks take professional dry cleaning and exemplary service very seriously.)  What your average non-believer may not realize, is that such a word releases a flood of endorphins in the mind of a Christian that can cause us to wildly and tyranically spew forth -ologies and -isms of the Christian faith that are rivaled only by the "small print dictum" at the end of an auto dealership's radio commercial.

I'm being facetious, of course, but the concept of emptiness is not foreign to any of us.  In fact, in this age we have the capacity to be surrounded by constant communication, stimulation, information, fornication and fortification, more than in any other.  And yet, our world is "empty."  In John 4:14 and 6:35, Jesus says that those who follow Him will never thirst or hunger again; Jesus fills the empty corners of our lives, of our hearts, that we may never be empty again.  Christians know this to be true!  So forgive us for our enthusiasm and preachiness, we just want to share.

And believe it or not, we still know what it means to feel empty.  Not all the time, mind you, as is probably the case with those who do not claim a personal relationship with Jesus, as well.  And it certainly doesn't stand to reason that because we feel that way, it means we are that way -- any more than feeling fat makes us so. (The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit, Our Helper and Comforter, dwells within us - Romans 8:9, and I Corinthians 6:19)  But we feel empty sometimes, too.

So what do we do? vomit verses and truths all over ourselves? call one of our Christian friends to do it for us?  If only that were true!  But the truth is, some of us find comfort in the refrigerator.  Some of us find comfort in old movies, or trashy novels.  Some of us gossip, or revisit substances we left in the dust long ago, or waste hours on the internet, or cut, or any of the myriad of things to which "the world" might turn.  You see, Christians are not perfect, and as much as we'd like to hope we get it all together, the only thing we hope in is Jesus.  We cannot get it together, but Jesus can.  We cannot permanently fill the emptiness, but Jesus can.  We cannot make the loneliness, purposelessness, fear, or grief go away, but Jesus can.  And when the feelings of emptiness come, if we turn to Jesus and hang on to His promises with all that we've got, we will once again feel full.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Psalm 23:5

The Clearer Path

I thought this was such a great article, I wanted to reprint it here:

"The Clearer Path"

The answer to feeling spiritually lost is surprisingly simple: Listen to God’s voice.
by Tony Woodlief
It’s never helped my faith one bit to worry over how I compare to others. Unfortunately, that truth rarely stops me from envying the lives of Christians who seem to have it all together—good marriages, well-behaved children, stable jobs, positive attitudes. I watch them live their good lives and ask myself why I can’t be more like them.
How good it must feel, I tell myself, to be there. No deep worry or doubt, no secret sin gnawing at the heart, no days or nights of crying out questions to God and receiving the dread silence in reply.
What we learn, however, when we get to know those seemingly perfect people in our churches, is that nobody’s faith is perfect. They may bear their struggles with brighter faces, or keep their nagging doubts and sins better covered, but they feel no closer to perfection than the rest of us.
Anyone who imagines he’s worked out his salvation satisfactorily, in fact, who has no “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), well, he may be even more lost than us gossipers and lusters and worriers. At least we have our nagging consciences, after all, to remind us of the great divide between our sullied lives and God’s holiness.
For it is a wide gulf, yet we are each of us called along a path of sanctification into the very midst of God’s holiness. At times this seems hopeless, falling back as we do—as I do—into my persistent sin, my distractions, my feelings of weakness and futility and weariness.
We are called along this path all the same, our good works “prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). But it is such a long walk, isn’t it? A long and wearying walk, and at times we look behind ourselves and see only failure; we look ahead and imagine more failure to come, and we search out the heart of God to ask, Why me?
Why have You arranged for so many people to depend on me?
Why have You allowed this sin to be my struggle?
Why do You expect me to keep journeying on this life’s path when I am so very tired?
We ask why and we ask where. Where, Lord, does it end? What is Your purpose in this illness, this joblessness, this rebellious child?
More than once, I’ve tried to bargain with God—asking Him to just show me where I’m going, and I’ll give up asking why. A journey can seem endless, after all, without a map to tell us how close we are to our final destination.
Scripture says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). But that doesn’t mean we always get to know when the good will emerge, or where life’s raging river will deposit us.
So we are, every one of us, searching. We are searching, some of us, for the path we once knew, because we have lost our way. We may be in church, we may be in a small group, we may even be in our Bibles every day, but we can feel lost all the same. It is exactly the same feeling we had as small children, when we looked up from our play and couldn’t see our mother or father. Some of us feel lost, and the bitter irony is that the more we seem to “have it together,” the harder it can be to ask for help.
Others of us feel lost, and everyone knows we need help, but we imagine we are too weary to do the work. Too weary to resist the call of that bottle, that pornography, that comforting fury, that inappropriate relationship. We feel too weary to pray, too fearful of the silence that results from having shunned God in our hearts. Deep within ourselves, we are still searching for God, if only because He calls to us: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
We who feel lost still hear God’s whisper, and we search for it even as we run from it. I imagine that whatever else hell is like, it is also like this—the heartrending urge to rush into the arms of God, and yet a debilitating terror at doing so, because it means we must forfeit the miserable little lives we’ve crafted for ourselves.
I have been “stuck” in my faith, and I have been lost; and each time, my instinct is to blame God for not speaking more clearly. If He would just tell me what to do, I say to myself, then of course I would do it. When my heart is in that stubborn place, I go through the motions of prayer and Bible reading, but it does no good. I can’t hear a thing—not a single thing—and I tell myself the lie that God has gone silent.
“Take heed what you hear,” Christ says. “With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given” (Mark 4:24 NKJV).
We are called along a path, and because we are faithless, we are prone to sit down along the way, like stubborn toddlers, because we can’t see the end. Maybe one reason we can’t see further along the path of faith is because we don’t pay enough attention to where we are right now. We hear, Christ tells us, as we listen. We can’t expect a richer faith, a clearer path, unless we are taking into our hearts those words of God that we already understand.
Words like: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Words like: “Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Col. 3:13).
Words like: “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land” (Deut. 15:11).
Some of us call out for God’s guidance, and yet we haven’t heeded the lessons we learned in Sunday school. There is so much wisdom in the Bible, so much instruction from a loving Father, but we cannot hear it until we begin to heed the words we’ve already received.
I have often stood on the path, demanding to know from God what my next step is, not realizing that He’s already told me. Love my neighbor. Visit those in prison. Give of myself to “the least of these.” I don’t know how to move forward, because I don’t know how to live rightly where I am. I’m calling out, but I stop up my ears against the reply. I cannot hear because I do not listen.
We live the life to which we are called, not by staring off in the distance, wondering when we’ll get “there,” but in realizing that “there” is “here,” just as the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom is at hand because Christ is Immanuel—God with us—which means we needn’t get there because He has come here. He is here and He is speaking. And if we will just live out what our Sunday school teachers taught us, this world and our very lives will be transformed. That is the promise.
Copyright 2013 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

DANGER: Slippery Rail

PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one.  Have you ever thought to yourself, "Boy, if I could just catch a good case of the flu/ if I could just break a leg -- I could get all the rest I need."  I don't want to catch anything life-threatening or spend days in a hospital, mind you, but just a small mandatory vacation -- you know, doctor's orders and all that. 



But, is it really the desire to lie in bed which afflicts us, or the compulsion that drives us on when we should be lying in bed?  If a doctor sentences us to bedrest, then we have to do it, right?  So why don't we just do it because it is the right thing? because it is good for us to teach our children how to rest? because we are better spouses, better employees, better friends, better people when we get the appropriate amount of rest?

Most of us are no different when it comes to spiritual rest.  Lately, I've been noticing how stressed and empty I feel from time to time.  Lately, I've been noticing that at every turn God is telling me to rest.

I said a few months ago, that I felt God was telling me to get out there and live the gospel, and I don't mean He has rescinded those orders.  But, I realize I have separated the life of the gospel into two distinct operations -- the personal and the public.  In the personal part of my life, I read and study God's Word, listen to radio sermons, pray and worship.  In the public part, I do some of the same things, but I also run errands for others, chauffeur folks to doctor's appointments or other commitments, deliver meals, write notes of encouragement, donate blood, financially assist others as much as possible, and serve with various groups, ministering to those in need.  Believe me, not a bit of this am I saying to toot my own horn!  In fact, quite the opposite.

My life has recently become a whirlwind of activity.  For almost weeks at a time, I have dashed from one activity to another, trying to keep in balance those things I must do -- like work and sleep -- and those things I feel compelled to do -- like be all things to all people.  Yup.  I said it.  That's what's been going on.  Perhaps some form of guilt, perhaps it's as arrogant as it sounds, but something has been driving me to believe I have all this "free time", and wouldn't it be great if I gave some of it away to those who do not.  Something has been stirring me to pour myself out -- even just one last drop -- to someone simply because I can, because it is there to be poured out, because it is not mine to start.  And all that might sound very wonderful -- that whole pouring out thing -- but...

A) Is my motivation to serve or to fix?  To bless, or to cause others to conform to my ideal of how life should appear?  Am I elevating myself to a position of superiority -- a "have" over a "have-not"?

B) Does my personal life take a back seat when there is so much to be completed in my public life?

C) Do my actions directly, clearly, humbly point to Christ, or is it some roundabout theorem demonstrating that, "because I am generous, I must be different, and because I am different, it must be something supernatural (because we are really all the same), and if it is supernatural, it must be Jesus, and if it is Jesus others must desire Him because He is really good, because I am generous."  See what I mean? -- almost sickens me to write it.

My public life NEEDS to be an outpouring of my personal relationship with Jesus!  And, I'm not saying it didn't start there, and I'm not saying it doesn't go back for a visit now and then.  BUT, when my public life supercedes my personal life, when I choose waiting in line at the DMV with someone over interceding in prayer for them, or discussing Christ with them while we wait, I've gotten off track. 


 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dumbing It Down

"You are so strong!" my friend texted.

"When you're dumb, you have to be strong," I thought.

My past life, rife with dumb choices and dumb ideals, had left me strong for sure, but empty, and neurotic, and abrasive at times.  And as I fought with my daughter to stop pushing away the people that care most about her, and I lectured my son about wanting better things for himself, I realized just what a pandemic strength has become.

Sure, someone could say it was me -- that I raised them, some of it would have to rub off.  But, look around.  How many strong people do you know?  It's bad ass to be bad ass.  Who can wear the blackest black?  Who can dish out the best dirt or shoot the sharpest barbs?  Who has been through the most crap with their ex-wife, or has the most kids in jail, and is thereby raising the most grandchildren.  Who gets the drunkest and acts the dumbest at the after work parties, or has the most scars/ piercings/ tattoos below the belt!?  We measure one another by just how dumb we can get!

I've known the truth of Jesus almost since I could talk.  I liked learning, and getting good grades, and NOT getting into trouble.  I liked making right choices and having great relationships with people in authority.  Until one day, dumb happened.  (Now in my case, dumb sprang forth from a bad case of fear, but that's a whole 'nother post.)  Suffice to say, someone much dumber than I came along and made me feel like smart and good and innocent were not socially where I needed to be.  And I, being polite and respectful and wildly insecure, listened to their dumbness.  The funny thing is, it only takes one dumb person to louse things up for an entire group.  Soon, I found plenty of dummies to tell me I needed to "loosen up" and "stop being such a goody-goody."  By the end if high school, I'd left all of my smart friends in the dust, and become effectually brainless -- cool, but brainless.  I could feel the acceptance replacing the intelligence with every Sunday morning I slept in.  Aloofness and arrogance kicked respectful and obedient to the curb each time I headed around the corner for a smoke.  Alcohol pilfered from Christmas Past washed away my chances of a bright future and raised a toast to complacency and mediocrity.  Dumb. 

I tried to get it together.  Now matter how far from smart I'd get, I knew dumb was just... well, dumb.  But the choice given me -- to be popular and desirable, or goody-goody and alone -- it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which has a higher face value. 

But then other choices came: act right, or get out; lose the boyfriend, or stay married; get out of town, or go to jail; get an abortion, or ruin everything; abused or homeless.  LOTS of choices.  Dumb.

The thing about dumb is, when you make a dumb choice, you usually decide to make another dumb choice to fix the one you made in the first place.  It's like dropping a pebble into a smooth, clear lake -- the ripples can go on forever.  And so they did.  I was almost forty by the time the dumb wore off, but the ripples?  They're still going -- not nearly as large or as frequent as they were years ago, but trust me, I still find myself bobbing along in them every so often.  Someone said you have to start small -- one right choice after another -- and work toward stopping the ripples.  In the meantime, you hang on!

And I'm sure that's where the strength comes in, but I would have been much better off if I'd just stayed smart.

Psalm 28:7a
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Simply, Part Two:

The day at the center had been hectic.  Four new families had been admitted to the program, and some of them required additional services.  One young mother had no idea how she was going to pay for inoculations for her school age son.  We set her up with an appointment at a nearby clinic, and even gave her some further information on state funded healthcare.  Another family was looking for someone to do some low cost repairs on the home they'd just leased from a notorious slumlord.  So much need.  It still boggled my mind how in this day and age, entire families can be displaced, uprooted, relegated to utter poverty without the cataclysmic shock of some natural disaster.  These days, poverty comes at you as you simply go about your day, trying your best.  One year you're celebrating Christmas, piling gifts up under the tree; the next year Christmas dawns the same as any other day in your lean-to under a bridge. 

As I headed to the shower, Scott drew my attention to the stack of blankets piled by the closet door.  I had promised Olivia we would drop them off at the SPCA in the morning, after I'd donated at the blood drive.  He offered to put them in my car, and I continued on.  Arriving upstairs, I realized Olivia was only in the first twenty minutes of her shower (how much do little people have to wash?!), so I hopped on the computer to check the latest news.  I've discovered that, as I age, I've become my mother.  I begin by quickly scanning the headlines, then move on to the important stuff -- the Obits.

Her familiar face smiled at me from the screen -- no black holes, no yellow shingles -- a beautiful, white, young smile; the smile of someone healthy and happy.  Immediately I began to recall the past few weeks; when was the last time I had seen her?  When was the last time I'd even questioned whether she was there?  Aside from her dilapidated appearance, she'd become as insignificant to me as a telephone landline -- another expense, and even sort of a bother while it's there, but not much of a liability when its gone.

The headline proclaimed, "Local Socialite and Philanthropist Dead at 73."  Socialite? Philanthropist?  I read on.  The life this woman had lead was nothing short of amazing!  She had earned numerous degrees, had served in the Peace Corps, and even met the English Prime Minister.  She'd become the head nurse at a prominent hospital, held positions of leadership in several local organizations, served on the school board, and received over a dozen awards for her equestrian skills.  She and her husband were still on the books as the largest donors of a local children's center, and together they had founded a commemorative military museum which had become a benchmark for smaller museums everywhere.

My mind reeled from the news -- not simply the news of her passing, I mean, let's not sugar coat this -- I hadn't even noticed her missing.  But, how?  What had happened?  And how did such a woman wind up here, in a program for the impoverished?  Why did I never know who she was?  She'd once had it all; she'd been someone who, in her abundance, had helped others.  To me she'd been another client on a far too long list.  She'd had love and family, talent and -- it seemed -- ceaseless energy.  To me she was destitute, and alone, with little to offer, and struggling with every breath.  To the local paper she was "Local Socialite and Philanthropist;" to me she was simply Mrs. M.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Simply, Part One:

She walked into the brightly lit foyer, her moth-eaten and faded sweater hanging, loose and sloppy.  Her frame, though bent and frail now, betrayed the fact that she'd been a sizable woman at one time.  She made her way, one laborious step at a time, toward the registration table. 

Debra, the registrar, smiled warmly and offered her a seat.  She refused.  No doubt, the effort it would have taken her to sit briefly and raise her weakened body only moments later, would have taken more out of her than if she remained standing.  "A body in motion," and all that.  Debra explained that we were updating our database; all clients must complete another information form.  Frustration showed in her eyes; shoulders that appeared to be unable to fall any further, slumped in defeat.  She managed a smile, and reached for the form.  Her fingers were gnarled, her nails yellowed and broken.  As I watched, I tried to decide whether her inability to hold the pen was brought on by one of her many illnesses, or by the addiction that had caused her malaise in the first place.

"Judi, would you give Mrs. M a hand filling out the form?  You could move on over to that table there."

I followed Debra's finger to a small garden-style table tucked into a nook across from the registrar.  To say the table was in a "cozy little spot" would have given the scene far too much Helen Steiner Rice.  The table was isolated for the sole purpose of privacy, removed so clients could discreetly pour forth the intimate details of their finances and employment situations in order for us to determine program eligibility and provide counsel.  The close quarters, the stifling heat and, almost assuredly, Mrs. M's propensity to bathe in little but her own urine was going to make this an interesting encounter.

As she moved toward the table, I couldn't help but notice her thick, leathery skin; it was an unhealthy shade of yellow-gray.  The skin draping from her face and neck seemed to move one way as she moved another.  All in all, it was a tragic scene, one from which you cannot seem to remove your eyes.  Halfway through the journey, she attempted a smile.  It was then I realized I was staring -- rudely.  The black holes where her teeth should have been, and the decaying yellow shingles that hung between, now clamored for my attention, but guilt broke my gaze.  I offered a forced smile, keeping my teeth firmly behind closed lips.  In response, she struggled to apologize for her lack of speed; even her smoke-stained voice was thick and leathery.  I muttered my assurance, but in my heart, felt disdain rising to the surface.  Helping the down and out was one thing, but those who live their lives just asking for divine retribution was another.

In the moments and weeks that followed I "helped" her through clenched teeth.  Sure, she was pleasant enough, and seemed genuinely grateful we were there to help, but the weeks she was MIA?  For someone so desperately in need of the simple necessities of life -- food, toiletries, clothing, and water -- she sure didn't keep them high on her list of priorities.  Most weeks we were closing up shop when she'd appear in the doorway, asking if we were still "open."  And the other weeks?  Some unlucky volunteer would have the privilege of dropping off her things, catering to her carelessness when she didn't show.  I began to develop such a distaste for this woman, I didn't even notice when she stopped appearing completely.