My dad is a veteran. A Vietnam vet, to be exact.
He does not like to mention it, though. Not because of the battles he fought, but because he never did. He was enlisted in the Navy when the Vietnam War was still going on. He went through all the training necessary before finally getting on that ship and heading to Vietnam. Yet, while on the ship, heading to Vietnam, the war ended.
While he is still acknowledged for being a Vietnam Vet because he was enlisted during the war, he never fought during it, and therefore is ashamed to acknowledge it.
As a part of the Navy, he traveled all over, though, and saw a lot of the world...from the end of a pier.
As a part of the Navy, he learned, and still remembers random phrases from a few different languages, although I do not know how many of them he ever got to use while "abroad".
As a part of the Navy, too, somehow -- perhaps he had some shore-time -- he picked up some coins from several different countries, that many years later, ended up in my sisters' & my coin collections.
Which brings me to the reason I am proud of my Dad.
I know it might be crazy, but I am glad Dad did not fight in any battles.
You see, he was and always has been an electronic geek. Get him behind a computer, or something with wires, and he is a "king". But get him behind a gun...
In the Navy, the crew would practice targets by tossing an old milk jug into the water and shoot at it. Even Dad had to practice. But, they teased Dad, because he was the only one who would do much worse then miss the target. Dad would miss the water. And they were in the middle of the ocean!
You see, I am proud of Dad because he was willing to fight. Fight for my freedom, fight for my rights. Fight for all of us, for the United States. And all those good and noble reasons any man or woman agrees to stand up and fight for us.
Even though Dad never saw a battle. I am still proud he was willing to take a stand. To try.
And I am so very thankful to God that Dad never did, because otherwise I would not exist. Nor my sisters.
If Dad had not been in the Navy, he would not have gone to Elim Bible Institute later in life, and he might have missed meeting Mom while she was a student there. And, again, I would not exist.
It is weird. It is as though my Dad was willing to fight for me, even though I was not even a thought, yet. Yet, he fought for me!
And that is why I am proud of my Dad! Proud to call him a veteran! To share it far and wide...even if he does not like to.
Thank you to all the men and women, past and present, who have fought and are fighting for us. For me.
Tuesday, November 11
My dad is a veteran. A Vietnam vet, to be exact.
Sunday, August 17
It's the little things that count.
We hear that phrase all the time. And it's often true. We don't always care if someone lavishes us with a huge expensive gift, but rather that they even remembered our birthday. A simple card, letting us know we are not forgotten, is often more then enough to brighten any day!
I've had a list of things/goals I want to do, see, or own someday. And while over time, what's on the list has changed, it has never ceased to amaze me what gets fulfilled first. It's not always the first one, in fact it's not often the top-ten!
Often I've had very good dreams, with decent, reasonable, and usually very "Christian-ese" items near the top, or first on the list. When I was twelve, my highest priority-dream was to be a missionary. When I was about twenty my top-three was: (1) a decent job so I could afford my own (2) apartment and (3) a vehicle, to get to and from my job.
Anything fancy, or personal (a want or like that was far from a need), was always at the very bottom of the list. It was more like,"if I ever have any extra money, and there is absolutely nothing else 'higher priority' that it needs to go towards first--whether for myself, or another--then this is how I'll use it." Although, at the bottom of the list, the item was not always financial, that was always how I felt about whatever was down there; as though, chances were it would never happen,because there was always going to be something better, physically, fiscally, mentally, and/or "Christian-ly" before it.
Really, my lists had a bottom-most and a highest-priority, but no middle. Because I knew what was most important, what was a long-shot that would never be, and the rest would change from day-to-day. (For instance, in the middle could be gas money, or groceries, both of which would change amount or items from week-to-week, yet they would always rank higher in priority then the bottom items. Obviously.)
Yet, when I was twenty and my dream was to be a Texan, obviously, I had at the bottom of my list "someday I want a Stetson to go with my 'western ensemble'; good cowboy boots in my size, wouldn't be bad either."
Guess what was the first thing God provided for me? Not the apartment, or car, or even the job -- I did not know then that in a year I would move in with missionaries and start traveling around the world, again, so it was good I did not get those things then). No, I got the Stetson. Because I was out visiting a friend, who upon seeing a sale on all hats, felt compelled to get me a Stetson, measured to fit and in a color chosen, just for me. They even gave me a hat pin to go with it! And, yes, later, for an early birthday present someone else got me the boots to go with the hat, because they saw the hat and thought it looked lonely!
I joked once with God that if I ever got engaged, I wanted an heirloom that was not a usual diamond but a sapphire in the middle of little green stones that would look like leaves around a flower. All inset. It was a someday-maybe joke, but within that week someone gave me a ring, that was exactly how I had pictured it in my mind; a ring that was apprised, I'm told, for at least $300! Was I engaged? No. Did I need a ring as valuable as my Stetson (making them the two most valuable items that I owned at the time)? Certainly not!
But I think God's priorities are different then ours. And sometimes, it is not about what we need (or think we need). It is about Him...reminding us how much He loves us.
Dying and raising again, saving us from sin and hell, redeeming us to live with Him, that should be enough. That is enough.
But He does not stop there!
Not because He has to.
If we are examples of Christ, and we get little things for each other, little surprise 'someday-maybe' items just to remind a friend "you are heard; you are loved' you are not forgotten." Then should it surprise us that our example--Christ--does the same?
At that time, I did not need a job in the USA. I could not be tied down by an apartment lease when I was about to move and travel abroad. And I certainly did not need the vehicle and the financial burden it would bring when I would soon have transportation available to me, care of the ones I would move in with. So,maybe I did not know that at the time (in my twenties) I made the list. And I would not realize that for several months, but I have never forgotten (and still own) that Stetson and those boots, because at the time it was like God was saying both "Let me bless you" and "I am looking out for you--love you--even if it is not how you expect." It meant a lot to know He cared...about the unimportant.
That ring was like a reminder from God, that He is mine and I am His. Like two people engaged, I said "yes" to Him years before and made a promise--like Esther and others in the Bible--to "prepare" and make myself ready as His bride. And He made a promise to me, to love me, never leave me, and help me every step along the way. The ring was just a beautiful reminder that He hears, even our 'jokes' and has chosen to be bound to us, for eternity.
I know what some might say. I have heard what some already say about expensive gifts: "It should be sold and the money given to help missions" or "...the poor" or "...the church" or something like that. I've heard many friends say "if I ever won the lottery, or suddenly became a millionaire, I would not keep it, but give it all away!"
I am not judging their word--perhaps they really would do that if it was them. I believe,in all things, whether possessions of worth or money in the bank, we should let God guide us in how we spend or what we do with it. Someone was compelled to give me the Stetson, the boots, and the ring. And God used it in a heartfelt way, that I needed to hear, right then.
Years later, God asked me to give up the ring (but not the promise) to help a Christian organization. But I still have the Stetson and boots.
Then, today, God sent me another little reminder of His love, in another wish fulfilled!
I hitched a ride home from church with an older couple, who were driving right by and would not mind. I did not know that not too long ago, God blessed them by giving them a someday-dream item. I did not realize when they volunteered to take me home after the after-church meeting, that that gift was the thing I had admired for the last couple weeks. It was not, mind you, something I have ever wanted to own, just something I wanted to ride in, just once, someday.
Today I was given a lift home, riding shot-gun, in a Mustang!
Yes, I'm sure it's an expensive gift. Something they could sell and help out someone.
But God gave it to them. He did not compel, nor let other's guilt them, into selling it. I am sure--although I barely know the couple--He had a special message just for them with that gift, too.
But what I know is the message for me...
For today, they had the car, just so I could ride in it!
It's not about judging,based on other's wealth (accumulated or temporary), it's about living the life God calls each of us, separately, to so that God can use us to bless another.
It's about the "little things"--the things at the bottom of our lists--that remind us what love is. Who love is.
And, yes, sometimes, that means keeping the gift just so someone like me--who has no desire to own such a car--can be blessed though it!
And sometimes it means giving it away, like someone gave me the ring, originally.
Or keeping it for a time, so you will be at the right time and place to give it to the one who needs later.
(There was both a message in the getting of the ring, and in my eventual--happenstance--of giving the ring later to help an organization while visiting over a thousand miles away from my home-state!)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the "little things" are worth much more!
What I know, right now, today, is that I am blessed. That God loves me, very much!
Not just loved me when I was sixteen and went on my first missions trip. Not just when I was twenty and got boots and a Stetson.More then just the engagement ring, or the obvious dying on the cross. BUT TODAY, WHEN I RODE IN A MUSTANG!
Today and forever!
But just in case I need a little reminder, I am sure He will find something--something near the bottom of the list, probably--to help me cross off.
Sunday, April 20
On Palm Sunday, as we now call it, when Jesus rode a donkey and everyone threw down their coats along the path, or waved palm branches over his head, or whatever they did to show His worth, while they sang His praises, the Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples. And what did He say?
Luke 19:40 (NASB) "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
I do not know about you, but when I get up in the morning, roll out of bed and my feet hit the floor, the first thing that can be heard (other than Lance's excited patter of feet that I am getting up to let him outside for a break), is usually "Uh." It's a groan as pressure hits my knees from standing on my feet. Or, if Lance is truly silent, a person would hear the "snap, crackle, pop," of those said knees. Maybe a hip, or ankle, too.
Mornings are not a pleasant thing for me. No matter how congenial my joints might be, I am not a very good morning person. Forget the whole joke of needing coffee before talking, I need it to be noon before talking.
To be cheerful before noon. To be ready, awake, and "talkie", in any capacity, requires thought and effort, sometimes even the night before as I mentally prepare myself and physically set the alarm clock. (I definitely cannot do spontaneous mornings).
But then I get asked, how I can say such a thing when I am all smiles, laughter, and perhaps even fun whenever someone sees me, even if it is an early morning—before noon—like on Sundays?
Romans 8 refers to creation groaning, as it waits for the coming of our Lord.
Yeah, I know. I am weird. But I would rather step out in faith that it will be a beautiful day and sing His praises, then to sit unhappily and let my joints be the only noise He hears coming from my place.
Not to mention, every time I make a groan, I mentally hear that verse in my head and think that the last thing I would want would be to start hearing things…like the rocks littering the path to the road, to cry out His name. Or my joints to groan all the louder, just so He would hear something. Anything.
Another thing I have learned about faith. It requires stepping out. When I sing His praises, it is not always about feeling it, it is simply about stating it.
I do not know if you have noticed, but smiles are as contagious as a yawn. Even if I do not feel like smiling as I pass a stranger on the road, if I smile, the smile is rarely NOT returned. And the cool thing I have discovered is that when it is returned, suddenly mine feels bigger, fuller, and genuine, even if it did not before.
I have found that praise works like that too. The more I praise Him, no matter how I really feel, the more feeling is put onto the back burner and the more praise becomes genuine. The more I want to sing His praise from the proverbial rooftops, and not because I have to or need to, but truly, truly, want to!
It's contagious, people! So come on, join in…before the rocks take your place!
Today is Easter! What better day to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, to shout His praises, and sing our thanks, then on the day that death died and we were redeemed?!
Today is Easter and all I can think about is death.
If death can have a non-morbid side, let me clarify that I am not thinking of the morbid kind. (I am NOT suicidal).
Did you not hear? Today is Easter! The day we celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection, the death of death, the life of Love, and our redemption!
Twenty-odd years ago (OK, going on thirty-years, but who's counting?) I almost died. Twice. I was three years old. And again, a few months later when I was about four years old.
When asked those crazy questions by friends, "how would you rather die, by such-and-such or this-and-such?" My answer has always been "as quickly as possible! Definitely not drowning!"
Dying can be scary. Laying there gasping for air, fighting to live, fearful that I would not be able to take another breath. That nobody was truly listening, or could help me, even as the EMTs worked frantically over my little body as they quickly took me to the nearest hospital.
Dying might be scary, but death is not.
I could care less about pearly gates or golden roads, to me heaven is Jesus. I get to sit on my Daddy-God's lap, bury my face in his chest, in a never-ending hug. Literally, never-ending! What could be better than that?
Whether I died, or just almost died as a child, what I remember is a lot bigger than just those two minutes of fear and gasping for air.
My mom will say that I had been having problems breathing, and so at night she and Dad would check on me. Regularly. Dad will say that some nights he even slept in my doorway, just so if I suddenly went silent, he would know and be right there.
Then one night, I did. I fell silently. Mom says she ran to the phone and called 911 and Dad—because we lived in a little apartment on a college campus—says he ran outside to wave the ambulance down when it came.
But what I remember is a completely different story then what my parents will tell. I remember walking out of my bedroom, standing beside my mother as she was on the phone, and shortly after my dad left to hail the ambulance, when another man entered our apartment. He stopped in front of me, knelt down, and as He held my hand, he told me what was going on.
I could hear myself cough from behind me, back in my bedroom as my body gasped for breath, and slept on…and yet, I stood in the dining room, listening to this man tell me that Mom was calling for help for me and that I needed to go back to bed for the time being. I remember reluctantly heading back to my room.
Later, once the ambulance came, and I was in it, I vaguely remember waking up and gasping for air…
But the rest. The blanks between heading to my room and the beginning of the ambulance ride, or between that moment of gasping for air in the ambulance and waking up MUCH later in the hospital (I think it was about a day later). Are things that I am not sure I could ever explain. Or understand. And some of it, sadly, is locked in my memory where even I barely catch glimpses of it.
I remember mostly feeling peace. I remember holding Jesus' hand throughout it all. I remember, when needed, as we looked down through the tree tops, or through the rooftop and into the hospital, He would explain a little about what was going on. But mostly, I just remember holding His hand, sitting beside Him, and knowing no fear, no pain, nothing evil. Only peace. And love.
I have a deep, abiding, friendship with Jesus to this day. And I attribute it back to that day, to the day He held my hand.
I know He will never leave me, nor forsake me.
I know He loves me, even unto death.
I know death will never separate us.
I know He is, and always will be, my best friend forever.
Nobody, no matter how crazy they might say I am from the stories I share or the things I have seen, heard, or done, either past or present, can ever take away what we have, together. Because that day, He showed me things that have no words, or earthly equal.
But if I had to explain it, I would say He showed me that day what Love truly is. What He truly is.
And that knowledge (if one can call it that), can never be taken away.
All I know is that every day, I want more. I want to spend more time with Him. Do more for Him.
No matter how little, or seemingly inconsequential—because mobility does limit or tire me some days—nothing can separate us. And nothing else can fill His place in my heart, my being.
I do not know how to really explain it. I just know.
And in the end, that is the biggest reason I sing His praises.
Because He gave so much, so that I could have so little (in comparison). And yet, that little, seems like so much because He gave it. And yet, it seems like nothing compared to my longing for more. Of Him.
It is as though the day of my dying, was the day our friendship began.
I was "saved" when I was about three years old. And while I do not know if I was saved before or after my dying, I do know this…
It is as though the day of my dying, was the day He reached out. He started it. And I would be remiss if I did not accept it, return it, finish it, hold his hand back. Whatever, you will.
I will forever be eternally grateful to Him. For His death, His reaching out, Him, always and forever standing by my side.
As I child I used to "witness" to others by telling them: "People might say He died to save us from sin, but I say He died so we could be best friends. And He is one friend I know will never leave me, never forsake me, is always by my side. And that is why I think everyone should 'accept' Him into their 'hearts', so they can have a friend such as Him! I know for a fact I would not be alive today, if not for Him; He truly never left me!"
And that is how I still feel today.
No matter how redundant—English teacher-friends of mine will have a fit—I will always and forever be eternally grateful to Him.
I would not be alive, today, if not for Him. And I mean that in more ways than one!
So, today, on Easter, the day we give thanks for death's death, for His resurrection, our redemption, etc, let me add to the chorus of "believers" and say "THANK YOU, LORD! I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL"
He alone understands what I mean when I add: "Lord, You may not understand just how grateful I am, but I am. Truly."
Thursday, April 10
OK, in truth, this is something a person can learn from any dog during the training process.
It does not matter how well a person thinks the dog is already trained, it is always advised never to allow the dog to be tempted to do something they should not. The philosophy is "if the dog never learns it, he never will."
For instance, Service Dog, unless it becomes necessary in their training, are never taught to "shake" or offer their paw, because once one paw is the air, it is too tempting for them to try and jump up. To lift the second paw and plant kisses on the unsuspecting person's face. And, often, even if it should become important for the dogs training, it is not allowed until they have been not doing it for at least a year, and then it is brought back in as a "Cue" or something they do only when asked.
The same is true in teaching a dog to "come" or what some call "Recall", where the dog comes back to you when you ask them to, in a moments notice, no matter what fun or temptations are before them. Most trainers, I have heard, NEVER allow their dog off the leash until they have been doing "come" on cue for at least a year. And during that year, they might be allowed to get on longer and longer leashes or lines, but always, if the dog should never "come" the instant they are called, the owner/trainer has the ability to pull the dog back to them so the dog always equates the word "come" with the movement of heading back towards the person who called them.
When someone does not want the dog to enter a room, ever, for instance--I do not know why a person might allow the dog in most rooms, but not one, but this is an example--they leave the room blocked. So the dog can never enter the room. The person might also stick a foot in front of the dog or gently, with their hip or foot, nudge the dog back if it starts to cross over. Then, as the dog gets used to it and ages, even if the room is no longer blocked, the dog associates the sight of that room as "off limits." And is never tempted to try, because it was never allowed to try.
It is as though the ability to try to do something they should not has been wiped from their memory.
The owner/trainer, might click and treat for desired attitudes or actions, and block or keep the dog from trying the undesired. It does not, usually, require any sort of harsh discipline (the word itself, sadly, is often associated with the word "harsh" but it does not need to be), it simple requires that the dog is never allowed, or enabled to do the wrong, so they never learn to do it or even try it.
For instance, I have a one-year-old Newfoundland (Lance) that is laying by the front door of my apartment, because that is where he always lays and that is just his preferred place--especially when I have the heat on in the winter, because a small draft of cooler air comes under the door and keeps the linoleum cooler. But today is too sunny and nice to keep the door shut, so it is open. And while I trust him not to try and leave, even for a bathroom break, without my permission, I still have the door only half-open so a chair can sit blocking the way.
This not only keeps him from being tempted, or trying to leave without my say-so, but it teaches him that it is OK to look but don't go without checking with me first. It, of course, keeps him from ever starting the habit of running to great a stranger as they walk by, or anything else of the sort. It lets him look, lets him get to know the various changing sights and sounds, but lets him know they need to be usually kept at a distance (so when we walk together, he doesn't try to say "hi" either).
When temptation is never given the chance to be acted upon, it is never taught. Never needed to be excused ("While I did it last time, so maybe if Mom isn't looking, I could bolt again")
I think we can learn something from that.
All to often we think that the temptation is the sin. But it is the acting upon it that is the sin. And if we never act upon, we will never try. We, too, even as humans, can have our mind wiped of the idea to even try for something we should never try.
For example, did you know that scientists and statistics say that if a person never drinks alcohol before their twenty-first birthday, they probably never will?
So what are we being tempted by? And what, proverbial, chairs can we put up in the way to ensure we never look? Listen? Try?
Maybe we would never go to certain sites online, but does it hurt to put up the blocks so we are never tempted, either? Or at the least, to do so is difficult?
Writers are often taught of ways to put up blockers online, not so they won't go online, but so they won't STAY online too long. Research is something that can steal hours of a writer's time, not to mention the "mojo" they had to write that day, too. So setting hour-limits before certain sites kick a person off is a good idea. Possibly for everyone, and not just writers, especially with how addicting Facebook seems to be turning out to be for some!
So again, what might tempt you? And what can you do to ensure it can not? Does not? Or at the least, that you do not act on it...
I am pretty sure, that even though Lance would be fine without the chair blocking the door, that if he has a "Teen-dog" moment and wants to rebel, it would only take a little try of knocking the chair away and suddenly having a very unhappy mother's (mine) attention drawn to him and what he is doing, would stop him in his tracks. Not to mention, he would probably give me this sheepish/ashamed look and duck out of the way as I shut the door and we both lost the privileges of watching the outdoors for the rest of the day.
Simple. Easy...so why is it sometimes so hard for us to do implement in our own lives?
Don't knock it just because "I would never!" ...lame reason....the LAST resort is to not give in to temptation. The FIRST resort should be to avoid temptation. Period. Whenever possible...
Thursday, March 13
The weather was great...for about two days.
Sunny. Snow melted away. Great for a walk. And another walk. And, did I really have to come back inside?
Lance enjoyed it too, of course (had to have an excuse to go back out, so I dragged him off into the woods, where there was still some snow for him to frolic in!)
Then yesterday came. Whiteout. Roads closed. Warnings to the affect of "don't go out unless emergency." Everything was canceled.
Lance & I suddenly suffer from cabin fever. We were fine before the great weather, but after tasting it in the air, feeling it on our face, smelling the attempts of new-growth, we just stare outside and wait for it to come back so we can go out again! Even if just to sit in the yard (his thoughts, anyway; I'd pull out a lawn chair at least)
About 7am this morning, Lance got me up (I think he is still on the old time) in order to let him out for a minute. Once I was back in bed, I was thinking about a few friends I know who are nurses, and despite the weather or closed roads, would still be going into work or just getting off shifts.
It got me thinking about two things:
1) My mom used to clean houses or offices for a few years while I was growing up, and one of the things she used to say was "no news is good news," and she meant it, too. She used to say that the only time a cleaner heard anything was if it was not done well, or something was wrong, so "no news is the best compliment you will ever get."
I thought that was sad, and have striven to make it right since then.
A few years ago I was walking down the street and passed a crew of men fixing the sidewalk. I had to pause and thank them. Not because I was very grateful for the block being replaced, but because I was certain they had only heard complaints until it was fixed and would probably only hear complaints until the next block on their list was fixed, too. And the next after that.
How we take these people for granted. Complain about the problems, but rarely thank them for a job well done!
I believe that no matter where I stand in whatever war we are fighting, that the men who are fighting it for us should be thanked. Whether we are even aware of how much they give or sacrifice, the only thanks they probably ever hear is when their family is thankful they come back. And aside from that, they probably have to deal with protesters and all sorts of other people who make them feel like failures or unappreciated.
What about the cops? Sheriffs? When busting down doors and dragging in drug dealers, who might even kick and punch back, do you think they hear a thanks?
Whether we ever have to deal with law enforcement, know any personally, or not. I think they deserve a thanks, too. I am sure they do not hear it enough in their job; in fact, if anything they have had to dodge fists, break down doors, been cursed at, etc throughout their day and if there is any highlight or thanks it is shortly drowned out in the rest.
Hospitals still run, EMTs are still on duty, and there are always 911 operators on call. Not to mention the well known mail-people, who travel out "rain, snow, sleet, or shine". All these people, that we depend on in emergency. In war. In time of need, no matter the weather. And yet, how often do we thank them?
Yeah, point one is to not forget to thank these people who have known all sorts of hardships, nursed our illness, etc and yet rarely get thanked enough. So when you pass another person, hard at work, do not forget to thank them. I am sure if they deserve it, and if they do not (there are always the few corrupt ones) then perhaps if they heard it enough they would change? We do not know what a difference simple gratitude could make in another's life.
2) Because we lived in a small town when I was growing up, we knew most people. And every year for Christmas my mom would sneak a small plate of cookies into our mailbox as a "thank you" for the mailman. A neighbor up the street, I knew, used to want to invite him in for coffee but because he could not leave his work, she thought up how to time it so she could run out and give him a nice warm cup of coffee at mid-day during the coldest days. She once told me that he was out in that horrid blizzard-weather to deliver mail, the least she could do was run down her short driveway to meet him with a warm cup (he always returned the tall insulated mug the next day, too). Over the years, he became a good friend of the family and even helped us out in a non-mail-related situation that came up years later.
He was faithful. Not just to his work, but to God.
Which leads me to point two, although it is almost two-fold.
First, about how truthful it is when God says He will "never leave us nor forsake us." These people are a small (albeit, sometimes, flawed) representation of who God is to us. In His faithfulness, His loyalty. His all.
Secondly, if by the same measure that whenever we sin, whether against someone or something else, we are actually sinning against God (sermon from Sunday, check it out here), then by the same measure, when we give our all, are we not also giving our all or doing our best to the Lord? And these people show us what it looks like to sacrifice, to be diligent, to give 100% and then give yet some more!
I have known some nurses to brave the sleet and un-plowed roads to drive to the hospital for their shift, and work a long twelve-hour shift, to brave the weather and make it home, possible getting nothing done at home but a few hours of sleep, before doing it all again.
Do we do that? Do we give our best in our job, and then give some more? Do we do what is asked and go beyond that?
Everyday, God never backs out, never fails, and is always there. Don't you think we could add to our praise and thanks by giving Him our best, too?
Wednesday, March 5
Remember when I said that I "make stew" or think on things, sometimes for a good long time (months, even) before presenting them either in written or spoken terms?
Remember when I said I was thankful for pain? An odd concept, I know, but I like to think outside the proverbial box and be thankful no matter my circumstances.
Or what about those posts where after observing Lance, I realized there was a lesson we could learn from him? A dog, no less!
Well someone wrote an article that I think y'all should check it out! Perhaps it puts things into writing better then I can. Or perhaps it will just help someone understand a little more about why I do what I do...like why I love to get out and travel and explore and try something new, when health allows. Or why I need solitude and am known to withdraw and observe just as often as interact in a group of friends. Or why it is that whenever I find there is something that scares me, that I then dare myself to face that fear and "get over it"; I can not afford to let fear hold me back! OK, maybe the article does not really explain all that, but it does have a list that pretty much summarizes me, and it explains each item on the list a little better then my overly-long posts have done.
So, click the link HERE and check it out! (especially notice how #5 relates to "thankful for pain")
Then get back to me with comments below! (all comments are screened, so if you don't want it made public just say so in the comment and I won't publicize it!)
Friday, February 28
Well, I was going to try and keep up on blogging a little more regularly then this, but sometimes time gets away from us. As it is, it has been a busy enough week, despite the lack of blog posts. I fear, however, that my lack of public posting leads people to wonder away or think I do not write.
I am a "stewer".
By that I mean that even when there is nothing displayed publicly, it hardly means that there is nothing to display. It simple means it is not fit for public YET, or that I still am working out a few kinks. So things not only have to be chewed, and re-chewed like the proverbial cud of a cow, but they have to stew or ruminate for a while even once pen has been put to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard).
I assure you that there are at least two other posts (for example) that that have been in the works this last week, they just have not been made public yet. One has barely the point-notes to it as I have yet to get the wording beyond that to come out correctly. While the other post was a thought I had stewing for a couple days after I read something in a devotional, that unfortunately I seem to have misplaced so now I can not add the quote that begat the stew in the first place and I feel, therefore, it is unworthy of posting until I have located that quote (which I believe God will provide its discovery when it is best to post it).
You see, I believe God orchestrates things like that for a reason. I do not believe that everything should be shared publicly, immediately.
After all, even Mary the mother of Jesus, is said to have pondered "these things in her heart." (Luke 2:19)
I believe that no matter what a person is going through, if they write songs in the highs, then they should write songs in the lows too. If they write stories, or poems, or whatever they do to express themselves in the highs, they should also do it in the lows. Of course, I do not recommend publishing such things, but speaking from experience, so many things get worked out in a person's heart when they let it out. Before God.
Take the Psalmists' for example. I have always loved how, even in the midst of whatever, they would sing it out. It often started out awful, with words equivalent to "kill my oppressors, Oh God." But in the end, somehow, their heart was always turned back to praising God for the good things. For God being God. Or something like that.
I don't, of course recommend publishing such things or venting them on Facebook (seriously, enough people do that already). But I have found, because I am a writer in many facets, including song, that when I go before God and let it out, somehow in the end--perhaps it is in saying His name alone so much?--I am drawn back to who He is, His goodness, and suddenly I find my worries are not so large. Peace overtakes my heart, and I know that He has is all taken care of.
So I let things ruminate, or stew (perhaps that is not a good word, as it has such connotations like brewing to "blow a fuse", but bear with me), or I chew the cud, on things for a long while and figure that when it is time--like when God helps me find that quote--then it is time to share with other's. Share on here, or wherever. But not until my focus is back on His goodness, His love, even in the midst of the pain or whatever.
A personal example would be from a trip to Honduras a few years ago, where I was invited to preach during a youth service. That sermon was something that had started to stir in my heart during a personal devotion almost six months before that. Something personal that I could not shake or let go, and was constantly drawn back to thinking on, pondering, rewording it in my head, and when I was told "we need a preacher for the service," my heart heard the words "trust me, it's ready."
It was not so much that I knew I could say the right words. It was more like, because I had pondered on it enough, I could sit back, relax, and God could say just what needed to be said. As though, like a stew, it had sat simmering enough that just the right flavors would be brought to the forefront.
Just what needed to come out, and nothing more. Nothing less.
I have never been a spontaneous sort, even in my best or healthiest of years. But when it is time, what needs to be there is ready for the seemingly instantaneous moment.
I believe that if more people took a word from Mary's example, or the idea from the Psalmists, there would be less angst displayed on Facebook and the like. We should let things be pondered, until they are ready--if they are to ever be. And, of course, we should remember that even when displaying our "humanity" our "weaknesses" to show that even we are not perfect, the focus should inevitably, somehow, be centered on God. And sometimes that can not happen without some amount of rumination, letting God sift out the hurt or angst from the wisdom...
So during any of my Online-public areas of silence, do not fret or forget me, rather know that like the Psalmists or Mary, I am hardly quiet, I am just privately cultivating...something...I hardly expect perfectionism, but I anticipate a God-focus...a great stew where even the salt (of tears/sorrow) draws out the best flavors (deliverance/acceptance/love/etc)...
Until next time...
Sunday, February 23
I have got to say that after having been plowing through Leviticus the last couple of days, I am so grateful Jesus came and died and rose again so that we could be made clean, anew, set apart or sanctified and have a relationship with Him. Because the whole process of getting purified in the Old Testament, just reading it even, is tiring! Imagine having to weed through your animals for a perfect, unblemished one, then take it to the tabernacle for the whole process. Making sure you do exactly what you need to with certain parts, etc, and don't confuse them. Certain animals or certain process for certain sins or to be cleansed after one has been sick, etc. Yikes! We will not even mention about the shaving of all one's hair that I just started to get into in today's Bible reading--eyebrows even...
Have I mentioned how thankful I am to have a good day with friends and know that I can crawl into my Daddy-God's lap, rest my head on his shoulder at the end of the day, without having to think twice about whether I picked up a head cold on the way. I can be as tired as I want, and I do not have to exhaust myself before I can be considered clean enough to talk to Him. Even to just thank Him for a great day...
I do wonder what the process of purification while having a disease like Arthritis would have entitled in the O.T.? I am sure it required work...
Well, let us just say that "thanks" hardly suffices, but I am so thankful He did all the work so that in just a few minutes I can crawl contently into my Daddy-God's lap and sleep peacefully through the night...
Thursday, February 20
All too often the idea comes to me as someone asks for me to pray for them as they are need of a miracle. The thought is of course one we have probably all thought at one point or another, one that is ingrained in our minds: How can I ask for this, when I am so obvious broken.
Basically, when someone asks for me to pray for a physical ailment, my mind looks at my deformed body, my crippled fingers, it looks inside to where it feels intense pain on any number of joints at one given moment, and thinks "how can I expect to see someone healed, when obviously I am not? How can I do this, when I do not have enough faith [or whatever] to be healed too?"
I was sitting down to lunch the other day with a couple of friends and one of them mentioned her own struggles. Mentioned that once she had a prophet say she would lay hands on the sick, those with her same ailment, and see them delivered. And then she added, "but of course I have to get myself better first. And once I am eating healthier, and better physically and mentally, I will lay hands on the sick."
It is funny how we lay everything so contingent on ourselves.
Do you see how often the word "I" was used?
Where is God in that?
I am quite sure that even if I stood before you, totally and obviously healed physically, that I could still find something broken somewhere that in my mind would disqualify me from laying hands on the sick and seeing them healed.
Yet, broken as I might be, I have seen others healed.
It leaves me with only thought...perhaps it is not contingent on me or my abilities after all.
"When we are weak, He is strong." "When we become less, He becomes more." Perhaps those words mean more than I thought?
Perhaps it is because I am broken that God can use me? After all, I can assure anyone who asks, that it had nothing to do with my faith, my gift, or my talent, let alone my healing. Just take a look at me and tell me how I could have done any of it?
I think it would be best to stop limiting God to our abilities, our looks, our...whatever...and just step back and let Him work. If in the process He wishes to borrow my deformed hands to see His work done, then so be it!
Who am I? Broken.
Who is He?
Tuesday, February 18
I love playing fetch with Lance! He has the best expressions...He's all panting and excited as he releases the ball to my hand and sits, patiently, and yet easily distracted. Until I ask if he's ready. Then the tongue goes back in the mouth as his muscles tense and every focus is on me, ready to jump at the slightest movement. But he won't leave his spot until I say "go get it," which of course I don't tease him (too much) and usually say as I toss the ball...
The reaction I love the most is suddenly how focused he becomes at the word "Ready?" Nothing else matters then but focusing on me, waiting for the call to "go"...I'm thinking that is how focused we should be on God, eh? We should respond to His morning wake-up call of "ready?" with focus and determination, unwavering from Him as we wait for His "go".
(Perhaps we can learn something from Lance, then, too, as it seems like nothing else makes Lance happier then bringing back the prize [the ball], no matter the cost, and starting anew...)
Are you ready?
Monday, February 17
Had another interesting, puzzling, thought that raised so many more questions in my mind...
We say that God chooses to restrict Himself to needing and using us, His people, as His hands, His feet, His mouthpiece, etc.
Yet, there are stories where angels have appeared as guards and helped people escape through a coup. Or where He appeared in a dream or vision and talked to an unbeliever, causing them to decide to seek out Christianity. And other such stories...
In other words, more often then not, God might choose to restrict Himself to using us, but He can and does sometimes use other methods.
However, there is one thing that He chooses to restrict Himself to that there is no alternative.
He stands outside of time. He can make sure everything happens just the way He needs or wants it to, the first time. There is no reason to do a do-over...
I have never heard of anyone getting on their knees today, begging for something to appear in their cupboard that, well, they forgot they needed, but they needed it yesterday.
"Hey, when did that get there?"
"Don't you remember? Someone gave it to you yesterday/"
"Uhm, no. I'm pretty sure nobody did; it was not even there two minutes ago or I would not have been begging God for it now."
I have heard of God suddenly softening a heart if there was forgotten due-date and grace was provided for allowance to give it tomorrow or something. I have heard of God working miracles with time in that way. But never by going back in time, as it were.
There is a movie I love to watch called Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. (There are two movies; I'm referring to the first one). The interesting thing is the whole movie focuses on solving the puzzles to finally achieve this gift that is referred to on several occasions as giving the possessor the "power of God." They are, of course, referring to time. If they can do what needs to be done in the time it needs to be done in, the one who holds the special object can have the gift of time and can go back and change whatever they want, do whatever they want. No restrictions. They stand outside of time.
Time seems to be the one thing God restricts Himself into, and the one thing we can only dream to achieve...
And I wonder...why is that? Why is that the one way He chooses to restrict Himself? Why is it that outside of movies and the imagination, I have never heard anything about a time-warp like the above 'mini-story'?
Even our moments of panic and suddenly pleading (because something had a due date of yesterday) still works out better when all is said and done, somehow. And that is the miracle. The one thing God orchestrates, every minute of every day, that we take for granted and never see...The miracle of time. Perfected, the first time.
Sunday, February 16
"It's not the power of the curse - it's the power you give the curse."
I like that quote; but I like the movie it comes from for two reasons...
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the quote, it comes from the movie Penelope. It's about a girl born with the curse of a pig-face (nose and ears like a pig). She does what most girls do, of course, and believes that the curse will be broken once she marries (the curse said it would be broken when one of her own kind --a blue-blood-- loves her).
Too many romance movies say at the end (just after the wedding), "they lived happily ever after."
It's a popular idea, and definitely an easier one to believe. Easier, because it requires little work on our own part; once we are married "life beings", everything becomes perfect, happy, better...
I am always reminded of what a professor at college once said in talking about marriage: "two halves, don't make a whole."
I correlate it to the idea of book-end. Like contacts, it's hard to say without the 's' at the end, but bear with me here...
I own a wonderful bookend. It's country-western themed with a beautiful cowboy boot, spurs and all, nestled against the wooden side. I love it, and it fits right on my book shelf, supporting the books against the side-wall of the shelf. It is surrounded by my other country-western and wanna-be-Texan themed nick-knacks.
I also own another bookend, a set of bookends actually. They sit on my "fantasy" themed bookshelf holding up the Lord of The Rings, Narnia, and other such books. In fact, it is a set from the Hobbit, the one end being Bilbo inside his hobbit-hole, heading towards the door to answer, because on the opposite side of the door--the other bookend--standing in the garden outside the door is Gandalf rapping the door with his stick.
Any of those bookends can stand alone. A little nicked, bruised, and well-worn (the point on Gandalf's hat has been re-wired on many a time), but they are still individual bookend (no 's'). As long as they are holding the books up against a wall or the side of the shelf, they can work, alone.
If one of the bookends was only a half, could it hold anything up? If it was just the bottom board, would not the books just fall onto the wood? Or if it was just the side board, would it not topple over with the books? Or just the figure in the middle (boot, Gandalf, whatever), could it be of any use aside from just another nick-knack on the shelf?
That is what, I believe, the professor meant in college.
We should not need another person to complete us. With God (the wall, in the bookend example), we are complete.
Yes, the Hobbit bookends are more complete, together. Separately they work, they can support books, but together they tell a complete story that they can not, separately.
"Two halves, don't make a whole..." when it comes to marriage. But two wholes, make a better whole.
We may not need the other person, but the other person makes us better for it.
Saturday, February 15
It appears as though God did not want to appoint a king over Israel, until Israel begged God for a king. Something about needing to see it in the flesh, or perhaps to have someone else speak and hear God for them so they no longer have to worry about a relationship with Him. Who knows...
Friday, February 14
I have always been a bit on the weird side of things. I love being alone, dating myself (as some call it), deciding when I want to do something--or skip or procrastinate--and knowing immediately whether it will fit in my schedule or budget, etc. It is nice.
I, of course, am accountable to people for things that are important. But things like whether I swept the whole floor today, or just did a cursory sweep, or none at all. Who is to care or know when nobody else is around? Of course I ca not stand something being left undone for too long (my near-OCD kicks in), but I have the option to leave it if I want.
I can get an art project out (like scrapbooking) and know that nobody will complain if I leave it out, unfinished, for however many days in a row I need to finish it. Nobody will find fault with it, either, or ruin it because they did not see it laying there when they threw their coat across the dining room table.
Yes, being single, having my own apartment, has soooo many advantages.
Aside from events, or social outings I go to or plan and host, I can pretty much do what I want, when I want. Go to bed, get up, eat, clean, whenever. If the fancy should strike me, I might dust at 2am.
When I feel like seeing a certain movie, I only have to check the ratings to see if its something I would like, without having to think about who else might see it or dislike/disapprove of it (ie. I can finally watch LOTR again!). And if by some misfortune I start watching something on Netflix that half-way through, I find I can not stand it or it takes an unexpected, go-against-my-moral-boundary twist, I can turn it off without having to deal with complaints as to "We have watched this far, lets finish it" or needing to explain myself. I can just turn it off in the middle.
I can plan one of those "self-dates" and change my mind at the last minute. I went once to a theater for one movie, and decided to do two in a row, skip the dinner afterward, but get popcorn instead--it was a special deal-day at theater where drinks and popcorn were just a $1 anyway.
Since I already know myself, I already know how I think or reason or the why's and why-nots. So no complaints or explanations that most would not understand anyway.
I have even worried about what I would do when I married, since I love alone time as much as socializing! Marriage, while having its benefits, I am sure, has always seemed a bit restrictive to me. Having someone come home to me e-v-e-r-y evening after work? Really? Argh! It would mean only a few hours to myself, and those would be hours I would probably use to clean or cook so the house would be perfect for him each evening, except how then would I find time that would be just mine and nonrestrictive? To use how I wanted?
Yeah, I am sure there are perks to married life, and someday I am sure I will sing a different tune. But for now, I have always loved being single, being alone, having my own domain.
I have spent many a holiday alone, even, and not because I was not invited to something, but just because I prefer it!
This last Christmas I told all my relatives I wanted to spend alone. I did end up Skype-ing a sister in the early morning, though, but then without any other scheduled event, I could go back to bed and sleep way in. And I wrung in this last New Year's by marathon-ing cheesy romantic Christmas movies on Netflix, keeping an eye on the clock, and texting a sister to make sure she was still awake.
Lonely? I do not even understand the word, usually.
Alone, yes. But lonely? Never. I can be quit an amusing person!
In the past, I used to tease my single friends as Valentine's day would creep up on us, because of how emotionally distraught they would get over being single on such a romantic holiday. Or whatever it was they used to say.
I did not understand what the turmoil was all about.
Valentine was a guy who died without ever being with the love of his life. So if anything, it is a holiday celebrating unrequited love, in my opinion, and who wants to celebrate that? Getting engaged, dating, etc on such a holiday just seemed like a bad idea, not to mentioned cliche and over-done! My thought was that a couple should pick a day for themselves, their own holiday, and make it special...
My father has always been my "Valentine," if I ever counted anyone, because from the time I started college and ever since, he has given me a carnation or two to stick in a vase, or a small box of my favorite chocolates, or some other favorite treat, or any combination of the sort. He was my "Valentine" even before movies like Courageous said that the father should be their daughter's first Valentine/date, and thereby set a standard/idea of what the daughter should look for.
I have always enjoyed my single-ness.
So why am I writing, then?
Simple...because this year it bothers me.
I know, I have turned into a cliche...or worse, become just like every single person from any cheesy romantic movie...
I do not know if it bothers me because my hormones are all out of whack; if it is from being unusually snow-bound so much this year. That in about seven months I hit the big uh-oh (3-0) for a single person. That I have gone through a mental list in my head of all my former-single friends and it keeps reading like this "married, significant other, dating, married, married, engaged, married, married, oh and married." We will not even think about the fact that way too many of my married friends are on their what, fourth kid, already? Anyway, whatever it is, this year as Valentine's day sneaks up on me, it actually bothers me!
This year I actually feel sad that I have never gotten to know what it is like to even date, let alone be a couple on any holiday. I watch my friends, hear about their plans, and while I am happy for them (some of them are just down-right straight-from-a-movie adorable over it!), but I actually wonder what it would be like from the inside--their side--of things.
I have never dated, never had a boyfriend, never courted, never been engaged, etc (I am sure you get the point)...but I have never minded...
Because now as midnight ticks up, and Valentine's Day starts -- for many other's in a few hours, when they wake up-- I am curious to know what it is like. Is it like Christmas morning for a child? Are you giddy to know what your spouse has planned for you? Excited with anticipation for work to end in the afternoon to find out? Does the day just seem to crawl by until then? Or does everything seem airy and better, like floating on a cloud, just from waiting? Or are you the planner, and thinking through every detail, just waiting with glee to see the look on your spouse's face when you give her that little thing she has been wanting? Or when you tell her you got someone to babysit the kiddos so you could have a simple evening out?
I am curious to know what it is like...and despite all the stories I hear or read or see, nothing will be the same as when I have actually stood on that end of things...and this year, I really wish I was standing over there.
The Christian radio station gave a good suggestion in that it was reminding people to not forget their single friends on Valentine's Day; perhaps by taking them out for dinner, or just dropping by to give them a little something--even just a hug--and let them know you appreciate their friendship, etc...And if I had a car, I would totally be all over that...Besides that, like I said earlier, I do not have any single friends that I can recall; nor can I figure out why a married person, friend of mine or not, would want to take time from the one day a year for the married people to celebrate being married to their best friend to spend some of it with a single friend.
My married, or otherwise engaged, friends, go and have fun this Valentine's Day. Enjoy yourself and your significant other. That is what the day is for...Just, for me, when the day is past, do not forget to tell me about it and perhaps, remember me in your prayers so that maybe next time I will join you with stories to tell, too.
Sunday, February 9
What am I saying? Why would I say that?
Let me back up and explain a little about myself for those who do not know me too well or have not known me since infancy.
At eighteen months old I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). It is a painful disease that has even tried to kill me twice in my early childhood. I've had years, though, where I did not know pain; years when I could almost be 'normal'. But it never seems to last.
What? Where's my faith?
That's a question I've been asking myself for the last couple years, because as you've probably noticed my blogs and missions trips just haven't been happening and perhaps it has led y'all to wonder what's going on? And where have I been?
I was healed from a wheelchair, just in time for college and missions trips--living my dreams. And while the affects on my joints (subluxation and several fused joints) nor ont he muscles (JRA sometimes wears out or 'eats away' at the muscles near the joints it attacks), the pain was gone and I believed that God had healed me from JRA and it was only a matter of time before He would finish what He started and fix the after-affects on my joints, too.
And then a couple years ago that all changed when the pain started coming back.
First I questioned acknowledging the pain. Questioned medicine. Questioned my faith. And ultimately what people would say or think, knowing my testimony, if I ever said I was in pain or that "it's back".
Where is my faith? What did I do wrong? Or what can I do to make it right?
And especially, "how can I still find myself drawn to pray for another, when obviously I'm in serious pain?"
How could God use me, if I am broken?
But then today in church, as we were worshiping, I was thinking about a child who was recently diagnosed with a debilitating disease and how much I wanted to give her some advice, some faith, and hope. Help her to know the Love I have come to know through my own pain.
And then as we sang the above song, I found myself bawling as all I could think about was how grateful I am to know pain! How it shaped my childhood in a way nobody else, perhaps would ever know or understand. How God blessed and spoke to me through it; a relationship I am not certain I would have today if not for the pain giving me pause, time, to just be...with Him.
When a person is in pain, the first thing one does is search for a relief.
"Where is that bottle of Tylenol?"
"Where did I leave that cold compress?"
"What of the splint or brace?"
"Would you give me a foot-rub, please?"
Essentially, "How can I relieve this pain? Instantly?"
But those who know pain, know like I do that some pain cannot be 'ride of'. Some pain can only be muffled or suppressed, but is still very much there. It's still screaming, even underneath the "blanket" or behind the "gag". It's still kicking and fighting against the ropes of pain relievers, compresses, and rubs that hold, temporarily. It's still there, just a little bit quieter.
When I was a child, one of my earliest memory is hearing my body fight to breath as the disease gripped my vocal chords and thwarted each attempted breath. yet, I do not remember the pain nor fear of that moment, but rather the comfort, peace, and ultimately Love as I sat above the ambulance in my Father-God's reassuring embrace.
He took over where humans and all our "advances" fail.
He never left me, nor forsook me.
When I would crawl into bed at night, and the pressure of the days' activities would release from my joints, leaving me in such unbearable pain. When it hurt too much to be touched or held, and I would cry myself to sleep, unable to find relief. I can say that I know what it is like when the very second I would close my eyes, I would see Jesus' comforting face before me. To experience love so deep, it could touch the depths of my soul where nothing, not even pain, could. When no one else could, He would hold me in His arms and rock me to sleep, leading me to a place of peace despite the pain in my joints.
I have had Him hold my hand in church services and take me to a garden, where we would dance together and laugh. And yet all the while I was in a wheelchair and my hands ached too much to even shake another's in greeting.
If there is a blessing in pain, if God can truly work all things for His good, then it is this: that I have known the depths of His Love. And yet, even know, I am still learning more of just how deep it goes. Of where it reaches. How...I wish I knew.
This I have learned. This I know from having experienced pain. From having it again. It constantly draws me back to God. And gives me plenty of time to just sit in His presence as it resets the priorities in my life...
You may be fortunate to have never experienced such pain that could make a person scream out in their sleep...but then are you really fortunate?
I have laid hands on the sick and seen them healed. A cross-eyed, partially blind little girl has suddenly looked me in the eyes. All while my knees were aching so much I could barely stand as I prayed.
And it has nothing to do with me. How broken or crippled I appear.
It has everything to do with...
Saturday, February 1
I was petting Lance and a thought suddenly struck me as I was observing his markings...
See, Lance has a birthmark that, to me, sets him apart and makes him adorable (a brown patch near his rump), yet it would disqualify him from being a show-dog. But does he even know, or care? Or, for that matter, in everything I've read about understanding dogs, when have they mentioned that dogs talk among each other and complain about their abnormalities or differences? Their noses are too long, or short? What of the length of their hair? Color or closeness of their eyes? Etc? ...Nope...Instead all I hear about is how the dog's first thought or concern is pleasing it's "parent"/owner...
And I wonder...what it would be like if we as Christians stopped focusing so much on our outward -- the spots, speckles, and flaws we can't really change (like the Davis-ski-slope some call a nose?) -- and just focused on pleasing our Father God?
I wouldn't change a thing about Lance's appearance...from his floppy ears, to his bluetick legs, or the brown patch, or...