Thursday, December 20, 2012

Preconceptions

This Advent season has so far contained the usual amount of meditation and soul searching and one revelation stood out from the others. He is a Father of surprises. The moment I think I can no longer be surprised, bam, something unlike anything I have yet to experience happens.

When I get out of the way and get rid of my preconceptions of how He should touch my life and when, things work out better than I expect. His plan is always better. Always, and I know that. 

However, we humans develop and hold onto preconceptions to just about everything, people, places, books, movies, and the list goes on and on and on. These opinions color our world. Some in beautiful ways, others are not so pretty, and these instant judgments shackle our imaginations, and our ability to accept people, things and circumstances. as well as our ability to see God's hand in our lives. 

As a matter of fact, I have yet to see the answer to my prayers materialize in the way I thought they should. God is always out of the box in that regard. Some of His answers take years to form and come to fruition, and, rarely, if ever, in the way I asked. 

The lesson is: life is easier when I don't put my spin on what He should do, how and when He should do it. Preconception is exactly the opposite of "let go, and let God". 

This holiday season is rampant with expectations, many of which will be unfulfilled in our preconceived notions. Are our expectations too high? Absolutely not. We can never aim too high when it comes to God. However, our preconceived ideas of how the events should play out are often disappointed and can even blind us to His answers. I repeat, His most powerful interventions occur when I step out of the way, when I least expected them, and in ways I believed impossible. 

My new resolution is to step back and watch Him do the unexpected. I may not always like His answer. It may not be the spectacular miracle I wanted or felt I needed, but it will be what He wants for me, and somehow, someway it will be what is good for me. This is where faith steps in, trusting He loves me enough to send the hard stuff as well as the good in order to deepen my character and faith. Preconceptions just get in the way - of a lot of things. 

Lord, make this the year you heal my blindness. Amen. 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Age Factor


After numerous failed attempts to find permanent employment, I am fighting discouragement and despair. Several friends, who are HR administrators, have agreed my age is a huge factor in my job search. Granted, it is illegal to discriminate because of age, but proving discrimination is hard.  And although I have seen jobs I applied for go to applicants with half my skill and experience - and half my age, it would still be hard to prove. If I wanted to. Personally, I do not want to work for a company I forced through litigation to hire me. The work place is a tough enough environment without adding that kind of stress.

Ironically, I am too young to retire and too old to be employed. Then an added disadvantage, I don’t speak a second language, which becoming more and more a requirement, at least in our area.

Add the looming changes in Federal taxes and other regulations which will negatively impact my husband’s and my finances even further,my husband is considering becoming an Ex-Pat, moving to a foreign country where our dollar will go further. I love my country and am not sure this is what I want to do, but I can’t argue against the financial aspect. Statistics show over 3 million retirees are moving to other countries in order to spread out their retirement funds. Most are going to South America where the peso to dollar ratio is three to one.  

Money isn’t everything, and there are many other things to consider. With my husband it is also the desire to travel. Living abroad would also give us that opportunity. What to do?

Amid my desperate prayers for wisdom, my devotions offered these nuggets of spiritual insight.

Streams in the Desert November 25, 26 and 27:

11/25: “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory. Ephesians 3:20-21.

The same power that saved us, washed us with His blood, filled us with the power of His Holy Spirit, and protected us through numerous temptations will work for us to meet every emergency, every crisis, every circumstance, and every adversary. The Alliance.”

11/26: “And One asked softly, ‘Why, indeed, take overanxious thought for what tomorrow brings you? See you not The Father knows just what you need?’ ” [Reference to Luke 12:22-30 – The Lilies of the Field]

11/27: “Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) “Therefore may we continue to persevere, for even if we took our circumstances and cast all the darkness of human doubt upon them and then hastily piled as many difficulties together as we could find against God’s divine work, we could never move beyond the blessedness of His miracle-working power. May we place our faith completely in Him, for He is the God of the impossible.”

When I look back at all my former difficulties, I see His hand, all of His miraculous deliveries. Impossibilities made possible. Faith was, and is, the difference. The deeper our faith, the more profound and amazing His miracles.

With that in mind, I am giving it all to Him to figure out, for without doubt “…they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40: 31.  And, I will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. He has promised.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Just Do It

I talk, a lot, about losing weight, exercising more, getting up earlier, being more kind, gracious, giving, forgiving, and my list goes on and on. I want to change, permanently. Not for just a week or a month.

So, how do I change? Where do I start on such a long list? One choice, one moment at a time. Rather than lumping everything together into a mountain so steep it is impossible to climb, I need to take the first step.  Then the next. Before long I will be sitting on the crest enjoying the view.

This will take action, not words. We've heard over and over how action speaks louder than words. Jesus said faith without works, isn't faith.

Ah, but to keep the motivation. It feels good to sleep just a few more minutes. That extra helping is hard to resist. Snuggling into my chair with a book after supper is more pleasant than jumping onto the stair stepper. And it is hard to withhold cutting comments and be patient. It feels better to putter around the house in my jammies than to get dressed and go to church. Why? Lack of discipline. And, it is a pandemic in our society.

Discipline is an ugly word, dredging up the image of extreme self denial. Life is already hard enough. What is wrong with some self indulgence? A little? Absolutely nothing. A life time? Plenty. Too much self indulgence leads to deep rooted selfishness, apathy, callousness, and excesses, which are the root causes of suffering in our world.

Wow, what a leap from sleeping in to a suffering world. Not really. Without discipline it becomes easier and easier to self indulge and harder and harder to make uncomfortable, but right choices. As adults we all know what happens to children raised without discipline. So, what happens to adults without  it? Add the accumulation of all the small, continuous acts of self indulgence, multiplied by millions and billions, and I think the issue becomes clear. It is a tsunami of "if it feels good, do it."

Right choices don't feel good, at least not on an bodily level. Doing the right thing is uncomfortable, and often leads to suffering. Most of us run with the speed of a gazelle in the opposite direction when faced with suffering, if we have the choice.

My reading this morning from Streams in the Desert added a deeper truth: "For the hearts that will cease focusing on themselves, there is 'the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.' Phil. 4:7."

The secret of a joyful life in a nutshell. We all know this. I have written of this basic concept before in my posts Ego and How to Have a Joyful Mind. I have tried to follow this mantra, and failed, over and over. It all points back to a lack of discipline. I have made a vow, it is time to stop talking, and just do it.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

What He Sees

My eyes were opened to another spiritual truth this week. God really does see everything. Let me repeat. God sees everything. He does see my many failures, but He also sees the morning prayer, the prayer during a lunch time walk, and even the private pleadings while hiding in the restroom at work.

He sees when I put my last few dollars into the collection plate, just as He did the woman in Mark 12: 43-44. Jesus noted she contributed not from  her abundance, but from her want. He noticed,  and I am sure He blessed her for it, although Scripture doesn't say.

God also sees the times I clamp my mouth shut instead of uttering what is really on my mind, sparing someone's feelings. He sees when I stand up for my beliefs, even when no one else notices.

He forgives the wrong and blesses the good,giving abundantly when I trust Him, and I can trust Him even when my circumstances hurt.


This means I don't have to worry about competing for His attention. Neither do I have to strive to get anyone else's attention, or covet another's good fortune. I will always have His attention, and plenty good fortune of my own, if I open my eyes and look.

And God goes further, He sees into my heart and knows my many failures are rarely a deliberate attempt at rebellion. He sees how hard I try. And, it all counts toward that moment when I stand before Him waiting to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful Servant."


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Other-Someone Else

Not too long ago I wrote about Someone Else. The person who got the job I wanted, the person who was driving the car I always wished I had, and lived in the house I always dreamed of. The list goes on and on. That Someone Else's life was pretty wonderful.

Granted, I also mentioned the Someone Else who had more problems than I do, but I failed to recognize another aspect of Someone Else, the other, Someone Else.

While I am busy coveting what Someone Else has, I am completely ignoring the Someone Else who is doing what I don't want to do. When hearing about a serious problem or issue, what are the first words out of my mouth? "Someone ought to do something about that."

Right now Someone Else in the personage of the police officer, the paramedic, the researcher, the congressman (yes them too), and many others are doing "something about that." These professionals are taking care of many "somethings" I cannot  and do not want to deal with. But this issue goes even further and deeper than that.

God expects me to be that Someone Else as well. I am the one who should step up and do "something about that." It might be a situation I could actually make a physical difference, or perhaps lend both monetary and physical support to, or maybe the situation would only require writing a letter, making a phone call, or simply praying. Whatever the opportunity, it is time I stop wringing my hands and saying "Someone do something!"

St. Paul's words, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," are true, especially now that I am older. My energy level is not the same, and I already appreciate my dad's comment, "Retirement doesn't really mean you have more time to do the things you want, because it takes more time to do the things you have to."

Regardless, it is time I stop being selfish with my time and my wealth (the little bit I do have). It won't be easy. It is harder to step out of my comfort zone now that I have developed entrenched habits and routines, but God expects me to, without neglecting family or my health, or my spiritual needs. After all, He can take my little and make it enough. I just have to be willing.

Monday, November 5, 2012

If I Died Today...

If I died today, what in my life would really matter? Would I regret how I spent my time? Would my passing affect others in any way? 

We have all heard the Cherokee proverb: When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. 

Could I honestly say that about myself? In my small circle of family and close friends, that might be true, but of the world? Certainly not. I have not done anything outstanding. My life has not made any difference outside of my small circle. 

Yet, I do matter. As the story of the boy on the beach throwing back one starfish at a time, he might not be able to save them all, but his compassion mattered to that one he did save. If you multiply this action by those of countless others, then yes, the world feels the impact. 

So, it does matter to anyone how I live my life? Yes. It matters to me and to everyone around me. 

This week I took a closer look at how I spent my time, where my focus was. I spend too much time with things that won't matter at all if I died today. The unfinished manuscript, the unfinished painting, they won't have much impact on my family. However, the phone call to a housebound friend, the extra effort at work, and how often I tell my family I love them, that has an impact on others. Those are my contributions to the million of starfish needing rescue. 

And thus I am refocusing where I spend most of my time. So what if I'm not the perfect weight I used to be. So what if my painting will never be viewed by anyone but a few close friends and family. So what if my book never makes the Times Best Seller list. 

My prayer time, the time I spent nurturing others, the gifts of my talents to others, not for my personal gain, but for their enjoyment or uplifting, those will matter after I am gone. Those things will make a difference in someone else's life. 

Keeping my focus on how I might help another, simplifies my life, pulls me back from the frantic busyness and frantic pace I try to keep up. Sometimes sitting on the porch watching the sunset with my husband is far more important than anything else. 

Erma Bombeck said as much after she was diagnosed with cancer. She regretted not spending more time looking at sunsets, playing with her grandchildren, and just being, rather than doing. 

I am going to heed the wise words of the Cherokee proverb, and of Erma, when I decide how to spend my time. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Golf Carts

After my husband retired he was bent on living in a retirement community, some place quiet where cars didn't jump up and down and sear your ears with music from half a block away. No racing motorcycles whose mufflers seemed to be only decoration.

We moved south to the land of perpetual sun and into an over 55 community, right on a beautiful golf course. It was quiet, but the quiet was deceptive.

Our first morning we were shaken by a horrendous thud against the house. We ran out to the patio.  Right above my husband's chair was a huge hole. A golf ball hit the side of the house with such force it bored through the stucco and into the interior support mesh. We promptly moved the patio furniture to the other end of the patio - hopefully out of the line of fire.

After coffee we took a walk around the neighborhood. Tire tracks appeared during the night. The black marks rose up over the curb, bumped along the sidewalk for several yards and then  finally regained the road. Evidently some of our neighbors had night vision issues.

Most cities have bike lanes. This community had golf cart lanes. Yes, golf cart lanes along every roadway, and designated golf cart spaces - right next to the handicapped spaces in every parking lot.  These electric vehicles were silent, but their sudden appearances were deadly. They shot out from alleyways, drive ways and intersections at lightening speeds - far faster than their drivers ever attempted in a full size vehicle, and that brings me to the grocery store.


These Daytona 500 drivers dropped to a pace slower than the desert tortoise, and kept to the center lane, preventing faster traffic from passing. If you were unlucky to get behind a health conscious senior, you had two choices: turn around and go another way, or pull up a chair, and have a cup of coffee while they read the ingredients on every item in the isle - on both sides. And, I am not kidding.


On Christmas Eve the community had a parade. A hundred and twenty-five golf carts, decked out in lights and playing Christmas carols, wound up and down every street and cul de sac. It was a sight to see. I mentioned something about ships in the desert, and got an elbow in my ribs from my husband.

While having lunch one afternoon we overheard two elderly gentlemen discussing how to leave a tip for the waitress. They couldn't figure out the change. After the waitress eventually rescued them, we watched to see which vehicle they climbed into and which direction they went. We went in the exact opposite.

After all of these incidents we weren't too surprised to hear this small community had a higher accident rate than the larger city to the north - Tuscon.

Early one morning, my husband met another retired gentleman at the dog park and they soon compared community experiences.

The gentleman concluded, "You know I've just got to get away from all of these old codgers.  They are driving me nuts and what's even scarier, I am an old codger!"

Well, there are different degrees of old codgers...the Cognitive and the Not So Cognitive.

We moved a short time later into a mixed community. Kids ride their scooters and bikes up and down the side walk in front of our house. Young people drive too fast and leave skid marks at the stop sign. That's  okay. The center isle at the grocery store is very rarely blocked and we have yet to see one tire mark on the sidewalk.

Don't Worry About Them

With so much going on in the world today, and especially with the election drawing so close, our attention is drawn to thousands of issues. We worry, we stew, we wring our hands. We shake our fingers at the unkind, the vengeful, the violent. We say bad things about this one or that one, particularly in the political circles. That politician is bad. That political party is radical and hateful. Those people are intolerant, lying, morally corrupt.
We spend a great deal of time judging and condemning. We expend so much energy it amazes me we have any strength to do anything else.  

We don't seem to learn. God said "Do not judge or you shall be judged." Yet, we do, over and over. What if we spent that energy fixing us? What if we didn't worry about what that politician, or that group was doing, and worked on our flaws? Of course we need to be vigilant against injustices and be active in our political procedures as responsible citizens, but what if we didn't worry so much about how the other guy needs to change?

It is a fact that sensationalism sells. The more spectacular the story, the more base the action, the more we pay attention. In some ways our social media and news programs have become glitzy gossip channels. The accusations fly before the truth is uncovered. We have become a society of tolerant intolerance.

I fell into this trap this past week on both the personal and national front. I got caught up in the media feeding frenzy and in a smaller dynamic at work. God has again stepped in and straightened out my thoughts and consequently my behavior. He basically told me not to worry about Them. I need to worry about me.

Am I being kind, thoughtful, and tolerant toward those different from me? Do I respect another's opinion even though I disagree?

It boils down to something very simple: I have no influence over anyone but myself. I can not control anything but my own reactions. I cannot force someone to change their mind or behavior. But, I can change  mine.  I would have far less stress and frustration if I quit worrying so much about others.

This also includes good as well as bad. I need to stop comparing others to myself. Period. I am not the yardstick by which all things are measured. God is, particularly in His humanity, Jesus. I need to keep my eyes on Him and not worry about what others are doing, unless they are hurting themselves or someone else.

I need to pray more and judge less. I need to listen more and talk less. I need to stop believing I am in the right, and they are in the wrong. I need to stop needing to be right. I need to rely more on God's judgement. I need to trust Him to fix those who need to be fixed, including me. I need to put more energy into being in union with Him.

The end result will be a person who is joyful regardless of her circumstances. A person with more energy to enjoy the good things in the world, in others and in herself. That new person will be much, much happier and less stressed. Why is it so hard to become that person?



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Catfish Eat Carrots

Almost there. Just a little closer. Fingers touch. It swings just out of reach - and then the catfish gets it. I didn't know catfish ate carrots, but they do.

An opportunity, a repeat opportunity, dangled in front of me. So close, almost mine, and then in a nano second, gone. Eaten by one of the many catfish in my spiritual tank.

Hurt, I crawled away, desperate to find a hole to hide in. God held me back.

He sent rainbows to remind me there is more to life than the rain and heartache: "After rainstorms, puddles reflect sunrises, or mountains, or rainbows, or blossoms." Joseph T. Sullivan in Good Morning, Lord.

God reminded me through the scriptural story of Joseph in the Egyptian prison that our attitude and example during a time of crises, or disappointment, can influence others and change our circumstances for the better.

He reminded me in Philippians 4:6 "not to be anxious about anything."

Psalm 105: 2-5 re-emphasized those promises: "Sing to him, yes sing praises to him; relate all his wondrous works. Glory in his holy name: let the heart rejoice which seeks the Lord. Seek the Lord, and be strengthened: seek His face evermore. Remember his marvelous works which he has done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth."

That doesn't diminish the hurt, or humiliation, but it does dictate my reaction. In this situation, the Serenity Prayer has been another source of strength, and peace.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.


An interesting side note on this: this is the exact same situation I was in exactly a year ago. I even marked a passage in my devotion, Streams in the Desert for this day: "Speak to the Lord about any trial you are facing or any difficulties you may have in your family or professional life." I marked this statement with dates in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The same situation repeated at the same time each year. 

The passage continues: "By prayer and petition - earnestly pleading, persevering and enduring, and waiting, waiting, waiting on God."

 Again, a pattern of threes in both the circumstance and in the verse. I now understand the symbolism of the number three in my physical and spiritual life: I am to see God (represented by the number three) in every situation and circumstance. Even when a catfish eats my carrot God is with me. 





Sunday, October 7, 2012

Catfish

Pastor Greg Laurie from Harvest Church in  Riverside, California sent this story in an e-mail: 

 A group of fish suppliers had trouble shipping cod from the East Coast. No matter what they tried, the fish arrived spoiled, mushy, or dead. As a last resort, they tried shipping the fish alive in tanks with one catfish in each tank. The cod arrived alive and well because they spent the trip running from the catfish. 

Pastor Laurie went on to correlate the catfish with our spiritual lives: God puts catfish in our spiritual tanks in the form of difficult co-workers, family members, or any other difficulty to keep us spiritually fit. 

Picturing the poor cod running for their lives made me giggle, and equating them with my own challenges caused outright laughter. I don't know about you, but I think God puts a whole lot more than one catfish in my spiritual tank at a time, and I spend a great deal of my time running, dodging, avoiding and hiding. It seems I lose one, only to see another. 

God also sends confirmations along with the catfish.

Psalm 27: 13-14: I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait for the Lord.

God is in control and I am not to worry over my circumstances, even though they are frustrating and sometimes frightening. It is time to do some heavenly house cleaning, time to remove the dust of fear and the cobwebs of doubt, and replace them with the light of His grace. 

How about you? Are you fleeing from catfish in your spiritual tank? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Someone Else

I posted this about a year ago, not realizing at the time it would speak to me again under almost the exact circumstances. Isn't it interesting how God orchestrates such coincidences? Isn't it also interesting that life keeps repeating? Is it because we haven't learned the lessons? Or is there some other reason?
(One note: at this moment the job situation is undecided.)


Someone Else 
Originally Posted 10/8/11

At times life seems to be one disappointment after another, and I blame it all on Someone Else.

Someone Else got the house my husband and I fell in love with.

Someone Else got the job I applied for and really wanted.

Someone Else is driving the car I've always wanted.

Someone Else is celebrating a mile stone wedding anniversary that I will never have.

Someone Else is thinner, younger and more attractive.

Someone Else’s list of blessings far out weigh mine.

This morning God shook his finger at me and said, “Shame on you!”  

Through my devotional, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, God reminded me not to be anxious over anything. Do not worry over what I am to eat, wear or drink. He knows I have need of these things. In other words, don’t worry about Someone Else.

I could hear His voice. “Haven’t I given you everything you really needed? Haven’t you always had a warm house, food, clothing, friends, and a loving spouse? Does it matter that I chose to give you those things in a manner you didn't expect, or necessarily chose, as long as I provided them? And if you will only admit it, haven’t my choices been far better than yours? Have I not exceeded your expectations?”

I bowed my head and mumbled, “Yes, Lord, you have."

"And?"

"You have sent many gifts and blessings. You paid my car insurance when it was impossible to do it on my own. You paid off debt in ways that were impossible.”  I giggled. “And, I will never forget the time you put the turkey in my sink just in time for dinner."

"Continue."

"I remember the rainbows you sent during the storms to remind me of your love and promises. I remember the lilies you sent to remind me not to worry or fret over my well being. I do remember these things, Lord, but I am weak and sometimes give into doubt.”

"Continue."

"Well, now as I reflect, I realize what I do have.”

"I do have a comfortable house filled with treasures accumulated throughout my life. I have always had jobs, and although they might not be ones I would have chosen, each has given me the opportunity to increase my knowledge and skill, and has provided for my family. I do have a car, not the one I dreamed of,or even wanted, but it is certainly serviceable – and paid for. I have celebrated wedding anniversaries, maybe not the milestones Someone Else has, but each one was indeed a celebration of time spent in wedded bliss with a man I truly love. I have a healthy body showing only a few ravages from my many years upon this earth. It may not be as thin, or young, as Someone Else’s, but I’ll take it and its few aches and pains over Someone Else’s devastating health issues.

"I must admit, I have as many blessings as Someone Else, and in some cases, more. And Lord, I must admit one more thing, none of the above matters as much as my relationship with you. It is through You that I exist, and will continue to exist here on earth and in eternity.  You will never forget or abandon me. Even during the darkest moments, you shower me with encouragement, compassion – and hope. 

"So, Lord, I lay all of my worries and concerns at your feet. I choose to float on wings of faith rather than sink into the depths of worry and despair. But, there is just  one more thing, Lord. When I leave this room I am going to see Someone Else with all the before mentioned blessings, and I’ll need your help not to forget mine.”

Today, September 29, 2012, I can only add, "Amen."




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Misbehaving

My head hangs in shame. The ugly person I thought I exorcised years ago came roaring back.  I have misbehaved and God has called me on it - quickly.

The Set Up: It was a stressful week at work, one of several. I felt the stress level rising, could see the signs, but thought I could handle it. I prayed. I meditated. But none of it touched my heart where it made a difference, except for maybe an hour or so. Even my dreams were stressful and work related.


The Added Crises: A job interview with a long back story, which had me in tears a year ago, resurfaced. It was going to take all of my courage to face the new challenge, and in spite of my newly developed strategy of concentrating on God's will and not mine, in spite of everything I learned and practiced this last year, I was caving in to fear and anxiety. However, I had not yet crossed the line to misbehavior - until the final straw:  the coffee pot. Don't laugh. It isn't funny - yet. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or month - or maybe next year.

The Final Straw: I decided to take a rare Saturday and not bother fixing my hair or putting on make up. I remained in comfy clothes, relaxing and trying to recoup my physical and emotional reserves. It worked until that evening.

With all the stress, my craving for carbohydrates has increased. I have fought the craving, remaining true to my oath to reduce my intake in order to lose weight and eat healthy. Recently I discovered a fresh cup of coffee would diffuse my desire to dip into the crackers, the bread or the sweets, and there was something emotionally comforting about the hot beverage as well.

I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and discovered the brewer flashing the word, Decalcify. Groaning, I dug out the instruction booklet and read the warnings and the steps. The instructions stated ignoring the decalcify warning was like disregarding the add oil light on the car.

It was seven o'clock in the evening and one of the few TV shows I enjoy was due to come on, and that night was the one episode I truly wanted to watch. Our Brittany, Scout had shown some disturbing aggression toward me earlier that week which was very unusual for him, and for the breed in general. That night the program, The Dog Whisperer, was actually going discuss the same behavior issue, and I really wanted to watch the segment.

Now, back to the coffee pot. As you well know, to decalcify a brewer takes time. I was willing to forgo my coffee with the program, but if I wanted coffee in the  morning, I had to clean the brewer that night. We had no vinegar, which meant a trip to the store.

The Final, Final, Straw: My husband said,  "Do what ever you want." No offer to assist, or at least go to the store so I didn't have to go through the fifteen or twenty minute ritual of get dressed, going out, and missing my program. I stewed while the clock ticked. And then it happened. I snapped.

Granted, I didn't say a word to my husband, but I didn't have to. My body language screamed plenty loud as I stomped into the  living room, turned off the TV, stomped into the bedroom and dressed, which of course included a touch of make up (eye brows, which my vanity will not allow me to be seen in public without), pulling my unsightly hair into a ponytail,  putting on a baseball cap to hide still unsightly hair, fussing with socks and shoes, and finally stomping out the door to the car.

Momentary Pause: There were other options available, but I saw nothing except red, refusing to stop and think a moment. That's about when things got a little worse.

Back to the Final, Final Straw: After following all of the instructions, including leaving the brewer soaking over night, I rose at 5:30 am, ran the machine through all the suggested rinse cycles - and the machine still flashed decalcify.

The instructions stated if the build up is bad enough, it may take two cleanings for the machine to work. I bought only one bottle of white vinegar the previous night. Now, I had to repeat the whole process of getting dressed, going to the store and then cleaning the machine, all at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning. Nuclear explosion is a mild  description. Added to all of that, my husband was still blissfully sleeping, which was good - and bad.

To assuage some of my anger, I decided to purchase a cup off coffee at the grocery cafe and at least have a small Sunday indulgence. It was not to be. Their machine was in the process of being cleaned and there wasn't any coffee available. I eschewed driving further in search of that now very elusive cup of coffee, took my vinegar and went home.

I repeated the cleaning process, save the hour long soak. Then, finally at 7:15 am,  over twelve hours since  whole drama began, I had a cup of coffee. And you know what? It didn't taste good. My anger and resentment left such a bitter taste in my mouth I couldn't enjoy my hard earned cup of coffee.

It was at this point God grabbed this rebellious child by the ear, sat her down, shook His finger at her and said, "Listen!"

My devotional, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T Sullivan pointed out that God could punish us immediately for our sins, but He doesn't. He is patient, lovingly waiting for us to stop stubbornly insisting on having our own way. How dare we refuse to be repentant, making God wait on us. When we finally do return as prodigal sons and daughters, He receives us with outstretched arms. The author added a final note and prayer: it takes time to become a loving person, and "Lord, reach out and touch me."

I lowered my head and mumbled, "Amen."

God wasn't through with me just yet.

My second devotional reading emphasized how precious and precarious human life is. We must respect and nurture that life, ours and others'. My behavior only nurtured my selfishness and anger at not getting my own way.

The chastisement continued in my next reading, St. James 3: 17 - 4:3:

For where envying and contention is, there is inconsistency, and every evil work. But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace. 

St. James goes on to admonish those who war and offer contentions among themselves due to concupiscences - basically selfishness, giving into strong desires for something other than God.  Ouch.

My readings went on with Mark 9:30-34. The disciples argued among themselves as to who should be the greatest, and Jesus told them: If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all. Double ouch.

Streams in the Desert emphasized we can have plenty of grace coming in, but if we do not share it, planning our life around greater service, being a blessing to those around us, then we will find our spirits uncertain and troubled [or angry?]. Triple ouch.

The Moral of the Story: His outstretched arms. Even though I have misbehaved, acting out after being tested with some stress and inconvenience, He received my contrite heart with open arms. He gave me forgiveness, and strength and courage to step up to the plate and try again. He is indeed the God of second, third, and endless chances. Amen. AMEN.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Finally, after 30 plus, and almost another 30 plus years, I  know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a Kingdom Person. 

Richard Rohr in today's daily meditation from describes a  Kingdom Person  as a surrendered, trustful person who has given control to Another, which paradoxically allows them to calmly be in control. This gives them the ability, and freedom, to do what they need to do with joy. This behavior encompasses the "best of the conservative and the best of the progressive types." (For more go to: The Center for Action and Contemplation )

I want to be like that, to live in peace, trusting God in every situation, not necessarily physically happy, but joyful in spirit. As St. Paul so eloquently stated in his epistles, what others find as gain, he considered loss. He suffered incredible physical suffering, eventually dying as a martyr, but in his eyes he gained everything. 
For too much of my life, I have been concerned with external beauty,obsessing about numbers on the scale, and the size of clothes I wore, how many of the newest gadgets I possessed, and  how much financial security I acquired
Granted, I need to follow healthy practices, taking care of this earthy body God gave me to use, and it isn't a sin to have possessions or some savings, but they should not be my life's focus. Our society bombards our senses with its models of  beauty and security and it is a constant battle not to be sucked in, relinquishing what I know to be better truths. 
By becoming a Kingdom Person my focus changes from physical comfort to matters of the heart, giving control to Another and  finally gaining the peace and joy St. Paul exhibited even in the worst circumstances, and I finally understand what I want to be when I grow up. 



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Who's Pulling Who?


In one of Richard Rohr's daily meditations, he makes this observation: As soon as you make prayer a way to get something, you’re not moving into a new state of consciousness. It's the same old consciousness. “How can I get God to do what I want God to do?” It's the egocentric self still deciding what it needs, but now often trying to manipulate God too.
This is one reason religion is in such desperate straits today. It really isn't transforming people, but leaving them in their separated and egocentric state. It pulls God inside of my agenda instead of letting God pull me inside of his. This is still the small old self at work. What the Gospel is talking about is the emergence of “a whole new creation” and a “new mind,” as Paul variously calls it.

That really hit hard. I do spend too much of my prayer time in negotiation. And, Richard Rohr is right. There are a great number of Christians who believe that because they believe, they will gain prosperity, health and every worldly pleasure. That is a great deception. We do not exist to gain this world. We exist to be in spiritual union with the Divine.  

By the world's standards, spending time in a contemplative state is not considered productive. It doesn't minimize our To Do List, it doesn't accomplish anything, except open our eyes to more closely see the world as God does, a mixture of the beautiful and the ugly, the joyful and the sorrowful, neither entirely evil or entirely good. 

In order to do that, I must let go of my agenda, even things I think are good in God's eyes. I  must step back from the world and get rid of the To Do list, replacing it with a To Be list. This becoming will change my  thoughts and the good deeds and the compassion for others will automatically emerge from that union.

I am refocusing my early morning devotions from my usual I Want/ I Need Prayer. God already knows what I need. Rather, I will start my prayer time with being thankful for what I already have instead of concentrating on what I don't have.  From this state of thankfulness, I will enter into a contemplative reading of His Word.   With a more open, non-critical, judgmental mind,  my self centered prayer will become a Seeing Prayer, and a closer union with God. 

This New Creation will have a more open mind with which to hear, and follow, that  inner voice nudging me to take seemingly trivial side trips which upset my best laid plans, but later prove to be the most powerful moments of my life. 
Dear Lord, lead me to see the world, and myself, as you do, and not through my judgments or perceived needs.  Amen. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Discipline

The word discipline has been on my mind a great deal this last week after I realized a lot of my stress is of my own making. I lack discipline in too many areas of my life.

The first area is diet. My doctor put me on a total of 100 grams of carbohydrates a day in order to balance my blood sugar issues. I am not diabetic. I am the opposite. I have hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which can be a precursor to diabetes if not treated.  Basically, carbohydrates are not good for me. This includes carbs from all foods, not just the decadent temptation on the right.

 It is hard. Once something is forbidden, we by our nature crave it all the more. My sister put it so well, I have plenty of will power, just not enough won't power.


There are other areas where I fail besides diet. I put off getting ready for work. I putter on the computer, linger over another cup of coffee, chat a little too long with hubby, play with the dog and the list goes on. None of these things are bad or wrong, until they make me rush. Then I blame the slow driver planted in the lane in front of me, the long light, the heavy traffic, anything but the real cause of my running late - my lack of discipline.


Well, God stepped in and took this little lesson to a higher plateau. In my devotion, Living Faith, author Kevin Perrotta lists four sins an ancient Jewish writing lists as the most serious: idolatry, incest, murder - and gossip. Gossip being the most serious of the four.

Okay, so what exactly is gossip and how does that tie in with my lack of discipline? My personal conclusion: speaking about another without respect, with the soul intent of tearing the other down or complaining about another to a third party are easy traps to fall into and it takes a great deal of discipline not to join in a gripe session with friends. How do I expect to resist this temptation if  if I can't even manage to stay on a simple diet?

I now understand the purpose behind the biblical practice of fasting. Occasionally denying the body pleasures strengthens the spirit, and with a little more discipline in my life I'll be better off. It won't feel quite as hectic if I am not rushing to make appointments. I will feel better without the extra weight, and most importantly, showing more respect to others will improve my personal and professional relationships. Life will definitely improve.

They say it takes thirty days of effort to forge a new behavior. Taking small steps, one hour, one day at a time I can make that change.

How about you? Any areas where you need more discipline?