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


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?