Friday, April 30, 2010

Take Me Away

Today, my mom is at the Great Banquet. Take away the daily distractions, the background noise of TV, computers, cell phones and try to really listen to God. It’s easier sometimes when we take away that background noise.

I will not be attending the Great Banquet, but still am going to enjoy my own quiet time. There is a cabin like place at a state park, complete with buffalo and other animals, will be my place for quiet time.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend – and I’ll be back in touch next week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is It Really Okay?

I am getting ready for work and just heard a commercial for a TV show. One line in particular caught my attention, “He’s a jerk, but he’s also a genius – so it’s okay.” Is it really okay?

Why do we stratify behavior that way? You are really smart and have a prestigious job so you can behave however you want. You are not a genius, didn’t score 800 on your SATs, don’t have a prestigious position so you have to behave differently. How in the world does that make sense?
The birth of Jesus, announced by angels to the shepherds – by angels! These were not the societal cream of the crop. Hanging out with smelly sheep, not considered to be politically or socially acceptable, the birth of Jesus was announced to them! Talk about blowing away the preconceptions of our little minds.

Lord, please don’t let my preconceptions and small mindedness get in your way!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We often wait until there is a ceremony, an event, or even a funeral to express how we feel about someone. Have you ever wondered why? How much would it mean to someone if we simply recognized them for showing up on a regular day, with regular weather, regular happenstances, regular, regular, regular…. But, in the midst of all that regularity, what if we stop to say thank you or I appreciate you? What a way to change a regular day into an irregular day.

How the world changes, the world of one individual simply explodes into fireworks when we recognize them for their efforts. Let’s give it a try!  Inspire someone, share joy with them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Home, Home on the ???

“Home, home on the….” I always seem to get stuck there. Where is home? I mentioned before that I’ve moved around a bit, so when I get that inevitable question of “where are you from?” My answer is always a question back, “at what grade?” In other words, it changed based on different times in my life. So, home has been mobile, and then family home is someplace else.

I am looking forward to a trip home (family home) in the fairly near future, thinking about seeing my family, times together. I get more excited with each passing day. Living in Iowa for 12 years, it is home and yet, at the same time is not. Where is home?
I look around me at the pains, the hurts, the terrible things we do to each other. Is this really my home? What a wonderful thing to be able to say, and know, that this is not my home. Not my real home. But, not being at home can be a lonely proposition. It can feel as if I am alone in the wide weird world. Turning to my Bible, I am reminded that I am not alone in this, I am not alone in this sojourn to my home.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us,” (1 Peter 2:11-12). Friends who are also aliens and strangers in the world, we are not alone! Then, there are instructions following. This is the decision in life choices, decisions which promotes God’s glory to those who do not know him or have spurned him.
Returning back to the idea of alone, of being away from our real home, I look just a few verses above in 1 Peter 2, to verses nine and ten. “But you are a chose people a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Not alone, but a nation – we are promised a home. One day, I will finish that song. “Home, home on the…. Streets of the heavenly kingdom.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Woman with the Scarf

I went to get lunch the other day at a local coffee and sandwich shop. In front of me, in the line, was a rather elegant looking woman with a black suit and a lovely grey scarf. After ordering a tasty chicken salad sandwich and a chilled coffee that was full of lovely tastes and caffeine, I moved along to the check out register. Noticing this woman in front of me, I complimented her on her scarf.

My perception of this woman, well dressed, manicured, confident posture, it appeared she was quite self-assured. Just a simple compliment led her to share a thank you, and how she was just never certain wearing scarves, but that she had a ton of scarves and never wore them. Here this lovely and assured person who was effected by a simple compliment from a stranger.
You never know how a simple compliment can make a difference in someone’s life.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just on Time

Different plants bloom at different times. I don’t if you ever noticed, but it is spring – so take a look around. There are some trees which have budded, bloomed, leafed out and look ready to go for another year. Others are somewhere mid-process, while still more are just beginning to bud. What would happen if we set up a timetable of when this should occur? All trees that are going to be productive are going to bud and be fully leafed out by April 24. If they are not, then they are just weaker or dying and we are cutting them all down.
That sounds rather foolish doesn’t it? We don’t do that with trees, flowers, but do with people. So, let’s change the metaphor just a bit. If someone is to bloom, I’m not talking about an age range or biological factors. Instead this is blooming by perceiving and then reaching towards meeting your potential and purposes. Society often has this preconceived timetable of when this should be, the mysterious and shrouded “they” are in charge of this time table. We know that when someone tries to bunk the myth and ask why, “because they say so....”. Who says you have to college at a certain age, who says you are going to learn a new skill, you have to learn it by a pre-appointed time. Does that mean if I don’t meet your timetable that my head will explode or the time continuum as we know it will shatter?
Sometimes, we need to just provide a little encouragement. Provide a bit of fertilizer and nourishment, a word or two of pep talk, and then sit back. After some time and lots of sunshine, you may find that this person is not only blooming, but is one of the best fruit producers of the whole lot.
In the church, do we put age limits on ourselves or others? I’m too young to do that. I’m too old to do that. I had my time, now I get to sit back on my laurels and just watch. No offense, but who really wants to sit on a laurel – ouch! Nonsense! There may be years and years of nourishment that has gone into this person that suddenly springs forward in a burst of blooms and ability that is absolutely breathtaking. Where would we be if we just cut them down? It is important to remember that our timeline is not God’s timeline. He will insist we bloom just on time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Take Me Back to the Black Hills

There is a little town in South Dakota, with one main street though town. A great little coffee shop slash steak place sits on one corner and a grocery store on the other. Up the road is a state park with buffalo herds, some beautiful lakes, and many antelope.

Sometimes my schedule gets busy, as it does with all of us, and I start wishing for a cabin out there in that park. With a good cup of coffee in the morning, a dollop of creamer, in a travel mug in one hand and my camera in the other. Waiting till the sun comes up, enjoying the sunshine, and the mist of the morning starts rising among the Needles Highway. Perched on a look out or a shelter bench, I want to just sit and sip my coffee, listening to the morning. Then, later in the day as the sun approaches the mid-point and the heat rises, I could head to Sylvan Lake and walk on the shore. Smelling pine, enjoying the feel of rock and moss as I climb over them to rejoin the trail, covered in pine needles. Buffalo appear from the groves of tree and move through in herds. Slowly, they appear to plod along and move with an ungainly gate, until they run. Then, their bulk is revealed to be powerful strength. Sometimes I want to watch, observe, sit in the quiet and soak in the stillness of removing the extra distractions around me.

In the quiet, when I can be still long enough to give all the cogs in my head to slow down, that is when I find myself feeling that I can really hear from God. It’s not that God isn’t speaking or isn’t present the other times, it’s just that my distractions make it hard to hear. It’s kind of like trying to carry on a very quiet conversation at a rock concert – it just doesn’t work. So, when my life gets busy or when it starts feeling like I need to get away, I dream of the park outside of that town in South Dakota.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ear Pops

Recently I had a cold, just the normal sinus pressure, sneezing, and runny nose. My ears also felt so full, everything was in a bit of a tunnel with sound. I said huh and what a lot. Several days later my right ear popped. POP and suddenly it was like the volume level jumped up. Things that I could not hear before, or was unaware of, suddenly came rushing in.

It was really nice being able to hear, but it reminded me of how we can walk around in a fog, and then suddenly it all lifts. We can see and hear clearly for the first time in a while, or perhaps ever. Isn’t it interesting that we can walk around in a fog for so long that we forget what clear looks like. Well, interesting in a sad way. But, then the fog lifts and who knew that there was so much to see!
I have been rejoicing in watching the trees and flowers, the birds and squirrels as they all seem to enjoy the new spring. Sitting under the pine trees and smelling the lilacs, it’s been a great start to spring. For me, sometimes fog especially comes in trying to understand God’s plan and His Word. Puzzling over the same verse over and over, I find that when I quite myself and remember to stop and ask God first for His wisdom, that the fog will lift. Then, when this occurs it’s like the ears pop, the fog lifts, and suddenly everything is so much clearer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I have moved seven times, over four states. That is plenty of times for me to grow a strong dislike for moving boxes and moving companies and moving in general. Each location held challenges, unique opportunities, difficulties, and potential. Some of the places were fairly easy to adjust to and others were much more difficult. But, overall I have had my fair share of days when I felt like a stranger and an outsider in the midst of people who belonged and fit.
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia….” (1 Peter 1:1). To the strangers, here we have this addressed to the strangers, those who don’t quite fit in the world around them. But, why are they strangers? I would imagine that many of them grew up and lived their entire lives in that area.
Stranger danger, it’s what we teach children in order to help them recognize the difference between friend and foe. If God’s children, or elect, are strangers in the world, then we must be designed to be at home with each other or within the body of Christ.
As a stranger, as a migrant of sorts in new communities, it can be a lonely thing. Not just getting lost trying to find new grocery stores, but needing the fellowship of the family of friends. But, Peter did not stop with acknowledging the strangers in the world, instead he goes on by saying “…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood,” (1 Peter 1:2). I don’t want to go into the difficult theology here, but want to point out one thing.
The words through, for, and by. Let me say it this way, “…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood,” (1 Peter 1:2). Through sanctification or growth in grace through Jesus is provided. This is a promise that the Holy Spirit will work with us through these things for growth. What is the purpose of this growth? To obey and be saved. Obedience to Jesus is to be a Christ follower, listening to and acting in such a way that we are obeying what Jesus tells us to do. Sprinkling by his blood, forget the arguments of sprinkle versus dunk and go to the next word, by. This is not sprinkled by the water sprinkler, garden hose, or shower. This is a sprinkling by the blood of Christ, the blood that saves us from our sins. So, a stranger is acknowledged as such, a stranger to the world. Separated out by the work of the Holy Spirit, obedience to Jesus, and being saved by his blood.
Fellow strangers, don’t forget the next part. “Grace and peace be yours in abundance,” (1 Peter 1:2).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Day or Another Day

A discussion was at work the other day, is it a new day or just another day? We weren’t really debating whether or not the time continuum would continue in its present schedule. This was no discussion of relativity or quantum physics. It was all about the mind-set of a new or another day. A new day being a fresh start and a new beginning for each of us. While on the other hand, another day would be just another day, stuck in some cycle.

Some days are most definitely another days while others are new days. It comes down to the mind set and approach I make each morning, before I even get out of bed. Stopping to pray, before my day begins helps tremendously for that day to be a new and not just another day. After all, “this is the day that the Lord has made!”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


About a week ago, I felt the need to pray once again, Lord change me. It’s a prayer that focuses like a laser beam on my own heart and life. Finishing up reading in Isaiah, finishing up a book about God answering prayer, I was hearing repent and restoration over and over. What was it in me, in my life that I needed to address?

Ever seen a child with a splinter in their finger? They will quite often take off across the room, yard, house, to avoid having the splinter removed. It will hurt to have it removed, the pain from it being infected will be worse. I think that admitting sin and then asking for forgiveness can be kind of like that splinter. At least it was for me this week. Mulling this over, wrestling with it, asking and seeking after God, I asked Him to change me and grow me. What I found was that I needed to first ask for forgiveness of God, where I was holding a splinter of sin and trying to just ignore it. The word malice came up. Malice? That has such a Hollywood dark flavor to it. Malice – as in wickedness and spite? Surely not!  Pride? I thought I had addressed this hurt long before. Still, a splinter remained and I needed to let God remove it. Once that was done, then that left a hole.
What now God? Amazingly enough, the book I had already been reading and the verses I had been leading up to led me to this very time. God’s timing is so perfect. The hole that is left when we ask for the sin to be removed, when we repent , can also be filled by God! He will not leave us with an open wound that just anything can go and get stuck in. I was amazed at the peace and relinquishment I have had.

By preparing me for this week, by insisting that I read these things, I have found that splinter removed. Restoration to God by God, starting with God urging me to get better – what an amazing God we serve!

Acts 3: 19-20 "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Loaves and Fishes in the Midst

After having such an experience with sharing food with many, I was thinking about the story of the loaves and fishes. You may be familiar with it. There are people and the disciples of Jesus say to send them away so he can get some rest. Countermanding that, Jesus stops them, has them gather their supplies of fish and bread, then proceeds to feed the people.

I just had to go back and reread that, seeing what kind of reaction was there and how I could learn more about God. Winding up in Matthew 14, I started reading and it clicked with the other factors going on that day.

“On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked,” (Matthew 14:6-7). This girl, with some coaching from her mom, asked for the head of John the Baptist delivered to her on a platter. Herod wasn’t real thrilled with this, but had given his oath – so he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was delivered on a platter to the girl who gave it to her mother. The disciples took John’s body away and buried it and then went, telling Jesus what had happened.

Can you imagine the scene? There must have been many tears, strong words, questions, and fears. How could this happen? Why John? What kind of retribution can God rain on Herod’s head? Jesus must have grieved over the news and the knowledge of how and why John, his cousin died. Talk about feeling like being in too great a need to serve.

Ever feel that way? There is need in the midst of pain, hurt, business, or just regular life. We often need to pull away in those difficult times, as did Jesus. “He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place,” (Matthew 14:13). Jesus came back, the boat landed and he saw a crowd. Seeing them, he had compassion on them, healing them, putting away his hurt in their midst. The disciples must have seen the fatigue, felt their own, and as evening approached, they tried to get Jesus to go and get some rest. Sending the people away, the thought was that would go to the villages and get some food.
Jesus said that the people didn’t need to leave, just feed them. We are talking a lot of people – over 5,000 gathered, which would require a great deal of food. The disciples pointed this out, “we have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” (Matthew 14:17). Jesus took the food and gave directions for the people to sit on the grass. He took “the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaves, gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied,” (Matthew 14:18-19). Ate and were satisfied! All ate and were satisfied. Then, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Five loaves of bread, two fish fed over 5,000 people with twelve basketfuls left over!
So, when I am fatigued or overwhelmed, I can still have compassion on others and help meet needs. When I am trying to meet those needs, I can thank God and ask for His provision. Then, faithfully wait to see the blessing that He loves to bestow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yesterday, I helped to share 10,000 pounds of food through a food bank program. It was an amazing and touching experience. A local food pantry made arrangements to bring the food to the church, making it a distribution point. About forty people showed up to help unload the truck, and then others came to receive the food.

It was just a really overwhelming experience, in a good way. Produce, canned goods, cereal, beans, pasta were all lined up around the truck. Then, people could get boxes and bags, to gather a certain amount of each.

I think the first time it hit me, the type of impact this could make, was watching the volunteers unload the truck. There was a wide age range that came to help, old and young and everything in-between. Then, people came to get food. There were families and couples, people by themselves, and all variety of ages. There were great needs being met, great needs that were there. Needs for food, needs for care, needs for someone to talk to, needs for hope. So many needs, so many many needs. That, blended with the turnout to help meet some of the needs was a beautiful thing.

I am thankful for the full freezer that greeted me, a pantry well stocked. I am full, I am not hungry. I have needs, just like everyone else. But, I am thankful that my needs are met.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Deep Roots

“Deep roots are not withered by the frost,” he says. Deep roots, deep, planted, dug in and stable. Deep roots, not seen by our casual observations. Deep roots acting as anchor and foundation, holding the toppling plant upright. Deep roots, anchoring the trees during the gales of wind. Deep roots, providing moisture and nourishment even when the frost sinks into the dirt and seeps below the top soil.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.” The vine, the roots, the trunk, the security and stability of the branches come from the vine. Being a living branch reliant on the vine, my roots are deep and protected from the frost.

What kind of frosts do I face? What kind of frosts do we all face? We all have difficult times, tiredness, loneliness, pressures, stresses. There are some times when these frosts are piled on top of each other, one wave of ice and then another. The frosts pile up and it may seem that spring will never come. Then, finally sun breaks through with warmth, the ice starts melting, and the ground thaws. The plants can then be seen, is it living, did it make it through the winter? What a joy it is to see the leaves come out – to see that there is growth after times of difficulty, life after wintry ice.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I’m sitting on the front porch, staring up at the big tree in the front yard. Green leaves are popping out everywhere, from all of the branches. They aren’t full size yet, and still have that distinctive fresh and new green color. The leaves are opened as wide as they can, trying to catch the sun. I wonder if that tree could talk, what would it say about spring. Such tremendous growth is present, but there is a lot of work there as well. Winter came and the tree was quiet, no leaves, no growth, just maintaining life, just surviving. Weaker branches fell to the ground during some of the more harsh winter storms, with icy coverings and the weight of thick snows. But now, it looks quite beautiful.

I wonder if that tree could talk, would it opt for the quiet of the winter season? Would it want to remain quiet, not putting forth efforts for new growth. Of course, that tree wouldn’t survive forever in a wintry state. Eventually, it would need the energy it can only get from the sun, through the leaves.

People talk about seasons and history, as if they were circular. And in many cases, they probably are. We see repetition, even commenting on it with quotes about repeating mistakes, going and coming around. But let me just venture this idea out, it’s not really circular – it’s linear. Linear, and mobile. On that line, we can choose to move forward, move back, or stand still. Well, sometimes we choose. Sometimes, it is chosen for us. There may be seasons, times, in our life where we are like the winter tree. We are quiet, we do not produce fruit, we do not grow, we just survive, just maintain life. But spring must come eventually or we will become misshapen and malnourished. It will be effort, purposefully striving to grow, but grow we must. Then, it is a delicate time, full of promise and yet susceptible to damage by the frost.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.” If God is the vine, He can choose that the entire plant will grow. But what about those branches, the ones that just don’t produce leaves or fruit? Remember the branches in the tree, they fell off during the ice storms. We prune away the dead in the spring, removing the damaged parts and allow for new growth to occur. In much the same way, God prunes us. He sees the damaged parts, the parts which do not recover from the blasts of frost, ice, and snow. Those are removed, the energy that we pour into the them can be then sent someplace else. The damaged parts, they must be examined. Some can be fixed. A little time, tender care, and the appropriate actions can cause the damaged section to promote new life, sending off new shoots, in a new direction. Other damages are much more severe and must be removed, lest the whole branch sicken.

We are in a spring, it is a new season, with new days ahead. We can choose to repeat our to seek new growth.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I know that to some, it’s a bit of a contradiction – I love cute shoes, and I love to be barefoot. So, the morning starts, I get dressed for work and pick the perfect pair of shoes for the day. Black boots, brown boots, light brown suede boots, heels, something strappy, something more casual, something classic, the little black pumps that go with just about everything. But, I come home and the first that goes are the shoes.

What a wonderful feeling, barefoot, especially during spring. I came home from work yesterday, dumped the shoes, and the dogs and I headed out for a walk. Fresh spring grass worked up between my toes. Early enough in spring, that the ground is still cool, my skin felt the warmth on the sun and then the cool of the ground. Deep shadows were highlighted as I felt the earth chill beneath my feet. Mossy growth, new growth acted like cushions between me and the dirt.

I’ll hold onto the shoes, but – can’t wait to be barefoot again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brazen Little Chickadees

When I was in elementary school, there was a park nearby with an open shelter. Walking through the woods, over the worn paths, I remember hearing crunch of dirt, leaves, and sticks underfoot. Then, you slowed down and walked as quietly as possible into the shelter. The sound of dirt changed to the sound of wood. Passing a few wooden benches, I remember walking all the way to where the shelter acted more like a roofed deck.

Looking out, there was a gully, full of trees and undergrowth. Standing there, open handed with sunflower seeds in my palm, I practiced patience. Soon, a chickadee would fly and land nearby. Then, moving a little closer, the little feathered creature hopped hopped hopped until it was perched a breath away from my hand. Finally, the chickadee would land on my hand.
I remember my heart racing as the little bird would sit there, easting its sunflower seeds. With bright black eyes and intricate shades of grey, white, and black this tiny creature would perch on my hand, moving here and there, finger to finger and eat quite peaceably.
It still amazes me, how brazed that little beauty of a bird was, and yet chickadees are still that way. Such brave big hearts in a tiny little bird. They may not look big and strong, but they are brazen little beautiful birds.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Germy Attitudes

I’ve been getting over a cold, and after using an abundance of Kleenex, I was told I was germy. Me? Germy? Okay, fine – between my sneezing and blowing, I was surely a germy couch sitting mound. Not highly motivated to move, as I felt yucky, orange juice and grape juice were my boon companions and could find myself growing impatient with anything or anyone requiring movement in general.
Is being sick an impatient for a germy attitude? Not really. I try to stay home when I have a fever, so as not to spread with others. But, my attitude is carried with me regardless of whether I am fevered or not. I must choose my attitude, as it is contagious.
It’s easier now that my fever has gone and I am down to using a dozen Kleenex a day. But, an important reminder for everyday.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tree Songs and Goose Honking

I can’t say I try to be normal, it’s not that I usually try to go out of my way to be different, I just am. How are you different you might ask? Well, I find myself signing just about everywhere I go. Yes, I know that I am not living in a musical, but there is just so much music around us.

Again, that may be a bit different, but not really strange – I mean other people may sing too. Then, I find myself at the park, singing to the goose. Let me back up and describe the scene. It was a late winter snow, thick and beautiful. A frost had settled onto the branches and each little stub of tree that is now starting to hold leaves. Coming down the hill, I stopped at the pond. Ice coated part of the pond, creating a small patch of water where the geese were gathering. They paddles around a bit, rather lazily, occasionally flapping wing and diving under the water in search of fish. Getting out of my car, I noticed how quiet it was. I just love that about snow. And in me, a song welled up, “Great is thy faithfulness….” Standing alone on the deck, watching the geese watch me, I sang (loudly) to the geese and the trees and anyone else listening. Frankly, most of the geese didn’t seem to care. But, one honked back at me. It wasn’t the evil goose honk that geese can do when they are in an attitude mood. Instead, it was more benign, more like it was joining in. Behind me, I could hear the branches creaking on the trees, ever so slightly moving. It felt like I was in the middle of a symphony of sound, a praise of God from many species of life.

I was reminded of this last night when reading in my devotions, Isaiah referred to the trees clapping their hands. I love that! That jogged the memory of reading how the stones would have cried out if the people had not as Jesus entered Jerusalem. What beautiful symphony is around us, tree songs and goose honkings, that we miss out on by not paying attention? As spring is here, sounds of the earth coming back to wakefulness abound – I want to take time to enjoy them and to remember, that great indeed is God’s faithfulness. Maybe they will even let me sing along.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Unexpected or Unwanted Blessings

When I think of a blessing, I generally think of something I would like or something I need or want. Perhaps it’s a financial or health need, something that would benefit a friend, or an unexpected help that takes care of a problem. Or it could be the beautiful pink blooms of the tulip tree that just sings spring to me in the most beautiful way. The fox that comes to eat seed and eggs outside my window and is a joy to see, or perhaps the feel of clean sheets. Those are all blessings.
But, an incident occurred about a week ago which made me wonder if it was a blessing, but in disguise. Disguise, now my mind just jumped into super hero land with capes and masks. Identity kept secret for the protection of the individual. Why would a blessing be in disguise though? Obviously it wonAt have a cape and mask, but perhaps it is not in disguise. Perhaps, it is just not wanted. Or at least, initially perceived that way.

So, this is how it all happened…. Easter Sunday, home from church, plans to have a day of rest. Those are lovely things which happen all too infrequently in my life. Coming in, settling down to get ready for a wonderful Easter lunch of homemade pizza (let’s start a new tradition – yummy!), my mom opens the washer door. Instead of removing a damp quilt from the washer to be placed into the dryer, water poured out. I mean poured out! She stood there in shock, with an equally shocked sound coming out of her mouth. “Shut the door!” The door slammed shut. By then, water was quickly spreading across the floor in all directions. A basket of dirty towels to be washed were dumped in the middle of the puddle and the clean up started. I say started, because the water went under the washer and dryer.
YUCK!!!! This was not the Easter afternoon we had planned! Where was pizza and maybe a walk, perhaps some time outside and then a movie? This was messy and yucky and wet. But, it had to be cleaned up. So, we started cleaning and drying and cleaning and drying, mopping up everything that could be easily reached. Then, it was time to tackle the small lakes that had gathered under the washer and dryer. After some rather comical moments of my mom climbing over the washer and dryer to get behind them, I warned her that this was coming, wet lint started being tossed up from behind the dryer onto the top of the machine. Double yuck! Lint is bad enough, but wet lint! A blessing in disguise? How about a blessing disguised in dryer lint?

Let’s peel away that mask and take a look at what was there. The dryer lint that was collecting was a fire hazard. So, the great dryer and washer flood resolved that issue, the lint was removed.
Mom climbed back over the dryer and washe.  I think she was planning to douse me in dryer lint if I went and got my camera. We were laughing pretty hard by now. Was it something unwanted? Yes, I mean who really wants a great flood under the washer and dryer? But, was it perhaps an unexpected blessing, as a fire hazard was found and removed? Absolutely!
I still don’t know why the washer stopped when it did, to create the pouring out onto the floor, but I think it may have just been an unwanted blessing. Thank heaven for those!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lord Change Me

I prayed a simple prayer, well simple in syntax anyway, just three words over several months last year.
“Lord, change me.”

It wasn’t something lengthy or lofty discussion on a difficult theological point. Yet, it had complexity and structural layers which staggered my understanding. Lord, change me was brought to my attention through a book by Evelyn Christenson. She challenged the readers to pray this prayer.

Not …“God, please change my neighbor because they drive me crazy and put their leaves in my yard.”
Not … “God, please change those leaders because they have all lost their minds.”
Not … “God, please change my family.”
Not … “God, please change that difficult co-worker.”

But, “Lord, change me.” Please oh please, change me. I prayed this and wasn’t really quite prepared for what sequence of events occurred. I look back now and I can see events falling into place, one after another, which at the times were so difficult, even intimidating. They were not in vain though, they served a purpose and God was answering that prayer.
Then, with an lovely group of ladies, we started praying that God would bring it to our hearts and minds grumbling. I felt like all my grumbling was ink that was coming out of my mouth, staining everything in somewhat close proximity. I was startled and dismayed at the amount of grumbling I was now aware of. It seemed that I just needed a mop wherever I went. This is something I am still working on, though the initial tidal flood of inky perception has slowed somewhat.
Just recently, I felt the need to progress further in the Lord change me prayer. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I’m excited to find out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weather and Smell Reminiscence

Reminiscence to me implies that swirly odd sensation when you think of past moments, and they are brought back to recall with some sensory stimulus and impact. Generally this hits me when I see someone, and not being the greatest with names, I think “I know that person, don’t I?” But, that general sense of being aware of something else to bring up a memory that is so strong that it invokes the remembrance.

I think it is smells and weather that impresses upon me so strongly. The smells of coffee hit me just right walking down the hallway at work, in the afternoon when the coffee smell is just starting to stale. For just a moment I am standing in my grandmother’s kitchen, smelling the remnants of her morning coffee. Tonight, I had my hair cut and taking pity on me in my state of having a cold, the stylist used peppermint conditioner. What a wonderful thing by the way – peppermint conditioner! Anyway, for just a moment I could almost taste the butter-cream mint that was made for a party held years ago. The texture and thickness, I could almost taste them. Another thing struck me today, as I walked outside, the wind caught me and brushed across my face. Spring coolness, and I was back in the Tetons and feeling the morning coolness of the mountains.

If you would remember me by a smell, what would it be? Freesia, coffee, Watkins, marigolds, and lavender, fresh bread, and darkest chocolate? Pine needles, candles, tea tree oil, vanilla, and dirt? Daisies, dogs, ink, and old books? If I remember you by a smell, what would that be? A cologne, Dial, sweat, leather, wood-smoke, steak on a grill, the first snow, the spring rain?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Suddenness

I am always amazed at the suddenness of spring. You wait for months, amidst beautiful snow covered days, and not so lovely icy driving conditions, for spring. The trees stand there, doing tree things, sleeping I think in the winter. Using their roots to seek for deep warmth and sources of food, and reaching up to the sun for any vestiges of heat. Then it happens, the snow melts away, the ground warms up and you wait. When will the leaves come? When will the first blooms appear? One night it is all dingy green and then the next morning, daffodil stems are showing up. Buds start forming on trees. Then, again in a sudden fashion, the leaves are starting to show up.

I love the suddenness of spring, though I do think of sitting up some time with a light and watching the changes happen. You know, sitting out with a flashlight and a lawn chair, a blanket and some snacks – snacks are a must. Sitting there, blanket wrapped, and flashlight in hand, I wonder if I could see that moment happen, when the leaf appears. That moment when the tree determines it’s time to have leaves for the new spring.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ode to Dayquil

I have a spring cold.  My nose is running, my eyes are burning, and my head has fluctuated from being completely stuffed to having an extreme headache. 

If I could think - I would write an ode to Dayquil and kleenex... but, the Nyquil is kicking in...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Weekend

Easter weekend, yes I know I’m late, had to be such an extreme emotional event for those who actually lived through it. There were so many events packed into a few days they are a bit overwhelming, bit for us and way overwhelming for those who walked those days. There was the betrayal by Judas, the gardens dark hours, and then the moment when the soldiers were involved. Jesus was arrested and brutally taken for trial. The trial was held, and the administrating official understood that it was envy that had really led to this moment. It was the envy of the reaction of the people to Jesus by the Pharisees.

While I highly recommend reading the story in detail yourself, it is a time to think through. The disciples acted out their fear of being turned over as well. There were denials that they knew or followed Jesus. Then, tears of bitter hurt and anguish were shed. Then, the moment happened. “Crucify him.” The shouts of the crowd gained momentum and led to Jesus on a cross. A cross, an execution device that Roman citizens who were criminals were not subjected to, that is what the Son of God was hung up on. They stood there, they watched the mockery and heard the wailing, heard the whispered fears. Imagine the stomachs and chests that physically hurt with stress and grief. What now?

Then, Jesus died.

A tomb was given over to lay the body of Jesus in. The hope that had lived in the disciples was doused and they tried to move away from the limelight.

The next day was the Sabbath. I wonder how many of that group even slept that night, or tossed and turned at best. Getting up the next morning, bleary eyed, they would have witnessed others going on as if it were a normal Sabbath. Instead, you may have found the followers with red rimmed eyes, slumped shoulders, with grief and fatigue written on their faces. No appetite that day, I would imagine. Many signs instead were probably heard and then sobs broken out.

Perhaps angry and confused discussions took place elsewhere, among the Pharisees. He is dead – what will be done now? Post guards at the tomb to make sure that his disciples don’t try to come and steal the body – make sure that nothing disturbs that tomb. That trouble maker is gone. But, then another topic might have kept working its way in – the temple curtain was torn, top to bottom. Did you hear about that? What caused that? You don’t think that… No – of course not…

Sabbath, Saturday, might have felt it was creeping by, only to be followed by another early morning. The women went to the tomb with the idea to dress the body for burial, with herbs and ointments. Yet, when they came there, the body was not there.

He is Risen! He is Alive!

Monday, April 5, 2010

On the Cusp

The day that Jesus has been aware of for eternity is almost to him in Matthew 26: 36-46. It is in that garden that we find the pieces of crisis falling into place, foretold and not yet understood. This is one of those moments which for me helps to answer the why questions in life. Why does this happen? Why can’t that happen?
Haven’t you ever wanted to just pray, and yes – have indeed prayed – trying to negotiate with God what will happen next? Sure, we all have. But, eventually we have to make a decision. We can decide to follow our will or God’s will.
What about Jesus? Here in the garden of Gethsemane, he could have surely slipped away in the night. Avoiding the guards, the Pharisees, slipping into obscurity. Maybe think that escape was not an option, he could have tried to reason his way out, change the tacts with the Pharisees which had not worked and be the political friend rather than foe. Maybe he could have acted as the king in the way that the people expected, setting up an army to overthrow Roman rule. Instead, the words were…
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then a second time he prayed, “My father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” After a third prayer, Jesus returned to the disciples. Finding them once again asleep, he wakes them and tells them, “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

The moment was there, the choices had been made. Not my will God, but yours.

So when I want to negotiate, when I want to do something different than God’s will – not my will God, but yours.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Don’t Get Plank Eye

There is so much going on between Jesus entering the city up to this point. We have witnessed the words of betrayal, hope, fear, future, and past. Words that have taught of trials to come, hints at a future, and a perspective that is truly shattering have been shared. Words of treason, of love, and of instruction wrapped up in whispers of conspiracy and murder, shrouded in hope.

It is easy during the reading of these words to become impassioned. “I wouldn’t have done that!” “I would have done this!” “How could they?” And yet, I think those are the moments we get plank eye. I know that I am a few days behind to line this directly up with Easter – what can I say, there is just so much here. Knowing that, I am still going to continue and finish up the story, even if it is a few days after the day we mark on our calendars.

Plank eye, you know that disease don’t you? What are the symptoms you ask? Well, there is single minded focus on self, self-righteousness and a tendency of the patient to temporarily forget their own screw-ups. They may be loud mouthed or loud mouth-hearted during this time. If left untreated, they may even develop a callous shell over their being which will hinder future growth. When we get the plank in our eye, we are losing sight of what is wrong in our own life and judging someone else.

This was a time when this group who wrote the words and lived these words suffered from some serious plank eye. First there is Judas, “waiting for the opportunity to hand Jesus over,” (Matthew 26: 16). Then, there is the warning of the betrayal which has already happened and not fully been acted out, “‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’ Followed by ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me,’” (Matthew 26:21).

There is betrayal and falling away to come. It is easy in the next few days to judge, to make those quick statements. And yet, I would say to examine your heart of hearts. Would you really have stood firm?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Price

Two events happen close together. First, a woman “came to Jesus with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table,” (Matthew 26: 7). Then, one of the disciples, “the one called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’” (Matthew 26: 14-15).

The woman was reacted to do with indignant words by the disciples. What a wasteful woman they was she being was the claim.

Jesus responded, asking “‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” (Matthew 26:10-11).

The man, Judas sold out Jesus for thirty silver coins. He is still remembered, with the Judas kiss being an expression which reflects betrayal. This woman however is also remember, “what she has done will also be told, in memory of her,” (Matthew 26: 13).

There is a price of remembrance, a price to our choices. Some choices are the right ones and yet carry a high price. Tough love moments are not fun, yet can be the right decisions. Standing for the truth, for the right thing can again carry a high price. I think of the martyrs, both more recent like Martin Luther King and early martyrs like Paul. They paid the price of their lives, both choices made living and eventually leading to their death. High price – absolutely.

Consider the price when making a decision? Absolutely. Does that mean we don’t make the high priced decisions? Not a chance.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Plot Thickens

Ever wonder why plots thicken instead of grow darker or thinner or spinning or some other action? While nearly everyone else is trying to be thinner, the plot gets thicker... The plot in this case is a story of the world, the people of the world, of you and me. The days we mark in the Easter celebration were not a celebration for the people who were intimately acquainted with the events of the day, who actually felt the tension, saw the strain. Instead, these were days of sleepless nights, worry and even despair.

The chief priests had been trying to stir up trouble, to discredit Jesus. They had set their hearts on killing him. Those who were drowning in sin were trying to kill their rescuer.

Jesus said to his disciples, “‘As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified,’” (Matthew 26:1-2). What was his tone? Resignation, grief, dread, resolve? I don’t know. But I can imagine the response of my own self, disbelief, shock, denial, grief, and fear. Followed by tidal waves of anger, frustration, and vengeance, with perhaps even a microscopic ray of hope as the man who you have come to love as a brother, who inspires and teaches you, who is so pure and good is about to be shamed and tortured as a felon.

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. ‘But not during the Feast,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people,’” (Matthew 26:3-5). A sly way of arrest, sneaking around – sneaking around with the intent to kill. And why not during the feast? Well, the feast was Passover, when public opinion had not yet turned against Jesus. If the people rioted, then these men would lose a significant amount of their power base. Don’t you recognize the media control that is going on here, just like it has since and does today? Which news cycle can we get that in? How far back in the paper will it be so no one notices? Leadership is a very difficult thing, and we must remember to pray for our leaders. Yes, even these leaders needed prayers. Because, when it came down to it, they were drowning in their sins. And when the lifeguard tried to rescue them, in their panic and dismay – they tried to drown the lifeguard as well.

And the plot thickened....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are you a Sheep or a Goat?

Sheep and goats, being separated out – this is how Matthew 25 ends up. What is the deal with that? I had to do a little digging myself to understand more of why the goats were being separated out.

Sheep per the keyword search in Bible Gateway, as “frequently mentioned in Scripture. The care of a shepherd over his flock illustrates God’s care over his people.” Goats are referred to as “oppressors and wicked men.”

Okay, with that known – let’s shift back to Matthew. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left,” (Matthew 25: 31-33). I’m not terribly livestock knowledgeable. I get dogs, how to speak their language so to speak, and a few other small fuzzy animals – but livestock? Not really. So, in my head, I imagine the goats being herded this way and the sheep that. There is baaing and bleeting and shepherds trying to avoid having their toes stepped on.

This takes me back to the why question however, why separate them?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” (Matthew 25:34-36).

That is quite a list and my first reaction is when did I do that? I can see the eat and drink thing because I have lived in the south and have been part of the southern hospitality thing. It’s not a myth, it really exists – and it’s rather lovely. When did I clothe you? When did I visit you in prison? The prison one I have wondered if that also applies to those who are not just in literal prisons, but trapped in situations.

I love that Jesus hung out with real people, and that he allowed them to ask real questions, because their reactions so often are something I can understand. Why? Because they asked the same question. “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you. The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,’” (Matthew 15:37-40).

Then there are those goats. The goats, also get a few sentences, “‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you will do not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:41-45).

So it’s better to be a sheep, because the sheep get “eternal life,” while the goats are sent to “eternal punishment.” Seems kind of like a no-brainer decision, but yet so many times we hold back and act more like a goat than a sheep. Come on fellow baaa’s let’s join the sheep!