27 December 2008

I'm Counting on Less Being More

Ever have a place or time in your life when you realize you are all done with something? Whatever fascination you once had with an object, person or habit...you suddenly find yourself unable to understand what your attraction was and you step away. Fatto, rifinito, nient'altro. Done.

It's not like the slow progression of phasing something out. I didn't realize the last time I rode my horse that it would be the last time I would ride. That just happened and it saddens me that I knew it was coming and I couldn't do anything about it. This feeling is almost a repulsion.

I am having that sort of feeling about nearly everything in my life. I haven't a clue how this might play out or how long it may last. Hopefully I will be able to get rid of a lot of material and emotional baggage. Lord knows I have enough of it.

First step? I am getting rid of all the food items that I have and know I have no intention of eating. Things like Hamburger Helper and other packaged food that has little or no nutritional value. Also, anything with high fructose corn syrup is getting pitched. Anything that has more than one preservative that I can't pronounce is gone. I am parting ways with partially hydrogenated oils. I almost feel a call to organic hippie commune living. Don't panic. I said almost.

Truth is that the hippie communes probably had the closest thing to a perfect society. I mean, if communism could work, it would be the kindest form of government. Nobody would do without. I had a conversation with someone who pointed those things out to me. I hadn't thought about it before. There is some merit in his argument. Until I pointed out that Charles Manson was into communal living. I told him that he did make a point for total depravity though. As long as sin will manifest itself as greed, communism will not work. But I digress...

Time to clean the fridge. By the way, this has nothing to do with New Year's Resolutions. I don't do those. I don't know what this is about but I am looking forward to it.

25 December 2008

Calvinist Humor

Buon Natale!

It's Christmas day. I am off of work and find myself unwilling to catch up on chores, at least for now. What I am doing is missing my kids. Earlier this week I sent a priority mailing package to my youngest. She is the mother of my grandson. She is also experiencing some physical problems. Like me, she has carpal tunnel syndrome and that is making work very difficult for her. She has some big decisions to make. Surgery? No surgery? How do you care for a young boy of three (at the end of this month) after having surgery? She is overwhelmed with the situations of adulthood. Growing up is not for cowards. Anyway, we had a recent conversation about how her son wanted to go to Chucky Cheese's for his third birthday. She wanted to invite a couple of his young friends and go but when you are struggling and unable to work because you are injured, even a conservative birthday party at Chucky Cheese's is out of reach. I know. I have been there .... when she and her sister were young.

Back to my story.... I sent her a priority mail envelope with Christmas and birthday cards in it for the boy and an envelope full of cash for her to use to buy my grandson something for Christmas and take him to Chucky Cheese's for pizza. I never send cash in the mail. I know what happens to it... it ends up on the pockets of mail thieves, some of whom work for the postal service and know when to scout for cash in Christmas and birthday cards. I sent the cash so she wouldn't have to wait for an out of state check to be held by her bank and then I began to worry. I kept expecting to hear from her that she had received the packet and I didn't. She knew something was coming in the mail, she didn't know it was cash. The longer I went without hearing from her the more worried I became, so I told myself she got it and was just too busy to call. I finally despaired of hearing from her and rather than resenting her for not putting my worries to rest, I forgot about the envelope.

This morning when I got up there was a voice mail on my cell phone. It was my kid telling me that she knew I was asleep but that she wanted to call and tell me that she had received the envelope. From the sound of her voice she is either sick or- more likely- she had been crying. She thanked me and expressed that the money was going to be very helpful. They had abandoned the Chucky Cheese's birthday party idea and had no idea how they were going to manage even a small celebration. My reaction? I wish I had sent her more money. I wish I was in California or she and my grandson were here in Kentucky so I could help them more often.

I want to be focused on the true meaning of Christmas. I want to be thinking about the magnificent gift God gave us in His Son. Instead my heart longs to see my kids and family scattered about the country. I hope for a future time that by the grace and mercy of God, my kids and grandson may delight in Jesus, the true Gift.

If you have your kids, grand kids and family near you this Christmas...please know how blessed you are. If they are saved by the grace of God.... rejoice!

Isaiah 9:6
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Zephaniah 3:17
"The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Matthew 1:23
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us."

Psalm 46:1111 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.(NAS)

21 December 2008

Observations on Getting Old

Yesterday I got up with every intention of doing some quick reading on-line and then getting to the chores for which I have fallen woefully behind. Woefully is an understatement. Between work, being poked and prodded by various doctors and being on the cusp of one viral illness or another, I am exhausted. I need to dust, vacuum, iron, do laundry, mop floors... the whole bit. So, when my sister called and asked if I wanted to go to Costco with her, I said yes without hesitation.

My sister has been going through it. She is trying to rescue her parents from 2400 miles away, providing them with the most graceful, comfortable and respectful ends to their lives. She had just flown back from California and we were both in need of some sister time. Before I left, I mentioned in my favorite chat channel that I was headed for an adventure and one of my dear cyber-siblings bade me farewell and told me to come home and write on my blog. I have to say that gave me a double blessing. I got to see my sister and someone I love and respect misses my ramblings here. Now, he may have been being kind- but it worked. I felt all connected and appreciated and isn't that the point of kindness?

This time in my life has me making all sorts of observations about transitions. Some of them might border on TMI, but you'll just have to deal.

I came home one day to find a message from the nurse of one of my new doctors. First observation: One little near death experience and although I haven't been to a doctor in 5 years, suddenly I have 5 different doctors that each want to evaluate aspects of my health. This is how elderly folks get started. One day they were fine. Next day they have a NDE and that opens the door to doctors and their tests. You wake up one day and suddenly your kitchen cupboard is full of prescription medications.

Second observation. When a doctor's office or nurse calls and you're not expecting them to, your mind immediately goes to bad news. The routine tests they have done have found some dreaded disease. When you call and the nurse tells you that before your next appointment the doctor would like you to have a chest x-ray, it's because you have lung cancer. You know it. You knew if you let just one doctor in they would all want to have a disease to work on and now they are searching for them without your having had symptoms or complaints. Chest x-rays? That's lung cancer or tuberculosis for certain. You try to talk yourself down. If the doctor saw something in the neck x-rays she ordered that was problematic, would she allow you to wait three weeks before coming in to see her? Probably not. Sounds like you have a doctor that wants to be a good health partner and advocate. Take a deep breath, calm down and you might as well go get the x-rays done.

Third observation- for women only. There is a magic time in a woman's life when comfort is more important than fashion. Oh sure, you want to maintain your femininity but you are no longer prepared to torture your body to achieve that 'youthful' feminine look. Ladies you know what I mean. No more kill your feet high heels, no more tummy control constrictive devices and no more bras with stiff underwires and metal stays. It sort of sneaks up on you as little by little you make more comfortable choices and then one day, as you are going in to have chest x-rays for your new doctor, it hits you. You have taken off your bra for the films to be made and as you're getting dressed you realize that things are in the same place they were both before and after you put your clothes on. There's no more worrying about lifting and separating, it's about modest propriety and comfort. I say we need to enjoy this time. This is our most empowering moment because we consciously choose comfort and femininity. Too soon we will care less about the femininity part. We'll know when that hits because we will have our stockings rolled down on our legs, while wearing 'house coats' and tennis shoes in public. The next stage is carrying lots of coins in a coin purse and paying for $25.78 of groceries (consisting mostly of cat food or tuna) by picking out the correct number of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies at glacial speeds. I only hope that knowing I am so close to this stage will give me a new patience for those who have bravely gone before me.

Psalm 71:18-19
18 And even when {I am} old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to {this} generation, Thy power to all who are to come.
19 For Thy righteousness, O God, {reaches} to the heavens, Thou who hast done great things; O God, who is like Thee?

Proverbs 16:31
31 A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.

13 December 2008

Catechism Rap?

I love it! I really love it! Never thought I would get into rap... I mean after all I am old! I could listen to this all day. Hope you like it too.

08 December 2008

Spiritual Hang Nails

I think I am either going to die from the "galloping consumption" or someone is going to have enough of my crankiness and dispose of me. I guess I shouldn't jokingly use terms like "galloping consumption." There is nothing funny about tuberculosis which is what the archaic term "galloping consumption" refers to. I just have an annoying cough. In fact, I fear I may cough up a lung. Whatever bugs are going around the office see me as a perfectly good breeding host. I am tired of being sick. It is wrecking havoc on my normally sunny disposition. (People who know me well are falling over in their chairs and wondering if employing sarcasm can properly be referred to as having a sunny disposition.)

The wonder and the need for close dependence on God that I felt after my NDE (near death experience) has given way to the drudgery and tedium of every day life. I knew it would. I just gave myself more credit for being able to hold it a bay for longer. I always overestimate my abilities and then presume upon God's grace and mercy to get me out of whatever ill I have gotten myself into by writing checks my personal account can't carry.

I received the results of my sleep test. I don't know why they call it a sleep test. It's impossible to sleep with the wires and wrappings they hook you up to. I was wired up like a 5th graders science project all the while looking not unlike Medusa with my curly hair hosting the EEG wires and the like. They shouldn't have told me how little sleep I am getting. Now I feel like I have every right to be tired and cranky. Besides that, I have caught another cold. I suppose it is reasonable to think that my body needs to build up the ability to ward off disease and that having major surgery depleted my reserves. I do not, however, care to be reasonable. I want to be able to breathe without coughing.

Having a runny nose and persistent cough is like having a hang nail on my soul. Every now and again I catch it just right and those unsanctified thoughts (and words) come bubbling to the surface. I guess it is better not to write too much when you're like this, unless of course you are going to write about the solution to such crankiness. What is the solution? Self-control.

My responsibility to act in a manner becoming a woman of God doesn't change. The standards are not flexible and contingent upon how I feel, how much sleep I have had or how nice people have been to me throughout the day. I am commanded to live a holy life which includes being charitable and kind to others. Having a cold or the flu makes that more difficult, but the difficulty factor does not change the requirement. Too often we give ourselves imaginary latitude to behave the way our emotions lead us, as if we have our fingers crossed and God isn't aware.

Wow, I have managed to convict myself. I think I better quit while I am ahead.

07 December 2008

Dust Bowl Ruminations

I am tired of hearing about the economic crisis as if We the People had nothing to do with it. I am tired of hearing about how Barack Obama is going to save us from the mistakes and mishandling of the prior administration. We are living with the aftermath of our own choices. We over-extended ourselves. We needed more square footage in our homes, more nifty gadgets and widgets for our walls and desks and in our entertainment centers. We needed faster cars with more equipment. We bought the goods at inflated prices. We continue to patronize the companies who make enough profit to send their executives begging for our tax money in corporate jets while staying in posh resorts and pretending they are broke. We bought their stocks and we were happy when we were blissfully ignorant and our portfolio numbers didn't come looking like [this].

I am about sick to death of hearing how President Elect, Barack Obama is going to save us from the evil we created ourselves. We are the ones that voted all the politicians that we blame for this economic crisis into office. It seems we only want to take credit for our choices when there is no trouble or the crisis is averted. Look folks, the economic dust bunnies we have been sweeping under the rugs have multiplied. We ignored then when they were dust buffalo and now we have the economic dust storm of the century looming over us like T-Rex over a fat, apathetic, too-stupid-to-stop-eating-and-start-running the-other-way cow.

We the People have lost the power to say, "no thanks." We the People have been so enthralled with the way Oprah lives that we forget that we do not have any thing close to what Oprah makes in money. Instead to pretend we live like her, we continue to fatten her portfolio by purchasing her books, watching her television programs and buying whatever philosophy of the week (or weak) she is selling. We bought her pick for a president, didn't we?

Now, before the Oprahites get their knickers in a twist over what I have said. Let me say while I do not agree with her religious and societal philosophies, I do not begrudge her the success she has. I find her fascinating and would put her on a list of dinner guests any time she wanted to accept. I do not think everything she has done is evil. In fact, I appreciate many of her efforts. It absolutely kills me that there are professing Christians who live more by what Oprah says than what their Lord says.

I am grateful that my God supplies my needs and thrilled that He also supplies some of my wants. I have gadgets and widgets. I just don't have the latest and greatest and am not going to be tricked into buying them. I was thrilled to fill my gas take for $20 last night, instead of $45 as it had been. I am very grateful to have a job. I have doctor's bills to pay from my little near death experience. I am aware that because I have insurance I didn't have to worry about how I would pay the bills as part of my decision to go to the emergency room. I am blessed. I know it. I also have a bucket load of student loans to pay (they cost me more than the mortgage on my house) and I could complain about them but I am the one who signed for them. I made the decision to take them out based on not enough information, which was also my fault. Ignorance doesn't make consequences easier, in fact, those are the ones I kick myself for... if I had sought counsel from someone other than the school who wanted my tuition money and still took out the loans, I would feel better about them. And of course, I have taxes to pay like everyone else. I would rather my taxes went to keeping my neighbors heat on in winter than to give any of these corporations that are crying poor mouth a red cent.

So that's my rant for today. I want to encourage believers to keep their faith in their God and not in the politics and economy of our nation. Quit barking about how horrible the economy is and start proclaiming the faithfulness of God. We have the hope of a mansion in heaven that will outshine anything Oprah or Bill Gates or Donald Trump can boast about while they are here on this fragile little planet and during the incredibly short time they will occupy it. As for our President Elect. Pray for him as that's what the Word says to do. Pray for him whether or not you voted for him. See him as a tool in our Sovereign God's hands.

1 Sam 12:19-25
19 Then all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins {this} evil by asking for ourselves a king."
20 And Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.21 "And you must not turn aside, for {then you would go} after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile.
22 "For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.
23 "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.
24 "Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.
25 "But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away."(NAS)

02 December 2008

Soul Care

Yesterday I received several advertisements from stores that want to lure me in to purchase their goods. I was offered between 20 and 50 percent off of my favorite item. The variety of goods I could choose from was mind boggling. One thing was very clear, these retailers wanted my money spending experience to be as convenient as possible. I could go on-line and buy their goods. I could call and order their goods over the telephone or fill out the order form, include my billing information and put my order in the mail and credit would be extended to me. I could purchase things not available to me in the first two options if I drove to their store and shopped in the conventional way.

I was offered discounts on everything from electronics to food. I can buy a personal Breathalyzer if I want to be certain to drive under the legal limits of blood alcohol in my system. My hair, fingernails, bad breath, and hair as well as the coat, toenails and bad breath of my dogs could be made better by selecting the right products. If I purchase the right supplements, I can feel healthier, look younger and have more energy. I can even make these purchases and defer the billing. In the myriad of offers to choose from there was one thing that was missing. I couldn't buy a thing that would provide care for my soul.

Souls. We all have one and yet we seldom want to talk about them. Even Christians seldom ask one another, "How is your soul today?" Are you a Christian? Has anyone ever asked you about the state of your soul? Perhaps when you were being evangelized someone asked you where your soul would spend eternity, but it is more likely that they asked you what might happen to you when you die.

A few years back I went to see the movie Titanic when it came out in the theater. Visually it was a stunning movie. I didn't care much for the plot. There was one line that rang in my heart the moment I heard it. After hitting the iceberg there was a discussion about whether or not the ship would stay afloat. The first officer was asked how many were aboard and he correctly and succinctly responded, "2,200 souls on board, sir." They were more than people with bodies that would perish in the frigid waters. Each body housed a precious soul that might find its eternal home that very night.

These bodies of ours that we primp and pamper; tone and condition; abuse and misuse; and spend so much time fretting- over are nothing more than the temporary housing of our souls. It is true for Christians that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should care for them. There is nothing wrong with moisturizing and exfoliating our mortal coils, but shouldn't we spend more time caring for our souls? Shouldn't we jealously guard and nurture them? I know, we read our favorite Christian authors or we dabble with theology. We might be out there zealously contending for the faith, but do we really consider the welfare of our souls and the souls of others while we are doing so? When we renew our minds and improve our characters, are we really focusing on the state of our souls or do we simply presume that result when we focus on ourselves? Do we need to be more precisely focused?

I ask these questions sincerely. I ask because I am a counselor and my primary focus needs to be the care and health of the soul of those I counsel. I ask because when I implore a believer to read and believe God's promises in the Word, I am begging he or she to do so for their comfort here but I should be more motivated to exhort them for the benefit of their souls. Our comfort here should be a byproduct of the health of our souls and not the other way around.

Psalm 66:16 Come {and} hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul

Psalm 86:4 Make glad the soul of Thy servant, for to Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 124:7-8
7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; the snare is broken and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Jeremiah 4:19 My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me; I cannot be silent, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

James 5:19-20
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.(NAS)