Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I have so enjoyed biking thes past few days. The Katy Trail path I follow is covered by a tunnel of trees and is flat as a pancake. Even in 100 degree weather, the trail is cool enough to pedal along as breezes from the Missouri River accompany bikers.
What also has been accompanying bikers lately, however, is not so enjoyable.
I feel like Woody in Toy Story, "There's a snake in my boot!" Except it has been snakes on my path!
Yesterday's snake was quite a sight. She was golden with a large lump where she had just swallowed some creature, and she was stretched across the path displaying all five-feet plus of her.
She wasn't going to budge for anyone. Two men just about to ride over her, yelped like little girls when I turned around and yelled, "Snake!"
We all marveled at her size, and of course, her potential danger.
I have thought the past two days about that snake. D.H. Lawrence wrote a great poem capturing our abhorance and yet fascination with snakes. We watch them, but do so in repulsion, or at least most do.
I remember one of my former friends' son had a snake for a pet. I didn't understand it. She really didn't either, but she was a loving mom and wanted to please him.
Until he went off to college and left the snake in her care. She called me one morning asking me for help.
"The snake has a sore throat!"
"What? How is that possible? They are all throat, aren't they? That must be one bad throat!"
"I need you to help me take it to the vet. I can't carry the cage alone."
Arriving in her basement, I looked in horror as the snake, a boa by the way, was sitting with his mouth opened wide, exposing its fangs for all and facing the heat lamp.
We got it to the vet. To add insult to injury, she had to give it medicine twice a day.
She is a better mom than I. Our friendship did not include holding that snake as she plugged medicine down its mouth. Sorry, I had my limits.
Back to my snake problems, though. There is a fascination and repulsion with these creatures.
I immediately think of Satan, don't you, when you see one. The Garden of Eden, that image of the temptation of Eve.
They remind me of evil, and this week has been a week of evil news for our school family. One student's aunt was murdered. Another student's grandfather died after a long struggle with illness.
Death and disease are just reminders to me that life is NOT the way it is supposed to be. It is NOT the way God intended it at the start.
I can become discouraged and frightened about that. Many of us have cried in mourning and grief for our fellow moms at school who have had these losses.
What does one say when facing these "snakes on the road of life?"
I don't want to be like Job's friends and give platitudes or warnings or even answers because I just don't have any. I know these things can happen all too easily. I know life is fragile. I know some day I will face death or the loss of someone I love as well.
So again, I ask, "What do I say when faced with the snake, the reality of evil in this life?"
So far, I am saying very little except asking God to help these families. Trusting God will send His Holy Spirit to comfort as promised. Focusing on the fact that the snake does not have victory, this life is not all there is, and a better life is waiting for each person, including those who were lost this week by my friends.
While the snake reminds me that this life is NOT the way it was meant to be, she also reminds me that Jesus has won the battle so that I may live life with Him without death, disease, sadness...the way He meant it to be all along.
Meanwhile, I pray and bike a little more carefully.
For His Glory,
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Last night I had the joy of taking my tweener daughter and her tweener friend to see Selena Gomez in concert. Sitting there watching my 10-year old scream and dance and sing along to the lyrics was truly a memorable moment for me. I was pleased with the lyrics of so many songs as well. Such positive images promoted in "Who Says You're Not Perfect...."
Yet, as I watched the amazing wardrobe changes, the choreography, the stage setting, and all of the build up to whip the thousands of other tweeners into screaming frenzies, I wondered how much better it is in heaven.
I know. I know. You are thinking, for Pete Sake, do you have to think about heaven all the time for everything?
I just can't help it lately. Everything I see seems to prompt me of how much more glorious things are in heaven if man can construct such amazing scenes and spark emotions as a result.
In fact, this morning, after dragging my sleepy-head girl out of bed for school, I sat on the deck with my hot cup of coffee and continued my research on Solomon.
The temple he built for God's glory was better than any concert or movie set. Just reading about THE SEA (1 Kings 8) put me in awe.
Yet it was Solomon's prayer of dedication that I admired even more than the Temple's construction.
I love it when he says, "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, can not contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God....Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive....Forgive and act, deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers...."
Solomon is standing in this amazing construction with a Sea, gold-plated 15 feet wide cherubims holding the ark of the Lord's convenant, walls and floors that were constructed miles away from The Temple so no sound of a hammer would violate the place for God, so much detail.....yet he realizes that if heaven could not contain God, how could this place, unless God desired to commune with man? He acknowledges how God knows each man's heart and asks God to continue to deal with each man as such.
I like that. I like Solomon in all of his riches and glory, a ruler, a king seeing God as a God of individuals, don't you? I find that amazing in fact.
I wonder as Selena Gomez or any performer who looks out from a stage to a different sea, a sea of screaming, impressionable tweens, if she can see individuals in her heart? It would be so very difficult to do, wouldn't it?
As humans we have our limits of course. We lose sight of why we are here. Why we build, create, work, interact. Let us return as Solomon reminds us in Kings and even later in Ecclesiastes to see our work outside of a relationship with God falls far short of its intent.
We are here to glorify God, to have relationship with Him, to encourage others to do the same.
I am so glad I serve a God who is the God of individuals, aren't you? Let's thank Him today for being such a God. He knows we aren't perfect and loves us just the same. Now there's an even better lyric.
For His Glory,
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Last night was one of those just fun family nights that I hope to remember when I am old (er).
After listening to Erin Brody's Norah Ephron-like voice at a free concert in our local park, we returned home to cook pizza, build a fire in the back yard, and make smore's. Great invention there. The SMORES, I mean.
As the stars popped out and the tree frogs added their own version of song, my daughter crawled into my lap to discuss her favorite music.
She particularly is enjoying the lyrics to "This is the Stuff." The kids are singing it in their school choir. As she was singing the lyrics to me, she stopped and said, "That is so like you, Mamma!"
Laughing with her, I agreed. I lose my keys or phone once a week and have done something similar to that most of my life.
The problem is that I don't handle it well. I panic. I tear the house or car or purse apart begging to find the precious item. It seems I would learn how to handle that by now. -How to trust God and not panic so much.
Then my daughter said something even funnier. She said, "I imagine God sees you losing something again and tells everyone to wait while He gets His popcorn cause 'this is gonna be good. Here she goes again.'"
While my husband and I found this quite amusing, I started reflecting on how do I envision God watching me daily, my reactions, my actions, my life? Do I see Him invovled or just sitting back and watching, eating a metaphorical buttered popcorn, as I deal with life?
What does the Bible say about this?
Reflecting on Scriptures, there are many references where Jesus asks us to lean on Him, to trust Him, not to have anxiety, that He is with us, to ask Him, to tell Him, that His burden is light.... Even Jesus' parables point to relationships like those of father-to-son, close, bonds of love.
So I don't think, as tempting as it may be to watch yet another rerun of the "Gretchen Panics Show," God is just sitting back. He is completely involved, talking, arranging, reminding, prompting, and helping.
How about you? How do you see God? Is He a Santa figure watching your life through a magical ball or from a distance? Or is He with you even now as you read this little devotional blog...
For His Glory,
Friday, August 26, 2011
Whew! What a Frustrating In Between Day!
Have you ever had one of those?
It was just one irritating thing after another!
Nothing terribly big enough to make me break down into tears, yet just a series of little things that can ruin the day for a person.
You know. It is a little like that song about losing keys, speeding, not being able to find your cell phone.
Those are the times and days that do seem to try us the most, don't they?
Especially when it is a day filled with good intentions.
It started with a migraine. I am new to this phenomenon. I truly do not see how people go to work with these things. Light just hurts. The room spins. My stomach lurches.
But the show must go on. Taking my daughter to school, I rush to the hair dresser, dreading even the touch of shampoo on my head or the feel of a hot hair dryer. I go to the car to find all kinds of flashing lights go off when I turn the key.
Rushing to a nearby Sears Auto store, the lights magically go off just as I pull into the service center. Of course, the mechanics run 2 hours of diagnostics and see no problem.
I should be relieved, except when I pull out of their garage and onto the highway, my blinkers begin flashing and will not go off! Naturally, Toyota can not see me until Monday.
So with flashing lights, I slowly drive home and crawl into a dark bedroom unable to enjoy the bike ride and volunteer work I was planning on this beautiful Friday.
Picking up my daughter, we fight traffic, arrive home to hear her say she left her homework folder at school. Turning around to fight traffic, we rush into school before they lock the doors.
After going home, guess what? She realizes she has left yet another notebook at school, but now it is too late.
OK Now my head is still pounding. Eyes still bleary. And I think...what in the world was today about? I feel I wasted most of this day for God, and I am disappointed.
Then I told God as I sat on my deck this evening, "Thank you. Today was about just resting and trusting in You. It wasn't fun. It was just the way life is sometimes, but thanks for bearing with me through this day."
My sister-in-law shared a similar situation about my brother two days ago. He decided to volunteer for his daughter's high school by taking his weed wacker and clearing the parking lot for them. (Ah, now you understand the picture, don't you?)
As he was doing his good deed, he heard the "CHUNK! CRRRRRACK!" He hit a rock which flew up and knocked a car window.
His volunteer work cost him $200.00!
It just doesn't seem fair, does it? I mean he had good intentions. Why does he have to pay for trying to do something right?
I had good intentions for today as well. Why did I have to struggle with a migraine and then electrical problems for my car?
For those of you who are battling disease like cancer, I am sure you are recalling the days of letting irritating details get to you, and wishing for those days back. Those days of just good intentions gone wrong seem like luxury days now as your spiritual battle is to stay at peace with God and trust God.
Yet, yet, somehow, I think the days of frustrating details some how prepare us for the bigger battles. How we respond to life's disappointments, life being "unfair" in little things can determine how we will handle the bigger things Satan and life in general throws at us.
The earthquakes, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, the illnesses, the losses, the times we are overlooked for recognition at work, the times friends don't return phone calls, the angry remark or sarcastic statement made at our expense....the hurts.
Satan wants to pull us away from trusting God. He whispers, "See, what good does it do you to be a Christian? You try to do something nice and where does it get you? Look at those others who are doing so well and not believing or following God!"
Remember, our life is like chaff in the wind. We are here for but a moment, but with God forever. Don't listen to Satan.
Join me, won't you, in thanking God for being with us even when our good intentions go wrong and our days are filled with frustrating, unplanned details distracting us from our goals even on these in between days.
For His Glory,
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Today, my mind flashed back to a scene in my childhood.
It was a happy scene. See if you can relate to doing anything similar to this as a youngster.
My dad ran a small-town lumber company. After school, we would wait at the lumber yard for a ride home in the company truck. I can still see that large, red, flatbed truck and feel the cracked, worn leather seats as I bounced up and down on the springs singing our usual nonsense song with Dad, "Barney Google-with the Goo Goo Googly eyes...." We bounced through town oblivious of the state of our transportation.
You see, I didn't care about our poor, old, delapidated truck because I had just finished my favorite activity after school: hiding a secret love note for my Dad in the old lumber yard brick wall.
In the tall stacks of lumber (I can still smell the fresh sawdust and two-by-fours) was an ancient brick wall. Lose bricks made for a perfect message hiding place.
Climbing the two-story ladder and crawling through the stacks of wood, we moved the loosened brick and hid our notes for Dad to discover after work.
My dad had passed on that fun from his own mother. In fact whenever Gram babysat my siblings and me, we re-enacted going to the same basement Dad did as a kid, loosening the bricks in the old coal bin, and leaving our grandmother messages of thanks and love.
There was just something magical about being able to leave a message of love behind, after we were gone, knowing she would still have part of us with her.
Secret messages of love and friendship are also found in the Bible. Reading about David and Jonathan, you know how the two had their friendship torn apart by Jonathan's jealous, evil father, King Saul. It is a sad story, yet one of loyalty and faith.
David asked Jonathan to find out if Saul still meant to kill David. If the answer were yes, then Jonathan would fire three arrows at a practice range that would go a long distance rather than short.
Can you imagine David waiting in the field for the secret message? Can you imagine how sad Jonathan was in firing those arrows a long distance knowing he would not see David again under good circumstances?
David's life changed drastically with that secret message.
It doesn't take much to change our life paths, does it? A cross word, a kind word, a sarcastic remark, a bit of gossip, an affirmation, a sweet tone... all of these can change a person's day.
It is no secret how words can hurt or help.
Join me today in sending a message of encouragement to someone. It can be anonymous or obvious. Either way, it will be a memorable moment.
For His Glory,
Monday, August 22, 2011
Last time I shared how it seemed like I kept feeling a need to clean windows and the house because August has been such a dusty, dry month in our St. Louis area.
I think of all the household chores, washing windows is my least favorite one. Which one is yours?
The reason it irritates me so much is because I never seem to be able to get that spotless look I see on t.v.
Sorry Windex and other name-brand cleaners. You don't work.
The closest I come to sparkle is when I use vinegar and water and newspapers. Yep, newspapers.
Even after washing windows, the sun will hit the window in a different angle, and I will see a streak I left or a blue film from the cleaning fluid. Back I go to scrub again.
While I was battling the sun rays and spots on my windows, I was thinking about the kingship and life of David.
I always marvel, don't you, that God considered David a man after His own heart?
I like David. I love his poetry, his failures, his bravery, and his desire to do right.
Like my windows, though, David really struggled with dirt, or sin. He would soar with God, fight giants and soldiers and kings, then fall and commit adultery and murder.
He could not hide his blemishes. They were always there when the Son shone on his life, each time at a different angle, exposing what David thought he could hide.
What is so wonderful about David is his continued return to God, his true repentance and acknowlegment of God's sovereignty.
When confronted by the prophet over his sin, David did not make excuses. He responded by saying, "I have sinned against God." He then quickly made offerings of sacrifice and accepted God's forgiveness and punishment.
It is not a children's story. It is our story.
God loves us and will not allow us to hide our sins. Ever since Adam and Eve, God has been in the exposing sin business.
Ever since creation, He has also been in the forgiving business.
Next time, you struggle like I do with your window washing, remember how much God wants to shine through your own life, if He is allowed to do so. Remember how we are not able to clean up our own sin and mess; only Jesus can do that.
Praise God for His mercy and cleansing love!
Now, back to the vinegar and water.
Anyone, got a newspaper?
For His Glory...
Saturday, August 20, 2011
This blog is all about the in between times of life.
I think August should be the month crowned THE in between month of the year, don't you? It seems like all I want to do is clean windows and the house because things seem to be turning dull and brown.
Funny, I don't think it's my windows. It is the month, August.
You can hear things dieing down, literally.
The brown grass, yellowing weeds, duller green of trees, and the shorter days....
The pool no longer entices children nor the swimming holes at the lakes.
I don't hear flashlight tag results from giggles in backyards nor see the bobbing of jars as little ones try to capture lightning bugs.
Stores are trying to rush this in between season, as usual. August doesn't offer much for holiday shopping or events.
I already noticed our local Dierbergs displayed the bags of solid sugar Brachs pumpkins by the check-out counters.
Target and Wal Mart are putting up Halloween decorations as well. Home Goods stores have the festive black and orange cats, witches, Jack o Lanterns at the front entrance hoping for early purchase.
With Halloween decorations out, we know it won't be two minutes into November 1 before Christmas takes over stores.
What to do with the month of August is the dilemma. It is not a popular vacation month, although if you live in the MidWest, it is an incentive to go anywhere else to escape its fierce heat and humidity!
My siblings and I though do feel a particular twinge during this time of August. We share a common celebration that month always brought into our lives, our mother's birthday.
It seems Ruby would start celebrating her birthday August 1st and continue throughout the month by being treated to lunches, coffees, and receiving numerous cards. Did I say numerous? I am sorry. It was a pure understatement. When she was 84, Ruby still received more birthday cards than the President! They just poured in from every where.
I remember the Christmas she came to live with me, I marveled at her Christmas cards. How could someone who outlived her husband and many friends, left her small hometown continue to be remembered by so very many people?
To me that was a miracle. My mother loved life. Even when so much of it was robbed of her through Parkinson's, she loved seeing people.
So on August 19th, her birthday, I threw a party. None of the guests knew it was her birthday. Unless they read this blog, they will continue not to know. It was my little secret.
I held a luncheon for 15 ladies, moms of my daughter's grade level who could come. Half of them worked, the other half were able to get together to start off the school year, say good-bye to the summer and reconnect with our support system needed during the school year.
We prayed, laughed, ate, even cried a little as we shared stories about our children. It was a great couple of hours.
All during the luncheon, as I poured tea, refilled chicken salads and replinished muffins, I thought how much fun Mom would be having in the middle of all of this. She would be playing the piano, leading songs, giggling hard at others' stories, and soaking up the friendship.
August is an in between month, unless you knew Ruby Jack. Then it was a month of celebrating a very special life on this earth.
I know. I know. In heaven she is having even a better time than ever before, plus she has no Parkinson's to hold her back from laughing, running, even talking and singing.
Even though I know that, I miss her. I am so very grateful for her life and influence.
Yesterday was a good way to celebrate her life while serving others.
I think I have found a new tradition for my future August 19th's, don't you?
If you ever get an invitation to come to my home for lunch on that day, you'll know the secret as to why.
Oh, and of course, there is a Scripture related to all of this; it is a devotional. It is the Scripture God had me read to my mother in December 2009, one month before she died.
Isaiah 61....read it all...it's great...right now though, after a year of grieving I like this part: They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devasted. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devestated for generations. I delight greatly in the Lord....he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness....
How about you? Have you had a rough season of life? Are you moving with God toward healing either physically, spiritually, or emotionally? He is renewing your life. It is a time for celebration.
Join me in celebrating life this remaining part of August, an in between month.
For His Glory,
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I got one the other day!
It is such a rare occassion with e-mail and texting.
I got a real letter!
Somehow, because snail mail takes such extra effort instead of texting or e-mailing or facebooking (now a verb), receiving a letter now days is a rare treat.
It reminds me of a true story my sister told me after one of her vacations to the East Coast. She had found a lovely home on a long stretch of beach, and as a result, enjoyed walking along the ocean shore daily.
One day she walked farther than usual and was surprised to see a mailbox on the beach.
No home nearby.
A seemingly deserted mailbox.
With the flag up.
Unable to resist her curiosity, she opened the mailbox and found a notebook.
In the notebook was an invitation to write her own story or thoughts as so many others had done who found the mailbox before her.
Sitting on the beach, she enjoyed reading the life stories. Some were of love, honeymoons, fresh starts, and others were of loss. All were captured moments of life.
I believe she added her own thoughts to the book that day, and as a result, her own story became part of a much larger one.
Isn't that the way it is with us?
While we each have a unique story, we are also at different points of a much bigger story in life. Some, like my nephew in his twenties, are preparing for marriage and a new life in a new location. Others, like one of my friends, prepares to stay good-bye to her father after years of seeing him suffer.
We are at different points on God's plot line.
The beauty of our stories is that we contribute to the bigger story of God's love and grace while retaining what makes us different, special, unique.
If you don't believe me, read the Bible. The letters to you and me in that book confirm how God brought together so many different types of people from amazingly diverse backgrounds to weave their stories into one big resolution, God's Mercy.
Letters From A Mailbox.
Special communications now days.
I hope you enjoy God's letters to you today as you read His Word.
Perhaps you will join me in sharing your story in a letter to someone God brings to your heart today as well.
For His Glory,
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Today's little blog comes compliments of my late father, Bill Jack. This is an object lesson he used often with his children and Sunday School class. I hadn't thought of it in years until I received an e-mail the other night and phone call.
It seems after reading one of my blogs about Dad's obedience to God in throwing away a book of debts from folks he knew, debts that caused him to lose his business eventually, someone published that blog in our small-town newspaper. Eventually, that article reached California and a few other states where people figured out the story about forgiveness of debts was a story about Dad, even though I never used his name.
As a result, a man I never met, who was the son of my father's high school friend, called to tell me how my father demonstrated Christianity to him as a young man numerous times. He sobbed as he recalled the acts of kindness my dad did during his lifetime.
It was a precious hour for me bringing back many memories of my father.
Hence the Tater Family.
Dad would announce to his audience that he brought a family to meet them, to illustrate God's instructions for us today in the Bible. This family was large and had several members.
Of course, we all looked around the audience and could find no strangers among us. Looking back at Dad, we watched as he picked up a very large brown, paper sack he had been hiding.
He slowly pulled out a large potato. In it he stuck a little index card on a paper clip with the name, "HEZI." Say hello to HEZITATER the first girl member of the TATER FAMILY.
Dad would then proceed to tell us all about characters in the Bible and in our own lives who "hesitate and are lost."
After establishing we were in for a fun hour of puns, we would try to guess Dad's next member of the family. They each came out of the bag, stuck with a paperclip and index card naming them, each with a little vignette to illustrate a Bible point: COMMEN, AGGIE, IRA...
Finally, when it looked as though this dysfunctional family could get no worse, the one redeeming member of the family arrived, FACILI TATER!
Dad asked us to share what this member would do or has done in our lives to make our lives easier. We enjoyed making a list of kind acts others have done to help us along the way.
Of course, Dad supplied the greatest facilitator of all, Jesus, who not only comforts, heals, loves, abides, but died so we might have eternal life.
So there you have it. A little object lesson passed on from thirty or more years ago. The Tater Family.
I hope you enjoyed them and even started making your own puns as a result.
Most importantly, I hope you strive today to be what my father was to the stranger who called me from another state, a true facilitator, pointing others to Jesus, helping ease their journey toward heaven.
For His Glory,
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Do you remember playing this as a kid?
My daughter loved to mimic my actions, yet when I did the same thing to her, it wasn't long before I heard, "Mommmmmm, stop!"
If I parroted the actions of my brother or sister, they, too, would soon complain, "Mommmmm, Gretchen is copying me! Make her stop!"
I wonder what we would do if we realized people were really copying our actions as adults though?
Paul writes about the importance of our actions as Christians in that while we are still a part of this world, we are not to participate in or do things that could cause others to stray from God.
So tomorrow as you join me in your daily routine, stop a moment, and just consider, what do our actions reflect about God's love?
Hopefully, people won't be watching as closely as the video clip.
For His Glory,
The above clip of Lucy in the chocolate factory always gives me a chuckle. My favorite line however is when Lucy realizes she can't keep up with the assembly line and says, "Ethel, I think we are fighting a losing battle!"
Have you ever felt like this?
And worse, if you do succeed at keeping up with the demands of life, you find you are asked to do even more as your reward.
"Good job! SPEED IT UP A LITTLE!" says Life to you.
What do you do when you feel like Lucy and it's a no-win situation?
And the irony of it all is that this world really is in a no-win situation, isn't it? Because we live in a fallen world, one given to sin, we will experience disease, frustration, struggles.
So what do we do? Do we merely give up and hope to get through the day?
God forbid! Jesus says in John, "I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly." Jesus loved life while walking on this fallen earth. He loved people. He laughed, worked, and yes, cried and died.
But, he rose again and prepares a place for us. He wants all of us to come to Him, to get to know what real life is all about: fellowship with God, pleasing God and loving others.
So, when Life is rushing, take time to read God's Word, sing songs to God, worship Him, love those around you, and enjoy the time He has given you right now.
God wants us to do more than breathe in and breathe out, to do more than hide our failures and faults when we can't keep up (like Lucy and Ethel). He wants us to fellowship with Him and show love to His children.
You are not fighting a losing battle after all. God is on your side. He is with you and laughing along with you as well at the Lucy episode.
For His Glory,
My husband shared yet another motivational story from the conference he attended. This time it was about George Washington.
Loving history, my husband even became a bit emotional while recounting the event.
It was in the winter. All that was left between the outcome of America's Independence from England were a few cold, starving, men. The odds were great against them.
Washington made a desperate appeal. They were wanting to go home. Home to their families. Home to their hearths and hearts. They had seen too much death, disease, defeat.
Washington went before them and told them if they would but stay longer and help fight, he would make sure each man received $10.00 extra at the end. Ten dollars was an enormous sum for families at that time.
No one moved. No one came forward to re-enlist.
Washington realizing money was not going to keep them, told them from his heart that they were all he had left. He told them he understood why they wanted to leave, and if he could call upon others to take their place, to relieve them, he would.
But he could not. They were his last hope. He had no one else to ask.
To his surprise every man stepped forward to re-enlist. No one left.
We know the end of the story. Each 4th of July we are reminded of sacrifices made for our freedom and liberty.
For those who have studied in business school and history of business, there are many theories about how to motivate staff members or employees. Money is surprisingly not the primary motivating factor for long-term satisfaction.
Don't get me wrong. It certanly helps. Money can even become a deterrent for job performance if too low on the salary scale.
-But for a long-term satisfaction element, money does not suffice.
Now having a cause, feeling you are part of something bigger than yourself, feeling you matter, make a difference....those are powerful motivators.
One man told the story of his father who worked for Rolls Royce ages ago. He made very little money. His son asked why he stayed. He told his father, who was brilliant, how he could make so much more money elsewhere. His father said that he could go to work each day, and if he had idea on how to make something better, he could go to his supervisor and be heard. His ideas had even been implemented and he had been recognized for his ideas. His name would be put on the process or implementation.
He told his son how being heard and recognized made him feel far more important than any salary could. He was there to stay.
I think about the church in comparison, about us as Christians in fact. Do we recognize other Christians for their importance in this life? Do we ourselves work for a greater cause that just going through the motions daily? What motivates us? In turn, how are we motivating other Christians to continue on, witnessing for Jesus, helping others go to heaven as well?
Christ calls us to lift each other up as members of the church body. I don't know if I am doing that enough.
I am rethinking how I motivate those around me. I am rethinking my own "cause" in life.
"I can not tell a lie." I hope you do the same.
For His Glory,
Monday, August 8, 2011
What's so wrong with that, you wonder? It is my 40th Anniversary or Reunion!
40! It can not be!
That was the reunion I remember hearing my parents talk about when they were going on diets or shopping for new clothes to prepare! And they were OLD!
This can not be for ME!
Then I did it. I started searching on facebook and google for pictures of people I had long forgotten. (Sorry, class of 1971, but you forgot about me, too. I mean it's not like we have kept in touch over the years.)
And I saw faces that seemed somewhat familiar, yet at first glance, I thought, "That is what her mother looked like when I was in high school." or "What is that baby she is holding? A grandchild?!"
I realized how my class had grown up, gone their separate ways, married, had families, and now grandchildren.
And it surrprised me. I think I now understand my mother who at the age of 84, told me how strange it was to feel like a child inside a body that surprised her when she looked in a mirror.
It isn't until you are around others your age, you realize your own.
I am not attending my class reunion. It is not because of fear, but simply because my senior year in high school was difficult. LIke most teenage girls, I was ready to get on with life. I did not have a steady boyfriend like so many of my friends. I did not understand the daily drama of breaking up and getting back together. My struggles in chosing not to drink kept me from most "parties." I often felt caught in the middle of very strict religious friends and the freer friends who embraced the 70's lifestyle.
Trying to figure out my identity in a class that was not very cohesive or supportive of each other was not a pleasant memory. I often felt judged or typecast and left out. As a result, I protected myself be appearing aloof and not caring, when inside, I was screaming, "Please, notice me! Please, care!" I will never forget the night of my high school graduation. I couldn't attend the party where I knew many would be hung over the next day nor did I wish to attend the party where games like Scrabble would be played. I felt caught in the middle and so very lonely.
I drove my parents' car down 13th street and thought, "What do I matter? I am utterly alone. No one cares about me whether I am here or there. Why not drive into that tree? What difference would it make?"
With tears in my eyes, I stepped on the gas pedal. But a still, small voice told me to stop, that I did matter in life.
I slowed down, turned around, went home, sad, yet relieved.
I don't think I have been the only one to have such thoughts at least once in this life. I think Satan tempts many people with such thoughts during personal struggles. I am so thankful God's Holy Spirit comes to do battle.
Also, I have found out since that time that I wasn't the only one wearing a mask. Most teens do and as a resul high school can leave many scars for kids. As a former teacher, I have witnessed adolescents having similar struggles, many much worse than mine, unfortunately.
So, do I wish to return to see those who survived the high school journey with me? Not really. I will be celebrating my birthday instead with family and friends. Folks who have accepted me without the mask.
I hope that doesn't sound bitter. It is really just honest. I am sure there are so many out there who had amazing experiences with classmates in high shcool and bonded for LIFE with BFFS. I am truly happy for you.
It just didn't happen for me.
The reason I am no longer bitter about some of the teasing I received for my faith, is ironically because of my faith. God became the solace and helped me learn to lean on Him when feeling isolated or lonely.
"I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
For many teens, they sometimes think whatever happens or doesn't happen at school or at a party IS the end of the world.
I thank God, He showed me otherwise.
How about you? I pray God reminds you of His love, especially during class reunions.
For His Glory,
Sunday, August 7, 2011
We certainly are fearfully and wonderfully made!
My most recent book report illustrates that so clearly, LEFT NEGLECTED. It is written as fiction but based on experiences the author, a neuroscience major with her Ph.D. from Harvard, has witnessed and studied.
The story is about a sadly all-too-typical American family who is rushing through life. With three children, fast-track careers, and a mortgage on a gorgeous home in a much-envied neighborhood, the main character has a million things to do daily.
With such a frantic pace, something must be sacrificed. That something is of course, family. Seeing a soccer game, attending teacher conferences, helping her struggling first-grade son who is suspected of having ADHD, all must be put on a lower part of the priority list as the parents take turns running from business meeting to business meeting.
Then, while trying to place an important business call and driving, it happens. The mother doesn't see the brake lights in front of her until too late.
Waking up in the hospital, days later, she begins her struggle to walk, read, and live again. The damage to her brain has resulted in LEFT NEGLECT. Although her left side of her body can work just fine, and her eyesight is fine, her brain can not find anything on the left. It no longer remembers the LEFT.
As a result, when she draws a picture, she thinks she has drawn the whole image. Instead, she has only drawn half. When someone walks to the left side, they have disappeared. She does not know where her left hand is. She can only read half the page of the newspaper or reports or a book.
I don't know why, but the main character's struggle was so fascinating to me that I finished the book in one afternoon. I appreciated her struggle and her new perspective on the priorities of life.
I used to be like that. I used to pride myself in my list of busy things to do for the day. It made me feel valued, important. It was like the key chain I had as a principal of a large suburban high school. The more keys on the ring, the more "important" I must be. It showed I was trusted with access to everywhere in the building and often to other places in the large district.
My priorities, like the protagonist of this book, were distorted. Even though I was a Christian, I rationalized my Sunday mornings were my only time to "sleep in," to "take a break from others' expectations." I struggled to attend church, to read the Bible, to fellowship with other Christians. I dropped out of Christian life.
I did not see it at the time. It took a jolt for me to discover how far I had gone. Like LEFT NEGLECTED, I had a traumatic wake-up call, and I had to learn what life on this earth was about all over again.
My fifteen-year career vanished in one day. I lost my job. Try as I might I could not find another one. A wall had come down. I had turned down offers in the past, been "courted" by other districts, and now could not even get a call returned from former friends who had "connections."
God had to break me before I could start again. My new perspective today is so much better. I thank God daily for picking me up out of the ashes of my former life. I had it all wrong.
Don't misunderstand me. I still don't know if God took the job away or not. I do believe He was true to His promise of "working good for those who love the Lord." God did make something good out of a very bad situation.
Too busy to have family, I had waited a long time to try to conceive. After years of trying, I realized we had waited too late. I could not have a child.
After losing my job, the option of adoption opened up for my husband and me. There was one small window of opportunity from China. We were a couple of years away from the deadline of being too old. It was now or never.
We chose NOW. God provided me with an amazing daughter. I marvel each day when I watch her around the house or swimming or at gymnastics. Sometimes she asks me why I am staring at her. I just smile, not realizing I was, and tell her what a blessing she is, what an amazing gift from God. What grace He has shown me out of a dark time.
Like the protagonist in LEFT NEGLECTED, I thought I was seeing the whole, the right perspective of life. I was only seeing part. I had LEFT NEGLECTED GOD.
I am so sorry I left neglected the priorities of God in my past. I am so sorry I focused on career above family, on pride instead of prayer, on balancing a list instead of the Bible. I regret that I saw my life valued ONLY in terms of how many things I had to do that day rather than how much God was leading me to do for His glory.
I am so grateful God stuck it out with me and created an amazingly good thing out of a bad time.
I now love to attend church. I can't get enough of the Bible. I relish being around sisters in Christ and hearing their stories.
What about you? Do you have a million things to do today?
I pray not.
For His Glory,
Thursday, August 4, 2011
We all know about the amazing story of Thomas Edison.
Or at least I thought I did until today.
My husband came home from a conference fired up with ideas and stories which signaled to me it was a good conference for a change.
One of the stories shared was that the light bulb had been invented 70 YEARS BEFORE Edison got ahold of it.
The problem with the light bulb was that it was TOO BRIGHT to use in homes. It was so bright it would be used to illuminate mines or other such places of extreme darkness, but not homes.
For 70 years, inventors worked with it to make the invention work for the average home.
Then Thomas Edison, genius, came along and vowed to make it work within three months.
We know his response to repeated failures as well. Something like I now know 5000 ways it doesn't work rather than looking at 5000 failures.
But what I did not know was that Edison then gathered a team of experts, other brilliant people, and worked once more on the project. Within nine months, the lightbulb was "invented."
Seventy years. Three months. No success.
Seventy years. Nine months. Success.
The difference, of course, for the speaker at the conference was TEAMWORK. Surrounding ones self with brilliant, dedicated folks makes a difference.
The work place is not the only area where having others with you is deemed as important. Jesus spoke of this in the Bible, the importance of being a member of the body of believers. It is not only important to the individual but also to the entire body.
When one part of the body hurts, the entire body tends to focus on it. I know when I stub my toe, my entire body can think of nothing else but finding relief, and quickly!
Likewise, the body of believers must lift each other up, when hurting, when healing, when grieving, when celebrating. We are to encourage one another in Christ. We grow in our faith around other believers.
Where two or three are gathered in my name....I will be there. Jesus reminded us before He sent His Holy Spirit how important it was to be with other Christians.
This does not mean we worship or focus only on others. We are, after all, only human, and we have many faults, and like Edison, failures, no matter how talented or smart we think we are.
Yet, it is important as a matter of faith to see ourselves as members of one body, helping each other, not isolated, just as my toe or finger or hand can not be isolated effectively from my body.
So, thanks to the Edison story, I have yet another analogy for my old brain to consider. I look forward to meeting with my sisters in Christ, to attending church this Sunday, and to Bible study as a family.
Who knows what amazing insights may come as a result? Eh, Edison?
For His Glory,
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The above clip showing the prank of a lady acting like she is talking to herself and then asking people to take a polaroid picture of her and her "invisible" friend, after previously putting in a picture of someone posing with her, is one that has given lots of people laughs. The look on their faces after seeing a picture of an actual person posing with her when they thought they were just humoring a crazy lady is, as they say, priceless.
Have you ever been caught though talking to God in public? I wonder how many people would think us crazy as we pray and talk to God as we go about our grocery shopping, our work, our errands?
But the picture is real. Unlike the prank, we are talking to a real Being.
God says, "I will never leave you or foresake you."
He is "the Alpha and Omega."
Next time someone asks, "Are you talking to yourself?"
Offer them a snapshot of God, won't you? It is a picture worth a thousand words in their eternity.
For His Glory,