Add it to the list…

Some of you might have noticed that my posting schedule has been a bit erratic this month. There’s a really good reason. In addition to some travel time and the attendant “catching up” that naturally has to occur after such trips away, I’ve been dealing with the after-effects of a run in with poison oak from earlier in the month. I’m quite susceptible to the nasty stuff and quite frankly, it can be a bit difficult to sit still and think about what words to put on the screen when you’re itching like mad.

I’ve had the same issue with these little three-leaved plant monsters since I was a child. As an adult, I’ve made it my mission to hunt out and eradicate it from every yard we’ve owned. I’ve been diligent as I’ve done something similar to grid-by-grid searches with my trusty spray bottle of Brush-B-Gone. (Yes, I’m serious! I’m not wasting my time with something designed to kill only a simple weed! This stuff must be banished from the face of the earth!)

Apparently, I missed some. Even more to the point, I apparently hit it with the weed eater or the lawn mower…twice in the same month! In fact, as I was celebrating that I could once more be out in the yard resuming my outside chores this past Friday, I was apparently dooming myself to another round of the same itchy-ness all over again.

I really do not get the purpose of poison oak or it’s similarly leafed little friend, poison ivy. I don’t get why some people can wrestle it out of the earth with impunity and others have such mind-occupying and medication-requiring reactions to the same little thing. In fact, I am adding that to the list. Yes, I’m adding that to the growing list of things I don’t understand. My list includes things like:

  • what was the real point behind creating kidney stones?
  • why did God create rodents and reptiles–if the rodents are to feed the reptiles and the reptiles are to clean out the rodents, couldn’t He just have left them both off the food chain?
  • why did He think mosquitoes were necessary?
  • why do we have to deal with things like cancer…or world hunger?
  • why isn’t there a litmus test to keep bad writers from putting really awful movie scripts and tv show plots down on paper to begin with and why doesn’t someone stop them from being put on film and distributed–and why does it seem we get more bad shows and movies than good these days? (we’ve got laws for everything else, why not this?!) (yes, this enforced confinement has landed me in front of the tv more than I’d have preferred!…SO grateful for DVDs of the good stuff!)
  • why do some people work harder at getting out of work or avoiding responsibilities than it would take to just do their jobs?
  • why can’t we develop a blood test to identify people who have no intention of honoring their marriage vows or supporting the children they helped to create?
  • why does the grocery store quit carrying an item…right after I’ve determined that it is my new “go-to” product of the ages?
  • why can’t late night hosts be more like Johnny Carson?

Some people I know have another list. Actually, it’s kind of like mine except they call it their “list of stuff they don’t understand that they’re going to ask God about when they see Him”. That always make me laugh…like they’re really going to keep track and take God to task for doing things differently than they would.

I’m fortunate enough to know that my list of things I don’t understand is WAY shorter than my list of things I have to be grateful for and that I actually have friends who are smart enough to answer some of those questions for me. For example, I’m pretty certain that my friend Robert Smith over at could answer the rodent/reptile thing for me, but for now, I’m choosing to be grateful that both of those things are extremely limited on my little piece of the planet!

As I’ve been occupied with reducing the itching and trying to adjust to the mind-wandering effects of the meds, I’ve also been reminded of the following Scripture verse:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 21-23 (NIV)

How grateful I am that God’s Word has a place in my mind that not even the distractions of poison oak can eradicate!  I think I’ll add that to the list, as well–the list of things for which I am thankful!

Amazon Prayer Warriors and other gifts

I was headed west last Saturday surrounded by friends whose laughter and our common histories bind us forever.  We were headed toward the Mississippi Delta for a day of B.B. King, mile-high coconut pie, gourmet food and shopping.  We found all of that…and more.

When we’re all together, we have quite the talent for having several conversations going and still being attuned to those others around us.  It’s not unusual for someone to suddenly jump into a conversation being held across the room…and then hop right back into the one they were originally participating in at the start.  Our conversations were wide-ranging and often hysterical.  We really crack ourselves up.

Since our time together at Mississippi University for Women, this has been a very tight-knit group.  We’ve made it a point to maintain our relationships and we do that by getting together at least once a year “just us girls” and, if we’re fortunate, we also come together at least once with as many accompanying husbands, children and friends as can make it.  The “kids” range in age from 21-12 and act like they’re related even though there isn’t a speck of shared blood in the whole group.  They, like us, pick up conversations in mid-stream…left over from the last time they saw each other.  In another odd twist, they’ve often been the ones to insist that WE were being too loud!  That always makes us laugh…and then we get louder.

This year, due to multiple schedule conflicts, our long weekend together turned into a day trip.  Although small in number this year–only four of us–we carried the hearts of a much larger group of women, and our conversations naturally included various updates about the rest of the line.  The members of the line are numbered 1-12 and we go by our numbers as much as by our names.  I am #7.

In one of our conversations, my #12 and I talked about our gratitude for the strong women God has placed in our lives.  Far from being intimidated, we’ve learned to welcome women with opinions and a strong sense of self.  We value the strength that comes from life experiences…some of which match our own and others that do not.  We spoke of how grateful we are that God has surrounded by these friends from our college days and also by others who have many of the same characteristics and strengths.

I’ve thought of that conversation a lot this week.  You see, I’ve been particularly blessed by the number of strong women in my life.  These are women of Godly character who are not afraid to love and live out loud wherever they find themselves.  Although I may not see them with regularity, I am always aware that they are a simple phone call, text or email away.  These are the women God has given to me as gifts during different portions of my life.  They have been through the fire and they are strong.  They are survivors.  They are humble and yet they are like amazing Amazon prayer warriors of the highest order.

According to Greek mythology–which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Scripture! (grin)–the Amazons were a nation of powerful warrior women.  Like those mythical warriors, these strong women in my life are the ones to have on your side whether you’re in the midst of a trial or in need of a really good laugh.  They are the women to do the faith life with in style.  These are the ones I know will pray for me and for my family.  They will even go to battle in prayer for those they do not know simply because I ask.  Israel’s King David had his mighty men of valor…and I am graced with these warrior women of faith.

For these strong women of faith and the many gifts that they have added to my life…I am filled with gratitude.  I am amazed by their friendships and blessed by their lives.  I am the most blessed person I know…wow, God!  What abundance you have given to me!

For your weekend…

Short and sweet.  Here’s your challenge for the weekend:  Smile really big and say, “Have a nice day!” to at least 10 people you do not already know this weekend.

See what a difference your smile can make in the world around you!  (Unless you have a ‘scary smile’ like Sheldon…and if that’s the case, skip the smile and just tell people to “have a nice day!”)

Grace & Peace!

Just like trying to eat an entire watermelon through a straw…

Due to recent events that have made the national news, I’ve been doing some thinking about racism.  I’ve stayed quiet about it because there has seemed to be no realistic way to address the issue and make a difference on a national scale—and if you can’t make a big difference, then why even try?  (Yes, I know.  I’ll come back to that one.)

I was having a conversation the other day with my sister who related a story about being in a local convenience store.  She was standing in line waiting to pay for her gas when another person nearby began to insist that she move up ahead of him…not simply out of good manners or in order to do a kind deed, but because he didn’t want her behind him.  He was open in his disdain for her…as a white person.  In fact, he openly stated that he “hated white people.”

That’s hard for the two of us to understand—for many reasons. One, because we were taught not to hate anyone.  Two, because the majority of the children my sister has taught over the years have not been of her race and she has loved on all of them.  Three, just the idea of hating an entire set of people—especially for any reason that is beyond their control!—seems more than a little unbalanced, to say the least.  The list goes on and on…

I’ve thought about that conversation a great deal this week.  Each time, I end up shaking my head and wondering how that young man came to that conclusion.  Who taught him that?  I’m aware that the Southern United States has had a reputation for racism…and my own state has been, perhaps, the one most singled out for this particular sin.  The idea, however, of lumping an entire group of people into a category for hatred—no matter which “side” you’re on…well, that just amazes me.  I’m happy to say that I just can’t fathom the idea of that as a rational choice at all.

Aside from the rational thought process, I have to say that racism is just about as productive as trying to eat an entire watermelon through a straw…although I’m sure it’s possible if you’re determined enough, you’ll look pretty silly in the attempt.  There are simply much better ways of dealing with the situation.  Thankfully, that particular situation doesn’t reflect the norm around here.  In fact, I’ve seen several other people (of all different nationalities and skin colors) go out of their way to be more polite and smile as they greeted each other this past week.  That tells me that I’m not alone in thinking that racism isn’t a viable option.

Scripture tells me that I am COMMANDED to love everyone.  That doesn’t mean that I will like every one I meet or that I will agree with all of their decisions/actions.  It means that I am to have an attitude of love toward the other people God has created regardless of any other factor and that love should come out in the way I interact with them.  I can really appreciate that John spells it all out pretty plainly here–he did not say, “love the ones who look like you”…in fact, he said:

“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

“Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3: 10b, 11, 18

Then there’s the practical side of things.  Since I believe that God is deliberately involved in the lives of each of His creations, the idea that He just randomly assigned skin colors doesn’t make sense to me.  In fact, I think He was so deliberate in His creation of each of us that our skin colors are simply the result of a decision that might have gone something like this:  “Becky (or whatever your name is—insert it here!) can glorify me most by being born here, in this color, to these people, in this place, at this time.”  I mean, seriously, if He’s going to keep count of the number of hairs on our heads as it says in Matthew 10:33 and Luke 12:7, do you really think He just randomly assigned everything else about us?!  Get real.

What that means is that if you’re having a problem with someone (or a whole group of someones!) simply because of their skin color, then your real beef is with God.  Yes, God.  The same God that made you also made them!  He could just as easily chosen to create you just like them or put you in their circumstance.  Oh, yeah.  Think about THAT the next time you get mad at someone for something God chose to do! (grin)

As for not making a difference on the national level…well, yes, that was a silly statement, too.  As always, ideas, opinions, etc. don’t make it to the national level until they’ve been made the norm on the personal level.  What can we all do to affect this–or any other issue?  Pursue our personal relationship with God like it’s the only one that matters.  If we’re all doing that, our relationships with others can’t help but be a better reflection of the love and grace that is found only in Him.

But, if you’re going to waste your energy actually hating a whole group of people, go ahead an try that watermelon thing, too.  You’ll wear yourself out, be just as productive and look just as stupid, but at least you’ll have a slight chance to leave with a great taste in your mouth…and I don’t think racism/hatred will do even that for you.

Seeing and being seen…

Oh, how I needed yesterday!  After being out the past three weekends for various reasons, I was back.  Back where?  In church.  My home church.

It was good to see the faces of those I love and meet new ones.  It was good to hear my pastor’s words in the morning and listen to the two young women who have been busy doing mission work in Africa in the evening.  It was good.  What was great about being there was just being surrounded by other people who love God and aren’t afraid to show that every day of their lives.  All of us together:  the young and the old, the ones who’ve been in church their whole lives and the ones who are brand new to it all, the passionate and the restrained, the teachers and students, doctors and executives, a new personal chef friend we met at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday who sat beside us for worship, salespeople, active children and retired military, housewives and the unemployed-but-still-serving individuals.

God doesn’t see us that way, you know.  I mean, yes, He’s aware of what we do here on earth, but He doesn’t categorize us by our professions or our bank balances.  He sees us.  He sees you.

There’s a difference, you know, in seeing and in being seen.  You can be aware of the presence of someone without really noticing the important things about them or knowing the way they’re really feeling at the moment.  We’ve made that phrase be all about the purely social aspect of being present at a given place…usually one of social prominence.  When God sees us, it’s not about that at all.

Whether we’re comfortable with the idea or not, God sees the heart inside of us.  He sees the one that beats to give us life and the metaphorical one, also…the one that either beats for Him…or doesn’t.  He knows.  He knows when we’re just barely getting by and when we’re hanging on by the tips of our fingernails and He knows when we’re so busy that we’ve placed our priorities out of order…and He knows the when and the why and the how it all happened, as well.  God sees you.  He sees you personally.  He knows what you need and He knows exactly what it’s going to take for you to get to the point where you know that all you really need is Him.

He’s polite.  Not pushy.  He won’t overwhelm your defences and demand that you choose Him first.  He will, however, doggedly pursue you right up until the last possible second in order to show His great love for you.

Why?  Because He sees you–and because He looks at you with a heart full of unconditional love and when He does that, He sees you not only right where/as you are…He sees what your possibilities are…and you know what?  He thinks you’re something really special.

For your weekend…

The rain has passed and the sun is out and understanding how anyone can look at a day this beautiful–or any other one!–and think that there is no God is beyond me!

So far, I’ve taken breakfast to a family who is experiencing great loss, prayed for friends who are going through difficult times today, changed out the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder so my little feathered friends won’t be flying while intoxicated and collected the trash, along with a few other housekeeping missions.  Now it is time to get out into the yard and tackle the grass that has magically turned the rain into think green inches of turf…or jungle…depending on which portion of the yard you’re seeing!

I know everyone is really busy, but I’m passing along a couple of great blog posts that have come my way this past few days.  They’re too great NOT to share and I hope you’ll take the time to check them out:

Thought-provoking…and action-inducing…at least over here!

A timely word as I seek to apply grace to myself–and, oh how I hope you’ll do the same at your house!

One final challenge for you?  Take at least 10 minutes out of your schedule and listen to some really great music this weekend?  Oldies, rock, praise or classical–your choice!  Whatever makes you happy!  After all, I think God designed summer for living out loud!  That means pick your favorites and turn up the volume!

And remember THISGod loves you really BIG!!!!!!!

Grace & Peace!

It’s a Morton’s salt kind of day…

Matthew 5:45 tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  What it doesn’t tell you is that when the drain outside gets blocked with grass and debris, the rain backs up into the garage and flows into the workshop.

Yes, that’s the way today started.  Fun, fun, fun.  Not.

We have a drain that is supposed to take the excess water out into the yard and further down the hill.  It works great…right up until it doesn’t.  What I’ve noticed is that it’s rarely clogged up with really big things.  It’s not the giant magnolia leaves from the nighbor’s yard that get in the way or even the larger oak leaves from the trees nearby.  No, it tends to be lots and lots of little things that build up over time.  It’s usually the teeny, tiny little blades of cut grass that escaped the blower or little leaves that drop from the rose bushes nearby.  Those things don’t even have to land directly on the grid covering the drain to become a problem.  They can just land nearby and then get caught up and clumped together when there’s a sudden downpour.

Life is just like that.

Yes, life is just like that.  We tend to think that the little things don’t matter as much as the big ones, but when they land in a pile and start to stack up… They can suddenly look pretty big and we can find ourselves in the middle of a really nasty mess.

Sin is like that, too.

We may decide that we can just let that ‘little thing’ slide…that attitude, that selfish thought, that word you really ought not use in polite company–or anywhere else!–but it still runs through your mind occasionally, that whatever-little-thing-it-is-that usually-plagues-you.  After all, it’s just a little thing.

Hmmmm…little things.  Seems like I remember that God has something to say about those, as well:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  Luke 16:10 (NLT)

Sounds like we all need to keep a closer eye on those little things, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, I’m also keeping a close eye on that drain because the Weather Channel says that we’re in for some more rain…and, you know, “when it rains, it pours.”  (big grin…and yes, I know…that one’s really bad.  even bigger grin)

Hello, again! (more than just a Neil Diamond song!)

It’s been a week–a whole week–since I’ve posted and I have to tell you that I really needed it.  Sometimes there are just too many words inside my head and it’s a good idea to step back and just be quiet.

Quiet.  It seems that I’ve become a bit obsessed with this word here of late.  There are worse things to become obsessed with, I’d guess.  I think it is because our whole society has become so loud that I’ve been made more aware of the need for the discipline of deliberate quiet in my life.

In my week of self-imposed silence here, I’ve traveled almost 800 miles, spent days with relatives, pretty much ignored Facebook (oh, my!), responded only to the most critical of emails, caught up on the tremendous pile of magazines that had gone unread, cleaned out even more closet space, rearranged my pantry a bit, collected a tremendous pile for donation and moved the furniture around to within an inch of its inanimate life.  I’ve scoured distant antique shops for items to be “re-imagined” in our business offerings, wandered through bookstores (luxury!), read online articles that challenged and entertained me, sent only 7 texts and, mainly, spoken only with those I’ve been related to by blood or marriage.

I’ve had time for some introspection—some of which I took the time to do and some of which I ignored in favor of just silence.  Mental, spiritual, emotional silence.

It’s been as close to a vacation as I think I’ll get this year.

I needed it.

It wasn’t about the travel or even the time with relatives so much as just the needed unplugging from the routine.

It may not sound super-spiritual, but I tell you that it definitely helped me.  And who said everything we needed to do was supposed to be “super-spiritual” anyway?  (grin)  Because I’m aware that there is no space between the sacred and the secular in the life of one who loves God, I’m a firm believer that there are times when the commonplace must take precedence in the schedule in order to allow the hallowed aspects of just breathing in and out to become more apparent.  Failure to do this grants equal footing to both the trivial and the essential… and when that happens, the truly valuable things can’t be given their proper acknowledgement.

I cannot say that I am more balanced or centered as a result of this past week.  I’m not entirely certain I was un-balanced before it began.  (Others may differ with me here!–smile)  However, I can tell you that I more aware of my own need for rest and I intend to pursue a schedule that will allow me to have some time of mental rest on a more regular basis.  If nothing else, this is a vital change for me.

I am more determined than ever to utilize the “no” in order to be available to say the “yes” when it is necessary.  I am further resolved that the determination of when something is necessary will not be dependent on the heat of the moment, but rather on what God has to say about the matter—and what He’s already had to say about what is supposed to be my focus in this life.  Imagine it with me:  the pursuit of what God says is important for me (and you!) to do with the one life we’ve been given.  I think I’d lost sight of that for awhile.   While there are definitely areas of commonality in our respective missions, we’ve each been given gifts—and instructions!–that are just for us.  These are the gifts and instructions that are given with the intent of enriching our own individual lives…and by extension, the lives of those who love us and share this time and place with us.

Oh, the things you find when you aren’t really looking for them…

(and now, I’m off to do some of those things…and I’ll be trying not to sing like Neil Diamond in my head as I go…)

Still worth fighting for?

This time of year always touches my heart–and my emotions.  I was raised to believe that I lived in the greatest country on the face of the earth.  I still think that.  Though there is much about my country that I would wish to be different, I remain a proud citizen of the United States of America.

I know that there are a lot of people who view this as a great holiday, but they’re not really aware of what they’re celebrating.  If you’re one of those people, take a look at the following documents.  If you’ve already read them, read them again.  Now, more than ever, we need to be aware of our political heritage.  We need to be aware of how our nation started, aware of how far we’ve come, aware of how far we’ve strayed from the original intent and we need to know that the ideals that our founding fathers set down in these writings are still worth defending today.

The Declaration of Independence:

The Constitution of the United States of America:

The Bill of Rights:

Still worth fighting for?  Absolutely.

I’m taking the rest of the week to celebrate with family and friends.  I wish you a happy and healthy Independence Day celebration and pray that you will be inspired by the writings and the ideals in the documents above to make a difference wherever you live.

God Bless America (lyrics by Irving Berlin)

God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.