Friday, May 5, 2017

Bottle of Oil Never Ran Out

Sometimes I wonder if it is wrong to try to apply every single scripture I read to my own life instead of just reading it for what it is in a historical context and applying it generally to the world. I mean, I feel like I SHOULD be trying to apply spiritual truths learned in scripture to my own life, but what I feel like I'm trying to say is that I am so self-centered, I think everything is about ME.  And I don't think that is the best viewpoint in life.  It would serve me better to be a listener than to switch everything I hear and read and want to tell my own story about the same topic or idea.  I need to listen with the intent to UNDERSTAND instead of the intent to REPLY.

Nevertheless, my post today is about a prophet in the old testament. And I'm gonna do it again--try to apply a miracle of long-ago to my present situation.
In 1 Kings 17, the story of Elijah and a destitute widowed woman gathering firewood. Elijah goes to this woman and asks her to give him water and a little something to eat.
12 She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it! (MSG)
The widow doesn't even have a name. How sad is that? She had lost her husband, had the responsibility of providing for herself and her son, but she had no food, income, or hope of a future while the whole country is in a drought. She is ready for death.
And then a prophet comes along and tells her, "Don't worry about a thing." Just make me a biscuit and God will provide. Right.
She obeyed.
God fulfilled his promise to her just as Elijah said He would.

Sometimes at work I feel like I'm gonna die, that I've reached the end of my rope.  I feel like I come in with my very best, but that my best isn't good enough. I feel like I give and give and yet in return I get punished. I feel that I don't have enough power to manage those I've been given responsibility to educate, and more and more frequently I want to walk out the door and never return.

And then I read a passage in my quiet time like the one above.  The widow was working til she fixed the very last thing she had left to give when God made a way for her. She had to make one last biscuit and give it away before preparing for herself and her son, and then God took care of her needs for ever after, Amen.
Ok, I know I am not a widow. I'm not starving and jobless.  There isn't a drought.  But I can't help but want to see myself as a struggling woman in need of rescue.  And perhaps I am being told to work one more year (make one more biscuit for someone else), and then God will provide me with what I need.
Like I said, I know it is out of context.  God didn't promise it to me.   But I feel like He is big enough that if I ask Him for the help, He is able to provide it. He did it for her, he can do it for me.

In James 1, the bible says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask of God, who gives to all liberally.  I don't want to work at my current job anymore. The struggle is real. I'm not handling it well. I'm bitter against my husband for not making enough that we could survive and thrive without my income. I'm taking meds, my back hurts, I'm sleeping alot and eating even more. I've gained 10 pounds in the last month alone.
God, please help me. Give me wisdom, direction, and a promise to hold on to if I have to stay in my current situation. I need help. For real. I'm hurting. I'm scared. I'm bitter.

Image: https://img.clipartfest.com/352b15958859c0923437187a56f621a3_the-woman-uses-the-last-of-her-elijah-character-clipart-set_1024-768.jpeg

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Careful Living: Not as Unwise, but as Wise

King Solomon spared no expense to build a temple for God. He made sacrifices three times a year at the temple. 1 Kings describes the worship scene honoring God for weeks. 
And then King Solomon blew it.
1 Kings 11 (MSG) records:
6-8 Solomon openly defied God; he did not follow in his father David’s footsteps. He went on to build a sacred shrine to Chemosh, the horrible god of Moab, and to Molech, the horrible god of the Ammonites, on a hill just east of Jerusalem. He built similar shrines for all his foreign wives, who then polluted the countryside with the smoke and stench of their sacrifices.9-10 God was furious with Solomon for abandoning the God of Israel, the God who had twice appeared to him and had so clearly commanded him not to fool around with other gods. Solomon faithlessly disobeyed God’s orders.
How easy is it to take our eyes off of the One our heart loves! 
A warning and reminder in the New Testament is in Ephesians 5 (NIV):
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, I think having my quiet time reading and praying in the mornings helps me get re-centered.  It also helps to listen to praise music that "brings me before the throne room", so to speak, reminding me of the amazing personal relationship I have with the Lover of my Soul, and friends who pray, reach, and touch my life with encouraging words and service all help me to remember who I am and Whose I am. 

Lord, help me to remember your love for me in a tangible and present way.  Help me to be that Godly friend who prays for others and gives encouraging words and touches.  Help me to be the salt and light in this very dark and hopeless world that so many people flounder in. Forgive me of my sins. Cleanse my heart. Guide my path. Hug me. Hold me. Fill me. Use me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falsely Accused

Once upon a time, there was a righteous dude named Ahimelech. He was minding his own business, doing a fine job as a priest in a place called Nob. During this time, David had already killed Goliath, was best friends with Jonathan, the king's son, was married to the king's daughter, and was well-liked by e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e,                         except King Saul. King Saul was jealous of David. 
The story is told in 1 Samuel 22 that a gossipy scoundrel named Doeg the Edomite told King Saul that the Priest Ahimelech helped David out by giving him bread and the sword of Goliath while David was on the run.  Of course, Ahimelech, being a normal priest and being about the things of God--not gossip about the royals--had no idea that King Saul was upset with his son-in-law David.  Ahimelech prayed for David and blessed him. Instead of butting in and warning Ahimelech that David was not on good terms, Doeg went and told King Saul on him. Ahimelech told Saul he was innocent and had no idea--and was in fact fully believing he was being a blessing to the King by his actions. But no dice.  Doeg killed Ahimelech, all the priests of Nob and their wives and children and animals. Doeg wasn't just a tattle-tail, he was a murderer. Evil. 

I've never had anyone accuse me falsely to this degree.  I CANNOT possibly relate to that.  But I have repeatedly been misunderstood and falsely accused. And it stinks. It makes me so angry. My pride is injured and I cry out for justice. The Bible is full of stories of things I can sympathize with. But answers? Wow. Ahimelech never got a gold star for being sweet and helpful. Instead he got death. 
Time to count my blessings. 
Could be worse.
God, grant me the wisdom to understand your word better. Help me to see beyond the words on the page to the Holy Father, the Master Creator, the Loving Bridgroom. Help me to see from your perspective instead of filtering everything through my selfish eyes.  Help me to better sympathize with others when they are hurting from being falsely accused.

ImageAhimelech Gives David the Shewbread by Votive Interiors Commons http://votiveinteriors.commons.bgc.bard.edu/ahimelech-gives-david-the-shewbread/ 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Crusty Crumbs Without Prayer

"The bread was warm from the oven when we packed it--and now it is crusty and crumbs."  So said the Gibeonites to the leaders of Israel in Joshua 8.
14 The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn’t ask God about it.
And so the decision was made and consequences followed because the Israelites looked with earthly eyes and trusted their fellow man WITHOUT ASKING GOD ABOUT IT.

"I don't want to be here.  I want to walk out the door and never come back.  I'm so tired of being treated rudely by 12-year-olds."  That was me last Friday at work. I was so frustrated.  I still am. 
But acting on that desire to walk out the door and never returning would mean a whole lot of changes that I'm not prepared to face, yet. I've heard myself saying over and over that I want to quit my job.  I can't stand the rude and disobedient children and the powers that be allow this type of behavior to continue. We teachers are stuck with our hands behind our back without power as we watch the overall discipline in our classrooms go down the toilet. The message is getting clearer day-by-day: no consequences if we misbehave.  We might as well misbehave and have fun while we are at it.

And I am stuck feeling powerless and like an old biddy telling people to walk on the right and get off the grass.  This is the first year in 28 that I haven't regularly and immediately told kids to spit out their gum. It isn't worth the battle.

But I'm really good at what I do.  I feel like I am needed by the younger teachers, by the students, and by the parents of my students. I am a rock in a mire. But I'm starting to sink, myself. I am seeking options.  Where can I go that I am wanted, appreciated, and supported? I've complained to a dozen others and asked for advice, but there is no peace.

Last Saturday I had breakfast with a friend named Jackie.  We were discussing a church in Mississippi that had gone through a split over the losing/hiring of a pastor. Jackie said one of the men she knew said he would NEVER vote in support of the recommendation of the pastoral search committee.  I quickly made the comment that I would go find another church instead of voting NO and not supporting the new pastor.  
Later Saturday night I was walking the dog when it dawned on me that I was acting like the NO-voter.  I was bucking the system and NEW status quo.  I was the old biddy with outdated expectations, while all the new administration and new teachers just let it roll and allow it.  Their standards are different.  Perhaps I need to go and find another church work environment that isn't as progressive.  I'm kicking against the goads. And I'm only hurting my own feet. I'm the one who is bothered--so why don't I get out instead of complaining about the administration.  It is the new way of things, and I am the old.  I need to shut up or ship out. My attitude should be one of support, not sabotage. Or find a different ship--one that appreciates old school values and expectations.

I just don't know what to do.

So when I read the above passage in Joshua 8 about the people making decisions and deals with others by checking out outside appearances such as crusty crumbs of bread without petitioning wisdom and direction from the King of the Universe, I had to pause.

Dear God, please help me to not make the same mistake as the Israelite leaders--to make decisions based on influence of others and distorted images.  I want to be pleasing to you, but I am hurting on the inside.  I don't want to feel used and taken advantage of and unappreciated. I don't know what to do about it.  Should I sit down and try to talk with my superiors to try to influence their support? Should I fill out a resume and practice my interviewing skills, should I grumble and gossip and complain all day every day? 

I want to go to Africa and see if my skills couldn't be helpful to those who are hurting and in need. 

God, you know how many hairs are on my head.  You know which ones are brown, blonde, and gray.  You know my heart.  You love me.  You love me so much that you sent Jesus to pay the price for my sins and give me the opportunity to live with you and for you. And now I need help.  What is best for me? Guide and direct my steps, my vision, my way. Help me to be submissive and respectful to those in authority over me and to be a good leader watching over those entrusted in my care. Forgive me for my bitterness, resentment, and gossiping. 
You say in your word, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and without scolding. James 1
You say Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you, Come near to God, and he will come near to you. James 4
"If it is the Lord's will, we will do this or that." James 4:15
Ok, Lord. Whatever you will.  I'm gonna try to follow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

60 Days to 50

COUNTING DOWN:

Days until I turn 50 years old.

I want to celebrate by doing something special or different every day for the 50 days leading up to my birthday.  I feel like 50 represents the start of the second half of my life--seeing as both Mamamarge and Peep both lived a century.
So, I need to MAKE A PLAN.  I've got 10 days left to create my plan and come up with a strategy.  I'm thinking of possibly WALKING somewhere different every day for 50 days, tracking on a map, and making it more special by inviting different people to join me each day.  It would celebrate friendships, taking care of my body, and experiencing new paths. Yep. That's it. I need to set up a special calendar and invite people to SIGN UP to join me on my little adventure. I also need to have some kind of fall back strategy for bad weather and sick days. I've got 10 days to get this in place.

Image By: Party Mania.es https://www.partymania.es

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where is My Guest Room?

Mark 14: 13-16 (MSG)
13-15 He directed two of his disciples, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him. Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, ‘The Teacher wants to know, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare for us there.”
16 The disciples left, came to the city, found everything just as he had told them, and prepared the Passover meal.
In my quiet time this morning, I read about the Last Supper. Instead of focusing on the betrayal of Jesus, I found myself stuck on the scene prior to the  Passover Meal being prepared.  Jesus told two disciples to go into the city and find a man carrying a water jug. Tell the owner of the house he enters that Jesus wants to know where is the guest room for he and his disciples to eat Passover.

I imagine being that guy. Do I have my life in order to where I would be able to respond readily when a stranger asks me for a cup of water, a pair of shoes, a warm coat, a package of feminine hygiene products?

Scripture: https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/old-new-testament/today?version=MSG 
Image: Upper Room 2 Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land  http://www.kalamation.com/HolyLand/upperroom.htmlhttp://www.kalamation.com/HolyLand/upperroom.html 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Muddy Servant's Heart & A Mother's Answered Prayer

It is with great joy that I record the answered prayer of last Saturday's serving opportunity.
I had invited several ladies to come and sew for the day.  (We are making sanitary pads to send overseas.) One of the ladies is raising her 14-year-old grandson,  due to the instability of his parents--both of whom are not even living in the state. The teen has had some serious struggles in his young life. I found out Saturday morning that J.T. would be coming with his grandmother for the day.
I spent Saturday morning cleaning the house and getting ready for company. When Ben awoke, I approached him about the opportunity of taking the teenager with him on his errands and out to the farm. Knowing that Ben wouldn't be enthusiastic about having a younger boy tag along, I tried to impress on him that thought that this 14-year-old boy would be stuck in the house with 6 grandmas all day sewing sanitary pads--and to think how he'd feel in the same situation! I told Ben that it was his choice, but it would mean so much to me if he would consider ministering to him.
Early Saturday morning, I made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up toilet paper and pie shells--for the chicken pot pie. All the way there and back, I was reminded of an encounter I had with an Iranian substitute at school Friday--who is a Christian. Mrs. Kazerounian was telling me how she was learning to PRAY in faith, claiming the power of God in what she was asking of Him.  So with that in mind, I decided to try to pray in faith that Ben would take J.T.
Praying in faith.  I know this might sound strange, as I have been a Christian for nearly 40 years, but when I think of claiming scripture and praying in faith that God would do what I ask, I feel like "Who am I to demand God answer my prayer?" It feels proud and presumptuous.
But I decided to try, even though I was a bit nervous the whole time.
I started praying God would move in Ben's heart to take J.T. out for the day. I tried to think of scriptures I could claim. I told God that I had raised Ben with the knowledge of service and He promised that if we raise our children up in the way they should go, it will not depart from them. I told God I knew He had a very special place in His heart for widows and orphans, and that J.T. could be considered an orphan, since his parents had both failed him. And whatever was done to the least of these, my brethren, it was being done for God. And I knew that Ben taking J.T. out for the day was something that lined up with His will and would bring Him good pleasure, so to please work in Ben's heart to make it so.
Ben was gone running errands when all of the ladies arrived to sew around 10:00 am. But before the day was done, Ben came back home, took J.T. out to the farm, gave him some boots to wear, and took him riding on the 4-wheelers in the mud. J.T. came back all muddy and happy.

This mama's heart was filled with pride and joy. I feel like it is more important for Ben to take a younger man under his wing for the day than to make an A on a test.
And God answered my demanding prayer. Amen.

Image: by David Blaikie No Muddy Boots In The Pub  https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3239/2350180402_de44fca70c_z.jpg?zz=1 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Jesus Never Fails

I heard this song in the car on the way to work yesterday. Ahhhh.... Brought me to tears.  I love the fact that even when I may feel all yucky and unstable on the inside, my hope doesn't depend on my own perspective. Jesus Never Fails.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Dark Side

I've heard it said that in current society, social media portrays a skewed sense of reality.  People only post what they want you to think about themselves.
So tonight I'm posting the Dark Side. It has been a melancholy day and I'm ending it with a Chromebook in my lap and a glass of amaretto sour. I don't typically drink alcohol, but am so wanting to have a good cry . . . perhaps it may help.

This morning was the Missions Fair at Shandon Baptist Church. I had a booth for the Ladies Sewing Project. This meant that I put out a display with quilts and a sewing machine and shared what we are dong with the pads.  I also spoke in a Sunday school class.

But it was also a day when Jim was leaving for Africa for 2 weeks. 

So I kissed him goodbye and headed to church. Ben would take him to the airport. As I was standing at my booth waiting for people to walk up, I checked fb and This Popped Up:

Mamamarge passed away 5 years ago. She was my biggest cheerleader in life.

My dog Fred has been sick for the last 6 months. This week Jim took him to the vet and then the specialist vet, and $1500 later, we find out he has bone marrow cancer. I've been cleaning up throw up for months. Last week I spent hours creating blankets made out of pee pee pads to put on all the couches and bed to protect the furniture.  I've been sick with a cold most of the past week, so I haven't done much of anything except sleep. My nose has been running, my head and stomach both hurt. I was mad at my husband for hurting my feelings most of the week. Finally forgave him yesterday. I've got guilt that I didn't help him more in his preparations to go to Africa. I've got resentment that I don't get to go this year. I always thought this would be the year I would get to go. And here it is. 2017 and I'm home typing while he is flying. I don't want to work at Blythewood anymore, but I don't want to stay home and not work, either.
I haven't written a Thank You note to my dad and stepmom for Christmas, yet.
And I'm drinking alcohol alone at home alone. I haven't turned on the Superbowl because I just don't care. I took a bubble bath.
I'm sad.
I wish I could cry.
Darned Prozac steals my tears.
And yet, I really do love God. I want to please Him.
But I'm not feeling like a very good Christian tonight.
I'm just wanting to sit here in the big chair and close my eyes, and ask God to wrap his big old hands around me and hold me tight.
It is my Dark Side. It is real.
But His hands are, too.
Hold me, Father. I need you tonight. Amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Joseph Wasn't Bitter

Joseph's story from rags to riches amazes me.
He was his dad's favorite, and he knew it.
He bragged and boasted in his youth to the point that his brothers sold him as a slave and pretended to their father that Joseph was dead.
He worked for Potiphar until he became the most responsible servant in the big household.
He was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's conniving snake of a wife.
He was put into prison.
He interpreted dreams for influential servants and then promptly forgotten as years went by.
What astonishes me is Joseph's attitude--at least what we are given a glimpse of in scripture. When Pharaoh had his dreams and Joseph was quickly shaven, bathed, clothed, and rushed in, Joseph wasn't consumed with bitterness and resentment. He could have been. He could have wasted away in prison angry at his dad for setting him apart and making his brothers hate him. Angry at his brothers for selling him as a slave. Angry at Potiphar and his twisted wife for falsely accusing and imprisoning him---especially since he had been so faithful in their household! Angry at the cup-bearer for promising and then forgetting his agreement.
This is how Joseph responded to Pharaoh immediately after interpreting the dream:
Genesis 41 MSG
33-36 “So, Pharaoh needs to look for a wise and experienced man and put him in charge of the country. Then Pharaoh needs to appoint managers throughout the country of Egypt to organize it during the years of plenty. . . ."
Joseph didn't miss a beat. He was ready to advise the king of the land with the eyes of an experienced manager instead of mumble-grumbling and being consumed with bitterness at his repeated misfortune.
I know me.  I'm too much of a complainer.  I focus on the negative, the injustices, the unfairness of it all. Wow. How wrong it is to do so. I am setting myself up for missed opportunities and removing potential blessings toward others and myself.
Ephesians 4 NIV
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Remember Whose I am.
Lord, help me remember I am your child. Help me remember that I have been sealed for the day of redemption. Help me to not grieve Your Spirit by holding on to bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Help me to be kind and compassionate and yes, forgiving of others. Help me remember that You sent your son Jesus to die for them, too. You love them.
Scriptures from BibleGateway.com
Image from http://www.momstoolbox.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/img_2254.jpeg

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Mission--Not Ramblings

I eavesdropped and spied that Jim had flight prices listed on his notepad next to his laptop. It is the middle of January, after all, and he HAS gone to East Africa the last two years in February/March.
On the way to church yesterday, I asked him,
K: So, have you got any dates that you're looking at to go back to Africa?
J: February 5-18th or 19th.
Outwardly I nodded and encouraged him to talk more, which he didn't, of course.
Inwardly I gasped--that is in 3 weeks!!
K: Don't you think you should let the Sunday School class know? 
When he didn't tell the class during announcements (he IS the director, after all), I piped up and told him to tell the class what he was thinking of. Yeah. You gotta watch those quiet ones.

So how do I feel about this? That is the question for my personal blog. Typing stuff out really seems to help me get the thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head out of my system so I can do something with them.

For the last couple of years, I just knew that I would get to go to Africa with Jim in 2017.  It was even my password for computer sign-ins. Well, here it is, and I'm not going. I don't have a Visa.  I haven't had shots. I don't think I'd be much help to Jim in what he is planning to do. He is going to an Agricultural Symposium in Kenya with some others from With Open Eyes, and then he is splitting off to go with Pastor Benson to Tanzania to teach about agriculture techniques such as drip irrigation and soil conservation. He will probably be riding a motorbike out into the bush and sleeping out in the open for a few days with the pastor. I would totally be a hindrance and in the way. My gifts and talents wouldn't be utilized. For me it would just be an experience. A trip. NOT a mission.
It isn't the right time for me to go. He'll be gone for 2 weeks. I couldn't possibly ask for that much time off from school. And I am fine with that. When I do get to go, I want to have a purpose and a mission for going. I want to be exposed to stuff that I could get involved with and be a help toward.
Yes, I am sad and grieve just a little bit that I'm not going, when I have been hoping for two years. But I'm going to adjust and continue to prepare to be the person I would need to be when I DO get to go.
How am I preparing?
1. I'm trying to get healthier to prepare my body for the next 50 years.  I've been recording what I eat and counting calories.  I've been exercising at the gym regularly, including both cardio and weight-lifting. I'm using SparkPeople.com. If I were to go to work in a refugee camp in East Africa, I'll be walking everywhere, and this hefty 165-lb body just wouldn't be the best equipment for the job.

2. This is going to sound very funny to anyone who isn't a 50-year-old woman, but I'm letting my natural hair color come back in. I have highlighted and dyed it for years.  But the true gray is my current goal. The way I see it, if I retire and move to Africa, I won't be able to dye my hair each month, and I'll be two-toned for a year out there.  I might as well do it now when I can blend the two colors with streaks of highlights for a few months. And that is just what I've done. I started about October of 2015.  I'm more than half-way there. And I'm loving my hair. It is more ME. (Of course, being 20 lbs lighter than I was in 2015 has helped, too!)
3. I'm trying to memorize scripture.  I joined the Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2017 with Beth Moore/Living Foundations Ministry. My goal is to memorize one verse every 2 weeks.
4. I'm getting more involved in mentoring. There is a new teacher at school who has asked me to mentor her this year--and she is a delight to work with.  (She is challenging ME to work harder!) And I'm working with my church, which is starting up a new mentoring program for ladies. My first memory verse is actually all about this concept for me, it is 1 Peter 5:2 "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you have to, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;".
5. I'm making sanitary pads for the ladies in East Africa.  Not only am I sewing them, but I've organized monthly sewing groups at my church to enlist the help of others creating the pads. Getting the assistance of more women is opening the door for them to have the opportunity to get involved in missions with the gifts and abilities that they have, and it doesn't include leaving the country or spending money.  Here is my latest ad:

6. I've listed the hardest one last because I haven't done it or started it.  I'm a slacker and can't get my rear in gear, here. Last summer, I had an inspiration to scrapbook all of Ben's years through high school.  He is a senior, after all. I have everything in pre-sorted boxes and ready to go. I've done the first 5 years. I've cleaned off the kitchen table. I've made it a New Years Resolution. But I can't get in there and start! I can't sit down and get the paper under my fingers. And I LOVE to scrapbook. It is enjoyable. It relaxes me. It offers a lovely opportunity to glance back down memory lane. I get to be creative and design beautiful pages. But I can't get started. I confess. So there you have it.  All my goals, and my failure, too. I'm stuck in the off position.
And now my ramblings come to a close.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endless Summer Ramblings

Today's reading is in Genesis 37.
Joseph was seventeen.
I paused in my daily bible reading when I saw that number.  My son is seventeen.
I hesitate to record or publish anything damning toward him in my blog. It isn't right or fair to cast blame publicly of weaknesses. But I believe many teenagers have similar characteristics as they navigate adulthood and take on weightier responsibilities.
And I do wish to address my own insecurities as a mother.
Joseph was seventeen. His dad loved him more than all his siblings. He had a big mouth. His brothers hated him. And he was seventeen.
Did Jacob know he was actually hurting his other sons by favoring Joseph? Was it some subconscious identification with his own sibling relationship with Esau? Was it the way Jacob was favored by his mother Rebekah and not his father Isaac? So was he repeating the cycle, Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon?
And, thus, Joseph had an entitlement mentality, for real. Didn't he have the many-colored coat to prove it? He barged ahead in life without fear. He was seventeen. He was invincible.

I wonder if the way that I was raised has caused me to create an entitled and invincible offspring. My dad was authoritarian; my mom permissive. But I didn't live with my dad. I lived with my mom. She was so complacent in her child-rearing, that I longed for structure and parameters.
I believe this is one of the reasons why I felt so loved and cared for at Red Bridge Baptist Church when I started attending in seventh grade. Although they wouldn't admit it at the time, there were many legalistic expectations at that church. It was considered Fundamentalist and Conservative. I was loved and appreciated there. I learned some much-needed social parameters and acceptable etiquette. I developed some incredible relationships there.
For YEARS after leaving home in Kansas City I fought to find a balance in my personal journey of life between authoritarianism and permissiveness.
Here is a great example.  I know it may sound stupid to others, but it was a legitimate struggle for me.  When I was in 6th grade, I got a new stereo with a record player and 8-track. I owned 3 albums: Barry Manilow: Barry Manilow and This One's For You and Beach Boys: Endless Summer.  I wore those albums out.
When I started going to Red Bridge Baptist in 7th grade, I had just become a Christian at Youth For Christ Camp in the summer of '79. I found the church by asking the people I babysat for if I could go to church with them, since they had a God-plaque on their wall, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." But that was it. I tried to attend the church and be faithful to God's leading in my life. It was a struggle. That is an understatement.

My mom was raised in a wonderful Christian home and attended an amazing church--Linwood Presbyterian. She memorized chapters in the Bible and won awards for Bible memory and drills. But then something happened. I'm not sure what. She was married to my dad for 7 years. He was Christian Science in his faith. He was a bully and an ass, according to my mom. He was unreasonable and unyielding. She left him by taking their 3 kids and was pregnant with me at the time to go back home to Kansas City--8 hours away from her home in Canton, Illinois.
Was that when she changed? Was that when she gave up being a good mom and a Christian? Was a switch cut off in her spiritual world somehow because she felt like she had tried to trust God with her marriage, but it failed--therefore He must not be real? I dunno.
But I know I was raised by a fun, creative, out-going, competitive, amazing mom. She just didn't have a trust in Jesus. That is for sure. I remember after her 2nd divorce, I was in 5th grade at the time, Mom and I went to the Adam's Mark Hotel for a few weekends to take classes in Silva Mind Control. Not kidding. I have a certificate showing my passing the class.  Transcendental meditation, seeking spirit guides, foretelling others' medical needs, etc. For real. She felt like I had gotten such a bad-end of the deal where dads were concerned, that she took me to the class with her--none of my siblings went. Just me.
7th and 8th grade I spent trying to get rides to church at Red Bridge and trying to be a happy teenager. I was rebellious and searching at the same time. One minute I was playing "Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather" and stealing wine out of parents' liquor closets with my friends, and singing in the Youth Choir at Red Bridge Baptist Church. Up. Down. Up. Down. Confess. Rebel. Repent. Rebel. Over and over again. I remember Halloween in 8th grade. I was Trick-or-Treating with friends and causing trouble. We went to a party near East Jr. High. I drank so much that I was throwing up strawberry daiquiri all over the toilet and my clothes. The girl had to let me borrow her shirt. I can't even remember whose house that was. But what I do remember is walking home alone, at midnight, down Byars Road to River Oaks where I lived. It was a dark, wooded road, cut down to a one lane bridge over a creek. How stupid I was. I could have been raped, tortured, and murdered, and no one would have known. Thank God I survived that night. Surreal.
I remember bragging about it in science class Monday and Heidi Durham said, "I wouldn't be proud of doing that." It totally gave me pause and stopped me dead in my tracks . . . but only for a moment. What was I doing?! I didn't care. The rest of 8th grade was a wash. Bad choices. Dangerous friends. We bullied and mocked others. We drank. We stole my mom's Buick LeSabre from the garage in the wee hours of the night and went joy-riding on the weekends. Yeah, I was 14.
Bad. It was bad. Meanwhile, my mom was living with off-and-on her boyfriend, and then 3rd husband. I couldn't stand him.
I truly believe Mom was DEPRESSED, as in clinically depressed. Her 2nd husband, whom she loved dearly had run off with another woman and abandoned us. She was raising kids on her own on a schoolteacher salary with pittance supplements from my dad. She had various boyfriends those years. We had to sell our nice, big house, the grand piano, all the China and silver. We moved into a townhouse and down-sized our lives. Money was scarce. So she would go off with men for a weekend in the Ozarks and leave Allen and me home alone. We fought constantly.
The summer after 8th grade, I tried to NOT go to YFC Camp.  I KNEW God wanted to get ahold of my heart, and I was running fiercely. I remember backing into a fireplug across from Brian Barkers house and knocking out a taillight on Mom's car. When she found out her light was out, I told her I was out riding my bike when I heard the phone ringing. So I jumped off the bike to run in the house and my handlebars landed on the taillight, knocking the light out. Lie.
I had to pay for the taillight, so I didn't have the $$ to pay for camp. My excuse. Of course, Mamamarge paid for me to go. On the very last night of camp, I broke down the walls of my pride and rebellion and turned my heart back over to Jesus. I was resolved to turn over the reigns of my life to Him. It was a big resolution. And it stuck.

Back to my Endless Summer. By the time I was in 9th grade, I was alone in the house with Mom. Shannon was a senior at Colorado University. Chuck had moved up to live with dad since 7th grade-and was also attending C.U. Allen had gotten kicked out of Rockhurst High School because of his failing grades (not because he wasn't smart--but because he played around too much), so he had moved up to Canton, Ill. to live with Dad. (My dad was much more stable and normal than my mom. But I didn't know it at the time. I was just afraid of him.) Mom had divorced her 3rd husband. And I was resolved to change.
There was a new youth pastor at Red Bridge, who happened to live in River Oaks, just down the street from me.  This made my attending so much easier. Through the church, I found the boundaries and attention that were lacking at home.  I grew in my relationship with God, who I saw as a Father to me. A verse I claimed was, "When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up." Psalm 27:10 And He did. He was salve to my aching soul.
But life was still hard. I had relationships that were stupid.
The church and YFC condemned rock music and going to movies. So I "gave those up".
Yeah, well, I really liked the Beach Boys. So after a year or so, I went out and re-purchased the Endless Summer album (on Cassette this time.)
Then I felt pressured in my conscience that I was sinning and threw it away.
Then I went out and bought it again.
For real. The struggle was real.
Now I see it as the struggle of legalism vs. common sense. At the time, I was a little lost sheep seeking direction and approval. It was such a confusing time. I wanted to do some things that were frowned on by my congregation, yet I wanted their acceptance, as well.
Forward to college years. I had such a hard time wanting to judge others with the same measuring stick that had been held up next to me, and yet in my mind I knew God's plan was to L O V E, not judge. I was so confused. It was hard. I'm sure I hurt people. I didn't do it intentionally, I was just trying to understand the world I was in. I couldn't understand how they could say they were Christians, but they did things were on my NO GO list.  How could this be true? I'm sure I hurt some amazing and wonderful people because I was so immature and uneducated. I was missing the forest for the trees--but I was trying to see it. It would just take some time. Time to heal, develop, and get to know my God as one concerned about every hair on my head--not the way it curls or straightens, just knowing it is me. I am His and He is mine. His love is deeper than any ocean, broader than any sky. And this is what motivates me to accept myself and others in our imperfect state. The older I get, the more I can see this.  Attending Liberty University with Christians from all denominations and sects helped me a great deal in my tunnel-vision. They were wonderful.  They didn't act the way I did. Perhaps I need to expand my viewpoint.

Kinda like Joseph hurting his brothers when he bragged about the moon and stars bowing down to him. Just stupid. Not thinking. Myopic. It was foolish, but he was just a kid.  He didn't know better. There were consequences for his actions. His brothers hated him and conspired against him. He became a slave. He was falsely accused by Potifar's wife. He was betrayed in the prison by someone he was counting on to report him to the king. The years went by.  He had time to reflect on his youth and make choices to shape his future.  Joseph matured and developed. Joseph turned out okay.

And I turned out OK.

And the weaknesses I see in my own seventeen-year-old offspring will need to work themselves out in time, as well.  It is going to be okay. At times I worry that I've been too permissive with him by letting him choose when to do his chores instead of requiring absolute and strict obedience. I'm more like my mom than I know. His dad is more authoritarian, so he is getting a nice balance, I guess. Joseph turned out well despite Jacob's bias and rearing habits.
In a few years, my boy's endless summer will be over, and he will be a man. Camping out on the sand bar in the river and popping in to Bojangles are important, too. I don't wish to take away his fun, I just wish to see him have both. Responsibilities AND Fun. He'll have "Fun, Fun, Fun." And he will get there. He knows right from wrong. He is making his choices. He will have consequences. And he will come out the other side stronger for it all.  He needs to experience it and choose for himself the type of man he wants to be. He also deserves to have his own Endless Summer.

I've done my part. I love him, I support him, and I'm praying for him. And if I keep telling myself this and writing it out, perhaps I'll believe it more firmly!




Now to my next 4 months: To fuss or not to fuss when the AP assignments don't get completed? That is the question.  "Help me Rhonda, Help-Help me Rhonda."

Image of my favorite album found on Wikimedia:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/d5/EndlessSummerBBCover.jpg/220px-EndlessSummerBBCover.jpg





Friday, January 13, 2017

Fear Leads One to Deceit

In Genesis 31, Jacob decides to leave his father-in-law's land and head back to his homeland. He is afraid Laban won't let him go. So, Jacob sneaks away with all of his possessions while Laban is out of town.
Rachel, meanwhile, steals her father's household gods, hides them in her camel blanket, and sits on them. She lies and says she is having her period and can't get off the camel during the big search.

On first blush, it is so easy to blame and accuse both Jacob and Rachel of being deceitful.  Why would God choose faithless and untruthful individuals to build the foundation of His people? Then I started to look inward.  I can't see my own faults the way others who would sum up my life in a chapter might.  I don't visualize my sins and weaknesses in neon colors on the pages of history. But if I could, what would I see?

What was really going on in the minds of Jacob and Rachel for them to act the way that they did? Jacob was afraid he would lose his family and possessions.  Rachel was afraid she wouldn't be successful without her gods to help her. Both weren't trusting in GOD to provide and protect.

When I do and say stupid stuff, it is often because I'm afraid someone will falsely accuse me of not measuring up to what is expected. My pride in being blameless is more important to me than trust that God has got this. God wasn't going to let Jacob down. God wasn't going to let Rachel down. Yet they didn't TRUST Him. They acted out of fear.  It lead to deceit.

God, please help me trust in you when I am afraid. Help me to lay aside my pride and realize that it isn't all about me. It is about You. You've got this. When I connive to prove my innocence or plan to defend myself and reputation, help me to pause, and remember Whose I am. I am Yours. You are greater than any circumstance I face or sin I commit. Father, I confess that I am weak, and You are strong. You are able to go before me. You made this jar of clay. You are the potter.
Image from: http://khalilcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/fear.jpg

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mandrake Bargain

Sometimes just reading about the twisted misery of others makes me really appreciate my own blessings. This morning in my quiet time, I read about Jacob's wives Leah and Rachel, who fought  for their husband Jacob's attention.
I cannot even imagine how contorted daily life would have been with this mentality. In Genesis 20 (MSG)
15 Leah said, “Wasn’t it enough that you got my husband away from me? And now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”Rachel said, “All right. I’ll let him sleep with you tonight in exchange for your son’s love-apples.”16-21 When Jacob came home that evening from the fields, Leah was there to meet him: “Sleep with me tonight; I’ve bartered my son’s mandrakes for a night with you.” So he slept with her that night. 
Thank You, God that I have a sweet, wonderful husband who loves me. What kind of a man hears that his wife has bartered to be able to sleep with him for one night? I'm just having trouble respecting Jacob. He seems like a real jerk. Times 10.
Image: Detail from a painting by Joseph Fuhrich: 
note the contrast between Rachel (left) and Leah (right)
Scripture from BibleGateway.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

When Others Curse Us

This morning in my quiet time, I was reading about Isaac who was being blessed by God.  The Philistines who lived around him were fine until he started getting richer and richer. Here it is in Genesis 26 MSG
12-15 Isaac planted crops in that land and took in a huge harvest. God blessed him. The man got richer and richer by the day until he was very wealthy. He accumulated flocks and herds and many, many servants, so much so that the Philistines began to envy him. They got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham, clogging up all the wells.
Envy turned into evil acts.  The Philistines were setting him up to be unsuccessful. They were putting dirt and garbage in Isaac's wells.

Sometimes I think it is good to be reminded that when other people act badly toward me, it may not have anything to do with me personally.  It may have to do with the fact that they struggle with the sin of envy. Envy has gotten ahold of their spirits and then they act in sin against me.
I have a difficult time accepting this.  I always want to have some specific action of something I've done to take the blame for people's hatred toward me. Don't get me wrong, I can't think of anyone out there hating me right NOW, but I can certainly recall times when I felt other teachers or admin having a strong dislike toward me, to the point of sabotaging my world. I keep wanting to defend myself of what I'm being accused--but here is an example in scripture that is a good reminder:
It isn't always about ME.  Other people have their own problems and sin.
I don't know why I need to remind myself of this, but I do.  Perhaps it is all wrapped up in my fear of rejection--my big heart issue since childhood.
And I guess I just wanted to write it down since the little tidbit from scripture was staring up at me during my quiet time.  It is nice to be told something that is a truth--especially when I'm not currently smack-dab in the middle of it and all involved emotionally.
The story of Isaac and his neighbors continues and gets more elaborate, with Isaac leaving the area, digging more wells, being falsely accused again, etc. Then God spoke this blessing to him in v24
I am the God of Abraham your father;
    don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.
And God blessed Isaac. We may not understand what is going on in the bigger picture around us.  We are to be peacemakers.  We are to be loving.  But sometimes it just isn't enough for others.  And that is OK.  God still has a plan for us and for them.
Image: https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRLFhO3QoWBfonL8sZ-Tdo5lC7JWFB47410YqN2_PpCPEwiKhKvfA
Scripture: BibleGateway.comThe Message

Monday, January 9, 2017

Rebekah's Servant Heart


I just love the story of how Rebekah meets Abraham's servant who has been commissioned to find Isaac a wife!  It is such a concise love story.  But one thing I love about Rebekah is her servant's heart. In Genesis 24 MSG, as the servant asks Rebekah for water, she replies
18-21 She said, “Certainly, drink!” And she held the jug so that he could drink. When he had satisfied his thirst she said, “I’ll get water for your camels, too, until they’ve drunk their fill.” She promptly emptied her jug into the trough and ran back to the well to fill it, and she kept at it until she had watered all the camels. 
I have the spiritual gift of serving. More than teaching, more than empathizing, more than dividing the Word of truth, what I really just want to do is to help others in any way that I can. Rebekah's story resonates with me. (Although I'm pretty sure I don't want to have a ring for my nose!)
Sometimes I sing this song during my quiet time: Make Me a Servant by Maranatha Singers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You Will Be a Blessing

More ponderings of turning 50 this year.
Both of my grandmothers lived 100 years. I can confidently assume it is in my genes to live a long and healthy life. That being the case, I'm seeing the need to prepare my body, mind, and spirit for this next half of my life.
Yes, I finally joined a gym to work on weight-bearing exercise and do more cardio when the weather or sky is frightful. I have wanted to do this for several months now, but it was quite an expense.  Jim gifted me a membership for my Christmas present, and I am ever-so-thankful!
Yesterday I made my premier visit and joined the gym!
Scripture memory is another goal I have in mind to prepare my spirit. The first verse I've chosen to memorize this year is one I think aptly fits my age, experience, and disposition. It is also a nice reminder to focus on others instead of myself. It is 1 Peter 5:2 NIV
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;".
In my quiet time this morning, I read about Abraham (Genesis 12). In verse 2, God promises his future that he will be a blessing. Abraham was 75 years old when he set out to accept and fulfill God's promises. I don't know what God has in store for my future, but I know He has the power to use my life to bless others. A disciplined body, mind, and spirit would prepare me for this journey that I'm on. But, sadly, these areas are so weak in my life. I DO lack self-discipline most of all. And so, I confess, "Lord, you know my heart and my weaknesses.  You know I am a cracked and split vessel that isn't stable or sound. Help me seal up my weakened areas. Pour out your mercy and grace on my behalf, not because I deserve it, but because I need you so much. Let me hear your Spirit prompting and then help me to act upon it. Give me tools and systems to help me prepare my mind and body to be a blessing to others.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

150 Ark Style

One hundred fifty.
Yep, that's my goal. I'm shooting to weigh 150 lbs by my 50th birthday on May 18.
I remember going to my family doctor twenty years ago concerned that I was a big, hefty 150 lbs. She put me on a 1000 cal./day diet plan approved by Amer. Heart Assoc. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months. I'd never been a size 6 before! I had to shop for all new clothes. (My teacher friends at school actually did an intervention meeting on me one day because they were so concerned about my skinny-ness.)
I laugh when I think back to how upset I was about being a fluffy 150. If I'd only known then what I know now!
I'm rambling. Back to my point.
So, I've set my sights on a HEALTHY 150 as my goal to start the second half of my life full of promise.
I have been thinking of numbers quite a bit with my goal-setting. In my quiet time this morning, I read about Noah building and launching the ark (Gen. 7). He was 600 years old when the floods happened. How in the world could I last another 50 years on this earth and maintain a healthy weight? I am such a yo-yo---either gaining or losing, never m-a-i-n-t-a-i-n-i-n-g.
Then I saw the next number--150 days. Yes, it rained for 40 days/nights, but it said the floods took over for 150 days. That's about 5 months. I've got about 5 months to reach my new goal.
One day at a time.
One discipline at a time.
Small, repeated deposits over time.
That's how the ark was built--one gopher-wood plank at a time.
That's how the rain receded into the earth--one drop at a time.
Every time I say, "No" to a cookie--cha-ching/deposit.
Every time I lift my knees to stretch, pose, hold, repeat--cha-ching/deposit.
It is how it works.
It is about time and small choices over and over again.
My future health and promise of making a difference with this earthly body to impact my world depends on the daily hammering away.
Steadfast discipline. One nail at a time. It is time to build an ark.
Images: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Winnipeg_city_route_150.svg/1280px-Winnipeg_city_route_150.svg.png
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Evan_Almighty_Ark.jpg