Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog sabbatical and future contest!

So here's the deal... it's going to get quite quiet quickly around here. :)

My parents house doesn't have the internet and I'm not going to sign it up out there.

So I'm taking a months sabbatical from posting.

BUT... some interesting news... Posting will pick up again November 1st WITH a give-away.
I'm giving away something so very dreadful it actually caused me to sin. So obviously, it can't stay at my house. But the object is actually wonderful in a way... and others may not have the same reaction to it that I did.

I'd enjoy seeing your guesses... whenever I get the internet back. Meanwhile have fun wondering what on earth I'll give away... that is IF anyone enters the contest... they may see what I'm offering and refuse to enter. In which case I'm picking an address from the phone book and announcing them the winner.
OR better yet, when I start the contest if you won you could give me the address of someone you don't like and I could mail it to them?? Interesting the options available for giving away bad good things.

Enjoy your October people. It's a beautiful fall this year in Texas. Go sit outside. Turn the tv off and just be quiet.

Obviously you won't need the internet for at least another month. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If He took it all away - I will praise the Lord.

A friend sent me an e-mail link to a song, so I headed off to Youtube looking for it. It was a beautiful song that really captured my attention as did the pictures that happen to be shown for the video background.

I tend to see a persons pain through a magnifying glass. I see a struggling pastor and pull out the magnifying glass and look at it, specifically it and nothing else and grieve his pain. I see a hurting child, out comes my magnifying glass and again, I focus entirely on that one thing. I do the same with my own far too often as well.

But that video proved to me a very good reminder of something I'd known before but forgotten.
Our pain isn't ours alone. Sure it's slightly unique to us, but for the most part it's the same pain that hundreds of thousands have faced, hundreds of thousands of times before. People have grieved the loss of alzheimers or loved ones, they've grieved over children lost, grieved over money lost, grieved over churches lost, grieved over failures and mistakes. Pain upon pain upon pain. I'm no different. You're no different.

But the key to enduring our own pain is remembering just that. I've watched someone recently, so focused on their own pain that they have spiraled into self-pity, when self-pity is the last emotion that should be coming to mind right now in their situation. Yet their own pain somehow became greater than the person that was actually suffering. It would be like me putting my sorrow at moms illness at a greater level of importance than my moms struggle with the illness.
It's insane.

But so often we do that. We see ourselves and nothing else. Or what little else we do see is of so much less importance than our pain, our feelings, our struggle.

The idea is one that helped me have a renewed, fresh sense of peace today. This life is temporal, our pain is not rare, or unusual, or anything surprising. It is only for a little while, and then we will enter a land with no more sorrow, tears, or pain. We will enter the promised land. We must only endure here for a little while.

I will praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord. I WILL praise the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

So check out the video:

(HT to Robert for the link. Thanks!)

It shall be given him.

Today brings with it sweet, blessed peace.
Peace does not mean there is no sorrow, or struggle, but sweet blessed peace can nestle itself amongst those thorns as sweetly as a rose.

I know my mother. Probably better than anyone else. And I realized today that she would want us to make her decisions for her. Not our decisions for her. But her decisions. And I knew what she would do, no matter how difficult it was for her or us.
I knew it because she spent years making these same choices and I watched and learned, and did what I do best - try to make her laugh despite the hard choices.

With that knowledge came tears, and peace.

Today I begin the process of figuring out which items I need to load up for an indefinite trip home, and continue all my research concerning alzheimers and the people who have it. God is good, when all the situations are bad.
He brings sweet, blessed peace.

He is good. Outlandishly good.

So let me tell you this, I know so many decisions have to be made and it is hard to tell where God is leading sometimes and what He would have you to do. Do not be afraid to wait on Him, to ask, and seek, and continue until you know the peace that comes with a good and right decision.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him as of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.

He'll help, He'll guide, He'll see you through.
It SHALL be given him.

The God of the Desperate

Great post from Ray Ortlund at "Christ Is Deeper Still" called "The God of the Desperate"

It's short but hits home quickly. Here's a quote from it, but I encourage you to go read the whole thing. Won't take but a minute.

But if you are in distress, if you are in debt, if you are bitter in soul, there is a mighty Captain who is not ashamed to have you in his army. He turns no one away,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gentlemen, we've lost the moon.

I'm going to share something with you. It's a hard thing to share, and you may judge me for it - that's ok - I've judged myself for it as well. But I am striving for an authentic, real, genuine life that shows not just victory and faith, but the struggle as well. I hate the fact that the church world today does not show the struggle very much, except in simple things rather than the hard ones.

So I am going to tell the hard things today.


Did you watch Apollo 13? Terrific movie, truly. But there was a point in the movie when the men receive a command that Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) realizes effectively ends their mission. They will no longer land on the moon, their mission now is to try and get home safely. It was a hard pill to swallow. Jim Lovell turns to his crew mates and says this:

"Gentlemen, we've lost the moon."

There is silence in the cabin as the men digest the information and process the disappointment.

"Gentlemen, we've lost the moon."

I feel exactly the same way.

Last week the call came that my mom was beyond my dad's care. He's tried, and he's tried hard, but she has delusions because of the Alzheimers that leave her angry concerning him and all she does is try and kick him out of the house. He couldn't do it anymore. He was ready to put her in a nursing home.

It was decided then that I would leave San Antonio and move in with them, to see how long we can stave off the nursing home. I'm leaving San Antonio.
I'm moving in with my parents.
Gentlemen, we've lost the moon.

The part I struggle with is doing this with the right attitude. Not with regret, or longing for something that I cannot have but with a full complete heart towards doing the right thing and not spending my time longing for what I can't have.

In catching up on the blog reading that I have missed this past weekend, I found the weekly prayer that Ted Gossard puts up over at "Jesus Community". The prayer this week was:

Grant us, Lord, not to anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Going back is the right thing to do. And doing the right thing is something that shall endure. It's a Godly, Heavenly thing. San Antonio will pass away. Life with my niece and nephew on this earth will pass away. Doing the right thing, right here, right now will never pass away.

Grant me Lord, not to be anxious about San Antonio and the kids, but to love things heavenly; and even now, when I am placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One glass of water at a time.

When my brothers family and I moved to San Antonio, we immediately started working on our health. We are flat broke with all the movement and job changes, so some of the decisions were easy. No soda, only water to drink and we didn't eat seconds on foods simply so the kids could have more to eat.

That did a lot for us.

We began riding bikes, playing together outside (basketball, kickball, etc.) and one of us even tried to kill themselves multiple times just running up and down the stairs (it wasn't me).

We haven't been here quite 4 months yet, and all of us have lost at least 30 lbs. Some of us even more than that.

But then I go to visit my parents.

They have not adopted healthy ways at all. In cooking scrambled eggs one morning my dad actually dumped a half a cup of bacon grease into the eggs so "they will taste like bacon". My mom, whose alzheimers doesn't let her remember one moment from the next constantly pours Dr Thunder (the cheap Dr Pepper knockoff) every time I turn around. And ice cream seems to be on the menu for every meal. Literally, the evening meal Saturday night consisted of cake and ice cream.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to say "I'm just visiting, I'll drink their soda, I'll eat their sugary desserts and I'll swallow my scrambled grease egg.

But here's the deal... my ways are better than theirs. Their meals are unhealthy, bad for the body, and leads to physical problems. The whole reason I am eating right and being more active is because I choose to live a better life. I choose to be healthier and thus, hopefully, have less physical problems. I believe a healthy lifestyle is important.

So if I go to someone elses home and abandon my healthy lifestyle for the visit... well, I'm not only hurting myself but maybe I'm not clear about my reasons for doing what I do. Am I living healthily only because my environment is a healthy one? Do my habits change because of my environment?

And then I realized how easy it is for us to do that as Christians.

We're Christians... super spiritual, quick to pray and talk about how good God is when we're surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ. But put us in another environment and we tend to "Well, I'm just visiting, I'll just go with the flow and pick back up my good lifestyle when I get back home".

I've made it a habit to take fruit with me when I visit my parents now. I refuse their sodas to the point that I (while feeling badly about it) pour it down the drain when it's poured for me. I drink my water, I eat my fruit while they get another bowl of ice cream. I remain faithful to what I believe is important and necessary while I'm there.

And do you know what happened?

This weekend they had already stocked the fridge with fruit.
And dad is constantly commenting about what I will and won't eat.
Yet I've never really said anything.
I just remained who I was in front of them, and it was noticeable.

So today, I encourage you to be exactly who you are. Don't change it because you're around people that don't agree. And if they remark that they should be reading their Bible more when they see you sit down and read yours, don't worry about making them feel guilty. You didn't. The Holy Spirit did.
And as long as you do what is right, always, no matter what environment you are in... you will begin to change that environment some.
What's the point of being peculiar if no one sees your peculiarities?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What I'm praying for...

Next week I am leaving my new home in San Antonio and heading to move in with my parents to begin caring for my mother.
Dad is willing to give it a short trial to see if I can gain some control over the situation, and if I fail he is going to put her into a nursing home.

He's hurting, and tired, and stressed beyond what a person should be asked to endure.

She's tired and sick. In her few moments when she's anywhere close to her right mind she is discouraged and sad that she is making his life miserable. - Her words, not mine.

I am praying, that for whatever time I am in this situation - whether it is long-term as we hope, or only a short term try and fail - that I will have a servants heart towards both of them. That for this time I can go in and build them up, encourage, and strengthen them both. That I will have wisdom in how to use my words to control my mothers behavior so that she is compliant with me as much as possible. And that I will not get so wrapped up in my mothers issues that I fail to minister to the other person there that is hurting.

I am praying that my mothers suffering ends quickly.

Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord help me lift up
Those who are weak.
And may the prayer of my heart always be.
Make me a servant.
Make me a servant.
Make me a servant today.

I can, because He can.

How can it be all wrong and ok at the same time?

When you trust God.

Much has happened this week that leaves me just ripped up with sadness, questions, and helplessness. But here's something I enjoyed tonight:

I was ripping apart, I listened to my parents hurt each other over the phone. One too far gone with disease to realize what she was saying, the other too far over his head in things he doesn't yet understand how to deal with. And I broke. I wept the tears that twist your stomach, and make you clench your fist against the pain, it leaves you bent double as hurt simply consumes you. And yet I was ok.

There have been times in my life when I felt that hurt and the questions that came with the hurt were just too much to face. Doubt and fear added themselves to the hurt until the burden was unbearable. It's those times when you ask what God is doing, why is He doing this, why isn't He stopping this.

Tonight, even in a moment of utter grief I sat there fully hurting and fully trusting all at the same time. And somehow the miracle that is Gods grace, brought me through the hours on the phone dealing with a situation so far beyond my skills that I cannot even figure out where to start.

I've said it before, but I just want to say it again and again and again. As many times as it takes to get it through to some hurting person out there reading this message.

God is good.

Circumstances do not change how wonderful, how loving, how gracious and marvelous He is.
So while you and I don't understand why things are the way they are so often - trust Him anyway. He's there, He loves, He holds, He works. It may not be the situation you want to face, but regardless, God is still absolutely and positively who He says He is.

He will not change, He will not fail, He will not waver, He will not stop loving you with a love that is breathtakingly beyond compare.

Lean on Him, trust in Him, and hurt all over Him. He can handle it.

And I promise you this, if you do all that you can handle anything life throws your way. Just wait and see.

There is hope. There is always hope.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When we all get together how strange we will be.

Tim McGraw looked sick.

He looked like he didn't want to be singing, like the lights were too bright, and like he needed more sleep in order to cope with whatever was ailing him.

But instead, there he was standing on the stage at the pre-game show entertainment for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans game. He sang, and I was almost relieved for him when he'd finished. It sounded really rough.

I generously, while holding my own Kleenex and coughing frequently suggested that maybe he was suffering from a cold.

I don't exactly know how to spell Harumph, but it sounds something like "yeah right" only without opening your mouth. Because of who he is, it's almost assumed Mr. Mcgraw was probably high on something or suffering from too much alcohol. The other two adults in the room did not seem to readily accept that perhaps poor Tim was suffering from swine flu, or perhaps some other popular malady. Though one person did attempt to suggest that perhaps allergies could account for why his eyes were so red.

Isn't it funny how it's not gossip if a person is famous?
Isn't it funny how it's not slander if a person is rich?
Isn't it funny how it's not malicious if a person is too seemingly important to know you or your opinion of them?

I don't think so.

A lot has been said lately, about Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Obama, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and so many other famous names that we'll probably never meet.
And I wonder if Jesus isn't upset at how we've treated them?

We get so caught up in the idea of "who is my neighbor?" that we lose the reality of "who isn't my neighbor?" It hurts to know that these people, are real people, somewhere out there and hearing all these things said about them.
And it's frustrating to know that Christians don't seem to realize that we're doing it too. Worse, they don't seem to realize that we shouldn't be doing it too.

Being rich and famous doesn't exempt you from the love of God. Let's stop allowing it to exempt us from loving them as God would. We need a change.

And the thing is, changing how we talk about these people we don't even know won't effect those rich celebrities all that much. But do you know who it will effect? It'll affect your co-workers and friends who notice that you didn't laugh at the Kanye joke they just told. They'll notice that you tend to look sad when Paris Hilton or Brittney Spears becomes the butt of a joke. They'll notice you don't seem to think the same way they do.

By gum, they might even think you're strange.

And finally, and happily, they'll be right.

Changes are afoot, or ahand.

Lotsa stuff going on around here, you just can't see it.

I'm very excited to announce that I'm now a writer. 1,090 posts later I have applied for a writing position with a start up website and have been accepted as a writer for encouragement articles and periodic blog entries.

It's taking me awhile to get used to a non-blog type way of writing. And you'll see, if you stop by and visit the website, that I've stolen some of my favorite posts from here to build up an article listing before the officially launch.

The launch is currently set for October right now. And the website is looking good. I'm happy to be a small part of what the folks there are trying to do.

I'll give you more information, and certainly more official information, once the site is open for business.

I'm also officially writing greeting cards for a greeting card company. And by officially, I mean I'm writing them, but don't get paid. It will be months before I find out if they have used any of the submissions I send in daily. There's a "process". In other words, it's slow. But it's a very enjoyable thing to wake up and spend the morning penning sonnets for people I'm pretending to know. Let me know if you ever want something interesting to write in your "Dear Boss" card eh?

In other information, this blog has changed just a little bit. I have finally caved in and allowed Blogger to switch me over to the "layout" format (which it's been trying to push me to do for two years now it seems). I hate the layout format.
I hate the layout format.

The fact that the layout format told me I could click and drag things around my screen to arrange them how I want them, and yet no amount of clicking and dragging seemed to budge anything really irks me.
I hate the layout format.

Hopefully with time I'll adjust and get out of my cantankerous old woman "I hate change!" mood and figure out this new system and how to make it work for me.

Just count yourself blessed, I was going to have commercials on here but the screen froze up and I was too tired to try again.

I'm ready to write for you again. Excited to see where we go in the next few months. And especially excited that I really feel as though my faithful followers (2 according to google, and a handful more according to sitemeter) are actually walking along with me - even though you're all apparently mutes.. comments are so hard to come by. I'm ready to drive this boat somewhere. Ready to tackle the world it feels like.
But first I need a nap.

Stupid layout format.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I'm learning to lean...

I’m learning to lean, learning to lean,
Learning to lean on Jesus.
Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed,
I’m learning to lean on Jesus.

The joy I can’t explain fills my heart,
Since the day I made Jesus my King;
His blessed Holy Spirit is leading my way,
He’s teaching and I’m learning to lean.

There's glorious vict'ry each day now for me,
Since I found His peace so serene;
He helps me with each task, if only I'll ask;
Ev'ry day now I'm learning to lean.

Sometimes we can be like the man who said,
My life is full now, I have everything;
But there is a strong Rock in Jesus, my Lord;
Thro' my trials I've been leaning to lean.

Sad, broken hearted, so often I've knelt,
And I've found God's peace so serene;
And all that He asks is a child like trust,
And a heart that is learning to lean.

I’m learning to lean, learning to lean,
Learning to lean on Jesus.
Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed,
I’m learning to lean on Jesus.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

God is always good.

So much to say, and so much better left unsaid right now until more things are clear.

But this I can always say: God is always good.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Parable of the Mashed Potatoes

There once was a man making mashed potatoes, he diced potatoes and put them into a pot to boil on the stove so the potatoes would be tender and easily mashed.
But instead of watching over the pot, and diligently checking the pot, he left the pot and carried out other duties.
When the man returned to the pot, the water had boiled away greatly and there was not enough mashed potatoes remaining in the pot to feed his family.

I heard this story, and put it into this crazy parable because for some reason I began thinking about Christians and the "earthly meaning" to this story. I began to wonder if Christians today aren't very much like this sad little potatoes.

We easily create Christians, people who accept that Jesus died for their sins and will attend church. But then, instead of watching them, tending them, we leave them to grow and change while we carry out our other duties.
Only, a few years later there are less Christians still faithful to the church than what you originally got saved, and what you do have left is slowly drying and fixing itself so firmly to the pot (aka the Church) that it can no longer be taken out of the church to be useful.

When Jesus chose His followers, He put upon Himself a vested interested in their teaching. He told everyone parables, He explained the parables to His people.
He taught and prayed with everyone, He asked His disciples to pray with Him.

Can you think of more examples of how His disciples were set apart from the crowd in their teaching experiences by Jesus?

I think that too much in the churches today falls on the pastor. We all tend to become like potatoes stuck to the pot, and none of us apparently know how to cook for ourselves. Or how to begin the cooking process in someone else - and complete it.

I believe more people in the church need to step up and stop waiting for someone else to cook the potatoes disciple new believers coming into the church. Leaders, Mature Christians, all should be reaching out to the new believers and leading them.

I believe in a church hierarchy. I believe it is something that becomes an obvious need - much like Moses complaining to his father-in-law Jethro that the people always have needs all the time. Jethro outlines putting people in charge of groups of tens, hundreds, thousands, and Moses leads those leaders.

It's how you keep your pastor, your pastor. Otherwise, he's just a man running his tail off trying to be everything to everyone. And he can't. So guess what happens then?
His family suffers
His prayer time suffers.
His time of Bible study suffers.
Until finally, he's so busy being a pastor that he's not one anymore.

So all you fellow mashed potatoes believers, step up. Disciple someone even through you're frightened by the prospect. Talk to your pastor about how to begin if you're nervous, talk to your small group leaders, talk to any leader in your church to ask their advice and uhum.. leadership on the issue. Then do it.

Someone needs to be tending the potatoes, getting them out of the pot, and ready to cook some potatoes themselves.

I love this parable. :)