Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DST Thoughts

Warning: Not my usual kind of posting... I'm sounding off a bit today; about something that churns my stomach this time of year. Bear with me and add your thoughts, whatever side you are on :)*

Just when my soul is quickening to the change of season and emerging from tolerance of extended darkness, just when I rejoice in the return of a lighted morning sky on my way to work, I feel the shroud of guardedness enclosing me and stifling the euphoria. This glorious metamorphosis from hibernation in cavernous wintertime to exuberant dances with the new season’s luminous mornings was too soon snatched away by Daylight Savings Time.

I’ve learned to just grumble rather than obsess with madness at a governor who dared to mess with nature’s perfect design and coerced a Midwestern state to adopt such perverseness of time. What other choice do I have? Refuse to spring my clock forward? Stage a protest demonstration? Kick and scream every time I think about it? No, I have become resigned, for now, to this fateful nemesis.

It’s the party animals, I’m convinced who revel in the lighter later hours of evening. Prove to me, you degenerate lovers of pleasure, how DST has strengthened our economy. Where are the figures that show the favorable facts? That was your argument when this atrocity was first introduced. I’ve never heard what advantages have been gained; none I’m convinced. Perhaps the opposite happened, like a higher crime rate or more mental disorder expenses. But I’m sure you wouldn’t own up to any statistics in this direction. I’d wager no records have been kept of any DST effects of any kind. As long as you can continue your exploits in the broad daylight of night, you’ll bury your foul necks in the sand.

I still hope for change; I’d vote for any new leader who made this his/her most passionate platform priority. I’ve been stolen from, disrespected and subjected to a darkness that is totally unnecessary. When will others see the light of day? Morning has broken, folks, that’s why I’ve spoken.

*Aren't you glad that Life is so much bigger and worthwhile than time changes?!

Monday, March 26, 2012

What's Your Secret Weapon?

It's still there, a twinge of pain when I lift something with my left hand.  I grimace ahead of the action, whether it's opening the mailbox from my car window or replacing a book on the shelf, shoulder -high behind the circulation desk at work. I managed to reclaim my place in bed this week, telling the couch, who had been my sleep partner for 3 weeks, we were through.  Recovery from my fall at work has been slow, but steady. Amazing how the body heals after such an injury.  Thank you for designing that into the blue prints, Father.

At this point energy and desire are ahead of the capability to exercise in my usual routine.  I walk now, but slower and less far, and my body is feeling and showing the effects.  The abs I worked so hard to keep firm are taking advantage of the situation to push out my waistbands, much like the grass that has overcome the winter soil is springing out it's early 'hello'.  But I'm confident even this handicap will be overcome.

Recently I shared some thoughts at a ladies' meeting at church on the discipline of exercise.  As I was sorting through what to say, I was reminded of God's call to Moses to lead his people out of Eygpt. When Moses hesitated and wanted to know why Pharoah would listen to him, God asked Moses, "what's in your hand?" God proceded to show him some secret weapons in his arsenal, Moses didn't even know he possessed; a staff that turned serpentine and a pocket that could carry leporsy.

I began to think about what was in my hand. What had God given me in the fight for discipline of the body?  For starters, I was born into a family that believed in living simply. That objective was helped by a pastor's salary and traditions of the Mennonite faith.  While growing up there were times I resented wearing hand-me-downs and having to mix the more expensive, sugary cereal favorites with the economic boring staples like Cornflakes and Wheaties.  These 'hardships' have forged a weapon of Self Denial that keeps me from treating myself to the candy bar in the checkout isle or helps me to say no to a latte when someone from work makes a run to the cafe.  (There are definitely times when a YES is justified!)

God also created me with a desire and coordination for sports.  This set me on a path for enjoying outdoor activity and tasting the discipline of keeping in shape.  After experiencing mental distress and anxiety during college, I looked forward to physical exercise and its endorphin therapy.  The practice became a habit.  Wherever I have lived for any length of time, God has graciously given me a place to keep on walkin'.  There was the path by the canal in town, a quiet country road with just enough friendly neighbors enroute to make me feel safe, and now a subdivision with a few slopes to boost my heartrate.  He used these gifts and needs to fashion the weapons of Strength-in-Weakness and Stick-to-it-ness.

But I had to learn how to wield them and the Commander  in Chief had to remind me they were in my hand to be used or they would lose their effectiveness.  When I realized any success in this area started from gifts or challenges uniquely fitted for me, I was humbled and filled with awe.  Even being able to carry out a discipline is because God is faithful and always there to help me.

So what are the secret weapons God has given you?  Only secret because you haven't realized what you possess. What has He set in place in your life for success in discipline? Is it a way of life that gives you an understanding that others may not have?  A friend or family member with resources and knowledge you can learn from?  A strength that was honed through a painful circumstance?  Take inventory of your arsenal and be thankful for all that God has placed in your hand.

Let's go!  There's gotta be a work-out to rock-out to somewhere in this stockpile...

Monday, March 19, 2012

God-Flavored: Sweet and Salty

Ready for some more Just Walk Across the Room stuff?

Continuing with the theme from the last entry, God continues to stir my heart to be aware of those around me who are far from God and yet so close to God's heart, that he yearns for them to know him. I have still to reschedule the lunch date with the friend who I want to love on. I'm so thankful God is restoring my health and I'm ready to pursue that encounter this week. 

I've learned another neighbor is facing a distressing situation, and I'm receiving some creative ideas for expressing care and love to her.  But in so many ways, I feel like I'm in the entry level course on Developing a God-Heart to See and Hear  This walking across the room business takes practice!  Like Hybels says in the study, it starts with prayer.  He somehow manages to get out of bed, knees first, to remind him to offer the day to God for opportunities to share love and whatever words the Spirit gives him, to everyone he meets.  Lord, give me this kind of passion and earnestness that comes from a heart that beats like yours!  No, I'm not going to get out of bed knees first.  There are days when feet first is a creaky process and enough first-of -the-morning exertion! But I do want to consciously pray for opportunities to be used to bring his love to those around me.

Another exercise suggested in the study is to read Psalms 139 and focus on verse 14 which says all of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  What if we lived each day looking for the wonder of others?  To notice how each personality and physical feature of people are hand-made, artistically crafted, and each gift or talent selectively endowed.  I've set about the day to do this several times and it isn't long before activity and busyness block out that intention, and I forget to focus specifically on God's creation in those I'm intersecting with. I will continue to practice.

One of the bigger assignments in the study is to learn to write our own stories succinctly and without jargon and superiority issues.  Will a person far from God understand my familiar-to-Christians-only words?  Will I come across as one who has it all together and therefore imply that the listener doesn't?  By succinct, Hybels means and recommends a testimony of no more than 100 words and delivered in a minute or so.  Of course, that doesn't do justice to all the wonderful things God has done in his people but serves more as an appetizer, a taste of God-flavor that will have them coming back for more.  Christians are to be salt in the world; creating spiritual thirstiness.  After listening to non-believers' life experiences, and when they seem ready to hear, we may have opportunity to share what God has done for us and his story of redemption.

Can you do that? Could you share your God story in 100 words or less?  It was challenging for me and because I've grown up loving God what could I share about how Christ changed my life? During childhood I recognized my sin and need for Christ to redeem and save me, and there was a specific time I made a commitment to follow him, but that hardly marked a huge change in my behavior.

So what has brought the biggest change in my life because of Christ's presence and work of salvation?  What experience or encounter would showcase the grace God extended to me that most impacts the way I now live?   Here's what I came up with, and I share it to encourage you to make your own story ready to be shareable.

I grew up knowing and loving God and seeing parents who loved him, but I also believed that when I messed up, God was angry with me and I had to work hard to get back into his graces.  This produced a lot of guilt in my life and I struggled with anxiety and rejection.  My husband died when I was 38 years old, leaving me with 3 dependent children.  I no longer had someone to lean on and depend on.  I had to face my fears and trust God completely.  I learned that Christ's love and peace are unconditional and deep enough to keep me safe , no matter what happens in life.  I became more confident and peaceful in relationships and all of life.  I'm still a work in progress, but I know the reality of God's comfort and presence with me always, especially during stressful and anxious times.

Blessings my fellow God-flavored saints!  May we be his messengers of good news!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Walk Across the Room

Our church is beginning a small group study on the book, Walk Across the Room. Bill Hybels, the author, shares his passion for reaching out to people we encounter with interest, looking for opportunities to build friendships with those who need the love and salvation of God. All it may take is leaving our comfortable social circles and walking across the room to meet someone new. It will be the Holy Spirit in us loving them, no 4 Spiritual Laws required. Here's the start of our adventures into what Bill calls the "zone of the unknown".

Our first meeting went well.  Jim and Brenda live life this way on an ongoing basis so they have stories to tell that inspire and challenge us.  Diane has a friend at work who is facing a crisis, and another member has been led to reach out to a neighbor who lost her husband several months ago.  Bill shares stories on the DVD that comes along with the study, about the people he has befriended who have come to know Christ because of Bill's influence.  Bill says he never tires of seeing someone's life changed by Jesus.  His enthusiasm is infectuous.

One of my take-aways this week was a fresh look at how Jesus interacted with people and how his methods of showing love varied from person to person.  A homework question matched 4 different people or situations with Christ's response. 

Nicodemus- Direct-You must be born again.
Saul/Paul- Struck with blindness
Centurion's servant-Acknowledged and affirmed his master's faith publicly
Little children-Showed love by hugging and holding them

As I read through the gospel of Luke this week, I looked specifically for more of these Jesus encounters. How about the hide and seek story of Zaccheus?  Jesus, led by the Spirit, exposes Z's cover and this man was ripe for repentance.  This story reminds me of a meeting I attended this week where comedian Jeff Allen shared his testimony of becoming a Christian. He is certain that Jesus had a tailor made encounter for him at just the right time in his life. Catch his inspiring testimony in this video.

I'll try and do a wrap up for you later as the study progresses.  I invite you to watch for the opportunities God gives you to share his love with someone.  To recognize the Spirit's nudgings, to want to be more open to those nudgings and then to walk over, reach out and see what happens. 

Do not be deterred by fear or busyness or even a lack of passion for others.  Ask Him to change you. I am.  Here's what happened with my first attempt at this walking business.  I had a lunch date set up with This Someone and on my way to meet her I fell from a few steps and ended up nursing a bruised side for a few days, likely a fractured rib.  Needless to say, the lunch date will need to be rescheduled.  But I have all confidence that God is able to work all things out for good and nothing the enemy may try to use against us will prevail. 

Anyone have a personal story to tell of how God has used you to share his love?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Happy March!

A calendar page got flipped over this week.  The heart and love theme of February on the display wall at work had lost its purpose.  I detached the items and stowed them away for another year.  Ever think about how frequently life calls for take -down-take-away-make -room occurences?

I'm merrily exchanging texts with someone and out of nowhere, before I can read the next reply that has just come back, the irritating message pops up telling me what small percentage of space I have left in my inbox for receiving more messages.  I begrudge the time it takes to stop my conversation and follow the cell land path to erase and empty the in-bin.

I dropped by a salon this week to have hair ends on my head shed-- another take -away episode.  Another day my collection of snowmen were sent to the basement closet where they can hibernate until next December.  It was a make-room moment for the family portraits to return to the space the snowmen had borrowed for the season.

Winter is giving place to spring, the bed is torn apart so clean, fresh sheets can again deliver the tight smoothness we enjoy, and a used T-shirt loses it life to succumb to my creative endeaver to cut it up and repurpose it into a scarf.

These common happenings bring changes, and the kind of changes we mostly welcome.  Without emptying the inbox, we'd miss our messages.  In some circles our trustworthiness falls proportionately with the length of hair we keep.  We could decide to not change the calendar, but life won't be put on hold and we'd lose touch with the reality of time.  Do you ever talk back to signs that are outdated or to commercials that advertise what has already happened? We expect to be kept current. There is a curiosity for the new. Maybe it's a competitive edge on knowledge or prestige we want to flaunt. Maybe the new is like a breath of fresh air in places that have become stagnant and where we've felt stuck.

So why fear change? It produces good.  Furthermore, as Christians we know that God works all things together for good to those who love him, so bring it on.  About now, you're starting to argue my perspective, so I'll hasten to agree with you  --it ain't all that easy--

Recently a friend asked for something that seemed ill-timed and I felt taken advantage of. Circumstances prohibited me from granting her request, nethertheless, I had a choice to make; to let go of any negative judgment against her or to hold on to an irritation at her insensitivity and lose the closeness our friendship afforded. A bit harder to allow that change of heart and attitude, but still the benefits of overlooking the offence were easy to see and acknowledge.

But it gets tougher.  If you give up a sinful or destructive habit, will there really be greater happiness? If I share this area of pain or failure with you, will I lose your love?  Will anyone make room for someone whose reputation has been ruined through bad credit, bad choices with huge consequences attached, or shameful behavior?

Sadness pervades our breakfast, as a friend shares about helping to pick up the broken pieces of her daughter's marriage.  Will life ever feel good again to a young mother who may raise a small child on her own for years to come?  What positive exchange does she get from this take-away?

"It's lonely", says the neighbor lady whose husband died this past December.  I sympathize and try to help by listening and sharing some time with her.  Very little seems right or good in this loss.

A lost opportunity for an adult child brings grief as my hope for their happiness is deferred.  This isn't the change I had prayed for.  What about those good plans you promised for him, I ask the Father.

Take-aways of this magnitude offer little if any glimpse of what good will come out of it or if the hole that's left from the tearing away will ever accept a good replacement or refilling.  What do we do when up against such agonies of defeat?

The answer lies in Who we lean on and trust for help when life goes south.  It's times like these that our faith either flees or feeds and fattens. Blase' verses of promise on refridgerator magnets now become a matter of life or death as faith is tested.  During the greatest time of loss in my life, my soul clung to the promises of a Father I knew was loving and faithful.  The simple words of "I will never leave you or forsake you", "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I won't be afraid of any evil", and “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life" fed my faith and kept me tethered to the Father during the storm.

James (Msg) speaks about this kind of faith in his book, chapter one:

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 5-8If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.

And here is what you GET in return, the exchange, the replacement, the good that only comes from putting your faith in the Father:

12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Wow, I never knew there was such a lesson in turning the page of a calendar!  May the Father encourage, bless and help you today.