Friday, December 31, 2010

Being Spontaneous

And it's New Year's Eve again. This is the first time since . . . hmm . . . maybe since we've been married that we've been home on New Year's Eve (and that's over twenty years). Our holidays are usually a 10-14 day family extravaganza in Kansas. We came home earlier than usual this year because Eastin had rehearsals for the community theater play she's in.

I have to say, I'm enjoying the time at home with no real responsibilities, nothing that HAS to be done right now. I'm enjoying gradually putting the Christmas things away . . repairing, replacing and weeding out as I go. Feeling like I can stop and do the little jobs that I see around the house when I see them -- like washing out the refrigerator drawers, decluttering the bookshelf by my bed, sweeping under the entryway rug -- instead of putting them off because I have ten other jobs that have more immediate deadlines that I feel like I have to prioritize.

In fact, I considered making a list of things I wanted to get done this week at home, and I forced myself not to. I want a week free of schedule. I want a week to be led by my heart, or my gut, or the Spirit, or whatever ends up leading me other than the tyrannical to-do list. I seem to be craving some spontaneity, which is totally out of character for me.

There is a part of me that is afraid I'm going to wake up next Wednesday morning (the day we start back to school) with regrets. I'm going to wish I'd accomplished more during this time. I'm going to suddenly think of a handful of things that I needed to get done that this would have been the perfect time for. And then I'll be so stressed out by all that, that any benefit I will have gotten from my vacation from duty will be swept out the window. Such has happened before.

But I'm going to risk it. If I'd been in Kansas this whole time, like usual, I wouldn't have gotten that stuff done either. Everything will be fine, right? Surely I can take one week to live life at a different pace. I think that's a good way to start the year. Right?

Somebody say, "Right!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Concerning What the Kids Are Listening To These Days

On our drives to, from, and around Kansas this holiday season, we had occasion to listen to more of our daughters' radio preferences than we usually listen to. And I have some pertinent observations:

- Intricate melody lines are not integral to the genre any longer. Nor are simply interesting ones.

- Ke$ha apparently pronounces her name with a short "e" sound. And she's raunchy.

- If the singer's male, then I think it's Usher. They all sound like Usher to me. Except for Justin Bieber, who -- poor thing -- still sounds like an eleven-year-old girl.

- The Bieber boy does have a nice song in "Pray", however.

- Lots of repetition -- of notes, of phrases, of words, of syllables and consonant sounds. Remember when stuttering used to be a handicap? It's now a generational statement.

- I heard at least two songs that referenced Mick Jagger simply to make a rhyme with "swagger". You can't convince me any young lady these days wants a boy that looks like Mick Jagger.

- Selena Gomez apparently sings the theme song to the new Disney channel show "Shake It Up". I actually kind of like her stuff. And by all accounts, she seems to be a pretty together girl. Let's hope she doesn't go all Brittany/Miley on us.

- As often as they are told to put their hands in the air, I do hope today's teenagers have the deodorant situation all figured out.

- Katy Perry can give Ke$ha a run for her money in the raunchiness department. And Lady Gaga is just one bizarre chick (didn't need to listen to the radio to figure that out).

- All this durned new-fangled music sounds the same to me. Not bad necessarily . . . just all the same. I expect every generation of parents has thought the same thing. I'm officially old now. Dadnabbit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hark Yet Again!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail, the incarnate Deity!

I love that phrase, "veiled in flesh". Think about what a veil does. It covers body parts you don't want the world to see outright. But those parts are still there, and what you see gives you hints of what's hidden. A Muslim woman may hide her body, but her eyes are still visible, giving evidence of the beautiful woman attached to them.

God "veiled himself in flesh" -- he put on a physical human covering to hide the deity inside. But his real nature still peeked out. In his words, in his miracles, in his loving glances . . . the idea of Jehovah God becoming a human being would have positively scandalous to first century Jews -- downright heresy. Yet, those who knew him best came to believe just that.

Pleased as man with man to dwell -- Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Every year at Christmas, I am struck again by the idea of Jesus choosing to become our Emmanuel -- God with us. Becoming one of us.

I remember hearing a story once of a boy watching ants scurrying around an anthill which was directly in the path of another boy's Big Wheel barreling down the sidewalk. "I wish I could become an ant," he thought, "so I could warn them of what's coming and tell them to get out of the way!" The gap between the nature of a human and that of an ant is simply dwarfed by the gap between the nature of God Almighty and that of his human creation. I think because we are made in God's image, we sometimes don't remember what a monstrous gulf lies between us and our Maker and what a monumental sacrifice it was for Christ to give up so much of his own nature to veil himself in flesh.

Hark -- Yo! Listen up, folks! -- the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hark Again!

Peace on earth and mercy mild . .

"Peace on earth" is one of the Biblical mantras taken up by the secular world. Who can argue with that aim, right? But in all honesty, it's a phrase that annoys me. (Or maybe it's just spillover annoyance from my currently stuffed-up head. Christmas spirit . . Christmas spirit . . ) It annoys me because people toss around the phrase so casually with no real consideration for what it would honestly take to have peace on earth. Let's be frank -- we don't even have peace in the church, and we're supposed to be the unified Body of Christ. Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I don't have a whole lot of hope for anything resembling what most people would define as peace on earth.

Yet, I still find the declaration of the herald angels to be comforting, because while I don't hold out much hope for the nations and peoples of the world to stop fighting, share a Coke, and live "in per-fect har-mo-nyyyyyy", I do have hope for Jesus to create peace in my own little tormented heart . . . and in my home . . . and in my family . . . and isn't it true, really, that that's where peace on earth would have to start? With individual men and women coming to peace with themselves and their God? May his mild, gentle mercy shower on us and give us peace!

God and sinners reconciled!

Hallelujah! I find this line to be a bit premature in a Christmas song, because the reconciliation really didn't happen until the cross, thirty-three years later. Nevertheless, all time is Present in God's economy, and at the moment of Jesus' birth, his resurrection was as good as accomplished. Sinners reconciled to their God! ME reconciled to my God! Once the decision to come to earth as a man was made, and the material body was inhabited, the commitment to the death on the cross was a done deal.

Joyful, all ye nations rise! Join the triumph of the skies!

Rise up JOYFUL! Every nation! The rich nations . . the poor nations . . the spiritually cold and the spiritually hot . . the stiff and formal . . the loud and enthusiastic . . the hungry and desperate . . the fattened and over-satisfied . . . ALL ye nations! Rise up joyful! Join the song of triumph -- TRIUMPH! Triumph is VICTORY, people! God and sinners reconciled is a grand and glorious victory!!

With the angelic hosts proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"


I'm in Kansas now, fighting off a terrible cold and fighting to hold on to some Christmas spirit. I'm not sure I have the energy to be spirited on the outside, but I'm going to try to keep some spirit on the inside with the help of my favorite Christmas carol.

Hark, the herald angels sing . .

Herald: n. a person who carries or proclaims important news; a messenger. (I'm sure there's somebody out there who wasn't sure what a herald was!)

Proclaim: tr. v. to declare publically -- typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing; announce.

So, the angels were specifically sent as messengers to give important news, news they delivered not only publically -- "this is for everyone to hear!" -- but insistently -- "you must listen to this! It's important!" -- proudly -- "What a privilege to be the ones to tell you this!" -- and defiantly -- "Take that, you sorry loser, Lucifer!"

And what do they sing? "Glory to the newborn King!"

Glory: n. praise, honor, distinction, renown, worship, thanksgiving, beauty and splendor, MAGNIFICENCE! All of this was due (owed) to God Almighty because of the arrival of his Son on earth . . . Jesus . . . the newborn King.

King! King not because of what he accomplishes later in life, but by right of his birth. BORN a King -- the only Son of the great King. A King with a Kingdom -- a Kingdom he inherits from his Father, yet he also has to conquer it, to win a great battle against the usurper of his Father's people.

No one would have guessed if they walked in and looked at this poor, tired, probably dirty young couple spending the night in a barn that the baby the girl had just birthed, who was now sleeping in the cow's feeding box, was a King . . the greatest of all Kings. One would never come to this conclusion using human perception or reason. The only people who knew who Jesus was at this point were those to whom his identify had been revealed -- Mary and Joseph, some Eastern astronomers just now examining scriptures and the skies, and a handful of shepherds privileged to receive the heralds' message. God has crowned humanity with reason, but not with the intention that we cease to rely on him and his expressed revelation. Some truths we will never come to on our own. We have to be told.

Hark -- Listen! Pay Attention! -- the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Under-Nourished, In Every Way

Dr. Luse recommended I watch an interview on with a sleep specialist. Very informative. I downloaded the transcript so I could digest it more. It has a lot of food for thought beyond my sleep problems.

The guy talks about how sleep medications -- particularly over-the-counter ones, but even prescriptions to some degree -- give you kind of a junk food equivalent of sleep. You're not awake, but you're not getting the physiological benefit of genuine, natural sleep.

He also talked about light and our physiological need for it. That natural sunlight, which is "full-spectrum" light, provides things our bodies need, plus it regulates our bodies' cyclical systems (including the sleep/wake cycle). With the advent of electricity, we have changed our cycles; our bodies are getting more light than we're supposed to, and it messes us all up.

Not only that, but the light we get is artificial light, not the full-spectrum light that the sun provides. It's the junk food equivalent of light. We're over-lit, but under-nourished by the light we get.

Just like the food we eat. Americans are eating more and more all the time -- the obesity rate is skyrocketing. But the food we eat has less and less of the nutrients we need. Over-fed, under-nourished.

This was all meshing with thoughts I've had lately about other areas of my life. Like, all the information we are bombarded with everyday. Emails, blogs, Facebook statuses and links, talk shows, talk radio, 24-hour news channels . . . we are absolutely saturated with knowledge all the time, but most of it just fills us rather than feeds us. Over-informed, under-nourished.

Consider our relationships. I know people who have literally hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of "friends" on Facebook. But the extent of that friendship is reading a witty (or not-so-witty) status update and the occasional click of the "like" button. There is food for the soul in a real face-to-face relationship with another person -- looking in the eye, touching the shoulder, feeling the warmth of their physical presence, seeing the depth of their feeling in their expression. We're over-connected, under-nourished.

Our technologically progressing society has given us fake light, processed food, empty knowledge, and superficial relationships. My, how we mega-evolved, arrogant human beings mess up life! Seems like God had the better way to do things all along.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And The Sleep Saga Continues

I know many of you are friends who wonder what's going on with my sleep problems. So, I apologize to those of you who don't care to read about this. But this is a good way to update folks.

So, a couple months or so ago, my newest doctor recommended we test my neurotransmitters -- those are the chemicals in your brain. I find it fascinating that none of the other doctors in the last two years suggested this. The last sleep specialist left me with the recommendation that I find a psychiatrist who would prescribe me an anti-depressant to see if messing with the neurotransmitters would help, but why he didn't suggest testing the levels of the neurotransmitters first, I can't imagine.

Anyway, the test was revealing. My excitatory neurotransmitters (the ones that rev you up, keep you alert) are at elevated levels, and my inhibitory neurotransmitters (the ones that calm you, put you to sleep) are, in his words, "almost nonexistent". Well, that's useful information.

This doc leans toward the natural remedy, which I appreciate, so he recommended I take 5-HTP and Taurine. 5-HTP is an essential amino acid that has to be there for serotonin production, and Taurine apparently does something similar for GABA (GABA and serotonin were two of the inhibitory neurotransmitters I was lowest in).

It's been about a month and a half. I don't think I'm sleeping any better. I still yawn all day -- I even have HAD to lay down for a nap once in a while, which I've usually been able to avoid (naps often mess even more with my night sleep). However . . I'm often more alert and positive during the day -- I'm guessing that's just a result of the extra serotonin. Anyway, the doctor said the next step would be to test my adrenal glands, so I did that test and sent it in earlier this week. The results probably won't get in until I'm already out of town for Christmas.

So, the saga continues. I know a couple other people who are also dealing with health issues that just seem to have no answer. Very frustrating. I know many of you are praying for me, and I really appreciate that. Please pray that, whatever it is that I'm supposed to be learning from this experience -- dependence on God, contentment with all circumstances, perseverance when my well seems completely dry, whatever -- I will learn my lessons well. It would really suck to go through all this and have nothing to show for it in the end.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Holding Your Tongue Won't Cut It

You know, I seem to be getting older. And interestingly, the people in my life who are older than me are getting even older than I am. This is perhaps a beneficial coincidence as I am able to learn some lessons about aging through observation.

Here's one I've noticed over the years. Old people seem to lose their tact. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. In their younger years, they might have thought that new dress of yours was gaudy and too short, but they smiled, complimented you on your figure, and kept their true feelings well hidden. But as they age, they seem to lose some of this ability to hide the opinions that they know may not be well-received . . . either that or they just stop giving a hoot.

I noticed this some even in my mom as she aged. And those of you who knew my mom know she was about as sweet as sweet could ever come. Always kind, always accommodating , the queen of if-you-can't-say-something-nice-don't-say-anything-at-all. Yet, even my ultra-agreeable mother, in her later years, seemed to have trouble keeping her real feelings under wraps at times.

"Oh, you wanted to eat out tonight? Well, I suppose that's fine. I had thought I might make that chicken casserole I was telling you about -- I got the ingredients for it when I was out the other day -- but we don't need to have that, I suppose. Eating out is just fine if that's what you want." If you didn't know my mom, you'd think she was being manipulative, passive aggressive. And in someone less well-trained in sweetness than my mom, it may have come out active aggressive. "Eat out? What the h-- for?? I got food right here!!"

It's very striking to me to see people who I know have spent all their lives trying to be kind to others suddenly become downright cantankerous. You would never have dreamed it of them. THEY would never have dreamed it of them. Like I said, some of them probably have just stopped caring what anyone thinks, but many of them I'm afraid would be mortified if they realized how they come across.

I see this as a warning: if I don't want to slip someday and, say, tell a friend that they married a loser, I'd better learn to see that spouse as not such a loser -- for real. It's not enough to learn to control my tongue. My tongue will eventually betray my heart . . . probably long before I'm an old woman. Better to focus on changing my heart. That's where I'm supposed to be focused anyway.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Strength of the Soul

"All the leaves are off the trees," my husband noted as we were driving home from KC at Thanksgiving. And he was right. That's sad, I thought, until I started examining the bare trees more closely.

A leaf-less tree is beautiful and fascinating. You see the bare structure lying underneath that supports everything. Some have thick, solid trunks and branches . . . some have branches that grow upward, some downward, some in a complicated maze of tangles . . . some have empty cavities where a significant appendage has been torn from the base . . . some end in feathery wisps of twigs haloing around the edges of the plant. It's like seeing into the soul of the tree.

Some were dark brown . . light brown . . gray . . and a few here and there were stark white. They stood out against the others dramatically, every crook of every twig clearly apparent against the backdrop of its darker grove-mates. I've known people who, I would guess if we saw their souls, would have stood out against the crowd like those white-barked trees. And wouldn't I love to be one of those people! Praying every day for God to wash the grime from my soul so I shine white like those trees.

I thought for a minute that I would like to be one of the large trees with the thick trunk and branches. With a solid, heavy structure that would stand up to the wicked Great Plains winds -- no blowing me down! Then I remembered our big elm and the damage it got in last June's storm. Maybe it would be better to have a thin, flexible trunk -- one that bends to let the mean winds pass by and then rights itself again.

Tough to choose, really. Because some storms in our life need to be allowed to pass harmlessly by while we wisely step out of the way, and others need to faced with upright defiance. And still other storms will do their damage no matter how we choose to approach them. Far better, I suppose, to have deep, widespread roots that keep you anchored through it all and give you the means to survive and thrive after the winds have taken their toll.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Unless you've spent time with a therapist or read a lot of self-help books (or watch a lot of Dr. Phil/Oprah type TV), you may never have been challenged to examine the automatic thoughts that play in your mind. Let me issue that challenge to you.

I set out to walk the dog this afternoon in the snow out front and as I tried to avoid a small drift on the sidewalk, I heard my inner brain voice say, "Snow -- I'm SO annoyed." And it occurred to me that my inner brain voice seems to sometimes have that remark on an endless loop. "My sock has a hole -- I'm SO annoyed. The kid has my laptop -- I'm SO annoyed. There's dog hair on the sofa -- I'm SO annoyed." For Pete's sake, I'm a regular curmudgeon.

I had no cause to be so annoyed at this walk with the dog. It wasn't that terribly cold out anymore. The sun was shining. The snow wasn't deep and the walk wasn't slick. The dog didn't get any business done, but he had never indicated to me that he had business to do -- I just figured I'd walk him while I put stuff in the mailbox to be picked up.

I have no idea where this tendency to feel annoyance at every minor disruption in my life began. I know it is worse when I'm not sleeping well -- even to the point of being completely uncontrollable. Maybe I've not slept well for so long that it's simply become a habit of thinking. Well, no maybes about that, I guess. It is definitely a habit of thinking.

And one I need to change. I mean, that's a Biblical command. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." Even secular psychologists will affirm the power of "positive thinking". I've got to made a point of looking for the true, noble, praiseworthy stuff around me.

Cuz my negative attitude is just annoying.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Packing with the Right Side of the Brain

A while back, I made a realization about myself (which I've shared here before) that I was a good Initiator, but not a good Maintainer -- a good short-term project person, but a less-good long-term project person. I remember sharing this with my hubby as a positive thing, as in "Look what I've found I'm good at; a lot of other people aren't good at this."

And at the time, I had to almost laugh at him, because although he seemed to be genuinely trying to be positive and supportive of me, he couldn't express the idea in anything but negative terms. "You're not very good at . . . You don't like to . . . It's harder for you to . . . You're not really made to . . . " What I couldn't do well was so much in the forefront of his mind (because it bugged him) that he couldn't set it aside and genuinely see value in the things I could do well.

We're in Kansas City for Thanksgiving, and this morning I was looking through the stuff my eldest packed for herself. I have learned not to monitor her packing anymore because we end up just driving each other crazy -- she usually manages to get all the major necessities into her suitcase (thanks to her general anxieties about traveling), so I try not to mess with her process. But she had a little bag in the hotel bathroom this morning that caught my eye.

In it, she has hair supplies (barrettes, clips, pony-tail holders, headbands, etc.) to create probably 20 different hairdos. For a three-day trip. 90% of which are items I haven't seen her wear in years. This includes some clip-on purple braids from Halloween, which I can't imagine when she thought she was going to wear on this trip. She also brought her razor -- which would be appropriate except that I know this is "no-razor month" among her crowd at East High (wonder who thought up that one) and she is NOT going to be shaving her legs until the middle of next week. She also has three CDs spilling out of her stuffed-to-the-gills suitcase -- which she cannot listen to in the hotel room or at her Aunt Vicki's, and were packed away where she couldn't get to them in the van for the ride up, so they have been of no use to her so far. (I'm also remembering our week in Disney when we got there and I found she had packed nine pairs of shoes -- for an eight-day trip.)

My point is that my daughter is a right-brained packer. She seems to look around her room, see something (such as, the purple Halloween clip-on braids), think "I like that! Maybe I'll want that on the trip!", and just pack it. She doesn't seem to consider when or where or how she is likely to use that item on that particular trip and whether it is worth taking up the space it does in her luggage. She might use it -- so in it goes. Whereas her left-brained mother thinks, "What will I need?" and limits herself to that.

I choose today to appreciate the way my daughter's mind works. This is Possibility Thinking. This is the stuff that visionaries are made of. Now, at some point, when she's left our home, she will have to find a left-brained friend or husband or employee who can take her mother's place in helping her make her visions happen. But praise God for vision! Where would the world be without it? Lord, keep me from stifling what you made her to do with my bellyaching about efficiency.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I haven't written in a while. I've been busy with the homeschool play (which went well), a visit from the in-laws (which also went well), and now getting ready to go to Kansas City for Thanksgiving.

But I have some time here . . quiet, alone time . . . and I'm considering all the things I have to be thankful for. Too many to list. I've had in my FB status every day this month something I'm thankful for -- everything from the mundane (I'm thankful for GoLean Crunch cereal) to the profound (I'm thankful for Art, with a big A).

A moment ago, I took a peek at my "Hello, 2010" post from the New Year. Yeah, I know -- I probably should have waited until the next New Year to do that. But I wanted to see how many of my desires for the coming year have been realized already.

"I want Keith to still enjoy his job." I believe he does. "I want my eldest to have leaped her personal hurdles." And she has. After her mission trip with the 8th graders at church this summer, she's like a new person.

"I want the girls to be happy and thriving in whatever educational environment they happen to be in by that time." So far, so good. "And I want them each to have one or two close friends." Check. And I'm so happy about that.

"I want to be heading up a successful, smooth-running drama ministry at Sunnybrook Church that touches people's hearts, uses people's gifts effectively, and doesn't keep me in a constant state of nervous tension." I was just considering the other day how far we've come as a drama team this year. We have a big Christmas series coming up, and I'm so excited for how it looks like it's going to turn out.

Some desires are still in waiting -- among them, my biggie of having my sleep problems solved. But hopefully, we're getting on the right track there.

Really, I'm so blessed. It's a miserable, cold, drizzly day here in Siouxland . . . we have a long drive ahead this afternoon and evening . . . I'm yawning from my usual state of sleep-deprivation . . . and yet I feel so very, very blessed right now.

May you all have as blessed a Thanksgiving as I will.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Art (with a Big A)

Wow. This is apparently my 301st post. I'm still amazed that anyone would be interested in anything I have to say. Thanks for reading, everyone. And thank you for making comments -- either here or on FB. Always encouraging.

And speaking of comments, a friend commented on my "Complexity in Unity" post a while back and recommended a book to me: Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books when I was a kid (the Young 'Un just read it and liked it, too), so I was curious to read more by L'Engle.

Love this book. Love it, love it, love it!! I'm reading a library copy and I'm going to have to buy my own so I can mark it up and absorb it more thoroughly. She's talking about Art and Christianity. About how Art (with a big A, in my mind) is by nature incarnational, a spiritual act. How it feeds our deep hungers. How it helps the meaningful finds its place in our psyche.

Very right-brained stuff. It occurs to me lately how left-brained I have been for most of my life. As much as I've always been into music and drama and dance, those endeavors, if I'm honest, were always about me -- me looking good in front of an audience. It really is only in the last several years that the right side of my brain has woken up and I've really come to appreciate Art (with a big A). I've read of studies that show that almost all of us in the preschool years are right-brained . . creative . . divergent thinkers . . artistic. It only takes a couple years of formal schooling to beat the right side of our brain into meek submission. How very, very sad.

(This also may explain how my very right-brained, artistic eldest child -- the Big 'Un -- relates so well to preschoolers. Hmm.)

I'm so glad that I've woken up. My life is so much richer now, full of metaphor and pattern and narrative and rhythm and symbol. Even God spoke to us in parables and poetry. How can we --who are made in His image, who are to strive to be Christ-like -- settle for half a brain?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Calling All Computer Entrepreneurs . .

My eldest suggested this morning that, instead of a book for every class, they should have a book for every grade. One book, with all the information for all their classes. I gently pointed out the obvious problems with this . . . first and foremost being that such a book would weigh as much as all of her current books COMBINED and would need to be carried all the time. She blew that off. Clearly in a gritching mood, not a reality-considering mood.

But it caused me to wonder . . .

How long do you think it will be until schools start issuing Kindles to their students with their textbooks downloaded on them? Seriously -- how cool would that be? I haven't used a Kindle, so maybe there's a downside to this I'm unaware of. But I'm thinking it would be a great thing for everyone. Students don't have to break their backs lugging heavy books. Schools will surely save money overall (assuming they make students responsible for paying to replace Kindles they lose or damage).

In fact, why hasn't some computer company come up with a device specifically designed for students? Start with a Kindle, where schools can download textbooks (including all the little extra articles and such that teachers copy for their students). Add a simple word processor, for students to take notes, write papers, etc. Include a calendar/datebook function where students can keep track of their assignments.

Internet access seems like an obvious necessity for such a device, but there are also problems with that. I have Facebook friends in high school that will be updating their status and chatting online with friends while they're supposed to be doing research in the library. There has to be a way to give kids access to research sources without access to entertainment meant for their off-hours. But a wireless connection with the school would allow the school to send students the "daily announcements" and such -- and would allow students to turn in assignments online rather than waste paper printing it up . . . oooo, the possibilities!

Yeah, I know some schools issue laptops to their kids, but regular laptops are expensive, and usually have all sorts of stuff on there that are above and beyond what a student needs. (Freshman Daughter was just saying this morning that one science class at EHS gave the kids laptops with cameras on them, which have been used in study hall for less than educational purposes.) Some people might think those extras are an advantage, but I tend to think they're a distraction. Surely somebody can come up with a simple, compact, inexpensive device that meets a student's needs and nothing more. It surprises me that some enterprising entrepreneur hasn't already seen the potential market for such an item.

I can only assume that some ridiculous educational bureaucracy is in place that prevents there even being a market for such an item. How dumb.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life Updates

- Two weeks from today is the homeschool play. Twenty-four 2nd-5th graders doing a play I wrote and directed. This month, we rehearse twice a week, and yesterday's rehearsal went pretty awful. Maneuvering issues -- getting kids where they need to be when they need to be there. We have two stage managers, a green room manager, and another kid wrangler all assigned to that duty, and it's still a challenge.

- Three weeks from Sunday, we start the Christmas drama series. This one I didn't write, but I'm directing. We rehearse every Sunday until then. And a set has to be built. And furniture borrowed to fill the set. And props and costumes gathered. And a couple more rehearsals for each scene. And then each scene has to be filmed to show at our off-site campus.

- And before that is Thanksgiving. Hubby's family is all going to my sister-in-law's in Kansas City this year. First holiday in her new home. And I liked the idea of doing a Thanksgiving letter instead of a Christmas letter like I did last year, so I need to get on that, too.

- The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I'm scheduled to do the 10-minute devotion at our homeschool mom's meeting. I was hesitant when they asked me to do it. What do I have to say to inspire everyone? Anything I can think of sounds too cheesy, too simplistic, or too smart-alecky. But I have to come up with something . . .

- And then, of course, Christmas is coming up. Gifts to buy. Goodies to bake. House to decorate. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to have our Drama Team Christmas party at our house. It would be kind of nice to have somebody come enjoy our house decorated up for the holidays. On the other hand, I would have only a week after we get home from Thanksgiving in KC to decorate.

- And in the back of my mind are upcoming drama productions. The spring homeschool play for the older kids, which I have yet to write. The possible full-length production for the church drama team, which I'm now realizing is going to be a much more challenging endeavor than I originally thought . . if I still decide to do it. Not to mention more weekly sketches for the regular services, which will need to be written, cast, rehearsed . . . I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining about it all. I love doing the drama stuff! If it was all I had to do, that would be great. But fitting it in around the rest of life is tough.

So much to do in the next couple months. I hope these new pills kick in soon and I start sleeping better.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I got up and walked the dog, just like usual. He didn't care which party controls the House this morning. He didn't care who remained or became majority leaders. He didn't care about the White House response, or the change or lack of change in national direction.

He walked around sniffing the ground. He peed. He jaunted about a bit, teasing me with the idea that he might poop before he headed to the backdoor. He taunted me with a try-to-catch-me stance and quickly tired of the game when I caught him. He pranced up the stairs, paced the main floor a bit and will soon settle into his chair to observe the morning's goings-on.

What a life.

Some days, I'm envious of the houseplants, too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What's a Public Servant To Do?

You know, there are some very foundational questions about this two-century experiment in "rule by the people" we've been running here in America which really need to be discussed at large and answered.

One in particular has been troubling me lately: what should be the relationship between a representative and the people who elect him/her? Should we expect them to listen to us, their constituency, on a regular basis and act according to our immediate wishes, even if they personally feel differently about the matter? Or do we just elect people whom we trust, and generally agree with, and let them govern as their wisdom directs them?

President Obama is a case in point. When he was a candidate, he was pretty clear about the direction he wanted to take the country -- and the people voted him in. I think this man really believes what he is doing is the best thing for the country. I don't see him doing a Bill-Clinton and becoming more moderate after next week's election. He stands on what he thinks is right. And in some ways, I have to really respect him for that. That's kind of refreshing to see when the vast majority of politicians sway like a willow in the wind according to the breeze blowing from the latest poll.

On the other hand, I think it's pretty clear now that the majority of Americans DON'T think what he's doing is the best thing for the country. They have lost confidence in him and his agenda. If he was up for re-election next week, I don't think he'd have much of a chance.

So, what is he to do? Again, I think what he will do is stand his ground, keep doing what he's doing as much as he can. To use his own metaphor, he's got the wheel and he knows the way to get there, thank you very much. He strikes me as having an attitude like a parent to a wayward child. You may not understand, but I know what is best for you. You may not see why things have to be this way now, but in the end, when it all works out, you'll be grateful for what I've done for you. I'm willing to suffer your hatred and indignation today, because your welfare is more important than my popularity.

Sounds noble. Unfortunately, I don't think the American people like being treated like a wayward child, even if they possibly deserve it. Frankly, we do seem sometimes to be a nation of self-centered brats with no long-term memory and a childish need for immediate gratification. But I would like to see our leaders nurture some maturity in us rather than take advantage of our immaturity. I think I'd like to see Obama make a more genuine effort at convincing the country of the rightness of his vision -- like I said in my earlier blog, let the truth stand on its own, if he believes it's the truth. No manipulation. No sneakiness. No patronizing.

That's what I'd like to see all government leaders do. Treat us like adults, so we have the opportunity to rise to those expectations. But the questions still stands: if they are unable to convince us to agree with them, what do they do? Follow the polls or follow their conscience? Hmmm. I honestly don't know.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who's the Lousy Evangelical?

Just saw an article where a woman lists 13 things that make her "a lousy evangelical". Things like, she believes the earth is billions of years old. And she has nightmares about Sarah Palin. And she asks a lot of annoying questions. Had to chuckle.

But also had to heave a big sorrowful sigh. Because she points up a frustration I have with so many of my Christian brothers and sisters -- the attitude they have toward truth. It doesn't bother me that they think they know the truth. Honestly, we ALL think what we believe is true, or we wouldn't believe it, right? That's not arrogance; that's what it means to believe something.

It's not that they believe in one truth and reject the mushy mantra, "That may be true for you, but this is true for me." What hogwash! Truth is truth. If we believe opposite things, one of us is wrong. Or both of us. Just because it isn't yet clear who is wrong doesn't mean we're both right.

What bothers me is that they treat the truth like it's a fragile thing. They're afraid of it being challenged (insert tangential comment about evolutionists here -- which I won't get into right now). Many of them have never questioned their own beliefs and start to hyperventilate when someone else questions them. They wrap their children in virtual bubblewrap so there's no hope of their seeing or hearing anything mom and dad disagree with.

Because they haven't examined their own beliefs, they do a lousy job of explaining them to anyone else. So they give up. They expect others to accept the consequences of those beliefs (like, say, making abortion illegal) without their ever accepting the premises of the beliefs. They protect the truth, but they don't defend the truth. There's a big difference.

If the truth is the truth, it doesn't need to be sheltered from attack or examination. If the truth is the truth, it has a power all its own. If the truth is the truth, it will come out in the end -- and perhaps we evangelicals will be as surprised as our counterparts.

One thing I'm pretty confident of: being afraid of . . or angry at . . or contemptuous of someone because they don't agree with you about what's true does NOTHING to promote the truth. So, stop it.

(And yes, I'm preaching to myself, too.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WWJD Behind the Wheel

So, yesterday morning, I came kind of close (but not terribly close, don't worry) to changing lanes right into a car beside me that I didn't see. Apparently the driver gave me a dirty look that I missed (thankfully -- it's not taking much these days to knock me into an emotional pit), but my daughter must have seen it because she immediately asked, "Why do drivers always give people dirty looks when they make a mistake like that? I mean, it's not like they've never made that kind of mistake before. Even YOU act like that, Mom."

Yeah, guilty as charged.

So, why do we? I told my daughter that a lot of it probably has to do with the suddenness of the situation. We speak on impulse, out of the momentary fear that we feel when we see the impending danger. We don't consider that this driver may have a reason for their inattention that we can sympathize with -- they're feeling ill, or they're having a serious fight with their spouse, or they're sleep-deprived. In any other situation, we might feel led to pray for them, but when their problems get in our way, we cuss them out. We assume the worst of them. They're not hurting -- they're an idiot.

I have a vague memory of riding in a car with someone who didn't react that way. I don't remember who it was, but when someone cut her off, her reaction was one of concern for what that driver must be dealing with to make them so distracted. Her first reaction. It really was astounding to witness. It showed a genuine compassion and concern for people despite how they might hurt her -- a real "turning the other cheek" attitude.

I'm coming to believe that I can't use the excuse of "I spoke without thinking" to justify unkind words or attitudes. It seems to me that the words I speak without thinking are probably most representative of the true state of my heart. The sad truth is, I see drivers who endanger my life as irresponsible, stupid people deserving my condemnation rather than hurting, struggling people deserving my concern.

And clearly, I'm not viewing these people as Jesus would.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh, Hear de Word o' de Lord

. . I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!'" Ezekial 37

Sometimes I feel like dry bones. Lifeless. Used up and worthless. A waste. Past hope. I know those feelings are unjustified, usually even when I feel them. But feelings of despair are hard to shake when you're feeling nothing but despair.

This verse came up at the women's conference I went to with my sisters a few weeks ago. And I wrote it down because it seemed to be one I need to remember. Can these bones live? These bones so old, abandoned for so long, that every sign of their past usefulness has decayed away? If you know the story in Ezekial, they do. And the impetus to their resurrection is Ezekial speaking the word of the Lord to them.

That's what I need to do, I thought to myself. Speak truth, the word of the Lord, to those dry bones when they surface. Find scripture that speaks to my situation and remind myself of what's true. And yes, that's probably a good idea. But experience in the valley of dry bones has shown me that I don't listen to myself at those times, even when I know I'm telling the truth.

But I notice here that the bones didn't prophesy to themselves. The Lord told the son of man, Ezekial, to prophesy to them. God can and does speak through many mouthpieces, but usually his voice is most clear when coming through the sons and daughters of men. I take their words to heart better than I do my own, even when we're all saying the same thing. Why that is, I don't know, but it's true.

This is probably why we're commanded to bear one another's burdens. To confess our sins to each other. To encourage one another in the faith. To not stop meeting together on a regular basis. We need each other; we have to depend on each other. In America, home of the proud and rugged individualist, we need to get over ourselves and re-learn the value of interdependency. Or, at least I do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Complexity in Unity

I read an article in some homeschool publication once about teaching art appreciation. It said that one quality which makes great art is that the piece has complexity and yet has unity. I'm no great artist or art critic, and I'm sure those who are would add to that summation, but I do like that description: complexity in unity.

That has come to my mind a few times lately in some varied environments. Some mosaic projects my girls did in our homeschool co-op made me think of artistic-looking furniture pieces I've seen at places like ArtSplash. Individually, the piece looks really cool -- a great work of art. But I can't see it in my house. The end table may have complexity and unity in itself, but when added to my living room, it would disrupt any sense of unity there.

Decorating for the holidays brings the concept to my mind again as well. We got out the fall/Halloween decorations last week. It always bugs me what a conglomeration of stuff we have. Craft projects from the early years, items that have been gifted to us, cheesy little toys the girls got in Sunday School or something. Complexity we abound in -- unity is nowhere to be found.

And the lack of unity grates on me when I'm living in the midst of it day in and day out. I'm finding that the unity side of this equation is much more important to me personally. I seem to be more of a big picture kind of gal when it comes to visual things. I can have an idea of how I want my bedroom to look, or the kind of outfit I want to wear to the premiere, but I don't have a clue how to pull the different individual elements together to make it happen. The little pieces -- the complexity -- are beyond me.

But I'm not that way in everything. The last couple days, I've been working on instruction lists for our backstage crew for the homeschool play. Four of our backstage people have "kid wrangling" in their job description -- getting kids where they need to be when they need to be there. I'm typing up lists for each of them of which kids they need to be responsible for getting to certain stage areas at specific times. It's very detailed work. And I'm kind of revelling in it. This complexity I can deal with and even enjoy. Yet, if I had to get all the costumes and props together for this production, it would literally make me cry.

All this to say . . . I'm wondering if this "complexity in unity" idea can reveal things about ourselves. I think the activities where I am most competent at pulling together complex details into a unified whole (and enjoy the process) are the activities where God has most gifted me. When God has gifted us, we become "artists" in that endeavor, whether it's painting, directing, teaching, selling, or plumbing. And when we see the fruits of our labor as a work of art, we are more motivated, more successful, and more fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Does This House Make Me Look Fat?

Let me start out by saying that I absolutely love my house. I have a big, beautiful house. It has a gorgeous view from the large back windows . . a lovely winding staircase . . wide, open spaces . . and it was decorated beautifully before we ever moved in. But to the point in my last post, it is perhaps a "fattening" element in our lives -- it is more house than we need. There are at least a couple rooms that we rarely, if ever, utilize. There's a lot of space in each room that isn't necessarily necessary.

But I still love it. And I feel a little guilty about it. And then I don't. It's really a struggle for me.

I don't feel guilty about it because we didn't go into this house hunt intending to buy a big, beautiful house. We had some things we knew we liked in a home (high ceilings, separate dining room, kitchen counter space, shelving for homeschool, etc.). We knew what kind of area we wanted to live in (more rural, but convenient to get to necessary shopping and for Keith to get to work in LeMars quickly). Keith looked at scads and scads of homes and narrowed it down to about a dozen that the girls and I came to look at.

This house was the first we saw, and I had an immediate connection with it. I stifled that, knowing I had many more to look at. But when we saw the others and came back to this one, I couldn't deny the feeling in my gut that this was our home. It felt right. It was also a good price, had low utility costs, etc. It has been a great place for us in so many ways. So I have a hard time feeling guilty about the purchase.

On the other hand, there's . . well, my kitchen. It has been called a "chef-ready" kitchen. It is SO wasted on me. I have friends who love to cook, and cook for large crowds, who would kill to have this kitchen, and I use it to make sloppy joes and heat up frozen pizzas. (OK, I'm not quite that bad, but . . ) I keep wondering how I can make better use of this kitchen for God's glory.

We have a large family room with squooshy, comfy sofas and a giant TV. It's wasted on the four of us watching Phineas and Ferb. How can we make better use of this room for God's glory?

We have a large yard to the back and an extra lot to the side of our house. Lots of wide, open space. It's wasted on our sedentary, indoor-loving family. How can we make better use of this land for God's glory?

I keep looking for ways, and I'm confident God will reveal them. Our house in NJ had much more space than we needed also, especially in the basement. But then I became a Creative Memories consultant. Because I had the space -- and could afford to have the money tied up -- I was able to keep a large inventory that many other consultants in the area made use of as well, consultants who were really trying to pay for family necessities with their business (unlike me, who was just supporting my own habit).

I also had a wonderful space there for holding workshops for my customers. And many wonderful things happened at these workshops. Friendships made, conversations enjoyed, family honored, memories celebrated, healing applied. In particular, I remember a regular customer who lost her husband suddenly to cancer crying while journaling on the pages she made of his hospitalization and funeral -- and the powerful relief and healing that flooded her countenance afterwards. Even before I knew what it was for, God had a use for that space.

And God has a use for this space, too. I don't feel guilty about having it. Until I consider what so many people think of me for having it. I know, it shouldn't matter what they think. Should it?

Maybe my sensitivity to "classism" is more understandable now. Just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm a racist. Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I'm over-emotional. And just because I live in a big, beautiful house doesn't mean I'm a cold, selfish, privileged brat.

"Now, Listen, You Rich People", part four

And now the tough one.

You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. (James 5)

Have I? Yes, probably more than I should have or would like to admit. The question is, what to do about that . . which can only be answered when I pinpoint where the problem is. What luxuries do I indulge in?

But I'm tempted to ask first . . is indulging myself necessarily a problem? In our workaholic society, we are often encouraged to take time to enjoy life and indulge ourselves. "Calgon, take me away!" And after all, Jesus said he came so that we may have an abundant life, and rest, and so forth. Leading a simple life is probably a virtue, as a whole (one that all Americans need to aspire to more), but what's the line between a godly, simple life and asceticism on an excessive scale?

I'm taking my cue from the second sentence above: I've fattened myself. You get fat when you eat more food than your body can make use of, and do so on a regular basis. Figuratively, I have fattened myself in the day of slaughter when I regularly yield to the desire for more stuff, more luxuries, more indulgences in my life than I (or my family) can make good, productive use of -- to truly benefit ourselves or others.

Like . . do I have clothes or shoes in my closet that I never wear, that I was unwise to buy in the first place, and that someone else could be wearing and be very grateful for? (Actually, not really. Personally, I'm not a clothes horse, although some of the rest of you may be -- hint, hint. But since this is about me, maybe I should go on.)

Do I have kitchen utensils cluttering my cupboards that I don't use, that were a waste of my money when I bought them, and that someone else could make much better use of?

Do my kids have toys lying around that they never play with, that were a poor use of our money from the beginning, and that some other child might actually appreciate?

Is my cell phone one with expensive features and apps that add little or no real value to my life or anyone else's? (Not mine . . I'm the techno-idiot in my family.)

Of course, we have some issues in these areas -- although I will say, we have less than many families, I think. I have been kind of proud of my girls lately, because they're having a hard time coming up with things to put on their Christmas list for Grandma and Grandpa. Because they realize that they don't really need anything. And they recognize now that a lot of the stuff they really wanted in the past is now sitting unused. They don't want to add to that stash. Good for them!

Yet, I still feel convicted at the accusation of living in luxury and self-indulgence. Mainly because of one possession -- our house. And that's a discussion for another post.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Clarifications Before I Move On . .

I'm not sure everyone reads the comments I get on posts, so I want to address a few that I have gotten recently:

- "I hope I don't get in trouble for this . . " one of them begins. My sentiments exactly. There's a lot of hatred and bitterness in our country over wealth and poverty issues, and we don't seem to be able to talk about it like reasonable people. I'm grateful for friends among my readers who give me the benefit of the doubt and know my heart when I write about these things, even when I may be missing the boat.

- By no means did I mean to imply in my last post that one is not accountable to God for how one treats employees. What I was saying is that this issue of paying people for their services is the only one of the three that we are also accountable to the state for. The other two are concerned with people's personal use of their personal money. God has plenty of say in that area for a believer -- but I don't think the state has any.

- "Why do CEOs think they are more important and worth more than the people who actually build the product they are trying to sell?" Why do politicians lose their integrity when they get into office? Why do teenagers disrespect their parents? Why do Christians act like hypocrites? The answer is, not all of them do. There are jerks everywhere, in every part of society -- but the majority of folks (even CEOs) are decent, compassionate people who make mistakes even with the best of intentions.

- Hard to compare the stress and pressure of running a company to the stress and pressure of struggling to support a family. Stress and pressure is stress and pressure. We are each given different talents, different passions, different blessings, and different stresses and pressures. We are each on God's "personal obstacle course" designed for our lives, to make us who God wants us to be and to accomplish what he wants accomplished through us. One person's calling is not more valuable than another's.

- Clearly, if I knew a company was mistreating its employees, it would behoove me to not do business with that company. But a word about Fair Trade products: my blogger friend Robin has written about this before, and I thought it sounded like a great idea. However, I just read something recently (and I wish I could find where it was to reference it here . . I'll keep looking) that made me reconsider. Apparently, the wages being paid to Fair Trade suppliers are so high above the area market rate for such workers that they are creating a glut of suppliers in the market, so to speak. So many people want to get that good money that an excess of people are going into the business of growing Fair Trade products. Considering that most of these are non-necessity items (chocolate, coffee, etc.), the demand for them goes down in bad economic times (such as we've been going through). Now, all those people are growing these products with not enough people willing to buy them at the "Fair Trade" price. So, the original growers are no better off than they were before, and the new growers are worse -- because they could be growing something more profitable if they weren't tempted into this industry by the promise of unreasonably high returns.

I started to address this some in my last post and then erased it -- it was getting too long -- but there are, of course, going to be situations where employers can have such a stranglehold on the workers of an area that the free market can't work like it should and workers are cheated out of a fair wage. But few Americans are in a stranglehold like that, I think. (Correct me if I'm wrong, friends.) And even in other countries, we have to be very careful what steps we take to fix the situation, so that we don't make matters worse.

- These posts have been tough for me to write so far. They are rooted in a need I have to examine myself in these areas -- to be sure I am not one of these "you rich people" that James is slamming. And as one commenter pointed out, there is hardly an American out there who is not rich compared to the rest of the world, so I figure these are questions we all need to ask ourselves.

But I'll be honest that I've had to stifle some of my own bitter feelings as I've written (and that I probably haven't always done a good job of it). As I said, I've been stunned and hurt at the nasty comments I've gotten from friends regarding the character of people in my financial position. Friends -- people who know me, claim to love me, and yet judge me so unjustly.

And I've been very frustrated by the direction our current administration has been taking the country, which seemed to be based on and actively fed by class warfare. Anyway, friends, forgive any acrimony that has come through in my posts, and please take my writing for what is it . . . a desire to know the truth about myself and my world.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Now, Listen, You Rich People", part three

Listen, the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Almighty. (James 5)

The second problem James seems to have with the rich people he is speaking to is that they are cheating people out of pay they have rightfully earned. In all honesty, I don't have much personal discomfort at this one. I can't think of anyone I owe money to, for any reason, that I don't pay. At worst, I'll admit to sometimes forgetting to tip folks whose services I rarely use -- like, the baggage handler at the airport. It's not that I'm cheap, or trying to cheat them; I just flat-out forget. Traveling is hectic and stressful, you know.

But as I noted in part one of this series, I have friends (whose voices I can hear now) who would use this bit of scripture to back up governmental policies they support. Friends who often decry the "obscene" salaries of CEOs compared to the minimum wages their factory-workers make. (SIGH. I am most certainly all for every worker getting paid a fair wage that they can live on, but the constant slamming of American CEOs -- who are NOT all corrupt, or care-less of their employees, or even overpaid necessarily -- just smacks of bitterness. It gets very old.)

Nevertheless, what I notice about this complaint of James, compared to #1 and #3, is that this one seems to actually be within the realm of what a government should deal with. Ensuring that contracts are upheld. That people get paid what they have been promised. This is a legitimate state duty. Yet, I would argue that the content of these contracts -- that is, how much a worker gets paid -- is NOT within the realm of what a government should deal with.

Some of said friends would also use this scripture in their arguments against companies sending work overseas where they can get a job done for a fraction of the wages. Another SIGH. A very complicated issue. I'll only make a couple of quick points. If those overseas workers are being paid a wage that is a living wage in their community (even if it sounds like pocket change for us), they are not being cheated. Second, if the companies know what the market value of their product is (that is, what consumers are willing to pay for it) and they determine that they cannot produce that product at that price with American workers earning American minimum wage, just what are they supposed to do? Use American workers anyway and lose money on every item they sell -- and ultimately go out of business, sending all their employees into unemployment? I think a lot of the grumblers here are not looking at the big picture.

However, I'm getting off-topic. My point was that this particular wrong -- failing to pay your workers what is due them -- is a wrong done against another person. It is one against which the state should legislate and judiciate. (Is "judiciate" a verb? Well, I just made it one.) On the other hand, the other two -- hoarding your money and excessive indulgences -- are wrongs done against the self and against God. The government does not have the right to tell people how to spend their own money; only their God does.

Perhaps that's why the other two points are more convicting to me. I'm accountable to no one but God in these areas. And accountability to God is a serious thing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Now, Listen, You Rich People," part two

So, the first issue James seems to have with the rich people he condemns is that they're sitting on their money, not using it productively. Their gold and silver are corroding with disuse.

Now, I'm going to tread in some dangerous territory here, because I am SO not a financial or economic expert. But I'm also not a dummy, and there are a few things about money that are hard to deny. One is that people with a lot of it don't hide it in their mattresses, or use it to "line their pockets with". They invest it. And money that is invested is being used to grow someone else's business, supporting someone else's family.

Another thing I know: when rich folks spend their money on some luxury like, say, an in-ground heated pool, somebody out there is selling them that pool. Somebody is getting paid to install that pool and probably to maintain it. I know "trickle-down economics" is the worst of curse words in some circles -- and as I said, I'm not even going to pretend to be any economics expert -- but let's at least admit that the vast majority of wealthy people are NOT corrupt and their money is not sitting dormant. Somebody, somewhere, is using that money to live.

But getting beyond the national scope of the question (which really is above my pay-grade), I'm more concerned with my own money. Our savings. Are we "hoarding money in the last days"? Hoarding is an ugly word. What constitutes the difference between wise saving and sinful hoarding? Maybe I should think about that more, but off the top of my head, hoarding has connotations of obscene excess and selfish motive.

How much money is too much money to have? Yeesh, that's an impossible question to answer. Personally, I've always been of a mindset that you can't ever have too much money in savings because you have no idea what financial needs are in your future. (My father's twenty-one year battle with Alzheimer's solidified that conviction in my mind.) Saving money is wise. Maybe one of you would like to weigh in on that question of how much is too much, but I'm going to move on to . . . what's happening to that money while it's in savings? Is our wealth "rotting", our "gold and silver corroding"? Is it sitting, wastefully unproductive, or is it being used to manifest good?

I'll be perfectly frank -- my husband is the financial expert in our family, and he knows better than I do how our money is invested. And maybe I should pay more attention to that.

But for six or seven years, our family sponsored (in my eldest's name) a girl in Indonesia through World Vision. A couple months ago, we got notice that our sponsorship was going to be terminated; I called World Vision asking them what-the-heck. They said that the community Jelita lived in had come to the point now of being fully self-sufficient and did not need financial support any longer.

Fully self-sufficient -- the whole community! Now, THAT was satisfying! That thirty dollars a month was well-spent. Makes me want to sponsor a few more kids this time around. Makes me want to put more of my money in local efforts, where I can personally see the good coming of it. Where I have concrete evidence, in front of my own eyes, that my "wealth" is not rotting, but is being multiplied like the loaves and fishes to be a blessing.

"Now, Listen, You Rich People . . "

Now, listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded; their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Listen, the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the days of slaughter. (James 5)

May I be so bold as to ask what the voice inside your head what saying to yourself as you read that passage? Because if it was something along the lines of "Yeah! You tell those fat old rich sinners, Jimmy!", I propose that your attitude is part of the problem with our country.

I remember conversations I had with a black friend and co-worker during the O.J. Simpson trial which were a very rude awakening. I was blessed to be raised in a home where racism was unthinkable. It was a huge shock to me to find that there were black people who would look at me on the streets, without knowing me or anything about me, and immediately assume I was racist just because I was white.

Similarly, I was stunned at the "classist" comments I got from even dear friends during the health care reform debate. Apparently, there are those who would look at my home and neighborhood, without knowing me or anything about me, and immediately assume that I'm a privileged, selfish, self-indulgent brat who wants poor people to die and disappear. Maybe I shouldn't be stunned by that, but I am. I'm even more stunned -- and justifiable so, I think -- at friends who seem to think that about me.

Many of you have read already posts about my discomfort I have sometimes with my current economic status. I've been studying James a lot lately, and he has some very harsh words for "the rich", which I've been trying to come to terms with. Seeing how wealth and prosperity was something God promised to his people as rewards and blessing, I don't believe scripture could be saying that the state of being rich is sinful. So, what is the problem James has with these rich people? Well, aside from the oppression that these particular wealthy people were inflicting on believers at the time (as described in other parts of James), he seems to take issue with three things:

1) Their wealth is sitting unused and unproductive, not helping anyone. (How else would it rot and corrode?)

2) They cheated people out of rightly earned pay.

3) They used their money to fill their lives with unnecessary luxuries.

I have liberal friends who would tell me that, even if I don't commit these three crimes directly and personally, our society and government is allowing me to do it indirectly, and that that is a wrong that must be corrected.

Something I will explore in my next post . . .

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Asking the Questions

I just read an article about a couple in KC named the Pruitts who are starting new careers in the independent film-making world -- creating "movies made by Christians rather than Christian movies". That phrase banged a gong in my mind. My NJ friend Randy and I had a conversation once about not wanting to do "Christian theater", but to be a Christian in theater. Aha -- a kindred spirit, as Anne of Green Gables would say.

The article refers to a book by Paul Marshall called Heaven is Not My Home. A quick reading of a few reviews of the book gives me some concern, but Marshall's ideas that they mention in the article I like. Ideas about art (such as film and theater) and Christians. " . . Most people who watch Christian movies are, well, Christians. Those who aren't are either unaware these movies exist or hate them." True dat.

I always struggled with what to say about Fireproof and Facing the Giants. I kind of enjoyed the movies -- they had some particularly well-done and poignant scenes. But they had some other scenes that were just awful, honestly. Terrible acting -- so obviously amateurish. And the "gospel presentation" is too . . gosh, I can't quite think of the words. Simplistic. Unreal. Preachy. Preachy because it's so obvious that's the real reason the movie was made -- to "trick" someone into hearing a gospel presentation. They are "thinly veiled sermons" that "follow an evangelistic formula." So true dat.

And they do this because "we are impatient with the allusion, the gesture, the suggested, and latent. We want the straight-forward sermon, not the implied question." A-men. But as Marshall continues, a good film is "always allusive, suggestive, and alluring; it hints, it frames, and it touches. It does not come right out and state the case; it does not argue." A-MEN.

As Randy said (and I'm paraphrasing), theater is really good at asking the questions, but it really sucks at giving the answers. And many Christians are uncomfortable with that because they are afraid of leaving critical questions unanswered. We're always afraid that we will miss that one golden opportunity to lead someone to Christ.

Who was it that said, "They don't believe Jesus is the answer because they aren't asking the questions"? I believe there is tremendous value in theater (and film) that draws the viewer to the right questions, even without offering answers. Theater that walks them that one step closer to knowing God. And THAT is the kind of theater I ultimately want to be involved in creating.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Value of a Teacher

I've been communicating with some of my former teachers on Facebook. And I've been hearing my eldest describe her current teachers in high school. And it has all got me thinking about just how good teachers can be . . and just how bad teachers can be.

Many of you know that I'm a fan of the idea of merit pay for teachers. I'm not sure how to accomplish it fairly and practically, but I agree with the principle: good teachers should be paid better than bad teachers. They should be paid according to their value to their students. But how do we determine that value?

My husband, the businessman, will tell you that the value of a product has nothing to do with the costs incurred to produce it, or the differences between it and similar products, or anything like that -- the real value of a product is whatever a consumer is willing to pay for it. A fancy decorative tea cozy may seem like an unnecessary frivolity that accomplishes nothing of worth in society, but if someone is willing to pay half a month's salary for it, then that is its value.

So, can we use the same principle to determine a teacher's value -- that is, what he/she should be paid? Stay with me here, and hear me out before you get all huffy -- I'm just exploring an idea . . .

I contend that the people in a school community who ultimately know best which teachers are good and which are bad are the parents. (Well, the attentive parents -- we all know there are some parents that know nothing really about what's going on in their kids' lives -- factor them out of this scenario.) Parents know when a school year ends which teachers their kids actually learned from and which they didn't. And parents are usually quite willing to share their assessment with other parents -- and such parents know very well which teachers they want their kids to get for certain classes.

What if . . and again, don't freak out yet . . what if we were to allow parents to pay extra for the teachers they want their children to have? If parents had some power to choose their child's teachers, they would be even more active in seeking out information about the prospects. And the teachers who have been most successful with the most students would have the best reputations and ultimately command the best salaries. We would KNOW which teachers are good, and they would get paid accordingly.

Now, I understand that this would also mean that the wealthiest children would get the best teachers -- I'm not suggesting this as a legitimate solution to the teacher pay question. I'm just exploring the question of how to determine how much a teacher should be paid. As much as my liberal friends like to rail against the free market system, it can be very useful, and I'm wondering if there's a way to make use of its principles here . . .

More to come later, I think.

On Self-Marketing and Genius

My youngest was writing a song last night for a band with her and two friends. No such band exists yet, but she had the idea for one last night and started writing music. Right now, she's typing up a script for a play that we wants to do with her neighborhood friends. Or maybe it's a movie. Again, nobody else knows the plans she has for them yet, but she's convinced it will be a big hit.

She's a lot like me. She gets all sorts of brilliant ideas. She plans them all out, imagining in her head just how they will all go, who will be involved, etc. Then, she's disappointed -- sometimes inconsolably -- when things don't go according to her vision. Like, our family has something else scheduled for the time she wants to rehearse . . . or we don't have supplies to build the set she was envisioning . . or some friend of hers has another idea of how it should work or isn't interested in participating at all.

As I said, she's a lot like me. I get fabulous ideas for plays . . or for unit lesson plans . . or for birthday parties . . . or whatever. It's taken me many years to get used to the idea that I have to have others on board with my ideas before I begin, rather than to just assume that they'll recognize the brilliance of my plans and gladly jump on the bandwagon with me.

Looking back, I think that was some of the frustration I had with teaching early on. I had great lesson plans. As I was planning, I could just envision how thrilled the students would be, how enthralled with my exciting presentations, how enlightened by the instruction. And then it never seemed to turn out that way. Such a let-down. Makes you want to give up sometimes.

One thing I learned about myself as a Creative Memories consultant is that I hate doing sales. I hate trying to convince someone that they want what I have to offer them, whether it's a photo-safe album, a script for a Christmas program, or a new way to teach grammar. I think that's why I have gravitated to positions where I am not casting a vision myself, but providing the means for another's vision to be accomplished. I need someone to recognize what I can do for them and come to me. Unfortunately, that doesn't often happen. I probably need to get over myself and learn to market.

In the meantime, I want to figure out how to keep nurturing this imagination and enthusiasm in my youngest while helping her learn how to sell an idea and how to accept the realities of life -- that genius such as ours is often unappreciated and unrecognized. And maybe I'll throw in a few lessons in humility while I'm at it. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All Our Sins and Griefs to Bear

I teach my girls old hymns during our Bible lesson in homeschool. Just because I want them to know the old hymns -- there's a lot of good stuff in them. This morning, we will be singing my mother's favorite: "What A Friend We Have in Jesus". I used to get annoyed at this song. Too redundant. "Everything to God in prayer . . everything to God in prayer . . everything to . . ." But in recent years, I've had more need to take everything to God in prayer, and now I get it.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear . . .

That phrase jumped out at me this morning. I've always been grateful for Jesus' willingness to bear my griefs, even when I can't quite figure out how to give them up to him completely. But he also bears our sins. I knew that. Theoretically. But now I'm really pondering that phenomenon.

I'm well aware of my sins. And I'm well aware that there are sins in my life I'm probably not aware of. I have a hard time bearing all my sins sometimes. I see the effects they have on my life, on my family, on my ministries, on my witness. Sometimes the burden of guilt over how I fail can be overwhelming. The fact that Jesus wants to take the burden of my sins -- just like the burden of my griefs -- is cause for great praise.

But the thing is, he doesn't just bear my sins. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And not just for ours, but for the sins of the whole world." (James 2) The sins of the whole world. Again, I always knew that intellectually, but the reality of that doesn't always sink in. I know how heavy the burden of my own sin is. But everyone has that burden -- and many people don't have any respite in the fact that Jesus offers to take that burden, which only increases the burden's weight. Yet Jesus bore the sins of the whole world. Every person who has ever lived on the planet, their burden of sin was born by Jesus on the cross.

Wow. That takes a big God to bear up under that. A mighty God. A powerfully loving God. A remarkably merciful God. Wow.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear.

What a privilege to be friends with a God like that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Woman's Tears

For a lot of women, a lot of the time, crying is a lot like sweating.

I don't remember where I heard that analogy, but it rings true for me. Sometimes when I (and other women I know) cry, it's not because I'm upset. And they aren't necessarily tears of joy, either. It's just a kind of physical release. Like sweating when you exercise, it's an outward sign of some good, healthy work happening on the inside.

But not everyone understands that, even among the female population. Whenever we see someone cry, our first thought is that something is wrong with them. If you are a compassionate type, you'll probably go up and put your arm around them and ask if they're okay, in that sing-songy sweet voice we use in such situations -- we may even call them "honey", or some such endearing, motherly term, because it just feels right to act like a mama right then. And when they protest that they are fine, we assume they just need more coaxing to let it all out and feel better, so we hug them some more and call them "sweetie" or "sister" or something else, hoping to project ourselves as a safe repository for all the deep secrets and emotions that are troubling them.

And this brings me to last weekend. I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in St. Louis with my two sisters attending a Joyce Meyer women's conference. A conference I really enjoyed, more than I thought I might. I've read some of Meyer's books and appreciated a lot of her teaching as very valuable, but I've always had some misgivings about her, and I wasn't sure how I would like a weekend full of her. But it turned out to be a great conference.

Yet, the crying issue came up. The women at this conference leaned toward the charismatic Christian tradition and were very vocal and demonstrative, particularly during the "praise and worship" (read: music). Didn't bother me . . . in fact, I found myself at times feeling the urge to raise my hands as I sang as well. But I didn't. Why, do you ask?

Because I knew that if I did, I would start crying. Sweat-type crying. Just an emotional release that probably would have been good for me at the time. But I was with my sisters (who are not used to me crying) and one sister's two friends (who didn't really know me at all), and I didn't want to start the hugging/mothering/oh-honey-just-let-it-all-out cycle. Mainly, it would have disrupted the good worship that was going on -- they would have been worried about what was wrong with me, I would have been frustrated at not being able to convince them nothing was wrong, the women around us would have been distracted by wondering if something serious was going down here that they should be praying about . . . you know.

Need to figure out a brief, simple answer to give to that question, "Are you okay?" Something that frees the inquirer and myself both to just let me do some healthy crying when the occasion calls for it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Doctor Number Six

So, the latest sleep doctor is recommending I find a psychiatrist to try some anti-depressant meds. Even though I don't feel depressed (actually, I've been feeling more content with life lately than I have in a long time), I have a history of depression, and there may still be enough of a chemical imbalance there to disrupt my "sleep architecture".

Not crazy about that idea. I've been on anti-depressants before. I remember my psychiatrist describing the whole process -- sometimes these meds work, sometimes others do, we don't know exactly how or why they work in each different person, so we just play around until we find an effective treatment. It made me think of something my friend Vickie said once: "You know, doctors used to drill holes in people's heads. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. They never knew why it did or didn't work, so they just kept drilling holes in people's heads." As much as I believe that there are really people who have a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected with anti-depressant meds, I'm not comfortable with the idea of their playing around with my brain chemistry to see if that's the problem.

I've always wondered, too, how people survived in past centuries before such medications existed. I'm sure many people were just depressed all the time. But I have a hypothesis. I think they were better able to handle a dysthymic state of mind because they didn't have such high expectations of life. They weren't conditioned by society to believe that they should constantly feel fulfilled and joyful and peppy and all. Life is hard, and they knew and accepted that. They probably appreciated the happy times all the more because they saw them as a blessing when they came, rather than feeling cursed when they were absent.

All to say . . . I'm not sure what to do about this recommendation from my latest sleep doctor. A couple other friends have recommended their favorite alternative medicine man. If they have an answer for me, I think I'd prefer that to more meds. On the other hand, their answers may not be as easy as more meds -- and part of being sleep-deprived is being lazy. And I don't want to spend a lot of time and money pursuing possible remedies that are just wacky. *SIGH* What to do . . what to do . .

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oh, To Be a Cow . . .

I was sitting upstairs this morning looking out of my window and saw the herd of cows grazing in the field behind my house. A bit off in the distance. Lazily chomping away at their grass on a cool, drizzly morning. A handful of calves were born to the herd this year, and I watched one of them trotting over to its mother and then stop to feed by her.

And suddenly, I wanted to be a cow.

Seriously. To have nothing to do all day but wander around a lovely green field, eating tasty green grass. No schedules to meet. No people to chase down by phone, text, email, facebook, whatever. No deadlines. No stressful decisions that will inevitably leave somebody unhappy. No guilt trips about needs going unmet, about relationships being neglected, about chores left undone. No worries about national and global peace and prosperity. No fuss about clothes and hair and makeup and weight gain.

Just walk and chew. And repeat.

If I believed that man evolved from lower life forms, I would have to wonder at the wisdom of his doing so.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Storms of the Brain . . .

Pastor's finishing up a series on wisdom in October with a message about "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111 and Proverbs 9). I'm thinking that's a topic we should be able to work up a good drama for.

I think of our Sunday morning dramas as kind of a surgery prep for the congregation. The pastor has a message from God to deliver, and there's a place in each person's heart and mind where that Word needs to be applied, where it can serve its healing or sanctifying function. The drama can lead each person to that place -- "cut them open" and lay bare the wound or diseased spot that needs the application of God's truth. Sorry for the graphic imagery, but it works for me . . and this is my brainstorming session.

So, if the take-away this particular Sunday is that they need to look for wisdom first in their reverance for God, what in Joe Sunnybrook's life might stand in the way of their doing that? A misunderstanding of what "the fear of the Lord" means? Perhaps. But I think that may be a lot of what Pastor is addressing, and so we don't want to be repetitive. The drama isn't a sermon in itself. We don't want to steal his thunder.

Maybe it's that we are conditioned by the world to look for wisdom elsewhere. Like where? Hmmm. Knowledge . . information . . we are bombarded with bits and pieces of information all day long . . soundbites from the news . . . twitter updates . . . endlessly forwarded emails . . . we hear something and feel enlightened by the knowledge, but before that enlightenment has a chance to take root and make a difference in our lives, it is displaced by another witty comment . . . yet we somehow feel wiser . . . hmmmm.

Where else? Experience . . gray hair is said to be a sign of wisdom because the longer one lives, the more experiences one has had to learn from . . . but while experience gives the opportunity to grow wiser, it doesn't guarantee wisdom . . . how often do we do the same stupid things over and over again.

Where else? Advice from others? Yes, but we don't really want to knock that -- it's Biblical to seek wise counsel. But maybe it shouldn't be where we start . . the beginning of wisdom. Where else? How about "listening to your heart"? One of my personal pet peeves . . all this talk about the answer being right there inside you, just listen to your heart . . . the Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17) . . . my "heart" can say different things to me depending on how well I slept, what I ate for breakfast, who I've been hanging out with lately . . . whenever I hear some well-intentioned inspirational guru encouraging people to "look within" for all the answers in life, I wonder how many human beings they are very well acquainted with.

So, maybe three characters . . each with a different idea of where wisdom begins . . knowledge . . . experience . . the inner self (is there a better word for that?) . . . in conversation with each other? No, that might feel contrived -- and it would take too much time to set up a situation in which such a conversation would happen. Monologuing . . talking to the audience . . each in their own situation, no interaction with each other . . but perhaps with some of their lines overlapping, to show the similarity of their follies? Ooo, yeah, I like that . . .

You're all dying to see this, aren't you? :)


Sioux City is a pretty cool town, really -- especially for its size. I mean, there's some really neat stuff that happens here.

Ever since we moved to Siouxland, we've been hearing about ArtSplash. We didn't quite get what it was exactly -- an arts festival, yes, but we weren't sure how appealing it would be to our family. But the JAM Action Squad at our church was doing a kids craft there, and our eldest volunteered to help out. So, our lazy inertia came to an end yesterday afternoon.

This is a very nice event, folks! Takes place down by the river -- a lovely spot in itself. They have rows and rows of artists (over a hundred, Keith and I estimated) with their works on display for sale or just for perusal. And some really good art! Now that we know about this, I think we may come prepared next year to look for some items for our home.

Then there's a main stage set up with live performances happening all afternoon. On Saturday, they had a "TalentSplash" competition -- kind of a "Siouxland's Got Talent" thing. We just heard the winner perform yesterday afternoon, but next year, maybe I'll have to come watch the preliminaries.

There's another small stage area -- the "Children's Loft" -- that has performances going on geared toward kids. We got there when a woman (the pastor's wife from the Orthodox Church I wrote about before) was leading everyone in some kind of dance/exercise based on traditional Indian and Bollywood moves. Our youngest joined in right away -- it was a lot of fun! There was a magician there, too, that she loved. Gave me some ideas for the drama team for next year . . .

Near the Children's Loft were several tables of craft projects (offered by various local groups, like Sunnybrook's JAM Action Squad) that kids could make and take home. Or they could get their face painted, their hair color-sprayed, their arms tattoo'd . . you know, that kind of thing.

And then, the obligatory food vendors with all the wonderful, greasy food that you only allow yourself to eat at such events because if you ate that way all the time, you wouldn't live past the age of thirty.

And the weather was glorious! Sunny, a little cool, a slight breeze blowing most of the time. Just a lovely afternoon. One of these days, maybe we'll learn that we don't often regret it when we get our lazy butts up and do things!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Great Social Experiment

My youngest and I came to some conclusions last night.

For bedtime reading, we're finishing up the American Girl Julie series, the girl from 1974. I'll put aside my angst at having my own childhood period set up as an historical era for my children to read about. In this last book, Julie has a deaf friend who is being cruelly teased by some girls in school. Eastin's having a hard time reading this, because it hurts her how mean the girls are.

And she's relating it a lot to her year in public school last year. How mean kids can be. How everyone blows their top about something or other. How "everyone has something wrong with them" -- everyone has their own faults and frailties. Yet kids are still so mean to each other. She finds it very distressing.

Kids don't act that way in small groups, it seems. We talked about how, for some reason, school seems brings out that behavior. Being grouped en masse with a random set of children who happen to have been born within a year of your birthday. Starting from the tender age of 5 or 6, when kids are . . well . . immature. Selfish. Socially inept and inexperienced. Who expects otherwise from a 5-year-old? Thrown into a pool of piranhas to sink or swim, find an identity, fill a rank in the social order, or get swallowed alive. By the end of Leslie's first grade year in public school, I was very conscience of the social experiment we had been performing with her -- very conscience of it and very uncomfortable with it.

During our homeschooling years, I was very careful about my girls' social interactions. I paid attention to the kind of influence my kids were having on others, and they on my kids. I didn't keep them away from "bad influences", but limited their amount of exposure and always was present to mediate. We talked about these kids and what might be happening in their hearts and minds and lives to make them want to act that way. We prayed for them. We tried to train our girls to be salt and light.

Like so many parents, I would have done the same thing if they'd been in public school, too. I just couldn't have done it as effectively.

I've often heard it given as an objection to homeschooling that homeschooled students don't learn how to deal socially with kids who are different than they are. I find that argument very amusing. As if public school kids are so much more advanced in these skills.

Eastin's conclusion last night: "I like homeschooling better." My conclusion: ditto.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Sometimes I just really screw up. As a wife . . as a parent . . as a friend . . as a human being . . I do things that are completely wrong and I hurt others in the process. I am blessed that most often, those that I've hurt are gracious to forgive me. I rarely deserve it.

But sometimes, the "OK, I forgive you" is less than genuine. Forgiveness is clearly not there yet. I suppose I should understand -- sometimes it just takes time. But there's not much that feels more devastating than to be so repentant of a wrong but powerless to fix the situation. You've done all you can -- they have to bridge the rest of the gap. The status of the relationship is now in the other's hands. And they may not hold that relationship in much esteem anymore.

Jesus said that if we forgive others, we will be forgiven; if we refuse to forgive others, we won't be forgiven either. That statement always troubled me a bit. It sounds like he's saying God's forgiveness is dependent on our doing good, which contradicts the rest of scripture. But maybe that's not it.

Maybe it's that a failure to forgive shows a pride in self and an apathy for the relationship. It says that I am of such importance that your slight to me has no remedy. That I would rather sacrifice my relationship with you than think less of myself -- or think of myself less. It says that you are not worth risking the chance of getting hurt again. Maybe when one is that care-less about relationships with other flesh-and-blood humans, one is not capable of giving the appropriate value to a relationship with God. I mean, to approach the Almighty Creator of the universe with that kind of pride means you really don't know who you're dealing with here. And you can't have a relationship with someone you don't know.

There's only so much one person can do to build a relationship -- the other has to meet them part of the way. I assume the same is true with God? Being God, he goes far, far beyond the halfway point to meet us. But if there's nothing given or sacrificed on our end, it's not a relationship. It's . . . something else.

Sorry. This is probably one of those rambling posts that means nothing to anyone else. But it may have connected some dots for me . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Miracle Monday

I've mentioned before my Charismatic friend. Her church is having a revival this week, and she invited me to go last night. It was designated as "Miracle Monday", and they were encouraging anyone who wanted prayer for a miracle in their life to come. She knows about my sleep problems . . . did I want to have prayer for that? Well, heck, yeah! Pray, anoint, slap me around, whatever.

So, I went. I did pause a moment during the service to consider the progression of my faith over the years. The first time I heard someone speak in tongues, I kind of freaked. Now, it doesn't really faze me. I have my questions about the whole idea, but I don't put God in a box anymore and tell him how he does and doesn't work in people's lives. This wasn't the kind of worship service I would feel comfortable attending on a regular basis, but it was appropriate for my needs last night.

They prayed over me. They anointed me with oil in the name of the Lord, just like it says in James. I went home tired, although that's typical. And then I slept about like usual, maybe slightly worse. Not that I was expecting instantaneous change -- healing isn't always instantaneous. Actually, I'm not sure I was really expecting healing at all.

And therein lies my problem now, wondering if I "did this wrong" somehow. Here's the thing with me and healing: I absolutely believe that God can heal me of whatever is causing my sleep problems. Absolutely no doubt in my mind. But, God can heal anyone of anything, and he doesn't always do it. So, it's not a question of can he, but will he. And if he doesn't, I assume there's something else he has in mind. As I've said before, I've started to wonder if this isn't my own version of Paul's thorn in the flesh -- something to keep me humbled, to keep me always dependent on him.

Like the two alcoholics who got saved. One of them never wanted a drink again for the rest of his life -- a miracle. The other craved alcohol every hour of every day, but never drank again -- and that's just as much of a miracle. The fact that I've lived with this kind of sleep deprivation for years, apparently, and have not had a major car accident, or abused my children, or destroyed my marriage, that I've been able to continue living life pretty successfully . . . that's definitely a God thing.

I guess I find it a bit presumptuous to expect God to jump at my words and fix me all up just because some evangelist labeled this "Miracle Monday" and I decided to act on that. On the other hand, something keeps nagging at me that if God does have a miracle to do in my life, he may want me to participate in that miracle by believing it's going to happen, without any reason to believe it other than the fact that God says he's Jehovah Rapha, The God Who Heals. SIGH.

I believe, Lord. Help me my unbelief.