Monday, April 30, 2012

My Stats

So, Blogger made some changes in its format.  Nothing that you all see from your end, but one neat addition on my end is very easy access to a "stats" page about my blog.  Wow!  Fascinating!  Some stats of interest:

- As of 8am this morning, my blog has received 10,010 page views in its history (although I note that the stats for the first couple years seem to be pretty messed up, so its likely more than that).  That is overwhelming.  And humbling.  I remain amazed that anyone cares to read what I have to say.  Thank you, everyone.

- Each of my posts average 20-30 views, although a popular one will get into the 50s.  But my January 5th, 2011 post on Being a Conservative received 286!!!  What in the world??  Where did all those people come from?  I really would love to know.

- They provide me with a world map of where my pageviews come from.  I apparently have a faithful reader or two in Canada!!  Again, where in the world did they come from?  I can't think of any friends I have in Canada . . .

- Almost all of the people who read my blog get there from Facebook.  Not a surprise.  But occasionally, someone comes from the blog of a friend of mine (I suspect that might be that friend) and somebody out there googles me to find my blog.  Hmm!

I'm sure I still have more to glean from my new stats page when I have time to study it more.  And I will be studying it more.  I've decided it's time I look into the possibilities of making some money with my writing.  What that's going to look like, I really don't know.  I just spend a lot of time writing, and it feeds me, so if it can help feed my family, too, why not?

This may mean some changes in my blog one of these days.  We'll see . . . in the meantime, thank you again, everyone, for checking in here occasionally.  I am blessed and humbled.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Show Day!

It's Show Day for our homeschoolers today.  I really wish I felt better for this -- I'm coughing now and on the edge of losing my voice completely.  But that won't spoil anything.  We're ready.

Yes, we are ready.  My producer Kim reminded me yesterday that we originally had performance day scheduled for last week and had to move it.  Last week, we would not have been ready.  God's timing.

Every year, it has snowed on the day of the middle/high schoolers performance.  We always prayed for cloudy weather because the church we performed in had high windows that couldn't be covered for blackouts during the afternoon show.  Snow was a little bit of overkill, but we took it.  Today, we don't have windows to worry about, but rain and thunder is on the forecast.  That's my only concern: storm noise during the performance will make it tough to hear the actors.

This is all going to be kind of emotional for me.  This is a show I've wanted to write and do for a long time -- a Godspell-esque style version of the Sermon on the Mount.  I've been waiting for my kids to be ready for it, and this year, they were not only ready, but God brought us more kids with the musical talents we needed to really pull it off in style. 

And . . . I realize this is probably my last show with them.  So sad.  SO very sad at that. 

My husband's job ended the day before our fall show with the younger kids.  I told Kim, but no one else.  I felt kind of numb all day.  In between performances, Kim came up to me in tears and said, "Is this going to be our last show together?  I don't want this to be our last show together!!"  Thank you, Lord, that it wasn't.  I wouldn't have missed this one for the world.

So, Siouxland friends: "Preachin' on a Hillside", 3:30 and 7pm, Sunnybrook Community Church, FREE.  And non-Siouxland friends: pray for no rain!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts On Being Sick

- I hate being sick.

- I probably shouldn't complain.  At least I don't have the pukey stomach flu stuff.  Actually, it's been a long time since I've had pukey stomach flu stuff.  I wonder what I'm doing right to keep it away.

- Puffs Plus tissue is quite a concept.  I wonder how they do that, putting lotion in the tissue? They're too expensive for regular daily use, but they're a Godsend when you're blowing your nose all day.

- Noah, the trombonist in my play Friday, is apparently sick, too.  We were very worried about him yesterday because he had the sore throat like me but also stomach problems.  His mom and I were thinking, "Strep!  Oh, no!"  Turns out the stomach part was part of a migraine.  An unusual form of migraine for him, but a migraine nonetheless.  The clincher?  Their family dog had a seizure last night, and mom says about 98% of the time, Noah's migraines and the dog's seizures happen on the same day.  How freakish is that?  Something to do with barometric pressure, she thinks . . .

- I took Nyquil the other night -- the first time I've taken sleep-inducing medication since the year started.  I was a little worried. Like the alcoholic risking a glass of wine at a party.  I think it probably helped me sleep some, but I still didn't sleep well.

- So far, this seems to be one of my typical cold cycles.  It starts with a sore throat.  Within a couple days, that wanes and I get really congested and have to blow my nose all day.  Eventually, that fades into a wicked cough.  And ultimately, the cough sticks in my chest for weeks and won't go away until the doctor gives me some heavy medication.  That's the part of this I dread.  I've got to do some research on this ahead of time and see if there's something I can do to prevent that.

- Doctors always say that the best treatment for a cold is rest and fluids.  Do you know anyone who rests when they have a cold?  I don't.  A cold lasts for a week or so -- who can take a week to rest?  And would a week of rest really make the cold go away any faster?  Or would it just make your life more pleasant during the cold?  Reminds me of the Beverly Hillbillies episode where Granny claims to have the cure to the common cold.  Do this, this and this, and your cold will be gone within seven days.  Yup.

- I'm doing the rest and fluids thing this week, though.  Friday is play day.  Tomorrow is dress rehearsal.  I need to be as healthy and rested up as I can be.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Apologies

Someone just suggested to me that my blog posts sound a bit self-righteous.  Sigh.  One of my biggest fears.  I've been accused of such before -- haven't I mentioned my status as a recovering Pharisee?

But that was most frustrating to me because I really work on that.  I try to share my many faults I'm working on (and that's tough -- not the sharing, but figuring out what to share and how in such a public forum).  I try to give credit for any insightful remarks I make because they are rarely my own. God doesn't often bless me with original thought -- only with, perhaps, a knack for making connections and a forum to share.  I usually use "we" instead of "you" when presenting ideas that are personally challenging (like the Sin Challenge business), and I do so very honestly because most of the challenging stuff I write about, I'm writing about because I'm being personally challenged by it.  Lord knows, the last thing I want to imply is that I know everything or have it all together.

Yet, it seems I often fall into that place anyway.  In a class I took once about spiritual gifts, the presenter told us that every spiritual gift has a negative counterpart to be cautious of.  Teachers tend to lean toward being know-it-alls.  As a then-teacher-in-training, and as a former teacher now, I have always tried to keep that in mind.  It's a hazard of the profession.

As I type this, my daughter is reading over my shoulder, saying, "But it's your blog!  What you write is supposed to be your own thoughts.  It's what you're thinking at the time.  It's not being self-righteous."  Maybe so.  But if my words are to have any impact -- and honestly, why bother writing them to anyone else if that isn't ultimately my goal? -- then they need to be heard.  And they will be dismissed if I sound like I say them with an attitude.

Anyway, my apologies if I come off as a self-righteous prig.  I often feel a strong conviction to share something God is teaching me, but I continue to work on balancing confidence and boldness with humility.  Your grace is always appreciated!

Friday, April 20, 2012


I've been really trying hard to waste less time on the computer. That means looking for other things to do with my time. It's not like I don't have other things to do, but the thing that usually most needs done is something I hate to do.

Housework. Dusting. Vacuuming. Disinfecting. Sweeping. Wiping. Scrubbing. Cleaning. Ugh. As I've said before, I'm more of a project person. I'm not a good "maintainer". Housework is maintenance, and it drains me. I know it has to be done anyway, and I do it, but it drains me.

I remember reading a magazine article decades ago that compared the nature of traditional husband work to traditional wife work. The man's jobs, it said, tend to be more project oriented -- repair this, build this -- stuff that has a start and finish date and generally stays done. The woman's jobs, however, are the stuff that gets done over and over and over again, sometimes within a couple hours -- cooking, cleaning, laundry, diapers, dishes . . . Of course, this article didn't discuss yardwork and taking out the trash, both repetitive chores traditionally done by the male, so I think the gender issue is not as pertinent. But it did make a good point about the nature of the work we do on a regular basis, one that hit home to me anyway.

Maybe it's the dreary weather. Maybe it's my husband being out of town. Maybe it's that my brain is occupied thinking about the play next week. But this week, the thought of disinfecting my kitchen counters has exhausted my spirit. They will just get dirty again after the next meal. No one will see this clean counter but me and my daughters, and my daughters won't even notice. In fact, that's another thing about housework: it is only noticed when it doesn't get done. Nobody goes around saying, "Wow! No dust on that table! No streaks on that mirror! Clean dishes are in the cabinet! Good work!" There's no positive reinforcement for doing it, only negative consequences for not having done it.

No, I will not hire a cleaning service. I did that for a while in Jersey and it rankled my soul. Ridiculous to pay someone to do what I should be doing myself. I just need to figure out how to make it less draining . . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Simply An Answer

Yesterday was a rough day. Nothing big, just lots of little annoyances. Well, no -- they were significant annoyances, things that really had every right to bring me down.

One thing happened that, in past years, would have dashed my self-confidence to the pavement. Completely disregarding evidence to the contrary, I would have labeled myself a failure and started seeing conspiracy in the eyes of those around me -- they all think I'm a failure, too. They're all just patronizing me.

Another thing happened that would have made me feel like all my well-laid and profoundly important plans for the day had been shot. I would have been put into a panic that there was no way I could recover from this detour. Everything is downhill from here.

Another thing happened that would have sunk me into the depths of disappointment -- this particular aspect of my life is not going to look like I had planned it, and how dreadfully unbearable! I had it all pictured out a certain way, and now that picture is blown. I trusted this person and they failed me.

A certain personality I had to deal with would have made me feel small . . . ridiculous . . . would have had me question everything I did and would have had me scrambling for their approval . . . and I would have been eaten alive all day at not having earned it.

And after an eventful day with such doings piled on, I would have snapped at my family, grumbled at the messes in the house, and dragged myself to a room by myself with the nearly uncontrollable urge to escape . . . somehow, anyhow. Not necessarily physically, but mentally, using one of various means to, in my mind, leave the present situation that hurts and is completely out of my control and go . . . just some other place. (We all have our favored means of escape, don't we?) Sleep meds were really my friend on those days.

But I wasn't that person yesterday. I experienced each event, moaned a little, and let it go, moving on. I ended the day tired but still standing. And I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm genuinely sleeping better. Maybe (and this is a good possibility) the girls' growing up and being less needy of me relieves a lot of stress. Maybe I've grown emotionally, or spiritually.

I pondered it all for a while but then thought, why does it matter why? I've asked God to help me handle life better -- to grow me up -- to make me the woman he wants me to be to accomplish what he has me to accomplish. Is this not simply an answer to prayer? Why don't I just accept it as such and move on with gratitude instead of incessantly analyzing everything in my life?

Thank you, Lord. Yesterday was a good day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fair and Loving

I’ve got a new book, and I was just reading a chapter about fairness and how very unfair life is. Always. Isn’t it interesting, though, that we still demand fairness from the universe? No matter how much evidence we have that good people don’t always get the good things and bad people often do, that this is a given in life, that there is no avoiding it, we still feel the affront when we don’t get something we think we deserve.

I suppose it’s because almost all of us believe in God – or at least in some good and just force active in the universe. (In fact, the atheist who demands justice of mankind seems to be betraying his own dogma, don’t you think?)

I have a rather frightening thought: what if God really isn’t that concerned about fairness, at least the way we define it? What if he thinks LOVE is more important than justice? What if love and fairness are not necessarily always compatible?

It is fair to equally require all of my children to do their chores before dinnertime. But it is love to give a temporary pass to the son who was rejected that day by his crush and is lying heartbroken on his bed.

It is justice to fire the employee who has failed to meet expectations for the umpteenth time after repeated warnings. It is love to sit down with him and help him figure out why he keeps failing.

It is justice to send an unrepentant sinner to hell. It is love to take his punishment on yourself. Yes, I think there’s no denying that, while God is a God of justice, He sets love as the greater good. Jesus lists the two greatest commandments to be “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” I think if we focus on being truly loving, we will not need to worry about if we’re being fair.

And I think this principle can be applied to our “class warfare” battles today. What if the rich were encouraged to give – not their “fair share” – but their most loving share? What if the poor, rather than protesting a lack of justice in the world, decried the lack of love in the world – and began the revolution by loving even those who take advantage of them?

As I said, just a thought. And perhaps a frightening one, at that.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Confessions of a Wallower

Soooo, back to that there Sin Challenge. (Nope, I haven't let go of it yet, folks.)

A friend wrote me back on my last challenge post to tell me she was participating. She talked about how she always strives to do this and is always increasingly aware of her sinfulness. Made me smile because this friend has always struck me as such a godly woman. I've said before: the most godly people in my life are the ones most aware of their own sinfulness.

Something in her response triggered a small alarm in me. She sounded a bit like she might be a fellow wallower. Probably not -- but it made me think that I should probably address that here.

I tend to wallow. You know, look at all the mud and gunk in my life, hate it with a passion, and then lay myself right down in it and roll around luxuriously. A "confession session" with God turns into a laundry list of all my failings and expressions of gratitude for his forgiveness . . . Hallelujah, thank you Jesus . . . and then moving on to requests. Almost as if I glory in my miserable state because it gives me more opportunity to experience his grace. ("Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" Romans 6)

It's one thing to say: Lord, I know I fail you in so many ways. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me and help me do better. Blah-bl-blah-blaaah. Safety and comfort in vagueness.

It's quite another to say: This thing -- THIS sin -- it's done. This yelling at my children -- by your grace, it's over. It is no longer acceptable to me to continue to behave this way and then come back asking for forgiveness over and over. Thank you for the forgiveness -- now give me the freedom and the victory. Confession must include repentence -- a turning away -- or it's nothing but a self-gratifying wallow. (Read that whole Romans 6 chapter, friends.)

Have you noticed in Luke 4, when Jesus starts his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, he quotes Isaiah to indicate the tasks he has come to accomplish. There's no direct reference to forgiveness of sins there (although we know he did that). But from day one, he says the Lord has sent him "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners."

Freedom. Victory over sin. For sin shall no longer be your master. That's God's goal. Why do we settle for less?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Question, Mr. President . . .

At small group last night, we had an "icebreaker" question: if you had an hour to spend with the president, what would you ask him and what would you tell him? Hmmm. Tough one.

Tough first of all because I wouldn't expect to get a straight answer. And that's not a slam on Obama -- no politician would give me a straight answer. And that right there makes me very sad. They are not about truth. Period. They are about being to you want you want them to be so you will trust your welfare to them. So very discouraging to me.

That said, I think one of the questions I would ask is, what did you learn when you got into office that changed your beliefs and point of view from before? As I've said earlier, I often wonder if his failure to close Gitmo as he pledged to do is tied to information he is now privy to that he didn't have as Senator Obama. I would respect him highly if that were the case -- if he were willing to break a pledge and anger his supporters for the sake of the safety of the country. That's what we hire a president to do -- put the good of the country before his own good.

Someone last night said they would ask him how he strives to be a spiritual leader in his home and family. That's an interesting one. Because if you just ask him a point blank question about his faith and beliefs, I'm sure he's got the canned, politically-safe response ready. They all do. But to ask a specific question about how his faith and beliefs interact with his daily life would be much more revealing. Many a Christian needs to ask that question of themselves. I think very few of us would be satisfied with the answer we give.

I think, though, that I would primarily want to ask him about himself. How he got to where he is. I mean, here's a black kid from a single parent home who became leader of the free world, not a street punk. What was different about him? What turned him in the right direction? What enabled him to do what so many haven't? Where did these qualities and motivations come from?

And then I would want to have a frank discussion with him about how his policies and vision for America are going to infuse more young black men with those same qualities and motivations. Because I have a hard time seeing that.

I doubt we would agree on much. And I'm sure neither of us would convince the other of anything. But it would be an interesting discussion to have. It's a discussion I wish was happening everywhere.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Small Decencies

During his Easter sermon yesterday, Pastor Jeff brought out an interesting little tidbit about the Easter story that I hadn't considered before. Jesus' body was buried by Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus. They went specifically to Pilate to ask for his body -- otherwise, it would have been thrown in the mass grave with all the other executed criminals.

Here's the thing: if they hadn't done that, there wouldn't have been a specific place where his body was laid to go to to look for him when his believers started talking about his being alive. There would have been no graveclothes left behind for the disciples to find. The whole resurrection scenario would have been more fuzzy, less certain.

Joseph and Nicodemus didn't believe Jesus was going to come alive again. None of Jesus' followers believed that. They didn't go through the work and hassle and potential harrassment from the other Pharisees because they thought they were setting up a situation for his dramatic re-entrance into the world. They just thought a good man deserved a decent burial. They just wanted to do the right thing.

The small decencies of life. They are more important than we realize. God can do more through them than we imagine. A story went around the internet a while back about someone seeing a loner schoolmate walking home overloaded with books and offering to help carry them . . . and finding out years later that the boy was planning to go home and commit suicide, but that small act of kindness changed his mind.

"Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies," Mother Teresa said. Lord, open my eyes and prod my lazy body to observe the small decencies of life.

Friday, April 6, 2012

While We Were Still . . .

It's Easter weekend, and we haven't decorated. We haven't bought candy or basket contents. I haven't even thought about any form of celebrating Easter beyond our church services Sunday morning. Part of me is relieved at being released from the obligation of continuing the little rituals from the girls' childhood, which were great when they were children and which now feel merely obligatory and devoid of real meaning. However, another part of me feels guilty that I haven't replaced those rituals with anything else to commemorate this very important holiday.

Today's Good Friday, the day we remember Christ's death on the cross. His death for me. Hallelujah and amen. But that death wasn't just for sweet little me.

He died for the lady who annoyed me at Target last week.

He died for the kids in school who made me feel ugly and stupid.

He died for the family member for whom nothing I do is good enough.

He died for the woman who told me my opinions meant nothing because I'm rich and have never suffered.

He died for the boy I dated who manipulated my feelings for his own amusement.

He died for the friends to whom I bared my soul who walked away and left me alone again.

He died for my gay friend sitting in jail today.

He died for my atheist friend who can talk circles around my best arguments for the faith.

He died for the corrupt politicians -- on the right and the left -- who have used their power for their own gain.

He died for hateful sign-carrying church members who give the Lord they claim a bad reputation.

And yes, he died for me when I was myself hateful, self-righteous, thoughtless . . . all the things I think I've gotten past and am reminded over and over are still there lurking in my nature, waiting to consume my better self the moment I give them the floor. He didn't die for pretty, cleaned-up me . . . he died for ugly, selfish, despicable me. And all the other ugly, selfish, despicable mes I encounter in the world.

But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still sinners. Hallelujah and amen. This is how we know what love is . . .

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Have We Passed the Stink Stage?

I'm feeling optimistic today. Cautiously optimistic. Fighting the urge to pessimistically anticipate bad things coming. Does that make sense?

Yesterday at our homeschool drama rehearsal, we put everything together for the first time -- singing, instruments, acting, dancing -- and all without scripts. And it went pretty darn well. So, I should be pleased, yes?

Well, see, my producer Kim and I have noticed this phenomenon when we put on a play. There always comes a rehearsal, usually about half-way through, where we come away thinking, "This is never going to happen. This is never going to come together in time." It happens in every show. One really terrible, stinkin' awful rehearsal.

We're half-way through now, and that hasn't happened yet. I expected it yesterday. I expected kids to not have their lines down, music to really stink, dance choreography to be completely forgotten, etc. etc. I was ready for that, and ready to psyche myself up for the last six rehearsals to pull everything together.

Soooo, does this mean our stinky rehearsal isn't coming this time? Or is it yet to come? I don't know if I can handle a stinky rehearsal too close to performance day, when I feel no comfort level of time to straighten stuff out.

But then, that's what this whole drama venture has been about, I guess . . . learning how to put it all in God's hands and let him do the doing. Maybe God's holding off the stinky rehearsal until a point where I will have to know the turn-around has been his own doing and not ours.

Orrrrrr . . . maybe these kids just rock!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Need for All Our Parts

Once a month or so, I seem to stumble upon an article or something that is poo-pooing higher education. Well, at least poo-pooing our obsession with it.

Yesterday's deposit in that account was talking about how, in this time of great unemployment, there is a surplus of skilled trade jobs out there that they simply can't find qualified workers to fill. The implication is that we've pushed the necessity of a B.A. on everyone so much, that a lot of the people who probably should be doing these skilled trade jobs (and making boatloads of money doing it, I might add) instead are loading themselves down with college loans and academic loads neither of which are what God has called them to bear -- and society is suffering from this because we don't have the workers we need in the areas we need them.

The Bible addresses this principle in the metaphor of the Body of Christ. "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." We've spent decades comvincing everyone that the road to success in America is to be an eye, and now we have no hands.

I'm convinced this is true -- that we're pushing kids into college that would be much better served in some high quality technical training, and we're making kids who choose the non-academic route feel like second-class humanity. Shame on us. Yet, there is still some reluctance about this in the back of my mind.

I'm still an optimist about the ideal of liberal education. True liberal education, in its original sense -- education to cultivate the qualities necessary to live as a free man. This must not be neglected in our society. Our country is set up to be run by the people; it is necessary, then, to have a people fit to govern themselves and others. I am therefore reluctant to let go of the idea of encouraging every person possible to get that liberal education.

But I suppose I should be honest with myself: people aren't getting that in college anymore. And really, they should be getting that long before college -- that should be high school material.

My brain started tossing around the idea yesterday of ways to get people a liberal education without requiring classroom time. For the non-academic high school graduate . . . for the thoughtful and eager teen or pre-teen . . . for the late-blooming adult who suddenly realizes they missed something important when they zoned out in their Senior English and World History classes. Maybe something online. Hmmmm......