A slight turn of the cheek

What a great quote from today’s edition (10/29/14) of the blog “Morning Story and Dilbert!”

“I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.”

There’s so much involved in that short sentence!  Reading this quote is one thing.  Actually DOING it is quite another.  What does it mean in my life?  Let’s say that a former boyfriend knows exactly how and when to push my buttons.  Isn’t that always the way?  He knows everything about me and has ample practice in pushing my buttons.  He knows just where they are and what will ignite them.  So, one day as we find ourselves conversing about something important, he lets go of one of his favorite zingers.  The “invitation” is instantaneous, highly emotional and it catches me completely off guard.  I react.  I try to tell myself that next time I’ll be ready and will control myself.  However, there never is a “next time” that’s the same as the previous time.  He’s never going to push the same button in the same way.  It’s always going to be a new situation, a new way of catching me off guard.  In other words, the “invitation” is always brand new.  The instigator could be anyone: a boss, a colleague, a friend or a family member.

There is no way to answer a zinger naturally without jumping into the ring in full boxing attire.  No matter how many possible situations/answers I catalog in my brain, there is always the distinct possibility that it will be a different scenario.  The only way to prepare oneself is to prepare spiritually.  If I’m connected to God in prayer, I will be more than capable of seeing the “invitation” from a higher perspective.  I will then be more than capable of turning down the invitation to rumble because I’m in the presence of a higher invitation. Jesus never answered the zingers.  He knew who he was and didn’t need to defend himself.  So, imagine this: the next time invitations are flying through the air, as you look towards the Lord to see what He would have you do, you realize that your cheek has turned ever so slightly away from your tormentor.  He stares at you in disbelief and storms off.  “You’re impossible.  I don’t even know how I could have put up with you for as long as I did.”  Bingo.  You have just clicked the little box labeled “unfollow”.  He won’t be back for a new invitation.

http://morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/things-that-make-you-say-hmmmm/

A simple hike leads to this stunning panorama

I’ve changed the picture at the top of my page.  There is a little story behind the photo.  Recently, my husband and i went camping for a week in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  We love hiking but at the outset of our vacation our hiking legs usually need an upgrade.  On the first day, we went on a lovely and not too demanding hike to the top of Mount Willard.  The view from the top is outstanding and I recommend it highly.  The second day we went to Arethusa Falls.  It was about as demanding as the first day’s hike and the beauty of the falls was incredible.  On the third day, we just began hiking without really knowing our destination, but God knew where we were going.  After about an hour and a half of hiking we had to choose: continue upwards to the summit of Mount Jackson or head downwards to see another falls?  Well, we prefer to do our hard work of upward climbing first, so we headed up.

The description of the “moderately difficult” climb did not prepare us for the rest of the hike up the mountain.  It was NOT moderate, at least not in my definition of the word.  Very near the end, we met a man with a young boy coming down and the man encouraged us to go on because, as he said, “It’s only a few minutes to the top.”  I thought, “If a kid can do it, I can too.”  Hehe.  Those few minutes necessitated scrambling over enormous boulders with only a few small branches on the sides to hang onto.  But then … we reached the top.  John went first and told me to try to make it.  He said it would be worth it.  At the top was a panorama perhaps a hundred times more beautiful than the picture you see at the top of my page.  There were no trees, so you could see 360 degrees around.  Mount Washington rose in the distance and the valley that we had come from meandered much further below us than I had imagined.  We took a lot of pictures and gaped in awe of God’s creation that remains so beautiful in spite of what man has done to it.  The wind began to whistle and the clouds foretold a possible change in the weather and so we had to tear ourselves away from that gorgeous spot.  I think that it will always remain in my mind as the most amazing and beautiful view I have ever seen, the view of a lifetime.

A simple hike on a normal day.  We started out, not knowing where we were going.  Life is like that.  We start out not knowing our path or where it will lead us, but we keep on climbing.  I would like to encourage everyone out there to keep on climbing.  Choose the way up.  It may be difficult, even more difficult than you had anticipated, but when you get to the top, the view will be more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.  God can show you things in this life that will stay with you forever.  Those views will encourage you through the hard times and lead you onward.  Take the risk.  God is so worth it.  He is the summit of all summits, the panorama of all panoramas.

 

Shopping trumps Thanksgiving? Or can Thanksgiving trump shopping?

A quiet morning after Thanksgiving perusing the headlines that shout out to us that shopping has trumped the traditional Thanksgiving meal (cnn.com) has produced a contemplative spirit.  A little outrage too.  Why?  Why would anyone want to give up a delicious meal and relaxing moments with great conversation with friends and family to go out in the cold in order to face off with thousands of people looking for the same bargain?

The outrage comes first.  The whole media/shopping blitz is eroding our country’s family values and traditional ways of living and taking away from time spent relaxing and renewing one’s spirit.  It’s frustrating to see people falling for the media campaigns and enticing ads to constantly shop and spend more money.  To keep a person focused on shopping and attaining more in the way of personal goods is to keep that person focused on the apparent trappings of this natural world and to keep him at the same time far away from reflection on his spiritual and emotional state.  His/her mind is constantly engaged in this natural world and what he/she “needs” to continue to improve his natural surroundings.

After the outrage, more reflection creeps in.  You see, I did not spend my Thanksgiving waiting outside the doors of the local big box store, nor did I head out this morning to get the best deals at the mall.  The question returned: why would someone give up a nice, relaxing afternoon and great conversation with friends and family for …..?  The answer instantly appeared.  They did not give up a nice, relaxing afternoon with friends and family.  Many families barely tolerate each other.  Put them all in one room and the tension can be cut with the same knife used to carve the turkey.  So and so is not talking to so and so and those who are talking to so and so are just feeling sullen today because … who know the because?  Just because.

It’s easy to see in that light why so many would prefer to be out shopping.  I have not ever had to spend a holiday in such an angry environment, thank God.  I have, however, heard of such things.  It’s really a sad commentary on our society that shopping would trump a nice, relaxing afternoon spent in thoughtful conversation and childlike laughter with one’s beloved family and friends.  A lovely and loving afternoon can refresh our spirit and prepare us for the days ahead.  It can give us insight into our world that will help us for weeks and months to come.

The media and advertising campaigns are therefore not the issue.  The underlying issue is the problems in our homes and in our personal lives.  Those problems keep us from making and maintaining strong social and familial relationships.  So, instead of blasting the shoppers and the mega media moguls, we should put our strength into helping families to renew their relationships.  We cannot influence all of those with broken families, but we can influence those around us who may be struggling.  It would be so refreshing to see the shops HAVE to close up on holidays for lack of shoppers.  They will only need to do that when there is something much better going on in American homes.  We can make it happen.

Self Respect

I grew up outside of Detroit during the 50’s and 60’s.  When my sisters and I were young, my mother used to take us downtown Detroit once a year at Christmas time to see the window displays at the Hudson’s store, go shopping in the beautiful department store that Hudson’s was in those days and then to see a children’s concert.  My grandmother lived in Detroit then too.  She lived right next to the State Fairgrounds.  She had a beautiful rose garden and we loved to run around the slate paths in it and peer through the tall chain link fence into the fairgrounds.

Then came 1967 and the terrible riots in Detroit.  I remember being afraid when my dad went to get my grandmother and bring her home to stay with us during those terrible days.  There was so much destruction in Detroit then … and they never cleaned it up.  A few years later, my grandmother was able to buy a house in our small town and move out of Detroit.  Many other people had the same idea.  They called it white flight and my small town grew ever larger and wealthier as the white and the rich moved away from the city that had lost its self respect. Eventually, some sad young people started the horrifying tradition of burning houses on the night before Halloween, adding to the number of abandoned and uninhabitable homes in the city.

How can a city’s citizens have self respect in a city that has none?  People demonstrate that they have personal self respect by keeping themselves clean, dressing in a presentable manner, and behaving properly.  Why can’t a city do the same?  Detroit didn’t always have 78,000 abandoned buildings in it.  It started with a few hundred.  Why didn’t they clean them up before it got out of hand?  It’s demoralizing to live in a city that is so full of burnt out buildings.  How can people pull themselves up if everything around them is falling apart?

New York City at one time was not a pleasant city to visit.  It was dirty, sloppy and full of crime.  People had stopped caring.  Rudi Giuliani started aggressively cleaning up the city and focusing on crime reduction.  Some didn’t like it but eventually his policies paid off.  Detroit didn’t have a Giuliani to care enough about its people to clean it up.

Will a multi-billion dollar bailout help Detroit?  I propose that it will do nothing at all if no one in the city has enough self respect to clean it up.

I’m sure this is just one small aspect of a huge problem.  What do you think about self respect and how can Detroit get some?

An end of the year letter for 2012

This is the letter I will be sending to family and friends this year:

I started to write an end of the year letter a few weeks ago.  I even got several paragraphs written.  It has all become rather meaningless over the last few days in the light of the heart-wrenching tragedy being experienced by other families in Connecticut right now.  So, I hope you won’t mind if I send you a few paragraphs concerning some of the thoughts that come to mind over this tragedy instead of a letter about my life and about what my kids are doing these days.  We’ve been busy this year, we’re all fine, and that’s about it.

And God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7

It is the breath of God that came into Adam on that day and the same breath that continued to breathe through Adam’s children and grandchildren on down through all the following generations.  Without that breath of life, he was just a lump of dust.  It’s the same with us, his many times great grandchildren and that makes us all the children of the living God.  So, what gives?  The events of this year, and especially the events of the past few days, make us pause and reflect on what on earth is going on.

You could say that there are many causes.  You could blame assault rifles and violent video games and the absenteeism of working parents who are too busy to take care of their children or to teach them the values that they themselves were taught, or were supposed to have been taught.  However, the fact of the matter is that many of God’s children either don’t know or have forgotten who they are.  They are not living like children of an awesome and loving king, God.  They’re living like derelict bums.  That is the tragedy.

It is as if the world has taken on two natures.  Part of humanity seems to be speeding towards God, hoping to find Him more each day, but increasingly more numbers are enticed by the glitz of a worldly life and are as a result speeding in the opposite direction, becoming more unlike Him every day.  To become more like God, one becomes more beautiful and more brilliant and if that’s true, then the opposite must also be true that those who are heading in the wrong direction are becoming more and more insane and hateful.  We can see that in the news on a daily basis.  Perhaps that is the meaning of “the valley of decision.”  We must all go through it and decide for ourselves which way we will go.

We have been greatly blessed in our family to have our parents and children and grandchildren finding God and seeking after Him.  We have discovered the immense power of prayer and how things absolutely change because of it.

Over the last few days, I can see how God grieves for the innocent lives snuffed out meaninglessly by one so selfish and callous.  Some call such people disturbed and say that there could be a personality disorder.  We have experienced a relative with what may have been called a “personality disorder,” but he didn’t pick up a rifle and shoot people.  In fact, through the power of prayer, he spent his last years on earth a happy and well liked person.  Prayer can do that.

This nation and this earth are in their valley of decision.  We need to turn our prayers to our greater family, the brothers and sisters with whom we share the same breath of life.  We are all brothers and sisters and it’s so sad that our brothers would hate us enough to want to kill us and more importantly that they would hate their own eternal Father.  They have no clue how much He longs for them to turn back to Him.  Above all, we need to maintain faith: faith that God will lead us if that’s what we’re praying for, faith that we will continue on this path, and faith that our children will find a way to reject this world’s evil when their day comes in that valley of decision.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision …  Joel 3:14

So, may we all spend this season joyously in that we know who we are, gratefully because we know who it was that saved us, and yet a little bit more soberly since we know that there is yet so much lacking both in us and in our country.  Let’s pray that we all in our nation and our brothers and sisters in other nations will humble ourselves as it says so beautifully in the Scriptures:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

No Pain, No Gain

That phrase – no pain, no gain – has alternately either annoyed me or haunted me in my life.  Today I learned a lesson about it that is well worth repeating.  An elderly friend of mine recently opted for a hip replacement operation in spite of her advanced years and other health problems.  She survived the surgery, but instead of having hip pain, she now has excruciating pain in her lower leg (same one that was operated on) from tendinitis.  Today I stopped by to visit her after work and discovered her working with her therapists.  She was in such pain that she could not move the leg at all.  They put some ice on the leg and left for awhile so that it could take effect.  They didn’t want to give her more pain medication at that time.   After they had gone, I sympathized with my friend and we prayed a little and she told me about her troubles with the pain.  I wanted to take her pain away and relieve her agony.  She said that she had wanted to give up that morning but that the therapists wouldn’t let her.  We talked in such a vein for about ten minutes, with me offering her much sympathy and feelings of pity.

Then the door to her room suddenly opened and her daughter entered, having come 200 miles because of her mother’s post operative difficulties.  She was instantly all business.  She said, “Mom, you have to move that leg.”  She began gently moving the leg even though her mother was crying out in pain.  She said, “You have to move it yourself.”  Her mom answered, “I can’t move it by myself.”  To which her daughter replied, “You ARE doing it.”  I looked down and in fact she WAS moving the leg on her own.  Her daughter didn’t stop there.  She said, “Mom, you’re the one who wanted this operation.  You HAVE to cooperate with the therapists.  You have to go down to the gym to the therapy session tomorrow.”  She continued on and also spoke to me about her mother’s apparent stubbornness to do what the therapists wanted.

The whole thing seemed a bit harsh to me, but it started to work.  The situation brought to my mind that old saying about no pain, no gain and I realized that my attitude was actually hindering her from becoming well.  Her daughter, who is a nurse, insisted that if she didn’t start working on the therapy in spite of the pain, she would never get out of that wheelchair and in fact, if she didn’t start exercising both legs, the pain might worsen and the other leg might also start causing her trouble.  So, my friend is finding herself in the odd predicament in her elder years where the only way to get past her pain is to work through it in spite of it.

Although this seems like a tragic way to spend one’s older years, I realized that I shouldn’t look at it in that way.  It isn’t such an odd predicament at all because it happens to us throughout our lives.  It is an experience common to us all.  When I look back through the scenarios of my life, I can see that the times that were the most painful also brought about the most growth.  I learned a lot through those horrendous experiences and I am able to draw on them at times when others need some kind of encouragement in working through their own troubles.  The only way to get past the difficulties in our lives is to work through them, to maintain the struggle in spite of the pain it causes us.  We look at ourselves and see things that need to be changed.  Bit by bit, by exercising that bit of God’s nature that He placed inside of us, we begin to work through the pain and in the end it’s the only way that we become victorious.

We will stand up, but only if we fully cooperate with our divine therapist, day by day exercising our spiritual muscles.  We will walk again with God if we maintain the good fight until the end.  All things do work together for our good because they are brought into our lives by our infinitely loving Father who sees what we need so much better than we ever could.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

People love what they talk about.  We all know this to be true.  When a person talks about themselves all the time, it makes us feel uncomfortable because they seem to be full of themselves.  When someone talks incessantly about sports, we understand that that person really loves sports.  They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t love it.  Someone who loves cooking will undoubtedly talk about it all the time.  If we take that further, we can examine ourselves and know what it is that we love.

I have to begin with myself.  If I talk about myself all the time, I love myself and am not considerate of others.  Do I speak all the time about my work?  Do I only talk about my children?  What is it that occupies my mind all day?  What I take the time to talk about is inevitably what is on my mind during the day.  Is my mind on God?  Does God and godly things come out of my mouth easily?  Or am I talking constantly about my trips to the mall and about the latest things that I would like to purchase?

I have known quite a few different kinds of religious people.  Some spoke of God religiously, showing that they really loved religion and appearing to be religious more than God.  However, I also knew a person who spoke genuinely of God and godly issues with a very soft and humble spirit of love.  I was and am sure that person truly loved God.  It made me think about what is on my mind.  What does my mind stray to when I’m driving to work or taking a walk?  When I have problems, do I consider how God feels about them and frame my conversations with that in mind?

Life in God is always interesting.  There’s always a new revelation around the corner.  There’s always something more to be learned about life here on earth and how God leads us through our daily trials.  When my mind is on God, it comes out of my mouth.