Reacting to the Paris attacks and continuing suicide bombers

In our world today there are so many murders and assaults claiming to be the will of God.  Hogwash.  We are all God’s children.  True religion boils down to some very simple basics.

  • Love God first.
  • Love your fellow man.  He/she is your brother/sister.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep the commandments.  Most religions have some form of them and most of them are quite similar in that they say, “Do not kill.”  “Do not steal.”  “Do not lie.”  Etc.

If we could implement these simple ideas in our lives and teach our children to do so, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live and raise children.

Choose Life!!

P1010248We are surrounded by choices from sunup to sunset.  Just to get out of bed is the first choice of our day.  As soon as we choose to do it, we are faced with more choices: we choose what clothes we are going to wear, what we’re going to eat for breakfast, what we’re going to read while we eat that breakfast and what we listen to as we drive to work.  We do all that even before the official start of the day (for some, the day only officially starts after the first cup of coffee!).

Do I choose a Hawaiian shirt in bright colors or something more subdued?  Do I eat donuts for breakfast or eggs with stewed tomatoes?  Do I check out facebook and catch up with friends and family as I consume my chosen breakfast or do I open the Bible and catch up on some godly inspiration for the day?  None of these choices of themselves are necessarily good or bad depending on the context and my motives in choosing them.

The free will that we enjoy today dates back to the Garden of Eden when God planted two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He warned Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and told him about the consequences.  Our choices do have consequences.  If I choose to eat M & M’s every day for breakfast, there will be hell to pay eventually.  You could compare that to choosing death.  If I choose healthy foods, I would be choosing a healthy natural life.  So too, choosing positive activities, thoughts and qualities enhances my spiritual life.  Choosing those things is like choosing life.

As we go through our day, we can reflect God in our choices.  What does God want me to do today?  And God is not religious!  By that, I mean that He doesn’t want me to stay in my closet praying the Our Father all day.  How can that help anyone?  He understands that we need to live our daily lives.  But as we do that, we have choices that can showcase His goodness and inspire both ourselves and others.  So, rather than choosing to always promote ourselves, we can choose God.  Most interestingly, we can choose our attitude.  When someone rubs me the wrong way, instead of irritation, I can choose love.  Instead of a sarcastic reply, I can choose either silence with a smile or perhaps even a kind answer.  Instead of moping about, I can choose to be happy.  We can all make godly choices in the apparently little things as our day rolls along.  Those choices will engender an abundant and godly life for ourselves and for those that we  meet.

CHOOSE LIFE!!!

Heaven is a choice

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In this photo, there is only one road to choose from to get through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.  In life, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation with only one way out.  Most of the time, however, we are making choices all the day long.  For example, I go to the store, choose various kinds of food, bring it home and put it all in my pantry.  Of course, what I bought was a choice.  Later on, when I go looking for something to eat, what do I pick out?  If day after day I pick marshmallows and candy bars, pretty soon I’m going to be sick.  In the long run if I continue making the same choices, my body will be depleted of its energy since I have chosen not to give it anything with any trace of nutrients in it.  My body would be running on empty and I would pay the consequences of my choices with ill health, which would in turn lead to my eventual demise.

It’s the same with my choices for both my behavior and my attitude.  When I was young, my parents chose many things for me in their role of guardianship over me.  When I grew up, my boss made some of those choices for me, but it was my choice to submit to them.  Once I am an adult, just as I choose what goes into my mouth, I also choose what my physical body does.  My heart tells my brain what it desires and my brain tells my tongue what to say, and my hands what to do.  That leads me to the main choice that no one can control but me.  It’s my heart’s attitude.  My attitude is entirely my own.  No one can dictate to me how I should look at something.  So, no matter what the situation, I can always choose to look at it as coming from God and know that it is for my good.  I can always choose a good attitude.

Every day my heart is making choices.  Let it choose righteousness, truth and love.  Day by day, as we make our choices in the seemingly small details of our lives, we are choosing heaven.

Reflections on assisted suicide: an inspiration to greatness or a sad, missed opportunity?

From People Magazine, 11/2:

Brittany Maynard, who became the public face of the controversial right-to-die movement over the last few weeks, ended her own life Saturday at her home in Portland, Oregon. She was 29. 

“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” she wrote on Facebook.

Brittany Maynard’s story is a sad reflection on what some of our young people are being taught these days.  Someone has given her a backwards, misguided way of looking at life.  Brain cancer did not take anything away from Brittany.  Brain cancer can end a person’s natural life, but it can never take away the human spirit, which is of far more value than a fleeting experience of pain.  I would not wish such pain on anyone, but compare her story with the following.

I watched one of my best friends die of cancer a year and a half ago.  She was sick for ten years.  Many times during those years, I marveled at her persistence.  She never stopped working (gardening – a very physical job!) unless she was too ill to go in and never gave up her job until she was too weak to drive herself to work.  During those years you have to know that on the path of her life she traversed through many struggles and pits of despair, but to categorize her fight with cancer according to the negativity she went through is to misunderstand the whole purpose of life itself.  When I last visited my friend two days before she passed into the next life, she looked like an angel.  She was completely at peace and ready to go.  So, how did she manage to drag herself from those depths of despair to the pinnacle of tranquility that she experienced in her last days?  She dealt with everything as it came along: all of her feelings inadequacy, anger and hatred and all of her flawed ideas that somehow God was punishing her by giving her this disease.  God did not give her this disease.  He did allow it, but He could only allow it for her good since he is only good.  She left this world knowing that God is only good and her struggle had been worth it all.  She didn’t choose to eliminate the pain from her life.  She chose instead to use it to propel herself to the highest of heights.

The human spirit is constantly striving. To be human is to never give up until the last breath you take.  Another elderly friend died last year of congestive heart failure and COPD.  Every single breath she took for many months was a struggle, yet she never complained.  She was constantly cheerful.  Her persevering spirit gave me courage and strength and made me realize the things that I have that are absolute blessings.  I can go for a walk whenever I want and drink down large gulps of fresh air, appreciating how each breath fills me with the feeling of being alive.  I take in more breaths and feel how each one keeps my life on going.  Her life had meaning and purpose and she inspired all those around her.  I am told that she passed from this world with a smile on her face.  She knew where she was going.

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Taking one’s own life is not the answer to life’s troubles, whether those troubles be diseases or hardships.  Mountain ranges have dark and cool valleys, but they also have craggy hills and glorious peaks.  Brittany Maynard’s decision eliminated the pain from her life, but what opportunities did she miss?  She took away from herself the possibility of dealing with all of the gritty parts of life.  She left no place in her life to become an inspiration to those she left behind by finding the courage to take on life to its very end.

On the same day that her death was announced, there was another story about a young woman also with terminal brain cancer.  Lauren Hill, of Mount Saint Joseph College, has been given only a few months to live.  She played in her first college level basketball game this week and scored four points for her team.  She played in spite of the headaches and in spite of the nausea.  There was a huge outpouring of support for Lauren, requiring a larger arena for the game.  That is the kind of inspiration that nudges our human spirit towards greatness.  It touches something in us all and makes us think that we too can aspire to something greater.  These are the lessons that will last because these are the lessons that demonstrate greatness.  Life is a precious gift and to choose to end it before it has had a chance to teach us as much as it can is truly regretful.

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/

Different, but working together!

Men have such an amazing ability to focus on one thing at a time.  It is their strength.  I’ve written about it before (1/20/13).  However, at the time I first wrote about it, I didn’t add to it the perspective of how the strength of women is to see all of the potential results of their own actions and the actions of others.  These two very different strengths ought to compliment one another, but sometimes they come into sharp contrast with the troubling result of starting an argument.

What happened around here this morning is a great example of how these abilities could try to divide us.  This morning, my husband and I were going to go to a Bible study meeting.  We usually bring a large pot of coffee along with us for the participants.  Before we left, he wanted to wash up some of the dishes that were in the sink.  However, it was starting to get late and I was thinking of the repercussions of being late.  He was focused on finishing the dishes.  Maybe you’re already seeing where this is headed.  He picked up the rather large filter for the coffee pot and said that he was going to get rid of the grounds.  I asked him not to.  I had two reasons for that, both of which seemed valid to me and both of which seemed difficult to explain to him on the spur of the moment.  I thought that it was getting late and I wanted him to finish with the dishes already so we could leave and also, the grounds were still hot and I didn’t want him to put them on my outdoor plants while they were still hot.

While those thoughts were still percolating in my brain, he was already reacting, complaining that I always tell him not to do this, not to do that.  We carried on in silence for a while until a little light bulb went off revealing what had just happened.  Like a man, he was completely focused on getting those pesky dishes done, convinced that he was making me happy by doing it.  At the same time, my brain was visualizing all of the ramifications of him continuing with the dishes while time was moving on and of what would result from him throwing the hot grounds on my beloved plants.  He was doing what men do best, focusing, and I was thinking like a woman.

Men and women both have their innate strengths.  If we can recognize them for what they are, we can work together and become a stronger couple instead of reacting and resenting one another for being different.  Men need to be able to focus intently on what they’re doing.  It helps them to do a great job.  And women need to be able to think of all the possibilities of what might happen because of their actions.  Their precautionary wisdom keeps us from doing too much damage to ourselves.  Using our talents and working together, we are really strong.  In the case of what happened this morning, once we talked about it, we could each see what the other was doing and laugh at ourselves a bit, all the while appreciating each other for our differences.  Vive la différence!

Does Obama Care?

I’m digressing today. I actually do not like politics, but politics came knocking on my door today, or perhaps a better description would be that it came slamming the door in my face. For my living I am an adjunct instructor. Universities love to hire adjuncts because they don’t have to pay them so much and don’t have to give them benefits. Therefore, most adjuncts need two jobs to survive. We juggle crazy schedules because we love our students.

I lost half of my salary today when my evening job was taken away from me the day before the start of classes because of the new rules concerning Obamacare. In the morning I teach one class at a state university and at night I teach one class in a local community college. About a year ago, the two systems (state universities and state community colleges) merged. The reason I lost my job is because Obamacare reduces the number of hours that a person can work in one company or, in this case, one system. Once an employee goes over that cap, the employer needs to provide health care to them. Even though I work in two separate schools, it is considered one system. I only teach two classes. Both are slightly intensive, one being ten hours a week and the other six hours a week. I have worked at the morning job for 22 years and the evening job for 10 years, and yet now they say that I cannot continue teaching my evening class. My immediate boss fought hard to keep me, but the college would not back down. They said that they cannot afford to give me benefits.

I don’t know how you feel about things, but all I can say is how will you feel when they come after your job? Personally, I know that God will take care of me. He always has and always will. He is bigger than their puny laws and regulations. He is so incredible, kind and wonderful. Man’s laws pale, and in fact stink, in the face of the beauty and righteousness, coupled with kindness, of God’s laws.

The loss of my job matters to no one but my husband and I. It will not show up on any lost jobs list. The job still exists and someone will fill it. I will not show up on lists of the unemployed because I am not unemployed. I still have one job at which, as an adjunct, I am treated as a new employee each semester even though I have worked there for 22 years. It’s true that the loss of my job matters only to me, my husband and the students I would have taught, but it did matter a lot to me. I loved it. I loved my students and frankly, I needed the extra money. Does Obama care?

Of Hazelnuts and Truth

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It’s always exciting to see how long the hazelnuts on our bushes can last before the squirrels take a shine to them.  It has become a bit of a competition, a kind of them or me sort of mind battle.  This year, they won a little, but I had the last hurrah.  I discovered last night to my horror that they had stripped one of the bushes almost completely of every last nut.  However, that gave me the heads up and so my husband and I got out there and saved the rest.  How sad for them to discover the empty bushes later last night when they were hoping for a nice hazelnut feast overnight!

Sometimes life is like that, a kind of competition.  God graciously gives us truth and there are those who would like to strip it from us.  We absolutely must keep watch to make sure that the truth is not stealthily taken from us during the night.  These are dark days even though the sun shines so brightly that it burns our skin.  It’s so easy to be lured away from what is real and good.  While we’re checking our smart phones for the latest updates, the truth could be stripped from us and we wouldn’t even know it.

Let’s watch. Let’s fall head over heals in love with the truth. Let’s make it our life.  No one and nothing can take away something that has been intricately woven into the very fabric of our lives.

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.