Tuesday, August 30, 2016

in gratitude for the simple things....

A certain subway sandwich chain hands out receipts with a survey website printed on the back. If you participate in the survey, you get a code that will allow you a free cookie. Any cookie of your choice! Ahhhh...who does NOT like free!

I am all about the simple things in life. Here I am, in my early 50's and suddenly, those fancy women's magazine covers just don't entice me anymore. "Flat abs!" one screams out. Another tells me how I can achieve happiness in just four easy steps! Or how I can be a millionaire in six easy weeks. All of the celebrity magazines show supposedly happy people with the flat abs we desire living it up in seaside mansions.....but are those pictures deceiving? Are they who have anything they want at their beck and call really any happier than you or I?

Believe me, in this life, nothing is easy. We live, we laugh, we also cry. We fall down, sometimes not so gracefully. Some stay down, as if protecting themselves from further blows. Others get up, scarred and maybe scared, but go on they must.

Psalm 119:37 ESV 

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Can you see how in the bigger scope of things that vanity and all that goes with it is NOT the secret to being happy? A fancy car, a 2500 square foot house? And those flat abs? It takes more than a 'six pack abdomen' to BE a friend to someone else. Sure, looks usually gain attention, but I have known many "beautiful on the outside" people whose insides really needed work. I have also known folks all throughout my life who, on the outside, many would not have paid them more than scant notice, but who really truly were awesome individuals.

Ecclesiastes 2:11 ESV

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

How about you? Do you judge a person based on looks? Income? Fancy car? If so, you may have passed up a  chance to notice the ones who live on the margin: the homeless, addicted, people of another race/religion/creed or even thought! Jesus sought out those who lived "on the margin" and was castigated over it many times. That did not stop Him from being the example that we all need to follow.

1 Samuel 16:7 ESV 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

I don't yearn for luxury homes, vacations or even three hours a day to practice my sit ups. Too much attention paid to myself and my needs takes me away from those who may need my attention more. Phil Collins produced a thoughtful song about people in need who were being ignored. It described homeless people who just wanted someone to hear them, yet everyone chose to walk away. "Another Day in Paradise." If you have the time, give it a listen, it may invoke feelings in you that you haven't realized before.  click here to listen

Romans 12:2 ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
My husband and I have taken on a "small" home improvement project. We are installing a walk-in shower. A tub is no longer safe for me to step in and out of due to my knees being replaced a few years ago. Being without an actual shower these past few days and needing to clean up in a sink instead really humbles me. I think about those who have no homes, no showers, and even places that have no clean running water. I am grateful for the simple things such as having a shower in a home. I am truly blessed. No set of "six pack" abs can gratify me such as the thought that not only am I blessed, but that I must SHARE that blessing with all whom I encounter. All that I have is not mine, but mine to give away with those who may need it more. And in the midst of my prayers of gratitude, I wonder....what if? Why am I in this here and now while another suffers? And again, in gratitude, I give thanks to God once more.

Matthew 16:26 ESV

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

how long before our children know peace?

Several days ago, an image splayed all over the five thirty news. It was the image of a four year old boy, bruised and bloodied, being carried to an ambulance. His body was so dirty, his hair so matted...but what broke my heart was the vacant stare that simply screamed, "help me!" His tiny legs just barely stuck out over the edge of the seat. He could have been my child...or your child, except that we don't live in war torn areas. This child is the innocent product of a five year long battle in Syria. But it could also have been  from a war anywhere at any time in history. Children are always the innocent victims. Children are always caught in the crossfire. In short, it is always the child who pays.

I will not go into the political aspects of this war. Hasn't there already been enough of "my side is better than YOUR side!" lately? When I view the image of that face...or for that matter, the body laying so innocently on the shore last year, the body of a toddler who was swept off the boat his family was escaping war in, only to be carried out to sea, my mind goes back to another time in history when even the Son of God was also targeted as a helpless child and fled to live in exile until the political tides had changed.

It is always the child who pays. Children don't start wars. They don't shoot up neighborhoods. They don't do drugs...or drink to oblivion. They don't take sides in a heated divorce battle. All a child wants is to feel safe, secure and to be loved. Yet for centuries, they are the ones who suffer from a lack of security, all due to the greed or power struggles or addictions that consume adults.

Take a look again at that photo. We have in America so many communities screaming about justice or the lack of it. They will stop at nothing to continue the violence by destroying neighborhoods, firebombing stores, looting from businesses that had absolutely nothing to do with the initial onslaught. America is practically a war zone unto itself. While we draw lines in the sand, innocent children are being shot. While we scream about injustice, tonight a mother grieves for her child who was killed in the crossfire. While those who protest by shutting down freeways chant, kids go to bed hungry because mom or dad just used their paycheck to get high.

And God weeps over our sad choices.

You and I are in this mess. Is it enough to shake our heads and walk away? What can we do to stop the madness? What have you done to demonstrate how to be peace-filled? It is NOT enough to sit in church on Sunday and claim to be holy! Words without actions mean NOTHING! Look at that child in the photo, I mean....really look....then...go and DO something. Because that child is every child. That child was treated in a hospital. He has siblings and parents. But his future remains uncertain, why? He has lived all of his life in a war torn country that shows no signs of stopping its carnage.

 Here in America also, due to greed, lies and power struggles, our own children are also living in fear. This needs to stop. Even if all you do is to help one person, that is one less person who is in pain.

May God bless us and show us His mercy. Now...go spread His peace to all you meet.

Monday, August 8, 2016

can past hurts bring a positive outcome?

This post is dedicated to a gal whose past life was difficult for even the most hardened people to comprehend. Born to a mother whose descent into the drug filled world created turmoil within this young girl's life, she grew up to understand that the world held nothing for her except pain, disappointment, sorrow and finally- anger.

It was quite by chance that she met up with someone in her older years who, for a brief few years in her younger life, provided her with solace. After he left, due to a breakup with her mother, once again her world  turned to a bleakness that seemed to have no future.

I was apprehensive at first about this online meeting about five years ago only because her e-mails were full of hurt, anger and pain. It was only after she realized that the one who had given her that brief bit of light in her youth had been, in fact, searching for her again all along that her whole demeanor changed.She was hungry for love and acceptance. To know that out there was someone who held her in high esteem gave her a boost upwards to better things. She looked at the world around her--and decided that she would change it!

Gone was the anger and bitterness, put instead towards helping other youths who had been in her situation; youths who go from foster home to foster home due to no real fault of their own other than the fact that their mothers were arrested for drug use and the child(ren) had nowhere else to go. Once in "the system," they were bounced around for months or years until they were released...only to repeat this pattern quite often. She wrote a book about her life ("lil girl lost...one woman's journey into meth as seen through the eyes of a little girl" see book at amazon.com ) and although at the time she didn't have the courage to have her name set into print, still, she spoke out about and for changing a system that she was all too familiar with.

That in turn, lead to other things. She adopted two young girls, one of whom sadly died from a heart condition. This prompted her to support St Jude's Research Hospital, in the hopes that other children suffering the same fate could be cured of it. (www.stjude.org). Then she went even further and began working with the ReMoved Project, an organization that reaches out to children who become "lost" in the foster care system. (see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/heschle/removed-part-two/description). Again she reached out and because she had walked that horrible path, was able to step up and help others.

I tell you all of this only because I see so many people who use their sad circumstances in life to blame others. To say, "well, if not for THIS circumstance from my past, I wouldn't be THAT way!" I see how others are bitter, angry or worse to justify the pain they have gone through. "If I wasn't abused, I wouldn't be a drug user now!" If I wasn't hurt, bullied, poor, black, ..... _______" (fill in the blank).

My friend, you need to do away with those negative words! "If  only..." is just an excuse to say, "I don't care!" It's another way to somehow get around being a positive force of change.

I can tell you from experience myself that my life was very hard, you know this if you have been keeping up with my posts. Yet I turned that train around and hope that by inspiring others to be a positive force of change that someday we can all look around and see a much better world, or at least our own corner of it.
All it takes is a willing heart and a joy-filled spirit to be the change! Just because crap happened to you doesn't mean that you need to carry it around forever! You are an adult with free will...so why make life harder than to needs to be? For example, your mother was abusive, I get that, truly I do! However, do YOU also need to be an angry, vengeful person?

This gal that I described passed away last month. My heart grieves that her time on earth was way too short. However, the legacy that she has left behind can continue and will....if only because she was able to look beyond her own pain and see others needs instead. May God be with you, Amber....you will never be forgotten.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

the detours in life

My little town on the prairie is undergoing major road work this summer, resulting in several detours. Just to be able to cross one intersection means taking a four mile detour! I was taking my mother in law to a hairstylist appointment in the next town and so, had to detour. Inside, I was in a grumbling mood, thinking how silly it was to do that rather than just have one lane available for cars to go through.

As I drove, I took in the sights: corn about six foot tall, was waving on the breeze. The sun was out, storm clouds from the previous night disappearing quickly. Then as I came to a four way stop, I saw it: sunflowers! A huge crop of sunflowers, their heads turned towards the sun.

How can you see that and not feel thankful?

My grumbly mood disappeared rather quickly as I cheered on those flowers!

How many of us have detours in our lives? Some can be rather petty as a roadblock, but others are mountainous. A co-worker of mine sat at a hospital yesterday, awaiting word about her husband, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In her words, a massive tumor plus his kidney were removed. Now my friends, THAT is a detour! The unknown always scares me and I am sure she was and still is driving through the fog, hoping for that "field of sunflowers" moment.

Jesus also had his detours. He showed us that when a detour happens, we must go to God in prayer. Lazarus died. Jesus wept and prayed. Over 5000 people who were assembled to see him were hungry. Again Jesus prayed and fed them. A wedding feast ran out of wine, a major detour...at least to the family hosting the event. Jesus turned ordinary water into wine and thereby the feast was saved. In a detour there was also HOPE---hope that soon we'd be back on the road we know so well!

Turn your heads towards God, just as sunflowers always turn towards the sun. He knows about your detours and is always there to guide you, if you allow Him to. Never fear a roadblock or detour, for sometimes, the best sights are where you'd least expect them to be.