Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not of This World

Right above my husband's dresser on the wall hangs a very lovely painting of Rome. We purchased the painting, when we met the artist at his very own Art shop two years ago. It was to serve as a reminder of our dream vacation... the one we had hoped to have on our 20th anniversary last year. We used to talk about it all the time. A trip to Italy... the breads, the cheeses, the views, the people, the language. What an unforgettable experience!

At first, after buying the painting, I found myself constantly looking at it and envisioning our vacation. However, after a while, that seemed to change. Nowadays, I seldom notice it on the wall. It is now overpowered by the all the other things in the room. Ironically enough, we seldom talk of our "cherished" future vacation either.

I guess our focus is now elsewhere.

A good friend of mine gave me a beautiful necklace for my birthday this year. It has a charm with an inscription saying, "Not of this World". It's a very pretty charm, and the words serve as reminders of who I really am and how I want to live.

Sometimes we really need reminders.

I shared with my students the other day the story behind the miniature "Pinocchio" that sits on my desk. I told them that I have kept that little toy on my desk as a reminder. You see when I was a little girl, I was very much afraid of the Pinocchio cartoons. Yet for some reason, I still watched them. Nevertheless, I'd have nightmares at night because I would picture myself being one of the characters and possibly becoming some kind of mule or donkey.
But why was I so afraid? Well, honestly.... I had developed a habit of not telling the truth. Better yet, I began to make up stories and share them with my friends. I'd tell all kinds of fictitious stories, and my friends all seemed to believe me. Still my conscious would visit me from time to time and remind me that what I was doing was wrong.


Wedding bands.
Family Portraits.
Movie lines.
Picture frames.

When I shared the story about Pinocchio with my students, I asked them to name a thing that serves as reminder of things that we should or shouldn't do. "What is one thing that reminds you of right from wrong?" They had several different responses, but one of them named the Bible as her reminder. She said that whenever she sees a Bible, she is reminded of doing what is right.

What greater reminder than that? It's like Jesus left this world with the promise to return. Yet, He left for us a reminder.

And why? Well, because we need reminders.

Like the necklace I am now wearing with the words pointing me to my destination. I am not of this world. And why must I be reminded? Because I so often forget. And in my forgetfulness, I become very well accustomed to the daily and earthly jive. I begin to focus on the mundane. Like who will win the Oscar's, and/or, who will wash the dishes tonight? Nothing wrong with those things. But when my focus weighs more on the "What shall I wear tomorrow?" rather than "How shall I live today?", I lose sight of my purpose here on earth.

You see, I'm only here but for a "moment", and my true and eternal home awaits. And so, how shall I live today and whom shall I love today means more than "what kind of car should I get?" So as you deal with the mundane... the kids need shoes, the door needs a new hinge, the cat is sick, the boss is unfair, the weather is dreary, the car needs a tune-up, the in-law's are coming, the holidays, the driving, the music, the media, the routine... remember that you are not of this world. And all of those things and more will pass--will not last-- and your eternal home awaits.
So dust off the picture frames, readjust your wedding band, listen to that old song, find your Bible... and be reminded.

John 17:14b..."for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth"

We're not of this world. Need I remind you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What I Want to Be

I want to be like Patch Adams. I want to be weird and silly and make people feel better.
You know, sometimes when my students seem anxious or stressed, I let them run outside into the field across from our school building. Sometimes I join them. I give them strict instructions that they must run and feel free to yell and turn around in circles with their arms outstretched.

One day I ran out with five of them. One day, I looked out the window and just watched the one run out, accompanied by another who was just there for support.

It just makes me feel bad when I see young people feeling down and defeated at times, and I wish I could help.

While I'm making confessions, I will say that I really don't think I'm a very good teacher. It is my job, but many times I question my abilities and even my purpose for doing what I'm doing. Yet, it is in the moments like the ones mentioned above, that I can sense a purpose and bigger plan involved.

You see I want to demonstrate to my students that it's okay to be weird at times. It's okay to let loose. It's okay to smile at the face of adversity. It's okay to run, when we don't feel like moving. And still it's okay to cry and share our weaknesses.

I read a very good book recently, and I'm actually re-reading it. I don't want to forget the lessons within. The book is entitled, "Weird, because normal isn't working".
Catchy... right?

Well, it certainly caught my attention, as I was reminded that my life should be one that is different from the norm. You see the norm is usually contrary to what God requires. The norm says that those difficult teenage years are normal and well "our kids will act out" and we just need to give them space. The norm says that we should focus on our kids' appearances and abilities much more than their heart issues. The norm says that because 50% of marriages end in divorce, you should no longer have expectations of "til death due us part". The norm says that "boys will be boys". And that girls are now experimenting, and should be given the freedom and tools to do so. The norm says that parents are lame and kids are cool. The norm says that church is for socializing and for going through the motions.

I can go on and on.... but I'd only be prolonging what I really want to share with you. You see, I want to be different. I don't want to be like the norm. I want to be the opposite, even if it means I'm weird. Even if it means that others will oppose and or feel insulted, I want to do what is right because it's right. I want to care for people authentically, not just superficially. I want to spend time with my teenage son and share the highlights of his day, instead of sitting by while he fills his mind with Ipod music and Internet images. I want to dance with my adolescent son and form memories, instead of filling up our schedules with extracurricular activities. I want to go on dates with my husband, just because. I want to teach my little girl that we can be friends now and always. And I want her to feel free to dance-- not as the media dictates our music and dance, but out of joy for God.
I want to do what others are not doing.
I want to be an influence for those around me that will speak volumes about the love of God, the peace He gives, and the grace that abounds in Him.

And well..... my goals are set high, maybe even too high for me to reach. But I know that God is leading and He will also provide me with what I need, to do what He intends.

Maybe you are already doing the things I've mentioned. If so, I commend you. But I've lived too long following the patterns of this world, and I choose not to do so anymore!

I want to be like Patch Adams... I want to be weird because normal isn't working.

How do you relieve stress?

If you Give your Wife flowers

I couldn't help it. I had to write this one.
It's based on real events and on the fact that every day, everywhere, there's an opportunity to bless and/or to be blessed.

Go on, invite some friends over, and make some tea!

If you give your wife flowers, she's gonna want a vase to go with it.
She will run around the house looking for the perfect vase
and when she can't find one,
She will rush to the nearest department store to buy it.

As she walks around the store, she notices a few other items that she needs to get
like ranch dressing, Bisquick, and shake & bake.
She takes a box of jello and popcorn too.

Finding these yummy items makes her forget about the flowers and the vase.

Until she's ready to check out, and the cashier asks, "did you find everything you wanted?"

She says, "actually I couldn't find a vase, but I found all of these other things instead."

The cashier rings the items up and tells her the total,
when she realizes that she's short 17 cents.

She tells the cashier, "I hate to say it but I regret having come here in the first place. You see I came here for a vase and now I'm short 17 cents... and so I'm not sure how I got into this mess..."

Noticing her distress, the cashier quickly reaches into her own wallet and gives her the much needed change.

The random act of kindness reminds her that every moment is a chance to make a difference in some one's day. So she feels a lot better, in fact, she feels blessed.

Making her hurried way back home, she feels a little thirsty. So she decides to pour herself a glass of cold iced tea. As she pours out the tea, she notices the jar that it's in. And decides this is the perfect thing!

So she pours out six glasses of cold tea, calls her six favorite friends. She fills up the now empty jar with water, sets the flowers inside, places them on the table and decides, "it's party time!"
Her friends arrive, they watch a chic flick, nibble on popcorn, while drinking tea.
Alas, the flowers sit beautifully as a centerpiece.

As she makes her way to bed, she gives her husband a kiss. "Thank you for the flowers honey. They blessed me indeed."

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Troubles of this Life

I called a friend the other day, just to inquire about something. Nothing major. And yet, what I heard in her voice was discouragement. She sounded unhappy. And although we didn't address it, she remained in my thoughts. Later I prayed for her. And as I prayed, I couldn't help but think of all the others I know who also seem sad, or worried, or simply down and out. That is what inspired this post.

My heart is burdened for you tonight. I'm hurting for you.
Knowing that you are discouraged and weary concerns me, and I wish I could take the troubles away somehow. I truly wish that I could wash away the pain and throw away the struggles. The problem is that even if I could, the troubles will somehow always make their way back to you. To me.

In fact, Jesus said, "in this world, you will have troubles."
And the issue I'm addressing is not one about facing traumatic events or massive heartaches. The trouble I'm referring to comes to us on a daily basis in very subtle ways.

I think about my friends and the burdens they bear. I'll tell you about my friend Carla. She's not actually someone I know. It's just the name I'll use to represent someone in trouble tonight. She's got a smile on her face, as she makes her way through the doors of the workplace. But when she's home alone at night, all she can do is cry her cares into the pillow. The only calls she gets are reminders of the payments due... the rent is due, the electricity will be shut off in a day or two.

Then there's Sandra. She laughs and jokes, but making her drive home seems like punishment, as she has to face the unbearable silence of being alone. No one is home. No one calls. She's all alone.

Mary seems so bright and strong. Yet, nobody takes notice of what she's dealing with on the inside. Worries, anxieties. She rushes into her day, putting her best foot forward. But it isn't easy to raise a child on her own. Everything depends on her. She takes the morning train, with her young child in hand, trying to make it to the baby sitter's just in time; before she misses the bus that will lead her to another long day of work. Work that she's not even enjoying. There's no time to socialize, when at the end of the day, she makes her long way back to her child and home... hoping she's got the strength to do it all again the next day.

And then there's Marcy. She uses television and the Internet to numb the pain she feels on a daily basis. She feels lost and confused, and is not even sure why. The media fills her mind with all sorts of mixed messages. And yet, they all claim that Marcy's got to do better. She's got to change. She's not good enough as she is. And so the overwhelming feeling of knowing that "every one's watching", stops her dead in her tracks and keeps her from wanting to do anything at all. She's depressed.

Lastly, there's Miriam. Miriam is a mother of three. She is a stay at home mom. She cares for the home and does some things here and there to find some entertainment in life. However, Miriam feels tired and unappreciated. She complains to the walls of her dust-free house. No one else will listen. Or so it seems.

I know I said lastly, but I mustn't leave out Mike. Mike is the man who stands behind you in the checkout line. Mike seems so well put together. He seems strong and just right, as he carries the bags to the car. But Mike carries a secret that only he can hide. His wife's unaware, but he's lusting for another, and he continues to live a lie. Mike is soon to make a decision that will forever change his family's life.

These are names of people that are struggling to make it through this life.
The sad thing is that most of them, do not even realize they are in trouble. They just go through the motions of each day, coping, breathing this thing that we call life. All the while, they are being deceived by the one who's prime goal is to keep us from true joy and fulfillment in life.

And he does an excellent job at keeping us busy enough to notice his schemes. He keeps us so distracted by what seems like the "normality" of our lives, that we seldom stop to wonder, "how'd I get here?"

However, when we do stop to think about it. And when we do inquire. When we acknowledge that we are in trouble. When we call it for what it is...
Lastly, when we look to God for help, our enemy begins to loosen the bonds he's got us in.

You see, when we begin to focus and narrow our vision unto the One who's brought us here, we begin to find purpose and hope. When we take our eyes off of the self-absorbing, self-condemning "issues", when we let our burdens and cares down before a God who truly cares, when we surrender our troubles, our worries, and self-doubts. When we admit we've been wrong... it's an amazing thing that begins to take place. We begin to see God's love freeing us from what was indeed Satan's subtle deception ultimately leading us to death.
And we are no longer "in trouble", but we are conquerors instead. We are free to live and free to love others, who are in need as well.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Discouragement brings us down. And it always seems to be just one step away. Yet, be reminded today of the One who's on your side. The One who will see you through, simply because He loves you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Heart

Jeremiah 17:9
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

My heart can't be trusted.
It will lead me to sin.
It will draw me away from God and all of His ways.

The heart is deceiving.
My emotions fluctuate.
One moment I'm up, the other I'm down.

It lures me
To desires things that ultimately mislead me.
It brews judgment and fault...
It wonders and even wanders aimlessly.

Always yearning and seeking
Without fulfilling.
The heart is deceiving.

Who can understand it?
Only you, oh Lord, only you.

You can change me.
You take my heart and guide me.
You restore my senses and lead me.
You convict my heart and humble me.
You embrace it and relieve me.

From all that the heart instills
All the wrongful will.

You change my heart and make it new.
Lord, only you.

Wrinkles on Mom's Skin

Wrinkles on mom's skin

Each line a moment in time
a burden carried
a tear that came down
a loss
a win

Decisions made

Wisdom gained
lessons learned
experiences lived

Wrinkles on mom's skin
They tell a story

And within each crease, there's beauty.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Not Because of Me

Psalm 6:4 Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
Save me because of your unfailing love.

I heard this Psalm in a song the other day, and my heart was drawn to the latter part of the verse. "Save me because of your unfailing love."

And my spirit dwelt on the words. "...because of your unfailing love."

I was made to ponder on all of those times in my life, when in my own self, I have been in need of salvation or rescue. Better yet, my mind drew on the visuals of the days when God spared me from the very worst.

All of those "what if's" in life and all of those "could have's" and even "should have's". God did away with them all, and what remained is the life that He ultimately intends for me.

Not because I've done anything just right, for even as I write, I am humbled by my own selfish state.
Not because I deserve any good in my life, because if it was up to me, I'd been in the pits with the worst.
Not because of anything that I may claim as rightfully mine, for I have nothing that was not gifted to me by Him.

And so, as I pondered on those words, I was reminded of the reason that I've been saved.
And the reason why I'm forgiven.
The reason I'm alive today...

and that is because of His unfailing love.

You see, He doesn't measure our worth based on who we are, what we've done, or anything that may define us.

God gives freely because of who He is. Not because of who we think we are.
God chooses to save us because He is kind. Not because we claimed it.
God rescues us because of His amazing love for us.

He love us.

So on the day when I had in my mind to drive away from my family and leave it all behind, He brought me back to my senses and kept me from the outcome... because of His love.

And when I decided to give up on myself and my life, regardless of what that would mean, He changed my mindset because of His love.

You see, no matter how much good I've done, there's always the wrong that I would have done, had He not stepped in, for me, to rescue me, to save me.

Not because of me; and yet it is so, because He loves me!