So Cold It Hurts (Part 2) | My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered


So Cold It Hurts (Part 2) | My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered.

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Ebenezer Scrooge : A Case Study


“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain!” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

In my mind, A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption. No, it is not the story behind Christmas. It cannot save your soul, only Jesus Christ can do that. (Just ask him.)

Nonetheless, I return to the message of this story time after time. I have four versions that I watch over and over again well into January when the kids start to complain. Maybe they will appreciate it more when they have lived long enough to experience the Scrooge and Cratchit dynamic a bit more themselves. But I digress…

The life’s details of every human who fades in and eventually out of this life is made up of choices. Our own choices, other people’s choices….these all shape our experiences for good or ill during our time here. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s life is also made of choices which he makes in response to the priorities he puts on different “assets”. Money he regards more highly than pretty much everything including love, friendship, family, and even his own personal comfort.

Habitually, Scrooge shuts himself off from the rest of humanity as he doggedly pursues his goal of amassing more and more wealth. Huddled into himself, thinking only of himself, he is brought face to face with the consequences he has chosen to ignore his whole life. In his search to find wealth, security, independence, he has lost everything.

All along the way, his life has had an unexpected impact. His influence, he learns, is greater than he supposes. His reach is considerable, as is his reputation. For one man to possess so much and yet do so little good with it for anyone including himself is unforgivable. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come presents Scrooge with a terrible opportunity to hear the way people talk about him after he has died. He is reviled, disrespected, hated, and universally abused. No one mourns him. No one misses him. He ends his miserly life in disgrace and ill-favor. How sad! How wasteful! How needless!

How nonetheless true of so many like him! However, as the story goes, Scrooge has his eyes opened the night the spirits visited him. The light of the truth of what he was as well as what he could be dawned upon him with utter clarity. His story is a powerful reminder to us all that we have a hope for change as long as we have life in our bodies.

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” ~  Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A deeper, eternal change can be wrought in a heart where the true Light of the Season, namely, Jesus Christ resides. The coming of the infant Christ paved the way for the Light which came into a world that did not want it. The world has been pushing against the Light ever since. Hurting, we reject our Healer. Lonely, we reject our Friend. Dying, we reject the Risen One. Utterly helpless, we reject our Helper. Hopefully, even this moment can be an opportunity for change. This season of remembrance of Christ’s birth can be for someone a dawn of life lived for Christ’s sake! All that is necessary is for you to open the door to Jesus.  Only His continual presence in your life can teach you the true meaning of life as well as the purpose of Christmas itself. What would Jesus do? Jesus would love your fellow man, through you!

 

 “So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].
For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror;
For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.
But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).
If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren).
External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” ~ James 1:19-28

So Cold It Hurts (Part 1)


“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?” ~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian novelist, Nobel Prize for Literature (1970), b.1918)

‘Tis the season to give to charity, celebrate, be festive, give gifts, dress to impress, overspend,  and feel good about ourselves. No? Well, what do YOU see when you look around at your fellow man in December? What do you and I see when we look in the mirror? Thanksgiving was less than a month ago. The day after we sit down to give thanks, we rise up early the next day with greed and animosity to fight tooth and nail on Black Friday. Thus begins the tender and reverent celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus. But wait, there’s more…

December is the last month of the year, so when we pursue all this stuff, this window dressing, cake frosting, twinkle light decorated stuff, as beautiful and wonderful as it is and can be, we are ending the year on a false note. For many people, Christmas has become yet another thing to pay off and feel stressed about next year. Utility bills are higher, food bills are even more so, and  while there’s nothing wrong with celebrating with our friends and loved ones, we are missing the elusive “Spirit” of Christmas. Bigger than the biggest Christmas blowout, grander than the holiday buffet at a casino, brighter than the lights on your town’s most lit-up neighborhoods’ houses (the houses, not the neighbors), the Glory of Christmas stands alone: precious, pure, loving, enormous, and shocking.

Many of you are parents. I have several children myself and they are dear to me. I would protect them with my life, at the cost of my life savings (HAHA, raising a large family doesn’t easily allow for savings), at the cost of my health, my sanity, or my reputation. Knowing this, and knowing that so many parents feel the same, good parents mind you, it is unthinkable that we even have a reason to celebrate in December at all. I would not have given up my precious children to an amazing, loving family, no matter how wonderful they were. They are My Precious! MINE! I cannot imagine giving them to someone amazing, BUT God gave His ONLY child who is strangely part of himself as well to a rabid, desperate, cruel, thoughtless, selfish, depraved, abusive, unfaithful, greedy, hateful world. True, he picked some wonderful parents in Mary and Joseph; but you can’t hide at home forever. On top of it all, Jesus’ life path led purposely to a horrible death on a cross. He lived a hard, lonely life, and without the aid of an angel bodyguard. He stepped where we step. He ate what we eat. Sometimes he went hungry. Sometimes he was cold. Sometimes he felt stressed and over-tired and underappreciated.

Jesus was the most underappreciated person who ever lived.  It’s not that no one appreciates Him, but He is the Savior of the whole world; and even the most devout have only a sliver of an understanding of the amassed depth and sacrifice of this first Gift of the Season. Our cold hearts just don’t get it. It is a gift of pure Grace every time another piece becomes clear to us. It’s not like we seek to understand often. Like the huddled forgotten who line our streets and alleyways, we turn away as we rush to our comfortable “zone”. In many ways, each of us could star in A Christmas Carol as Scrooge. We are all struggling with past hurts, sorrow, regret, possibly financially. This is a hard time of year to be hard up. My own family has been eating a lot of beans lately….a LOT of beans. (Pardon me)

Yet at the same time, we are so wealthy with the lavish gift of free will we each possess. Each of us can make a huge difference in the lives of those around us for good or ill. I see the news stories that break my heart of a child who was hurt and then grew up to hurt another child and on it goes. A cycle of goodness also repeats. My dad tells often of his own father who was faithful to whatever he deemed his duty. He was on time or early everywhere he went. He didn’t call in sick, he didn’t make excuses. He just did what he believed was right. That made an impression on my dad. He is the most steadfast person I know to this day. As a child who was adopted later in my growing up time, I didn’t have the full lifetime of exposure to this hard to come by trait. I am often late, for one thing. I do admire this dependability, though. It just seems like such a reach. (I think of my dad like I would a superhero, possessing abilities I do not have.) I am glad, though, that when my arm is too short, my legs tired of climbing, when I feel like I just don’t make the grade, steep as it is, the Hand of Grace reaches down to bridge the gap. 

The wonder of Christmas is about faithfulness. God had been hinting and pointing and nudging and promising the Messiah for a long time, to get us ready when He came. This was a time of great learning, mankind was not a bunch of cavemen beating rocks together. We had no excuse; but our hearts were cold, and most people missed it. For pete’s sake there was a HUGE new star in the sky and we were so wrapped up in ourselves that we missed the birth of our Savior! Jesus was the answer for their questions. He was the balm for their hurts. He was the Friend for the lonely and forgotten. But the issues of day to day living were too big in the eyes of the world then. Today, we are no different. Perhaps if we remember a present for everyone on our list we will be filled with that elusive Christmas joy. Maybe if we attend every single community sing and Pops orchestra program, or at least catch them on TV, we will experience the wonder. Maybe if our house is covered in lights… We go broke. Our feet ache. We ache with mourning and loss. The Holiday have-tos bear down on us and the TV and radio and internet are all bursting with the message of give, give, give…..but give STUFF!! No wonder our hearts are so cold. We can’t warm ourselves with things. A mountain of gifts will not make anyone feel less lonely, or more-loved. Of course, we all enjoy receiving presents, but this is not the point. Our hearts are still cold. (To be continued…)

 “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~ Revelation 3:17-22 NIV

 

Pie in the Sky, and Why You Should Try


“If you run, you might lose. If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed to lose.” – Happy Birthday to Jesse Jackson (born on October 8, 1941) 

Ahh Fall! I love this time of year! It has always spoken to me of hearth and home, gathering in, and, naturally, being thankful that we have been kept alive all this year. It also makes me think of all the opportunities we have been given. Some opportunities have gone by the wayside, and rightly so; some, however, we should not have let pass us by. Making dinner for a sick friend, making time for our loved ones, making up, making amends…sometimes we can’t see the grand purpose of our lives through the day to day survival and routines. We miss out. We miss opportunities.

I’ve blogged about missed opportunities before (https://freeatlastww.com/2012/06/21/in-the-palm-of-your-hand/ , https://freeatlastww.com/?s=opportunity …), but my main point today is those “pie in the sky” opportunities. If something just seems too good to hope for, many times we settle for something we are worthy of, in our own minds. We think of ourselves as less than, so we accept a life that is less than. I read an article recently that talked about the way our relationships damage us and make us see ourselves as unworthy. This makes us much more likely to tolerate people who mistreat us, because, hey, that’s all we’re worth, right? Why should we hold out for people who respect us, when we don’t respect ourselves? That’s a topic for another blog, perhaps. 🙂

Personally, I have had this burning desire to write books for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken many side roads along the way. There have been times when I felt that I was kidding myself. (I can’t write, I’m wasting my time, etc.) The desire remains inside of me to write and become a published author. I can always improve, naturally; but my love affair with words is going strong. I expect I will always have this dream, because it is part of me. I expect you may also have a “pie in the sky” dream. Are you pursuing it? Are you working on it? Have you given up? No dream is too big. Men have walked on the moon, cured numerous diseases, fed the hungry, improved the quality of life, made fortunes, composed sonnets….on and on it goes. Sometimes, we may be really gifted in a particular area but still have a niggling dream somewhere else too.

A few months back, I had the privilege to stumble upon a video of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s waltz entitled “And The Waltz Goes On” being performed by André Rieu & His Johann Strauss Orchestra. It brought tears to my eyes. To think that this had been composed over 50 years ago, yet remained largely hidden all this time. It’s been quite a while since I saw the movie Mr Holland’s Opus, but I remember feeling the same sort of lifting in my spirit. How beautiful to not only dream your pie in the sky, but to finally be able to take a big bite!

Pursuing your dreams means a lot of work, and tears, and skinned knees, and falling on your face, and praying, and praying, and praying some more. I’ve had times where I realized I’d gotten a little too fixated on the Amazing Jessie, complete with fanfare. I had missed the point of my given dream. There IS, you see, a Dream Giver. He sits on high, high and lifted up, shining in the light of His Glory… God isn’t just some grumpy finger-wagger though we often make Him out to be. He isn’t a genie we can make wishes on, or a magic flute we can play whenever we’re unhappy. God is majestic, benevolent, all-knowing, forgiving, and GIVING. God gives us our gifts to give to others as well as to lead us back to Him. 

For my part, I feel God speaking to me through the motives of my characters, as well as their fears, failings, and triumphs. A musician might hear God in the harmony of notes, the precision and order of a well-played riff or chord. An architect might study the designed alignment of structures and see intent in the weight they can bear, their resistance to fire and earthquake. There is a seed of God in everything. It is sometimes difficult above the tumult of pain and suffering and injustice to see and hear His symphony, yet it is playing for you and me right now. God’s song of love for us has always been playing. 

Maybe when your “impossible Dream” comes to mind, you can remember that this dream was given to you by One who makes ALL THINGS POSSIBLE. Perhaps this dream is the song he sings over YOU. You are not alone. 

Today perhaps you should look again at this Pie in the Sky. Remember the flavor, the spice of it. Remember that aroma as it wafts again your way. God’s love for you is never failing. He is wooing you through the notes of this song, the nuance and specificity of your dream. Nothing can get in between you and His love for you. Nothing can keep you from the fulfillment of God’s gifts in your life. Nothing.

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

A Far, Far Better Thing…


It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. – Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

Once upon a time there was a jerk, a grinch, a curmudgeon, a tightwad, a wet blanket, a gossip, a liar, a thief, a sleaze, a butt-kisser, a braggart, a cheater, an abuser, a slanderer………This person was on a trip, blissfully going about their business, when they were attacked and mugged (not only mugged but carjacked). Beaten severely and left for dead, this unlovely does-not-play-well-with-others individual lay in a gutter, wounded, humiliated, forgotten. Who do the unwanted call to say they are on this or that road and leaving at such-and-such time? This was a tight spot, for sure.

Eventually, someone did pass by who could help. A doctor, returning from his long day at the office, listening to a book on tape, something by Michael Crichton, a gift from his wife, eagerly awaiting a hot dinner and the chance to put his feet up and forget about everyone else’s issues and complaints for a time. He sees a body lying next to the road. He stops, dreading the obligatory call to the coroner and sheriff’s office for what was surely a poor departed soul. The doctor wearily pulls to a stop and gets out of his car to take a closer look. With much relief, he sees that this person lying near the road is not dead, but severely wounded. As he bends to examine the person’s face, the wounded person turns and the doctor recognizes them with a shock! This is someone who has been responsible for much pain and sorrow in the doctor’s life. He CANNOT help this person! He WILL NOT help! With renewed vigor, the doctor jumps to his feet, scrambles for the car, and without a backward glance, drives off down the road.

The wounded person cannot believe what has just happened to them!  Groaning, they try, unsuccessfully to rise. Lacking the strength, they rest their head back upon the ground, just as the sound of another car draws near. This time, the car belongs to a town counsel member, who also happens to lead a ladies’ Bible study at her church. Surely this woman will have compassion and help. Like before, the car slows to a stop. Like before the wounded person hears the crunching of gravel as the upstanding and concerned MAAD member and PTA attender who recycles all her cans and bottles and bundles of newspaper crosses the space toward the person lying in the dirt.  And yet, like before, as the woman leans over to look into the face of this wretched individual left in the dirt, there is a flash of recognition and her lip curls in disgust. This is a woman who wants to make a difference in the world! How could she maintain her reputation not to mention her precious schedule and plans for the evening, a dinner date with her husband for their 26th anniversary, if she gets involved with this person who has made the most irresponsible, immoral choices for years?? It’s no wonder they have come to be in a situation like this! They’re just getting what they deserve. Karma, and all that. The woman stands up, dusts off her dry-clean-only pants, hurries back to her car, and quickly drives away.

The light is fading from the sky. The person in the dirt can feel the cool damp of dew and the chill of evening settling on their body. Feeling desperate, they wonder what is to become of them. Head still spinning from the rejection of two people who had every means at their disposal to help. What would it cost them in the long run? How could it possibly harm them to help? Was their life so without value that the thought of helping them out of a bad situation was seen as a weak and foolish waste of time and trouble, an inconvenience rather than a sign of compassion and mercy?

A low motor rumble approaches and a beat-up ice cream truck comes into view. The headlights show the injured person and the brakes screech as the truck comes to a halt. An pimply, gawky teenager approaches the helpless individual laying beside the road. This time, it is the one on the ground who is shocked by recognition. For here is someone who is alarmingly unpopular and painfully awkward in school and out. No one has time for this kid, or much compassion. This teen is humiliated and teased on a regular basis, the target of bullies, and insensitive adults alike. Yet, this time, there is no raised eyebrow and hurrying away. There is no spray of gravel as the scene of the crime is left as-is, victim and all. This time there is a brow furrowed in concern. The teen’s jacket is removed and placed under the wounded person’s head. Questions are asked: Who? When? Why? How? How long? Followed by a more painful: Has no one seen you all this time? Why has no one helped you? The giant ice cream cone rotates on the top of the truck as slowly, painfully, the teen struggles to help the wounded person into the truck which then carries this pair to help and comfort and safety.

Who, in this story, is really unlovely? Who is an ideal citizen, a contributor? Who makes a change for the better? Who is a hero? Who is a villain? This obvious spin-off of the Good Samaritan is orchestrated to be vague on purpose. Who do we view as upstanding citizens? Who do we view as not worth our time? Luke 10:25-37 gives us the conversation Jesus has with one of his many challengers. His challenger on this occasion: an “expert in the law”. Funny how in the parable, Jesus uses two different examples of so-called “experts in the law” who followed the letter of the law, but not it’s spirit. These were fine, upstanding citizens, who wouldn’t stand up for anything or anyone unless it personally benefited them. How sad that we find ourselves surrounded by the self-same “do-gooders” who rarely, if ever, do anyone any good. Instead of being “important” or “popular”, perhaps we should all strive to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving, humble, kind, and unselfish. How can we behave this way in a world where every other person seems out to get us? There is only one thing that can motivate and save us. Only one thing can make us the kind of people that other people want to know. One thing, alone, can save the lost and heal our hurts: LOVE.

“IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]. For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded). When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. And so faith, hope, love abide [faith–conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope–joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love–true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13 (Amplified Version)

Be Still and Know…


“There are times when parenthood seems nothing more than feeding the hand that bites you” – Peter De Vries

Blogging has become a very therapeutic  activity for me. Sometimes it helps me just to make sense of the world and my place in it. If I can encourage other people while I’m at it, then all to the good. Sometimes, however, my being a mom tends to get in the way of things I really want to do, like blogging, or learning to quilt, or taking a shower. I’m sure a lot of parents can sympathize with me on this one.

On 9/11, I had a great ( in my mind) blog post all worked out……..it somehow did NOT work out…..or even several days later, when a young, lovely girl here in our local high school that has a graduating class of less than 200, who took her life after school. I wanted to exhort, encourage, I wanted to say something profound and shed a little sunshine into otherwise dark and depressing times. My job as a mom took precedence, however, as wisdom reminds me….it is supposed to do just that.

Even though my family is warm and dry and well-fed and protected and all the blessings we hope and pray for our families to have, I often feel that  am missing out on something big, something I could have done, or said, or written, or experienced…. I know I am not alone in this, either. There are scores of books and movies about women (and men) who override this immediacy of parenthood and run off unshackled into the sunset to pursue their dreams. They live happily ever after, for the most part, in those stories. Why doesn’t everyone do this then? Why don’t we have generation after generation of orphans instead of these silently exhausted and stressed-out masses who find it difficult to have a normal adult conversation without recounting so-and-so’s bodily functions for the day?

Perhaps parents everywhere, on every continent, know the secret to being a parent and keeping their life’s light of hope still burning. Perhaps these parents have learned that there are not stretches of eternity….not in this life…..but seasons that are ever-changing, each beautiful for its own characteristics. Maybe they know that there will be days in the future when the little inconveniences and annoyances and heartaches we endure for our children’s sake (and sometimes because of them), will fade and leave mostly happy memories and funny stories in their place.  I try to remind myself this on days when I feel overwhelmed and want to run away and hide, after selling all of my children to the gypsies….or the circus….or maybe the bargain bin at Grocery Outlet. The frantic need for peace and quiet claws at me and makes my best intentions seem quite thin at other times. What I am left with is a simple verse out of the Bible:

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

I must trust that my days as “Mommy” who wipes noses, tears and bottoms, listens to silly stories and book reports, corrects papers, and on the list goes, will one day change and I will be more like Dear Abby, giving advice and listening from afar. I will miss this and will probably not feel like doing the things I think I am missing out on now. Those things I’m missing, aren’t worth my time as much as these little adored human beings I am responsible to raise to giving, living, loving adulthood. In the end, I don’t think my most important work is being left behind. I think being a mom is the most important thing I will ever do, even when my wildest dreams come true, as some of them surely will. Let me encourage you, also, with this ridiculous stream-of-consciousness rambling that I am doing. God sees what you do, your children see what you do, others see what you do. A good parent is priceless. Don’t undermine your day in and day out job of teaching someone how to be an amazing human by doubting if it’s all worth it. It is. They are. You are. One day things will change. When they do, be able to look back fondly on memories of how you invested in these small ones who looked to you for everything. Be still, and know that He is God. You’ve got this; and He’s got you.

“God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-11

The Trap of Offense


The fox condemns the trap, not himself.   William Blake

If you happen to look up the online Merriam-Webster definition of the word “offense” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/offense), you will have quite a lot to chew on. An offense is more than just a feeling of outrage, anger, insult, etc. An occasion for offense is an invitation to step into a trap. Offense, like unforgiveness, is something we hold on the inside of us to our own detriment.

We always, of course, have perfectly good reasons (read excuses) for the things we might or might not do, which offend others. People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? Others, naturally, do not receive such largesse. They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!

Additionally, when we are offended by someone, a business, government, church, etc., we tend to want to tell other people all about it. Offense is catching. Now the offense has grown. Don’t try to kid yourself. you haven’t done the newly offended party any favors. Offense is a stumbling block that keeps people angry and closed off from others. When we are offended our relationships suffer, all of them. We turn a critical eye on everyone and everything. We even shut out God, the Lover of our souls. It only makes sense that the newly offended are also keeping God and other people shut out. Then they share their offense with someone else, and so it spreads, like a cancer, like gossip….the only truly appropriate medium for so much badness.

The Bible says in Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [Psalm 120:2, 3.] A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren.”

When we give in to our offended, hurt feelings instead of reserving judgement, being merciful, and trying to see things from the other party’s point of view, and moreover share these hurt feelings with others, we become proud, deceitful, violent, scheming, and evil in our hearts, the place where God looks. (1Samuel 16:7) Now wait, don’t throw out what I’m saying, aka, don’t be offended. 😉 Pride tells us that we are capable to decide what is in another person’s heart and mind AND we are perfectly within our rights to be upset because WE are much too important (them, not so much). We lie to ourselves (or listen to the enemy’s lies) and convince ourselves that we have been wronged, so much that we hold it against the other party, like a weapon behind the door. We might possibly forgive but we will never forget. (Ouch, that one hurt a little; it’s OK, me too.) All of this holding on to offense tends to make us stew or mull the situation over and over in our minds. We hold a grudge. We come to the conclusion that other people should know about it so they too can hold their secret weapons. We cause trouble between other people. The reason we are separated from God is because when He looks in our hearts to see who we really are, He sees a festering, stinking mess. Remember the Golden Rule and that whole thing about being forgiven as we forgive others? Yeah, He actually meant it. (Ouch some more.)

It’s not all about finger pointing and bad boy this and bad girl that, though. God truly wants our hearts to be healed and our spirits free from the traps we enter of our own volition. Unlike us so many times, God understands the naturally mucky tendencies we all have: and He wants to help. (Psalm 103:14)

First, He gives us instructions: “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” 1 John 1:9

Second, He gives us salvation: “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:6-10

Third, He gives us Himself: ” But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. [Mal. 3:6.] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. [Isa. 33:2.] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. [Num. 18:20.] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26

For these reasons, we need to revise the previous statements: [People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!]… The attitude that these statements, and similar ones, display is unseemly for a child of the Living-Giving-Loving God. Instead, we should change things up a bit.

I should understand that they have extenuating circumstances. Why am I so touchy?? What’s my problem? I have no excuse. I should have known. I should know better. Who do I think I am? They don’t have to put up with that! See the difference that makes? Now, maybe other people will see us the way we would like them to see us. All of this, truthfully, is difficult. Sometimes there are definite trespasses it’s hard to get past. That is where the amazing and free grace of God kicks in. (Amen!)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness. [James 5:11.] He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge. He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children–[Deut. 10:12.]” Psalm 103:8-17

The Velveteen Equation (Part 3): Return of the Gingerbread Man


“Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle”  Soren Kierkegaard

Spoiled, rotten brat! You think you can get whatever you want, and when you don’t get your way you throw a fit, make a scene, and run away……..yes, Mr. Gingerbread Man, I’m talking about you! Not content to fulfill your purpose as a son, brother, and friend, you run off into the wide world, where everywhere you turn something is waiting to eat you alive. You taunt and mock and think that you’ll always be fastest, you’ll always be free to play your games. Back at home, your mother misses you; but you never think about her, do you? You never think about anyone BUT yourself, you sorry excuse for a cookie.

In a lot of ways, the story of the Runaway Gingerbread Man reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. A young man with everything decides it’s just not enough for him and leaves, but not without first disrespecting his father with his very own version of the Gingerbread Man’s “neener neener neener”. Many of us have been a prodigal in one way or another. We may never know the pain and grief we’ve caused our loved ones when we set off on our journey to “find ourselves”, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not that all such journeys are entirely selfish or wrong, but many times it is easy for us to justify the wrong things for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. The prodigal in the parable would have eventually inherited his portion, in due time, as a beloved son and cherished member of the family; but, impatient for “his rights” and not recognizing the value of what he had already been given, he took what he could get, ran away, and then made a BIG mess!

He didn’t realize it at first. None of us realize it when we’re in the middle of  “making our own decisions”, decisions that would be better labelled “another fine mess”. It takes us all awhile to realize that the sound in our ears is not applause, but jeering; the smell in our nostrils is not the perfume of success, but the stench of something else. IT happens, but it does us no good to surround ourselves with heaping piles of it in the name of individuality, now does it? OK, moving right along…..

The Prodigal Son’s story had a happy, unexpected ending. He experiences completely undeserved open-armed, open-hearted forgiveness and acceptance from the father he had wronged (as well as a supremely jealous older brother, but that is a topic for another blog post). The father in the story represents the desire of God to fully reconcile us to himself, no matter how filthy, dirty, ick-poo our lives have been previously. The message of this story is: there is room on the cross for your past, present, and even future screw-ups. The Father loves you more than he is saddened by your sin. You will never smell too much like pig for him to reach out to you.

Mr. Gingerbread Man’s story, however, has a somewhat sadder ending, as do the stories of many prodigals who stubbornly stick to their guns. He ends up being the lunch of a crafty fox, who was all too willing to take advantage of such a tasty, gullible, and foolish morsel. Let their stories be a lesson to you. Don’t be consumed by the world and its users and abusers. Run into the arms of the Father. He has been waiting for you long enough already.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

Pinocchio’s Prize: The Velveteen Equation (Part 2)


“How long should you try? Until.”  Jim Rohn

We all have dreams. Some of us seem to have to work so much harder and longer than others to reach our goals, however. Consider, if you will, Pinocchio. Incomplete, or so he thought, he was loved, cherished, and cared for by a kind old man who wanted a son. Pinocchio had much that many would covet; but he wanted more.

Its funny, I’m sure, when we hear about some people and their dreams and then watch the choices they make. Some people want to be debt-free, but continue to make poor financial decisions. Some people long to be married, but make themselves so unpleasant that it would be unlikely for anyone to want to be their friend, let alone their spouse for a lifetime. On and on it goes with the human race. We are so ridiculously foolish sometimes, it seems that it would take nothing short of an act of God to turn us around and get us going on the right path again.

But wait, who is this little fellow tagging along wherever Pinocchio goes? We could all use a tangible Jimminy Cricket sometimes. Like Pinocchio, we often get distracted along the way by things that seem easier, more popular, less restrictive, and more fun. Somehow, sooner or later……many times much later, we realize that none of these things was worth the time we invested or the many things (and people) we lost along the way. It’s easy to picture Pinocchio, locked in a cage in Stromboli’s wagon as it rolls down the road while his father, Gepetto, trudges through the rain and the dirty streets looking for him. How embarrassing it was when he was caught in his lies and truancy and procrastination and idleness, time and time again.  After all that he put himself and his father through, Pinocchio finally made good by persevering, hoping, and ultimately sacrificing himself and his selfish desires to save his father from the dreaded whale, Monstro.

What is the prize that Pinocchio won? Was it his long-awaited dream of becoming a real boy, or was it something else entirely?

“And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba (Father)! Father! Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir by the aid of God, through Christ. But at that previous time, when you had not come to be acquainted with and understand and know the true God, you [Gentiles] were in bondage to gods who by their very nature could not be gods at all [gods that really did not exist].” Galatians 4:6-8

(To Be Continued…)

The Velveteen Equation (Part 1)


“If we treated everyone we meet with the same affection we bestow upon our favorite cat, they, too, would purr.” Martin Delany

Can you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? If not, let me sum it up for you: Once upon a time, there was a lonely little stuffed bunny who belongs to a little boy, who loved him very much. The bunny is the little boy’s constant companion, until one day when the little boy is stricken with scarlet fever and the bunny as well as the rest of the boy’s belongings are put in a big pile to be burned to stop any further spreading of the disease. The little bunny is rescued by a fairy who has watched his love and faithfulness for many years and at last, the little bunny is granted his fondest wish: to be “real” and hop around with the other rabbits and live out his life. (OK, the original story is much more charming, but that is the jist.)

As some people know, and many others do not, I was adopted. However, I did not begin life as an unwanted child. More to the point, I was a surprise! My birth parents were older when I was born, my mother 42 and my father had reached the ripe old age of 71 when I appeared on the scene. (The many implications of this particular age difference and the fact of my birth were things I had to come to terms with as a preteen in typical “eww-gross” fashion; but I digress, the fact is that I owe my existence to unusual circumstances.) As I grew, their years advanced until a chance meeting with a logging truck and the car my father was driving when I was seven. Fatherless, I continued living with my mother until the age of sixteen, when I received a call while in Denmark as an exchange student. Cancer. Terminal. I chose to return home. My mother appeared diminished and grey, dark circles under her eyes when I saw her at last. Less than a month full of anguish and sleepless night trying vainly to nurse her back to semi-health as she slipped away from me and her body gave in to advanced kidney failure, she died. I was all alone.

Others who have faced the prospects and unique challenges of being orphaned, will understand the many times I felt isolated, misunderstood, and strange, among other things. It is bad enough to be alone as an adult. As a child, especially an extremely sheltered and backward child such as I was, it is devastating in the utmost. It is difficult to take in a child whose been broken. I have friends who have recently adopted a child from China, and they have learned about many of these issues already. “Difficult” is a nice word for the way I behaved that year as I lived with the kind family friends who became my guardians.

I began to daydream about belonging to the family of a friend of mine.  Little did I know, at the same time that I was daydreaming, my guardian was praying about whether it would be better for everyone if I lived with this other family and the “daydream family” was thinking the same thing about me! I remember the day they came to pick me up. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged on the doorstep. It was the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Adventures do not always take the turns we anticipate. Part of the journey involves taking what you’re faced with and learning to adapt, accommodate, and worth through it. Joining a complete family, especially as a needy, spoiled teen has many pitfalls and challenges. It would be difficult to say who has a more difficult time of it, actually, the adopters or the adoptee.

It has been a long journey. The love of my adoptive family has seen me through the recovery of a divorce following a terrible marriage, single motherhood, remarriage, and the births of my 5th and 6th children. Their love has at times confused me, as I pulled away, and felt isolated for my efforts. I am now well into my adult years and still occasionally struggle with what it means to be part of a family, included in something I didn’t begin. The bottom line is that love makes us real. Love makes us belong.

“NOW WHAT I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate; but he is under guardians and administrators or trustees until the date fixed by his father. So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations. But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, to purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons].” Galatians 4: 1-5 AMP

(To Be Continued…)