Come Up Higher!


“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The world we live in today is an angry world, not just a little miffed, but seething, boiling-over, raging ANGRY. It is, of course, perfectly natural to feel this way. Facebook, life’s microcosm, has seen many “Me Too” posts recently. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a movement to bring awareness to the threat of gender-based violence and intimidation faced by the women and girls of the world in general, and to remind us that all around us, every day, there are women who feel unsafe. There is a global epidemic of forced labor and sex trafficking, for adults and children. What else are we faced with socially and personally on a daily basis but domestic violence, rising healthcare costs, greedy corporations, unethical treatment of employees, thieves, liars, cheaters, swindlers, pretenders, violence, hatred, anger, anger, anger!

I was angry as well when I started writing this post. Some things, after all, are just WRONG. However, “Me Too” should be the beginning of a discussion, not just an angry, raised fist.

An old Newsboys song says, “Everybody needs somebody to rely on….are you gonna lend a hand and assist? Everybody needs somebody’s shoulder to cry on…..are you gonna lend a hand, or a fist?” 

The real struggle, after all, is not men against women, black against white, rich against poor, cat people against dog people, left against right, not really. We all have much more in common than we sometimes care to remember. The ultimate puppet master and behind-the-scenes enemy of all of us is evil incarnate, or the devil, Satan, whatever you call him. He is a master manipulator and gold-star pot-stirrer, and we all fall for his games from time to time. For instance, when I’m angry after reading of a family devastated, or a crime committed, I am usually angry with people. This encourages me to have an “us versus them” or even “me versus everybody else” mentality. That kind of thinking is what feeds the mafia, gang warfare, and a Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s ideology. When both sides are bleeding and wounded, who really wins? When the smoke clears, you may find yourself looking, not at an enemy, but at a mirror instead. We all get hurt, but we do not have to be the ones doing the hurting.

So, me too, I have been hurt by others, AND I have hurt others. The only hands I can control are on the end of my own arms. The words I have come out of my own mouth. SO, I can be angry with “them” or you, but if I look at MYSELF, I can make the changes that the world needs to be a better place, for “them”, you, and me too.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-20 NIV
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Hot Coffee, and Meningitis


“Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food, but God has given us wit, and flavor, and brightness, and laughter to enliven the days of man’s pilgrimage, and to charm his pained steps over the burning marble” ~ Sydney Smith

Today, my coffee is hot, strong, and soothing. Today, my husband told me there are 3 men out with meningitis at his work. Today, one of my daughters told me she is on the honor roll and getting props from the high school principal. Today, I am almost out of laundry detergent. Today, another daughter has an interview for a new job. Today, I need to write a letter of apology.

Life is a series of good and bad, joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. We all know this. In many ways, life may seem like a spinning roulette wheel. Where will the ball stop? What chance circumstance will come our way next? Better duck, the wheel is still spinning.

But are our lives’ experiences a matter of pure chance, or is there something more? Is there an unseen Hand behind it all, directing our steps, bringing us situations designed to shape our character, and above all else showing us, by and by, that even in the midst of our most dark and confusing seasons that we are LOVED?

“The poor and needy are seeking water when there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the wild olive; I will set the cypress in the desert, the plane [tree] and the pine [tree] together, That men may see and know and consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” ~ Isaiah 41:17-20

So, after hearing more and more about our little rural area and the threat of meningitis getting closer and closer to my friends and loved ones, I warned my kids to be careful and not share food or drinks. I read that frankincense essential oil may help, and I decided to clean my house. (Little note for you, my readers, there are many nasty things going around, even without the threat of meningitis. Be safe, be careful, and love your loved ones.) I’m also going to be adding some frankincense oil to my homemade hand soap, just in case. 🙂

Seasoning the Seasons


“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy.” ~ The Blue Fairy ( IMDB, Disney’s Pinocchio, 1940)

 

It’s a strange thing, an awkward, how-can-it-be thing, when the holidays which are supposed to inspire feelings of benevolence, charity, patience, and generosity inside of us (no matter how we choose to observe them) are often rather commercial spectacles of excess, envy, self-indulgence, and competition. It is a wonderful thing to enjoy the blessings and fruits of hard work and God’s favor, don’t get me wrong; but when the decorations, food, and traditions become overly important, it’s difficult to actually enjoy these holidays. Worst of all, the people we are supposed to be teaching and sharing the deeper meaning of the seasons with get in the way of our dreams of “perfect”, things can get a little bit ugly, and by things I mean me. (Do you do this too?) Ugh. Embarrassing.

Of course it is so so easy to get wrapped up in the wrong things at this time of year (little pre-Christmas pun there). There are holiday specials to watch, and blogs to read (ahem), and recipes to try, and gifts to buy, and crafts to make, and bows to tie, and cinnamon-scented this and that, and Grandma Bobo’s Christmas tree skirt, and carols to sing, and bells to ring (hey I will rhyme most anything), and plays to watch, and Grandpa’s Scotch, and crab dip made from imitation, and Clark W’s Christmas Vacation………….So, it may be a good idea to stop, rewind, and remember why we have these often maddening special times. Maybe should recall the seasonings (or as it is also called, fruit) which make the Holidays truly bright…

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” ~ Galatians 5:22-26

Hope Deferred, and Deferred, and Deferred…


“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” Eliza Tabor

Where I live, there is a common saying that Spring has not arrived until the snow flattens the daffodils.  Let me tell you, it is as true as it is disappointing.  The lovely, cheerful yellows, oranges, and whites under a blanket of snow is a bittersweet beginning to the end of winter’s long, slow sleep. Winter can seem so long and drear, it is sometimes hard to remember that it lasts only for a time. Winter, however, is only a season, even in the mountains. Everything in nature tells us that nothing lasts forever. Winter eventually turns to spring, every time. The seeds that go into the ground eventually sprout and rise from the soil as young seedlings, already well on their way to become the dreamed-of plants we originally intended to plant in our gardens.

Life, like the natural seasons, has its times of growth, blooming, death, recovery, and most of all, waiting. Sometimes it seems we wait forever, until the day at last arrives when we see the fruit of our labor, tears, prayers, and long, sleepless nights. Our hopes and dreams usually follow a wait, as well as a lot of hard work and planning. We often have to implement a lot of changes and innovations to our old ways of thinking and doing and talking. We make new contacts, buy new things: clothes, tools, buildings, etc.  (Dreams are many and as varied as the people who dream them.) We also often lose weight, start exercising, add rooms on to our homes, build, begin, become.

Days, weeks, and sometimes years pass before we are able to see our dreams come true. Most likely, more time passes than we anticipate. More money is spent than was in our original budget. More work was necessary than our original estimate. Our plans alter as we prioritize and fix our sights on the future and the realization of our hopes and dreams. We do a lot of waiting… “One day”, we think.  “Someday”, we hope. “But when? But how? But how long??” we cry.

“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48
Twelve years is a long time to wait, especially when an unpleasant situation continues to take its toll. Scorn, ridicule, shame, and more were this woman’s food for thought for twelve long, and exhausting years. Outcast and broken both physically and financially, she encountered Jesus, and followed in his wake until she was able, perhaps during a pause in his gait, to grab hold of just the smallest part of his clothing. She believed that even a brief encounter could change her life and make her whole. She was at first afraid of what she had done, but hoped on in spite of her boldness and the social impropriety of what she had done. Her shocking presumption to touch a man who was not her husband was met, not with a frown or yet more derision, but with the love of a Savior, whose purpose was to seek and save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
You are probably waiting for something today. You may have been waiting for a really long time. The continued waiting is probably frustrating, wearing, and discouraging to you and the people who wait with you.
Be encouraged. The snow WILL melt. Spring WILL come. One day will eventually be TO-DAY. Your waiting will not last forever.

The Emerald City, Now What?


Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Who rang that bell?
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman: [all four together] We did!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Can’t you read?
Scarecrow: Read what?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: The notice!
Dorothy: What notice?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: It’s on the door – as plain as the nose on my face! It… oh…
[does a “tisk tisk tisk” expression, goes inside door for a moment]
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: [Guardian hangs the notice and goes back inside]
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman: [Reading notice, all together] Bell out of order, please knock.
[Dorothy knocks]
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Well, that’s more like it! Now, state your business!
Dorothy: [Dorothy and friends, all together] We want to see the Wizard!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: [gasps] The Wizard? But nobody can see the Great Oz! Nobody’s ever seen the Great Oz! Even I’ve never seen him!
Dorothy: Well, then how do you know there is one?
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Oh, you’re wasting my time!
[starts to close the window]
Dorothy: Oh, please! Please, sir! I’ve got to see the Wizard! The Good Witch of the North sent me!
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Prove it!
Scarecrow: She’s wearing the ruby slippers she gave her.
Guardian of the Emerald City Gates: Oh, so she is! Well, bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say that in the first place? That’s a horse of a different color! Come on in!

Well, after some time of persevering and hoping and working and not giving up, you will eventually reach the place where your dreams are taking shape before your eyes. However, this is not where your happily-ever-after starts. You may be rather disappointed (because we have all had this idea in our heads at one point or another) to find out that when our dreams begin to come true, it will mean yet MORE work.

So you’ve gotten that big promotion, but your new office is quite a commute, do you stay put or do you uproot your family and move? So you’ve finally met Mr. or Miss Right, you plan to get married, but they have kids and so do you, as well as a past, families who may or may not approve, etc. Will all of those issues just dissolve when you get married or, along with this captivating soulmate, are you now facing issues you hadn’t anticipated? The list of situations can go on and on beyond these couple of examples. We want things in our lives but we don’t always count the cost to get there or the cost of staying there.

Do you remember when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion all got to the Emerald City? They thought their problems were solved, their dreams were fulfilled, and at last they were safe from that dreaded Wicked Witch of the West. To their dismay, they found that, not only was it difficult to get into the Emerald City at all, but the Wizard turned out to be rather frightening, demanding, and asked them to do the very thing they would like to avoid: go back and see the Witch again! What in the world was he thinking?? The Wizard didn’t just want them to pay a polite social call. He knew they would have to sneak into the Witch’s castle, get past the Witch’s guards (and flying monkeys). He knew it would be dangerous and scary, and unfamiliar. He wanted them to bring him back the Witch’s broomstick, which means they would have to kill her! Dorothy and her friends were terrified at the thought of going back to see the witch, but if they wanted the Wizard’s help, and they desperately did, they would have to do as he asked.

There are many times in our lives when our success may seem lopsided. We might have some of our wishes fulfilled, but not all, or not in the order that we had planned. There always seems to be more work involved in winning the prize than we had anticipated, and there are many things from our past (fears, issues, people) that we will again be forced to face. We might begin to wonder if it’s worth it. Wouldn’t it be far easier to just stay as we are, getting by, but not really being challenged, not growing. We’re not excited, we may not even BE exciting to be around anymore because we’ve lost that special spark, but improving our situation and walking through that looooong field of poppies to the Emerald City just seems like too much hassle.

If you have ever felt this way, as I have, let me share with you a gentle reminder: there is no avoiding the Wicked Witch of the West. Eventually, she will find you, and usually when you are least prepared. Isn’t it a better idea to face her and decide for yourself when and how you will do battle? Yes, I said battle. We are all of us in a battle for peace, freedom, happiness and even our very souls. As we march about our daily lives, doing good, working hard to be better men and women, being patient, being kind, forgiving, we are striking out at an age-old enemy who is jealous, who believes we took something we shouldn’t have, who hates us and wants nothing more than our destruction. This enemy has many names, but for now, let’s focus on our story and see what happens…

The friends finally confront the Witch in her castle, and they are completely out-matched by the witch and her forces. Things appear hopeless, but then one brave act of Dorothy’s changes everything. The Witch is defeated, and they have the broomstick with the blessing of the soldiers who for so long have been forced to do the bidding of the Wicked Witch against their will. After more work and searching, and of course walking (does no one even have a ponycart in Oz?), they solve the mystery of the Wizard, who turns out to be very kind, if blustering. He helps them to realize that the seeds of the dreams they hold in their hearts were with them all along and only needed to be cultivated in order to grow big enough to see. Dorothy eventually gets home again, and learns to be thankful for the many people around her who love her, and everyone ends up a little wiser than they began.

Your dreams may sometimes seem like a lot of work and time and trial, but they are just as worth it now that you have realized this as they were when the first glimmer of them sparkled in your eyes. Don’t give up on these dreams. You will never be the person you were meant to be if you decide against the trials and frustrations and hard work in favor of a padded and safe mediocrity. The world will miss out as well, but not as much as you will personally. The Yellow Brick Road may lead through dark forests and dry valleys, but all that is necessary is for you to take one step at a time. Now come on! Put on those Ruby Slippers and join me!!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29 : 11-14

Stuck in Molasses Swamp


“What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.” Douglas Adams

When I was a child, I thought of Florida as one giant swamp full of alligators and snakes and bugs, but mostly alligators. I have since learned that the Florida Everglades is a vital part of the global ecosystem……with alligators thrown in for fun. (My apologies to anyone who lives in these places, I realize that there are many amazing geological, cultural, gastronomic, and entertainment options in this part of the U.S.) Even now, the thought of encountering an alligator, the way I have encountered bears in different places I have lived and camped, does NOT make me an over-eager visitor to these locations.

It is a common, if unfair, concept that a swamp is simply just an unpleasant place to be: humid, sticky, full of bugs that sting, snakes that bite, and any number of large-toothed animals that might be lurking in the murky water. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a swamp.  After all, most people prefer to quickly pass through a place that they see as so unpleasant.

“Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you’d look out your little window and think, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not out in that.”” Jack Handy

Sometimes, if you just change your perspective a little, you might think of the swamp as a spa retreat instead of a dungeon. You might be waiting for something else, but in the meantime, you have time for some self-reflection and renewal that will be more difficult when you get to the busy, tour Epcot-Disney World-Sea World destination. Perspective can help you see your surroundings in a way that will change you.

Maybe the reason you are here waiting is because what needs to change is you.

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

When I was a child playing Candy Land, I inevitably ended up in Molasses Swamp. Usually, I stayed there while turn after turn the other people who were playing landed safe and sound at Candy Castle. Life, as I have found, often sends me back to Molasses Swamp. I see many others breeze on by heading straight for Candy Castle, or so I assume.

The real journey of life, however, is full of surprises like grace, mercy, and hidden bends where the over-confident spin out and wind up as unfortunate guests of Lord Liquorice and have other much less pleasant adventures. We never really know about the struggles of those around us, or whether their seemingly perfect lives are really something we would want to face.

Many of us are similarly stuck in Molasses Swamp, waiting as our characters are honed and polished into the amazing kinds of people fit to walk through the gates of Candy Castle. In the meantime, we can all learn to enjoy our “time out” by helping each other endure; encouraging, assisting, and bolstering one another up. Some people are stuck in the Swamp for quite a long time. Their spirits fail, like the Horse Artax in the Neverending Story, and they sink below the surface, never to be seen again.

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. ” Romans 15 : 1-4

Sticky Hands, Deadlines, and a Steep Uphill Climb…


“The greater difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” Epicurus (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270)

When people picture a struggle, they may see in their mind a crew of a ship, valiantly battling wind and wave to keep their vessel afloat. Others may have an image of a mountain climber, solitary and alone, fighting gravity, the elements, and his own physical limits to reach the summit of the mountain and plant his flag on top. Still others may be inspired by scenes of the Special Olympics, where athletes prove to the world how they can overcome by strength and determination. All of these things matter. Every one of these pictures gives us a little insight into the nature of struggle, overcoming, and fighting to win a prize.

I have never been on a rowboat in a storm, let alone a member of a crew fighting to save their ship in one. I have never been that interested in climbing a mountain. I also have almost zero athletic inclination or ability, so I doubt I’ll be inspiring anyone soon with images of me dashing across a finish line. We all have our own brand of struggle, however. Mine comes in the flavor of a large family that needs me to participate, referee, and basically be there. As I try to balance my time between my children and my husband, I am also trying to earn my bachelor’s degree online in the field of visual communications. There are a lot of hours and concentration and hard work required for this to be successful. Our family is also trying to begin a new life after relocating 2 states away fro where we began. We look for work, we try to raise our kids, I go to school, make dinner, etc., all while trying to help the kids re-establish themselves in a new place. Did I mention we are also staying with relatives right now?

“Great minds have purposes; little minds have wishes. Little minds are subdued by misfortunes; great minds rise above them.” Washington Irving (American Writer called the first American man of letters. Best known for the short stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. 1783-1859)

It is important to remember that everyone has something that makes their life a struggle from time to time. Not all of us bear the same burdens either in nature or duration. There are things that I may find difficult that someone else would think easy. There are things that I have a fairly easy time of that would put someone else in a cold sweat. Fear is a very personal thing, after all. Maybe this is why we all go through such different trials in life. The purpose for all of it (or maybe some of the purpose) is to make us into the kind of people that are able to lead through adversity, stand firm for our convictions, do the right thing when it is unpopular, give up our own wishes for the good of others, and so on.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” Thomas Paine (English born American Writer and political pamphleteer, whose ‘Common Sense’ and ‘Crisis’ papers were important influences on the American Revolution. 1737-1809)

There are many who would think my struggles right now are a walk in the park and I should puh-leese quit whining about it! This isn’t the most difficult thing I have ever attempted, of course. The chaos brought by child rearing is something people don’t really understand until they have stood in your chocolate milk soaked shoes with a screaming toddler, 3 moody middle-schoolers and a drama queen teen while you try to fix dinner, field phone calls, finish up your assignment that is due today, and keep the twinge in your temple from turning into a pounding headache. Bonus points if you can do it all without raising your voice. LOL

The point, of course, is NOT that my children are a constant chore, hassle and trial to me and I wish I’d never had them, no way! I struggle in life because of them, because they are worth the fight and aggravation and work. (I grew up as a lonely single child, a surprise to my much older parents whose families were raised and gone, so family means a lot to me.)

We all have dreams and they are worth a struggle. They are worth the fight of a steep uphill climb. Don’t give up on those dreams. Every day you persevere you’re getting stronger and closer to the person you will need to be to see those dreams through to the very end. Strong shoulders are needed to bear the weight of dreams. Consider this your time of training.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12 : 1-3

In the Palm of Your Hand


“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

Charles R. Swindoll(American Writer and Clergyman, b.1934)

If you only took the time to understand how much you can accomplish with a moment. A single choice, when added to and built upon another choice and another, effects such change in your life that it can only be outmatched by the changes that single choice first started in you, yourself. We are more than what we eat. We are also what we do and think and say and believe.

If your mind is full of walls and barriers and obstacles, your words will tend to highlight the things that make it difficult for you to succeed. Your actions mirror the things that you think and talk about. For all intents and purposes, you ARE the terrible things you think you are and are trapped by walls impossible to climb, break, or otherwise escape… but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Alva Edison  (1847-1931)

The Underground Railroad, was a network of people who helped many slaves find their way to freedom. It was dangerous, frightening, and also illegal. Sometimes, in order for us to overcome hardship in our lives, there is a certain amount of struggle. The brave individuals which were able to escape and begin new lives believed that it was worth the risk, worth fighting for with their lives.

I have been reading about struggles of women and other vulnerable groups in other countries who have fought for the right to freely and safely walk the streets, speak in public, drive, hold a job, raise their children the way they deem best, and many other things those of us in the West take for granted. These things have been denied to them for a long time. The act of public protest and dissent is often like stepping in front of an oncoming train. There is a lot of suffering and pain, even to the point of death. These courageous individuals also believe that some things are worth a fight.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln (16th US President (1861-65), who brought about the emancipation of the slaves. 1809-1865)

Is there something standing before you like a wall, dark and forbidding, which you think you can never overcome? It may seem impossible, it may seem frightening, it may seem foolish to even hope. However, MUCH has been overcome in the past, MUCH is being overcome in the present, and MUCH will be overcome in the future. Do you realize that there is no difference between those who overcome and those who stay shackled in life (sometimes literally)? The only thing which changes the outcome is choice. You can make a choice. You can make a couple of choices. You can make many, many choices. After you do this, changes begin to happen, in your life and in yourself. You are only a few choices away from a different life if you so desire.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more” Anthony Robbins

You have a gift which you may not realize you have. You have, in the palm of your hand, the gift of free will. This is not the gift of someone else’s free will, but yours. This gift is more precious than most things you can name, and with it is a responsibility to choose what is right. Choosing between right and wrong is elementary, though many seem to choose wrong in spite of this.

The gift of choice also means we must choose what is right for us. If your dream is to do something that your friends and family have never done, something that shows your talents, then it is not only desirable but your responsibility to choose to do the thing which makes you happy. None of us are supposed to live our lives as drudges, stumbling around miserable and inept in someone else’s idea of “the perfect life”. I, for one, am not good at things I don’t enjoy, and even some of the things I DO enjoy are hard work for me. But I press through the difficulties (not always with a good attitude, I’ll admit), because of the glimpses I have seen of what awaits me on the other side.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3 : 10-14

Rockin’ the Journey


Whoa, we’re half way there
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear
Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer                                                                    

Livin’ On A Prayer lyrics
Songwriters: Bonjovi, Jon; Sambora, Richard; Child, Desmond

That’s it, keep going….you’re almost there….now a little to the left….a little to the right now…..keep going, keep going, you’re getting warmer, you’re starting to sizzle, you’re burning hot…….

Each of us is on our way somewhere. Sometimes the road stretches out further and further in front of us and we aren’t quite sure if we have enough gas, enough snacks, enough patience, or enough stamina to make it all the way. There are plenty of times when we may have every inclination to turn around and go back the way we came, instead of pressing on toward our goal. The path of least resistance doesn’t make us particularly happy or give us satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment, but it is much easier than trying to force our car’s screaming, protesting transmission up yet another steep incline.

Let’s take an imaginary trip together in our imaginary RV. (Notice: I am not really an “RV kind of person”, this is just for demonstration purposes.) We have our fridge packed, plenty of fuel in our tanks, with a little to spare for emergencies, a cold soda within reach in the cup holder, and our most comfortable non-embarrasing-should-we-need-to-get-out-in-public travel outfits. We’re taking things pretty easy, enjoying the time spent in one another’s company. Our destination: the Grand Canyon.

Along the way, there are lots of things to see and do. Some of them are pretty distracting. We might find a train museum, or a little art gallery, or a cute little burger stand with a stream running along side and shady places to eat at picnic tables. We might see unusual birds, striking sunsets, dazzling lightning storms, or cascading waterfalls along the way that beckon us to stop for a bit and practice our photography skills. We might also encounter flat tires, tourist traps, getting lost, having our wallets stolen, and throbbing sunburn.

When we’ve found our way back on the road and have double and triple checked that we’re going the right direction, we notice that not too far ahead of us is a mountain. As we grow closer to this mountain, we can see the slender hair of our road zigging and zagging up the side. You check the map. This is the only road. You groan at the very thought of driving this pull-out-all-the-stops monstrosity you HAD to have to take this trip up that steep road. (Sorry, I told you I wasn’t an RV person.)

When climbing long inclines, your RV needs to be operated within its power band.

The power band is a span of engine RPMs where you have the maximum horsepower available to handle the extra load imposed when going up long inclines.

This becomes even more noticeable with diesel engines…. (Link for this info)

 

Now, say we’ve been on a really long drive in this RV, hundreds of miles long. The Grand Canyon is a long way away from a lot of places. We’re on the way to the Grand Canyon, and we’re starting to see it on road signs we pass. The distance is shrinking mile after mile. When we’re about 50 miles away, our engine starts to overheat, we’re out of the good snacks, you and I are feeling worn out and cranky, and on top of all of that the baby is out of diapers. Oh Boy! * Hold that thought *

When I was younger, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon with my Grandma. It was a long, hot drive. I was very excited. I had never been to the Grand Canyon before. When we got to the park, the road wove in and out of the rises and dips of the high desert landscape.We rounded a bend, and there it was, gaping like a hungry giant’s maw, stretching on and on into the distance. I jumped out of the car and ran for the guardrail to peer over the edge…and received a sharp reprimand from my mother. I cautiously, continued on my way toward the guardrail, and marveled at the sight of this one-of-a-kind wonder. It was well worth all those long hours in the car just to see such an impressive thing. True story.

My grandma absolutely refused to get out of the car. So, after we had urged her repeatedly and in vain, we spent a little time there and drove home. Now, over 20 years later, I still remember this incident. It always seemed like such a waste to me, such a pointless thing for my grandma to go all that way, and then stop before she got to the point of the trip. Isn’t that like working all the way up to payday and then refusing your check?? That’s like a big steaming plate of what’s-the-point topped with crazy sauce and a side of DOH!! (I loved my grandma very much, but sometimes she just made no sense to me.)

* OK, back to our RV trip. * So, we’re getting close to our destination. We see the signs everywhere that prove it. The road has gotten a little rough and our tempers are shorter than they were when things were smooth, we had our favorite radio station, and there was plenty of our favorite treats to go around. Now we’re stuck with a steaming radiator, the radio is stuck on the farm report, and the snack bags are full of greasy crumbs. What should we do? Should we press on, or give up and turn around? It might be a little more familiar, but think of what we’ll be missing!

When we’re in the middle of our life journey, we will have times when things go a little rougher than others, but we cannot give up and go back home. In order to be different than the person we’ve always been, in order to have a different life than the one we’ve always had, we’re going to have to complete our journey. We cannot just decide it is easier to stay the same. We’re not happy this way, but the travel time seems so long and the trip is so hard. The destination is at the end, not in the middle. We need to keep this in our minds next to the place where we keep our name. The point is not to stop, but to keep going.

“…Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…” Philippians 1: 6

Drain the Cup


“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman (American Theologian, Clergyman and Activist. 1900-1981)

Sometimes, the cup we are handed is full of lemons; sometimes, it is full of lemonade. Whatever we find in the cup that we are given to taste at this particular point in time, it might be important to note that, as at dinner time at your mother’s house, you won’t get a refill or something new to drink until you finish the drink you already have. Another way of saying this is that life is full of seasons, to a purpose.

Every part of our lives, each individual cup full of life circumstances, has things that can benefit us. For example, bitter coffee wakes us up, sour wine can relax us, tart lemonade refreshes and cools us. Too much of anything can be bad for us, but we can pull purpose for our lives as well as grow-up lessons out of each situation which faces us. A long wait can teach us patience, and if we can take our eyes off of our watches, we might look up and see the people around us, who could benefit from a smile, a “thank you”, a prayer, a word of encouragement (Nice shirt!). When our eyes are focused so close to ourselves all the time, we many times get the impression that the world revolves around us and no one is as worthy of blessing, respect, authority, or notice more than we are. The world is full of these kinds of people already and the results are plastered across cemeteries, the newspaper headlines, and missing children’s stories, among other things.

To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia (American guru, tireless advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998)

When we fail to learn the important life lessons early, we will get another chance, and another, and another. The message we seem to miss so many times is “clean your plate” or “drain your cup”. How many times do we really want to go through this same thing in this same way? Wasn’t it enough the first time? Drain the cup, learn your lesson, and move on. Be healed, be stronger, be wiser, be free!

Just as important is enjoying the drink when it is especially refreshing. We really need these times of respite in order to be able to face life’s hard times. Therefore, when you are handed a particularly delightful cup, drain it, and be rested so that tomorrow doesn’t find you weary, stressed, and unprepared. We do not always get to choose what we hold in our cup; but if we can learn to drain it even to its most bitter dregs, we can move on to be happier, more generous and whole human beings. That, I think we can all agree, is something that will benefit everyone.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 8-13