The Wisdom of Going Through


“Why is it that men who can go through severe accidents, air raids, and any other major crisis always seems to think that they are at death’s door when they have a simple head cold?”Shirley Booth

A week or two ago, I came down with a cold. I had achy-breaky fever and chills. I sneezed and felt the tingle of impending sinus infection doom. I was miserable. You know the feeling. It’s funny how we can endure so many things except when our own body or health is challenged. You eventually recover from these little things, with a new appreciation for all the time you spend NOT feeling this way. Sometimes going through is the absolute best thing for us. Like exercise, sometimes we have to push through pain and discomfort in order to be stronger.

I spent years as a single mom who worked and went to school online. (Talk about your “going through”.) It was hard. There were so many times I felt like giving up on my dream of improving my life and the lives of my children. I almost threw in the towel instead of being a good example and showing my children (and the many naysayers) that some things are worth a fight. Instead of this, however, I pushed through and pushed and pushed and eventually earned my AA in Business Administration. After a few more years, and becoming very happily remarried, I was able to return to my studies and earned my Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. I have hopes of earning my Master’s and beyond one day. I will NOT reach these goals, on the other hand, if I begin to doubt that I can. My mind dictates the path my life will follow. not everything that happens to us is something we would have chosen, BUT we can learn the lessons we are meant to learn and come out better, stronger, and kinder than we were before the troubles came.

Perhaps my cold could help me to be more motivated to clean my house, eat healthy, drink water, wash my hands (for my sister in nursing school), and get good rest. Perhaps the next time I hear a friend is sick, I will be more compassionate and know how to ease their suffering a bit (temporary though it may be). Perhaps when I hear of people (or their loved ones) suffering chronic or terminal illnesses, my heart will go out to them, instead of a cold should shoulder and judgement, and I will be able to turn my attention toward thankfulness for all the pain I have NEVER had to suffer. It is only reasonable to expect us to learn something. We are reasoning beings, after all, are we not?

Maybe more than our immune systems or personal goals should be made stronger when we endure something unpleasant, tiring, irksome, humiliating, etc. Maybe what should be strengthened is our determination to reach out to others and encourage them as we have been encouraged. Maybe this strange life we all have to live on this strange planet and in these strange bodies with other strange beings is simply getting us ready for the ultimate strange destination of our souls?

“…Then he took hold of the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankle bones became strong and steady, And leaping forth he stood and began to walk, and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking about and praising God, And they recognized him as the man who usually sat [begging] for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement (bewilderment, consternation) over what had occurred to him…” Acts 3:1-26 Amplified (selected, read the whole passage here)

Moose Mug Irony and Other Points to Ponder


“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Once when I was on vacation in Lake Tahoe, I decided to spend my hard-earned money in the best way possible, by entering a tourist trap gift shop and buying myself a set of four moose mugs. I’m not talking about the clear glass moose mugs like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. (“Is your house on fire, Clark?” “No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.”) These mugs were tall, mustard yellow and had big moose silhouettes in black, very Lake Tahoe. [insert ironic tone] I had to have them. I just LOVE irony, plus anything that helps me tell a story. 🙂 As it turns out, life is full of ironic twists and turns, worst case scenarios, and don’t-try-this-at-home moments.

When you become a parent, you find out many ironic things about people. I was a perfect parent, once upon a time, in my dreams, before I became a parent. You know the type? Yeah, well I’m sorry. When we have a situation we are usually much more understanding toward others facing the same situation. When we have no idea what we are talking about, we sure have a lot to say, don’t we? Ours is ALWAYS a special circumstance, explanation, convenient reason…….everyone else has NO excuse. I’ve had my share of “special circumstances”. It’s easy to fall back on these as reasons why we can’t. Sooner or later though, we will meet someone with enormous obstacles and serious life challenges, and this person will be more than a survivor. This person will succeed spectacularly and make us feel like whiny schmoes.

There is the irony of the people who walk the red carpet and have more than a lot of people would ever dream of having, but live such dreadfully unhappy lives. Others with maybe not as much in the way of worldly possessions feel rich in friends and family and the simple joys of being alive. Our family has been hit quite hard along with many others during these financial adjustment times. We’ve had to live with friends and family. This week, I am sleeping in my own bed and using my own dresser, which I haven’t been able to do in over a year and a half. We also finally have our own washer and dryer. I am feeling very thankful as I listen to the swishing and tumbling of these machines, look out my own kitchen window, or lay the baby down to nap (safely bolstered with pillows) on my own bed. Household chores might be a source of stress for some, but for those without a home of their own, having their own floor to sweep is indeed a blessing.

The childless long for noses to wipe and diapers to change. Orphans long for parents to tell them what to do and get in their business and care. Those battling cancer see yet another birthday as a celebration of life and not something to dread. Irony, it turns out, is everywhere. With the proper perspective, however, we can all see things in a more positive, if ironic, light.

Echos of Eden


Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

– Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost

When spring rolls around every year, I find myself wanting a garden. Not just any garden will do, either. I want a magnificent Eden, full of the vast array and color spectrum contained in nature. I want plants to look at and plants to eat, preferably all of them beautifully arranged and accessible.  I can definitely relate to Tolkien’s Hobbits when they are described as loving all things that grow. There is just something so satisfying in watching things that you have planted grow from seeds into full maturity as plants or various kinds. My son once grew a single tomato plant from seed that was still growing,  producing and flowering at our 3500 ft elevation when we first started getting frost. (It was a Pompeii tomato, in case you were interested.) Gardening is interesting for all ages. Is it maybe because we began that way?

There are a lot of folksy sayings about when to plant this or that, how to tell if your garden is doing well, when to harvest, etc. Growing food, flowers, or any kind of plant really, just seems to be party of our basic nature. There is such a huge movement toward going green, getting back to nature, organic self-sustaining living, and on and on. At the same time that we are moving away from older ways of doing things and modernizing, it seems many people are realizing the wisdom of looking back to former generations’ wisdom and ways.

It seems to me that if we are realizing the wisdom of doing certain things for ourselves again because it worked well once and still works now, we might want to consider many of the other things that were once standard operating procedure. Things like loyalty, honesty, fairness, justice, and unselfishness might seem outdated or passe, but these values were once just the way things were. It was just the way people behaved. You could count on it like the sun rising in the morning. Perhaps, instead of bemoaning the cruelty and insane selfishness that seems to be the daily diet served up by the evening news, you can be someone who makes a difference for the better. Maybe, if we all lived our lives in parallel to another old-fashioned concept known as the Golden Rule, no matter what the color or preferences or beliefs of the people you encounter everyday whether in person or online (those online avatars represent actual people just like you and me, after all); maybe if we remembered that our ears were made to always be open, but our mouths can actually close from time to time (and should); maybe if we listened to our grandmothers and Thumper’s father “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”; if we all acted the way we say we want everyone else to…..we would all live in a much happier world overall.

The next time you are tempted to think of something as “old-fashioned” and therefore no longer valid, remember that many of the things we are missing in this world were voted out, modernized, or made unpopular a little bit at a time, until we all learned the bittersweet lesson to be careful what we wish for. Sometimes we get it, and it is a good thing, true. Hand-in-hand with getting our way are the consequences of getting our way, however; and all the political filibustering and campaigning and white-washing and spin-doctoring in the world cannot make things different (in reality) than they actually are. Until we reach a day when “the former things are passed away”, we might just take a look backward from time to time at some of the tried-and-true and see what we’ve been missing.

At any rate, I went online and ordered more seed and plant catalogs than I can possibly use this season. We are in our own home at last, only renting, but nonetheless I want to be able to dream my Hobbity dreams and plan and imagine my perfect garden. I always daydream about a space MUCH bigger than the one I am actually able to use. I don’t ever accomplish the things I imagine, but I go on imagining all the same. Maybe a lot of us just need to find a place like Eden inside of our imaginations where we can go and walk when things get a little too modern and impersonal for comfort.

Thus says the Lord God: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities I will [also] cause [Israel’s] cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the desolate land shall be tilled, that which had lain desolate in the sight of all who passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. – Ezekiel 36:33-36

 

 

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19977#sthash.Wt06AMf6.dpuf

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…)

A Candle in the Wind


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night, Dylan Thomas

There are a lot of things which can snuff out the light in our lives. One of the most destructive is guilt. We become manipulated into doing and saying things we’d rather not. We lie to others to make them see us a certain way. We even lie to ourselves. “I’m not worthy.” “It’s no big deal.” “They didn’t mean to hurt me.” “They’re only trying to help.” “I owe them.” Relationships are difficult enough without the bitterness of guilt poisoning things. We sometimes just need to be brave enough to be honest with ourselves and others. Head games are for chumps.

So, how does avoiding guilt tie in with all this talk of light and candles, etc? The joy we bring to the journey is our light. It is very difficult to get light from a snuffed candle. Anything we allow in our lives that makes us continually unhappy will logically make it very difficult for us to be a blessing to anyone around us. A candle doesn’t just spontaneously light itself! As tenuous as our feelings of happiness and cheerfulness can be (and we cannot just chase warm fuzzies all the time), we have to take concrete steps to eliminate those nasty candle snuffers as much as possible. The whiny friend, the complaining relative, the gossiping neighbor, the manipulative co-worker; these are all relationships that will snuff out our joy and make us ineffective as lights in this already-dark-enough world.

Be careful with you. You’re the best you that you’ve got!

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

Hidden Surprises Along the Way


“When science finally locates the center of the universe, some people will be surprised to learn they’re not it.”- Bernard Bailey

Surprise can be a funny thing. People often say that they like surprises, love them even. The truth is, there is really no way to know what “it” is, until it’s too late. A wrapped present is intriguing to us. It represents possibilities, hopes, dreams, things longed for. Not all surprise packages contain things we enjoy, however. Who hasn’t received a gift from someone that didn’t quite “get” you?

[Disclaimer: Dear Person, you will know who you are. Please don’t be offended. I know your heart is as big as all outdoors. I am sure I have given my share of unexpected gifts as well. I still love you. :)]  I once received a Pepto-Bismol pink Snuggie. It looked for all the world like a thneed, straight out of the pages of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. At the time, I thought it was an odd gift. However, I know the individual who gave it intended it like a warm hug which would enable me to watch movies and snuggle my kids in greater comfort. (A very thoughtful thing indeed.) The appearance of the gift may have been unexpected. The thought behind it, however, was full of love.

Many of the “surprise packages” we receive during our lives can be mixed blessings; confusing, bewildering, frightening, and unexpected in the extreme. We may look at these surprises and wonder why this particular situation came our way. We may feel angry, jealous, rejected, abandoned and hurt. If we aren’t careful, however, we can miss the message behind the gift. Long periods of waiting can make us feel forgotten or unloved. Perhaps we should try to look past the details of the season we face and realize that patience can be a great ally, especially as we work toward our goals and dreams, many of which will require much patience, forbearance and tenacity on our parts. If we cannot learn to exercise patience while we wait for basic things, how will we ever be able to withstand the more difficult trials of life? Patience has a lot in common with hard work, which is another necessary thing for us to exercise as we grow in order to be able to handle the manifestation of our hopes and dreams. The easy-peasy, sit-back-and-watch-the-clouds-roll-by life does not accomplish anything. Sooner or later, you have to get up and do something, or you will see opportunities pass you by, along with the clouds.

Like Bilbo Baggins, we can use our fear of the unknown and distaste for anything that interrupts our status-quo, predictable comforts as an excuse to stay safe, and the same (which is the same thing as stunted), forever. We might daydream of things being new and different and exciting, but the reality is just too much work. Enter: Surprise Package A! As we open it, we find a CHALLENGE to our character and a BIG QUESTION MARK. What will become of our dashing hero now? Will they rise to the occasion, or turn tail and run? Will they fall in the trap, or skillfully avoid it? We know them now, but who will they become when it’s all said and done? Who will ANY of us become?? It all depends on how we handle surprises.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”  Galatians 5:16-26

Marvelous Pigs in Satin


James: It’s like he said: Marvelous things will happen.

Glowworm: Did he say, “Marvelous pigs in satin”?

Grasshopper: No, dear lady.

[He takes out a megaphone and speaks through it]

Grasshopper: Marvelous things will happen!

(James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl)

As we travel down life’s road, we encounter situations that are many and varied. There is a lot of work involved. Sometimes the path is hot and dusty. Other times it is cold and windy. There are dark times, difficult times, long stretches where everything looks the same and it seems like we’re not making any progress. We wait, and wonder what the point is and why we’re here. We feel frustrated and lost and helpless…

However, that is not the entire book from cover to cover. There are other times, bright times, heartwarming, encouraging, sunny and marvelous. We have wide open spaces that appear along our path, glorious, roomy, and full of freshness. We can take in great breaths of air, take off our worn boots, wiggle our toes in the grass, squish them in the cool mud, and even bury them in hot sand. You can take off your weary pack, stretch your weary shoulders, fling wide your arms and draw the beautiful day into a soul embrace! Long have been the days of your travels, and toilsome. Your heart has been heavy, your mind confused. Bankrupt of all goodwill and generosity, you have shriveled in your heart, folded in upon yourself. Miserly have been your thoughts toward your fellow man. You were not made for this. Your heart was not fashioned for selfishness. Your mind was not created to only hold thoughts of self. For this reason, it is important to make full use of these times and allow your inner self to unfurl. Remember the caress of the soft breezes and the gentle whispers of love and value and ultimate endearment from the One who thought you worth the ultimate price, and paid it, and would again, and again in an instant. It is sufficient, however, that it was paid once and for all.

Now, as your wings unfurl, remember who you are, not a grasping, creeping thing, but a majestic, otherworldly being, with a resplendent soul. You have been washed, healed, and redeemed. You are in possession of knowledge so great that it can change a person from the inside out! Who are you, redeemed and beloved? What is your purpose? What will you do with this excellent and impossible love? Do you bury it? Do you keep it only for yourself? Why not instead open your heart to those struggling, creeping, suffering, despondent souls around you? Hold up the light for them so they, too, can exit that dark place to which you also once belonged. In this way, you carry the joy of the open spaces into the dungeons and shadows and cemeteries of life. You hold the power to free countless individuals, locked in the dark within their own souls. Knowing that such light and goodness exists, how can you not pass it along and extend a hand to a fellow traveler? The dark places of this world are made up of dark individuals and their dark deeds. Be a beacon that shows the way to the paths of peace.

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested and put in prison, He withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the country of Zebulun and Naphtali– That what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be brought to pass: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, in the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles [of the peoples who are not of Israel]– The people who sat (dwelt enveloped) in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those who sat in the land and shadow of death Light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17

Death, Diapers, and Wilson Phillips


“He was a great patriot, a humanitarian, a loyal friend – provided, of course, that he really is dead.” Voltaire

Yesterday morning, quite early, my head was filled with an old Wilson Phillips song. Not long afterwards, I realized that I was completely out of diapers for my 2 month old daughter. I looked at her sleeping like a tiny bundle of pink loveliness and realized that the situation would need to be remedied. It was about 5:30 a.m. Our grocery store doesn’t open until 6 a.m. I waited in the parking lot while she cooed and burbled, for the time content in her dirty diaper. The cooing turned to crying before long, however, and I decided to take a few turns around the dark, empty parking lot. (We live in a small town, so this isn’t as dangerous as it would have been in a large city at that hour.) I waited and watched as the vendors’ trucks came and went. The moon was out and there was little traffic. When I was finally able to get inside the store, there was ONE box left and it was opened already. Everything was otherwise as it should have been, however, there was no more of that size for anyone else who didn’t want to pay twice the amount I did for more expensive brands. Our area has has a baby boom over the last few years. There must be a run on size 1 diapers!

At any rate, as I returned home, secure with my sweet, sleeping infant and her size 1/2 diapers (what’s up with a mixed size of diapers?), my sleep-deprived thoughts turned to death, last words, and a scene from Return of the King, where a mentally unstable Steward of Gondor talked of “death embalmed and a long, slow sleep”. The night previous, my husband Adam told me that I needed to go to sleep. I answered rather glibly that I would sleep when I was dead. Adam does not like me to talk about my death. Understandably, I don’t like to think of his death either. Nonetheless, it is something we must all consider. We need to think about the kind of life we live. We need to consider the people we are now and the people we desire to become in the future. How will people think of us when we are no longer drawing breath? I want to be mourned, not because I am just such an awesome person I can never be replaced, but because I’ve made a contribution to people’s lives. The sum of our lives is what we leave behind in other people’s lives, not the possessions we accumulate or the records we break.

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit. Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, at all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Ephesians 5:15-20 Amplified Version

I would admonish and encourage you to be a person worthy of remembrance. Live richly by investing in other people. Give generously. Listen patiently. Help cheerfully. LOVE. Make your epitaph an eloquent sonnet to the milk of human kindness. In this way, your life stretches on a terrible long count of years. In this way, you are well worthy of remembering.