Monday, March 27, 2017

WHY THE UNDERDOG?

Let's hear it for the Underdog!  Although I am a great fan of the game of basketball, I no longer watch the tournament leading up to the National Championship.  I had to ask Google to determine this year's underdog.




It seems Xavier had made it to the elite eight with the underdog status.  A small (6200 enrollment) private university.  It is quite the accomplishment to arrive at this pinnacle of success when playing against the giants (enrollment wise as well as height).  In those good old days when I did sit and enjoy March madness, I usually pulled for the underdogs--especially when I had no dog in the fight.  Sadly Xavier was defeated yesterday, but what an accomplishment for this small school to make it to the final eight!

I have a soft side that loves to pull for the underdog.  Take the English version of the popular television show "Britain's Got Talent".  When this lady walked on the stage, we all were holding our breath for how horrible her performance would be.  She was in extreme need of a makeover--a little soft around the middle--and her hair even made my bad hair look good.  From the outside it appeared there was no possible way she could WOW us.  I was satisfied with hoping she would not embarrass herself, and didn't think for a minute  she could do more.




WHAT a marvelous unexpected surprise when she rang out that very first note!  My heart began pulling for the underdog--the unexpected--the unlikely after her first performance.  She excelled--she succeeded--she was a winner!  The underdog--was the hit of the show!



We all love movies depicting underdogs winning and winning big!  Take that huge box office serial winner "Rocky".  Barely able to speak in mono-syllables, Rocky managed to defeat the greats in professional boxing.  Being beat to a proverbial pulp seemed to make the story even better!  The men especially could not get enough of it--there were EIGHT movies chronicling Rocky and his story.  Why this even won an Academy Award for Best Picture!  We ALL love an underdog story!

Why even in the cartoon and story book world we pull for the underdogs--The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland--and the list goes on and on.  The very one that has the least chance of winning--surviving--marrying the prince---that is the one we want to see win-succeed-save the day-wear the crown.


Where does our fascination of rooting for the underdog come from?  Why do we feel the need to support the unlikely?  As I thought it over, I realized it all centers around HOPE.  If Susan Boyle can sing like a lark, if Rocky can defeat Apollo, if the Three Little Pigs can outsmart the Big Bad Wolf, if Cinderella can get the prince--why there is hope for me!  We all need, want, desire to have hope.  Hope there will be a better day, hope to finally reach our goals, hope to recover, hope that we can overcome the obstacles in our path and step into the light of success.  Hope is the elixir of life--the boost to reach for a better tomorrow.  The human spirit is an amazing thing--even when faced with insurmountable obstacles--we still hold on to hope.  Thus we root for the underdog--pull for the least likely--because if there is hope for them---then we certainly can also have hope!

As I wrote this post, I though of the old hymn--

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness.

Our true hope in a world which can appear hopeless.  The solid rock upon which we stand.  The fountain--the well spring--of all hope--Jesus.


They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.
Psalm 78:35


Sunday, March 26, 2017

SURRENDER

SOME THINGS

ARE EASY

BUT OTHERS

SO HARD

TO SURRENDER




IT OFTEN

TAKES

ABSOLUTE DESPERATION

TO GIVE IT ALL UP


SABBATH BLESSINGS,
MY DEAR FRIENDS

Friday, March 24, 2017

AT THE BUS STOP

While traveling, you begin to notice most places with a high concentration of tourists also have public transit.  When visiting large cities, the train or subway may be the preferred mode of shuttling travelers around.  In smaller areas, buses are more frequently used to shuttle the tourist and the dollars in their pockets from place to place.



The GREAT thing about the bus service in Sun Valley--it is free!  The not so great thing--it would take an engineer to figure the schedule out!



They named their bus routes for colors --NOT to be mistaken with the buses being the color of the routes.  The buses all looked alike!  The secret code was contained on the lighted sign on the front top of the bus.  It turned out you could take the Blue Route or the Silver Route to get to the slopes and all the fun filled snow activities.  I never saw the difference in the two routes, but the drivers were quick to point on when you dared to step on the incorrect bus.  



Each bus stop has a small sign to further confuse the novice rider.  We have seen this frequently in our travels.  All buses stop at the same point---the danger or fun is getting on the wrong bus and ending up in Outer Mongolia by mistake.  The bus stop at the Sun Valley resort where we went snow shoeing and cross country skiing had FOUR different bus stop signs in a semi circle the size of a tight car turn around in your drive.  You need to be standing by the correct sign--or you could be headed up the line to the next town.  We stood by at least two of those signs trying to decide which was the right one.  As a last resort, we asked the bus driver was he/she headed where we were going.  Of course, this could be disastrous if you are standing on the wrong side of the street or the bus you needed left five minutes ago.



There was a time in Europe we almost missed the last bus of the day after
hiking several miles up a mountain.  THAT is not the time to miss your bus!  We are always thankful for the kindness of strangers!



Once we got over the fear of missing the correct bus, we began to look around and notice the wonders of the bus stop.  You can meet the nicest people while waiting on the bus.  Don't let the funny hats fool you--these were delightful riding partners.  And don't miss the beautiful church in the background by the bus stop, nor the mountains forming the backdrop.



And best of all--the sights you are blessed to see---at the end of the ride---BEYOND COMPARE!



 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Thursday, March 23, 2017

YESTERDAY

Facebook gives us a blast from the past occasionally and shows us a post from our yesterday's.  Yesterday, THIS came across my feed.  I was intrigued enough from the title to go back and read the words I had placed upon the page five years ago.  A blog with a different name--I am on my third or is it fourth blog name--I felt as if it was written by another me.  A me still in the fields of all consuming grief, one year after I began my solo journey.  The best thing about journals or blogs--is we have physical evidence of our emerging self.  I for one am delighted to realize I am NOT stuck in a rut.  The me I am morphing in to--is a much better version--one of which I have grown extremely fond.  A much better friend to others, someone who looks beyond the tip of her nose, and I pray, one recognized by God as seeking Him and His will.



I then read the comments from readers of that post.  Today's blogs only bring a few comments on the blog--most of my comments are on Facebook.  Back in those days, the ANONYMOUS comments could sometimes be vicious and brutal.  There will always be Haters and how easy it is to hide behind the name Anonymous.  It comes with the territory of blogging--if you are brave enough to allow comments from anonymous sources.  I chose to allow those nameless comments in an effort to get feedback---even feedback I did not want or need.



The really great thing about going back and reading this is knowing how far I have come and I am not finished yet.   It is a wonderful blessing to know God loves me enough to continue to teach me, continue to seek me, and continue to love me beyond even my greatest expectations.  



One of the many lessons I have learned over the past six ears---God knows best.  There is a reason I am alone--God allowed my marriage to end for His good reason.  He answered my pleas with a resounding "NO".  There has never been a time since that sad day that I for one minute thought it could all be fixed.  Some things are not fixable--some things are broken beyond repair.  Though As I stated the day it all began to unravel, God desires us to stay in our marriages----He does allow some to end.  Though the marriage has ended, the fruits of those decades as one is the living legacy of that which once was.  

For once, I am pleased Facebook gave me a glimpse of yesterday.  Yesterday is gone--and the future is unknown--but for today---I live life to the fullest and with the joy of knowing His grace, mercy, and love.  What a trip it has been!


Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:8


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WE ALL FALL


While we were in Sun Valley, we lucked into being there at the same time as the National Junior Ski Championships.  I spent two afternoons watching these young athletes prepare for the competition which began the day we came home.



They flew down those icy slopes with no sign of fear and at such speed that they were a blur of color on the backdrop of white snow and ice several feet deep.



















The jumpers turned, twisted, flipped and defied gravity beyond my imagination. 



And then there were the snow boarders on the half pipe--flying is an understatement.  As they arced back and forth between the half circles, they soared high above the edge of the snow (ice).  It seems ice is preferable when it comes to the half pipe.  The increased speed makes for the ability to reach higher in the sky.

These are the best of the best--the nation's premier junior champions.  They practice their sport throughout the winter months --all over the nation and at times the world.  Off season, they are using warm weather techniques to train.  They know all the tricks of the sport and are willing to risk it all for a win at the end of the run.

The two days I watched, I began to notice the unexpected for those that know their sport so well.  I saw quite a few brought down the mountain on ski patrol sleds and this was only the practice runs.



Even the well prepared, those who knew exactly what they were doing, the experts took falls.  Some of those falls resulted in injuries--one a serious injury.  Injuries which will take them out of the game for a while and require patience to rehab.  Yet most of these athletes will choose to go back to the game, try again, keep pursuing their goals and dreams.  Falling down--even falling down and being injured requires the mind set of willingness to get back up and, once you are able, trying again.  Continuing to seek the prize is the mark of a winner more than the trophy and podium.

So it is with our lives---we all will fall--we all will fail---the mark of a winner is trying again when we want to quit with all our being.  The easy thing is quitting--the hard thing---the difficult thing---the seemingly impossible thing can be getting back in the game--being willing to brush ourselves off and start back down the track.  The prize --the perfect prize is now the medal-not the trophy--it is those wonderful words--"Well Done".


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;  
II Timothy 4:7 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

THE STRUGGLE TO STAY VERTICAL

Admitting to perhaps being in my declining years seems to be quite the struggle  as evidenced on my recent trip to Sun Valley, Idaho.  I last skied eight years ago--but for some reason I forget my age and condition and signed up to ski with the younger and more athletic friends of mine.  This proved to be fool hardy!  I do have enough sense to know I do not want a broken bone at this stage in life and try not to take foolish risks.  The problem seems to be recognizing my limitations.

NOT ME--but you get the picture
once your are headed down,
especially on ice,
there is no stopping!

The weather was unseasonably mild--it seems we might be a little late for the prime season.  This is good--when it comes to the lack of crowds, but bad when it comes to the icy slopes.  The locals pride themselves in very steep slopes--which is great if you are a good skier--but treacherous if you are a novice with a long dry spell from being on the slopes.  The first run down the slopes had me falling three times.  The very first fall was on the side with the bad hip.  When I finally got up--with help---I knew I was in for trouble as I twisted my knee in the fall.  After finally getting down the mountain, I sat and rested and licked my wounds while the others explored different trails.  They insisted on me trying a another not quite as steep slope with a much wider trail.  The damage had been done and turning the twisted knee was very painful.  After slowly making it down the slope without incident, I sat out the rest of the day.  Hope springs eternal and I am hoping my knee will be better the next day.

The infamous squirrel pose
from Dear Bob and Sue. If you like
adventure books--give it a try!

The following day, two of us went snow shoeing since we had never tried this activity.  NOW--how hard could this be???  Note the short shoes--which are tipped with metal spikes and poles to help with balance.  I can do this and stay vertical---WRONG!  Somehow I forgot you need to keep your legs slightly splayed and ending up tripping over my own snowshoes.  Grace would be my middle name.  Thankfully these trails were NOT icy and the pain was minimal--when I toppled, except for my wounded pride.  It was a great workout!  



The third day, the knee is still no better, so we decide to try cross country skiing.  At LAST I have the advantage---I've done this before!  Granted it was when #1 Daughter lived in PA, oh around eight or more years ago, but THIS I know how to do.  As my Buddy so well put it, "Is this all there is to this?"


Those words were uttered just before the ice took its first victim of the day.  OH--but I did not fall--FOR ONCE!  I began to get a little cocky and thought--even with the ice--I can do this!  NOT!  My skis were flying out from under me and my rear bounced two or three times on the ice before I could utter a brag!


I came home with bumps, bruises and more sore places than I can count.  BUT-there was always someone there to help me up --each and every time I fell.  A hand reached out--and pulled me back to my feet--helped me get my balance--made sure I was not injured and waited until I was on my way again before leaving me.  I was never alone when I fell and always given a helping hand to start again.  THAT IS WHAT FRIENDS DO FOR EACH OTHER!

I am sure you see where I am going with this.  God has faithfully been by my side watching over me, protecting me, and lending me a hand throughout my life.  He has allowed me to fall, at times, but He never left my side and has always assisted me back up on my feet.  No matter if the fall was my fault or another's-God has always given me a hand up.  What A Faithful God we serve!

 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:13-14




Monday, March 20, 2017

THE LINE FORMS AT THE REAR


I have been breaking for Spring or on Spring Break--in case you  avoid me on FB and were not aware.  Surprisingly, while in Idaho,--WAY UP NORTH--the temperatures were rather mild.  The deep snow pack, altitude, and mountain breezes keeps the snow on the mountains and my coat on my back.  I am thankful for the blessing of sweet friends who invite me along on their adventures.  




Perhaps my favorite part of any adventure--well any outing--is people watching.  OH MY--do we come in all sizes, shapes, and personalities.  I believe I could write for a year on what I see in airports, train stations, and on public transit.  While growing up under Momma's iron hand, we definitely had two standards of behavior---at home and in public.  The law of the land was you did not draw attention to yourself by unseeming behavior while in public.  That law seems to have been thrown out the door--in fact--much of what I saw lead me to believe many have never even heard of it.

One of my favorite viewings while in the airports is the boarding of the plane.  The airline industry has tweaked this process for years and it has finally morphed into today's process of boarding by groups or zones.  The line begins to queue up as soon as the airline agent appears at the gate.  Even though you may be in Group 999---for some reason many begin to crowd the gate.  Perhaps they think if they are rude enough, they will let them go first?  



At any rate, they let those who have children two and under get on board first, along with those needing additional time or assistance to get on board.  NOW---THANK YOU, Lord, I am no longer dragging a two and under on board.  It's pretty amazing they want to put the screamers on first.  I guess this gives them time to warm up their screeches.  And of course, those needing extra time should go first---LONG before the rest of us.  Who wants to show their true colors by darting around a wheel chair or someone on crutches as you walk down the loading chute?  

AND THEN--there are those who have enough money to pay for first class tickets.  They take their silver goblets, fur coats, and leather suitcases and leisurely stroll to their reclining seats that really do recline.  When you pay triple the price--the seat SHOULD recline!  Immediately after the first class comes the golden parachutes, business class, we belong to the club members.  And IF--and ONLY IF--you are an active duty military member AND have on your uniform--they will let you get on with all the uppity up's.

All those of upper status are now on and seated and they begin the loading by group number or zone letter of all the ordinary passengers--the members of the real world.  Although I have my doubts, they say this has nothing to do with the frequency of flying.  I did notice on these flights it seemed to be based upon where you were seated.  Those lucky enough to be in the aisle seats went last and those trapped by the window went first.   NOW here is the thing--there is limited overhead space and since the airlines now charge for baggage the jockeying to put your bag overhead can be treacherous.  Who wants to have your baggage stowed ten rows behind you?



Here is what I always laugh about when the plane is finally loaded.  They do not close the door until everyone is on board!  Who wants to sit on a crowded plane one more minute than you must?  And yet---when we see others rushing for the door--we fall quickly into a panic and become part of the mob and follow suit. What pray tell is the rush??  To date, I have NEVER seen the plane take off with half the passengers still in the loading chute.  

This all plays out again when the flight is finally concluded.  The plane lands and UP pops over half the plane---EVEN though the plane empties from the front to the back.  Perhaps these people are weary of sitting?  One thing is for sure--you are not going to get off any quicker by standing 15 minutes before the bulkhead is opened!  AND YES, sometimes we miss our connections--sometimes we have tight connections--sometimes we are in dire need of the nearest restroom--BUT unless you are a professional linebacker--I doubt you can plow over all the rows of passengers in front of you.  At best you might gain a few position advantage-to only suffer the scorn and lambasting all the way up the gangplank of those you trounced.  

We see this same behavior in other venues, at all types of events where you have reserved seating, in the 12 items or less line at the grocery store, even at the school where I volunteer they are rushing to line up to go inside a class they hate.  For some strange reason, when lines begin to form, good manners fly out the door and the pushing and shoving for position commences.  For what purpose, I am not sure--but most all of us seem to want to be at the head of the line.  We miss the fact that we all will eventually reach the destination--and arriving 5 seconds in front of the next person makes not one whit of difference.  

This, of course, reminds me of the parable Jesus taught concerning the last shall be first.  God's chosen people were called first and much later the Gentiles were given The Message.  So the Gentiles--the last to be called will be first to enter the realms of grace for they gladly accepted the prepaid ticket offered by Jesus.  A beautiful story reminding us the station we hold is not nearly as important as the acceptance of the ticket.  Being born into a first class family does not guarantee admittance through the bulkhead doors---you must have your boarding pass.  The ticket price is free to all who ask---and the boarding pass is part of the package.  And when we are lined up at The Pearly Gates--no shoving or pushing is allowed---come as you are with your pass in hand to receive a first class accommodation once you are inside the gates.  It will be the most wonderful trip ever!  



"So those who are last now will be first then,
 and those who are first will be last."
Matthew 20:16