Thursday, March 31, 2016

THE STORY TELLER

I was thinking today of my step-father and father-in-law.  They spent a great deal of their time in their final years repeating stories from long ago.



There was nothing they liked better than to find a new audience.  If there was no new audience, the oft repeated stories were told once again to the same old audience.  There were times I had to bite my tongue to not rudely interrupt and end the story for them.  I miss those old repeated tales---well maybe not the tales, but for sure, the tale tellers.

I find myself repeating stories at times.  Catching myself in mid sentence--knowing my audience has heard this before.   Some tales are worthy of a repeat--but no tale is entertaining enough for a tri-peat.  Why would I repeat a story?  Well even with my rural twang, I like the sound of my own voice.  I want to share my adventures, catastrophes, and stumbling blunders as I travel through life.  Some are so funny--I laugh every time I tell the story--even though I am the butt of the joke.  I don't mind you laughing at me---as long as you laugh with love.


Why do we begin to repeat stories?  Probably because we stop experiencing life.  When we get to the point we can no longer live life to the fullest, due to physical limitations,  we begin to run out of new material.  Even sadder, when we fill our life with the day to day--or stare at the television--or in my case with my nose in a book---we are substituting existing for living.

So---I am purposefully looking for my next adventure.  Talking to the little children in my path.  Looking for the joy.  Always seeking a buddy to play with.  Asking God to open my eyes and ears to what He has planned for each day.  And then--

I will have a life filled with new experiences---and plenty of stories to tell.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PEOPLE PLEASER

My vision can loose focus when I pull out the magnifying glass to examine myself.  There were comments on yesterday's blog which took my blinders off and caused me to examine myself in the light of truth.  I was fairly accused of being too hard on myself.  And the truth of it all is I am FAR harder on myself than anyone else has ever been.




 As I thought through these comments, it became painfully aware I had allowed man's opinions to rule my heart.  In the never ending quest for approval, I had replaced God's truth with man's expectations.  The approval of those around me had become an idol in my life.




We all have idols in our lives.  I had deluded myself into believing I did not need your approval.  The truth is approval is a aphrodite in my search for love and has skewed my truth barometer.  Man's opinion of me has become as important and at times more important than God's truth.  At a minimum it has clouded the reflection of light shining from God's Word as to how He sees me.



I have allowed man's opinions to rule my heart and mind instead of God's sure promises.  The beauty of how He faithfully, unfailingly, and immeasurably loves me has been laid aside in a vain attempt to seek man's favor.  Man's favor is fleeting---God's love is eternal.

SO--thank you for the wake up call---and from this day forward---I will look to God for approval--and seek to please Him--and only Him.  The beauty is that---by seeking to please Him---I strongly suspect you will be pleased also.


Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
II Corinthians 5:9


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A SWIFT KICK TO THE REAR

My good friend, Len, sent me a blog recently on the subject of criticism.  His forward was a timely kick in the pants.  

Though criticism has been my life long companion, I do not handle it well.  My lying heart tells me it is all truth, when in fact---it is merely an opinion of another--and not necessarily fact.  My life long journey through the maze of what you have done, said, or written wrong has- at times--ruled my opinion of myself.  I give far too much credit to the words of some other flawed and less than perfect human being.


I am taking a page from the Anne Voskamp theology, and consciously concentrating on all the blessings in my life.  As I journal every day, a part of my evening examen is writing down at least one blessing God has gifted me with today.  In the mornings as I begin my day with time with the Author of All Great Things, I am writing a reminder of who I am to Him.   I am not of the persuasion that by setting our intention to have a wonderful day --it will happen.  I am convinced no matter how the day plays out---He is constantly by my side.  Directing my thoughts to whom God is and who I am to Him--can only serve to improve my attitude about what the day brings.



S0-when the criticism comes---and it will---I will remember silence is worse.  At least when I am criticized someone is acknowledging my presence--my thoughts and my words.  And I will remember the criticism is only an opinion from one as beautifully flawed as me.  The One who is most important has already told me what He thinks of me--and it is all good.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
I Peter 2:9

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

MEANWHILE HERE IN THE HOOD

The entire hood and a great deal of the city are dealing with the aftermath of our hail storms last week.  The roofing companies √§re coming out of thin air. 



Between the insurance company and making a decision on a roofing company, it would send the sanest running for the hills.



The other big news is the almost completed new sidewalk on the edge of the hood for the children to walk to the neighborhood school.  Progress!





Meanwhile, the hood drums are beating over the panhandling.  It seems the residents are not happy with the standing at intersections and asking for money.  It is illegal in the city, but my heart still goes out to anyone who has to resort to begging.

Today is the annual Easter egg hunt for the hood children in our local park. 

BEWARE

There are reports of a pink eyed  rabbit roaming around looking for baskets of eggs!


Still living life large
Here in the hood
Happy Easter Weekend!

Friday, March 25, 2016

STONE COLD SILENCE

I was accused in the past of always having to have the last word.  
There was a great deal of truth in that accusation.  My childhood family was filled with debate or better said-argument.  I learned at an early age one might not score a victory, but there was a great deal of satisfaction in having the last word.



I am able to learn from comments such as this, even when it is difficult to swallow criticism, I do learn.  And so most of the time, I now am very careful about not feeling the need to speak last-even when I am itching to add one more comment.  It is a discipline which has served me well and I am grateful I had my hand called on it.  There is much to gain from listening more and avoiding the monotone of one's own voice.  Top that with much of the time, our comments fall on deaf ears.


Arguing with a brick wall, who has already made up their mind as to the answer, is asking for it to die with a silent thud when it bangs against that wall.  Why waste time and energy trying to persuade one who has hardened their heart  and closed the door to discussion.  There are days we should accept the inevitable and not prolong the agony of defeat.  Wisdom and discernment should rule over the need for pointless contention.


As I read the scripture yesterday about the trial of Jesus, I came to this passage,

"Where do you come from? he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer."
 John 19:9


You see Jesus knew He had run into the brick wall.  Pilate kept peppering Him with questions, but the decision was already made.  Pilate would give the Jewish rebel rousers their way in this matter. He knew the pointlessness of arguing with a hardened heart.  He knew the outcome of this questioning and arguing would not change what was to come.  So Jesus answered Pilate's question with stone cold silence.

There are times when silence is the answer.  Our quest is to seek God's wisdom when we are to keep still and silent in obedience to His will and plan.  Stone cold silence can be a great victory .



Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
Proverbs 13:10

Thursday, March 24, 2016

EXAMINING THE EXAMEN

Back to class today--I am warming to the former nun turned "Interfaith Pastor".  I do not think we are on the same page entirely--but much of what she talked about today aroused my sense of examining my faith practices.  The goal---is to draw nearer to God--to deepen my relationship with Him, and some of her teaching today made a great deal of sense.



Lectio Divina---"Sacred Reading".  This is a way of reading scripture, searching for its meaning, and applying it to your life.  She uses this same method when reading poetry or other literature---her more liberal interpretation was peeking around the corner when she spoke of this.  I have encountered a form of this method when using the BSF method of studying scripture.  The one weakness I see in this practice of Lectio Divina according to her instructions is placing too much emphasis on what you are feeling is being said---and not enough on what God is actually saying to you.



THE EXAMEN-is exactly what it sounds like--examining.  Two periods of practicing this were discussed.

Morning-When you set your intentions for the day.  The 6 "suggestions" for this morning practice of setting your intentions for the day-

1.  Be present and enjoy each moment
2.  Withhold from judging myself and others
3.  Be kind and compassionate to everyone I meet
4.  Consciously listen to what others are saying
5.  Find the good in any unexpected setback
6.  Listen more than I speak

Again, I found this a little strong on the "me" side.  My personal morning Examen involves a prayer for God to show me what HE intends for my day.  This seems to leave one open to being far more in control than I feel most days, and might lead to a sense of having failed when the day does not work out as you intended.

Evening--When you reflect and review upon the just completed day, remembering the high moments and low points.  She informed us the positive psychology research has demonstrated the optimal ratio of positive to negative is 5:1.  There you have it friends---your goal to shoot for.

Now in fairness, I think this is an excellent habit to form---when also giving thanks for all God has placed before you in the day.  There is not much mention in the class as to how God uses ALL---good and bad for our own good.  And to learn to thank Him for the REALLY BAD--because we KNOW He has a perfect plan---can be as difficult as me swallowing a big bite of liver---GAG ME!  That's where faith and submission comes to play---swallowing that big bite with thanksgiving and a big gulp.



So I am learning---I am thinking---and will settle on what God directs me toward.  The candle and prayer beads she suggested while meditating are not my cup of tea--or better said--not in my spiritual heritage.  The thinking--the conscious seeking of God and the meeting the day with the purpose of serving Him---I am on board.  Stretching and growing --hearing how others seek God---all part of my own quest for a deeper relationship with Him.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 
James 4:8




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

IN THE DEPTHS OF ALONENESS

How does God communicate with us?  One of the ways I hear from him is through dreams.  I have had a few dreams in my life which were direct answers to prayers and usually took a very unexpected form.  Last night I had one of those dreams.



I had an online discussion recently concerning being alone.  There were quite a few comments and lots of back and forth and suggestions.  The end result was no magic bullet on how to adjust to being by yourself.  No matter what you try--when you finally cross that thresh hold in the evening---the house is empty.  I have spent hours thinking this over--all to no avail---there seems to be no good answer.  God created us to be in relationships and when you have spent most of your life in one form or another of being more than one---there is a void in your life when finally it is only you.



Last night, I dreamed in vivid detail about my mother's final illness and the months leading up to her passing .  It was a replay--almost blow by blow of every minute, hospital stay, nursing home admittance---the complete story.  I woke up immediately knowing what God was saying.



Momma's last four months with us began with what should have been a simple gall bladder removal.  I was leaving the next day for my first marathon after running every inch of the training schedule.  I was bitterly disappointed, but knew I should not leave.  It was not a simple surgery and she ended up in ICU.  I knew in my heart---not to leave and resisted the urging around me and stayed.  Thank God I did.  She was in really bad shape. 

Night came and I once again resisted the urges to go home.  When I asked her nurse what she thought, she looked at me and said, "If it were my mother I would not leave."  So I stayed in a recliner all night in the ICU waiting room, praying and waiting.  You do not know how slow time can go until you sit with someone in the hospital.  The next two weeks were in two different ICU's before finally getting to a private room and then the rehab hospital.  The next four months are a blur of hospital stays, sitters, consultations, and daily nursing home visits--sometimes two or three in a day and I felt so alone so many times.  How I cried out to God and prayed for relief from her suffering.

Fast forward to today--almost 15 years later--why would God replay all this in a dream?  He reminded me---when I sat alone in that waiting room hour after hour---when I stood in that hall alone day after day---when I sat by Momma's bed month after month---I KNEW beyond any doubt--HE WAS WITH ME!  His presence was a tangible force in every way.  

Though I have been a Believer a LONG time--this was the beginning of having a relationship with God.  I knew the Bible, went to church, worked with the youth, lead small group, sang in the choir--did it all---and yet there was something missing.  It took loosing Momma to begin to understand Who God is and how much He loves me.  In the midst of my aloneness---He was faithfully present.  It served to lead the way in the days yet to come --in the midst of the worst--He is with me.  I thank God for His reminder--that in my aloneness today---HE is faithfully by my side.


I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

HEART OVER HEAD

There are a handful of elite runners in the world.  Those runners who make a marathon look like a walk in the park.  Who never seem to struggle, who run with the greatest of ease, and seem to feed off the challenge of competition.  They have done all the right things---trained long and hard, eaten right, consulted the experts, read the latest and greatest books on how to perform to your greatest potential, and frankly have a God given talent.  They make it all look effortless and easy.




I trained too--long and hard.  You don't even begin your training until you have a long run base of 10 miles.  The work begins at that point.  I consulted the experts and read all the books.  Cross trained and allowed the evil sports message therapist to inflict even more pain than the running.  I made a stab at eating right--probably the best I have ever eaten.  Sadly the God given talent was not there---but I compensated for it with effort.  I trained and re-trained and was ready for the big race.



I also trained with a group--and had a couple of partners who ran by my side.  We encouraged each other and kept each other going.  We seemed to alternate days when we felt good--and pushed each other to do our best.



And then the big day came---it did not go as planned.  Somewhere along the way--I began to realize this was not was shaping up to be the run I had worked so hard for.  It hurt---it was hot---it took much more energy to run in a crowd than I planned for---I had blisters from all the concrete, and cramps in places I didn't know you could cramp.  This was no fun.  I had to tell my partners to go ahead---no need to hold back for me.  All I wanted to do was quit, sit on the side of the road, put my head in my hands and cry.  Throw in the towel and give up.



That is the point when your heart takes over for your head.  Your head is telling you ENOUGH---your heart is telling you---YOU CAN DO THIS!  So I dug deep and allowed my heart to over rule my head and finished.  I have the scars to prove it.  I also have the medal for finishing.




Today I am using this life lesson while trekking the path of life.  Frankly there are days I would like to crawl in my cave-throw in the towel-and give up.  This does not look like the life I had planned ---this is more painful than I ever dreamed---and I am not sure I can do this.  That is when I let my heart take over and over rule my head.  That is when I remember who is by my side encouraging me.  That is when I refuse to give in and keep on going.  Striving to finish well--and claim the prize promised---by allowing my heart to overrule my head and keep on going toward the finish line.


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,
 I have kept the faith.
II Timothy 4:7

Sunday, March 20, 2016

TO BEGIN YOUR DAY~


MAY YOUR

SABBATH

BE FILLED

WITH THE 

SURE KNOWLEDGE

OF HIS PRESENCE



~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SABBATH BLESSINGS,

DEAR FRIENDS

Saturday, March 19, 2016

MEANWHILE HERE IN THE HOOD

SPRING BRINGS

CRAZY WEATHER

TO THE SOUTH



LAST WEEK

FLOODING IN

LOUISIANA


THIS WEEK

HAIL STORMS

IN THE HOOD


NOT ONE BUT

TWO DIFFERENT 

STORMS IN

A TWO HOUR

PERIOD

WITH THE LAST

SENDING US

GOLF BALL SIZED HAIL


LEAVING #1 DAUGHTER

WITH THREE

NEW FRESH AIR SOURCES

IN HER HOME



AND STORIES 

TO TELL

OF THE HAIL STORM

OF 16

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

AND THEN THERE

WAS THE

PERFECT STORM

OF SPRING BREAK

BEAUTIFUL WARM-SUNNY SKIES

AND HALF PRICE DAY

AT THE ZOO

ON THE EDGE

OF THE HOOD



THIS RESULTED IN

CLOGGED ROADS

AND NO 

GETTING IN OR OUT

OF THE HOOD

FOR HOURS

THE HOOD RESIDENTS

WERE 

NOT HAPPY!


AND THEN THERE

IS THE 

DAY TO DAY

LOSING AND FINDING

OF DOGS




AND SITTING

AND 

SWINGING

ON THE

FRONT

PORCH


ENJOYING

THE SIGHTS

AND SMELLS

OF SPRING ARRIVING

STILL LIVING LIFE LARGE

HERE IN THE HOOD

Thursday, March 17, 2016

STRETCH AND GROW

I began one of my four week classes at TCU today, "Growing Spiritual Muscle".  It is being taught by a former nun---turned teacher--turned "Interfaith Pastor".  She is a little fireball and though I enjoy her teaching style---I am not sure how much we are going to share in common.  She prefers to incorporate various faith's spiritual practices in her spiritual journey.



I came away--glad I am well grounded in my faith ---and know what I believe and why.  The room was filled with Christians---and some who seem to be also well grounded.  One woman began a Christian Exercise Company back in the 70's and expanded her business to well over twenty thousand clients before a tragic car accident ended her career.




I heard several talk about leaving organized religion and now making a turn back to searching for answers.  Others had survived health scares which opened their eyes to their need for faith.   It was an eye opening first lecture.  As I have often said, I lived in a bubble most of my life.

Here is what I came away with today---

I have a bias toward those who do not share my faith.   My belief that I am open and accepting was directly challenged today.   When I began thinking, I am not coming back to hear anymore of this, I stopped short.  God loves us all---no matter what our spiritual walk is.  For me to not be open to listening with respect to another's thoughts and practices short sells the gospel I believe in.  To be salt and light---I need to treat others with respect---and gently tell them the truth---God then is in charge of what they do with that truth.




The fact of the matter is this little woman has spent a great deal of time searching for her answers.  She has spent hour upon hour looking and seeking the truth.   The bottom line for me---was she seemed to be more concerned with spirituality than in a relationship with God.

She put these three words on the board and asked for our thoughts on them-


Religion

Faith

Spirituality

My answer to her was faith begets spirituality which begets religion.

She quickly passed over my answer.  It will prove to be an interesting three more weeks and I look forward to opportunities to share what God has shown me--with great respect and love.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24





Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SOME THINGS

The past few days have brought news from two different friends of major health crisis.  I was hit totally unaware by one and the other came on the winds of the untimely expected.  It is never easy to swallow the news we all will deal with some day--but the common denominator of all mankind - with time our jars of clay will crumble.


The news brought to mind the importance of living each day--with joy and peace while living our best in the moment.   Always aware of the legacy we are molding as we pass this way and knowing the only thing we have at the end of the day is our relationships.  



While thinking of each of these, I knew their legacy includes a long marriage and loving each other well.  I have seen the patience each couple has shown for each other and the extended love for their families.  They have shown us all how to stick together through thick and thin--good and bad--the best of times and the hardest.  Their faithful love for each other has been a shining light for their families and all of us who know and love them.


I am praying for recovery and a return to good health for each of them.  Some things though---are more important than good health.  A life well lived and a lasting legacy top the list in my mind.  Continuing to live in the present to the fullest and cherishing the joy of the moment are lasting examples of savoring the gift of life.


And knowing if the sun should set--we have a better tomorrow  coming-those are the some things that keep us reaching for the best-

Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.
Jeremiah 33:6

Monday, March 14, 2016

BULLY TO YOU!

My sweet Granddaddy Gillespie was quite the gentleman.  One of my early memories is him tipping his hat to every lady he passed.




This is not Granddaddy, but is exactly the motion he made.  

My childhood included plenty of "Good Manners" lessons and even a year long ride to Monroe--30 miles away--BEFORE any interstates were around for "Charm School".  My mother was determined I would be taught all the social niceties.  This much I will say---if you practice and practice--it soon becomes second nature.



This was a gentle time---a time when children were seen and not heard.  Yes & No Mam and Yes & No Sir to any adult who you always addressed with a title--of Mr. Mrs. or Miss.  Hands in your lap--chew with your mouth closed---use your napkin and above all else do not interrupt.  I have one memory of a "Bully"--who in my childhood innocence--pulled my hair and kidded me on the school bus.  If you crossed the line of good manners--justice was swift and painful.

Fast forward to the current political season.  Bullies and Bad Manners seem to rule supreme.  What happened to common courtesy?  When did it become acceptable and even applauded to interrupt--out shout--ridicule--curse--condemn--and --in general--bully your way to the top?  I find it alarming and saddening we have taken our cue from the media talk shows and left good manners in the wings.  We all seem to have lowered ourselves to the lowest common denominator of rudeness.

I long for the simple---genteel times of the past---and abhor the go for the throat attitude of the political realm.  We seem to have become a generation of bullies---attacking those who dare to disagree with us---manipulating with no shame to get our way---and relishing a good gutter fight.  The question I keep going over and over--

When did integrity become gauche and ill manners the norm?

Perhaps I have hit the answer--quite by accident---I was taught to display good manners to anyone who deserved my respect---who is left in the political world who deserves respect becomes the question?

3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
Proverbs 11:3




Sunday, March 13, 2016

MY BELOVED

TAP YOUR FEET

CLAP YOUR HANDS

HE REJOICES

IN OUR BLESSINGS!





SABBATH BLESSINGS,

DEAR FRIENDS!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY!

THE BIG NEWS

IS IN

MY BELOVED

LOUISIANA


MY BROTHER'S CAMP

NOTE THE DOCK

IN THE LEFT BACK SIDE

THAT IS THE NORMAL

SHALLOWS OF THE LAKE


SO I ASK YOU

TO CONTINUE TO PRAY

FOR THE RAIN TO END

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A WEEK AGO

WE DID NOT KNOW

WHAT THE RAIN WOULD BRING




AND WHILE THE RAIN

BROUGHT DESTRUCTION

AND SORROW

IT ALSO

BROUGHT THE VERY BEST

OF MANKIND


~ ~ ~ ~ ~



AND THE SUN

WILL SURELY

ONCE AGAIN SHINE

~~~~~


YESTERDAY WAS

MY CHILDREN'S GRANDFATHER'S

BIRTHDAY

HE LEFT US ALMOST

FIVE YEARS AGO



AND THIS PRECIOUS CHILD

LEFT US FOR HER 

HEAVENLY HOME

FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY


~~~~~

INTO EACH LIFE 

A LITTLE RAIN MUST FALL


~~~~~

SAVORING MEMORIES

AND PRAYING

FOR COMFORT TODAY

HERE IN THE HOOD