It can prove to be a delicate guessing game to have enough funds to last until we leave this terrestrial ball for a better place. My in laws saved their entire life for "The Big Illness". In his 80's, my father in law had to have open heart surgery and my sweet mother in law was incapacitated with dementia. I told Pappaw one day, during all of this, that the Big Illness he had saved for his entire life was here and it was time to spend some of that stash. He was still reluctant--you never know what might lie down the road.
One of my long term client's step mother lived long into her 90's. He took care of her finances and told me she ran out of money for all the expensive extensive end of life care the month she died. He was greatly relieved she had enough funds to last her until that final curtain call.
I am at the point in life where this is a concern for me. Though I have end of life plans in place, I do not have a crystal ball and so far God has not revealed how long I will be here. I live a quiet non-extravagant life trying to ensure my needs will be taken care of by the savings I have. I hope to be like the client's step mother and have just enough to make those final payments with no need to file bankruptcy.
This brought to mind a statement made to me by my sweet friend who is a therapist. She told me that we give a piece of our heart to everyone we love. I often quote this and reflect upon the validity of this. I have a host of family and friends I love---and they each hold a piece of my heart. There is still plenty of heart to go around to the new family and friends God Blesses me with. It is risky to love and give away a piece of our heart. It is gone forever once we allow another to claim a piece. It is a risk I am willing to take. I had rather die bankrupt of heart- with not one piece left than to stop taking the risk. Something tells me if we hold on to our heart--it becomes hardened-calcified and is of little use to anyone. The beauty of it all is with each piece we give away--God fills that void with His presence. He will never allow us to become bankrupt of heart by loving others. His presence provides an unending supply of love---for God Himself is Love. Go ahead and give away all you want--His supply is endless and there is never a threat of bankruptcy of heart--when God is the fountain of endless love.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
I recently heard a story about someone being replaced in their job. After giving their all and creating a successful program, they decided to join a new venture. The change has not transitioned as smoothly as hoped. Human emotions and expectations get in the way and when the almighty dollar is involved it puts an entirely different spin on things. The ability to replace us is a big life lesson.
As I thought this over, the current controversy over taking a knee by professional football players during the "National Anthem" shot to the surface. This post is NOT about your position on this hot button. I have though thought of the movie from many years ago, "The Replacements". The news seems to indicate the corporate headquarters are feeling the wrath of the people and their bottom line has been affected. There is threat of a new rule--take a knee--don't play. You will be replaced.
When I walked out of my CPA office for the last time, I knew I would be replaced. The fact of the matter is I could have sat behind that desk until my last breath. My clients, Bless Their Hearts, would have paid their respects and begun the search for their next CPA in the same day. Realizing this is how mankind works made it much easier to leave the pencil behind and walk out the door. These are the facts and I am not hurt or upset one second about it. We can be replaced in almost every role in our lives, someone can step in and take our place. The chair seat will hardly have time to cool before someone else plops down to enjoy the warmth we left behind. When we start thinking we are irreplaceable--we are headed down the path to disappointment. Someone else can always step into our shoes.
HERE IS THE REALLY GOOD NEWS---NO ONE can fill our unique shoes. We bring something to the table in each and every relationship which is unique. God created us all different and we act and react differently from our fellow man. We might be replaced, but we take our unique personalities with us when we walk away. Perhaps the bitterness of swallowing someone taking our place can be mellowed with the sweetness of our uniqueness. I take great comfort in knowing I am uniquely and perfectly created for His good purpose. I celebrate our God given uniqueness.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a] Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
I was a little nervous about what I would write about the local hood once I moved to the innocence of small town living. An old friend invited me to join a group on Facebook "Ruston Rants". He assured me there would be plenty of writing fodder.
A closed group of an intimate 14,198, you are not allowed to be a part of the fun unless you have Ruston or Lincoln Parish ties. I would write about it, but I don't even know where to begin. There are some ANGRY people here in small sleepy North Louisiana. Not only are they angry, but they also feel the need to publicize all their grievances on this Facebook page. I am astounded!
The big news in The New Hood is the land behind this small neighborhood has been clear cut. In case you are from the city and do not understand--ALL the beautiful trees have been cut for acres. The logging company leaves no sign of green behind. What once was a beautiful curtain shielding us from the outside world has been systematically cut down. We are exposed! The neighbors are not happy--but what can you do? If you own the property, you can do as you will. Sadly, it will take years for there to be any semblance of the beauty of the forest.
Halloween is approaching and signs of the approaching free for all have begun to appear in the neighbor's yards. I'm no especially fond of this holiday, but always have candy on hand for the visiting parade of ghosts and goblins.
Hero, The Wonder Dog, is still psychotic, but he is slowly adapting to his new home. He recognizes his house and turns in the drive and heads for the door when we go for walks. Not so sure we are making friends and impressing the neighbors since we ALWAYS have a hissy fit when we see their dogs and cats.
The calendar may say Fall, but the temperature is still summer. Thankfully it is a LITTLE cooler at night. Will I ever get to use the outdoor fireplace??
Sure do miss these little people. We facetime a couple of times a week, but that doesn't make up for the hugs and kisses I am missing!
If you see me, give me a hug and tell me it's for the grands!
It is now OFFICIAL---I am indeed a resident of my home state of Louisiana. The DMV says so!
It ONLY took three trips to two offices of the DMV to establish my official proof of being a citizen of the Great State of Louisiana. Considering what I went through when transferring to Texas, I consider this a bureaucratic miracle. All you have to do to obtain a license is take along every piece of paper you have ever received proving you were indeed born and proof that you DO have a house of some shape, form, or fashion. THAT and a BOAT LOAD of money will get you a license plate and driver's license.
Obviously the DMV employee who takes the pictures for our license transferred from the state prison admission's office for death row inmates. Haniball Lecter's picture made him look quite normal compared to my latest license. AND---I get to look at it for SIX long years. It is so bad they may question it being me when presenting it as identification or possibly question whether I am indeed suffering from a terminal illness. WHY do I always have my eyes shut and WHERE did that double chin come from? It's GOOD to be known around the town of Ruston and HOPEFULLY NOT asked for identification.
Further proof of being back in the verdant state of Louisiana is one leg being covered by poison ivy rash. WHO KNOWS WHERE I came into contact with this wonderful vine. Could be in my own flower beds or on my walks in the park--YOU NEVER KNOW--especially since poison ivy looses its leaves long before anything else. Unfortunately the vine still causes the rash. It leaves me clawing at my leg in the privacy of my own home and trying to subtlety scratch when out in public. Subtlety is not my strong suit.
The other leg has fire ant bites all over it. It seems I stood in a fire ant bed while Hero sniffed every blade of grass in the ditch . NO PEOPLE---this is NOT my leg. I HAVE shaved my legs--at least once since I moved!
SO YOU SEE---I am official---the real deal---bona fide--and certifiable (NOT A MISTAKE) citizen of the GREAT STATE of Louisiana!
It's GOOD to be home and I am thankful it is Friday!
The world has gone slap dab crazy! The media---all kinds of media--confirm this fact blow by blow--moment by moment. The headlines scream of disaster, tragedy, despair, lying, cheating, no good politics, and on and on. I remembered why I quit watching the news a few years ago when I began watching once again. I just could not take one more sad-mad-bad story.
My talks with dear friends have further confirmed the sad state of affairs in which we live in the midst. Death, disease, destruction, decline of all kinds fill our hearts with fear and dread. The phone ringing or the latest news break interrupting seems to mean only one thing--MORE BAD NEWS!
We all know those narcissistic-psychotic-neurotic --hanging on to sanity by one shear thread neighbors down the street. Those who abuse, threaten, use, terrorize, and victimize the world in general. Those individuals who deny the voice of reason and cling to the sound of crazy. IT"S ENOUGH TO DRIVE THE MOST SANE OF US CRAZY! It will drive you to the edge of despair---or drive you to Jesus. I much prefer Jesus. When the world turns ugly---when your neighbor becomes a crazed homicidal lunatic---when there is no answer and you are absolutely helpless. There is help in Jesus. He has been the closest---I have most felt His presence---I have known His comfort--when I was absolutely at my lowest. All I had to do was cry out to Him---and He answered in a real--sometimes tangible--always comforting way. HE IS WITH ME! I can let the world drive me over the edge--or allow Jesus to take the wheel and steer me toward the hope that rests in Him. Who is in the driver's seat?
I am back in my former "Really Small Group" I wrote about in my book. It is small enough to be honest and transparent with one another without fear. We are studying a book, that I must confess, I was not very excited over. In the very early weeks of the study, God is using it to teach me--drag me along--even with my heels firmly dug in--He is revealing new truths to me.
Though the book is NOT about shame---somehow I came away from the first discussion with revelations about the destructive power of shame in my life. I laughingly told the others, in today's culture, what has shamed me so grievously would be laughingly passed off as "Is that all you've got?" today. It is NOT small potatoes to me. I have given it free rein to rule who I am for far too long and it has managed to stifle and obscure the important truths of Who God Is and What He says about me.
I need to attend a weekly meeting and stand up before all my fellow addicts and announce, "Hi, I'm Lora and I am addicted to approval." I have spent a great deal of my life seeking approval to atone for past mistakes and current life status. My focus has been on being good enough to negate the past and the truth is---I could NEVER be good enough. I love the words from the Communion Ritual repeated in the Methodist Church, "I am not worthy enough to even gather up the crumbs under thy table." I am a sinner---and only by His grace am I worthy to approach the table.
The rejection of a few has fueled the compulsion for approval. No matter how many wonderful friends I am blessed with---I hunger and thirst for more and more. I have allowed a handful of rejections to cloud my vision of the blessing of the love of many, but especially the love of God. When I look in the mirror, when I replay past scenes, I often dwell on the negative and ignore the positive. Though God has forgiven me, I have not forgiven myself. I have negated the wonderful thing He has done for me by refusing to accept His sacrifice as being enough. When I refuse to leave behind the shame, I am not accepting His gift of grace. In my stark refusal to surrender my shame, I am saying there is something I can do to atone for my mistakes. WRONG---WRONG---WRONG--on so many fronts this is wrong thinking!
SO how do we surrender our mistakes, leave our sins behind? We've followed the instructions, done all the steps, and yet we are still plagued by shame. I have found it necessary to surrender my shame to Him--more than once--sometimes almost daily. I have to be willing to let it go---allow Him to take it---remember what He has done for me and live beyond my narcissistic shame. YES--shame is narcissistic. By allowing shame to shape who we are, we are putting more emphasis on us and our actions than on Him and His mercy. By God's grace and with His help---I will leave shame behind and glory in His approval.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?
Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men,
Occasionally I hear a statement which hits me smack dab between the eyes. During the message Sunday, I was bowled over when the pastor asked, "Do you ever experience God not being enough?" OH MY! This has rolled around and around in my thoughts. THIS WAS NOT even the point of the teaching--but it was my primary take away. God works like that!
The more I have contemplated, the more I have come to one conclusion-- We must practice experiencing enough--in all areas of our lives---to understand how to draw upon the concept of God being enough.
Eating is a very good example. I try to make it a habit when I have had enough to eat to stop. Push that plate away and cease and desist with the gorging. It works well for me, but when I loose sight of being sated and allow my gluttony to rule the meal---I ALWAYS PAY!
Our age of consumerism is another prime example of never allowing ourselves to experience "Enough". Bigger and bigger houses; cars, cars and better cars; clothes to the point of bulging closets---you name it and we have gone over-board. We have gone from the day when an outdoor kitchen was the bane of man to the must have of all the latest and greatest in our outdoor kitchens. Somehow duplicating all the bells and whistles of our indoor kitchen in the great outdoors has become a marvelous idea. No nation is as consumed with consumerism as our great nation. Even in the small town of Ruston, we have stores upon stores filled with retail enticements luring us into the "Never Enough" trap.
Cell phones and personal electronic devices are a great example of how things get out of control. I have a lap top, a cell phone, and a kindle which is similar to a tablet. Sit in any waiting room and look around you--everyone is glued to their cell phone. We have all become plugged in and tuned out to the world around us. We cannot get enough of social media! As I thought all of this over, I began to understand contentment and satisfaction need to be practiced to learn how to experience it. Just as we practice over and over to get the best golf stroke, souffle, painting, or whatever-we must practice experiencing enough in our day to day life to experience the feeling of contentment in all areas of our lives. When I first heard the question posed, my heart sank. I do not walk around in a constant state of knowing God is enough. My head knows it, and my heart has experienced it, but the world has a way of clouding the truth. I loose sight of that truth--HE IS ENOUGH.
I need to practice recognizing the truth of God being Enough. With practice, I will then develop "Spiritual Memory". When times are hectic, the world is racing by, and malcontent has raised its ugly head, I can call upon the spiritual memory---of God is enough. Falling back upon the truth of His fullness, completeness and faithfulness, I will remember---What more could I need?---
HE IS ENOUGH
5You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands.
6How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are!
7I praise the Lord, because he guides me, and in the night my conscience warns me.
8I am always aware of the Lord's presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me.
9And so I am thankful and glad, and I feel completely secure,
10because you protect me from the power of death. I have served you faithfully, and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.
11You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever.
The blessing of home ownership comes with responsibilities. My master gardener friend dropped by last week and noticed I had disease on some of my trees. I spent the weekend working on only one bed which not only has diseased trees, but also plants, and even perennials. This necessitated cutting back of badly diseased parts, and a great deal of spraying to try and save the landscaping. Frankly the disease had spread so badly I am concerned I may loose a tree, the perennials, and a couple of shrubs. It had been allowed to spread to the point that the damage is extensive and even amputation and treatment may not be enough to save it.
As I worked on the damage, I began to think over what had caused it. These beds have become over grown. The thick overgrowth has kept the sunshine from reaching the plants, and the sprinkler system has been deterred from casting the water much farther than the bed. This has created a damp and dark area--perfect for the growth of scale and fungus. The plants are suffering from the lack of sunshine and damp conditions. Unless corrected, the beds will soon die. From a distance, the beds are beautiful, it is not until you get a close look that you realize what is going on behind the scenes. It is one of those cases, when you will walk outside one day and notice you have a bed of dead bushes without ever realizing the insidious disease was eating away at the plants.
As I pondered this, I thought of the many I have known with cancer. In many cases, there was no outward sign of the disease. Only after some symptom or some test did the insidious disease rear its ugly head. The cancer had been hiding behind healthy tissue eating away at the very life force of the body. One would never know from the outside what is going on inside. Left untreated there the cancer will spread and take over the vital systems of the body. The end is then not far behind. So it is with sin. I am not apt to get on social media and give you a blow by blow account of the sin in my life. Those secret sins hidden behind the mask of false righteousness. Very seldom do I publicly admit to my private feelings of jealousy, coveting, anger, pride, and narcissism. Instead I allow my secret sin to eat away and slowly destroy my witness. Sin is a cancer--and there is only one cure--the righteous blood of Jesus poured on the very source of the disease. We need to cut the sin out and cover the wound with the balm of Gilead as we allow the Son to shine upon us. Once again we can stand healthy and whole in the soil of grace and mercy, if we allow the healing which comes with confession and turning from our sin. The Master Gardener stands ready to make us once again whole--If Only--
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hero, The Wonder Dog, never ceases to amaze me. I recently looked out in the back yard and noticed he was in his guarding stance. He is quite ferocious about protecting the castle---IN THE FENCED BACK YARD! Especially brave when enclosed behind the protection of a six foot fence, no bird or lizard dares to invade when Hero is on duty.
He also likes to sit and stare out the front window (the warm sunshine in the air conditioned house might be a slight incentive). He faithfully barks, growls and spits at every canine who dares to walk down the street in front of his house.
The three a day walks continue---I trained him so well in Fort Worth to relieve himself when out for a leashed walk that he refuses to use the back yard. As long as I am behind him with the leash pulled tight, he boldly goes for every dog or cat in sight. Hero does not realize he is a dog and considers all four legged creatures enemy invaders on his turf. He is quite brave in the confines of his home or with me standing behind him. What would happen----if he were to escape from the protection of home and master? Would he survive in the big bad world? We all have similar tendencies to be brave and outspoken within familiar territory. As long as we are certain the fences surround us and others have our back, we are quick to growl, bark and spit. Social media is a great example of the fences we place hide behind. As long as we are on this side of the keyboard, we let it fly without regard for our safety and protection and hold those who disagree in great disdain. The WWW encourages loose tongues and indiscriminate courage. We often jump quickly and without thought when we feel our territory has been invaded by someone we disagree with. With the protection of being behind the screen of our computers, we feel the false sense of safety and lose any inhibitions. We bravely stand up for our beliefs--and often say far more than we EVER would if we were face to face with those who intrude upon our values. Good or bad--social media has released the inner guard dog in many of us. We have lost the tolerance to even listen to another philosophy. What have we unleashed with social media?
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and the school bell ending the day produced hordes of children pouring out the double doors keeping them contained. Shouts of glee, peals of laughter, and shrieks of joy announced the beginning of the weekend. From a distance all seemed right with the world. Up close though, one observes a knot of eight pre-teens clustered together whispering and giggling. From out of seemingly nowhere a limousine pulls up and the eight are ceremoniously escorted into the long stretch by a uniformed chauffeur. It was no secret that these privileged eight were off for a fabulous night of cruising in style, dining in elegance, and a rock concert every preteen for miles around dreamed of attending. It all seems perfect--idyllic--Utopia--until you notice the four girls from the same class left behind. They stood alone--not even as a united front--heads down--shoulders slumped--and egos damaged by the slight of not being invited. How devastating to know--have it overtly thrown in your face--that you are not in the "Chosen Group." All because your skin is the wrong color, you act a little different, your parents don't run with the "In Crowd", or whatever else might make you different. Your company is not desired in the night's outing. You are not invited.
Think I am exaggerating? I just heard this story and it happened very recently. NOW--I totally understand when the expense prohibits inviting everyone to a party. What I don't understand is why you would make a big deal of making sure everyone at school knows you are celebrating, but not everyone is invited. Why would you create a public disply of being certain others know of their exclusion? Why would a preteen cause this much pain for her classmate?
Daughters learn from their mothers how to act. Sadly--if the mother encourages this type of bullying---IT IS BULLYING--then the daughter grows up thinking this behavior is acceptable and normal. IT IS NEITHER! The pecking order is alive and well. It was around when I was growing up. I can't put my finger on when I realized I did not fit in with the "In Crowd", but at some point in my early teen years I understood I was not "In". Never totally out--but never truly in either. One of the nicest things about maturing (nice way to say getting old) is one day you wake up and realize you do not care anymore. Though being on the inside of the socially elite is important to some--most of us came to realize a long time ago who our true friends were. Sadly when you are 13, your psyche is just beginning to develop its social side. This kind of bullying and snubbing is unacceptable. A kind and sensitive heart is far more desirable than a slot in the socially elite. What are we teaching our children? What does this say about the value of another human being? All of this type of behavior has been around a LONG time. Protecting fragile young hearts is extremely important. Hooray for the mother in this story who declined the invitation for her daughter to be a part of this and instead invited those left out for a night out. I am thankful for those who see beyond the surface and stand up for what is right. GOOD for the mom who fights against bullying--whatever it may look like.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
How we envision our lives and how they often play out are sometimes polar opposites and in most cases, at a minimum, not the dream we planned on living. I loved keeping a welcoming and serene home for my family to call home base. Dinner on the table, everything in its place, and an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and regrouping were important to keeping the family healthy and happy. My dream was to always be the wife who made home a welcoming sight. My style of love is that of service--be it family or stranger, I show love by taking care of those in my path. My dream was to live in a happy home until death do us part. That dream disappeared.
Many women and men who find themselves alone mount a desperate search for another spouse. Most of us are happiest in a relationship, but be wary of any living body to fill that void. As I have thought this over, I came to realize re-creating what it took a lifetime to achieve is not obtainable. There simply is not enough time left. It takes years to grow a deep and meaningful relationship-years I do not have. So when the dream is dashed---and the realization of re-creating it is impossible--what do we do with dashed dreams? Where does our hope lie?
As I thought this over, it has occurred to me I should be thankful for that which is right in front of my face. My children, my grands, and my wonderful friends. Who is to say that dreams cannot be re-channeled? The love for a spouse cannot be replaced, BUT our love, time and energy can be directed toward others. Lately I find God placing those who are alone on my heart and mind a great deal. Though many of my friends are married, many are not, and those who are alone seem to feel the same void. We seem to be missing the boat by focusing on our past and not looking toward our future. The world is filled with need and opportunity for service. Why not re-direct our time and energy into impacting those God places in our path? Re-channel our energy and time toward the needs directly in our path and leave the past in the past. Life on this earth is short--and a wasted day can not be re-lived. SO--I have my eyes open and my heart prepared to bloom where I am planted.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Somehow the trip to see the turning of the Aspen leaves turned into a hiking trip up to the top of Pike's Peak. Why would I be surprised when I travel with this crew?
I will quickly tell you there is no comparison to the views when hiking to those you see by other means of reaching the point of attraction. It is incredible the views you see when off the beaten path. Since Pike's Peak summit is WAY above the tree line, the trek to the top had little to do with seeing golden aspen leaves and a lot to do with getting to the summit on foot.
It does not take a genius to realize you are in no shape to climb 14,000 feet. Even after the hike was changed from one day to two with a camping stop over, I knew I would never make it. Moving has not allowed any time for training. My failure to prepare came with a steep cost. SO I dropped the Three Amigos off bright and early on day one of their two day hike, with the understanding I would stay around town until I heard they had made the camp site. Our cabin was 45 minutes out of town on winding mountain roads, so coming back if there was trouble was not a hop, skip and jump.
By 2:00 they had made their camp, but surprise---I have made the decision to ride the Cog to the top of Pike's Peak. The three hour round trip took you through the glorious terrain of the mountain and---I got to see the sight of the mountain top. It seemed much smarter to ride the train than to drive---keeping your eyes on the road to the top of the peak is a MUST!
Beautiful as the train ride was--I missed the glory which is only associated with climbing the mountain slowly and relishing every step of enjoying God's majestic creation. The summit of the mountain was breath-taking (literally at 14,115 ft) The girls who made the hike experienced the whole enchilada and did not miss a moment of all there was to savor. We all reached the summit, but their trek allowed them to enjoy so much more than I possibly could on a train ride.
As I thought through this experience, I realized how closely it resembles walking our trek through life. We have the opportunity to choose the route we traverse. We can walk with Jesus by our side, and experience the glory of His perfect path for us, or we can walk by the side of man and miss the fullness and beauty of experiencing God's perfect path. Who we walk by is entirely up to us, but the price we pay when we wander from His side is missing the wonder of His perfection. What a price we pay when we stray from the path!
So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.