Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Little Heavy…

My oldest child has corn, soy, and tomato allergies. This makes getting food at the local supermarket a challenge. So, I’ve been dabbling in more cooking than I ever thought I would.

I’ve returned to two old favorites: bread and pancakes. The twist I’ve been doing is using only whole wheat flour.

My first experiment yesterday was the bread. My mom got me a gently-used bread machine. I cleaned it up and followed the recipe except I used all whole wheat flour. By the time I picked the kids up from school, they had a snack of homemade bread.

They loved it. I wasn’t as pleased. It felt heavy and moist and dense. It wasn’t the light and fluffy yet filling stuff I remembered my grandmother making.

I also tried pancakes this morning. I followed the recipe. I knew the batter was too thick. So I added more milk until it “looked right.” You have to understand that I hate that phrase: looked right. My mother used, both my grandmothers used it, and I think I’ve heard it from everyone born before 1950. With my brain wiring, I need simple directions, and “looked right” is anything but simple.

Somehow, in the midst of making everything from scratch, I started thinking about all the things that make us too heavy or make us not look right. It isn’t a physical heaviness or aberration I was considering. It was an emotional and spiritual heaviness or aberration.

It’s the flour of too much on our agendas and not enough mercy in our hearts. It’s the yeast of discontentment, discouragement, and criticism instead of peace, love, and joy. It’s the lard of too much money and chemicals instead of the oil of caring and sharing. It’s a fake moisture of using people to get things instead of using things to help people.

And in the midst of all this pondering, the still, small Voice reminded me of another bread:

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:47-51)

When I live with my focus on my still, small Voice and listen to His Words and contemplate His commands, I eat this living bread. This living bread allows me to reflect His light and His glory to the rest of the world. And that, my friends, satisfies my every longing like nothing else could ever do.

Bridget May 050514

 

Those who know me from Facebook know that we have (had) a four-legged family member named Bridget. She was a gift from a family member, and in a way, the still, small Voice as well.

All good things must end. Her season with us ended this week. I think, sadly for her, it took us too long to get to this point (and for the sweet, kind man who never got angry but did get her teeth). She was high energy, and our family just couldn’t adjust. My husband and I have health issues that leave us living life at a slower pace, and she just needed to be a ball of energy.

She was not euthanized. We made arrangements to send her back to her trainer. He is better physically than we are, and his even more rural area has far more to keep dogs happy than we do.

I know most major Christian denominations teach that animals have no souls. I also know from personal study of the Bible that the greater an animal’s sentience the less permitted we are to eat it. So I’m really hoping God has a special section of Heaven roped off for sentient animals that bring joy and life to humans.

Some day, we will have another four-legged family member because of all the lessons I’ve learned. It just won’t be today… or tomorrow… or next month…

As a writer, the best way for me to remember someone is to put into words what they’ve taught me. So here goes nothing…

Bridget Lesson 1: You cannot criticize what you haven’t experienced.

One of the life lessons the still, small Voice has had to work on with me throughout my life is not criticizing when I have no experience and I’m only on the outside looking in. This has applied two-fold.

First, I used to hate dog owners who couldn’t control their animals. Having had a dog now, I see sometimes it’s just a bad combination of personalities, and no one has the love or courage to sacrifice the relationship to put the animal in a more suitable home.

Second, I used to mock and reject dog owners who got weepy over past animals they’d lost or stories of their friends’ animals. Never to the people’s faces of course. The hardest one for me to swallow was a tech writing professor I had in grad school. He was a man’s man. He fished and he camped; I remember one class where he talked about wool and cotton and how wool was better in colder climates for camping.

But I will never forget the class where he described how his three large dogs had been killed (one poisoned, one slit throat, and I can’t remember the third) over high-end computer equipment while he was out. I will never forget his voice choking as he turned from our class and said, “I’d’ve given them the damn equipment for the dogs.” Now I understand.

Bridget Lesson 2: The still, small Voice sometimes has to use animals to communicate.

You would think I would remember Balaam, his donkey, and the angel. However, somehow, in today’s world, it never dawned on me the still, small Voice could do the same. Bridget gave me a model of obedience and joyful greeting and love that have changed me on a level no human could have (except maybe my husband, but I digress).

Bridget Lesson 3: Don’t leave your post.

From the time the trainer dropped her at our house, Bridget never wanted to leave–not for the vets, not for grooming, not for boarding, not even to walk in the park. She fought to do her job as she perceived it. She would get all droopy and even quiver at times when we’d ask her to leave the house even for just a little bit. We actually as a family had to work with her to try to teach her how to play like a dog and relax.

Bridget Lesson 4: Idolatry is very easy to slip into.

My still, small Voice is supposed to be the only thing I trust. I’m not supposed to have confidence in anything else: not my intellect, not the government, not the dog. It was so easy to feel calm assurance when I heard Bridget bark or prance or pace at 2 am. I could sleep (as long as the stray cats didn’t cry like babies) knowing the dog would take care of my family if something bad happened. But that calm assurance turned into an unhealthy reliance, and I forgot at times to acknowledge the Creator of the created. So, with Bridget gone, I am going to have to revisit some lessons on trust and boundaries and common sense security.

Bridget Lesson 5: The hardest part of love is letting go.

Bridget did so much for my family.

My oldest found her life’s calling as the trainer taught us how to handle Bridget.

My middle found a way to tease the oldest by simply going into the room with the wrong, high-energy body language.

My youngest learned to make eye contact by working with Bridget.

As an abuse survivor trying to be alpha to a dog with Bridget’s personality, I learned to have my own voice and take back my power; I walk straighter, look people in the eye, and ensure my words communicate the kind of authority they need to. The dog’s “disappearance” also gave me some openings to talk with my kids about some tough things like trauma and abuse and rape and kidnapping and how to respond.

But for all the lessons she was teaching us, we still were not the right place for her to be. So we had to let her go.

So Bridget, when the time comes, you cross that Rainbow Bridge and don’t look back. You’ve been good and faithful, but we just couldn’t give you what you needed. And somehow, if the land at the end of the Rainbow Bridge happens to meet with our heaven, meet me when my time comes if the Great Alpha will allow it.

Fasting… Biblically in the Post-Modern Era

Everyone hates the word, “fast.” Not the adjective meaning quick, but the noun meaning to avoid food, particularly for religious reasons.

The Bible, whether you believe every word is God-breathed or simply see it as a collection of stories teaching morals, is filled with examples of fasting.

In 1 and 2 Samuel, people fast in honor of and mourning for the dead. The King of Nineveh in Jonah proclaims a fast to show sorrow for sin. Esther fasts to symbolize a deep desire to intercede with God on behalf of her people and a great need for wisdom in how to overcome an unjust situation.

Jesus advised his disciples to make their fasts less obvious so that they would not receive public attention and could increase spiritual treasures obtained through fasting. Jesus also stated that in dealing with the unseen some entities could only be removed through prayer and fasting. In Acts, the followers of Jesus often fasted before making major decisions.

However, in today’s modern world, not everyone can fast for medical reasons. Children under 18 and pregnant women are discouraged from fasting. In addition, some people with various organ dysfunctions or addictions cannot fast medically. Fasting is also not to be considered in people with certain psychiatric conditions like manic depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

So how can you fast if you can’t physically fast?

The purpose of a fast was never to deny yourself food; it was always to refocus your inner connection with the still, small Voice. It was for a set time and didn’t endure forever. Also, it wasn’t about spiritual superiority, but about humbly refocusing on the things that the still, small Voice had on His agenda. It was not about changing the still, small Voice, but it was about changing our hearts.

With that express purpose in mind, you can modify the concept of a fast to reflect your situation.

  • Instead of giving up whole meals, give up dessert, soda, or coffee for a period of time. The money could then be donated to a charity.
  • Eliminate gaming sites or social media sites. Spend the extra time reading devotionals or having conversation with family and friends.
  • Eliminate a certain genre of music that you know doesn’t always help your connection with the still, small Voice. Replace the music with positive, encouraging alternatives.

While these examples don’t meet the pure dictionary definition, the importance is intent to re-focus your spiritual eyes through personal sacrifice that is not obvious to everyone else.

A Salute to Women Who Are Not Your Typical Moms…

We’re all about mothers today in the US. Rightfully so.

I do love my mom, but my heart goes out to the unsung heroes of Mother’s Day. These are women everywhere who step up and agree to play a part without biology or legal paperwork to back them. They may be professional mentors to women early in their careers or they may just love an unusual type of person enough to get involved.

Through the magic of changed names to protect the innocent (and righteous), I want to share with you some of the “moms in spirit” I’ve known in no particular order. (Sorry mom, I do love and appreciate you, and we’ll see each other later–I even baked from scratch! 🙂 )

Debbie: I don’t know where Debbie is right now. She was a young woman I met early in my career who was just a few years older and more experienced. I didn’t like her at first. She ran with the “big boys” and talked like them too (not exactly the genteel conversation I’d been raised to engage in and enjoy). Although her professional skills were high-class white collar, she never lost sight of her blue-collar work ethic. It was her stories of the family business that sucked me in and eventually made me see how she was precariously perched between two very different worlds. I did get to work with her off and on, and I was so sorry when she left and my professional position didn’t let me say goodbye. She had strength, and over time, she learned a softness.

Donna Jo: I have watched Donna Jo for over a decade. I first came across her when she ran a club my older two were in. She was always so loving and genuine. After my youngest got beyond Donna Jo’s level in this club, I watched from a distance. Donna Jo was always caring about people in her surroundings; there hasn’t been a month when someone new came to her church simply because she had the faith to ask.

Katy and Georgette: These two women are godmothers in the Catholic tradition. In addition to showing up for sacraments, they volunteer to guide their young charges from birth until however long God gives them. Katy is uber Catholic and a super example of how to be Catholic for her charges. On the other hand, Georgette is a straight-shooter: she doesn’t accept everything and her influence on her charges goes into professional and life realms.

Maria: Maria was a preacher’s wife I knew in my wild child years in college. When I was my most unlovable, she loved me greatly. She was never afraid that the wrong stuff in me would rub off on her kids. She included me at a time when I felt most hopelessly incurable spiritually (and least likely to think I needed cured). She even helped make it okay for me to be intellectual and spiritual at the same time. I don’t know where she is today, but I pray an extra blessing on her.

Martha: This woman had five of her own and then “adopted” friends of her five, and that’s how I know her–I was in the same year as the oldest, and the second oldest was my high school bestie. Mary always had extra pasta and sauce, and their car seemed to include enough gas to get me to my job when my parents had to be out of town. Now a grandparent, she considers mine as much hers as her own, and her time not grandparenting is devoted to knitting and crocheting shawls and blankets for the ill.

Rose: This woman is kind of my new role model. I want to be careful how I write because I know she follows this blog. Let’s just say I have always smelled the aroma of Christ around her and always seen Jesus superimposed over her actions. She shepherds the type of women most men are afraid of–broken, hurting, intelligent, strong-willed–pretty much anyone that doesn’t meet the traditional Christian woman image. Don’t get me wrong; she also shepherds the traditional Christian women. I guess it’s that she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in God’s garden and deal with the non-traditional flowers and gems hiding there. AND she still finds time to be wife and parent and grandparent!

Happy Mother’s Day to All! Be sure to find some time to just relax and bask in the peaceful feelings that come your way today.

Primal Scream, Episode 1

When I was a high school kid, or maybe undergrad, we had this term: primal scream. It was to describe that earth-shattering, heart-rending sound that was wordless and described such pain or rage that words could not describe it.

As an adult, I don’t do that so much anymore. No, I lied… I do still do it, but not in the melodramatic, angst-filled, larger-than-life way of teens. No, I’m more mature:

  • I smile and nod during small talk, making barbed quips in my head at the speaker that the speaker will never hear. (Quite humorous at times, but I digress…)
  • I launch into a tirade at my husband the moment he steps in the door. It’s not him. I just need him to hear the ferocity of my feelings and appreciate the depth of my intellect as I tear someone’s words or actions to shreds. These actions leave me so internally disquieted that I get a kind of heartburn that only gets relieved if I “verbally vomit,” as a women’s pastor I know likes to say.
  • This is the scariest one: I simply teach my kids how to handle the very kind of person I dislike with a positive attitude and encouragement. Two of the three never see anything wrong, but the third, my middle child, is my unique one. She has a personality like a firecracker, and somehow, someway, inside of her, she knows the sweetness is an act to cover the swirling negativity within me. And she challenges me…repeatedly.

As fun as these may be, they are not healthy. Yes, it is good to teach my kids right thinking and behavior if and only if my motives are as pure as I can get them. My still, small Voice has been dealing with me (yelling at me and chewing me out, but that’s the rebellious teenager in me). So where is He leading me?

First, I have to acknowledge that my anger, righteous or unrighteous, is just a feeling. If I dwell on that feeling too long, I can break my connection to my still, small Voice and never reach all that He has planned for me. No one will see Him in me if I’m angry and hurtful all the time.

Second, I have to step back and try to put on my mercy glasses. These aren’t physical glasses. These are thoughts I choose to have toward someone I find hurtful or irritating. They would go something like this:

  • She is as broken as you are. Let it go.
  • He doesn’t know any better. Just take a deep breath and try again.
  • She’s sandwiched…no, crushed…by kids, an ex, and a sick relative. She’s probably forgotten to eat and isn’t sleeping well. Give her what you’d want in her shoes.
  • He looks exhausted and I remember his partner saying he’s been doing 60 or more hours a week for three weeks in support of a big project at work. He’ll be done soon, crash for a weekend, and be back to himself.

Finally, I have to choose to bless them somehow. It may be that I choose a small act of kindness or to leave a message of praise or encouragement. Or I may just whisper a simple prayer.

Of course, I know I’ve gone too far when my prayer starts to sound something like this:

God, please bless this child of yours with wisdom and grace. S/he doesn’t get that stadium lights have no long term value. It would have been far better for that money to have gone for science kits and math textbooks. After all, in 30 years, s/he will need a well trained doctor, and the stadium lights will have burned out, but that science kit will have sparked that oncologist who is working out an algebra equation to determine the proper chemo dose…

But that’s the beauty of the still, small Voice… He loves unconditionally and never sleeps when His children need to wrestle themselves into submission to His plans and guidelines.

Way of the Dodo

I’ve always heard so much about Kindles and Nooks and other electronic devices for reading electronic books. I’ve never really used one, but I could imagine how much easier it would have been on my back to have my college chemistry, physics, and biology textbooks in electronic form on a piece of equipment smaller and lighter than a laptop. I also think of the convenience of adding a new book to my collection anywhere I can connect to the Internet. It’s also nice to be able to search on a few key words and find the exact page.

Then there are drawbacks. If the device isn’t properly backed up, you have to start all over if the device gets broken through negligence (translate gets thrown in frustration) or age (more than one year old). If you work with computers for your employment, you add to the eyestrain and repetitive motion issues by using an electronic device.

On my darker, more negative days when I feel out of synch with all the technological advances in our society, I positively long for a good, solid, real book. And so, my husband re-won my love, affection, and gratitude recently–he ordered a new book for me to read. I could feel my excitement building as I ripped open the box it arrived in and unwrapped the book from the bubble wrap (yes, I secretly have this obsession with popping the bubbles–that adds to the joy).

I held that book for just a few moments. I caressed the cover and ran my fingers over the slightly raised letters in the main title of the book. I pondered with curiosity the relationship of the secondary title to the main title. I flipped the book over and read the summary and critiques.

Because it was late in the day, I made sure the kids were headed to bed. I filled my cup with something to keep my mouth moist. I threw some throw pillows on the couch and pulled out my favorite blanket. It is blue polyester trimmed and covered with unicorns; I have treasured and protected it through college, graduate school, a bad marriage, and nearly a decade of being a single parent. My parents got it for my 12th birthday. I turned the light to just brighter than a night light but not as bright as daylight.

I proceeded to curl up and begin to read. At first, the transition from electronic to hard copy was difficult. I had a hard time focusing and my page turning was clunky. As the new book smell of paper and ink wafted into my nose and the ideas lept from the page to turn somersaults in my brain and wrestle with my experience, my physical mechanics of reading got better and better. Turning the page became an exciting expression of completion with a devout wish for more. I kept going until I finished the entire book two hours later.

There truly is something to be said for the act of reading a real book, for processing the ideas at my speed and not a machine’s, for reading the book my way and not in the path the programmer of the web page picked. The physicality of reading a real book–the smell of paper and ink, the pressure of my thumb and index finger around a page I’m turning–seems to imprint the ideas more deeply in my mind.

So, someday, we’ll be in a museum together, and the power will go out. The backup generator will not work, and you won’t be able to find me. I will have wandered in the darkness with just the backlight of my cell phone to the gift shop. You will find the gift shop missing a few items: beeswax candles, a cheesy lighter made in China, and several books.

When the power finally comes on, I will have devoured two or three books by candlelight and have started yet another. I may even have fallen asleep. You will find me curled up near the fossilized remains of the dodo.