Category Archives: Meandering thoughts

Christmas, 2011

This is reposted from 2011.

Today has been a day full of shocks and a pleasant surprises… from the deacon who gave me a nice Christmas gift for helping him greet on Sunday mornings to the woman who asked if I’d like to take her place as church clerk (still praying about that one, but it was a compliment to be asked) to getting to ride in the front with the driver of a horse and wagon ride on my SECOND (and free) trip of the night. And above all that, a new take on something in Jeremiah. Hopefully I can write about that tomorrow. Notes are in the car and it’s too cold to run out and get them tonight!! 🙂 Jer 29:11 is a promise given after God warned them to straighten up for 23 years (Jer 25)… and they didn’t do it. That promise came after they were sent into exile. So was exile a punishment, or what they determinedly went for even after being warned? If a child is told not to put his hand on the stove and does anyway and is burned, was the damage/hurt/pain the result of the parent’s punishment or the child’s willfulness?

I was taught that God was holy. And He is. I was told that He was just. He’s that as well. But to base a knowledge of God on those two attributes is to overlook several things. Yes, God is holy and just. But He is also merciful, gracious, and loving. He isn’t just holy, just, merciful, gracious and loving, though. He IS love. Not everything that happens is a result of God being angry at us or punishing us. Many times, He warns us to protect us. Not from His wrath if we disobey, but from ourselves, and from the pain we will face as we learn why He said no to begin with (like a child touching a hot stove).

When we disobey, though His holiness and justice demand punishment, but very often His love outweighs justice, and He promises-and plans-to bless in spite of our willfulness. That’s grace. That’s mercy. That’s my God.

I just never expected to find that in Jeremiah.

Housekeeping

I moved into a smaller house, and enjoy it very much. It only takes an hour and a half to completely clean! The problem is, I’ll confess, I don’t take that hour and a half. I look around and think it’s so much easier to do that I’ll just catch up later.

Housekeeping has never been a favorite activity. But an hour and a half a week would be so simple. And because the space is smaller and I have less stuff, I’m less distracted by the little things-the drawer that needs organized or the spare rooms I never knew what I wanted to do with. And still I procrastinate.

It’s the same spiritually. Jesus has made life in him so simple. I only have to receive what he freely offers by faith. Yet it becomes easy to put off the “cleaning”-to let go of little things that hinder my relationship with Him. It becomes simple to overlook this or that, thinking I’ll tackle it later. The difference is, He’s standing there offering to do it. All I have to do is allow him to do it. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Letting Him do it means letting Him in, letting Him see the dusty corners and the dirty dishes, and letting go of the fear that he will see the box of clutter that should have been thrown out but might have something useful in it.

There’s an old question that teachers sometimes ask, “What person from history would you like to eat dinner with?” It was always easy to say, “Jesus.” But going to dinner with someone is different than inviting them into your home. Would we be willing to let him come in, if he stood knocking on our doors today? He is…

Remember the children… Newtown CT

I’ve been on the verge of tears most of the day… ever since hearing about the terrible events in Newtown today. I don’t have kids, but I still wanted to run out and protect all I could.

On the way home tonight, seeing the Christmas lights, thinking about those kids who said they just wanted one more Christmas, I thought how we could join together for not only them but in memory of those who were so full of life just this morning but won’t have this Christmas, and not only of them, but of those who are critically ill, who will spend Christmas in the hospital waiting for an organ transplant or another chemo treatment, who with their parents, families and friends are praying for one more Christmas, one more birthday, one more year.

I think of today’s events I recall stories of a night in Bethlehem just over 2000 years ago, when babies and toddlers were torn from their parents’ arms and killed because of the fears and the jealousy of a wicked king.

And I ask, what can I do? I can’t bring those children back. I can’t stop all the violence in the world or protect all children from it. But I can be a bit more patient with kids. I can love each for who they are. I can laugh with them, give them a little extra attention, a little extra love.

I can’t give any child back his or her life, but I can make the lives of the children I come in contact with a little brighter and fill our moments with a little more wonder. Because, after all, the best part of living isn’t the span of our life, but the joy with which we live it, and the wonder we share with others.

No king and no gunman can erase a life truly lived, yet no one can replace a life cut so sadly short.

Newtown families and friends, we are praying for you.

Want v. Need

For a long time I was told that if I didn’t have something, I didn’t have enough faith. That if I would pray harder, believe more, or do more good that “God will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory.” I came to learn that there is a huge difference between what that verse promises and what they told me. It’s the difference of want and need.

It goes like this: I want a new car. I need transportation (and that transportation may be the ability to walk. Still, God has provided.) I want to own a nice, big house. I need shelter. (I don’t want a big house, just making a point.) I want meat on the table at every meal, soups and salads and sweets. I need daily nourishment. The two might be very different things. God promised to provide my needs, not bow to my every whim.

He’s good like that.

church growth seminar, 101

Just a scattered thought tonight:

From what I understand, my new denomination as a whole is losing members. They don’t know why or what to do about it. Their answer: church growth seminars, coffee shops, activity or family centers, small groups, more missions, nontraditional gatherings and a plethora of everything else anyone can dream up. None of that is necessarily bad, but I’m concerned that the idea of “it worked there, so maybe it will work here” is going to do more harm than good.

If we were missionaries, we wouldn’t sit in Siberia and say, “Oh, but in Zimbabwe this worked, so we’d better try it.” No, we’d learn the culture, the people’s concerns and interests and needs where we were called, and do our best to answer their concerns, interact with their interests, and meet their needs. Why should it be different in America?

So I’d like to say, “Sorry, I’m certainly glad coffee shops work in California, but honey, I hate break this to you, but you live in Kansas. And believe it or not, it’s an entirely different culture.”

The other problem with their many answers is that there are SO many. Instead of the leaders of my church picking one or two that might work here and going with them, they are trying the splatter gun approach, or at least approaching the situation that way–they haven’t tried any of the ideas really, because there are so many. And what has me really shaking my head is that up until this summer’s conferences and all the new ideas, they were experiencing a good amount of growth here. Because what reaches people in the end isn’t coffee shops or family centers or seminars… it’s love.

Firewood wars

A few days ago, tree trimmers came and started working to clear some old easements. They hadn’t been cleared in years, and there were trees in the easement that were at least 9″-12″ around. I’d guess some were bigger than that. A friend had asked that if I saw them around to please ask if they’d be willing to let my friends have some of the pieces as firewood. I asked, and the tree trimmers agreed. They were very nice about it. As the firewood pile grew, neatly stacked, in my back yard (awaiting my friends’ truck), apparently other neighbors took note of it. Two nights ago one of my neighbors came out yelling at me because I was picking up some smaller branches as starter wood for my firepit. He thought I was stealing “his” firewood. Wood he said would be for a bonfire. In 1-1.5′ lengths. (?) None was stacked; pieces were strewn everywhere. I looked around, explained what I was doing, offered him the twigs (he refused) and wished him a good night. Then another neighbor came out the next morning and informed the tree trimmers that he wanted any remaining wood for his firepit. Granted, he has wood that’s been rotting for probably three or more years behind the house and had already built a nice brush pile (Snake Haven) along the back corner of my lot… and most of the pieces that were left for him would need to be split for a fireplace, much less for a fire pit, but ok.

All of this irritated me. I asked first. I got a fire pit to start with mainly because of Snake Haven. I talked to the neighbor and asked him to stop developing Snake Haven, and he insisted that it was tree trimmers who’d built it. And then I looked out my window just a few weeks later t o see him adding onto it. I was also irritated with the other neighbor. He’s never been rude before. And I hadn’t taken anything that would be useful in a bonfire… though I’m not sure why anyone would haul wood to the forest for a bonfire to begin with. Maybe they’re going camping in the desert? Not around here, but it is Kansas. Trees are sparse in some places. But prairie grass is abundant, and it kind of defeats the purpose of “roughing it” to bring the bonfire to the campsite with you, I’d think. But it’s been a long time since I was scouting age. Maybe things have changed. I guess at least it would be rough to load and haul enough wood for a bonfire to a campsite and then spend the night, already exhausted, overseeing a group of very excited preteens while you tried to stack foot long pieces of wood into any semblance of a bonfire.

Yes, I’m being a little sarcastic about the whole thing. Laughing is better than growling, which is what I did the first day the firewood wars started. I got pretty mad that day, sadly. The weird thing is that the firewood that’s stacked behind my house isn’t even for me. I asked for it for a friend. And if the neighbors had spoken kindly and asked me to help them stack some for themselves, I would have gladly, eagerly assisted them, too.

So I’ll let the two neighbors finish the firewood wars. Their houses are diagonal from each other, so at least I won’t get caught in the crossfire. Besides, I don’t think they realize it yet, but there’s enough wood in that easement to heat more than their tempers this winter. Not that either of them have a fireplace…

Remembering

Several posts on Facebook over the last few days have asked the question: Do you remember where you were on 9/11/01?

I remember. I remember getting dressed and going in to work that morning thinking it was just like any other morning. I remember walking into the school and hearing TVs running. I remember wondering why, since that wasn’t policy. I remember, just a few feet inside the door, a teacher telling me that planes had flown into the Twin Towers. There was some debate as to whether there’d been an accident or whether we were under attack at that point. Not much, but a little. Within a very short time two more planes came down, and we knew.

I remember. I remember stories of those who helped others escape that day, who lost their own lives helping others. I remember stories of families who lost loved ones, who received that last call or message, and the strength it gave them even in their sorrow. I remember all those who fought for my country, our country, and came back. And I remember those who didn’t. I remember the lessons we learned that day and in the days following about hope, about continuing on, about giving of ourselves for others, because I continue to see that type of strength, love, sacrifice, and courage echoed in the faces of people I meet everyday. I remember, and I’m thankful.

Losing a pet

This post will be off topic.

I have a very sick pet. A pet who is probably dying, though I don’t know that for sure. What I do know is that he’s lived a good, long life. He’s been happy, he’s been comfortable, he’s enjoyed the time he’s had… and he had more time with me than he would have had otherwise–his first owner was going to euthanize him 8 years ago.  He’s had his days of running outside, of rolling in the dirt (ugh!) and playing, many nights of laps and love, a warm, cozy bed, and someone to care for him. I’ve had a pet who ‘listened’, who kissed me and snuggled me and comforted me, who was concerned when I was sick and woke me when I almost caught the house on fire with a candle left burning. Someone who left footprints in my bathtub on rainy days and often sat in the middle of the street at rush hour… who was ready to fight a coon and begged for a taste of just about anything I ate. It’s been a good eight years.

The vet doesn’t know what’s wrong, and neither do I. I’m trying to encourage him to drink something, trying to make him comfortable, and praying for direction on what more to do. It’s been a difficult few days. It’s hard to say goodbye, so I think of and am thankful for the many good years, rather than  the few difficult days. Life is good and full of blessings, but from an earthly perspective, it’s much too short.

I have friends who’ve lost close family members. I’ve lost grandparents. But I’ve never been this close to death before. Still and always, with relatives and friends as well as pets, it’s good to cherish the fond memories rather than dwelling on the sadder times. Yet we can learn from the sadder times, and treat those who are still with us with more love and respect as a result. Death has a way of making one thing crystal clear: We are meant to cherish each other, while we have each other, for as long as we’re here.

Don’t wait to love someone.
Please don’t wait to laugh.
Enjoy time as it comes to you,
or you’ll never get it back.

Time is but an instant.
All our life is but a flash.
So treasure every moment,
And every friend you have.

*Update next morning: He began to drink a little again this morning on his own… so he’s still around for now and seems to be doing a little better. We’ll have another day, and maybe another… and just enjoy each moment.

Crazy Cat

My cat attacked me this morning. Jumped on the bed while I was asleep, pounced me, stabbed me with his long, needle-sharp claws, and bit my derriere. I wasn’t doing anything to him. I wasn’t even moving, other than to breathe. But I was attacked anyway. And when I brushed him away, he attacked again!

T’s a strange cat. He was a stray or possibly even a feral cat. I couldn’t get within about 10-20 feet of him for about a month after he started hanging out under my front deck. I put out cat food, sat totally relaxed and quietly talking to him, blinked at him, fed him more, petted my own very old cat in front of him… finally one night I touched him. It was a tentative moment for both of us. He, afraid I might trap or hit him; me, afraid he might bite me.

The last year has been a learning experience for both T and I. T learned that inside wasn’t too bad if outside meant snow, rain, or excessive heat. I learned not to let that streak of fur with whiskers stay inside too long without covering all the furniture with heavy burlap and running him crazy with a laser light every few hours. T learned not to fall in a bathtub full of water. He learned the back of a toilet can be a slippery place for a nosy cat. I learned not to leave anything sitting out that could easily be knocked onto the floor or into the sink (and down the drain) by a quick kitty paw.

But over time we’ve learned. I thought things were going well. T likes to rub against me now. He sticks close when we go outside. He meows at me regularly and has even begun to purr. He enjoys belly and chin rubs, and sleeps at my feet at night. I thought things were going well, until he bit my butt.

Being woken from sleep by a set of sharp cat teeth stabbing your backside is NOT a pleasant awakening, and I’ll admit my first thought was to give him an unpleasant wake up call in return. I didn’t, though later I did pounce him back playfully, to run off a little of his energy and let him know I was still bigger. I don’t want anymore nips in the middle of the night.

Blank pages

Sometimes I think of a phrase or concept that I want to write about. I type the title or a brief description, but the words don’t come. Saved to draft, these thoughts sit waiting for a day when I can get back to them and fill in the words around the ideas jotted there. Sometimes that day comes. Often it doesn’t.

It surprises me when I open a draft, like I did tonight, and find only a title. The thought is still there, but the words still escape me, more of a mental image than something, sometimes, that can be put into words someone else could understand. Yet every time I open a draft like that, that image comes back, clear as ever, to my mind. It just doesn’t translate into written words well.

We all have blank pages in our lives. Words left unspoken, things left undone. We know they are there, but it can be so difficult to find exactly the right way to express those things in a way that we know others will understand. Yet even in their unspokenness, there is expression.

God doesn’t often have the opportunity to work with a blank page. We’ve taken our lives, written our own stories, and then handed them to the master author for editing or proofing. When He offers to discuss it with us, to assist in authoring the greatest story possible, we decline the invitation. We lack the skill, we don’t have the knowledge. The blank page frightens us, but it doesn’t scare God. To Him, the page isn’t truly blank. His story is written into the very fibers of the page. We just need a little help to see it.