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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Crookedness

"Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? 

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: 

God has made the one as well as the other..."

Lamentations 7:13-14

My life of late has been full of adventures.

In my last post, I related how I had to be rescued after accidentally locking myself out of the car. Subsequently, I misplaced a small amount of money which had been entrusted to me to buy gifts for some elderly friends. Embarrassed, I decided to replace the funds, but also felt the need to confess my carelessness to the giver.

Just as I was in the process of admitting my mistake, I rummaged around one more time in the drawer I recalled placing the money in. Voila! There lay the cash, in the same spot I had scoured several times already.

On the heels of the money mishap, my bedroom air conditioner went on the fritz. The misbehaving unit managed to limp along for several days while a new one meandered its way through the mail system,  but it let me know it wasn't happy by alternately emitting sounds mimicking machine gun fire and an all-out death rattle.

What do lockouts, misplaced money and dying appliances have in common? They're all "crooked" areas of life. Stuff that doesn't go right or perform as expected. Equipment, events and relationships go amiss because we live in a fallen world. It stands to reason that things will break down in such a flawed system; what's less obvious is how to navigate the crooked, broken paths we're often forced to tread. 

I propose that prayer, surrender and SOMETIMES action are key to straightening out life's messes. Prayer is paramount before, during and after life throws us curve balls. Somewhere I heard the assertion that believers are always dealing with a trial, about to face a trial, or just coming out of one. That being the case, prayer would seem the sensible course before, during and after trouble strikes.

Prayer may or may not lead to action. To coin another phrase (this one from Al Anon), "Don't just do something; sit there!" There are times to just "be still and know that [He is] God" (Psalm 46:10). While it's true that misguided action can lead to downfall, it's equally true that ill-advised inaction is nothing short of stagnation. Just as stagnant water is unhealthy, so stasis in the midst of solvable problems can be deadly. God won't bless His children when they let fear or lethargy immobilize them in a swamp of avoidance instead of climbing out at His command.  

Take my air conditioner problem. The only thing standing between me and a cool, comfortable bedroom was the almighty dollar. What my reader may not know is that parting with money for me can be a bit like severing a toe: it hurts a lot and tends to throw me off balance. Fortunately, our great God knows me well and anticipated the tug-of-war I would have with my bank account. He saw fit to provide another believer with a decent sized gift card to Home Depot, which she generously gifted to yours truly, on the very day my AC started gasping and wheezing.

It's worth noting that the business of ordering the new unit took place on a day that was approaching 100 degrees. The following days while I awaited delivery were substantially cooler, enabling me to remain in my room (which, rightly or wrongly, doubles as my office) without suffocating. Furthermore, the eagerly anticipated window unit arrived much earlier than promised and is now installed (thanks to my dear son, Ethan), making my work area a haven of delight. 

Only the Lord...  

As if that weren't enough, He really poured on the blessings in terms of saving money (scan back a few paragraphs, where I describe the battle of wills between me and my wallet). Between the gift card, price matching and a coupon, I managed to knock a big chunk off the retail price. I felt like God was rewarding me for not agonizing over the purchase, but at the same time, seeking the best deal possible. Good stewardship meets letting go!

My other "high finance" situation, the case of the misplaced money for the elderly, similarly required action. I had to do my part of giving over the situation to the Lord, AND be willing to make good, AND be willing to 'fess up to it BEFORE God would make straight that which I had made crooked. By the way, ironically, the giver of the Home Depot card was the same person who provided the money for our older friends. Clearly, this is not someone for whom forking over cash is like losing an appendage. I could learn a thing or two from this dear saint!

In the previous scenarios, I needed to surrender to the situation and also do something about it. However, surrender is equally crucial when there isn't any real action we can take other than to accept what God hands us. Fighting against unfixable problems just wastes energy that's vital to coping with them - as fruitless and often as painful as Saul's kicking against the goads

In summary, our great Shepherd never met a crooked path He couldn't straighten - but His sheep often seek out many alternate routes before settling into His best for us.

May that not be said of this sheep!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Rescued

It hasn't happened in many years, but today was the day. The last time this occurred I had a young baby and a kindergartner along for the ride - well, maybe I should say, for the wait.

And wait we did, for upwards of an hour. Although the police promised they would come quickly, by the time they showed up, little Ethan's diaper was soaked and his lungs were raw from yelling. 

Today's escapade had a much quicker and more satisfactory outcome.

The moment my keys went missing, I knew I was in trouble. It had literally only been a two minute stop to drop off some belated birthday gifts to a friend's children. The road to hell...

When I peered into the car and saw them resting tauntingly on the front passenger seat next to my purse (which naturally contained my only spare car key), I was sure what was coming. Before trying the door handle, I pleaded futilely for the thing to unlatch.

No such luck.

My first call was to AAA to help me break into the car. They were happy to oblige, but estimated a 90-minute wait. Since temperatures today were pushing 100 degrees, I thought it best to give the police a chance to beat the auto club's clock. 

I must admit to being a bit leery of calling the cops for help. I understand why these days the police force, which has come under such intense fire of late, is naturally reluctant to take any action which could earn them anything but A pluses in the conduct department. Breaking into people's cars, even at owners' urging, doesn't exactly carry with it the image these war-weary public servants are trying to convey. Moreover, it seems some vehicles sustain damage as a result of the jimmying process - again, not good for PR.

Spurning any risk to the the organization's battered reputation, the police dispatcher promised help in much shorter order than AAA. I heaved a sweaty sigh of relief while glancing at an incoming text. Apparently, my begging had paid off; the auto club's ETA had jumped to 20 minutes, which seemed to this fretful waiter much more bearable than the hour and a half they had previously postulated.

I called off the cops and leaned up against old Alex.

"Buddy, things are looking up," I murmured to my 10-year-old Mazda before answering a call from the AAA technician, Liz, who further lowered my wait time to five minutes.

I'm home typing this on my desktop, so the rest is history.

Here are my takeaways from this silly anecdote:

The best laid plans are no match for life's unpredictability (not to mention human error). Theoretically, I was prepared for this problem. I had my purse and a spare set of keys. Unfortunately, both were frustratingly out of reach and could do me no good without the outside intervention of someone who had tools I didn't possess.

Which brings me to my second life lesson: preparation is no substitute for prayer. I honestly can't remember if I prayed during this ordeal (that seems like a word which should be reserved for things like cancer treatment or torture - that said, being stranded in the heat felt pretty harrowing at the time) - BUT I do keep a constant dialogue running with the Lord. When the going gets tough, turning to God is for me like flipping on a switch in a dark room. I don't think twice. The bill has been paid and I can
count on good service every time.

Thirdly, figure on waiting. Sometimes the wait seems endless, like my lockout all those years ago. Other times, our needs somehow make it to the top of God's list. Either way, we know He's on our side and deliverance will come in some form eventually. 

Finally, never pass up a chance to pass on the gospel. Before my break-in expert departed, I made sure she had a hug and a tract in her hand. Who knows when or if our paths will ever cross again? 

My visiting sister likes to characterize problems as adventures. I tend to think of them as opportunities. One thing's for sure - they're here to stay, so we might as well make the most of them.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, 

for those who are called according to His purpose." 

~ Romans 8:28~

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Matter of Conscience

Dear readers, sadly Blogger has again made decisions for me with regard to font and format! The text as I have it in my Word document is uniform, but somehow got rearranged once I exported it to my blog. Thanks for putting up with the inconsistencies; Blogger has been a good platform for me over the years, pretty user friendly, but does have this one glitch. But, hey, it's free!


Thankfulness

Thankfulness has no meaning without an object.

I realized this simple fact years ago when I worked at a day care center. It was Thanksgiving season, and the staff had organized crafts and projects on the themes of gratitude and giving thanks. I saw a lot of blank stares from little ones whose faces reflected the fact that they had never been taught to thank their parents, let alone a Creator God, for Whom the holiday was declared.

It saddened me then, even as it does now.

Entitlement

Thanklessness and its evil twin, entitlement, have become commonplace in our youth, as the postmodern, post-Christian generation is raising children who have no idea why they should give thanks, or to Whom it is due. Nor should it come as a surprise when individuals who have never received instruction in a moral code based on absolute values struggle with concepts like respect and concern for others, both of which are outgrowths of morality.

Conscience

It naturally follows that a thankless society has little reason to develop a conscience.

Reliable old Merriam Webster offers this explanation of what the word conscience actually means:

“Conscience… derives from… Latin roots—the prefix com- (‘with,’ ‘together,’ ‘jointly’) and the verb scire (‘to know’), and the combination, conscire, means 'to be aware of guilt’—and… relates to… a state of… moral awareness.”

It seems clear that internalization of a basic moral code is a needful prerequisite to the operation of conscience. Just as thankfulness requires an object, conscience needs a reason to exist. In other words, development of that internal voice goes hand in hand with the inculcation of moral principles in daily life.

This brings to mind an incident I recall with bewilderment. Years ago in my day care career, one of our students was misbehaving. The staff was instructed to try to curb the behavior without causing the child to feel any remorse. Since then, I have raised my own family, and noted an interesting phenomenon in school evaluations. When behavioral interventions became necessary, documents often contained the following kind of language:

Johnny struggles to control his impulses. Susie struggles to stay focused. Benny struggles to (fill in the blank).

I humbly suggest that the child in question is doing the very opposite of struggling, as he or she has likely been deprived of the very impetus which would bring about inner conflict in the first place – a feeling of remorse based on a rudimentary moral understanding.

Disclaimer: I am NOT recommending instilling pathologic guilt or shame in our youngsters. I, myself, am a recovering shame addict (not brought on by my parents, just residing in my brain for as long as I can remember), and it’s no fun. Rather, what’s needed is a sensible, balanced message of morality and awareness of other people’s rights. Basic religious underpinnings are helpful, as they provide the rationale for following a moral code. Our country was built on this foundation, and requires nothing less to continue.

The Three C’s – Confirmation, Conviction and Causation

One of my church leaders recently preached on the subject of conscience. He broke down the Bible’s teaching on this topic into the following “three “C’s,” stating that conscience:

·         confirms the existence of God (Romans 1:20-22 and 2:14-16)

·         convicts of sin (John 8:4-11)

·         causes or enables people to take hold of salvation (Hebrews 9:7-14 and 10:22; Titus 1:15; 1 Timothy 1).

The Fourth C – a Clear Conscience

This same gentleman followed up with a second sermon explaining how one can enjoy a clear conscience. Rather than summarizing these two excellent sets of teaching, I have linked them as resources for my readers, especially those who may be experiencing guilt about choices they have made. It is worth noting that one of the points he emphasized is the fact that the conscience can become defiled or “seared” when not cultivated or, even worse, once it has been squelched. That still, small voice can be snuffed out rather easily and, once stifled, can be surprisingly resistant to reawakening.

The Shaping of Conscience

There are many ways to categorize humanity, some of which have been called into serious question by an unbelieving world in a frighteningly brief period of time. The very idea of categorizing has come under fire in recent years! Nevertheless, along with basic groupings such as ethnicity and religion, let us consider the less obvious distinction between conscience driven versus conscience deprived individuals.

It seems to me that most meaningful activity is governed by the absence or presence of conscience, which, in turn, is often shaped by consequences. Inborn curiosity is bridled or unbridled by consequences – do consequences matter enough to check the behavior? Who is issuing the consequences, and is that person a solid role model, someone whose behavior is worth emulating?

One caveat: I am an enthusiastic proponent of positive training of children, i.e., linking positive feedback and rewards to desired behavior. I am fully on board with using this technique in conjunction with consequences – but therein lies the key. It is the combination of two vital ingredients that makes for success.

Soup without salt is flavorless. Salt without a medium to disperse it is overpowering. Likewise, consequences without praise may lead to devastation and hopelessness; praise without consequences can result in egocentrism and entitlement.

Balance is essential.

Takeaways

As the United States has ousted God from such basic institutions as education, family planning and most recently, marriage, our country seems to have lapsed into ever more dangerous behavior. If we want to stem the tide of rebellion and destructiveness that we are seeing in our youth, we must start with the end in mind with our children.

Instilling the sister virtues of thankfulness and conscience isn’t a guarantee that all will be well. Sadly, the numbers of religiously trained kids caught up in the world’s system closely mirror those of the unchurched. That’s because the human heart remains just that – human – and we live in a fallen world in which temptation and instant gratification are the desirables du jour.

Furthermore, we can’t, nor should we attempt to remove the Pandora’s box of technology from the public square. The tools it offers are vast and beneficial. However, knowing most of our kids have the equivalent of an adult bookstore at their fingertips before they’re old enough to cross the street independently ought to give us great reason to instill the counteragents of conscience and accountability from the moment they can mouth syllables. Realizing the daunting array of choices available to their little minds, we must at least give them a fighting chance to combat the impulses of entitlement and self-gratification.

A Happy and Hopeful Ending

I love the old Dick Van Dyke show. This classic sitcom is a product of its time and, therefore, assumes some sex roles that have become outdated, but it sure found a way to combine humor and principles without ever uttering a four-letter word or even taking the Lord’s name in vain.

One episode in particular illustrates the point I’ve been trying to make in this article. Rob has the opportunity to work for Drew Patton, the equivalent of Hugh Hefner, and the job will come with all the fringe benefits of Playboy Mansion. Laura is understandably fearful that her morally upright husband will “crumble” under the pressure. Her relief is palpable when she overhears Rob opine to his would-be employer that “marriage, like a lot of other things, has boundaries, and to some guys, those boundaries represent walls, and that makes marriage a prison to them. But to other guys, those boundaries hold everything that’s good and fun in life.” Our hero turns down the job.

This is the kind of thinking that conscience begets – the idea that boundaries, be they in marriage or any avenue of life, need not be viewed as prisons. They are, rather, safeguards that offer security and protection, so that those who abide by them may proclaim with the psalmist, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:6

For more like this, check out: Entertainment-itis Series 

and 

Thoughts on the Suicide/Addiction Epidemic Among our Youth


Monday, February 8, 2021

Old Things, Old People

Generally speaking, I keep things till they die.

Take my electric stove, for instance. It's over 25 years old and looks every day of it. Scratches, chips

that have been repainted and don't quite match (OK, they're eyesores), replaced drip pans which need to be re-replaced - these and many other "beauty marks" adorn this oldie but goodie... but she's still kicking.

Then there's my dryer, which is close to 20 years old, and has outlived several of his neighbors in my basement. Neither the washer nor the water heater can boast such endurance, and I sometimes wonder if the racket Sir Dryer makes in carrying out his duties is his way of touting his longevity.

My treasure of a brother-in-law (OK, he's more like a brother) has breathed new life into that old appliance a number of times. With each load I throw in for a spin dry, I also toss up a prayer of thanksgiving for Tom's expertise and his willingness to invest his skills and talents in my direction.

The guy's one in a million.

I prefer to call my aging array of household equipment unpretentious rather than homely. If connotation is king, I'd like to give my workhorses the benefit of the doubt.

Why do I hang onto old things when I can afford to replace them? The practice has caused me inconvenience at times, when gadgetry bites the dust and I have to scramble to bring in the reinforcements. Still, there's this part of me that enjoys seeing restoration rather than retirement.

After all, they don't make 'em like they used to.

The same can be said of older people. With age comes experience, an invaluable component of wisdom (the fact that I'm rocketing towards my golden years, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with my assessment of the topic at hand). Age doesn't guarantee maturity, obviously, but it does afford the opportunity to "grow up" in ways that matter: self-esteem and humility, for example, which may seem like opposites but are really just two riders on the seesaw of life which, when balanced, make for quite a stable ride.

When I hold onto rickety but still functional appliances, perhaps that's my way of nodding to a world view in which the elderly were cherished and respected, as opposed to being chided and rebuked, for their less than modern perspectives. 

I felt this philosophy being underscored yesterday when I caught a Zoomed reunion featuring several key actors from the 1970's TV series, "The Waltons." The cast reminisced about a story line in which the senior Mrs. Walton returned home after suffering a stroke, only to find her former duties being stripped away from her. She cried piteously to her daughter-in-law about her need to be needed. Interestingly, the actress playing the role, Ellen Corby, was herself fighting this same battle in real life. Having survived a stroke, Corby was determined to return to the show minus the ability to speak, upon which her sharp-tongued character relied heavily. Corby proved to the audience and to herself that she had new and different things to offer, even as some of her abilities waned.

My own parents also exemplifed this truth. Both gave richly to their families, even towards the end of their lives. Mom became an encouraging audience for grandson Tommy to practice his fourth grade reading skills, even as she lay helpless and dying. Dad could still make a mean cup of coffee to see his adult daughter through her workday. I can still remember him calling proudly up the stairs, "Your coffee is ready!" before settling onto the couch to watch TV with tiny Ethan (who was the only six-year-old on our block to be conversant in national news and Civil War history, both of which Granddad imparted to his absorbent little mind). When Dad could no longer do those things, his suffering stirred compassion in my older son's heart; Aaron, undoubtedly inspired by the sacrifices he had seen both his grandparents make on our family's behalf, chose to stay by Granddad's bedside rather than collect candy one Halloween.

Who says kids don't copy what they see?

I guess I'm in a sentimental mood, or maybe it's the overabundance of folks I see populating nursing homes, but I just feel the need to speak on behalf of old things and old people. Given the growing public support for assisted suicide, combined with high rates of suicide among the elderly, it seems more urgent than ever to proclaim the worth of a segment of the population whose heyday may be long gone, but for whom vast purpose still remains.

Funny note to build on the point I've been trying to make in this article. I wanted to finish it up and post it last night, but my "getting on in years" computer was slowing down and fizzling out, as was this author. Woke up this morning, and voila, both technology and human have it all back together (well, mostly). Perhaps our older folks (and older things) need a bit more in the rest department to keep going, but at the end of the day, they can still pull things off.

Thanking our great God for all the seasoned stuff and geriatric gems in our midst.

"Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.                 

They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing..."

~ Psalm 92:13-14~


For more like this, check out The Great Reset, AKA, Growing Pains 2

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Great Reset, AKA, Growing Pains 2

The Great Reset

I've been starting to hear about "The Great Reset," a concept that seems to set many hearts aflutter with hope while inducing some seasoned pundits to bite their perfectly manicured nails. As I said, I'm only just learning about this idea, so am not going to comment one way or the other. I am, however, going to shamelessly coopt the phrase for the purposes of this article.

The To Do List


This aspiring author woke up yesterday with a to do list longer than the flowing scarves magicians coax out of otherwise unexceptional sleeves. Much of it was very mundane, things like cooking and correspondence, but nonetheless, important to me and the people who matter to me. Other things were "bigger ticket items" that mandate more time and attention (financial planning, tech issues, etc.).

True confessions: I just had to pause my ruminations upon remembering that I was late paying a bill. The creditor very politely emailed me two days ago, and it's been on my to do list, but, well, refer back to paragraph two. 

See what kind of a week it's been?

The Letdown

I think what's really getting to me has been brewing since Christmas Eve. It's my favorite day of the year, what with the anticipation and beauty and hopefulness that seems to pervade all 24 hours of it.

But that's just the point. It's only 24 hours. No matter how hard I try to savor each moment, Christmas Eve always turns into Christmas morning - also a wonderful day, but one which carries with it the knowledge that that's it for another year. Come December 26, decorations will start to look old and haggard, and huge trash bags will go out to the curb, full of dead evergreens and the remnants of what was and will not be again for another 364 days. 

The Growing Pains

There's a sweet scene in the pilot movie that kicked off The Waltons TV series in which the youngest child confides to her brother that she intends to "stay little" and never grow up. She even has a plan to thwart the efforts of time. By compressing between both tiny hands whatever body part seems to be expanding, she hopes to outsmart the growing pains and stay forever a child.

I get where she's coming from. But, like copper-haired Elizabeth Walton, I fail every year at trying to make time stand still where Christmas Eve is concerned.

Time, after all, will always have its way with us.

And growing pains will always hurt, and they will always be worth every iota of pain they cost us.

What Elizabeth doesn't realize is that, unless she grows up, she'll never know the joys that await the adult world. Parenting, perhaps, but maturity for sure, unless she stymies time's work in shaping her life by making infantile, unwise choices. The satisfaction of tackling hard tasks and experiencing both success and failure in the doing. The wisdom that accompanies whitening of the hair (one of the reasons I stopped dyeing mine - why try to hide the evidence of God's maturing process?). The diminishing concern for pleasing a fickle world, and heightening interest in honoring an unchanging God. Most of these accomplishments are mysteries to the young, as they should be. No one arrives on this earth all grown up, and half the satisfaction of living is achieving a form of wisdom that can only come through bumps and bruises.

The Longevity of the Cross

An insightful (if I do say so myself) sentiment came to me the other day, unbidden. I posted it on Facebook, but apparently I need to remind myself: 

Christmas Day doesn't last, but what Christ did at Christmas lasts forever!

I mean, didn't we see that in spades this year? As the wealth and hedonism of our nation has had to step aside due to the ravages of coronavirus, didn't we gain an inkling of all that we could do without this Christmas? And, folks, not to be a crepehanger, but this isn't even as bad as it can get. Not by a long shot. Political tides being what they are, and with society's fear factor edging off the charts, we could be in for anything.

But, as Corrie ten Boom and her sister discovered in the concentration camp that rewarded them for protecting their fellow man, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." Little did they know that deliverance would come for them as the new year dawned, and joy would take on a dimension far beyond anything found under a pine-needled tree. 

When all the tinsel and glitter of the holiday were stripped away, there lay Christ, still in that manger. Right where He's always been, at the heart of Christmas. 

But our great God didn't stop there; Christmas turned into Easter and death turned into life when the creche met the cross.

So, yes, time will march on, and some of its passage will be accompanied by anxiety and even dread. Anxiety about carefree times ending and the hard work of day to day living starting up again. Dread of happiness giving way to trouble. We mortals are prone to these emotions, and I daresay Christ expressed the same just before accomplishing His magnum opus: "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36).

Take a good look at what follows the semicolon, for therein lies the key. Our Savior knew God's will superseded His human one, which was largely operating in Gethsemane. He was setting an example for us that any Golgotha which may loom ahead can be handled through close fellowship with the Father.

The Greatest Reset

Likewise, this author can attack the unknown with faith, even as holidays yield to workaday life and new powers that be replace familiar ones. And whatever "great reset" those powers may wish to impose, a far greater reset awaits all who place their hope in the ultimate reset that took place at Calvary: divinity obliterating the barriers between itself and blemished humanity.

So, finally returning to my to do list, who am I to think I'm going to finish everything before returning to work in a few days? It took Christ 33 years to accomplish His earthly ministry; yet, this girl wants to complete all her self-appointed goals for the vacation within the next 24 hours. 

Not gonna happen.

But what sometimes does happen is what occurred yesterday morning. The MINUTE my prayer partner and I hung up the phone, having studied Scripture and lifted praise and requests to God, I received a call which held counsel I badly need to move forward in 2021. 

Funny how putting first things first has a way of calming panic and frenzy and pointing us to the one who holds answers to both.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Check out: Panic? The Wrong God! (Note: sermon starts at 21:50, in case anyone wants to get right to the best part; believe me, it's worth the time).

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Curse of Jo March

The tags on this article cover everything. Anger. Resentment. Rejection. Grinch. Scrooge. Bitterness.

Bah humbug.

Fear not: I sound worse than I really feel, and I promise to end this post on a positive note.

When I first got the email this morning - two days before Christmas - that the manuscript I submitted eight months ago had been rejected - well, let's just say I felt like pulling my hair out.

Oh, and that's another thing. I've always had quite the mane, but lately, more than a few gray hairs are winding up in the brush and on the pillow.

Alopecia, anyone?

My prayer partner, too, is feeling bereft, for reasons of her own (not least of which is that corona fear has kept her under house arrest since March 13). That places her aggravation a good month and a half ahead of mine, since my book proposal didn't hit the agent's inbox till April 21. I guess if there's a prize for longest running exasperation, I'll have to defer to Tina.

Interestingly, I woke up wondering what message God would lay on my heart to share today or tomorrow. I always seem to receive an emphatic heavenly nudge right in the middle of my holiday hysteria, when it's least convenient to sit down and write. 

Somehow the Lord never seems to mind upending my schedule.

So, I find myself back to counting blessings. It's the soundest strategy I know for laying resentment where it belongs, in the dung heap with the rest of Satan's tactics.

And, oh, the blessings I still have to count, in a year when disease has stolen so many loved ones from family hearths and gouged gaping holes in legions of pocketbooks .

A daughter-in-law who sends a video of me cuddling my grandson and listening to his laughter, just when I'm missing my cherubs the most. Another soon-to-be daughter, who invites me to her family's Christmas table so I won't have to celebrate Christ's birth alone. Two loving, responsible sons who have been there for me more times than I can count. A host of trusted friends - some long standing, some arriving later in life - but all cherished and held dear. A school year that, while strange and challenging, includes an adorable student who even loves my singing and storytelling!

What was I upset about again?

After reading the agent's refusal, but before counting my blessings (which I was in no mood to do just then), I decided to cheer myself up by throwing a few ornaments on our heretofore barren Christmas tree. First on the list: my Little Women figurine of Jo March, aspiring author, but in her rightful place, just below Jesus.

There, lest we forget, is where all aspirations belong.

God bless us, everyone.


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice!" 

~Philippians 4:4~

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

 ~1 Thessalonians 5:18~

Check out this terrific tune from Matthew West: The Hope of Christmas

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Woe is Me... or Who is Me?

COVID is really messing up a lot of plans for me. It threw a mega monkey wrench into my summer, preventing me from meeting my granddaughters for six weeks. It interfered with Thanksgiving (although my son and I had a very simple, low key holiday, just the two of us, which is a memory I will always cherish). Now the latest outbreak of the virus is threatening to undo all my Christmas plans.

Woe is me.

That's how I felt the other day when my kids and I had to face up to the realization that Christmas, like everything else since last March, is going to be very different this year.

But then I did a 180, and guess what? Woe is no longer me!

I had a little help from the Almighty (imagine that). While ruing my fate and licking my wounds the other day (as if I'm the only person in this world being kicked around by COVID), I found myself behind another believer at the dollar store. We had plenty of time to get to know each other, masks notwithstanding, since the line we were in snaked through two aisles and moved at about the same rate at which my nephew eats vegetables (he once looked aghast at his mother over a serving of broccoli, demanding to know why she expected him to eat that "tree"). 

All I know is that, after bemoaning the national plight with this smiling Christian sister, who started out a stranger but wound up a friend, I felt my own Christmas spirit ramping up quite a bit.

The following day again found me in a Christmas crowd. As I wended my way through the store (itself a miracle - with corona cases surging daily and restrictions being issued faster than the old woman who lived in a shoe could pass along hand-me-downs to her bulging tribe, isn't it a blessing we can still shop?), I kept hearing a cell phone ringing. It was always the same tone, a familiar one, but not my own. I found it odd that so many people had the same ring tone, and that no matter where I went in the store, everyone was getting calls using this same bell signal. 

Then the light dawned, the same way it did once when I was driving in traffic and kept being disturbed by an ailing muffler. It took awhile, but I finally realized the reason the obnoxious sound wouldn't go away was because my own car was the one making all the racket!

Sure enough, I searched around in my cart, and hiding under a stray bag lay someone else's cell phone! I picked it up and apologized to the owner, who had been calling for 20 minutes, and we both had a good laugh about my "smack me brow with heel of hand" moment. Long story short, I held on to the errant device till she returned to the store to reclaim it. Of course, I had to give her a Christmas tract and well wishes. 

Just another example of the Lord dumping opportunities to spread joy amidst the everyday reality of corona chaos.

Most of my 57 Christmases have been pretty joyful. Sure, some have been lackluster and a few even painful (it's tough to feel like celebrating when you're in the process of saying goodbye to loved ones or facing the breakup of a marriage), but what of it? Did God ever promise me every day would be an ice cream cake topped with pink frosting? Why should holidays be any exception?

The more I think about this, the more I like how the Whos in Dr. Seuss's classic tale handled the downsizing of their Christmas. You remember the story. The grumpy Grinch robbed them of all their
holiday trappings, but what he couldn't steal was their Christmas joy. They woke up singing, just as they had every other year, refusing to let the presence or absence of stuff dictate their peace of mind.

We could learn a lot from those colorful crooners. Rock on, Whos, and while you're at it, how 'bout replacing our Grinch-i-tude with your Who-titude, and making the latter as contagious as corona.