This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Greatest Story Never Told

The greatest, most life-changing story that remains untold is potentially… yours.

Photo Courtesy of Free Digital Photos

The Basics

Let’s assume that everyone reading this blog post is a follower of Christ, a Christian, if you will.  Though many people bandy the term Christian about as though it were a hair color or a political party affiliation, easily changed and or open for line-item revisions of opinion.  However, for the purpose of this discussion I will use the term Christian in the strictest of forms; a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and has had a change of heart which reflects this decision. 

That being squared away, let’s assume that you have, in fact, witnessed the goodness, grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ in your life.  Let’s assume that by receiving Christ as your Savior you acknowledged that there was something missing and something broken inside of you that prevented you from living the best life you could.  This brokenness may have shown up in dysfunctional relationships (friends, family, romantic relationships), addictions (alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, T.V., porn, technology, sex, etc.), anger issues, people pleasing, unfriendliness, abandoning people and situations, or any other unhealthy approach to your life and the people in it.  In my case, I was angry, bitter, unfriendly, addicted to food and was pretty much closed off to everyone around me. 

I chose my poison and you chose yours.  Regardless of the type of mess we all chose, we were all lost.  That is inarguable.  At some point prior to now, we were all faced with a decision; continue down this broken, dark path that inevitably leads to destruction or accept the love and forgiveness of an ever patient and merciful God.  Some of us might have been in the privacy of our bedrooms, at church on Sunday, at a retreat or meeting a friend for coffee when we made that decision, but we all made that life changing choice to turn it all around, by the grace of God. 

The Cockroach Within
Christendom, though well intentioned, turned one of the most beautiful scriptures into a clich√© by writing it on poster boards and painting it across their unkempt bellies at sporting events.  Though considered clich√© and possibly a verse so often heard that it is ever imprinted on the landscape of our Christian minds and unnecessary to review, I invite you to read it again.

"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.   God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.  People who believe in God's Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God's one and only Son.  They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things.  All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do.  But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God."  John 3:16-21 (NCV)

In the message translation verses 19-21 can be read this way.

“This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."  John 3:19-21 (Message)

It is easy to dismiss an entire section of scripture because we believe it to be elementary, but learning the things of God cannot be compared to the American education system.  In kindergarten when we all learned the alphabet, that was it, there was no deeper meaning.  At the age of 34 I don’t need to reconsider the ABC song and what it might mean to me today after three decades of life experience.  Such is not the case for the Bible.  There is always more; more understanding, more wisdom, more revelation, more illumination, more of God.  God’s Word is four dimensional (probably more, despite my feeble minds ability to conceive of such things); though never changing, it is ever ascending higher, ever descending deeper, ever expanding wider, and ever living and breathing and moving.

Back to John 3.  It says that even when God’s light entered the world, “men and women everywhere ran for the darkness.”  I am one of those women, my husband is one of those men, every Christian I know is one of those people.  When the Light of Christ hit my life, I ran like a cockroach to the fringes, to the shadows.  I stayed in my anger, my bitterness, my sin.  Had I been allowed to stay in that darkness unchecked, I would have remained there until, of course, a deeper darkness enveloped me.  What changed?

Internally Illuminated Advertisement

Though, ultimately, choosing God was always my choice, God sent people to help.  For some, it takes very little illumination to convince them to escape the darkness of a life without God.  For others, like me, it required a parade (visualize Disney’s Light Parade, pictured below).  A life filled with people illuminating my world with the love of Christ.  Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  Though they did not constantly enter my personal space confronting me with the literal “Jesus Loves You” love of Christ, they did share their experiences with me.

Disney Light Parade
They were honest enough to be broken, yet miraculously whole.  To hear of literal miracles, inexplicable healing and provision has a way of chipping away at the darkest of hearts.  It is enough to draw our eye to Him.  When someone or something exceptional enters a room, heads turn, it’s in our nature to be attracted to goodness just as it’s in our nature to sin. 

“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

If we are designed to be drawn to God’s goodness, how can that happen while we are camped out in the dark, away from His Light, His goodness?  The answer:  Save those that are literally knocked on their hind quarters by God Himself (see Acts 9), most of us have to be made aware of God’s goodness and good intentions for our lives by other people.

Your Testimony is Key

Your testimony is important, not just for you, but for others.  It may seem small and pointless, but what you have experienced is, potentially, the key to unlocking someone else’s chains. 

Though it would be much more convenient and less embarrassing if we could just hand out “Jesus Loves You, No… He really does!” cards to passers-by, it simply does not work like that.  We’ve tried it, it doesn’t work.  People want something real and since Jesus is not here on this earth in the flesh, all He has to work with is you and me.  Unless we are real and transparent (with wisdom, of course) we are really quite useless.

Think about it, Jesus didn’t walk around telling everybody He loved them all the while doing nothing for them.  He was not this guy, regardless of how friendly this guy seems.  Jesus is not some cosmic bromantic comedy, leaving you smiling, unsure of the specifics and quickly empty.


God’s testimony of Jesus was found in the signs, wonders and miracles performed in His life on earth (John 10:25).  Jesus was sent with an arsenal to defeat doubt and unbelief; He spoke words of wisdom and knowledge, He healed, He multiplied provision, He calmed storms, He resurrected the dead, He showed unwarranted compassion and so He does today.  He understood that people needed a perfect Savior and a real God then and still do today.  If people are not made aware that God is real, then Christianity is simply a social group.

So, the question becomes, if Jesus is not walking the earth today in the flesh, then how can people experience a real God.  The answer is YOU!  You are the miracle!  We’ve all been brought back from death and destruction.  His testimony has not changed.  He is our redeemer, healer, provider, storm calmer, in Him is found all Truth. 
 
People did not follow Jesus because He was nice.  Though they may not have fully understood it at the time, they followed Him because He was God and could prove it.  People will not commit their lives and eternities to Christ because you are nice and follow a nice God.  They will commit because He is real and YOU can prove it.

Shame 

If you are not a person who shares their testimony, I challenge you today, share it!  There is power and freedom in it.  That freedom is two-fold, it is for you and for the hearer.  If there are elements of your testimony that are shameful, guess what, that’s true for everyone!  We’ve all done things for which we are ashamed and yet we are forgiven.  Shame is a weapon from the arsenal of the enemy, it is not of God.  Conviction?  Now, that’s a different story.  Let me illustrate this to you.

There are two men in the Gospel accounts.  One took the way of condemnation, shame and eternal damnation, the other took the path of conviction, repentance and eternal life.  Some may look at Judas Iscariot and see a man to despise and look down upon, but I do not.  We have all been thieves, we’ve all been liars, we’ve all betrayed our Savior.  If any of these fall on the list of unforgiveable sins, we’re all screwed. 

Some may look at Peter’s denial of Jesus as being a small bump in the road to sainthood, but I do not.  Peter was at a crossroads where he could have taken the potential shame of his denial and allowed it to upend the plans God had for him.  He chose to get back on plan A.
 
How powerful would Judas’ testimony have been had he not fallen prey to the weight of his shame? 

Do not become confused, I am in no way saying that if you don’t share your testimony you’re going to hell.  What I am saying is that pretending that God took you from good to better isn’t honest and it certainly doesn’t do Jesus’ work on the cross any justice.  While exercising wisdom, we should all be able to tell people how big our God is and give examples. 

If you fear sharing your first hand account of the expanse of God's love and forgiveness, look to Paul. He was responsible for persecuting and killing Christians. He could have allowed that shame to limit his testimony, but he did not. He connected to people on any level he could while remaining always in Christ.  People are broken without Christ.  Often times, they can only relate to brokenness.  If you were once broken like them and are now made whole, there is hope in that.  If you portray a life where you were never that broken, there is no hope for the hopeless, there is no freedom, there is no goodness to draw them. 

Actions Speak

We all know that actions speak louder than words in the world, it's practically an American proverb.  Since God has not ceased acting on our behalf, then, perhaps, it stands to reason we’ve just ceased talking about it.  People need to hear about what God has done in your life.

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:11-17 (NIV)

Sow some seeds of faith in someone else today.  Tell them the truth.  Tell them who you were and where you came from, then live a life that illustrates that Jesus changes everything. 


What is one word that would describe your testimony?  Leave it in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Night Walkers

Every now and then I get a wild hair to do something kind of random and lucky for me most of the time my kids get on board pretty easily. 

On Sunday evening around 5:30pm I decided that the kids and I should go for a walk.  Now, if it were during the summer or even last month, it would not have been unique.  However, it being the 20th of November, it was dark outside and CoLd! 

We bundled up, even the baby, and headed out.

We didn't know where we were going.  It was, what I like to call, an adventure!  I knew I didn't just want to walk around the block.  That would have been boring.  So, instead of turning right on the street just North of our street, we made a left.  As we made our way down the poorly lit, sidewalk-less street I began to second guess my choice.  But, I was brave, if for no other reason than I refuse to show silly fear in front of my kids.  Instead, I was excited. 

About halfway to Palm Avenue, which has actual street lights, I realized there was movement in the distance.  It was tall enough to be a human being, but it appeared to float from side to side.  It was clear the person was on either a bike or a skateboard.  Jacob took notice of it also, but he had just a the slightest hint of discomfort in his voice when he disclosed his discovery.  I assured him that I saw the individual and we scooted over a bit closer to the curb line.  As the man passed us on his bike, probably equally concerned we were some sort of street gang primarily made up of little people, my kids made him feel better by yelling "Hi!"  "Hello!"  "Hi!"  "Hello!", until finally he responded in kind. 

At this point we were like a little over a block away from home and only narrowly avoided a street battle, so far so good.  So when it came time to head either North or South on Palm, South being the direction to head if we wanted to quickly wrap up our excursion, we headed North!  The baby being asleep by this point, my boys were demanding some sort of explanation as to my plan.  I told them flatly that I didn't have one, we were wingin' it, flyin' by the seat of our pants. 

Walking up Palm Avenue, I realized that there is a lot of traffic.  With three loose little boys, I was quick to make sure they remained within sprinting distance.  Fortunately, my children are very aware of who would win if they went up against a vehicle, so we didn't even have any "close calls".  They did, however, remain quite curious as to the plan, as did I. 

When we found ourselves at Sierra Avenue, we were faced with another decision, turn right to head back home on the familiar route or remain heading North.  Turning left, wasn't really an option since it just headed into a neighborhood.  At that moment, I decided we weren't stopping until we got to Starbucks!  The plan was finally coming together and cocoa was definitely on the agenda. 

I only have one small character trait that emerges during moments like these, I hold my cards close to my chest.  As we crossed over into the unexplored world North of Sierra Avenue, the kids started to get a bit nervous.  Not scared, just a little concerned that I may not really know where I was going, but confident it was going to be fun. 

As we headed up Palm Avenue toward Herndon Avenue, it occurred to me that there were areas on the side of the street we were traversing that did not have sidewalk.  Had it been just me, it would not have been an issue of concern, but with three boys and a stroller, I was silently praying that a safe path would appear.  By this point, the boys were more comfortable with the idea that they'd never been down this particular road on foot and the baby was snoozing away.  It was getting pretty cold, but between hats and jackets and running too far ahead and back again, we were all comfortable. 

Then it happened.  The dark, overgrown end of the sidewalk appeared.  It was hard to see at first.  Part of me wondered if we'd have to walk through some sort of plant formed tunnel, but sure enough we could go no further.  We had three choices, turn back and find a cross walk, bolt across the four lane road to the other side or walk in the bike lane in hopes that a sidewalk would reappear.  We chose option three.

Fortunately, we only walked in the street for maybe twenty or thirty feet, but for that minute or two, we were living on the edge. 

Finding our way back on to a beaten path, we found ourselves being attacked by dogs on the other side of a very tall fence clearly labeled as housing security of the canine variety.  What was not clear was whether or not the dogs could break through the broken board and gaps.  Assuming that we were basically safe, I just warned the boys that if we didn't hasten our pace, the vicious mongrels might burst through and bite us.  It didn't happen and they were likely small breed dogs, but it sure did put a little pep in our step. 

Just as we passed Piazza del Pane, our destination came into view.  The green, glowing logo told the boys more clearly than I could have what my plan was, cocoa.  Excitement rippled through them like a shock wave, which may sound like an exaggeration, but you must understand that they very rarely get Starbucks or Dutch Bros and when they do, it is something to celebrate.

We carefully crossed the parking lot and made it to the door, where Domenic opened the door for the baby and I.  Once inside, I headed to the counter with the baby and the boys occupied three leather arm chairs and proceeded to look at the newspaper and chat.  It was a delightful sight for me to observe from across the room, my little men. 

Once we had our hot beverages and heated brownie, which we would split four ways, we decided to sit outside.  Between our bundling and the hot drinks, I knew we'd start overheating soon.  Someone brought the newspaper and there we sat on the patio discussing life.  At this point, the baby woke up to get some brownie, which she was quite pleased with.  I believe the term "best night ever" were tossed out, but who can be sure. 

Along the way home we took some pictures and had more fun, but the magical mystery of having an unknown destination was gone, though we did pass in front of an imposing, abandoned home.  There was some speculation as to whether or not it was haunted, but those sparks were quickly snuffed as I explained that the spirits of people who have passed-on do not remain on the earth.  There are only two choices.  Though I know this to be true, at night that very cool, two-story, brick home is a little creepy, even to me. 

We took the long way home that night; making our way down Palm Avenue, crossing over to Maroa Avenue by way of Sierra Avenue and found ourselves at home once again.  Once inside, we peeled off our outer layers of coats and hats and scarves only to find the air filled with coconut curry chicken... the perfect end to a perfect evening. 

Here are some pictures:




Monday, November 14, 2011

Life is Not Fair!

When I was a kid, I was always concerned with things being "fair".  If someone got three cookies, two simply would not suffice and don't even get me started on syncing up the glasses of milk.  I never thought it was fair that my baby brother got to stay up later than me, despite the fact that I was eight years older and had school the next day.  Even in junior high, I saw the inequity in the circumference of my thigh versus other girl's. 

When I started high school, I was the only kid who didn't live in the City.  As a result, every phone call I made was long distance and I rarely got to participate in extracurricular activities.  I went to a private Catholic High School, so needless to say it wasn't fair I didn't get my own car... or have a shopping budget. 

I've had "But, that's not fair!!" moments in my life far into adulthood.  Other than today, I don't think I've had one lately, but I think I might just be getting better at disguising them.

Did you catch that?  I had one today, but this time, it was a little different than in years gone by.

It's not fair that...

I have four healthy, beautiful children, when some parents struggle with disabilities, disease and loss.

I have a wonderful husband, when some women struggle with being single, being abused or becoming a widow.

I have a home, when so many do not.

I have a good job,when so many better qualified and better educated individuals are struggling to find employment.

I have so many loving family members, when so many struggle with dysfunction, abandonment, abuse and discord.

I have never been imprisoned, when there are so many who are or were for reasons both valid and invalid.

Life is not fair. 

John Bradford is credited with the quote "There but for the Grace of God go I." and never before have I better understood that statement in my own life.  I have done nothing to earn or deserve the goodness that has infiltrated and inhabited my life.  In fact, I have done just the opposite.  If my life were based upon receiving my "just desserts", I should have none of it. 

So, today, as I made every effort not to weep at a table filled with co-workers celebrating my boss' grandfather's 100th birthday, I was once again confronted with the fact that life is not fair.  You see, across from me sat a woman with her son who appeared to be three years.  For the fifteen or so minutes that we sat fifteen or so feet apart, it became very obvious that her son was both developmentally and physically disabled.  He was so sweet, I wanted to grab him and just hug him, but that would have been weird.  I know.

But, I could not weep for her, there was joy and love at that table.  I could not have permitted my sadness to tarnish her happy life, though I'm sure that she has shed many a tear.  Though, I cannot assume that my life is any more or less fulfilling compared to anyone else's life, I can appreciate the things in my life that are truly extraordinary.

Have you taken an assessment lately on all of the extraordinary things in your life that, to someone else, simply are not fair?      

Word Count: 568

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving

Much like last November, a number of my friends are taking a moment out of each day to post what they are thankful for on Facebook.  It’s pretty cool to see what they post.  There are things that they post that I identify with and others that I do not, but the best are the ones that I find true, but overlooked in my life.  I have so many things to be thankful for in my life, both historically and currently. 
Photo by Felixco, Inc.
There are the basics, the ones that rise to the top of the list, God, Husband, Kids, Job, Family, Church, Friends.  These are likely the same that rise to the top of your list as well, and most people to some degree.  Or at least that’s what I think, but is it really true? 

God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Does everyone have Jesus to run to on a daily basis?  I know that everyone has the opportunity to have Him in their life, but not everyone has made the choice.  Some people are blinded to the truth by pain, suffering, discouragement, depression, oppression, fear, and bitterness among other things.  Regardless of the reason, it’s all born from lies.

My Pastor is doing a series right now on “Is God Really Good?”  It’s a great topic.  I think most people who believe in God, don’t really consider the goodness of God.  That it is inherent to His Being.  They look at life and try to decipher what it says about God and His Goodness.  There is this underlying perception that, God is good, but He does bad things and we just don’t understand them, but they must be good because God is good, but He does bad things and we just don’t understand them, but they must be good because… you see where this is going.

So, if we doubt God’s goodness, how thankful can we really be?  How much confidence can we really walk in?  Perhaps, you are reading this and you’re thinking, “I don’t doubt God’s goodness, exactly, I just don’t see how He’s good to me.”

A lot of the time, we can identify the goodness of God in the lives of others around us, but not in our own lives.  If the goodness of God can only be identified in easily identifiable miracles or the external appearance of happiness in another person’s life, then we limit His goodness in our life.  It’s not that He’s not good, it’s just that we don’t see things as goodness. 

Here’s an example, let’s say that I feel like my husband never pays any attention to me.  That he never does anything nice to me and I feel unloved.  However, if I were to consider the fact that he makes and brings me a cup of coffee every morning because he loves me, then I might think differently.  The issue is not whether or not my husband loves me, the issue is that I have grown so accustomed to his love and goodness to me, that I no longer identify it correctly.  I think that there are many women who feel like this with their husbands and I think that there are many Christians who feel like this with God.

Each day, most of us have food to eat and a home to return to.  Each day, most of us have clean clothes to wear and our children are being educated.  Each day, all of us wake up to a brand new day and a brand new opportunity to connect with a God that loves us dearly , even when we do not choose Him.

Appreciation Takes Practice

If you are reading this today and cannot think of anything to be thankful for, I mean, really thankful for, not just the shrug paired with an obligatory fake smile and a flat “Thanks, God.”, then you must simply be out of practice.  You may even feel like clicking the “X” button at the top of this window because I’m annoying you now, but I ask that you finish reading and give thanks a chance!      

While writing this post, I saw this great quote, “It is not happy people that are thankful.  It is thankful people that are happy.”  I believe that regardless of your position on the goodness of God or even your belief in Him, this is true for everyone.  Happiness is the byproduct of thankfulness, not the other way around.  You may doubt it at first blush, but when you consider all of the individuals you have crossed paths with in life, you will find that in every case, the happiest people, regardless of financial stability and material means, were the most thankful for what they did have.

I have known people that have wanted for nothing, who came and went as they pleased, bought what they desired, needs were not even an issue, and yet, they were not happy.  If we are not careful, we can become much the same, though, we feel more justified because perhaps not all of our “needs” are being met.  Somehow, life in America has evolved much like the car industry; most of the “options” from years past are now standard.  Heating and Air Conditioning, convenient, but is it necessary to drive?  The dome light seems like and absolute necessity, but is it?  The list of vehicle upgrades that have become expected goes on and on. 

We treat life much the same way.  Annual vacations?  Necessary.  A vehicle for every person over the age of 16?  Necessary.  Simply having T.V. is not adequate, we must have cable, streaming video, DVD players, blue ray, video gaming systems, picture in picture, DVR, surround sound.  I’m not saying any of this is bad, but when the bar is raised so high that luxuries become necessities, how can we be truly thankful?  Practice, we must practice being thankful.  It may not be easy at first and we might even have to really stretch our imagination, but we all have something for which to be thankful.

Just Do It

Don’t let it join the other well intentioned changes on your to-do list, like going to the gym or eating healthier or spending less time on the internet; start today.  It doesn’t even require much of your time, just a few moments of each day, make it a point to think of something that you have to be truly thankful for. 

I am thankful for breathing.  I think that breathing is awesome.  I am especially thankful that I don’t have any health conditions or sensitivities  that might try my breathing.  It’s reasonably amazing that I can breathe while I’m sleeping; it’s nice to not worry about whether or not my body will forget while I am peacefully in dreamland.     

Breathing, it’s simple and unless you have an issue with it, becomes overlooked. 

I, too, will be practicing my thankfulness this month, but perhaps in a more wordy (like fifty-thousand-words  wordy) fashion.

Start now!  Take a moment to document one meaningful aspect of your life you are thankful for.  Like a beating heart, those are handy.  Give it a shot, it feels good and it gets easier.  I promise.

Word Count This Blog: 1,202

Word Count Total:        3,835


 



 

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Am Not a Gloom Cloud... Anymore.

There are some people in this world that just naturally gravitate towards being positive and shining a good light on every situation.  They disregard negative memories and focus on the good times.  There’s a silver lining to every cloud and they act like the sunlight visible just past the edge of the storm is already shining over them.  These people remind you that the rain is good for the flowers and that one day you will all laugh about the painful situation you may currently be passing through.  This is not my nature.

I try to be this person, I really do, though admittedly, sometimes it is with only half of my heart. 
Photo by Meepoofoto

The Tug-O-War

Since, becoming a Christian, I do make an effort, probably not my best effort, but an effort to approach situations from a Biblical perspective.  Often, I ask myself, “What does the Word say about this? About me?  About them?”  What I have realized that the old Devil/Angel sitting on our shoulder is kind of true.  Humans definitely have inner struggles, from a Christian perspective, it is the age old struggle between our spirit man and flesh man, with our soulish man becoming the object of a lifelong tug-o-war. 

Without going into detail of yesterday’s post, because the topic is entirely different (or is it?!), here is the scripture I quoted, shortened and in the New Century Version:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud.  Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.

The Challenge

As I was sitting at my computer this afternoon, trying to come up with something to write about, I realized I wanted to write about something funny or uplifting.  Perhaps I could recall something from my past that was fun that I could share.  I wanted to make at least one person smile… well, hopefully a handful, but smiling was on the agenda.  As I sat considering what funny story I could share, the only stories I could think of revolved around my kids and the funny things they say and/or do.  I decided I didn’t want it to become another mommy post, so I went back further.  I realized that primarily the only memories that quickly surfaced were negative.  I decided that sucked.

I realized that the choices I make today to focus on the negative make it so that my memories are negative.  I know, sounds obvious, but have you considered that the choices that you make today to remain negative will be carried with you into your future and possibly for the rest of your life?  I think that is crazy!  Not only do my decision to respond to today in the negative affect my day, today, but ten years from now when I try to remember something fun from my daughters first year of life, I will have nothing but negative.  I decided that sucked too.

I’m not saying that I am negative every day or that I’m a giant, gloom cloud floating through life, but my flesh man (picture a little devil that looks just like me on my shoulder) tries to put a negative filter on my life.  At any given time in my life, if I dig through the reel of memories, I often find I can only remember the bad things that occurred.  That being said, I have decided that I am going to make an effort to dig through my memory bank and find the positive and see life as it actually was, good and bad.

Now, I know that not everyone is negative, but I think, to some degree, we all tend to be lopsided.  Some people have the opposite problem, they only remember their past as a wonderful experience, even though others may not recall it as such.  I think the key is to make an attempt at being honest with ourselves. 

The Truth

I had a conversation with my mom while she was down last weekend and she said something that, though, specific, can be adapted to be a more broad truth, “We allow ourselves to believe a lie [from our past] so that we can keep being angry.”  Again, I think that’s totally true, sometimes, even when people tell us that our memory is not correct, we don’t believe them so that we can maintain the anger, the hurt, the ignorance, our pride, or whatever broken part of our personality that we try to keep intact.  So we don’t let truth in and remain in the bondage of that lie and we pay for it day after day and we make our friends and family pay for it day after day.  There is freedom in truth.

The truth that I need to get acquainted with is that I have happy memories!  That there were good times in between the drama and the negative experiences I had.  I did have a happy childhood; I was happy in junior high and high school.  I must choose to no longer focus on all that happened that was negative.  No, this is not out of living in denial, but finally admitting that I was created to live in hope, in trust and in love.  The few things in my life that occurred that would counter hope, trust and love can no longer be enlarged in my life and affect my outlook today.

The Start 

So I have to start somewhere right?  Here’s my first neglected, happy memory:

The year:             1993
The setting:        My living room in Clements
The scene:         

Picture a medium size living room, with blue gray carpet.  It was rectangular and much longer than it was wide.  It had a window that faced west, framing a perfect sunset every evening.  It had a wide open space in the middle and a large, oak entertainment cabinet on the North wall.  It was an afternoon like any other, except that I was in a particularly good mood.  I was hanging out with my younger brother and sister, who were probably 7 and 5 at the time.  We were just dancing around the living room to “She Don’t Use Jelly” by Flaming Lips; it was on repeat.  The room was filled with laughter and crazy dancing.  It was a great moment in time, filled with a goofy song and even goofier kids. 

It’s a small, silly memory, but it’s mine.  It reconnects me to a moment where I didn’t take myself so seriously.  It makes my heart smile and I hope in the very least it made you grin, if for no other reason than I used to like that song.

Do you find yourself gravitating toward a certain memory filter?  Please feel free to share!

Word Count This Blog: 1,167
Word Count Total:        2,633

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Fence You Should Never Build

Earlier this week, as I was driving in my blue Honda Minivan, I realized I didn’t really want to listen to music.  So, I opted to fill the silence with a teaching from November of 2008 by my Pastor, Randy Hand.  The only reason it occurred to me to listen to the CD was because a couple of weeks ago, we left our vehicle unlocked overnight and someone decided to ransack it.  In doing so, a couple of long forgotten teaching CD’s ended up on the flip up table in between the driver and passenger seat.  So, instead of ignoring my impulse to turn on the music anyway, I put the CD in and started to listen. 

It was funny, I actually remembered this teaching.  Obviously it had affected me enough to cause me to purchase the CD, but it was still surprising to me that I recalled it as well as I did. 
Photo by Nuchyle

The Trigger

As some of you may know, my husband, my co-worker and I had taken on running a pumpkin patch last month.  It was both a great and trying experience for each of us.  As the days passed following our grand opening, our excitement and energy built up, along with our hope of the financial success that the pumpkin patch would become, until a week before Halloween when the hope began to slip.  At that point tensions were high and though there wasn’t any bickering, everyone knew on some level that this horse we had all gambled on was not the winner we had all imagined.

As a result of the impending failure and weariness from being constantly on the go, my husband and I were becoming increasingly short with one another.  Little annoyances grew into small arguments and snide remarks.  I found that I even managed to revive issues that were long since dead and buried, or so I had thought.

The Epiphany

Then, as I sat in my van, listening to Pastor Randy starting speaking about offense my mind kept wandering back to my husband.  I kept shooing away that thought, like a pesky fly.  As Pastor Randy continued to speak about John the Baptist and his disappointment in Jesus and his overall situation as he sat in prison, awaiting to be beheaded, the thought kept appearing.  Pastor Randy explained that John was really offended that Jesus hadn’t handled things the way he had hoped and that further, John had allowed that offense to prevent the power of God to operate in his life. 

Pastor Randy continued by providing some examples of feelings we may have that would indicate an offense.  I found myself identifying with at least one of the examples.  During this time, my husband kept popping up in my head, but I convince myself that it couldn’t be correct because this was a topic dealing more with acquaintances and friends and perhaps even family members, but the relationship between a man and a wife is totally different.  If I’m mad, it’s because I have a good excuse… ummmm… I mean reason.  Clearly John the Baptist didn’t have a really good reason to be upset, but a marriage is a different thing.  I can’t just NOT be mad, right? 

Just as soon as those thoughts passed through my little head, Pastor Randy said that he felt the anointing to talk about this concept in the confines of marriage.  Wow, really?  At this point, I really started to listen, because clearly God was talking to me.  It’s funny that even though a word may have been spoken years ago, it is still living and active and able to change lives, if we take the time to listen.

Apparently, I’m a little slow on the uptake, if I’m still dealing with these issues, but somehow, I really thought I was better.  What I found is that I’m still kind of a brat.  When things don’t go the way that I want them to, I allow it to affect my attitude.  I allow it to affect how I respond to others and even perceive others.  Really, when I go into offense mode, it opens a door to the enemy to just start shoveling crap at me, old crap, new crap, true crap and false crap.  I then become pretty easy to offend all around. 

I had thought that I genuinely had spiritually outgrown being offended.  I’ve actually told people that I’m difficult to offend and that is true to some extent.  There are areas of my life that I’ve really matured in, where it is difficult to offend me.  That being said, there are still some areas that need a little TLC.

It Actually Is Me, This Time

This post is not about the pumpkin patch, nor is it about my husband, what it is about is me and how easy it is to get a false sense of security in my own maturity.  I have found that I have a tendency to fence off certain relationships or memories or aspects of my personality and give it a pass.  I thought I was done with that, but here I am once again realizing that it’s there… again. 

Yes, people make choices relative to their own behavior, but what they do not have control over is how I respond.  Simple concept?  Yes.  Difficult concept?  Absolutely. 

Often times we hear ourselves saying things like:

“You make me so mad!”
“You hurt my feelings.”
“Why do you make me act like this?”

The truth is that regardless of what a person says or does or how a situation turns out, it is always our choice to respond correctly. 

Food for Thought

The Bible Says:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:3-7

Now, even if you aren’t a Christian, this is wise counsel.  However, if you are a Christian, this idea of unaddressed offense can have huge implications.  More on that in a future post.

Word Count This Blog:   1,096
Word Count Total:          1,466 - Not good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fifty Thousand Words, What?

Today begins something of a terrifying and wonderful challenge; write 50,000 words during the month of November.  There is a group of writers, NaNoWriMo (it’s real; look it up), who will also be taking on this challenge, just in the form of novel writing.  Since, I’m not really up for writing a novel, I’ve decided to simply write 50,000 words in the form of daily blogs.  I did not invent this variation of the challenge, but read about the idea on another blog.  Along with me will be Ernie Garcia and Topaz, please feel free to check out their blogs. 

The thought of being responsible for writing this many words makes me think 2 things:  (1) I am crazy,  and (2) I need to use short words.   

As for topic, I have no real plan.  I’m thinking I might write some short stories, though, I’m fairly confident that most of what I write will be opinion based. 

Here are some thoughts for your, the reader.  First, please do not feel obligated to read every blog I post during the month of November.  I understand that you have not signed up for any of this, so I will not be offended if you choose to skip a blog or two or twenty.  Second, I do not plan to do much editing, so plan on an increase of grammar and spelling errors.  I am truly going for quantity over quality this month.  I had thought I might not post every blog, but my husband indicated that there might be some question as to my actually writing the 50,000 words.  Lastly, there is a chance that I will throw the number 50,000 around a lot.  Does it seem adequately overwhelming if I spell it?  FIFTY THOUSAND.  I’m not entirely convinced that either option really conveys the fear that that number fills me with.

At the end of each post I will also include the word count in each post.  This should be interesting regardless of its success or utter failure.  If you are a writer who feels compelled to join us, please feel free to leave a comment below so I can check out your blog and post a link!

Here we go!! 
 

Word Count This Blog:   370

Word Count Total:           370