Archive for February, 2013

Stop Being Dumb

Sometimes empathy and sympathy aren’t what’s needed. Sometimes what people need to hear is:

 And a little blunt.

And a little blunt.

Stop being dumb.

*****************

You know that:

relationship

habit

grudge

lifestyle

resentment

hostility

spending

time wasting

procrastination

secret thing

is killing you. On the inside.

******************

Stop.

Stop it.

Stop rationalizing.

Stop making excuses.

********************

Make the phone call.

Cut up the credit card.

Put up the mental firewall against your own meanness.

Say no.

Throw it away.

Turn it off.

End the relationship.

Make the effort. With every ounce of determination in you.

Today.

Now.

*********************

And if you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, perhaps this is the answer to your prayer:

Stop doing wrong. Learn to do good. Isaiah 1:16b, 17a (NCV)

If we’ll get out of our own way, stop being our own worst enemy, God is actually able to work.

Said with love. From experience.

What do you think?

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My 2012 Book Group List

 Well, do you?

Well, do you?

For the past several years, I have been part of a Book Group and I always look forward to the monthly meetings with these smart, funny, well-read (and Christian) women. Our book choices are eclectic, ranging from classics to  current NY Times bestsellers.

Here is what we read together in 2012, January to December, with brief comments from me:

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand: In WWII, Louis Zamperini survived a plane crash in the Pacific and unspeakable torture. He is still alive. Read my blog review.

Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis: A huge, and deserved, 2012 success. Read my review.

Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch:  After losing a beloved sister to cancer, Sankovitch decided to read a book a day for a year. How she navigated her grief through this extraordinary effort is both touching and inspiring. A great book for book lovers.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I reviewed this also. Read it here.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton: Set in the 1950s and moving through the next few decades, the story follows a group of women who form a book club. Sticking together through triumph and loss – and women’s lib – they grow in the confidence to work on their dreams. Good chick lit.

Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson: A short, dreamy, visionary book unlike the British crime fiction Davidson was best known for. He said the story came to him suddenly and seamlessly. Suggested by an English teacher in our group who assigns this very vivid little book each year to her students.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult:  This ueber-creative writer takes on Asperberger’s Syndrome, which is similar to autism. Everyone should read a Picoult book at some time or other. This would be a good one.

The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy: Set in the occupied Channel Islands during WWII, a young wife struggles to raise her two girls while her husband is away fighting. Her relationship with a German officer is at the heart of this very human story. Similar in some ways to the excellent 2004 British television series, “Island at War.”

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead: I saw this book in a catalog and broke a BG rule by suggesting it before I read it. The group agreed it sounded interesting: a story of the friendship of women in the French resistance during WWII. It is, in fact, a searing account of Birkenau and Auschwitz. Very tough reading, but the kind of book we should all get through once in awhile to remind us of the appalling sacrifices for freedom.

The Christmas Cantata by Mark Schweizer: We needed something light after “Train”, and this was a good choice. Set in St. Germaine, NC, it has the homey feel and small town drama of Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Lighthearted and warm, it’s a nice read.

So there it is, a fine sampling of good reading over the course of a year.  A Book Group encourages you to read outside your own box or literary tendencies, sample something new – and then get to express your opinion about it!

And people who love books are always good company.

Do you belong to a Book Group? If not, have you ever thought about starting one or joining one?

Traveling Light for Lent

I had what is now frequently – and I think quaintly – described as a “fundamentalist” upbringing. We were pretty fundamental in our views about a host of things, including the rituals of mainline denominations.

Some years ago I became curious about the feasts and fasts of the religious calendar year. I had conversations with friends whose churches faithfully marked and celebrated those days. From them I learned that these were not rituals at all. They were signposts throughout the year that urged: “Remember the Lord here.”

And they do.

Truth.

Truth.

I decided to observe the 40 days of Lent. That first year I gave up dessert.

Before you chuckle and try to pat me on the head, may I say that Lenten resolutions are acts that either:

  • the doing of, or,
  • the refraining from

serve to remind us of the Lord’s sacrifice.

Believe me, with my sweet tooth, I thought about the Lord a lot during that first Lenten season.

This year I was thinking, thinking, how shall I observe Lent?

Then I had a conversation with a friend about stuff. Boxes of stuff that needed going through. Accumulation. Excess.

This is a rather painful subject for me. Several years ago, after the sudden death of my father, my siblings and I had to liquidate the aggregation of 57 years of marriage in the space of 2 weeks. Trying to navigate through those physical reminders of their lives and make those hundreds of decisions while deep in grief was, and I do not overstate this, a nightmare.

I have often thought since those terrible days: What if I get hit by the proverbial truck tomorrow? Would I want my husband and children to be faced with the garage? Or my cupboards or drawers or boxes?

No.

I decided that I would begin decumulating. This is a word I made up, but it states perfectly my point.

 Truth.

More truth.

Since I have not been decumulating rapidly enough, I decided to make it my Lenten resolution. Each week during Lent (this year February 13 – March 30) I will:

  • throw away
  • give away
  • or list on Craigslist or eBay

one or more stored items.

Or:

I will go through one box in my garage.

And as I do, I will remember that Jesus, my Great Example, traveled light. He calls me to take up my cross of discipleship and follow Him. That can be difficult tethered to large quantities of the Things of Life.

My stuff is my responsibility. So, self, deal with it.

And remember the Lord as you do.

Have you made a resolution for Lent? If so, would you be willing to share it here? Click “Leave a Comment” above.

A Small Valentine

 Playing with our shadows.

Playing with our shadows.

In years to come, she won’t remember me putting on her ladybug rainboots or zipping up her jacket.

Those bright winter mornings out the door, down the sidewalk to go check on the cows.

The smooth river rocks in the neighbor’s yard where we stop and she chooses some to take on our walk.

 One for me, one for you.

One for me, one for you.

Climbing up on the porch of the corner house with its old white, weathered, 2 seat rocking chair and sitting down together because she wants to. Sitting just so and rocking just so and feeling the morning sun on our faces and listening to the mockingbird in the pines across the street.

She is 2 years old, only 2, and she won’t remember.

On down the street to the house with the ceramic rabbit in the small rose garden with its little bench where we must sit again for awhile and hold the rabbit and watch the blackbirds overhead and the airplanes.

 Singing, too.

Singing, too.

The lot where yellow mustard grows and tiny orange wildflowers that must be picked and taken with us.

Crossing the street to where the calves are waiting. Frisky and Freddy and Bubble Gum and the two black calves that are very shy.

She will have no memory of taking handfuls of hay and feeding the cows with their funny wet noses and leathery tongues that take the hay from her small hands.

 Freddie and Natalia.

Freddie and Natalia.

Sitting in the sun on the big old tractor, holding our flowers and her saying, “You’re Kicky and I’m Starka.” She taking the taller yellow flowers because she is big, and I, because I am little, taking the small orange ones.

 Love.

Love.

She will not remember looking up at me with those beautiful clear blue eyes and the sun on her strawberry blond hair as we sit together in the winter sunshine and suddenly saying in that little girl voice,

“I love you so very much.”

But I will remember.

With my last breath I will remember.

We’ve all been blessed with small valentines. What are some of yours?

Extravagant Promises: What About Whatever?

All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring it into oneness with Himself. (Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, 1875)  I wish sometimes I could staple Hannah’s great quote to my brain.

A reader of my post, Prayer Is, asked me to share my thoughts on John 14:13 & 14:

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Some years ago, I taught a study called Live a Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It changed my concept of prayer. The 12 week course starts with this premise:

The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God.

 No my will.

Not my (unruly, tenacious) will.

My task, as a believer, is to be so surrendered to God that His desires become mine. Believe me, this is not easy. My will has muscles I didn’t even know existed.

In the study, Dean includes a section on the “extravagant promises” of Jesus. Not surprisingly, the John 14 verses appear in that section. Those texts prompt an obvious question:

Is this a carte blanche statement?

Well, yes, with one important condition. Every “whatever you ask” verse has what Dean calls a “relationship requirement.” Complete (as in “complete”) surrender to the will of God, abiding in the True Vine.

Addressing this point, South African pastor and revivalist, Andrew Murray, wrote: “The whatsoever is unconditional except for what is implied in the believing. Believing is the exercise of a soul surrendered to the influence of the Word and the Spirit [emphases mine].

God, he says, then breathes into us our praying.

I love that thought.

When we are unconditionally surrendered to the will of Christ, He is able, when necessary, to:

  • correct our petitions
  • alert us to the corrections
  • thereby making our prayers more answerable.

THIS IS A GREAT THOUGHT. TAKE SOME TIME TO THINK IT.

When we learn to pray His heart, we recognize His answers as exactly what we need.

And that will be whatever enough.

What is your greatest need in regard to prayer? Time? Desire? God has all the time in the world and can help us set aside the time we need to be with Him.

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