Archive for the ‘Random Thinkings’ Category

Are You Underestimated?

Imagine the 14th century b.c. Imagine arriving from your simple dwellings in the Nile River valley to the splendor of the palace of Rameses II. Stand before that figure seated on that throne in your worn sandals and homespun robes and hear him tell you to start killing newborn Hebrew males.

I'm sure they would even have resisted Yul.

I’m sure they would even have resisted Yul.

I love this story. I love the refusal of the two midwives, Puah and Shiphrah, to be intimidated by one of the most powerful men in the world. I love their quiet, fierce resistance to evil.

Consider the consequences:

  • Their courage made it possible for a large population of men, saved as infants, to eventually leave Egypt. They were led by Moses, a man also miraculously spared.
  • Those men had sons and grandsons born and bred in the desert.
  • Joshua trained those tough, sturdy sons in the military arts and took back the land of Canaan in a brilliant military campaign whose strategies are still taught at war colleges in the United States.

Resist the devil and he’ll flee. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome it with good. Not just clever Biblical maxims, but powerful spiritual truths.

If you’re in need of a shot of courage, remember Puah and Shiphrah and all the midwives who stood with them. Dig deep. Let the enemy look at you and underestimate.

Exodus, chapter 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I Failed a Pop Quiz on Default Behavior

You remember those mornings in high school. Teacher finishes taking roll, stands up and writes on the board:

PQuiz

You’ve been listening in class. Sort of. Taking notes. Usually. Doing your homework. Pretty much.

Now  you’ll prove it.

I failed a Pop Quiz on Default Behavior the other day. Badly.

It all starts when I volunteer to prepare a light breakfast for our Men’s Retreat. This is an annual one-day event at our church.

CTLogoCT is on Fulton Road in Santa Rosa, California. This is vital information.

I get everything ready early in the morning. Fruit, croissants, eggs to boil, Li’l Smokies in the crockpot.

We live exactly 6 1/2 minutes from the church. My daughter, Jessica, who is graciously helping, takes the eggs and sausages and leaves a few minutes before me.

I have just left the house when she calls to say the streets are closing due to a “bike race.”

Uh oh.

Our beautiful Sonoma County is a magnet for wine lovers, redwood tree enjoyers, and bikers. You see bikers frequently on our roads and lanes, pedaling along all hunched over, looking quite serious.

Oh, boy.

Oh, boy.

And every fall there is a huge biking event in our fair county called Levi’s GranFondo. It draws 7,500 participants who spend the day riding the county on staggered courses. Streets are closed. Detour signs, no-right-turn signs, and don’t-even-think-about-it signs sprout early on a Saturday morning.           Don'tEvenThink

DetourNoRtTurn

It passes right by CT. We had forgotten it was THIS Saturday.

Take Marlow to West College, Jessica says.

On the way, I check a couple of other possible streets to Fulton. Closed. I approach West College, which is just being sealed off.

I am puzzled. They can’t keep me from actually getting to CT.

Can they?

When the traffic person begins waving us through – in the wrong direction – I slow and ask, how do I get to Fulton? She seems flustered and tells me to check streets that, it turns out, I’ve already checked. I explain this, somewhat calmly. Just go, she says finally, with an abrupt wave.

I go.

If only.

If only.

I’m on the phone with my husband, who hasn’t yet ventured into this Brave New Morning. Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you, he says. You can’t help me? Shall I ram the barriers? Helicopter in? I HAVE THE REST OF YOUR BREAKFAST!

At one detour I see a huge group of bikers rush past like a spandex nightmare. The traffic person with whom I plead for help assures me that is the main batch and streets will open soon.

I drive on. At one point, I see a biker stopped at a yard sale. Something about it infuriates me. He is looking at tchotchkes while GranFondo and his weird-helmeted friends are seriously fouling up my morning.

It occurs to me that I’m in Dante’s 10th circle of hell without a bicycle.

On the phone with my husband again. You could have cut through the gas station on the corner near the church, he says, having already arrived at CT. This revelation makes me feel like an idiot. It should have occurred to me. When I was over there. 35 minutes ago. And the fact that he is already at the church is Just Wrong.

Gaskets. Blowing.

Gaskets. Blowing.

Frustration is beginning to loosen the little gaskets in my brain.

Ten minutes later I’m back at the gas station, circumventing the detour, and pulling into the CT parking lot.

Inside, my daughter has the serving area prepared, smokies are heated, eggs are boiled, a pot of coffee is ready.

Instead of being grateful and gracious, my 40 minutes of being detoured and waved off and no-right-turned blows the gaskets and I’m teary and furious and, well, it was ridiculous.

What’s wrong with you? A tiny piece of rationality has survived the tempest in my brain. Why didn’t you simply stop at some point and think about what you were doing? The operative word here, by the way, is think.

Fact is, I was reminded of some important truths after this little test:

  • My opinion of the circumstances had no bearing on the fact of the circumstances.
  • Stopping and thinking would have given me time to cool down, consider the options, and communicate calmly.
  • I would then have been able to arrive at my destination having accepted that an event was occurring over which I had no control.

Now I have all that messy repenting and apologizing to do. And I will marinate in my chagrin for the rest of the day.

And by the way:

  • Shouldn’t we be wise enough to recognize how the enemy exploits our default behaviors?
  • Shouldn’t we also be wise enough to modify our default behaviors?*

Yes.

Time to be better prepared for the next test.

*Not rhetorical questions. I’d love your thoughts. Please click on “Leave a Comment” above.

Why It’s Best to Deal With the Roots

There they are, parents and students and other helping folk. Got their gloves and rakes and wheelbarrows and good intentions.

As perennial as the weeds they are so vigorously uprooting.

Once or twice a year these teams of volunteers show up very early on a Saturday morning in front of the elementary school down the road from where I live. Soon they are chopping and pulling and hauling away the huge, unsightly weeds. Then shoveling and spreading the bright new shredded bark.

Winter.

Winter.

When the school was originally built some years ago, a landscaping company cleared and leveled a large area by the front parking lot and a narrower strip between the sidewalk and street. It was then covered in the ubiquitous bark. Landscapy grasses were placed here and there.

It looked great.

 Until it rained.

           And weeds sprouted unrestrained.

                   Then the annual pilgrimage of goodhearted volunteers began.

Late spring.

Late spring.

Fact is, the underlying problem has never been addressed. When they have their goodhearted meetings about cleaning up the school grounds, no one says: “Hey, wait a minute! Why don’t we

                                              scrape off the old bark,

                                                         spray weed control,

                                                                   cover with weed barrier fabric,

                                                                             then add bark!”

No one agrees: “Great idea! It would ultimately cost less and we would have far less work and then we could volunteer for other projects which don’t prove the old maxim that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!”

Winter.

Winter, etc.

Instead, the teams of goodhearted volunteers will reappear in the next few weeks.

         The ugly weeds will be tackled. Again.

               The bark will be spread. Again.

                     And everyone will go home feeling really good about their service to the community.

Proving, again, that the unaddressed roots of bad things never really go away.

If you have some unaddressed roots, how can you deal with them today?

Remembering on This September 11

Never forget.

Never forget.

Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about in the days leading up to this terrible anniversary:

  •  Time does heal. Sometimes, however, it simply provides an anesthetizing balm. When this thins, as it does occasionally, the bright, sharp pain of loss wounds again. We are reminded of this every year when family members of those lost on 9/11 are interviewed.
  • The capacity for human courage is stunning. There is something about the accounts of the firefighters on that day that feels like it will never be fully comprehended. Entering the apocalyptic scene in those towers carrying 60 lb packs, taking turns carrying heavy high-rise air hoses, climbing the stairs in utter determination in the blistering heat and smothering smoke. Floor after floor to their doom. 343 of them.
  • The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? God can. And does. There is a particular comfort in this, the knowledge that there are no surprises, nothing unforeseen by Him.
  • The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. A familiar quote, and true. Evil will never be a benign, passive force in the world. A day like today reminds us that the good and right must be equally aggressive in protecting its own.
  • We need a Savior. The history of mankind is pockmarked with horror. One of the overarching messages of the Bible is that this is not all there is. Without that truth, we would live in the constant companionship of despair. No need. Christ has come. We trust the future to Him.

We pray for the families of those lost on that day. For the wives and husbands and children, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – all those who lost loved ones in the towers, the Pentagon, in the field at Shanksville, PA, and now, Benghazi. That, at least, we can do.

How to Deal With Bad Company

Your life.

Your life.

How do we maintain a pollution-free life? Are we willing to honestly assess the influence others have on us? How high do we set the bar for our personal relationships?

A recent series taught by our pastor, Nicolas Celovsky, has me thinking about this subject.

Following are some thoughts taken from the series material, along with my comments:

Be an overcomer. Okay, that may sound like a religious buzz-phrase. Too bad. It’s still true. The gospel does not promote wimpiness, weakness, or indecision. Especially when it comes to identifying adverse influences and removing them from our lives.

Put a premium on purity. Particularly in regard to sexuality and the media. When it’s filth, have the courage to call it what it is. Don’t tolerate it. You may, as our pastor pointed out, need to do a spiritual detox with the Word and prayer. Again, have the courage.

Solomon said, very succinctly: Bad company corrupts good character.

Realistically assess the people in you life. Family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers. Here are some guidelines identifying 3 types of toxic people:

  • Users. One-sided relationships. These folks use others to validate themselves. They are jealous, which is why they celebrate your failures and covet your successes. What to do? Minimize contact or end the relationship.
  • Abusers. They live toxic lives and don’t care how it affects you. Seeking to sabotage your Christian lifestyle. Actively hostile to your faith. It is shocking how many believers maintain contact with these kinds of people. Have some self-respect and end these relationships.
  • Losers.  Broke, self-destructive, lazy. They are specialists at trying to provoke pity. Their company is guaranteed to exhaust you, which, perversely, causes them to feel better about themselves. Let them go.BeBold

The Bible, always blindingly realistic, provides numerous examples of bad company. It also insists that the follower of Christ be wise, discerning, and bold in maintaining a pollution-free life. For instance, seek out safe relationships with people who:

  • Challenge you. As in encourage, warn, admonish. You need someone in your life with the freedom to say, “Stop being dumb.”
  • Have similar goals. Who share your faith, are children of light. That term, by the way, is biblical. Develop deep and lasting relationships with people headed in the same direction.
  • Encourage your faith. Does this person build you up spiritually? Is your walk stronger after you’ve been with them?

Relationships with good company often have to be intentionally pursued.

So intentionally pursue. You are building a strong, healthy, and productive life for God’s kingdom when you do.

And that’s rather the point, isn’t it? 

In your own life, do you recognize any of the toxic people identified here? If so,what are you willing to do about it?

This Thing Called Love

Recently I was asked to submit an article on the topic of “Love” to Vecny Zivot, a Christian Slovak publication. Thought I would share it with my readers.

What is This Thing Called Love?

How do you know when you are in the presence of love?

Is it a feeling? A state of being?

Well, not exactly.

Well, not exactly.

It’s easy for us to speak of love as if it were a big bowl of chocolate: creamy and  delicious.

Everyone wants it.

But, wait. We have an entire chapter in the Bible devoted to its description. And it’s pretty tough.  Here are some of the Apostle Paul’s thoughts on the nature of love:

  •    It is patient (very patient)
  • ·  It is not possessive or competitive
  • ·  It is not rude
  •   It bears all things (endures wrongs and doesn’t share them with others)
  •   It believes all things (is not cynical)
  • ·It hopes all things (stays positive)
  •  And it endures all things (resists the temptation to return evil for evil).

It governs its thoughts.

Love is the essence of God, the character of Christ.

But what is it exactly?

Go ahead. Be awesome.

Go ahead. Be awesome.

Fact is, we only know we are in the presence of love when we see it in action. Feelings of love without the expression of love are lifeless and powerless.

Think about that.

In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff writes: I used to think being a believer was enough, but now I know Jesus wants us to participate, no matter what condition we’re in.

Love acts. It reaches out. It does not refrain from doing good.

As Christians, we are children of God and, therefore, children of love. Christianity is a revelation of love. And it is our ministry in the world.

Sometimes in our daily lives we forget this.

We may have been raised in the church and be familiar with all its workings. We may know the Word and be skilled in preaching or teaching. We may exercise spiritual gifts.

But if we are not acting in love, then all of those things are noise with no substance (I Cor 13:1).

God so loved the world that He gave and loved and gave and loved. He demonstrated that:

  • Love is the strongest sustaining power in the universe. We can rest in the knowledge of God’s love for us.
  • Love is the strongest resisting power. When we are preoccupied with the work of love, temptation has far less effect on us.
  • Love is the strongest attracting power. Few human beings can resist the power of God’s love generously shared by His people.

You and I have been called to do the marvelous work of love. No need to delay.

Who knows what God is waiting to do through us?

What is love doing today through you?

Crossing My Mind

So I’ve been away from my blog for awhile, helping with some family business. However, I HAVE been thinking, albeit a little randomly.

For instance:

  • Mother’s Day is better out-of-doors. At my request, we picnicked in a spectacular redwood grove, followed by a walk
     Growing our family

    Growing our family.

    among the giants in warm, spring sunshine. Since this reminded my oldest son of the ewok speeder bike scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (which was filmed in the redwoods near Crescent City, CA from whence one of daughters-in-law hails – got that?), we went home, napped, then watched the movie. It was awesome. I get to use that word because it was Mother’s Day.

  • I have garden envy. My carrots, which should have burst forth from the ground in gratitude after all my effort, are anemic little things. I pass the garden box of a neighbor every morning on my walk and her carrots are glorious. Which feels like a daily poke in the eye.
  • The Bible is by far the most interesting book in the world.  It cannot be surpassed in historical drama, quality of poetry and literature, or mindblowing truth. Anyone who does not regularly read the Bible is missing out on soul food AND brain food.                                       
  • I would rather live in earthquake country than tornado country. Don’t even TRY to argue with me about this.
  • A determined and resourceful three-year-old will find the scissors.                 
  • Too many books are too long. There. I said it. Sometimes I have the urge to send a note to the author of a book I just finished and say: You had some great thoughts here. Wish you would have shared them in FEWER WORDS.
  • The noun “pigeon” should always be preceded by the adjective “nasty.”
  • People who slide through just-turning-red lights are idiots. It is a stupid, deadly habit.
  • There are few cookie recipes that cannot be improved by adding chocolate chips and walnuts. 

     Bought them for my kids. Buying them for my grandbabes.

    Bought them for my kids. Buying them for my grandbabes.

  • Saltwater Sandals will never go out of style.                      
  • I am always surprised to hear the witch in Sleeping Beauty say “powers of hell.” How did that get past the censors in a children’s movie in 1959?
  • Don’t kid yourself, you’re never really done with the laundry.
  • I love the comment made recently by a congressman regarding the boneheads appearing before an oversight committee: “We don’t think they could be so dumb as to not know so much.” Truth embedded in a charming double negative.
  • There is no greater pleasure than reading to a child.                                                      

    Bliss.

    Bliss.

And, finally, family’s my favorite. Always will be. I hope yours is, too.

Have some random thoughts of your own to share?

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