Archive for August, 2012

Next week marks the start of a ten day motorcycle trip from our home in Washington State to the Colorado Rockies and back again.  It’s called vacation – you know, that thing that brings up visions of rest, relaxation and lazy days.  Of course to get from here to there takes an awful lot of hard work.  Why do we do that to ourselves? We push so hard getting ready to ‘rest and relax’ we are too tired to enjoy it when we have the opportunity.

I’ve been putting in some long days at the office trying to get ahead, to set things up to ward off any crisis  in my absence, and to finish up every loose end so I can return to a clean desk.  After long days at work I’m cleaning, washing and packing at home.  Add to that the planning out of a couple of Sunday worship programs to make it easy for my team while I’m gone while still maintaining the every day schedule of grandkids, meetings, normal life (if there is such a thing) and I’m pretty much frazzled.  My goal is to get away but make it seem like I’m not even gone while at the same time making sure my absence is noted.  Is that twisted or what?

I came home extremely exhausted Tuesday night and my husband’s comment was, “You’d better toughen up because we’re going to have some ten hour days on the bike ahead.”  Imagine how that perked me up!  If you’ve ever motorcycled you know that ten hour days can be brutal.  My first thought after his comment was, “unsubscribe me.”  I don’t want to wear myself out getting ready to wear myself out.

Do you ever feel like life is just a series of trying to get caught up, set up and psyched up for tomorrow so you can start it all over again when tomorrow gets here?  I do, quite often in fact. You don’t have to tell me, dear friends who are reading this right now like Connie and Diane, that I am my own worst enemy.

But, even though I’ll be worn out by departure day, here’s what I’m clinging to, what I know from past experience to be true:

  • I won’t be in the kitchen for ten whole  days.  Someone else will be doing the cooking, the serving and the dishes. That’s a big hallelujah!
  • I won’t be driving.  I’ll be sitting back enjoying the scenery, making up stories in my head, pondering, telling myself jokes (yes, I do that), hugging my guy now and then just for the heck of it, and letting stress and tension blow off my shoulders and fall to the road behind me.
  • I won’t be responsible for making decisions about the route.  That’s all mapped out by my husband.
  • I won’t be donning high heels, pantyhose and business suits for ten whole days.  I’ll be pulling on jeans and t-shirts, hiding my hair under a helmet and looking cool in leather.
  • I won’t be rushing from work to a meeting at church then to home, laundry and meal prep.  I won’t be rushing anywhere.  I’ll be moving at the speed dictated by my ride, breathing deep and smiling the whole time (except maybe on those 10 hour days).
  • In the evenings I’ll be settling down in a nice clean motel room, journaling about the great sights and experiences of the day.
  • I’ll be spending quantity and quality time with my best friend in all the world, my husband of 45 years, something that gets pushed aside too often.
  • I’ll be tired but happy, a little sore but relaxed.  And the one thing I won’t be is busy!  I’m in a hurry to get to that point (which I realize is an oxymoron).
  • And by the way,I won’t be blogging for the next two Mondays or Fridays.  When I return I should have some great stuff to share with you though.

I would covet your prayers for good weather, a safe journey and grace moments each day. God always gives me beautiful insight and speaks to me often as we roar along.  I’m looking forward to those conversations most of all.

It is useless for you to work so hard  from early morning until late at night,  anxiously working for food to eat;  for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127:2

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As a follow up to my pedicure post of last Friday, I have further proof that they are biblical.  I did finish up my conference by treating myself to a relaxing, refreshing pedicure. I took my 14 year old granddaughter, Bailey, along because it was her turn for time with grandma and I invited my sister because she had helped me out at the conference.

Here’s what you need to know about my sister to get the gist of this story.  She is about as different from me as you could imagine.  I am tall, she is short.  I can enter a room and the air will hardly move.  She enters a room and people begin looking around for the hurricane.  I spend a lot of time getting ready to set foot outside my house.  She jumps into the day with a quick comb, a dash of toothbrush and comfortable clothes.  You might never even notice that I was in the room.  She never leaves a room without leaving laughter behind.

As an example of our different take on things, when she showed up to help me for the conference she had forgotten to change out of her old comfortable grey slippers.  Didn’t bother her a bit.  Me – I’d have driven back to my house to get my shoes regardless of the distance or the time crunch.  I would have died of embarrassment if anyone had seen me in my slippers.  She, on the other hand, had everyone laughing and thinking it was the most natural thing in the world and wishing they’d brought their slippers along.

So, I invited her to accompany me for a pedicure.  At first she refused because she’d never had one and she can’t stand to have her feet touched.  I was able to convince her she’d love it never dreaming the treat would be mine and that of everyone in near proximity.

By the time I closed up the conference, loaded everything in my car and shook the last hand of the last participant I was actually thinking of cancelling and just going home to crash.  I’m so glad I didn’t.

The first person I spotted when I walked into the spa was my best friend already sitting in Chair 1.  That was a pleasant surprise.  I grabbed Chair 2, Bailey Chair 3 and my sister, Su, Chair 4.  We sat back, dipped out feet into that wonderful soothing foot bath and proceeded to let Su entertain.  Between squeals and gasps and outrageous comments, she bounced her way through the pedicure while we laughed until we were weak.  The spa staff was laughing, the other customers were laughing – I swear even the pedicure chairs were laughing.

If I had gone home and crashed after my conference I would have gotten up tired.  When I left that spa I was rejuvenated.  I had a smile on my face and wondered when that irritating, obnoxious little sister of our growing up years turned into such a fun, unique and special friend. 

If laughter is truly the best medicine, she should be bottled and sold in pill form.  She might just be the miracle cure of the century.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov 17:22

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I’m just finishing up a three day conference that my facility puts on every year.  I am the conference coordinator and that means months of planning, organizing, making speaker contacts and travel arrangements, preparing written materials, organizing presentations, processing registrations and all of the other busy work that goes into this type of event.  The three days of the conference are intense and I’m busy from 6:30 a.m. to 10: p.m.

I’m just a couple of hours away from being able to pack up and move out.  I have been looking forward to treating myself to a pedicure this afternoon.  I can’t stop thinking about how good that is going to feel after being on my feet for hours on end, in cute shoes of course.  I didn’t say comfortable, I said cute.

There’s nothing like sitting back and relaxing while your feet soak in that delicious warm, swirling water followed by the foot massage and ending with toes that sparkle and shine.  I don’t do it often but when I do I feel pampered and refreshed.

It brings to mind the feet of Jesus and His followers.  Long walks, dusty paths, rocky terrain, and hot sweaty weather would have made them very aware of their feet.  I can’t imagine their thin, worn sandals would have provided much comfort.  When they did sit it wasn’t usually in a cushioned recliner.  Most likely it was on a rock or the hard ground.

Is it no wonder that Jesus praised the pedicure given by a sinful woman with oil and tears?  Think of it.  Jesus, whose feet were tired and swollen, dusty and sore, enters the home of a wealthy Pharisee.  His host was well versed in law and protocol.  His whole existence was focused around making a good impression, proving himself better than others.  No doubt his invitation to host Jesus was a bit risky.  He may have had an ulterior motive, wanting to show his superior knowledge or hoping to catch Jesus in a theological mistake.  He would have instructed his servants to go all out because, after all, it was all about status and stature – the great Pharisee extending a kindness to the lowly prophet.

But, in all of his preparations, he failed to offer the simple kindness of a bowl of water and a towel to ease the discomfort of his traveler’s feet.  He was so caught up in the sensationalism he overlooked the simple.

No wonder the entrance of the unsavory character with the valuable perfume raised Simon the Pharisee’s eyebrows.  Who did she think she was and where did she get that jar of expensive oil?  Steal it?  Sell herself for it?  Here at least was something the Pharisee and Jesus would have in common – disdain for the despicable.

As usual Jesus took a different path.  In her despair this woman provided what the Pharisee, with all of his possessions, did not.  She brought tearful honesty, soothing repentance, raw adoration.  Everything the Master cherishes.

If we could just remember the lesson of reaching out found in this beautiful story.  It’s never effective when motives overtake mission.  It loses its flavor when impressing takes the place of impacting.  But when we become the servant, when we let our hair down, when we look for the place that needs a healing touch, our efforts are like expensive perfume poured on sweaty feet.  It’s the pedicure that ministers to the entire body.  Not only that but the fragrance fills the room and sweetens the heart of everyone around.

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:50

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Something kind of cool happened on Sunday and I was surprised by how much it boosted my confidence.  A guest pastor remarked on my introduction to worship, asking me where I found the piece that I had shared.  Before I could say anything two members of my church family who were standing nearby chimed in at the same time, “She didn’t find it.  She wrote it.  She’s a writer.”

The pastor’s response was, “You need to get that published.”

Of course getting published has been my goal for several years.  I still have moments of wondering if it will ever happen.  But being recognized as a writer by others really gave me a high.  I kept relishing those words over and over the rest of the day.

Isn’t that our goal as writers, to be recognized for what we do without having to come right out and announce it?  In fact, isn’t that anyone’s goal?  Spend time with children and have someone recognize you as a teacher?  Serve a great meal and have someone recognize you as a chef?  Hum an impromptu tune and have someone recognize you as a singer?

The ultimate flattery is having people see in you what you’ve set your heart on becoming.

The best model of this concept is Jesus.  He touched the infirm in a way that caused people to see Him as a healer.  He spoke the words that led people to call him teacher.  He walked in such a way that people followed, acknowledging Him as a leader.  And He died in such a way that people recognized Him as Messiah.

You can tell people anything you want but they won’t necessarily be convinced.  Show them through your daily actions and they will not only recognize you for what you are, they will also call it out to others.  Writer, friend, Christian – not titles I can put on myself.  Only when others put those labels on me do they have true meaning.

We need to work harder at living the role and not so hard at telling the role.  Hey – I believe that is the theme song of a writer – show don’t tell.

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 2 Cor 6:6

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I love 4:30 a.m. on a summer morning.  When I slip outside in my robe with a cup of coffee in hand it’s still dark.  And quiet – so very quiet it brings a sense of peace that I embrace because I know within a short time it will be shattered by the day’s  events.

Everything is asleep.  No birds sing.  The trees are still.  There isn’t even a hint yet of the sun stretching her arms and yawning before peeking over the distant hill.  It is a moment in time filled with expectation.

With the stretch of sweltering heat we’ve been experiencing, the early air is a kiss of cool that will not last so I let it settle around me and I sit very still.  I’m waiting for the first sense of something.

It comes with the tiniest puff of a morning breeze.  That sweet little sensation is followed by the distant sound of a car engine starting.  I feel bad for the driver who hasn’t the time to welcome a few moments of stillness.  I keep my eyes on the horizon because I want to be the first to catch a glimpse of pinkish light.  I want to see the beauty and have a flash of compassion for the sleepyheads who are missing this.

The beginning of a new day is not something to be taken for granted.  Our human minds can never know ahead of time what will follow.  Oh, we have our routines, our tasks, our plans, our responsibilities.  We are so caught up in them we miss the grace filled gifts that drop unexpectedly when we least expect them.

Take this morning for instance.  I could be delving early into my housework, repairing the damage of a busy week before we jump on the motorcycle in less than two hours.  I could be getting a start on the laundry.  I could be working on my latest manuscript that I’m always trying to find time to finish.

But if I were doing any of those things, I wouldn’t be sitting here watching the neighbor’s cat slinking along the top of a wooden fence like an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam, soundless yet alert, in search of an unsuspecting mouse in the field.

I wouldn’t notice that when the willow branches stir they dance in perfect unison to a soundless symphony.

I wouldn’t catch the beginning of light dispelling the darkness to the point where shadowy outlines begin to reveal themselves and it’s like God is creating the earth again as I watch.

I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of laughing to myself and telling the first golden rays of sun, “Ha – I win the who-got-up-first contest.”

In a few minutes I will see dust and hear traffic and feel heat.  In a few minutes I’ll be busy.  In a few minutes my plans and routine will begin to be rerouted by the unexpected turns of the day.  In a few minutes I’ll have to have conversations, make decisions, get exasperated, and keep moving forward.

But for these few moments the world is perfect.  Every morning that I get the chance to do this I think it must be like resurrection morning when Jesus stood expectantly, waiting for the weeping world to wake so He could reveal Himself as the miracle of all miracles.  I bet He watched shadows fade, saw the sun wake, felt the breeze stir, listened for the sound of approaching feet and inhaled the beauty of the moment knowing He would soon be busy with His people and His message.

Precious Lord, this morning my heart overflows with gratitude for this tiny moment in time when You come to me to resurrect a heart that has been beaten down by the pressures of living.  I appreciate your taking the time to lift Your hand and point out the beauty of stillness.  Remind me today in the valley of my life that the mountaintop awaits on the other side of the day, here on my porch just before sunrise.  Amen

His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden.  Habakkuk 3:4

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It’s so easy sometimes to get caught up in negativity when it comes to dealing with people.  As a Human Resource Director I come up against a plethora of situations that want to rob me of my faith in the human race.

Just today I was sitting at Starbucks with a friend and I heard myself say, “I’m so tired of everyone wanting something for nothing.”  On my way back to work I heard Casting Crowns’ latest song, Jesus Friend of Sinners.  I was hit so hard with the words I almost had to pull to the side of the road.

I am so thankful Jesus never says “I’m so tired of everyone.”  How many times have I disappointed Him in such a way that could have justified His brushing His hands of me and my constant failures?  Who am I to judge the human race by the few things I experience in my own little corner?

Jesus met men and women who failed miserably in their journey through life.  His reaction?  He always saw potential.

He called a dishonest tax collector out of a tree because He saw him as someone who could provide a good meal and some stimulating conversation as well as a small man who would set a giant example of restoration.

He spoke with a fallen woman at the well because He saw her potential as a prolific preacher of the good news.

He restored the dignity of a prostitute because He saw a woman who, once she raised her eyes from looking down, would never lose her focus in looking up.

I love that Jesus saw potential in me and chose to save me, to give me a ministry, to give me Christian friends who keep me grounded, to give me a thirst for His word and a hunger for His teaching. 

May each of us, in our gratefulness, stop looking at the bad news and remember that the good news seldom gets reported.  For every terrible crime there are a million honest people.  For every person who cheats there are a million who stick to the rules.  For every employee who takes advantage there are a million who believe in hard work.  Our job is to see potential and then follow Jesus’ example and find ways to bring that potential to the surface.

Every hard little apple seed could become an apple tree.  The potential is there.  Someone just needs to see it and believe in it.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  Mathew 16:18

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Held a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend this week and it was everything you’d want such an event to be.  First of all she was truly surprised – and touched by the effort.  She was humbled by the number of people who came.  She was overwhelmed by the expressions she received. 

Doesn’t it amaze you sometimes that people are surprised at how much others care, or are willing to set aside time for them?  We just don’t quite believe we are worthy of the attention. 

Last night my friend read the words of every card and marveled over them even though it took quite a bit of time.  She thanked each person personally with a hug and a grateful word or two.  When the party was over she left still walking on air, feeling cherished and valued.

Do you realize God holds a celebration for you every day?  It’s important to Him that you feel treasured and cherished and valued.  You should never be surprised by that.  And if you are, read the cards.  He makes it very clear how He feels about you.  Here are just a few you might want to pull out and read again.

Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Galatians 4:6-7 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

 And if you wonder if He would ever show up at your party, check this one out.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Should you even wonder if He’ll bring a gift, have no fear.

 Romand 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Ephesians 2:8  For by grace you are saved through faith, and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

If you think he might be sick and tired of your flaws, He has a card verse to take care of that, too.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

It doesn’t have to be your birthday for you to celebrate your treasured status with your God.  You don’t have to wait until age 50 or any other age.  He wants you to do it every day. 

Take a lesson from my friend.  Read the words of His card’s  and marvel over them, taking all the time you need.  Thank Him personally after each one, with a raised hand and a grateful word or two. 

Believe me, when that party is over you will leave walking on air, feeling cherished and knowing you are a valuable commodity in the kingdom of God.

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Last weekend Gordie and I took a two day trip on the motorcycle to visit our daughter and family, see the new home they purchased, visit friends in Idaho and just generally enjoy some time together.  Our travels took us through miles and miles of wheat ranches which are currently in full harvest.  Beautiful – the golden fields stretching out on both sides of the road.  The heads of wheat were heavy with grain and swaying gently in a soft breeze.  Combines were making their slow way around and around the fields, cutting wide swaths to glean the crop the ranchers had been cultivating for many months.

I have many memories of my grandfather’s wheat ranch in the Horse Heaven Hills where I would spend part of my summer helping grandma with the meals for hired hands and when the work was done for the day, walking hand and hand with grandpa out to the corrals to take care of the livestock.

Grandpa always had a herd of Herford cattle and four or five good saddle horses.  I learned to ride on summer evenings when grandpa would take time from his chores to saddle up old Eagle, a red roan, and let me ride around the corral while he fed and watered and did whatever else needed doing, dragging it out until dusk to allow me the maximum amount of time.

The best harvest always takes place after an attentive planting and nurturing season.  The wheat ranchers don’t rush the process.  They know the routine and follow it faithfully to assure a ripe and ready field before the combines are called in.

Nurturing a child (and any other size human for that matter) takes time.  You can’t rush it.  You have to follow the process to assure a well rounded adult ready to face the challenges of life. 

The hours my grandpa spent taught me so much more than being able to straddle a gentle horse and ride inside a corralled area.  I learned patience, confidence, bonding, love, and a great appreciation for a dusky evening filled with the scents of hay and horse sweat.  My grandpa and I had so many conversations about life in general as I grew older because I had learned to trust him as a child.  We had such a special bond of love because of time spent out by the corral.

Today I apply those lessons in my Christian witness.  When I meet someone who needs spiritual nurturing and guidance, I start by walking hand in hand with them to a quiet place where we can communicate.  I don’t just hand them the Bible, I open it and share from my own experience – much like grandpa did with the horses.  When I walk away to do my other chores, I keep a watchful eye and I’m close enough to step in if they need it.  I don’t try to rush things because I want them to have plenty of time to gain confidence.  As we spend time together my heart falls in love with each and every soul God calls me to minister to. 

I think of the rich harvest my grandpa provided for me and I thank God for the lesson in his summer evening ritual that took me into the barnyard and opened up a wonderland for a young girl with blonde braids, a heart for horses and a love for that wonderful man.

Grandpa passed away several years ago but his lessons live in me.  May others say the same about me when I am gone.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Co 4:2-6

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On Sunday, August 5th, I will celebrate my 45th wedding anniversary.  I honestly can’t believe it has been 45 years.  I sometimes still feel like the innocent young girl with love blinded eyes that I was in 1967.  Then again, I more often feel like the very experienced, not quite so love blinded wife that I am today.

I remember things I used to think were so darn cute in our early years.  Those same things drive me nuts today.  Things like the fact that he still can’t make a bed to where it doesn’t look like someone is still in it.  Or how he still sneaks drinks right from the carton.  How he leaves a used knife on top of the butter dish in the refrigerator because he doesn’t want to fill up the sink with a bunch of dirty ones.  And there’s his amazing sense of where we are at any given time when traveling (he never gets lost) which is offset by  his 45 year can’t-find-the-dishwasher disability.

We’ve traveled a lot of miles in our 45 years – through fields of new babies, narrow roads of grief, highways of financial stress, up hills strewn with misunderstanding, down valleys of laughter, around corners of angry words and right through intersections of intense love that met moments of ‘who is this man and what am I doing here?”

We have a son we won’t meet until we get to heaven, two daughters and a son who showed us heaven on earth (as well as a little of the other place when they were teens).  We’ve gained a plethora of gifted grandchildren. 

Our house is the same one we moved into on our wedding day, but it is now a home.  We’ve known a veritable kennel of dogs and cats, had a barn full of horses and mules, grown a variety of crops, mowed billions of blades of grass, pulled, poisoned and put up with every weed known to man.

We have more stuff than we could possibly remember or find if we needed it.  (Our children will hate us when we are gone.) 

We have seen so many changes over the years I can’t possibly name them. 

But by God’s grace, there are so many things that haven’t changed.  He still makes me laugh over the dumbest things.  He still makes my heart beat faster when he kisses me.  I still beam with pride over his work ethic, honesty and ability to do anything he puts his mind to.  His heart is still soft.  His mind is still sharp.  His habits are still annoying.

Today I tried to imagine not being married and I found I don’t have the slightest idea what that was like.  “We” is so much more than “I” ever was. 

Am I saying it’s been 45 years of bliss?  Of course not.  Every journey is a lot of work.  The best ones are those where you had milestones when you didn’t think you’d make it but you did.  You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished a worthwhile task if you don’t have some sore muscles afterward. 

After 45 years I’ve figured out that what hasn’t changed so far probably ain’t gonna.  I’ve discovered new things can still happen in an old marriage.  There’s still some of that fresh faced young boy in the man and some of that blushing young girl in the woman. God has blessed us mightily, buoyed us up in some tough times, given some great golden moments, helped us laugh at ourselves and sort the major from the minor.

In retrospect, even the bad has been good in the long run.  Looking ahead I’m just thankful that we are still looking ahead together.

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Eph 5:31

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