Pragmatic Communion Has MOVED!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On August 15, 2008, Pragmatic Communion was moved to

http://pragmaticcommunion.wordpress.com/

Come on over!

trials often hide blessings

Thursday, July 03, 2008

So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it all in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.
1 Peter 4:19, The Message

Eight years ago, we left our previous church.

My husband had served as part time music minister there for more than 5 years. My son was born during that time. Both FirstHusband and I taught Sunday school. He even served as interim youth minister for a while. I sang in the choir FirstHusband directed and we practiced while our toddler son played hide and seek in the pews. We built Christmas parade floats, volunteered at harvest carnivals, sang and acted in Christmas plays and ate a lot of potluck dinners. We had friends there. We laughed a lot. Leaving was . . . difficult, to say the least.

I've seen my husband cry three times since I met him. Once at the birth of our son. Once at the birth of our daughter. And once, as he read his letter of resignation to our church family. As I stood next to him, and read part of the letter because he was unable to continue, I can tell you.

I. was. angry.

Someone was hurting my husband. And I didn't like it.

Our first pastor, who had started this church, had accepted a position in which he would have an opportunity to help start many new churches. Somehow, I ended up as the chair of the pastor search committee.

To make a very, very, very long and painful story short, the church called a pastor that, in the end, FirstHusband and I could not trust or support. In the end, his behaviors and words were very much different from the man he represented himself to be in his interviews. We had very different ethics. We had very different goals.

FirstHusband and I had to decide. Do we stand and attempt to hold this man accountable for his actions? Or do we leave?

During the weeks before we finally made the decision, we prayed. A LOT. We talked. A LOT. We didn't believe we could stay without causing the church to split. Somewhere along the way, FirstHusband remembered a conversation between the characters of a book written by one of his favorite authors, Will D. Campbell:

“I guess what I really believe is that neighborhoods get reissued. You know, the community.” . . .

. . . “You know what ‘community’ is,” Doops said, his voice rising with impatience. “It’s a bunch of folks getting along for some reason. Something holds them together. Generally something bad. Like me and you and Kingston. Hell, if we had met at the circus we probably wouldn’t even have liked one another. But this damned army, this idiot war, holds us together. Being miserable seems to hold folks together. But when they’re easy and everything is going right, they drift apart. Everybody goes home for a funeral and that’s all.”

Kingston dropped his head, the look on his face that of a little boy caught in mischief. Doop’s last words made him think of home, of his mother and grandfather. He felt a sadness but now he did not want Doops to stop, nodded his head for him to go on.

“And that’s all I’m talking about,” Doops continued. “Nobody needs nobody when they’re happy. But it just happens. We don’t make it. We don’t make community any more than we make souls. It’s created."

“And you think we were around somewhere else? Some other time?” Kingston asked, looking at Doops and Model T as one, in a way he had never looked at them before. Neither of them appeared to notice.

“I said the community was around,” Doops said. “Maybe, as you put it, there a neighborhood quiver. And the Great Whoever reaches back and shoots off a dose of community from time to time when one is needed somewhere. When it fits His gameplan. You know, maybe there’s only room in the world for just so many communities. Not souls. Communities. Like, the Lord not only created planets. He created communities. A solar system and a community system. And they go on spinning. All in place. All where they’re supposed to be and when. Each one pushing the other away and holding it close at the same time. And they go on spinning. Different times maybe, but they go on.”

“What’s the difference between a community and a country?” Kingston asked.

“Size,” Doops said. He answered quickly, as if he’d been waiting for the question, wanting it to be asked. “And kings. A community doesn’t have a king, a ruler. Everybody is equal. Now, it might start out as a community. But then somebody wants to improve on it, make it better because it gets bigger. And when it starts choosing captains, whammo! No more community. And that’s when it gets put back in the quiver. Waiting to get reissued.

“Or maybe the difference between a community and a country is that a community has a soul and a country doesn’t. Because God created the community and man created the country. Some king sees all these communities around and says, ‘Hoboy! Let’s put ‘em all together and rule over ‘em.' And then he promptly f@#%’s it up.”

No one spoke. They sat together in silence, each one staring at the space immediately in front of him.

from “The Glad River” by Will D. Campbell

We didn't want this community to go back into the quiver.

To make a very, very, very long and painful story short, rather than following the Ten Easy Steps to Church Purity, we finally decided to follow the wisdom of Solomon. FirstHusband wrote a resignation letter that was filled with how much the church had blessed us and how much we would miss everyone - but gave no indication of why we were really leaving.

We were willing to give up our church rather than see it die.

How would things have turned out if we had stayed? We'll never know. We only see the path we DID take. It's a path we didn't want to face at the time. But, in hindsight, the journey we started as we left nearly 8 years ago has been one I am grateful for. A new church, many new friends, many blessings, an annual book rummage sale I LOVE to work (and shop)! And our pastor - a Will Campbell fan too! Eight years ago, the trials were looming, hiding all these blessings! But today, from this vantage point, we can see them clearly.

This Sunday is the beginning of a new path. Our Will Campbell loving (Methodist) pastor has been promoted and our new pastor's first day at the pulpit is July 6th. When I first heard our pastor was leaving, I didn't want him to leave. Part of me wants to hear him preach on Sunday. But part of me is curious. What blessings are ahead?

So what happened to our "old" church? In the end, it died anyway. After splitting. Twice.

The new church building that pastor worked so hard to get, now stands empty. Ready for a new congregation. A new fellowship. A new community.

"To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God's will even if it means suffering is a very different thing . . . God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is."
Oswald Chambers,
My Utmost for His Highest,
(Selection from August 10th)

never going to stop trying

Friday, May 30, 2008

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 NIV

I love old books.

The dusty old book I picked up this week is entitled “What is a Christian” by A. Leonard Griffith, copyright 1962.

“First and foremost, Christianity is a relationship to a Person. In that sense it differs from great world religions like Judaism and Hinduism and it differs from Communism and other rival secular faiths that compete for men’s allegiance today. All these direct our loyalty to a theological system, a code of ethics, a philosophy or an ideology, but Christianity alone directs our loyalty to a Person. Where Christ is, there is Christianity, and the Christian is a person who tries to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

We say “tries” because no one succeeds perfectly. How very wrong to assume that either you must be a first-class Christian or else you have no right to call yourself a Christian at all. We should never adopt that attitude toward other things. We do not deny ourselves the privilege of education simply because we are not first-class scholars, or the pleasure of singing because we are not of concert calibre, or the enjoyment of knocking a golf ball because we lack professional skill.

The real zest in life lies not in achievement but in effort, not in having arrived, but in striving.”
What a humble reminder. Being a Christian comes down to ONE thing. A relationship to a Person (with a capital “P”). It is this Person I fail when I sin, not myself. When I become disappointed or frustrated about not meeting my own expectations, I need to remember who it is I am really disappointing. If my goals are in line with God’s will, if my striving is to glorify God, whose “expectations” have I really failed when I sin?

I can't be a "first-class" Christian. What is that anyway?



I'm going to try to follow Christ. In this “striving” Mr. Griffith talks about, I have been able to see the sin in self-condemnation.

I will sin. Any minute now. I don’t know how, but I will. I’m human. And I don’t want to waste one minute berating myself. It’s as if Jesus is standing there, waiting on me, with scars on his hands and feet, asking me to come and I respond by saying, “I’ll be there in a minute. I’m not finished punishing myself yet.”

If Jesus was actually physically standing there, I wonder if he would roll his eyes and say,
“You just don’t get it, do you? Come here. RIGHT NOW. Sit down. Let me explain Grace one more time.”
Instead of wasting time and devaluing Grace by berating myself, I need to sincerely repent, ask forgiveness and try again. I need - and want - to start striving again as soon as possible. Self-condemnation prevents me from doing that. Self-condemnation delays my striving.

I can’t be perfect. It’s just not possible. But I’m not going to let that stop me from “trying” to follow Christ. If I wander off the road, the Holy Spirit is my GPS. I will find the "right" road again. But I refuse to stand there, in the middle of the "wrong" road, whining about the fact that I got lost.

Again.

By no preachment can we really satisfy that earnest inquirer who asked, "What is a Christian?" But I wonder if we could point him to someone we know, someone who has responded to the Master's call and who so tries to follow Jesus that of him it might be said, "There goes a Christian." A. Leonard Griffith

(Debbie's comment caused me to rethink my wording - and prompted me to do a little research. Found an interesting video on youtube. A preacher talks about the idea of "disappointing God" being a lie.)


builder unknown

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."
1 Corinthians 15:58 the Message

This is a reminder that there is great value in the small.



"It's okay that they don't see. We don't work for them. We work for Him. We sacrifice for Him. They will never see. Not if we do it right. Not if we do it well. Let's pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God."
Nicole Johnson

freedom to be different

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
Colossians 3:21 The Amplified Bible

My daughter is a free spirit.

She sings. Loud. She sings Disney princess songs and hymns. Praise songs and jingles. She sings her own personal compositions. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes not. Her own songs are l-o- n-g. She sings about everything. Love. Jesus. Her Heart. Disney. Sometimes she throws in a line about gross bodily functions before cracking herself up because it is SO hysterically funny. (She’s 7.) She sings in the car and doesn’t care who stares. She will climb to the top of a playground structure and sing her songs to an audience in the sky. She doesn’t care if people can hear her. She wants people to hear her.

Please don’t tell her to be quiet.

She dances. She twirls. She vogues. She bounces. She skips. She runs when and where there is open space. She swings. HIGH. She calls out “Watch me!” and wants me to take her picture. This is what happy looks like.

Please don’t tell her to sit still.

She loves to dress up. She can’t watch “Annie” without pausing the DVD player for multiple costume changes. She “invents” outfits and hairstyles. She wears prints with stripes, pink with orange and mismatched socks for “flair.” She loves lipstick and jewelry. She loves pink. Not pastel pink. PEPTO pink! BOLD pink.

Please don’t “correct” her wardrobe selections.

She loves to perform. The fireplace hearth is her stage. She wrote a play when she was in pre-kindergarten. She sat in a chair for hours on a Friday night, writing on one piece of paper after another. When it was all said and done, written on each piece of paper were the lines of each character in her play. When I typed it up for her later, she knew immediately which paper to read from next as she dictated the dialog for me. The spelling was creative, but the play was complete with a hero, a villain, a quest, and lots of songs to sing.

Please don’t tell her to “act like the other kids.”

She finds wonder in so many things. A lizard hiding in the grass. A crushed acorn. The shape of a cloud. She can’t go for a walk around the block without stopping every few feet to pick up a leaf, pet a neighbor’s cat or point out something interesting. She wants to see everything and go everywhere. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because it’s made such an imprint on her, she believes she should share it.

Please don’t make absentminded comments when she’s talking to you. She’s smart. She knows.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s not wild and undisciplined. She understands that she should whisper in a library, sit quietly attentive and respectfully listen to her teachers in class, and wear her uniform to school. She understands that sometimes she needs to follow directions instead of direct her own elaborate scripts. She knows to share and to take something she finds to lost and found. She knows that if we forget to pay for the case of soda under the grocery cart, that we are going back inside the store to make it right. She knows proper manners for the using the phone, how to handle a laptop computer and how to carry scissors. She understands that she can’t break out of line at school to chase a lizard or twirl. She knows not to run in a parking lot and to look both ways before she crosses the street. She knows to wear shorts under her skirts so no one can see “London” and that she can’t wear makeup to school and church. She even knows the only time her belly button should show in public is when she is wearing a bathing suit.

What she doesn’t know yet is that someday she may be too embarrassed to express herself “out loud” like she does now. She hasn’t spent time with “that” person. You know, the person who will try to convince her that her free and confident self-expression is inappropriate or wrong. The person who will introduce doubt and self-consciousness.

I pray that when faced with that person - that criticism - she is confident enough to stand strong and be herself. I refuse to silence her just because of what other people might think. I refuse to force her to wear what I think she should or tell her that she should only wear two braids, instead of six. I refuse to make her sit down when there’s no reason she can’t run. I refuse to squelch her spirit - just because it’s different than mine.

Sometimes it looks like she is dancing without music. She’s not. The music is in her heart. We can hear it if we just listen.

Not allowing your children to do innocent but different things is the logical outgrowth of a belief system that emphasizes the symbols of faith rather than it’s substance. This shallow religion measures success more by the image than by genuine authenticity.
Dr. Tim Kimmel
Grace Based Parenting

taking every opportunity

Monday, February 11, 2008

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

We watch Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. By "we," I mean our entire family. Our house is laid out so that the kitchen and the family room are pretty much one big room. So when Hannah Montana is on the TV, it’s difficult to miss. Truth is, I like it. We all like it. We like it so much that we have the DVR set to record all showings. ALL showings. So we’ve watched the same episodes more than a few times. I’m right there with Lysa when she says she turns Hannah Montana UP, and not off, when her daughter gets out of the car!

There’s one episode where Hannah is on a talk show with another teen pop star, named Mikala. Mikala is singing her new hit song and Hannah is clearly enjoying it. Hannah seems genuinely happy for Mikala’s success. Mikala finishes the song, Hannah gives her a big girly hug and then the talk show cuts to a commercial break. That's when Mikala lets Hannah know she's not a Hannah fan. Then we watch Hannah change. We watch Hannah do the “right back atcha!” The two girls are bitter rivals instantly. “Harsh words” abound! Take a look at the video clip.



Now, our family has watched this particular episode a number of times, but this time, I say:

“pause” (don’t you LOVE DVRs?)

“what?”

“Did you see what happened there?”

“what?”

“Did you see how Hannah changed?”

“how?”

“When Mikala was singing, what was Hannah doing? Was she happy for Mikala?”

“yeh.”

“And what did Hannah do after Mikala was finished with her song?”

“hugged her.”

“But then Mikala was really mean to Hannah."

"yeh"

"So what did Hannah do after Mikala was so mean?”


“she was mean back.”

“What do you think would have happened if Hannah had still been nice to Mikala, even when Mikala was being mean?”

“I dunno.”

“I wonder if maybe Mikala and Hannah would have ended up friends.”

“Mom. It’s just a tv show.”

“Oh no it isn’t babe. Its an OBJECT LESSON.”

(loud groaning in stereo)

FirstHusband and I were talking to FavoriteSon about object lessons later that day and he said, "Mom, it's just that you do it SO much!"

We cracked up! (It's working! They're paying attention! Wooo Hooo!)

I said, "You better get used to it buddy, because you are going to be getting them your entire life. You're going to be 38 years old and I'm still going to be saying, 'If you think about it this way . . . ' "

FirstHusband said, "No, no, no, no, no. You're going to be 38, talking to YOUR kid, saying, 'If you think about it this way'"

Yeah, he rolls his eyes NOW. But he uses object lessons with his 7 year old sister already. He can't help it. He never stood a chance. heh, heh, heh.

With a new attitude everything can change,
make it how you want it to be.
Stayin' mad, why do that?
Give yourself a break.

Laugh about it and you'll see.

Life's what you make it, so let's make it rock!
Life's what you make it,
so come on come on, everybody now!
Hannah Montana (Life's What You Make It)

i want no regrets.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
Philippians 3:12-19, The Message

“Dear Eliot, today you went to be with Jesus. An undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of your body could not stop God from revealing Himself through a child who never uttered a word.” Eliot lived 99 days.

Sweet Tristan went to be with Jesus today. He was 56 days old.

“The Lady had hit a cyclist before she hit our mailbox. But nobody had seen the cyclist and the lady had no clue she'd hit him. She just knew she was sleepy one minute and hit our mailbox the next. This biker was just out on his bike and he got hit. They pronounced him dead at the scene. He died! O my gosh I cried and cried. My heart not only was crushed for the lady but now for the guy and his family!”

"Empty shell are the words that came to my mind today as I laid my eyes on Julian's so very still body. It made it so real, so final... I felt like I was at the wax museum, it looked like Ju but it was just a cold, hard ,wax copy of Julian . It wasn't him , how could it ? Surely I left him at home playing with the boys... Seeing him laying in his casket was unbelievably painful, my heart cracked a little more, a little deeper. I won't EVER get to hold my child again, EVER... Nothing is more final than that." Julian was 4 years old.

As a Christian, what I do with these stories? Stories. It makes it sound like fiction. Literature. My sister, a writer, once told me the difference between fiction and literature. In literature, there is always an obstacle, a tragedy to overcome. But this isn't literature. It is real life. These things actually happened. As a Christian, what thoughts do I wrestle with?

I don't know these families personally. I've only read about them. But I question, if I did know them personally and was involved in their daily life, what words would I speak? What actions would I take? What possible comfort would I be in the face of such senseless tragedy? Senseless to us. But not to our Lord. The promise is, that one day, we will understand. One day. Eventually.

But what about TODAY? What do I do with this in MY daily life? What does God want ME to do? HERE, in my circumstance. NOW, in this time?

I doubt I understand all that God is saying to me right now. I'm still working on it.

But I do understand this: I need to live with intention EVERY DAY. I know it sounds pious - and impossible - but the truth is I have an acute awareness that life is short. There's an actual urgency in my day sometimes. I understand my priorities. I strive for no regrets. I don't want to waste a moment of this gift of time that I've been given. When I begin to get overwhelmed with the mundane, I am humbled and reminded when I hear of what we here on Earth regard as such senseless tragedies. But again. Senseless to us. But not to God.

Today, we have faith and comfort in the knowledge that there is a Master who will provide all we need. We need to live in the world, not of it. Today, I will hug my 7 year old daughter a few more times than she thinks is reasonable. I will read her a bedtime story when I could be loading the dishwasher. I will walk around the block with her (again) as she rides her bike and sings her happy songs, stopping to look at every acorn, pet every cat and collect every leaf. I will listen to my preteen son and accept his thoughts and feelings as valid - even when they differ from mine. I will toss the football with him instead of read a book. I will have a night time devotion with him when I could be checking email or blogging. I will scream with excitement at every basketball game and take hundreds of photos to get one “great” shot. I will understand my husband's travel in the private defense industry as our family's small contribution to families of those serving in the military - those making a much greater sacrifice. I will forgive him when he's late without calling, encourage his stress-relieving diversions and love him unconditionally.

I want to see the bigger picture. I want to choose on purpose. I want to respond, not react. I want to show grace, not indignation. I want to spend time making memories, not beds. I want to notice the silent boldness of a sunset, instead of the back end of the car in front of me. I want to try out the possibilities, instead of complain about the obstacles. I want to be still and abide instead of filling my entire prayer time with petitions and thanks.

I want to live intentionally, making the most of this precious, precious blessing of time.

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
Elie Wiesel, October 1986

bloggy giveaway!

Monday, January 28, 2008

My random number generator produced the number 60! Congratulations to Sarah!

Welcome to my Bloggy Giveaway! I'm offering one giveaway on each of my blogs, so check them out! If you have a minute (a second?) check out my "i sort my m&m's by color" page, my latest "Devotion" post or my post on my anti-filing system to see if one of my blogs might of interest to you in the future! If so, you can keep up with everything by subscribing to my "main" blog, Pragmatic Compendium!


Thanks so much for stopping by and GOOD LUCK on the Giveaways!

Photobucket

Shannon, over at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a Bloggy Giveaway! Check out my contributions to the fun!

HERE at Devotions (Pragmatic Communion) leave a comment on THIS post and be entered to win a SET of Beverly Lewis books! This is the series ANNIE'S People and includes gently read (once) paperback copies of The Preacher's Daughter, The Englisher and The Brethren.

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Go on over to Pragmatic Compendium and add your comment for a chance to win a STACK of weight management books:

The Ultimate Weight Solution, The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom by Dr. Phil McGraw
The Ultimate Weight Solution FOOD GUIDE by Dr. Phil McGraw
The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
Body for LIFE, 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength by Bill Phillips

I already own all of these and frequently pick up good used copies to give to friends and family. So go ahead friends, leave a comment on this post and be entered to win!

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On Rhetoric (Pragmatic Communication) post a comment and enter to win a hardback copy of Deborah Tannen's "I only say this because I love you" How the Way We Talk Can Make or Break Family Relationships Throughout Our Lives (This is one of those books I bought not remembering I already owned it!)

____________________

I don't have any computer books I'm ready to part with, so if you head over to Pragmatic Computing, leave a comment to win a framed quote. The frame is 6 x 6 inches, with a wood frame painted gold, kind of distressed.

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." Pablo Picasso

i am not embarrassed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength . . . And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus
Philippians 4:10-13, 19

“Is that house abandoned?” asked the pest control guy who sprays my lawn. He was referring to the house next door to mine. “Actually, no.” I replied. Our neighbors, to state it conservatively, don't take care of their yard. I could focus on that. I could be embarrassed by that. But then, I look out my kitchen window. My huge backyard, the “love” tree (the name inspired by squirrels in mating season), the pond, the woods and - if we take would just take the time to walk back there, a river. I'm not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My hardwood (laminate) kitchen floor is . . . not in good shape. Dark spots from water damage (okay, and cat “damage”), knicks (and gouges), lifting edges on some pieces, and gaps from poor installation, among other things. I’m not proud of it. But then, the doorbell rings and the ladies from my women’s circle come in, laden with food and laughter. And I realize. Nobody is looking down. The floor is invisible. It’s buried beneath the friendship and encouragement. I’m not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My formal dining table is lopsided. When I put a leaf in it, it is even MORE lopsided. I have to prop it up with books (never a problem coming up with a few). There are scratches on the top. The arms of the chairs lift up when you pull on them. But then, with three leaves and two book stacks, family joins together at that table. There’s so much food down the middle the scratches are . . . gone. Nobody is pulling on the arms of the chairs. Instead the arms support relaxed and comfortable elbows. The table is still lopsided. But I can’t tell anymore. I’m not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My kitchen sink was full of dishes all day yesterday. The dishwasher was full. Filled with clean dishes. I don’t unload the dishwasher. My son unloads the dishes, my daughter unloads the silverware. They didn’t get to it the night before. So the dishes sat. It was gross. I thought about unloading and loading the dishwasher. I thought about how I would feel if someone dropped by. Embarrassed. But then, I realized. Dirty dishes overflowing the sink means we aren’t hungry. It means our children are learning responsibility. Daily responsibility. And we have enough dishes in our house that the dishwasher was full of clean, the sink was full of dirty and, at the same time, the cabinets were not empty. So I let the dirty dishes sit in the sink for a day. I'm not embarrassed. We are blessed.

My laundry room is a mess. Clothes in the hampers and baskets, yes. But also on the floor, on top of the dryer - IN the dryer. Unmatched socks everywhere. An opened box of 500 coffee cup lids squeezed into precious storage space. The matching paper cups squeezed into another. An entire shelf designated for scrapbooking supplies which haven’t been touched in YEARS. But then, I fix myself a cup of coffee to go (instead of giving in to a daily trip to Panera Bread), my children get dressed in clean clothing, my daughter purposely wears unmatched socks for “flair” and I realize. This mess. This overabundance that causes spillover is a blessing. So what if I don’t have pretty scrapbooks? I have my photos chronologically cataloged on my computer - and backed up on a separate hard drive! (Does anyone want to buy a bunch of scrapbook stuff on ebay? And more importantly, is there a good digital scrapbook program or should I just use PowerPoint?) But I digress. This collection of clothes, the "stuff" stored, even the existence of the laundry room itself - is a blessing.

My garage is impassable. Boxes to go to charity, stuff to go into boxes to go to charity. Boxes to go to the consignment shop, to the used bookstore. When we leave the garage door open, passing cars slow, checking to see if it is a garage sale. IM-PASS-A-BLE. But I am hit. This represents abundant blessings. So much stuff . . . we don’t need. The inside of the house, while filled with the stuff we do need, the things we do use, STILL contains even more to go to the garage - the holding place prior to exit. But I'm not embarrassed. I am blessed.

The love seat in my living room is beige. "Beiger" than it used to be. I had it cleaned six months ago. Helped a little. The pillow on the back is removable and my entire family squishes and curls it into a ball whenever they sit on it. It takes a beating the cushion for more than a few minutes to cajole it back into a form that will say upright even a little bit. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into my front door. I think about replacing it. But then, I curl up with the my Bible, a kid, my husband, the cat, my computer, a book or any combination of those and I realize. I’m not embarrassed.

We are blessed.

contentment is destroyed by comparison.
Unknown (but I was reminded by Kelly on her comment at Lisa Writes)

sweet honesty

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)


We must be doing something right! Check out this recent conversation with my 7 year old daughter:

“I accidentally lied to Mrs. L today so I sat out 5 minutes in recess.”

“You lied to Mrs. L?!”

“Accidentally! I didn't mean to. I thought she was asking me if somebody else was talking, but she was asking me if I was talking and I accidentally lied.”

“So, you had to sit out in recess for lying?”

“No. Mrs. L didn't know I lied. I just knew I lied. But it was an accident.”

“I don't understand. Why did you sit out in recess?”

“Mom, I made myself sit out because I lied!”

“So does Mrs. L know you lied?”

“No.”

“Did she see you sit out at recess?”

“Yes.”

“Did she ask you why you were sitting out?”

“No. She doesn't care.”

“So why did you sit out?”

“Because I lied!”


“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Thomas Jefferson

collect them all

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)

“Collect them all” is the answer I gave my daughter when I asked her if she knew the three most hated words in a parent’s vocabulary.

Her guess for a parent’s most hated words? “Own it on DVD today!”

We were introduced to Webkinz in November when my daughter got some from her friends at her (early) birthday party. Then, almost everyone who gave her presents for her birthday (on her actual birthday) AND for Christmas gave her a Webkinz (some gave her two). We gave her one and her brother gave her one. Total number of Webkinz currently registered on www.webkinz.com?

23.

and we haven’t collected them all.

23.

At first I was embarrassed. What does it say about me as a parent? I have a kid with 23 Webkinz. There are the comments: “How many does she have anyway?” and “She sure has a lot of Webkinz.” (You overindulgent, irresponsible parent, what’s wrong with you? You’re raising a greedy, selfish child.) I’m raising Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Then I took the board out of my eye and looked around my house. What do I collect?

BOOKS!

By far the biggest of my collections. I love books. love. Love. LOVE. books. While I keep most of my fiction books at the library, I do have more non-fiction books than I have had shelving for. I just bought two new bookcases for my office. Cubby type shelving which I’ve placed on top my desk. I ran out of floor space for conventional bookcases and had to go vertical. We went to a friend’s for dinner and they had a LIBRARY! Later, on the way home I poke at my husband “Hey, honey why don’t we have a library?” “Our whole house is a library.”

True enough.

What else do I collect? Unusual cobalt glass containers. Snowmen. STOP. If you know me personally and have any reason to give me a gift, STOP. Do not buy me a cobalt vase. Put the cute little snowman figurine down. Step away from the cobalt glass snowman. (hmmm. that would be interesting . . . ahhh! NO!)

My cobalt and snowman collections are currently manageable, but some people have seen them in my house and have taken to giving me more. I have limited discretionary time and don’t want to spend more of it dusting stuff. I’m getting rid of stuff. I actually took a large snowman wreath holder to Goodwill recently and called my dad:

“Dad, I’m taking a snowman wreath holder to Goodwill. I just wanted to call you and tell you . . . Please DON’T buy it for me when you see it there.” (yes, we both shop there. I love the book prices!)

But I digress. Back to Veruca Salt. I thought about it for a few days. For all the things Veruca has, she lacks a very important thing. And my daughter has it.

Gratitude.

In the book “Simple Words of Wisdom” Penelope Stokes writes,

“We become happy, spiritually prosperous people not because we receive what we want, but because we appreciate what we have. What does it mean to cultivate a heart of gratitude? It means opening our eyes, looking around at the multitude of gifts and blessings that fill our lives. It means recognizing our family, friends and loved ones, as aqueducts through which God’s great love flows out to us. It means rejoicing in all we’ve been given rather than resenting what we lack.”
When I hear my daughter’s nighttime prayers - the sincere, heartfelt prayers of a 7 year old who LOVES Jesus - I am assured. When her prayers go on and on at mealtime, I am reminded. She understands and is genuinely thankful for her blessings. For our family’s blessings.

Yes, my daughter has a lot of Webkinz. I have a lot of books. Many of us have a lot of something. Maybe too much of something. But are we grateful? Do we thank God and enjoy his blessings? Do we thank others? Penelope Stokes reminds us:

“But gratitude doesn’t end with our private thanks to God. We need to show gratitude as well to those who touch our lives, who love us, minister to us, and make the world we live in a warmer, safer, kinder place.”
So I’m not going to stress about 23 Webkinz. Or about too many books. I’m going to be grateful, thank God daily and enjoy his wonderful blessings.

I will not tell you how many Rescue Heroes my son had at peak Rescue Heroes phase.

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer