Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I learned in June

1.  June flies by faster than all other months, except perhaps July and August.  (I didn't really learn this particular fact this year, but I experienced it yet again with profound certainty.)



2.  Love, fear, faith, hope, dread and acceptance all live in my heart at once, and this is why I need Jesus every single moment of every single day.  Honestly.  I've been around a few years.  I've even read the Bible a few times.  But every day I have to die to my fears, my desire to control outcomes, my disappointment at my inability to control outcomes.  Sometimes I wonder why I can't get my spiritual act together, already.  But God is full of grace, and He loves me, and there are times when I think He is telling me, "This is right where I want you, just the way it should be.  You always need to remember that you can't do it without me. You need me, and your need for me is a good thing."  Yes.  He says, "Abide in me, for without me, you can do nothing."  Amen.

3.  Everybody, even I, can win something once in awhile.  I was chosen to be part of Emily Freeman's launch team for her new book, Simply Tuesday.  They sent me a book in the mail, a preview copy for "advance readers."  Yes, I have a title: Advance Reader.  I never win anything, but somehow I won this.  They gave me a book to read, and they want to hear what I think about it.  Did you get that?  They actually want to hear what I think.  This is a little scary, since I am jumping in with a bunch of people I don't know.  What if they find me offensive?  Stupid?  Boring?  (haha -- see #2 above)  Still, it is a special thing, and I am grateful and amazed to have been chosen.

4.  I really, really like making my bed, folding clean laundry and doing dishes.  This was a very encouraging realization to come to.  I do not like organizing anything, not closets or bookshelves or drawers or bills, and especially not the basement.  But I do like making my bed, folding laundry and washing dishes.  It's not that I simply don't mind doing these things (I don't mind cleaning toilets and sinks, or making dinner), but I actually get happy from doing them.  So I hope this means I am not utterly lazy, which--if it were so--would assuage some of the guilt I usually carry, although perhaps not in the healthiest way.

5.  Gmail has a lot of great features that I didn't know about.  I finally figured out how to add contacts so that they come up by their names rather than some of them coming up randomly by email address (and then being hard to locate if I can't remember the person's email address).
  • In the upper left corner of your Gmail screen, under the Google logo, you click on the Gmail logo (it has a down arrow).
  • From the menu that appears, you select "Contacts."
  • In the Contacts screen, in the center, you can scroll through your contacts (from the box on the left you can select "all contacts" or a subgroup, but "all contacts" works pretty well most the time).
  • When you put your cursor into the row of a specific contact, icons appear.  You can select the little pencil to edit your contact.
  • By clicking on the little pencil, you will bring up a window for that contact.  In that window you can set the name (the name the contact is stored as), as well as the person's email.  You can also add additional contact information like phone numbers, street addresses and birthdays.
  • Boooo Yaaaaaa.  You did it.  Organize that mail system, baby!
Another great Gmail feature that I learned is this:  you can print a Gmail very easily!
  • Next to the "reply" arrow on the right, there is a down arrow.  I had often used it to forward an email, but I had never read on down the list.
  • From the drop down menu off this down arrow, you can select "Print"!  Yes!  It's just that easy.
  • Decide how you want to print: select the printer you would like to use, or save to a pdf and store in a file folder where you will someday be able to retrieve the gmail again when you need it.  I do not know why "save to pdf" is a print function, but it is.  That's also something I learned this month.
Well, probably everybody in the world except me knew all about Gmail already.  But I learned it this June, and I think it might even help me with some of my organizational angst (see #4 above).




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

About laws and hearts

I'm weighing in late on this.

I debated whether I would say anything at all.

Of course, for a person who takes the Bible seriously
and believes that it is the inspired Word of God and the source of all truth,
it is disturbing that our nation is legalizing things that are sin in the sight of God.

This does not make me angry, only sad.  I am sad that people cannot see the beauty of the way of Christ.  I am sad that people are so blinded by their present feelings and conditions that they cannot look ahead to the promise of perfect and complete fulfillment in the future.  Jesus wants to free us from ourselves, yet we want to cling to all of our "selfness" as hard as we can, not understanding how this limits us.  As C.S. Lewis explained, we are so busy playing with a stick in the mud on the street corner, we cannot imagine why a person would leave to go on a holiday at the seashore.

There is no such thing as a "Christian Nation."  We need to get this straight.  God never, never said, "I will create a country and call it the United States of America, and it will be my country, and the people living there will be holy."  He did not say that, did not even hint at it.

Of course, as Christians, we are morally obligated to vote our consciences which, I hope, would be shaped by the truth of God's Word.  However, it is not for us to become angry and vindictive if the majority of people do not agree with us.  We are not called to go out and say, "You are disgusting and bad and stupid, and you are all going to hell."  This is not our calling.  We should not say these things, and we should not even think them.  God makes it quite clear in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 that we are not to judge those outside the church; He will take care of that.  It is His job, not ours.  We are to live holy lives of love and bring glory to God.  We are the salt of the earth.  We need to bring the vision of the seashore to those wallowing in city gutters.

How do we do this?  I am not sure.  But I am quite certain that we do not do it by being angry, unkind and insulting.

We need to stop being surprised when the culture at large departs from Christian principles.  Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and this is the way the majority will go.  The road that leads to life is narrow, and the gate small, and only a few find it.  God's people are not the majority.  We are a rag-tag band, few and weak and only viable because of the Spirit of God at work in us.  As we walk the narrow road, we should be careful not to drive away any who might join us.  I do not think God is pleased by those who would stand at the little entrance to the narrow way and holler angry epitaphs at people who pass us by.

There has never been a Christian nation.  The nation of Israel was the nation of God's special, chosen people.  He called them personally, through their ancestors, and gave them His Law so they could live holy and protected lives.  It didn't work, particularly.  Of course there was always a remnant, and there still is.  That's what we are, we the rag-tag band, the minority, the aliens and strangers, the remnant.  God preserves for Himself a remnant (Romans 9:27, 11:5).  We are growing into the Kingdom of God, like a mustard seed, through faith and the power of the Spirit at work in us.  The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.  There never has been and never will be an earthly nation that will successfully follow the Lord and His ways.

If the Biblical history of the ancient nation of Israel proves anything, it proves that laws are insufficient to control behavior, even laws straight from the Lord Himself.  Laws are powerless.  Only the Spirit of God bringing life and light to our souls can affect our choices and make us righteous.  Only through Jesus can we access the power of the Spirit.  Only God Himself can fix the human condition.

Laws do sometimes affect our perception of the difference between right and wrong, and as they are passed and repealed, people become more confused about how to live well.  For instance, most American Christians did not drink alcohol during prohibition, because it was illegal.  Now it is legal to drink alcohol if you are over 21.  Does that make it right?  Many people think that it does, that it is a fine thing to do.  So, if marijuana becomes legal, does that mean it is also a fine thing to smoke marijuana?  How do the laws of the land contribute to the public definition of right and wrong?  What about abortion?  Abortion is legal, but many people do not believe that it is right.  I think that even some people who are not Christians are horrified at the idea of ending a life in the womb.  Yet, it is perfectly legal and people do not go to jail for doing it.

As Christians in a democracy, we need to recognize that our governmental laws do not reflect right and wrong.  Laws reflect how the majority of citizens decide to live and relate to one another.  They are simply a barometer that shows the condition of the heart of the nation.  The majority may make decisions that are contrary to scripture.  Actually, the Bible tells us that this will happen.  The Bible tells us that we will be hated and persecuted for our beliefs.  The Bible does not tell us that we have a right to go around fighting and loudly condemning sin in fallen man.  I suspect that we fight because we are afraid of what will happen to us, afraid that we will be persecuted.  But the Bible is all about standing firm in our faith in the face of persecution.  Perhaps it is in embracing the suffering that comes to us, in sharing in the suffering of Christ, that we will be able, finally, to make a real difference.

We should expect sin in fallen man.  Our responsibility is this: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." (1 Peter 2:12 NIV).  Stricter laws will never cure a sin problem.  Only changed hearts will cure a sin problem, and the best way to change someone's heart is by knowing and loving him.

Lord Jesus, please show us how to live lovingly and peacefully in a world that suffers from sin.  Please show us how to share the light and life and hope that we have in You.  Please make us beautiful and holy and pleasing to You.  Please shed Your grace on us.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A surprise for somebody!


It's a GIVE-AWAY CONTEST!

Read below to learn how you can win a free, personalized gift 

from me.

***Contest closes at noon tomorrow (6/30/15), Central Time.***




I never mentioned this, but I'm trying to write 8 posts per month.

If I'm going to make my goal this month, I have to write today and tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I have neither time nor material.

So.

I'm going to do a reader survey with a  GIVE-AWAY!

Tell me your favorite family game, and you may win a surprise!

Here are the rules:

  1. Please post a comment below, telling me about your favorite family game: what is it, and why do you like it?
  2. Then click on the "contact" tab above and find my email address.  Send me an email and answer the three following questions:  What is your favorite color?  What is your favorite candy?  What is your favorite thing to do for fun?
  3. If you have trouble making my comments section work, you may just send the email, but if you only send an email, please also tell me what your favorite family game is, in the email.

One lucky winner will receive a surprise gift in the mail.  I am not saying what the gift will be, because I am going to try to buy something special and tailored to be a treat for the individual who wins.  I will explain how the winner was chosen when I reveal the winner, but every participant is guaranteed a chance to win.

Go!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A surprise in the mail!

Yesterday Shawn came home from work, as usual, and brought in the mail, as usual.

There was a package for me.

I had not been expecting a package.  I had not ordered anything.  Last weekend was Fathers' Day, not Mothers' Day.  I could not imagine what this package could be, although it looked like a book.  Books are one of my favorite things.

Open the drawer, lift out the scissors, slice through the yellow envelope lined with bubble wrap...

It was this book!



Of course I remembered filling out an online form to see if I could get selected to review the book, but I didn't know I'd been chosen.  How exciting!  Things like this don't happen to me!

Shawn--being in sales--was totally impressed by this marketing concept.  I ran upstairs to the computer and checked back at Emily's blog to see if I could learn more about what I was supposed to do next.  I found that I was supposed to have received an email by June 18th, telling me I'd been selected.

I didn't remember receiving it.

Shawn and I walked the dog (the one that can walk without going into cardiac distress).  Shawn told me I should do a gmail search for Simply Tuesday.

This morning I did the search, and sure enough, the missing email surfaced.  "Congratulations!  You've been chosen to be part of Emily's launch team!"

Well now.  This is pretty exciting.

I have a book to read.  I'll let you know what I think of it, soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Family E-union!

We had a wonderful Fathers' Day.  I enjoyed it so much, I felt a little guilty.  I hope my joy did not infringe on Shawn's day.

Shawn and Jon sang a duet in church.  Jon played the piano.  How does it work out that I reap all the benefits on these deals?  On Mothers' Day, Jon played the piano and sang a solo, and I got to enjoy it.  On Fathers' Day, Shawn had to do half of the singing himself, and again, I got to enjoy it.

Then Jon came over and grilled us delicious steaks.  I put a cherry pie in the oven (Shawn's favorite).  And the high point of our day: a GROUP SKYPE with all the kids.

Don't forget Jon! He's the tiny face between Shawn and me in the bottom panel.



And this is so typical.  As I checked through the screenshots I'd taken, of course I found one where they all pulled faces.  How did they all know to do this in the same picture?  It must have been the one where I said, "One, two, three... smile!"


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Fireflies and the seasons of life

Last night between 8 and 9 p.m. Shawn took the dogs out.  When he came in, he said, "You have to come out with me, and see the fireflies."

Each of us holding a leash, we wandered back out, along the periphery of our yard, and watched the silent, arching gleams of yellow-gold brilliance that appeared randomly against the black-green thicket of brush, the swale where the water runs down into our lake, the grove of trees on the north side of our home.  Often the illuminations darted off the edges of the corners of our eyes, only to disappear by the time we would turn to see them full-on.  Once in awhile we'd catch a criss-crossing profusion of glowing bugs right before our faces, a rare treat, pops of light that slowly fade as the tiny creatures continue their aimless journeys through the evening.

The flashes made Schubert nervous.

Piper didn't notice anything.

Shawn got a mosquito bite.

We went inside.

We fixed some tea.  Decaffeinated.

Although it is still on the early side of summer, I think we are in the autumn of our marriage.  The children are gone.  The evenings are quiet.  The meals are small.  The house is tidier than it ever used to be.   Golden leaves, and russet, quietly rustling under the sun.

It is always sad to say good-bye to summer, all the promise and hope of spring fulfilled and finished.

Summer is a hard season, a season of beauty and life, growth, production, bounty and perhaps a vacation at the seashore.  Blooming flowers, and nights too hot to sleep.  Limbs that ache from working outside, and picnics with beloved friends.  Summer is when we mow, water, weed, pick, pickle and can.  In life, summer is when we expend ourselves nurturing our children and our careers.

Autumn is when we hope to see our hard work packed away against the threat of winter, sparkling jars of many-colored preserves lined up on the shelves of the root cellar.  In life, autumn is when we watch our children launching, our role at work shifting to management and mentorship, our investments ripening for when they need to be opened and used.

It can be a time of beauty and satisfaction, or a time of fear and dashed hopes.  I suppose it is usually a mixture of the two.

May God sustain us and help us, today and always.  May we experience a blessed autumn, and a long one.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Strategies for waiting, commendable or not.

The other day I was driving up a country road.

Driving up a country road means that I was driving north.  I don't know if I've mentioned how much I love that about the Midwest.  It's a grid, a huge, flat grid of roads going north-south and east-west.  Often, you can see for miles in the distance.  Sometimes you can even sight your destination when it is barely a pin-point across an expanse of land.  The obvious benefit to all this: it's pretty hard to get lost.

That's beside the point, though.

(This is the road in, I think, Kentucky, 
which is not really indicative of the distances 
you can see in--for instance--Illinois.  
But it is the only picture of open road that I have.)


I was driving along, heading north, and I realized that I had a song running through my head: "I spied a young cowboy, all wrapped in white linen, all wrapped in white linen, as cold as the clay." Morbid song, catchy tune.  I hummed along, not really thinking about it.

And then.  Then I noticed that I was driving behind a Jeep Laredo.  Of course that was where the song came from.  The Streets of Laredo.  Apparently I had read the back of the car, but it had not registered, except to plant a tune in my mind.

Our minds are so weird.  Well, anyway, mine is.

My flowers are not growing very well.



My canna lilies are not up at all, really -- just some tiny, blackish-purple pokey looking things that you can hardly make out amongst the mulch.  They may or may not grow and bloom.

My zinnias are not thriving.  One that was not doing too badly, I stepped on.  Shucks.  I tried to tilt it back upwards, and I guess time will tell whether I cracked off the stem.

My alyssum is doing better than most of what's out there, but it looks sort of weedy.

The cleome is bizarre.  One of the plants is growing fairly well; the other two seem stunted.

The cosmos are also stunted, it seems.

The snapdragons are tiny.  They almost seem to be smaller than when I first planted them.

This is not for lack of rain or sun or heat.  We've had plenty of all those.

I can't remember what my garden looked like at this point last year.  We were in the thick of getting ready for Lulu's wedding, bless her heart.

Sometimes it's hard to have faith when you're waiting for something, especially when you're waiting for something you can't control.

Maybe it's not so bad to let your mind drift unconsciously over to a very hummable country western song now and then.  Maybe it anesthetizes the waiting process.

We can plant, water, weed and fertilize, but in the end, it is only the Lord who can make anything grow.  Flower.  Flourish.

I have a notebook I am keeping about a certain matter of prayer that is the current theme of my heart.  I used to write quite often, but now I write more reservedly because it is getting full, and I want God to solve this before I run out of pages.  He whispered to me the other day that it might take more than one notebook before we get to the end of this.  I didn't like that.  I feel like I could handle it if it spreads over two notebooks, or maybe three.  But what if it takes seven, or twenty-four?

Today is a stormy, rainy Saturday.  After two weekends of road trips, we are blessedly at home.  Perhaps it would be a perfect day to lose myself in a good book.