Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the Old - Change, change, change

                                                          Salvation Army Truck
The donation truck came yesterday morning, and hauled away a veritable treasure trove of our formerly valuable stuff.  That is, formerly valuable to us.  Now, we hope that it will become at least somewhat worthwhile to someone else.  Otherwise, we could have just dumped it.

Five large bags, that was the haul.  And oh, joy - three of them came from my husband's closet.  You have to know him to know how astounding this truly is, since this is a man that still has every tax return he has ever filed, and clothes that predate the Nixon administration.

I noticed a trend in what was discarded, lots of long-sleeved dress shirts and quite a few dress slacks.  Uh huh.

He was a banker for over thirty years, and when he retired from banking, he said he had worn a tie every weekday for thirty years and did not ever plan to wear another one unless forced to.

I only had two bags to contribute because I had already given away 4 or 5 bags of my own belongings in November.  We are contemplating a move this coming spring, Lord willing, and it is definitely time to clear out the detritus of daily living in one spot for two decades.

I have been praying about this move for over three years.  One of the things I knew my husband would miss the most about our present home was our next-door neighbor.  Johnny and David are old Air Force vets, who often sat in their canvas chairs in the drive way on a warm summer day and talked football, military lore, and other guy-stuff.  Johnny just up and moved to Japan, his wife's home of origin, last month.

So that is one less anchor to this location.  God is on the move, and hopefully soon so will we be. But the change is still uncomfortable sometimes.  We have a potential relocation spot in mind.  But changing everything from our address, to our doctors/dentists and barbers, to our daily newspaper ... well, at our age it is all a bit much.

Nevertheless, it is time to downsize, and I am hopeful (and very prayerful) that we can navigate all the changes we anticipate, and many I am sure that we have overlooked, with some good humor and maybe even have a little fun while we are at it.

Everything changes.   Our faces, our bodies, our flower beds, our sleep patterns, our hopes and dreams.  Everything changes.

Oh, wait.  There is One who never changes.  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8)
Thank God!  Have a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Working on No Fear - In Other Words

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.                        
Do not be frightened,
and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

I am not quite sure why it is that we struggle so much with realizing that "fearing not" takes work - just as many of the other commandments do.

It does not seem to surprise us that "Be patient" is going to take a lot of slogging through stuff to get any kind of handle on it.  Of course, that could just be me.  I am not a patient person by nature.  When I would walk down the front sidewalk at the retirement home where my Mother lived, the elderly residents would often remark to me, "I wish I could still walk that fast"  or "In a hurry, are you?".

It was always a reminder to me that a) I would someday no longer be able to hurry all the time, so maybe I needed to learn to slow down now - b) moving quickly does not always mean that I know where I am going.

Likewise, God's admonition to "Be kind to one another" - that never takes me off guard in knowing that I am going to have to put some effort into that one as well.  Let's face it - I just don't always feel like being kind, and thus, in order to be obedient in this regard, I must disregard my own feelings and focus on God's clear command.

So why is it that when He says, "Fear not" - I just think it is supposed to happen "abbra cadabbra"?  I have given this some thought and here is where I have come to with my own struggles with the "courage factor."

First, when God tells me to fear not, it presupposes that I may already be afraid.  Well, truthfully, I just hate that notion.  I have always taken a good deal of satisfaction in being pretty stalwart, if you will.  So it makes me "wiggly in my own skin" to know that He already sees my fear and is calling me on it.

Secondly, it points me to my complete dependency on Him.  Someone once said that all God's dealings with His children are designed to teach them their own dependency upon Him.  There again, He has me at my most vulnerable.  I don't like being dependent upon anyone - humanly speaking, that is.  So it is embarrassing when I am presented with the fact that I sometimes unintentionally extend this self-sufficiency to God.  Now that is truly humiliating - who in the world do I think I am?

Which brings me to my final observation on this week's quote - "be not dismayed."  Yeah, right.  When I worked in the corporate world, I was sometimes described as "unflappable".  Revenues down, budgets in disarray, personnel on the fritz?  Send it over to Marsha, she is unflappable.

So it rattles me when God tells me to "be not dismayed" - because it shows me that He knows exactly how dismayed I sometimes really am.  Busted!

We have lived in the same house for the past 20 years, and plan to move this year.  But where and when and at what cost?  I'm dismayed.

The doctor told me this month that I have cataracts on both eyes and may need surgery in the future.  And I have another attendant eye condition with possible sight loss implications in the future.  Dismayed?  Nailed right where I sit.

Fear not, be not dismayed - it is going to take some work.  Just like being patient or kind or living out any of the other attributes He requires of us does; but the fact is that even with a lot of work, a ton of work, I will not be able to achieve and maintain that stance. 

It is only when I remember that He is with me, and His grace is sufficient that I am at peace.  And thus, as Tiny Tim said many years ago, may God bless us one and all.  He is, after all, with us wherever we go.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas - holiday hiatus

May this greeting find you safe and warm among those you love.  Two of my favorite Christmas mottoes are:

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Wise men still seek him.

This blog is on hiatus until after Christmas.  Until then, God bless you and your loved ones.

Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Lumps of Coal - Two Different Lessons

It has been cold and raining non-stop here in N. California for days, and thus I do not leave the house much. So the other day, when David left for Costco, I settled into my recliner to enjoy a cup of tea, with a good book on my Kindle and my little dog, Holly, snoozing peacefully on the carpet right beside my chair.  I am in the stage of life where I sometimes doze off - and I must have - because suddenly I was startled by pounding on my front door.  I opened the door to a sobbing teenage girl yelling, "Please can I use your phone to call the police?  They are trying to choke me."

I quickly ascertained that she had run to our house from the house that is directly across from our own.  While we live on a nice, quiet cul-de-sac, unfortunately there is "always one" in every neighborhood and in ours it is the house directly across from us.  You know the one I mean, the house where in summer they do not mow their lawn very often, and in winter they don't rake up their leaves or clear their gutters.  Their driveway is sometimes cluttered with cast off furniture or appliances, and you privately worry about what "they" are doing to property values on your street, when goodness knows in this economy those are already difficult enough.

As soon as she calmed enough that she could speak without sobbing, I showed her where the phone was and she called the police.  The officers then asked for our address, and whether she could remain with me until they could arrive.  I said she could.

It took them nearly an hour to arrive, which I thought odd in view of the harrowing account she had given in answer to their questions during the phone call.  Domestic violence, substance abuse, foster care.

During that ensuing hour, I offered her a box of tissues, a bottle of water, and asked if there was anything else I could do.  She was 13 years old, had been staying across the street for about a month, with her mother and the mother's boy friend, who had tried to choke her, while her mother helped hold her down and tried to put tape over her mouth and nose.

She was in eighth grade, I learned, or would be if she still attended school and her name was L.  She said her mother had not gotten around to enrolling her since they moved in, renting two rooms from the young man who owned and also lived in the house.  She said her father had abandoned her at a children's receiving home a few months ago, and finally her mother had agreed she could come stay with her for awhile. 

Pitifully, she looked down at her crumpled tissues and then up helplessly at me and said, "Neither of them want me."

Heart-rending as her story was, I was beginning to notice discrepancies in her account as she told it the second time.  Meanwhile, she had become remarkably calm and cheerful, remarking on how nice our home was, saying she loved my dog, and she wanted to live in a home just like mine someday.

When the two officers arrived, one female and one male, the female officer asked her several questions, specifically asking her to describe what had occurred and whether she had any injuries. The officer observed that there were no marks on her throat where she claimed to have been choked.  There were, however, two red marks on her cheeks where she said she said she had been hit.

Later, after a good deal of going back and forth by the officers between our house and the one across the street, they took L. to a children's center to be evaluated by a mental health professional and then placed in a juvenile facility.  This was partly for her own safety as the female officer said to her partner, "That is not a good situation in that house over there, and you can smell the drugs and alcohol.  I don't want to leave her in that environment."

On the other hand, they had confronted L. with the claim by the mother and boyfriend that L. had pulled a knife and threatened to kill them, and the owner of the house was backing-up their story.  They also told her that their records showed that she had been in trouble several times before and that this was not the first call to police she had made recently.  She admitted to the knife, but claimed self-defense, acknowledged she had kicked holes in the door, but that was because "they were trying to beat me" and gave various accounts of why she had been thrown out of prior schools, foster homes, etc.

Finally, the officer said, "L., you are quickly running out of options.  You have burned through several places to live, and the way you are going, you are going to end up in juvenile detention if you do not try to get along with others."  

During the two hours L. was in my home, I talked to her about things that are within our control and things that are not.  I told her that God loved her and had a plan for her life.  I told her I was sad that she had such awful life circumstances, and that while things might look hopeless right now, she could learn to make better choices than those around her were making, and that God would help her if she asked him to.

I watched as she was, by turns, tearful - charming - chatty - sly, even a bit cunning - and helpless/hopeless - all while trying to play me and the two officers.  Her survival skills were well-honed, and they needed to be.  Obviously the three dysfunctional adults who lived across the street had had an hour to get their story coordinated before the police arrived.  And L. had lied about just enough of the details that they could not charge anyone with anything.

By the time she and the police departed, she was not the only one who had been deeply affected by the days' events.   I could not help but be reminded of another December, long ago......
                                              & & &
My two sons were ten and twelve years old respectively, and that spring they had received pellet guns, along with safety instructions from their father, and pleas from their mother not to "shoot each other's eyes out."  I hated the things, but I was overruled.  A few months later, while visiting their grandparents out in the country (who lived in the middle of an orange grove about three miles outside town) the boys were playing in a nearby field, when they came across an old abandoned car.  It was up on blocks, no wheels, all rusted out, weeds grown up around it.  They assumed it was a junker that no one cared anything about.

But oddly enough, it still had all the windows intact, including the windshield.  Well, that was more temptation than the two of them could resist, and they spent the next hour gleefully shooting out each and every window.  The farmer who owned the field, discovered who had broken the windows, and came to their grandparents house to report their misdeeds and to say that either we pay him for the glass, or he would sue us for property damage.

The boys readily admitted their actions, and we agreed to pay the man - as soon as the boys could earn all, or at least some, of what he claimed was owed him.  Yes, it was obvious that he overcharged us for the "value of the glass", but it was more important to us that the boys took responsibility for their actions.  We had them do various chores and odd jobs for several months, saving all the money they earned to pay for the broken glass.

The agreed upon pay date was late fall, and their father and I explained that the we would pay the amount they had been unable to earn, but that we would have to take it out of the Christmas saving account and there would be no presents for them this year.  Then we gathered the two hundred dollars required, in ones and five and ten dollar bills, and divided it into one hundred dollars each.

Then we took the boys to the farmer's house, and had them personally knock on his door, each pay him one hundred dollars, and apologize for their actions, again.

That Christmas Eve, after the boys were in bed, I cried as I looked at our tree, which had not a single gift under it for either of our sons.  We read the Christmas story as we always did, and we went to church, but there was no cheerful scattering of paper and ribbons that next morning.  It was a hard lesson for them, and was harder on their parents than either of them ever knew, but neither of them ever got into that kind of trouble again.  Period.

They were not sly or cunning.  They did not lie or manipulate.  They paid for their mistake and they did not complain about it later.  I wept over the sad impact of their lesson, but I was also proud of them in the end.
                                             & & &
Two Decembers.  Two different families with young people who had made mistakes.  But one has parents who do not care, who are abusive and dishonest, and do not wish to be bothered by a truculent teen.  The other two boys were rambunctious, and foolishly disrespectful of someone else's property.  But their parents cared more about what they could learn from the mess they made, than about a quick answer to a tough problem.  They learned integrity mattered more than gifts, and that Christmas was about a Saviour much more than gifts from the Magi.

Both families put only "lumps of coal"  in their children's stocking, but one did it with selfish meanness, while the other did it with love and respect - even if we cried over it.

I am praying for L.  Would you please pray for her and all the young people like her, who have no one to care enough about them to teach them important life-lessons? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

“I am learning that praying for God’s will is harder than it seems.
When God’s will is asked for in hopes of it agreeing with a personal desire,
it is not asking for God’s will at all.
It takes complete surrender and self sacrifice.”

~  by Jayson VS  ~ Loni's son @ Writing Canvas

This quote reminds me of the words of another young man, missionary to Ecuador, Jim Elliott, who wrote, "He is no fool, who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose."

Elliott prayed for God's will in his life, and then went to a very dangerous area of South America to tell the native people there about Christ.  He was killed in that effort, but the ensuing notoriety spurred an ongoing effort that eventually led to the conversion of many of that tribe.

And yet, it is exactly that kind of thing that causes many to be afraid to truly pray for God's will in their lives.  Who knows what that could turn out to be?

Jayson is exactly correct when he says it involves self-sacrifice.  But we are led by Jesus, who gave the ultimate example when He prayed, "Not my will but thy will be done."  He told his disciples clearly that no one could take His life away from Him, but that He was laying it down voluntarily for their sake, and in obedience to His Father.

Perhaps we forget that Jesus also assured us that just as the Father loved Him, Jesus loves us.  We do not have to fear His will.  This does not mean, of course, that it will not take courage to actually follow His will for our lives.  It will.  It does.  And it should.

King David, when offered a free piece of land for a place of sacrifice to God, declined the offer and said he would not offer God that which cost him nothing.

Our own will is precious to us.  We want what we want.  And yet, it is only when we truly lay it down before the Lord that we find what our heart most needs.  Peace.

A remarkable young man has reminded us of an old, but very relevant, truth. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Away in a Manager - Not a Typo (this time...)

The software that allows me to create text documents has an automatic spellchecker, as well as a feature that allows me to go back and check more deliberately.
However, because both "manager" and "manger" are legitimate words, it will not flag either, regardless of whether they are used inappropriately for one another.

Thus, I always had to be especially careful when sending messages to various managers in the corporate environment, to assure that I had not inadvertently sent the memo to the manger.  They are easily confused.  And each time it occurred, and occasionally it did, despite both my vigilance, and that of my even more adroit editorial assistant, I was reminded of a Christmas season many years ago.

My family and I were in a K-Mart aisle shopping for holiday bargains.  Suddenly, a small boy came careening around the corner of the aisle where I was browsing.  He was about four years old and was obviously intent upon finding something specific.

At first I assumed he was looking for a Tickle-Me-Elmo, or whatever the toy-de-jour was that year.  But quickly he shouted out to anyone who might be within range (and given his decibel level that would have been anywhere in nearby towns), "I am looking for the manager and the three wise guys!"

Uh-huh, I spent a good deal of my career looking for that foursome.  But, of course, he meant he was looking for a manger scene depicting the three wise men bringing gifts to the newborn king.

I laughed for days every time I thought about it.  His mother quickly appeared chasing him and I spotted them moments later in the aisle where the nativity sets were displayed.  His little eyes shown as he gazed upon the object of his search.  He had found them and he was satisfied.

As an executive, charged with keeping peace and order in a business environment abuzz with multiple and often conflicting agendas, I sometimes spent days, weeks, or longer searching for the "manager and the three wiseguys" who had created some problem for the rest of the company.  Sometimes I found them, sometimes I did not.  But even when I did locate them and identify what they had done, and why they had created that particular dilemma for the rest of us, seldom was I satisfied with the outcome.

Apologies were offered, sometimes reprimands were issued, and occasionally even more dire consequences ensued.  But whatever the un-wiseguys had done to create an issue, it could not be undone, and we had to proceed as best we could; the issue resolved but leaving lingering frustration.

However, when I located the manger for myself, at twelve years old, as a girl in Southern Illinois, I knew a joy that I could not begin to describe.  And the "wise men" (and women) who came along side me to guide me in my new-found faith also provided community and companionship, which satisfied a deep longing in my heart. 

God meant for us to seek and find Jesus, the reason for the season, and to allow Him to satisfy our souls.  As Pascal said, there is a vacuum shaped hole in every heart which only Jesus can fill.

The world is still running around looking for various things and people to satisfy them or to blame for their lack of satisfaction.  The manager and the three wiseguys.

The believer has located the babe in the manger, been blessed with the fellowship of the saints, and is satisfied. 

Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king!

Blessings to you and your family during this wonderful Christmas season. ...Marsha

Monday, December 6, 2010

God's Viewpoint - In Other Words

Prayer invites us to rest in the fact that God is in control, and the world’s problems are ultimately God’s, not ours. If I spend enough time with God, I will inevitably begin to look at the world from the point of view that more resembles God’s own. What is faith, after all but believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

"The world's problems are ultimately God's, not ours."  Hallelujah!

This week's quote struck such a nerve with me, because by nature I am a problem-solver.  I fix things.  I sort out issues.  It is what I was paid to do in the business world, and it is what I have always done in my personal world.  Lately, God has been impressing upon me one truth over and over, "Marsha, you are not their provider."

Seems obvious enough, except when every fiber of your being is geared toward figuring out what the problem is, then doing something about it.  Except when it isn't my problem to fix ... then I am completely bereft, out of my element.

You would think I would have learned this lesson when my son was left paraplegic at 19.  When the doctors said he would never walk again (this was a boy who could leg press 400 lbs.) and now could not lift his own feet.  This was a boy who always said from 12 years old on, that he wanted to have a son of his own and take him fishing, and now he would never have children.

It did not make sense then, and it does not make sense now.  It is one of those things that I have to believe in advance, will someday make sense in reverse when I look back from heaven's side and see God's whole plan.  But it was this huge problem that I could not fix.  I simply had to trust that God was, and is, in control.

At this season of the year, the world's problems are coming to me through my mail box at warp speed; what with mail solicitations in every color envelope you can imagine.  And the pleas are so heart-rending, and the needs so overwhelming, that I am left numb by my lack of ability to meet them all.

The Smile Train (repairing cleft palates all over the world) is one of my special charities.  And Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, and of course, The Salvation Army and  the Red Cross.

That says nothing of my own church's annual food drives, angel trees, and charity fund raisers.  At this time of year, I can become overwhelmed by the fact that there are more genuine needs than I can possibly respond to.  Again, huge problems that I cannot fix.

Thus we pray, and do what we can.  And it never feels like enough.  Thankfully, Yancy's quote reminds me that I am not Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord provides.)  I am just one person, with limited means and choices which must be made.

So I say THANK YOU LORD that the world's problems are not mine to solve.  Yes, I can and should do something.  We all should, if we can.  And I am reminded that money is not the only way to give.  Sometimes it isn't even the best way.  Prayer is often the best way to support someone in need.  "Does prayer make any difference?"  Thankfully, yes it does!

Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given in His name would not be overlooked by God.  A phone call to someone who is lonely or struggling with grief, a platter of cookies baked and delivered with warmth, a card with well-chosen words of encouragement.  All these and more are at our disposal if we will allow God to guide us to use them wisely.

I do not understand terrorism and war, violence and world hunger.  I do not understand why human beings would do the things they often do to each other.  But when I spend enough time with Him, I can rest knowing that nothing is too hard for Him and He is in control.  May God bless You ...Marsha Young & & &

Debbie is hosting today at Heart Choices - please see her wonderful post on this quote.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Official - We Don't Know Much

                                             Spiral galaxy M101. Image credit: Hubble
Spoiler alert!  This just in from the scientific community - the universe is far more complicated, much larger and there is much more that we don't know - than we ever dreamed!

Well, color me dumbfounded.  I'm simply shocked.  Aren't you?

The Sacramento Bee contained a major article and the evening news with Diane Sawyer did a major video report on the latest scientific "discovery" that the number of stars, and by implication, the size of the universe is approximately three times bigger than previously thought.

Get ready for a big number....even bigger than the nearly 14 trillion dollars of national debt (but that is a whole 'nother article) ... 300 sextillion.  Yep, just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

And talk about a titillating number - my guess is that adolescents think it has something to do with hormones run amouk.

But no, 300 sextillion, that is the new number the finest minds in our galaxy have now come up with to define the number of stars in the universe.  That would be 300 with 23 zeroes after it - or some such goofiness.

What really amuses me, is the fact that the scientific community (for whom I generally have a good deal of respect) is so amazed that they were so far off in their prior estimate of the number of stars.  Actually, it turns out it was more of a guesstimate, but let's not be petty.

They are truly flummoxed, astonished, and as an old friend of mine used to say "just plumb bumfuzzled" that they were so far off the mark.  They thought they had a bead on this thing.  They actually believed they could comprehend the incomprehensible.

So, now it's official.  We don't know how big the universe is, although the better minds have in recent years concluded that it is not finite, but rather an ever expanding universe.  Uh - huh, makes sense to me.  Why would the creator suddenly stop creating, just because He hit 100 sextillion stars?  Pretty silly supposition if you ask me, but of course, no one did.  I'm just saying.

In my through-the-Bible daily readings, I just finished the Psalms again - and I was impressed again with David so humbly saying "such knowledge is too wonderful for me."

Of course it is.  And "them" too, if only they could admit it.  And as for their new math number of 300 sextillion ... well, that just makes me smile.  It may have been yesterday's number, but my guess is that it isn't today's number, and surely will not be tomorrow's either. 

For anyone who has ever read Silmarillion by C.S. Lewis, it won't surprise them to learn that He is still at it.  When all the morning stars sang together ....  what, did we think they only knew the one song?

Excuse me, I have to go off now and grin a silly grin for awhile.  I just love it when, every so often, God decides to burst our little balloon.  And when I am done grinning, well, then I will just be smiling thankfully that I serve such an awesome God.  He is, indeed, beyond finding out. ... Have a really fun day! 

Life Is a Pressure Cooker - Part four

LISTENING AND LAUGHING - Two great safety vents

Last post I mentioned talking as a way to relieve pressure in your life.  Not just aimless prattling, but positive, intentional conversations with the Lord, friends and family.   However, it is a one-way conversation (actually it can hardly be called a conversation) if I do all the talking and the other party does all the listening.

God is the Great Listener - the best, the ultimate.  Although we are taught to say our prayers, at bedtime, at dinner, etc., I do not ever recall being taught to listen for God's responses to my prayers.  Wait?  Yes.  Hope? Yes.  But listen?  Not really.

During the years I taught corporate communications, we spent lots of time going over how to speak up appropriately in meetings and how to write an articulate memo in order to give your idea the best chance of fair consideration.  In other words, talking.  I worked in a mid-sized company of around 1,200 employees and each person could sign up for the class or classes they felt would be most helpful in their daily work.

Because so much of my time was spent sorting out miscommunication in the workplace, I decided to develop a class on listening.  Just listening.  Nothing else.  The response was surprising.  People filled the class and those who could not get in put their names on a waiting list for the next opportunity.  I discovered that people were hungry to learn how to listen, but no one had ever given them any guidelines.

God gave us the best instruction in listening that I have ever found.  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." 

The first rule of good listening is to "be still."  Simple.  But not so easy, when our minds are full of opinions and questions and anxiety.  In the above mentioned class, instead of the typical introductions and review of the agenda, the class began before the attendees even entered the room.  A sign was posted on the classroom door that said, "SHHHHH - LISTENING IN PROGRESS."

Students entered silently and were handed an exercise sheet, with instruction to write down every sound they could hear in the room - the sound of pens scratching on the paper, the sound of breathing, rain on the window, someone down the hallway talking loudly on a phone.  There was a prize for the person who could list the greatest number of individual sounds - and with absolutely nothing going on the room except for listening (and writing down the what they could hear) the lists often went to twenty or twenty-five different sounds.

It is amazing what we can hear when we really listen.  The underlying tension in a child's voice when they tell us they had a "good day", leads us to suspect we need to listen to them tell us about what happened that day.

When we listen to a friend, without mentally forming our own reply before they are finished talking, when we allow a heartbeat or two between when they finish their sentence and when we respond, we begin to learn the art of really listening.

Listening to the concerns, joys, struggles, and victories of others allows us to better discern, appreciate and deal with our own challenges. 

This series began discussing the safety vent of tears, and thus we come full circle to the safety valve of laughter.  Many years ago Norman Cousins, the famed UCLA doctor who pioneered the study of biochemistry in human emotions,  wrote extensively on the healing power of laughter.  Once again, God was way ahead of our human understanding.  His Word tells us in Proverbs that "A merry heart does good like medicine."  True then - still true today.

Scientists now know that our brains release endorphins when we laugh, producing a sense of well-being and cheer.  Increased endorphins have been shown to promote better recovery from illness.  God knew that thousands of years ago, long before someone coined the phrase "laughter is the best medicine."
                                           & & &

Life is tough.  Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, suggested that it is only when we give up the false notion that life should be easy, that we can begin to deal effectively with life's toughest challenges.  God knows our frame and remembers that we are frail creatures at best.  He knows that we often succumb to pressure, just when we most need to take a strong stand.

But He has not left us without some tools with which to confront life's pressure.  Yes, life is a pressure cooker, but we need not live caught between "stowing and blowing" (see article one in this series).  Instead we can learn to use our God-given coping mechanisms and emerge from each trial stronger, truer and more able to help someone else.
  •      Tears
  •      Walking
  •      Talking
  •      Listening
  •      Laughing
These are healthy safety mechanisms for venting pressure.  The world offers rage, revenge and violence to express human frustration.  God offers us strength and purpose as we weep, walk, talk, listen and laugh with Him and with those He has put in our lives.   ...  God bless you  ... Marsha Young

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Having It My Way - In Other Words

                     There are two kinds of people:  those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "all right then, have it your way."  C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author and thus it pains me to have to say that on this one point, I disagree with him.

I would posit that there are not "two kinds of people" - but rather there is only one kind of person, a human one, and that any one of us may have chosen to be in either of these two positions at different times in our lives.

Jesus is the only person - both fully human and fully God - who could and did consistently, without fail, always say to the Father, "Thy will be done."

Much like the fast-food ad that encourages us to "have it your way", I have sometimes decided to do just that.  Not that I would have acknowledged it at the time, because we do have an ability to justify, disguise, and deny our own motives, even to ourselves.  That is why Jeremiah wrote, "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?" 

Yep - been there, done that.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that when we turn around - repent -  and ask God for His will to be done, He forgives and restores.  Some of us only learn the hard way.

Where I do agree with the Lewis quote above is in the fact that we cannot be in both camps at the same time.  We are either striving daily to say (and act upon) "Thy will be done" - or we are actively walking away and God must respond with, "all right then, have it your way."  As Joshua said to the people - "Choose you this day whom you will serve."

That is the marvelous fact of God's love and grace - He does give us the choice.  As Jan Karon writes in her new book, In The Company of Others, God gives us free will in order that we may give it back to Him.  Someone asks, "Well, why give it back, since He gave it to us in the first place?"  Her response is classic.

"Because we don't know what to do with it."  On our own we will inevitably use our free will to make some wrong choices in life.  But when we give it back to Him, He then gives us the grace to make the right choices.

I love C.S. Lewis and have read nearly everything he ever wrote, some things multiple times.  But on this one point, as an old acquaintance of mine used to say, "I think he may have gotten a little tipped over."  He was human, after all.  Still, it is a very thought-provoking perspective, and has more truth in it than we might be comfortable with.       & & &
Today's In Other Words is hosted by Esthermay at The Heart of a Pastor's Wife.  She has some excellent comments about the will of God by decree and the will of God by command.  Please stop by.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life Is a Pressure Cooker - Part Three

Walking and Talking - They Really Help

In Part One - we talked about the fact that life's pressures can sometimes cause us to overheat, and even explode upon occasion, if we do not have our vents working properly.  In Part Two - we reviewed one of God's best inventions for defusing some of life's pressure build-up:  healthy tears.

Now we come to two other wonderful devices for dealing with pressure, walking and talking.  Most of us begin these two activities sometime near the end of our first year of life.  By the time we are full-fledged adults you would think we would have them down pat.  However, this is not necessarily so.

Oh, we may talk a good deal, but unfortunately we may say very little.  Or we may be talking to the wrong person, which tends to make things worse rather than better. 

Nevertheless, when used thoughtfully and appropriately, these two abilities can work wonders in allowing us to safely reduce life's pressures.

A walk with a friend: 
What a blessing!  The best friend any of us can have is Jesus.  Many of us can remember singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus during services in our youth.  I am also reminded of another old chestnut in the gospel music catalogue, And He Walks With me and He Talks With Me.

But do we ever take them literally?  I have.  When my two boys were young, and my daughter was a baby, we only had one car and it was usually gone during the day as my husband took it to work.  So I could not leave the house during that time, unless I did so on foot while corralling two rambunctious boys and carrying a baby in arms, as we did not have a stroller.

But in the evenings, when their father got home, I would take a walk for a half an hour or so, just around the neighborhood - to get some fresh air, clear my head, and calm my heart before the Lord.  It was those quiet walks, that helped me go back and start dinner and face the din.  Sometimes I would listen to the birds chirp and sing.  Sometimes I would look at the clouds or the shape of a tree.  Just walking around in God's creation gave my heart a rest and my mind some clarity.

And what fun to take a walk with a friend who shares your interests or struggles.  Many women, who cannot afford to join a gym or buy expensive home equipment, get their exercise by walking with one or more friends while they talk about their day.  Burns up calories and can also burn away the dross of resentments, confusion, and misunderstanding.  And it is free!

Likewise, talking is a God-given ability that He desires to see us use in a healthy and meaningful manner.  Jesus is also a wonderful listener, and He will speak in that still small voice to our hearts when we take the time to go to him in prayer.  The Lord said in Isaiah, "Come now let us reason together."  God invites us to talk with Him about anything and everything that may be putting pressure on us.

Talking with coworkers, friends, family members can also be a viable outlet for easing the normal pressures of life.  Caution is needed, however, to resist gossip, criticism of those not present, or self-pity.   When we avoid these, and focus on healthy, productive conversations about life's challenges - talking becomes the blessing God intended for it to be. 

God gave mankind language skills, uniquely in all creation, as none of the animals He created can speak.  Yes, there are a few limited exceptions such as "talking parrots."  But they make sounds in imitation of others - and without any real understanding.  Oh, dear, I fear I may have fallen into that trap myself from time to time.

                                                 & & &

So if your life is a pressure-cooker right now - I have two suggestions for you: 
     1.  Take a walk.
     2.  Have a talk.

You may choose to take a solitary stroll for relaxation or a group walk for exercise.  Either has value.  But get out in the fresh air and move.  It will ease your tension and build your stamina.

                                                     Man walking on the edge of Knik Arm in Earthquake Park, sunset. Anchorage, Alaska, USA (color)
For having a good talk, you may choose to pour out your concerns only to the Lord.  He is always the best audience.  Sometimes, though we are like the little girl who told her mother she was lonely and wanted to talk to someone.  He mother, who was busy with other life demands, told her that she could always "talk to Jesus."  The child innocently said, "Yes, that is true.  But sometimes I need to talk to someone with skin on."  Um-humm - yes, we do.
Housewives Spreading Gossip, Having Coffee Clip Art clipart                                          

In those times, choose your talking partner wisely, and then talk to your heart's content.  And that is exactly what you will discover.  Your heart will feel more content, after sharing a good talk with someone who cares.

Walking and talking - just two of the safety vents God has given us with which to deal with life's inevitable pressures.  King David said, "... He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul."  A quiet walk beside a stream is not just a refreshing metaphor, it is also a description of an action that truly brings peace.  I have never walked beside a brook, lake, or river that I did not feel better afterward.

Praying that you will have a good walk and some lively talk.  God bless you  ... Marsha Young

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Life Is a Pressure Cooker - Part Two

Life is full of pressures - family pressure, social pressure, job pressure, financial pressure, and on and on it goes.  When these pressures build up in our lives, as they surely will in every life sooner or later, God has designed some very healthy "safety valves" for venting (or blowing off a little steam) similar to those on the pressure cooker.  One of those safety valves is tears.

For most of his life, my father was not a believer.  When I was six years old, he derided me for crying about something, and he did so in a particularly caustic manner in front of others.  I was so impacted by his unkind words that for the rest of my growing up years, I almost never cried.  I could go for years on end and never cry - neither publicly nor privately.  When he walked me down the aisle as a bride of barely eighteen, he had tears rolling down both cheeks, but I did not shed a single tear.

In other words, in order to try to prove that I was stronger than any pressure my father could place on me, I shut myself off from one of the safety valves God has given us with which to defuse our anxiety, express our sorrow and even demonstrate our joy; and I did so to my detriment.  I had confused stoicism with strength.  It was no fun.

Tears.  As humans, we have the unique ability to weep, to cry over pain, suffering, and injustice.  Or simply to cry because we are sad, or scared, or angry.  It is natural, and it is often the only reasonable response to what is going on in our world or in our lives. 

Job said, "... my eyes pour out tears to God." (Job 16:20)

David, the mighty warrior, nevertheless wrote, "... all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears." (Psa. 6:6) NIV

And these tears are not despised by God, for David also wrote to the Lord, "...list my tears on your scroll, are they not in your record?"  or as the KJV puts it, "...put thou my tears into thy bottle."  (Psa. 56:8) We only bottle that which has value - bottled perfume, water, medicine.

Tears are sometimes not only appropriate, but necessary.  After all, even "Jesus wept." (John 11:35)  It was the only appropriate response on that occasion.

Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet" - and a more lachrymose person could hardly be found.  But it was not self-indulgence, or foolish emotionalism, that caused his tears.  He wept because he cared deeply, and thus he said, " Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!  I would weep day and night for the slain of my people."  (Jer. 9:1)

Those who cannot weep, rarely know how to express great joy.  But those who learn to cry when it hurts, can also laugh when it doesn't; they are able to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those that rejoice.

One of the wisest men who ever lived, king Solomon, wrote, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven  ... a time to weep and a time to laugh...". (Eccl. 3: 1, 4)

Physical tears are a natural bodily fluid.  We are designed to cry through the function of the lachrymal glands and our tear ducts.   When the body cannot produce enough tears, some people have to use an artificial product, like Refresh Tears, in order to keep their eyes from becoming dry and irritated. 

In our spirits, when we stifle our God-given ability to shed necessary tears, we allow the pressure in our lives to build up beyond the "safety" level.  Our souls become dry and irritated.  Every silly thing that someone else says or does gets on our very last nerve.  Sooner or later, something is going to give.  No one has ever been bruised by getting hit with a tear; but some have been deeply hurt by angry words or mean-spirited actions.  There is such a thing as "having a good cry" - because weeping keeps our hearts softer before God and toward others. 

It is hard to make a fist when you are busy blowing your nose!

Now, the older I become, the more I am moved to tears - and I do not stifle them.  The beauty of a sunrise, the glory of a garden, or the pain of a loved one's illness, the loss of a friend, these are all legitimate causes for tears.  I am not talking about wallowing, but rather about healthy weeping.

I no longer fear crying as a sign of weakness.  I am reassured by God's word that " ... weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning."  (Psa. 30:5) KJV

I don't explode very often either.  I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I cry more and cringe less.  In other words, I allow the safety ventilation of a good cry to help me cope with life's pressures.  Big girls don't cry?  Nonsense!  Mature women do.

We will not always need tears.  Revelation tells us that in that new day, in that new place,  "God will wipe away every tear."  (Rev. 21:4)  We will no longer need tears because there will be no more pain or sorrow.  What a joyful promise that is!

But between now and then, why not allow yourself to use one of God's best inventions for the release of, and relief from, stress? Tears!  He made them for a purpose - let us use the ability to weep with purposeful humility.  God bless you. ...Marsha Y.

(Life Is a Pressure Cooker - Part Three)   Stay tuned ...

Living generously in grace - In Other Words

“Won’t the awareness God loves us no matter what lead to spiritual laziness and moral laxity? Theoretically, this seems a reasonable fear, but in reality the opposite is true…the more rooted we are in the love of God, the more generously we will live our faith.”
~Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb~
 I strongly agree with Manning's opinion that "the more rooted we are in the love of God, the more generously we will live our faith."

Children who are read to from an early age, more often become avid readers themselves.  Likewise, children who are loved, well-fed, and carefully disciplined usually develop into healthy, well-balanced adults.  Jesus told his disciples, "except you become as a little child, you will not enter the kingdom."  (Matt. 18:3) 

Thus, as a little child at God's knee, I am glad to be in His presence, happy to do His bidding, and eager to get to know Him better.  An awareness of God's love produces the opposite of spiritual laziness, rather it creates an eagerness to please Him who "knows me best and loves me most" - a concept that continues to boggle my mind.

Perhaps the concern about the assurance of God's love leading to moral laxity has to do with what St. Paul called using "liberty as a license to sin."  Well, I have seen that happen from time to time, but it never made me want to run right out and see how much I could get away with.  Instead, it made me sad that we humans take the wonderful gift of God's steadfastness and turn it into an excuse to let him down. 

But again, when you know someone loves you, whether a spouse or a child or a close friend, how likely are you to want to disappoint them?  Not very.  The same holds true in our walk with God.  When we really "know that we know that we know" that God's love is constant and unconditional, the last thing we want to do is disappoint Him or reflect poorly upon His grace.

And that is really what it all comes down to - grace.  Just grace.  All grace, all the time.  Thank God.  ...  Marsha Y.
                                  & & &
Today's quote is hosted by Patricia at Typing One-Handed.  Please stop by, she shares some good thoughts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life Is A Pressure Cooker - Please Vent Safely - Part One

(Note: This is a post from 2010 - little did I know then, how much experience I was about to have with pressure.) 

In our house, when I was growing up, we never had a pressure cooker.  There was some family tale about my grandmother nearly blowing up the house after forgetting she had a chuck roast stewing in one, and there were various accounts of how long it took to scrape the mess off the kitchen ceiling and walls when the thing exploded.  Apparently, she did not have the safety valve working properly.

                                           Uh huh.  Been there, done that - exploded, I mean, when my vents were not working properly.  And when such an explosion took place, it was known to spook birds in the neighborhood for blocks, and frighten small children into tears.  Of course, I exaggerate ..... one hopes.

For some years I worked in the mental health arena, and knowing how to "vent safely" was a key tenet of many of the counseling professionals I knew.  You had to know your "safe places" - that is know when and where and with whom it was okay to let it all hang out.

One of my extended family members is wont to explain her "explosions" as "having a melt down" - which phrase, of course, brings to mind the image of a nuclear fuel rod overheating and melting the faces off half the population in a fifty mile radius.  Not a pretty thought.  She seems to think that the "meltdown" rationalization excuses the pain she causes others during one of her emotional outbursts.

The fact is that most of us have, from time to time, been under so much pressure in life, that we have expressed our reaction to that pressure inappropriately.  We are not proud of ourselves in those moments, and we are often stymied as to how to prevent it recurring.  Again, harkening back to my days in health services, the pros called it "stuffing your feelings into a bag" until the bag can hold no more.  What happens at that point is the person stops stowing away their "stuff" - and starts blowing up.  Stowing and blowing is a self-destructive cycle that some never escape.

So, that brings us back to those "safety vents" or escape valves on the pressure cooker.  They are there for a reason, the safety of the cook and anyone who may be within the vicinity.  Such vents are designed to allow for the measured release of excess pressure in a safe way, and still allow the temperature to remain hot enough to cook the contents of the pot.

God "knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust."  (Psalms 103:14) Or, even more aptly, " ...What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while..." (James 4:14 NIV)   Our Maker understands our weaknesses and knows what makes us well as what makes us explode.

When we remember to turn to Him for safely venting our frustrations, we can avoid those destructive explosions or meltdowns. 

The Psalmist David, whom God called "a man after my own heart" understood this.  We can learn some valuable lessons about how to safely deal with the pressure in our lives, constructively vent our frustration, avoid injuring others through inappropriate explosions, and finally support and comfort those who are struggling through their own pressures by examining some of David's responses to life's pressures.  God has provided the tools for us and He wants us to learn to use them well.  This is God's "good and perfect will" for us. (Romans 12:2.)

But it is a learning process, not an event.  Over the next two or three posts I will delve into some aspects of life's pressure and our God-given safety valves.
                                         & & &
Are you under severe pressure in your life right now?  If so, God knows and understands; but more than this, He is willing to support you through it while you learn to function within the pressure.

Meanwhile, I pray you will have the peace that only comes from God as you deal with your unique life challenges. God bless you....
Marsha Young

For my determined purpose is that I may know Him - that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly.
(Philippians 3:10 - Amplified Version)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Withdrawing from the light - In Other Words

"Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God."
One can only ask oneself - why?  Why would anyone, why would I, withdraw from light and warmth, much less from God Himself?  And yet, I have done so on numerous occasions in my life, and probably so have you.

If I am honest, those times when I have withdrawn from the fire of God in my spirit, it was likely for one of two reasons:
      1.  I thought it was getting too hot for my comfort.  That is, the intensity of what God was telling me, and the consequences that might occur if I listened and obeyed, were simply more than I was willing to risk at that moment.
     2.  I feared the ridicule of others who might deem me too "religious" - some kind of whacko zealot - who really needed to dial it down a notch.

We humans love to be comfortable.  We like our recliners, our lounging pajamas, our hot coffee or tea, and our favorite slippers.  We love the comfort of a warm fireplace on a cold evening, and there is nothing wrong with any of that. 
Legacy Legwear Set of 2 Feathery Slipper       Socks - A92355

But when God's spirit encourages us to reach out, to venture beyond our comfort zone for someone else's welfare, the potential risks and consequences sometimes seem too hard to contemplate. 

So we quietly move away from the fire.

When we withdraw from the light, well, that one is much more obvious.  God's word tells us in Matthew that men do this because they "love the darkness" because their deeds are evil.  Ouch!  Surely that is a little harsh?  I mean most of the world today seems to doubt there even is such a thing as actual evil, although how they can doubt it's existence is beyond me.  Have they read a newspaper lately?

Once when we were on a camping trip, we arrived late at night, and it was cold and dark.  We hooked up hurriedly, but suddenly something went amiss and the whole trailer floor was flooded with cold water about an inch deep.  My husband, God bless him, told me to go ahead and get into bed where it was at least dry, if not warm, while he dealt with the burst hose and the mess.  So I did - cold and dry at least beat cold and wet.

You know, now that I think of it, I have sometimes done this in "real life."  That is, instead of dealing with the messiness of life, whether my own mess or someone else's, I have chosen to stay "cold and dry" - not comfortable, but less uncomfortable than if I waded into the situation God had allowed to occur in my life.

Nevertheless, God still offers us warmth and light, whenever we are courageous, or trusting, enough to move toward Him.  Isn't that amazing?   Have a wonderful day. ...Marsha Y.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Bit of Encouragement

"What wonders a bit of encouragement can do! It’s one of the most awesome treasures God has given us – the ability to inspire, motivate, and reassure others.
~Barbara Johnson~

Once, long ago, I was walking into a shopping mall in Chico, Calif.  Just an ordinary day, with two young boys in tow, going to get some school clothes.  Suddenly out of nowhere, a young woman came rushing up to me and asked, " Aren't you Marsha ?"  I said that I was, but wondered who she was, as I could not recall ever meeting her before.

She smiled and said, "I thought that was you.  I just wanted to let you know that I heard you speak in Redding one time years ago, and I never forgot what you shared that evening."  She then proceeded to give me a quick thirty-second recap of what my topic and main points had been on the evening in question, nearly a decade earlier.  Then she breathlessly said, "I just had to speak to you and let you know that you changed my life that night.  Thank you again."  And she rushed off.

I was left standing there surprised, humbled, and very grateful.  Sometimes we wonder whether we are ever making any real difference in anyone's life.  That day, that young woman gave me such a word of encouragement that I have never forgotten it. 

Giving and receiving encouragement, either way it is such a privilege that it is a mystery to me as to why we do not engage in it more often.  It costs so little to offer a word of support, or to share a quick motivational illustration - and yet, it may yield wonderful dividends in someone's life, as well as in our own. 

I married very early and had children right away, and thus, did not have the opportunity to go to college.  This was a long held dream for many, many years.  Occasionally, I would get the opportunity to attend a nearby community college extension class.  It was like getting a drink of water in the desert for me.  However, because my life was circumscribed by my parental and household responsibilities, I doubted whether I really "had what it took" to pursue higher education.

Then one day, I turned in a paper for a creative writing class, and the instructor told me that it was very good; so good, in fact, that he thought I should try to get it published.  "Really?", I asked, hardly able to believe what he was telling me.  "Do you think I could do OK in some other type of classes, too?"

"Marsha,"  he replied, "I think you could ace any class they have over at the university."

It was the first time anyone had given me that kind of affirmation.  It stayed with me for the next two decades, while I raised three children.  Eventually, I did obtain first a bachelor's and later a master's degree.  But I may not have had the courage to even try it (especially since by then I was often the oldest student in the class) if it had not been for that young professor many years earlier.

Encouragement lingers, it affirms, it warms the heart during long days and longer nights of self-doubt.
And then someone speaks a word of support and a grey day becomes lighter and more hopeful.

My mother was a nurse for over 30 years. During her final illness a young hospital aide came to me to say, "I have decided I can become a nurse after all, after talking with your mom during these last few days.  She was such an encouragement and I now believe I can do it."  Even on her death bed she was still affirming others.
Whether it is a shy student in a Sunday school class, or a quiet neighbor who seldom says hello - we never know when just a few kind and encouraging words may make someone's day.  This is a gift God has given us to share with each other.  The opportunity and the ability to encourage one another. 

And so, "... Encourage one another with these words" - God tells us to follow His example.  After all, Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also.  If it were not true I would have told you so."  Talk about encouragement!  God bless you. .... Marsha Y.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Landing in the Loony Bin

We are here at my husband's cousin's house in Cleveland - but, oh wait, not to misunderstand - THIS is not the Loony Bin!  :)  At least not just now.  However last night we did happily land in one.

It was one of those wonderful nights where we experienced what I like to call "making a memory."  We went to dinner, five of us, at a restaurant called The White Oaks, built in 1928, during prohibition,and its colored history was documented along the hallways with marvelous pictures of patrons in styles from the 20's, 30's 40's, etc.
 From the coffered ceilings to the patina of the dark oak paneled walls it was a step back in time.  A gentle regression to a time when manners, customs, and cuisine actually mattered.  We were greeted by a friendly and attentive staff, from the front desk to the final sip of after-dinner coffee.  We had early reservations, which was a very good thing, because it began to sleet (which later turned to snow) while were we driving to the restaurant.  But not to worry about getting soaked getting into this fine old establishment, for there was a convenient portico to park under while we disembarked.

We were escorted down a series of long, then short, then quick turn hallways, which reflected the old construction which had probably been remodeled and added onto more than once.  While the interior might not make modern cohesive logic, it made for perfect dining ambiance.  I counted no fewer than four fire placing all either roaring or glowing in the lamplight from the wall sconces which were also from a bygone era.

After a series of turns, step ups and then - careful, watch your step here, a couple of steps down - we arrived at our assigned seating destination.  It was a large round table, situated in a generous bay window which overlooked a burbling creek, surrounded by colorful oaks, elms, and maple trees in various fall colors.  Deer wandered by, unhurried and unafraid.  An entire brace of mallards, wonderfully colored drakes in the lead, swam down the creek below.

As we settled in noticed various posters, placards, and sayings on the walls - and there were even a few signs affixed to the tree trunks outside the bay window.  First we noticed a sign that encouraged diners to protect the "state bird - the loon."  While we are from California, the other three diners are all native Buckeye's and they looked oddly at one another and simultaneously asked each other, "Isn't the cardinal the state bird?"                                    Photo of ...                                                           
Then they quickly answer each other, "Yes, it is."
 So we sat and puzzled on that for a moment until the waiter arrived, at which point they inquired of him, "Why do the signs refer to the loon as the state bird?  The cardinal is the state bird of Ohio."

The waiter pointed to the smaller print at the bottom of the signs on the trees and said, "That says the State of  Minnesota."

Now we all looked at each other and said, "But this is Ohio."

"Um, hum", as he efficiently poured water into each crystal goblet, as though this were self-explanatory.

Now we were intrigued, so the native Ohioans tried again.  "Okay, if this is Ohio" (this was the first that I knew that this was up for conjecture) "then why do the signs say the State of Minnesota?"

"Because the owner wanted it that way."  Well, of course.

The waiter departed and we all looked at each other and burst out laughing.  Then I looked at the stenciled wall trim above our table which read, "Normality is abnormality in this locality."  Now we were getting somewhere.

By this time we were all in a high mood of hilarity, and the laughs just kept on coming.  But better yet, the food just kept on coming and it was all wonderful.  The menu offered everything from mahi-mahi to venison.  The clams were fresh and one member of our group quickly declared they were "the best he had ever had in his entire life!"  This was a declaration not made lightly.  Then as he speared another clam, it came lose from the shell a little more quickly than anticipated and ...whoops ... flipped right off the table and into the floor.  I was reminded of the line from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts declares "slippery little suckers" - and I stifled another laugh.

There was prime rib done to perfection, clam bake without peer, fresh shaved horseradish, julienne squash and carrots, sweet potato fries, and on and on and on it went.  Eventually, we came to the after-dinner coffees accompanied by warm breaded chocolate desert.  What a wonderful evening. 

Food, fun and family - all done with good humor, good manners, and good service.  Wow!  It probably doesn't get any better than this.
& & &
When was the last time you "made a memory?"  If it was some time ago, I encourage you to take the time and opportunity to make a new one soon.  God bless you. .....Marsha Y.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Confused and aimless - In Other Words

"Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)

We live between two large area high schools, each about a half a mile in either direction from our house.  I often have the opportunity to observe the young people walking by (yes, a few of them do still actually walk to and from school).

Their troubled faces trouble me just looking at them.  I am not so old that I cannot recall that high school can be a tough obstacle course each and every day.  And I know that youth is no panacea for all that ails a person. 

Nevertheless, these young people look so confused and aimless it is haunting to me.  They show no joy in their faces.  There is very little joshing around as they shuffle down the sidewalks.  They make little to no eye contact with one another.

For a number of years I worked in a mental health agency.  One term with which I became very familiar was a "flat affect" - meaning the person had little to no facial expression of any emotion.  That is what these teenagers remind me of - flat affect.

It is a sad, but stark, visual reminder of how much our youth need a relationship with God.  This generation of teens has more freedom, more money, and more "license to act out" than any before.  And as God's word so clearly tells us, all this humanistic freedom does not produce any real happiness.

Instead we see them "aimless and confused", wondering what to do with themselves.  Granted this is not every teenager.  And hopefully it does not describe those who already have committed their lives to Christ. 

The witty Oscar Wilde once opined that "youth is wasted on the young" - and perhaps there is some truth to this, in that they do not seem to appreciate their strength, energy, vigor.  It is all ahead of them.  But many whom I see today reflect only a detached melancholy.

The broken society in which they have grown up has shown them no mercy, introducing them to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity as middle-schoolers; such that by the time they reach high school there is little they have not seen or personally experienced.  They are, indeed, jaded juveniles.

Granted our generation was no shining moral role model.  And in our race up the ladder of affluence and success, we have, too often,  left behind a generation of young people who are disconnected from us and from God, and sometimes even from each other.

But there is hope!  God yearns over them like a shepherd and is not willing that any should perish.  Those of us who have escaped the fowler's snare owe it to these aimless ones, to point them to Calvary.  For those who are completely confused about who or what they are, we can, with confidence share with them the clarity of who Christ is.  Lord help us to do it with humility and to "be on our knees to pray for the harvest hands."

And if you are blessed to know a godly teen, please tell them today how much you appreciate them, and how proud you are of them.  They could use the encouragement.  It is a tough world in which they are growing up.
....  Marsha Y.