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.