Friday, March 30, 2012

A glimpse of Spring....

    It's spring, which is not an unmixed blessing.  Flowers bring bees.  Warmer temps bring storms. "Longer" afternoons (courtesy of Daylight Savings Time) make it harder to get kiddos to bed at a reasonable hour on school nights  and every teacher knows that from here on out, teaching is going to be an uphill climb.
   Yet at the same time, there is something so right about spring... even with the ubiquitous yellow pollen that coats everything which isn't moving...  which this spring almost included me as I've been pretty sedentary:) at times. (Warning: don't sit in the outdoor swing too long ...)
   For us, spring means birds nesting in the carport.  So sweet!  We love to sneak out and take pics of the mother bird sitting on her nest.  Yet, these sweet visitors  also bring  bird blop, not to put too fine a point on it:)  And if you get too close to the nest, you can see "ruffled feathers" in action (even though it's our carport!)
  It also means a glimpse of greenery everywhere you go accompanied by these glorious spring flowers. I love Azaleas and Jonquils.  They seem to spring up over night and just seeing them makes nature's message to me soooo real: the hard, cold winter is gone once again! But then, the flowers are gone too,  almost as soon as they first appeared...
  And it also means a glimpse of the neighbors, people out mowing yards, kids playing, laughing and yelling.  Only... the lady down the road who doesn't maybe see so well anymore called the cops on the kids across the street because she thought they had a gun. And they did, but it was a toy one and so when 6 police cars surrounded the house, the parents were a little stunned. And then, because the parents didn't speak much English, all the neighbors got to see (or hear about) Mabel-dale's version of My Big Fat Spring Fest.  And it kind of made me wish that A) kids' guns didn't look so realistic (I told our son to NEVER walk down this street with his airsoft guns, especially past Ms. D's house) and B) that we didn't live in an area where people were so easily spooked by the sight of toy guns  and C) that we could all get along a little better.
   Speaking of which, there are some neighbors I haven't seen outside enjoying the springtime weather and I wondered why.  Today  I learned  that their marriage has imploded in a spectacular way and is already moving through the court system.  Coming from an extended family where divorce was the norm, this made me feel sad and I started praying for them.  What if I had tried to bond with them earlier, back when it was winter and visiting with the neighbors wasn't so easy?  Could we have helped them somehow???  Maybe even invited them to church... 
   At any rate, for them I'm guessing that spring has yet to arrive.
  And then this morning, I read something in my devotional that really caught my eye:
  "But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.   When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint.
  The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak." 
  Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
  The man said, "What's your name?"
  He answered, "Jacob."
  The man said, "But no longer..."
                                               (Taken from Genesis 32, The Message//Remix:Solo)

  According to the commentary here, the name "Jacob" means "manipulator".  I've heard other pastors say that Jacob meant "deceiver", "trickster", etc.  And according to the narrative in Genesis, Jacob lived up to his name - he was a tricky fellow, a deceiver of the first water.
   I thought about that. Can you imagine, when asked what your name is, having to respond with, "Manipulator"??  From first grade on, you have this label stuck to you and, even worse, it fits.  "Deceiver" - this is your name?!
   And yet here, a mysterious man, a divine appointee, wrestles with him and as the struggle intensifies throughout the long, solitary night, Jacob simply will not let go.  And then, as the night begins to wane and Jacob has to be exhausted from the lengthy fight, the mysterious man demands to be released which makes perfect sense to me - we've been at this all night, let me go.... I don't want to have to hurt you more than I have... Daylight is coming and you won't be allowed to look on my face...
    Even so,  Jacob still refuses to let go.
   And then the stranger asks a question. Which throws me for a loop...
   "What's your name?"
    God knows our name.
    This man, whoever he was, if he was in a position to bless Jacob and if he found him in the middle of nowhere without a  GPS, it seems to me that he  must have known Jacob's name.
    The problem was that Jacob didn't know his own name.
     When his opponent asked, Jacob answered as he had since he was old enough to talk, "Deceiver."
     My name is Deceiver....
     And the startling answer filtered back through the darkness,
     "No longer."
     "Your name is no longer Jacob.  From now on it's Israel..."
      This may sound weird, although hopefully no weirder than wrestling with a total stranger in the dead of night while exchanging personal info...  But today it dawned on me: my name, "Cathie," and all that it encompasses, my personality, my reputation, etc - all of that is probably not the name God knows me by.  And then I began to wonder what my new name might be!
      Just thinking about it gave me a divine lift, a feeling of springtime in my heart.
       Spring here on earth is a mixed bag; however,   there is another Spring coming.  In fact, it's already started.  It started at the cross and it's a springtime  bereft of all things not Him, filled with all things that are  Him - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness...
       What is your name?

Monday, March 26, 2012

One of the Very Worst Features of Modern Society... :)

     I am really enjoying The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books; today I started the ninth  in the series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors.  The stories are set in Botswana and the main character, Precious Ramotswe, is an entrepreneur who sells her father's very valuable cattle shortly after his passing. And  then, to the shock of some,  uses this great  wealth to open up, not just the only ladies' detective agency but really, the only detective agency of any kind in the entire country of Botswana.
     She's never been trained to be a detective but that doesn't bother her: she has a manual for detectives, which she refers to frequently, and she also has a secretary who received the unsurpassed mark of 97% from the Botswana Secretarial School.  (As opposed to the other female secretarial graduates who made marks in the mid 40's but who also wore very short skirts...:-)
    One of the things I like about the character of Precious Ramotswe is that she is a "traditionally built" woman.  I can identify. (See pics above and below if you have any doubt as to what a woman with a traditional figure looks like :) Also, her secretary wears these unspeakable glasses (see pictures above and below... ha!)  And Mma Ramotswe has to bite her tongue to keep from telling her secretary that she should not be wearing spots (dots) on her scarves when her skin is also somewhat dotted... (Okay... you can quit looking at the pics now... =/ )
    In the ninth book, Mma Ramotswe laments the fact that the values of the "old Africa" are giving way to newfangled, modern ideas. On page 10 the author writes,  "Mma Ramotswe ... considered it one of the very worst features of modern society that people should be ashamed to be of traditional build, cultivating instead a look that was bony and positively uncomfortable. Everybody knows, she thought, that we have a skeleton underneath our skin; there's no reason to show it."
    I love that!
    In fact, as I was reading this book today, I had to smile at several of the passages in it, including the one above.    And then I began to  wonder if there were any advantages for me in being a traditionally built lady, even though I am not living in Botswana...
   And guess what?? I found one!  Seriously!!!
   Since it's Spring and I love tee-shirts, I went out and bought three new ones at Mardel's this weekend.  However, I saw two others that I really, really wanted and yet, I wasn't sure I should buy them.  One was - how shall I say it -  a little ... colorful??  The other maybe  a little ... youngish?? For someone who is old enough to be a grandmother?? (Okay.. a lot youngish...)
   So I described one of them to Phil last night and asked him if it would bother him to sit next to a traditionally built wife wearing a shirt with Darth Vader and his storm troopers on the front of it.
   His laughing reply interested me, "No, Cathy.  I've gotten used to the fact that my wife is a billboard for Christianity..."
    A billboard for Christianity...
    Now there's something that a traditionally built woman can do better than a modern one with short skirts  and low marks in   secretarial school...!
    Again, I had to laugh!  But at the same time, it also started me thinking.
    When did I begin collecting Christian tee-shirts.. and wearing them? I guess I've done it off and on for  years but I know that in 2006 it really became a sort of mission for me.   In that year, from January  to April, I had a friend in the hospital whom I visited frequently.  As it became clear she wouldn't leave the hospital, I started going 4 or 5 times a week, usually right after school.
    I had one shirt in particular that I liked to wear at that time- it was black with white letters on the front that said, "In a dark world..."   And then on the back, there was a white cross with the words, "let the light shine."   Once when I was walking up to the hospital on a Sunday afternoon, I noticed a dignified, African American man coming along side of me.  He looked like he had just come from church  - I was wearing slacks and my favorite tee-shirt while he was wearing a very nice, conservative suit.  I'm sure I looked kind of sloppy while he looked distinguished.
   But as he drew even with me, he smiled at me and said, "I like the message on your shirt."  I wasn't sure what to say but since most people headed to the hospital are dealing with serious life issues, I gathered my courage and said, "Sometimes, Jesus is our only hope."  My new friend peered over his glasses at me, smiled again, and said, "ALL the time, Jesus is our only hope."
    From then on, I began to take note of how often people responded to  the  messages on my shirts, which was more frequently  than I would have expected.  Realizing  that  spurred me on to look for more  tee-shirts  with encouraging messages.  I soon found that I could be in the hallway  at Baptist or  UAMS or  St. Vincent's (my friend was transferred to all three of them before she died) and in every place, without exception, eventually someone who looked exhausted or  stressed.  would read the message on my shirt, smile and start talking about their loved one, their faith, whatever was on their mind.  By the time my own friend had moved to Heaven, I had pretty much decided that every time I went to the hospital, my shirt would have something on it that addressed both heart and soul needs.
    Then I noticed that people in restaurants and stores would sometimes ask me about the message on my tee-shirt or comment on it. Once I made a quick trip to a convenience store just  to get gas. The receipt didn't print up as it was supposed to so I ran inside. I hadn't planned to go anywhere except to the gas pump and was wearing an older tee-shirt that actually had a Christmas message. (This was summer time, long past the Christmas season).  As the clerk was getting the receipt for me, she quietly said, "It's true."
   I, being clueless, said, "What is true?"
   She replied, "Your shirt."
    I didn't even remember what I was wearing and had to look down to see the message - it was a picture of a baby in a manger and around the picture were the words, "His destiny was to change ours..."
    I smiled at her and she added, "It's true; Jesus changed my life.."
    Immediately we were on common ground: He changed my life too!
    From there we went on to a discussion about how hard the day had been for her. The boss had fired everyone but her that very morning because he had learned that the  other clerks were selling drugs and stealing from the cash register. So she had had the store by herself and was working two shifts while he tried to transfer some other workers to her store to help out.  I was able to tell her that I would pray for her and from that time on, whenever I saw her in the store, we had a strong bond - we were sisters in the Lord and we knew it.
   Now, some of my tee-shirts have comforting messages on them  while others, I hope, are funny but also thought provoking.  And sometimes people ask me questions about the humorous ones which also open up friendly dialogues.
   And although I hope to swim regularly at Willow Springs  this summer and be somewhat of a less traditionally built lady when September rolls around, honestly, being a bill-board for Christianity is really okay with me!   And for that job, I figure being traditionally built is a definite plus!!
   So move over, Mma Ramotswe :-)
   (As I was reading this out loud to my long-suffering husband, he was laughing and then suddenly he stopped, looked a bit concerned and said, "Cathie, you aren't planning to open a detective agency, are you?"
   We'll see....
   You never know with us traditionally built ladies who wear glasses and make high marks in school...:)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lessons from seedlings in a bottle...

     There are so many things I enjoy - walking in the rain, watching a video with my husband (when we can find one that we both like!), trying new places to eat, helping someone in need, being curled up with one of our little dogs at my feet and a good book in my hand, traveling (within reason!), swimming in the summertime, chatting with my friends, worshiping in church, creative writing, listening to my favorite music....  The list may not sound wildly exciting (sorry, afraid I'm usually at home, in bed, and asleep when the party scene is just beginning) but it's the simple things that bring me joy.
     However there are also some things that make me sad obviously and one of those things came to my attention this week.  For three years, we had a highly intelligent, gifted man living near us. He could plant any flower and it would flourish.  Not only that, he also knew what flowers to plant  in order to make the yard look attractive  -he could take a barren piece of property and make it look as if it had been professionally landscaped, even planting  flowering vines around the paper box to transform it from a yellow plastic eyesore into a thing of beauty.
     Although he was divorced and had lived as a bachelor for many years, he knew how to cook and could even make homemade preserves.  We were the recipients of his cooking and also of his green thumb - one summer he started Morning Glories for me in just a little plastic container with water - no dirt!  He could also take an older, run down house and make it look attractive on the inside and he could play classical music on a broken down piano and make it sound wonderful.
    At the same time, he loved to fish and could have lived easily off the land.
    In addition, he was sharp-witted and funny yet at the same time, in his more serious moments, he showed a lot of insight and wisdom.
    In short, he could do just about anything ...except quit drinking.
    And now he is gone; I just learned that he passed away about 8 months ago at the age of 54.  I looked up his obituary and there were two comments on it and that was all.
    Honestly, this is not a homily on the evils of alcohol addiction or a diatribe on the tragedy of a wasted life.
    Just sayin' that the news of Mark's death combined with my memory verses in James chapter 2 are  messing with me right now. Big time...  James talked about the royal law, saying that if a person was loving his neighbor as himself, he was doing well.  But if he wasn't... :-(
    I don't think I did well when Mark lived next door to us.  We tried to reach out to him and I think he even went to church with us on a few occasions.  But I always (secretly) looked down on him because he had a drinking problem.  I wonder if he ever looked at my rotund waist and (secretly) looked down on me because I have a chocolate problem...
    We gave him food when he was hungry (the Bible says to do that) and he always showed his appreciation by trying to pay us back.  (The seedlings and  the jars of preserves, etc)  He wasn't a slacker - he worked during the day and drank in the evening.  But still, even as I reached out to him, I considered myself better than him. I, who can't read music, make preserves, or do anything in the way of landscaping or interior decorating...
    Bottom line: I didn't reach out to him the way I would have wanted someone to reach out to me had the situation been reversed.  This man needed supernatural help to overcome his addiction and I never told him straight out that A) he had a   problem and B) there was hope for him.  He needed to be confronted and I didn't bother to do that because I didn't want to hurt his feelings but also because deep down inside, I didn't think there was any point in talking to him. I thought he was hopeless.
    But when I read the Bible, I don't see Jesus writing off people as hopeless and I don't see Him shrinking back from confronting the people He came to save and to deliver.
    Jesus is the one who said His followers need to love their neighbors as they love themselves.
    Now that my neighbor is gone, I can think of a dozen things I would like to say to him and I deeply regret writing him off because he was a drunk and I was not.  I don't know how I can put it any plainer than that.
     Loving my neighbor as I love myself - I'm beginning to understand that Jesus really meant that... And that without some humility on my part and a lot of  enabling on His part, I'll never make it.
      So thankful He doesn't write me off because I'm a snob and He isn't....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Every hour...

     The other day, I started to write a totally different Ten on the Tenth  blog...  I began a list of things that make me tired (i.e., aggravate me) and was doing quite well on that topic actually when my husband read part of my blog and said, "This is good, Honey, but isn't Ten on the Tenth usually about  ten things that you are  thankful for?"
    Ummm... well... yeah.
    So here I sit at 1:30 a.m., after being roused from a pleasant sleep by my old friend, acid reflux, and I'm very qualified at this moment to write about such topics de jour as:  Things That Make Me Tired... or Things That Tick Me Off... or Things That are Wrong with the World...
    Why do worries, physical ailments, bad news, etc.  always seem worse in the middle of the night?
    Last weekend when I was staying with my niece, I managed to accidentally set  off the burglar alarm system  at ... yep, 1 a.m.... by pulling too hard on a bathroom door that was stuck against the frame. (Apparently when the door popped open, it changed the air pressure in the area where the sensor is and that was all it took.)  Had I known all heck would break loose when I tugged on that door, I promise you: I would have stayed in that bathroom for the rest of the   night rather than set off this gosh-awful, ear-splitting, continuous, wake-the-dead siren, punctuated every 30 seconds by a scary male voice announcing, "A win-DOW is OPen."  (Who makes those recordings anyway???)  All the system lacked was disco lights; if we'd had that, the house would have undoubtedly qualified for a place in a Freddie Krueger movie or an Alfred Hitchcock film.  As it was, the quiet, otherwise charming house suddenly seemed possessed and my pulse rate spiked in accordance with the house's electronic stress.
   And I'm thinking: Okay!  I'm the adult here!  So I gotta do something... 
   But what???  I didn't even have a popgun with me!  And even if I did, I don't know how to shoot!  So  I ran, scrambling across the polished wooden floors, sliding  first to one room and then to the next, just barely crossing the threshold each time so that I could eyeball the windows in each room from a distance.  And all the while, I kept having  visions of some miscreant (huge, menacing, can't spell..) clambering over the windowsill and attacking us while the alarm is still blaring but before the police can get there. And I'm thinking, "What use is an alarm system in a case like that???"
   While I'm running, my niece was hurrying to get downstairs and in what was probably seconds but seemed like an eternity, she reached the downstairs area and had the code punched in, silencing the awful words, "A win-DOW is OPen."    Then we just stood there and stared at each other for a few seconds, she in her Cheshire Cat footed pajamas and I in a tent-like house dress that would not look good on the front page of the crime section of the local paper, and she said, "Did you shut mom's bathroom door all the way closed?"
     I nodded my head, clueless as to where this was going..
    "And did you have to pull on it really hard to get it to pop open?"
    Again I nodded my head.
    "Well, sometimes that makes the alarm go off."
     Ex-cuse me??  Tugging on the main bathroom door caused all that to happen???
     I should have been relieved.
     My fears should have all vanished.
     Instead, I just really couldn't take it in.
     We said good-night once more and  I went back to bed where suddenly, I was scared spit-less.  Just a few hours earlier, I had been lying in this beyond comfortable bed taking in all the color-coordinated beauty around me, luxuriating in what was a deluxe 4 star room compared to my own room at home and now I was lying under the covers, unsure which door to face in case a burglar really did pop into the room. Like that would make a big difference if I was facing one door when he burst through the other one.. duhhh...
     All kinds of thoughts went through my mind for the next hour or so.
     What if it wasn't the bathroom door?
     What if someone was climbing in the window and because I didn't actually go and pull back the drapes in each room, I missed them?
     What if the bird calls outside were.. really thieves signalling to each other, saying the coast was clear because the main guy was already on the inside..  (Don't laugh, I saw that in a movie once so it has to be true...)
     What if... What if... What if...
     I tried to sleep. I really did. But every time I closed my eyes, I heard that stern voice booming out, A win-DOW is OPen!
     The next morning, however, sun was streaming in through the  very same windows that had scared the daylights out of me the night before. And the birds chirping turned out to be.. just birds chirping.   And when my niece accidentally pulled too hard on the bathroom door later in the day and the alarm went off, it was aggravating and annoying...  but not frightening.
     Sometimes it's perpetual night down here or it seems that way.  Going through cancer.  Waking up in the middle of the night with alarms going off:  how will I ever pay my bills?  What if my spouse really does leave me?  What if I have to have surgery again?  How will I ever get through my loved one's funeral?  What if something happens to my child?  What if I lose my job?  What if... what if... 
    There is such a thing as the dark night of the soul.
    At those times, I need the Morning Star to rise and shine His light into the shadows, showing them up for what they really are.
   So thankful that in the wee hours of the morning, He is there.
    Seriously thankful for that. Even when it takes awhile for me to calm down and sense His presence, He's there.
    As the hymn says, I need Him every hour.
    But especially in the hours just before dawn...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ten on the tenth - Examples of what is Right with the Younger Generation

      I hear so many things about what is wrong with the world and I think most of it is true.  And I hear things about the younger generation - generation Xers - and I know each generation is different to some degree. And each generation has its strengths and its weaknesses.  Plus, it's also common for the older generations to believe that the young people are going to heck in a hand basket.
     I feel, however,  that there is something different about this new group of young adults who are  transitioning into the  "real world"and it is that many are selflessly pursuing ministry in foreign lands in ways that I don't remember my generation doing.  (Probably my peers did things like this and I just wasn't aware of it because there was no FB back then... :)
     Right now I'm thinking of young adults who go on short term mission trips, fall in love with a land and a people group, fall out of love with the American materialistic lifestyle, and just head back into full-time missions, determined to do whatever Jesus said to do in the Bible.  (I do remember hearing mission stories when I was young but the emphasis was on what these people gave up in order to follow Christ. What I'm hearing now is not so much "what-I-gave-up" as "what-I-gained".)

      So this  Ten on the Tenth blog is just really a list of ten young people who have either  joyfully set out to follow Christ in other lands or who are preparing to do that.

     1. Cari Nash - Founded Vision of Destiny school in Kampala, Uganda.

     2. Katie Davis - Founded Amazima Ministries in Jinja, Uganda.

     3. and 4.  Jenni and Tim Jarvis - In training to work full time with  WIM World Indigenous Missions).   Already doing short-term mission work in Haiti and Kenya and eventually will settle in Kenya.

     5.  and 6.  Andrea  and Matt Marlin - In training to work full time in Mozambique, where they have done short term missions.  Hoping to transition there soon, possibly even this year.
    7.   and 8.  Regina and Aaron Stevens - Also in training to work full time in Asia.

    9. and 10.  Justin and Deidra Kervin recently moved to Cajamarca, Peru with their two little girls. They financed their  first short term mission trip by selling their boat.  This trip convinced them to sell their dream house and move into a garage until they had  funds to go long-term to Peru. 

   These are just ten examples of what's right with the younger generation.  I'm sure there are hundreds more   testimonies of dedicated young people who work faithfully for Christ wherever they are - in the States or overseas, in their jobs, homes, neighborhoods, and churches.

   But undoubtedly, the ones listed listed above are young people who have caught a glimpse of the  "cloud of witnesses" that surround us, they have "laid aside every encumbrance" and are running the race that is set before them, with their eyes fixed on Jesus, the One who is their example, the One who is the author of their faith and the One who will perfect their faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Loving rainy days and little wet dogs... :)

     I love rainy days!  It hasn't always been like this for me and I admit that if there are too many rainy days in a row, I might get a little tired of them. But on the whole, I prefer steady rain pouring down as opposed  to bright, sunny days.
    Part of that goes back (no, not to Twilight... ) but to my early twenties when I worked in the library at Hendrix College.  One grey, rainy day, I was walking across the campus with the librarian I worked for and I commented on how I hated gloomy, wet days.  She looked surprised and pointed out in a cheerful way that the color of the trees showed up so much better against a grey sky.  As I looked at the foliage around me, I realized that she had a point.

    Later, as a mom with supposedly just one kid I would get tired of the noise and the clutter in our home.   (Young kids are like potato chips, I soon realized; you never have just one because they attract other kids like magnets and each additional kid increases the noise factor exponentially...) When everything got to me, I would go walking and it seemed to me that rainy day walks brought more peace to me than sunny ones. Maybe because no one else was out walking in the rain. More likely because the curtain of rain around me was like an enclosure  of peace and solitude.  Eventually it reached the place where if I was unable to go out and walk in a light rain, I would feel put upon, like I had missed something special.
    Today I went out just to get the mail. Rain was pelting down around me but I had an umbrella; there was no lightening to frighten me and no mail to encumber me - the mail box was empty.  So I just headed down the street, reveling in my surroundings.  When I reached the end of the street, I turned around and soon found myself stopping near a vacant, wooded lot because I could actually hear the whoosh of the rain as it swept through the branches high above me.
    After a minute or so, I headed home and this time, the wind was suddenly so strong that I could see it sweeping gusts of rain towards me and I had to struggle to hang onto my umbrella.  My first thought was, "This is not such a good idea after all!"  But then, why I don't know - I felt invigorated and found myself laughing, loving even the fact that my slacks were getting soaked!
   I had left our little Pomeranian/Terrier mix in the yard because, after all, I had only planned to get the mail and go right back in the house.  Occasionally Buddie escapes the confines of our fence so as I walked away from the house, I looked back periodically to make sure he wasn't running after me until I was sure he hadn't been able to escape this time.
  As I returned to our house, I could hear the little fellow barking frantically and picked up my pace, worried that he had somehow gotten trapped trying to squeeze through the gate.  When I got near our yard, I could see him, standing in our "flower bed" where he had a clear view of both streets that intersect at our property.  He was yapping vigorously while peering nearsightedly into the rain - with each bark, his little body seemed to bounce off the ground.
   I had assumed (incorrectly) that when the rain started beating down, he would take shelter under our front porch.  Instead, however, he just stood guard like a little furry sentinel in the corner of our yard,watching for me to return and probably wishing with all his little heart that I would have enough sense to come in out of the rain:)
   As soon as he heard my voice, he quit barking and ran to the gate to meet me. Then, before I could get halfway up the sidewalk, he was already on the porch, shaking his soggy fur coat and looking at me like, "Don't you get it????  We need to be inside, as in inside the house!" His look plus the hyper dance he was doing in front of the door clearly spoke volumes:  as far as he was concerned, I had lost my ever-loving mind:)
   I let him in where he proceeded to run around looking more like  a soggy rat than a rat terrier blend, trying desperately to dry off.  He was miserable yet he could have been dry and safe on our front porch at any time, had he chosen to be. It wasn't that he didn't know where the front porch was, it was that he knew I was out there somewhere in the neighborhood and where I was, he wanted to be also.  Even if that meant getting soaked for no apparent reason.

   The J. B. Phillips Translation of Luke 9:23 goes like this:
   "If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day, and keep close behind me."

   Today I looked at Buddie with a mixture of exasperation and humor, thinking, "Silly dog!  Why didn't you just stay on the porch and wait for me instead of standing out in the pouring rain, watching for me and  getting soaked???"
   Then I thought about this verse and realized that maybe Buddie has  a better grasp of theology than I do...

   Loving rainy days combined with  theology lessons from little dogs who don't have enough sense to come in out of the pouring rain and who never give up trying to follow their master and/or looking for their master's return.

Friday, March 2, 2012

So speak and so act...

      I have been blessed to be able to attend Bible study this week - something I normally take for granted.   I'm not used to having to "parcel" out my limited energy and plan ahead for something as simple as a video lecture and small group discussion.  Clearly, I take a lot for granted.

     The title of the Beth Moore study that I was fortunate enough to attend is  Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement and it comes directly from a verse in James 2, a verse I had somehow overlooked even though I have read James many times in the course of my life.
     This week, I found a new novel by Randy Singer to my delight. He's a Christian lawyer and pastor and author - maybe an unlikely combination:-)  And his books have been compared to John Grisham's, with good reason.  He's won awards and I have yet to read any of his books where I didn't have to re-think some of my preconceived notions, of which I apparently have an abundance  :-(
    This time around, however, his novel  made me extremely uncomfortable and several times I wanted to walk away from it. Yet because I was already hooked on the characters, I couldn't. I  finished it last night and then, totally stunned, spent another hour going back and re-reading key chapters.
    In the middle of the novel, one character talks about how mercy triumphs over judgement. "For judgement will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy." It was a direct quote from James 2:13, from the Bible study I am working on.  And that did not strike me as a coincidence...
    The book, The Last Plea Bargain, deals with multiple issues, including the sticky one of  inmates who are on death row and who also  have conversion experiences.  I thought Singer's handling of this subject and all the others he introduced in the novel were fairly and deftly handled.
     But now, the novel has ended and I'm left with James 2:13:   "For judgement will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.."
    For me, this doesn't play out on as grand a scale as it does for Singer's characters in his latest novel.  Their choices, when faced with this verse, are gut-wrenching to say the least.  Mine are much less adrenalin-laced and for that, I'm thankful.
   Basically, for me, this verse boils down to:  will I follow the Royal Law and love my neighbor as myself?  Or will I extend mercy to myself and exercise judgement when thinking of  and relating to others?
    Definitely something  I will be thinking about (and hopefully acting on)  in the days ahead as I continue through the workbook on James.
     So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  James 2:12