Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Smelly, dirty people!

I have a pastor friend who is always anxious to wash his hands immediately following the time of shaking hands with the congregants after the service. He says he needs to “wash the fellowship” off his hands. It has always reminded me of another religious bunch who were OCD about hand-washing…the Pharisees.

Seems some folks can’t get “clean” fast enough after being exposed to dirt…or dirty people. Some have such a “dirt phobia” you can’t even get them close to people who may not meet their standard of hygiene.

I’ve never really understood people who are supposed to be followers of Christ, who don’t follow Christ. I mean, Jesus didn’t mind getting up close and personal with those who were considered “unclean.” That went for adulteresses, lepers, Samaritans, tax-collectors, even convicted felons like the thief on the cross. In his book, Nudge, Len Sweet makes the following statement about Jesus:

Does Jesus always smell good? Then something’s wrong. Jesus does not always smell like the Rose of Sharon or Lilies of the Valley. Sometimes Jesus smells bad, not because he himself smells bad, but because he likes to be around “fishy” people and welcomes bad-smelling people. Jesus isn’t afraid to let others’ smells rub off on him. Sometimes Jesus smells like…stables, gyms and locker rooms, dirty diapers, the homeless, smelly feet. Beautiful feet are most often bad-smelling feet (Nudge, page 262).

I read a quote the other day that said, “Good shepherds often smell like their sheep.” I think that’s true of Jesus-followers too. If we don’t smell like those we’re trying to reach, perhaps we’re not spending enough time with them, where they live.

I think Jesus would agree that the smell that offends Him the most is not the smell of sinners, it’s the repugnant smell of self-righteous religious folks whose prayers sound something like that of the Pharisee… “Lord, I thank you that I’m not like this sinner.” Now that stinks!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

In my cubicle, I have a wristband tacked to the wall. It's pretty nondescript, just a green wristband like you might get at a water park to show that you paid your admission.  To me it's much more than that.  It represents a time when I learned I could do something I thought to be impossible.

My husband and I volunteered to serve at a week long children's camp this past summer.  He was in charge of worship, I was in charge of crafts.  Until a couple days before camp, I thought I was going to also serve as a counselor, and I was not super thrilled about that.  Me, in a cabin in July with 10 girls ranging in age from  3rd-5th grades just didn't sound like the best situation for anyone involved.  I was the most grateful person at that camp when I found out that enough counselors had been found!

Even as camp craft lady, I had to take the swimming test if I wanted to swim in the deep end.  While I've never taken any formal lessons, I can hold my own in the water.  Bill had warned me that the test involved swimming across the swimming area, and then a swim out to the pontoon that served as the lifeguard stand for the deep end, where I would be expected to tread water for 3 minutes.  WHAT?!?!?!

The swimming was easy, both parts.  Then came the treading.  I am the first to admit that I am out. of. shape.  No two ways about that.  I was not confident at all that my arms and legs were going to be able to keep pumping for that amount of time.  I don't even think that I have even attempted to tread water for that long.  I know the mechanics of it: move your legs like you're riding a bike, and periodically use your arms to lift you up. Oh, and breathe.  About the time I thought I was going to call it quits, the lifeguard told me that my 3 minutes were up.  My legs were burning, my heart rate higher than I'm sure my doctor would have wanted it, and I was sucking air like I had run a marathon, but I passed the swim test!

My reward? The green bracelet hanging in my cubicle, and the ability to swim in the deep end all week long. Now I use the bracelet as a visual reminder during my busy day that I can get my work done, and I can do it well. That's well worth the effort I put in.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Advice For My 25-Year-Old Self

Saturdays, in bed 'till ten, sun peaking in, maybe back to bed again.
College days, bent over books, my study nook, ignoring all but my new outlook.
Date nights, what should I wear? Hours on my hair, I'm self-absorbed?  Just not aware.
Friday nights, out with my friends, have fun and then, over and over and over again.

That was the 25-year-old me.  Who was that girl?  I'd probably only recognize her from our matching University of Michigan sweatshirts, except hers doesn't have the holes.  See, in the last ten years, God has taken me on a journey.  I've become a wife to my best friend and mom to my amazing kiddos.  I've learned a lot about patience, selflessness, growing up, and patience (sorry, thought it deserved to be mentioned twice).  After many life lessons, there are a few pieces of advice I'd love to give my 25-year-old self.  So, here it goes: 25-year-old self, put down the Gameboy, turn off X-Files and listen.   

Enjoy absolutely every moment of sleeping in on Saturday mornings: but really, sleeping until 10am is a little excessive. Get up and do something productive with your day.  I've learned that you really don't need that much sleep.  I'm being serious.

Good job marrying your best friend.  You'll appreciate the solid base you've created for your marriage: especially when your kids are young and you have less time for each other.  Oh, and keep encouraging him to do the dishes. You'll appreciate that later too.

Go without.  You really don't need to satisfy every little whim.  You don't need the food dehydrator, frozen pizza cooker, or the mosquito bite zapper.  Set a budget and stick to it. You'll thank me later.

Stay in the moment.  Don't spend all of your time looking ahead to the next phase of your life.  Enjoy this season of your life, because later on you'll miss it.

Don't be so hard on yourself.  So you're not absolutely perfect.  Enjoy your young self. You'll most likely spend the rest of your life wishing you looked like you did at 25.  And remember, looks don't determine your self worth. You'll teach your daughters that someday.

Joy is found in the simple things.  You don't have to entertain yourself all of the time.  Spend time with loved ones. They won't all be in your life forever.  

Help those in need.  You spend too much time on yourself.  You don't think there's extra time, but you're perfectly capable of adequately taking care of yourself and a whole group of others at the same time (and you're actually quite good at it!).

You are stronger than you think.

Don't worry so much about what others think.  Don't be so self-conscious.  Live the way that the Lord wants you to live. Do the right things and don't worry about anyone else.  As a parent, you'll do what's  right for your children, no matter what others think.  Save yourself some trouble and apply this to yourself right now.

Start taking better care of yourself.  It is not a sign of whimpiness or weakness to take care of yourself.  Stop drinking Diet Coke all day. Stop staying up half the night finishing projects or watching television, or being on your computer.  Ahhmm...this is probably something about which I should also remind my 35-year-old self.  Read your Bible. Pray. Eat right and get enough sleep.  You'll be happier.

Don't be so judgmental of others.  Remember Matthew 7:3-5 and work on your own flaws instead of being caught up in the mistakes of others.  You also don't know as much about life as you think.  Up until now, your life has been pretty predictable, but you'll soon learn that life can change in unexpected ways.  I'm pretty sure you wouldn't recognize the life I'm living now.  Remember how you sometimes make fun of the women on The Baby Story who have a homebirth?  Well, you'll have two of them.    Please don't look at me like I'm crazy.  If you're smart, you'll have a homebirth with our first child too, because if you knew what experience was waiting for you at the hospital, you'd take your pregnant self and go running for our midwife (I have her number if you need it).  You'll also learn why mothers have a mutual respect for one another after going through the crazy life experience of childbirth.

Your life isn't as hard as you think.  This is something I'm still praying about and working through, so you might as well start now.  God gives us all responsibilities and struggles in life.  Most of them make us better people.  Most of the things you struggle with and obsess over have resolved themselves.  Give those things to God that you're worried about and focus on the good things in your life.  Realize that many others have much bigger struggles than you.

Don't spend so much money on groceries.  Be more frugal with the resources God has given you.  Find out about coupons and use them (especially now since in about ten years there will be about a million restrictions on how you can use them).  

And finally, my last piece of advice: if you hear about something called Facebook: don't sign up.  It'll save you a lot of time later....

So, 25-year-old self, hope this helps.  Maybe tomorrow night, in your honor, Scott and I will actually veg on the couch and watch a few reruns of Seinfeld.  Talking to you has reminded me that it's been way too long since we have had a date night.  I guess you can teach me a thing or two yourself.  Now both of us need to get off the computer and go to bed.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Notebook

I once heard that if you wanted to be a writer, that you should carry a notebook around with you at all times.  I guess the thought is, you NEVER know when inspiration will strike.  So, it didn’t take long before I had one on me almost every moment.  When I was younger and single, the notebook was usually a full size, college ruled notebook (you know, the kind you can get for $.10 a piece at school time).  After I got married, my husband hated to have all the notebooks around (I believe he called me a “hoarder”), so I started carrying small notebooks that I could hide away in my purse.

One of my coworkers once told me that he had never seen someone that ALWAYS carried paper and pens of some kind with them.  It didn’t matter what we were doing, I had some kind of paper and pencil in my hand.  Now, this came in handy in a few meetings where something unexpected came up that I needed to write down but most of the time there wasn’t a lot  of inspiration going on in those meetings.

Unfortunately, it seems that lately my notebooks have become less about inspiration for stories…and more about to do lists.  I am the type of person that will obsess about something that I need to do and will think about it until I completely block out what I am supposed to be doing or listening to, so I have felt that, if I can write this thing down, then it is out of my mind and I can focus again.

With life as crazy as it is (with my husband and three children, church, school, work, interviews, packing the house, looking for houses in a different city, etc.) all I ever seem to get done is making to do lists.

Sometimes, I do write a prayer or two in my notebook.  Usually those are me at a point in my life that I am exhausted, discouraged or angry and just need to SEE my words written out, rather than just saying them in my head or whispering them in prayer.

Sometimes, I have started writing in a notebook having the lofty goal of journaling every day.  Of course, that usually only lasts a few days and then I stop that…and the to do lists takes over again.

It is a little discouraging, actually, to look back through my notebooks and only see a lot of stuff that I planned on getting done, but it didn’t happen or that took MUCH longer than I had expected.

I really want to get my notebook back to a place of inspiration for me, not a place of work…Maybe I should get a SECOND notebook for the to do lists?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What is Your Level of Protection?

I was shopping recently and I had to go down an aisle that most men avoid like the plague – you know, the “feminine hygiene supplies.”  As I looked at the “levels of protection” offered by the various brands, it struck me that it’s good to have choices.  There is light, for those who don’t require much protection at all, regular for an average amount, and super for those who require a bit more help.  Now I’m not going to get into what those things specifically protect you against.   But I will tell you that I realized that the protection I needed, they don’t offer.

I have an active imagination.  That comes in handy when you are a writer.  It also comes in handy when you live in a small town.  Unfortunately that also means that I spend time thinking about what-ifs.  For instance, I have the weather radar up on the internet at all times.  What if a storm comes and throws the internet out and I can’t get my email?  I am thinking of getting a smart phone for the sole purpose of following storms on the weather radar, when the power is out.

I do trust in the Lord to protect me, but if He has given us the technology to follow weather patterns, shouldn’t I be abreast of the information so I can protect my family?

I need a protection that only God can provide.  I need a “batten down the hatches, this boat is going for a ride, and a storm is coming” kind of protection.  “The boat doesn’t even know where it is going and the captain is partying on the Lido Deck” kind of protection.  I want Jesus to walk on the water and calm the seas.  I want Him to call me out to the water, then walk me to dry land.  I want THAT kind of protection.  I want to sit in my heavenly Father’s arms, give him all of my insecurities and fears, have him show me the steps to take.  I want to know for certain that I am doing what He has called me to do, not what I think He wants.

What is more protection - being in the know or not knowing?  We keep things from our children to protect them.  As adults, we prefer to be in the know.  If there is a train coming down the track, I want to know about it.  Then I can make informed decisions. If I need to seek shelter in the neighbor’s basement, I want to know.  If there is something else I should be doing and I’m not, I want to know that too.  Like I said, I have an active imagination.  I can imagine that God wants many things.  What I want, is for God to tell me the plan.

What is your level of protection?  Are you a light?  Do you have it all under control; you just need a little coverage?  Are you a regular?  Do you have it mostly under control but need some general assistance?  Or are you a super?  You are bordering on out of control.

Or are you like me?  You are in need of a level of protection and comfort that they don’t sell at the store.  The hatches need to be manned, and  you can’t make it on your own.  It’s too much.

\We are all completely off balance;  broken, and very much in need of our Father.  At one time or another, we all need the kind of protection that can only be given by the Father.  Which level will you seek?