"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Obvious

"The truth is simple; it is obvious, and it works....look for ways that you may more fully tap into the gifts that you have been given." --  Alan Cohen


This is my vacuum cleaner:


I was using it today when a string, unbeknownst to me, got sucked up and wrapped around the beater bar causing it to stop working.  I cleared the string, but it still didn't work.  I looked for a belt that might have come off the track, but could not see one.  Now what?  I was just about ready to take it to my husband to see if he could fix it when I noticed something I'd never seen before:


On the right-hand side that little red button all by itself...underneath it says "belt reset".  Ah hah!  I found a pencil, stuck it in the hole, pressed the button, and Voila!  It worked again.


How often do we not see the solution right under our noses because we aren't paying attention or have some agenda we're fixed on?  I've had that vacuum cleaner for several years, but until I ran into a problem I hadn't noticed that button.  Of course, the fact that I noticed it today is because I had that quote fresh on my mind because I'd been using it to help me find answers to some other problems on my mind.  I've been trying to "see" with new eyes, if you will.  Too often we get stuck in a rut and try to apply the same solutions to the same problems with the same unfortunate results.  That's why the problem still exists.  Rita Mae Brown in the Basic Text for Narcotics Anonymous (not Einstein as is often thought) said it in a different way, "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results."  Using the same solution to fix a problem is fine if it works, but if it doesn't you must try something different.  It reminds me of a toddler trying to fit a square block into a round hole and getting so frustrated that he gives up while the solution--the round piece--was right in front of him.


Being "open minded" helps a great deal to see things differently.  Too often people, because they fear their principles will be compromised if they try to see things differently, carry this closed-minded thinking over into other areas of their lives--like problem solving.  It would help us all to gain a new perspective if we'd just allow for the possibility that solutions can sometime be quite obvious if we'd just get our noses out of the way.


Father, thank you for this new perspective on problems.  They are, after all, ways for us to expand our thinking, learn new and better ways to do things, and may even open doors to new opportunities.


Update:  A few days ago I had wanted to write about that quote concerning the problems I was using it to solve, but those problems weren't "photographable".  I've just realized that my vacuum cleaner problem was the answer to that problem.  


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/matthew/13-15.htm


Take action: Are you open-minded?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Purpose

"Keep your eyes on the Lord, and you won't lose sight of life's purpose." --Our Daily Bread


When I read the above this morning I thought about my struggle with needing a purpose for my life.  


Purpose:  the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists


To be human is to feel the need to matter and having a purpose fulfills that.  We take our place in our families, our circle of friends, our jobs wanting to feel appreciated and that often means we need to earn that notice.


When I was younger it was easy to feel I had a purpose.  I was a mother.  In my eyes, that was purpose enough.  I was busy serving in the church, too.  It was great!  But all those activities, when they brought me recognition, only served to engage my ego and kept me from having to examine my heart condition.  I was serving others, after all.  God was using me, I felt.  What greater purpose is there than that!  I failed to see what my real purpose in life was meant to be.





If my heart is closed to anyone, then it is not open to God.  My only true purpose--the only purpose that matters--is that I love God with my whole heart, soul, and mind and my neighbor as myself.  It's by keeping my eyes on the Lord--that is, my heart open to Him--that I shall fulfill my purpose because it is then that I shall be able to love.


Father, it is quite simple isn't it--just open my heart to You and You will set me free enabling me to love as You love.  But it's not easy because of the distractions in life--my ego that wants to make everything else more important.  So I pray that You will open the eyes of my heart.


Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/ephesians/1-18.htm

Take action:  Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

Friday, July 20, 2012

Failure

"The only time you fail is the last time you try." -Anonymous 



Last weekend I attended a two-day children's book writer's conference sponsored by our local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  If ever I needed the above quote, it is now.  I always come away from these conferences exhilarated AND discouraged.  Exhilarated because the speakers' enthusiasm always stirs up my own passion to write.  Discouraged because I feel like a salmon swimming upstream.  It's not that I don't believe in my story, but I'll be the first to admit it may lack appeal to an editor that has a bottom line to consider.  I wave that aside and tell myself if they'd just look at it and give me their suggestions I can make it better.  The editors and agents who spoke at the conference, however, emphasized the fact that they get thousands of submissions a year and only the cream of the crop will be given a second look.  What I took away from the conference was this:  only send my best work.  It can't be potentially great, it has to be great already and then improved upon.  See how this can be discouraging.  The man-made dam those salmon were trying to jump is very much a part of the publishing world.


The greater lesson, though, that I took away from the conference is this:  those man-made obstacles hampering my progress are sometimes put there by me.  Those can be removed.  Every time I feel discouraged I must remember, "The only time you fail is the last time you try."  I came home from the conference with a whole new way to present my story to an editor or agent.  One of the speakers had said "understand your limitations and work to your strengths."  My strengths...yes!  I know what my strengths are but had not thought to highlight them concerning a book for children.  I rewrote my cover letter.  Then I went through the story looking for places I could make those strengths more evident.  After rereading it a couple more times with this in mind, I will send it off to the two editors and two agents at the conference.  They may not be in the market for what I have to offer, but I won't give up.  The only chance I have to get it published is to keep putting it out there.  If I keep doing that, my endeavor cannot be deemed a failure.  


God reminds me this is what love is all about--never giving up.  I may not always act in a loving manner toward others, either by commission or omission, but if I keep asking for forgiveness and trying again, I'll not have failed at His command that we love love another.


Father, thank You for loving me no matter what--for never giving up on me.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/12-29.htm


Take action:  Love One Another



Monday, July 16, 2012

Crazy Bone


I'm not looking forward to it.  My index finger has seemed to heal properly, but if I bump it even slightly I get a sensation not unlike you get when you bump your "crazy bone" in your elbow.  


My Facebook Friends already know what happened last Tuesday morning....a tin can lid collided with my finger, forcefully.  It was shockingly deep, lots of blood....well, I'll stop there.  I'm sure you don't want to hear it and I don't care to relive it.  Once home from the emergency room I was able to piece together what happened.  A rag had fallen down behind the garbage can that comes out on a rail when you open the cabinet door under the sink.  I was in a hurry, doing two things at once (as is my nature, not because I lack time) and I used my knee to close the door.  But because of the rag, the can bounced back causing the door to hit my hand which was holding the sharp lid.


Of course, (as is also my nature) I need to reflect on this episode in my life to garner as much from it as I can.  It is costing us who knows how many hundreds of dollars since I have such a large deductible on my medical insurance.  I'm unable to type very fast since I can't use that finger and you knows how long before that crazy bone sensation goes away.  I missed a week at the Fitness Center since I came down with a 102 temperature the next day and I thought it best to save my energy for healing.  I can't work in my garden for fear of pulling my wound apart.  There are various other activities I'm cautious about, too.  So you see, I've got to get my time and money's worth out of this experience!


My immediate thought at the time was that I need to be more deliberate in my actions--slow down and do one movement at a time.  I had even been given a "warning" through a story earlier that morning in Alan Cohen's book.  The cost to learn his lesson, however, was merely a pushed out screen on his door.  And now that I'm writing about it, I realize the black snake in the grass a few days before was another warning.  I was walking out to the clothesline looking everywhere around me except in front of me when I almost crossed the snake's path.  Paying attention is part of being deliberate.  Perhaps by the time my nerve endings reattach and stop giving me a shock I'll have finally learned this lesson because, believe me, I am paying very close attention to what comes near my hand and making deliberate movements with it.


This makes me think of my relationships--with God and with people.  Am I paying attention and relating to them in a deliberate, conscious way?  Or do I try to do two things at once?  Do I give my full attention to my alone-time with God?  Do I wait in expectation to hear His thoughts to my prayers?   And when I'm talking to someone on the phone or in person, am I paying attention not only to what they say but how they say it?  Do I hear the silence between the lines, as well?


Yes, there is much I can learn from my little bit of trauma.  I hope I've learned it well, because it is not one I care to repeat!


Father, thank you that it wasn't worse--You do know, after all, what I can handle.  May I learn the intended lesson(s) well.  You know how I hate having to backtrack to get anywhere (that's my nature, too).


P.S.  My husband has purchased me one of those can openers that fold over the edge of the lid so it is no longer sharp.  Now, what to do about the knives...and my garden clippers....while I'm still learning this lesson?


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/isaiah/28-23.htm


Take action: Financial Medical Assistance for the Needy

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Prayer

Mary Proude wrote in 1635 that she believed prayer "distinguished a saint from the world; for that in many things the world and hypocrites could imitate a saint, but in prayer they could not." 


When I was a child this prayer my mother embroidered hung in my room...


I did not hang it in my children's room....that whole business about dying before waking seemed inappropriate to me for a child.  Monsters under the bed is bad enough!  And fairytales before bed?!!  Not the Cinderella kind, but the Gingerbread House and Witch kind!  What was that generation thinking?!  


It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I came to believe in the power of prayer.  It had always felt like a one-way communication.  I was obliged to tell God how I felt about Him, about life, and make my requests, but I really did not expect anything to change.  A popular saying was "God helps those who help themselves," so I set about being as self-sufficient as I could be.  It was only some time later that I learned the saying was not from scripture.  Benjamin Franklin said it.  


It was only after we found ourselves in dire financial straits soon after moving into our house, I, a person who prided herself on her planning skills and had not anticipated this situation, discovered that God actually hears our prayers and answers them according to His wisdom.  In fact, I soon came to learn that He answers all prayers from the heart.  It's just that we do not always understand how He chooses to answer.  Too often because we've told God the "how" we miss the answer because we're looking in the wrong place for it.  


Yes, Mary Proude, a true saint is known by his/her prayers--those prayers that are made in private, trusting God for the outcome even if it's not what we expect or want.  It's being willing to be used as part of the answer like when you pray for someone's healing and He asks you to go clean the person's house or care for the children--those kinds of things.  It's like asking for help with the bills, then selling one of the cars or downsizing your house.  It's like praying for souls to be saved, then giving money to missions instead of buying that new couch you've been wanting.  Those kinds of things.


We can all, for a time, put on a good face for others, but God looks at our hearts and knows us even better than we know ourselves.  In those times when we lay bare our hearts He can show us our true selves and offer us forgiveness and love.  This is the essence of prayer--establishing a relationship with our Father--where we become vulnerable and willing to be made new through His help.  Where we are given the strength we need to carry on in the midst of our troubles.  Where new insights--the mind of Christ--can be laid hold of and implemented in the world.  Where we can find help and assurances as the prayer says...."If I should live for other days, I pray Thee, Lord, to guide my ways."


If you are new to this kind of praying, do not lose hope, for Romans 8:26 tells us, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  We just need to open our hearts to receive and then obey.


Father, may I never neglect to come to You for everything.  I praise You now for Who You Are and what you have done for me.  May I have the ears to hear You when you speak and the willingness to obey.


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/john/15-7.htm


Take action:  Quiet Time with God







Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Names Part III



Today is my second born's 30th birthday...


A jolly little fellow wasn't he!  His name--Matthew--came to me two weeks before he was born.  It means "Gift of God", and I can say that he was and continues to be so.  He was somewhat shy and an easy child--even his birth was easy--but only until he turned 15.  Once his older brother left for college, he stepped out of the shadows and exerted his true personality.  It's a wonderful personality!  But, I wasn't prepared for the metamorphosis that seemed to take place overnight.  Who was this young man-to-be I thought I knew?  Needless to say, I had a lot of adjusting to do and it took a while for us to come to understand each other.  


Like his brothers we gave him my maiden name as his second middle name.  His first middle name is Kenneth, after his Dad, because they are both a second son of a second son.  He has lived up to the meaning of Kenneth, too:  Handsome...
Matthew's & Paola's engagement photo


Living up to our names takes on a whole new meaning when the name is "Christian" (of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings).  As followers of Christ we profess that we believe He is our Saviour because we need saving from our sins.  When we make this profession we receive the Holy Spirit which is confirmed by the evidence of our changed lives.  Scripture refers to this evidence as the Fruit of the Spirit...


The list sounds like an impossibility!  That is, until you realize it is not you that is producing this fruit but the Holy Spirit in you.  It took me years and years to grasp this.  I was constantly on one self-improvement kick after another.  It was only when I started reading my Bible and came to understand all I need do is surrender my will to God and the Holy Spirit would then be free to live His life through me.  It's His life in me that is bearing the fruit, not I, me, myself.  That's so I can't take credit and become conceded.  Ha!  I assure you, the ego will try to take credit whenever it can.  But, God, in His infinite Grace, provides opportunities for me to be humbled so that I once again realize that in and of myself I will always fail in being perfect because God's kind of perfect means complete.  To be complete in Christ means that whenever I allow the Holy Spirit freedom I will always love, always experience joy and peace, always be patient, kind, gentle, good and have self-control.  Yes, even the have faith I have is imparted to me by the Holy Spirit. 


Our metamorphosis takes place when we die to self and live for Christ.  We become one with Christ as He is one with the Father.  Christ was perfect (complete) and so can we be.


Father, You are the completer of my faith.  I need only give myself over to You so that my faith can grow into the fruit that the Holy Spirit in me produces.


Link to Scripture:  http://bible.cc/hebrews/12-2.htm


Take action:  The Work of the Holy Spirit