Sunday, September 20, 2009

What makes you smile?

In the midst of your day, as you face trials and challenges in your routine, is there something that will always make you smile?

Some days are easier than others to see the love of God. The sun is shining, the breeze is at your back and all seems well in the world. A smile comes easily to your face and spreads the love of God to others. Smiles are contagious. They multiply. Smiles are free to share and if you're well connected they'll never run out.

My question today is, where can you turn for a guaranteed smile? What is your never fail, can't fight it if you tried, joy producer?

For me, it's what I call the "Promise Parade". Our church baptizes alot of babies. Each weekend there are three or four little ones welcomed into God's family. The baptism is part of our worship service and we all have the honor of witnessing this gift. As the Pastors present these new children of God to those watching from the pews, they pass up and down the aisles with babes in arm. Newly adopted children of God, lives full of promise, faces bright with hope. God has imprinted His dream for their lives on each of their tiny hearts. Their entire life lay ahead of them to fulfill that purpose. The "Promise Parade". Even when they cry, the experience never fails to make me smile.

You don't have to look too far to find people in need of hope, encouragement and love. Discover your font of endless joy. Let that smile fill you face and share it with everyone you meet.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us..." Ephesians 5:1-2

Dogs in cars always make me smile too :O)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Forward

There’s a pickle in my bathroom. The small glass ornament is a remnant from Christmas that never made it back into storage. It was plucked from the tree early Christmas morning by my son. This newly adopted holiday ritual is a source of such glee, that Charlie mounted the stairs in delight, being the first to find the elusive Christmas pickle. After a quick dance of celebration, he stashed it on my bathroom counter, where it sits today.

Although there are still a few mounds of snow clinging in shady spots on my lawn, the emerging daffodils (and the calendar) will remind you that it is almost Easter. It’s time to get my act together. The Christmas pickle is one of many small reminders.

Spring time and Easter are powerful reminders of God’s call to renewal. Each year I admire with awe and appreciation the rebirth of my yard. Mounds of brown sticks give way to awakening shoots of green. Tulips and crocuses push up from the hardened earth to be warmed by the sunshine and fed by the showers.

The season compels me to turn a new leaf in my life. I’m inspired beyond the prompting of New Year’s resolutions. Spring calls for renewal.

Beyond the call of spring cleaning and the change of physical elements, I am encouraged to address the cobwebs in my head. It’s time to let go of old hurts and habits and move forward. I’ve had enough negativity. I will no longer give audience to those who say I can’t live with purpose and passion.

As surely as I hunger for the sunshine between spring showers, I long for hope I can sink my teeth into. Strengthen me when life seems bleak. Nourish me when I feel weak. Prompt me to persevere through life’s myriad distractions.

In The Burning Heart Contract Becky Tirabassi points to a daily renewal and enrichment through the Word. Her spiritual growth and personal relationship with God flourished when she committed to spending an hour each day with the Lord.

While reading her testimony and her prescription for daily study, I realized I had become sloppy in my spiritual disciplines (not just my housekeeping). I had forgotten to feed on the Word of God. Removed from the richness that sustains and the food that endures, I began to wither.

My discovery leads me to action. My renewal requires change. All of this requires energy and commitment.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).

How do the renewal of spring and the rebirth in Easter inspire you? Where do you turn for hope and encouragement?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Actions Speak Louder

The shrieking voices came from my bedroom. I had sent the kids up to watch some TV before bed so I could take a quick phone call. “What happened to all our channels?” screamed Charlie. “How can we live without channel 154?” pleaded Julia. All stations to DEFCON 3, we were in crisis mode.

After reassuring the kids that we could survive the night with only 99 TV stations, I tucked them into bed, and started my diagnosis. It seems that after Sean left the cable company for his new job, they shut-off our services.

My husband offered detailed instructions on how the remedy the situation. He told me the precise model number of cable box to request, the package to order, the salesman to consult. Jotting the details down, I had everything I needed to race into action and solve our entertainment crisis.

I was still feeling sick, so the rush to fix the TV dilemma was pushed off, day after day. Soon it became less worrisome and only at odd moments, near bedtime, did we miss our extra 673 channels. Another week went by. Busy with my own agenda, the days passed and I neglected the task that meant so much to my kids.

We’re told that “it’s the thought that counts.” Yet, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of your husband saying, “I thought about bringing you flowers” or your child sharing, “I thought about cleaning my room”, or a friend adding “I thought about calling you last week”, you know actions speak volumes and thoughts count for little. I’m guilty myself of offering the lame, “I thought about making you a home-cooked meal”.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.” (Philippians 4:9)

God calls on us to fulfill His agenda, not ours. I was reminded this week that God has a plan, and I play a part. Doing His work involves action, putting it into practice.

When it comes to loving one another, and serving the needs of our community, actions speak louder than words and intentions. I have errands to run, people to call, and dinner to plan. It’s God’s work, done with a loving and generous spirit.

What will you “put into practice” today?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Does it Feel?

Photo by CielChen

I just finished watching a terribly confusing film, I’m Not There. It was supposed to be about Bob Dylan, with the lead played by 6 different actors. Although each of their roles mimicked his, they never said they were Bob Dylan. They each had different names and different stories. It was not what I had expected or hoped for.

My heart broke in the 2 hours I spent with this film. I had a secret dream that I held so tightly that I dare not speak it. A phone call interrupted the middle of the film and stole that dream and took that hope away. It wasn’t a big dramatic or earth shattering moment. It was a confirmation that a small and simple dream wasn’t coming true.

I know that when you peg your hopes on the wrong things, you can only end up disappointed. It’s tempting to put faith in things, or schedules, or vehicles, or even people. But odds are they won’t deliver your agenda. I had hoped someone close to me would make a choice to make my life easier. He chose a different path. He wasn’t there.

I’ve been sick this week. I’ve taken a lot of medicine this week in hopes of curing what ails me. Some have helped, some actually made me worse. Through it all, the hardest pill to swallow is the reminder that it not all about me, my agenda or what makes my life easier.

I had my little pity party. I was angered at the selfishness of my loved-one’s decision. Until I realized I was being equally selfish.

I still have reason for faith and hope, even in the midst of pain, suffering, and loneliness.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17).

Upon reflection, I suppose the movie was suggesting that we can’t know a man by his actions or his music. We can read an interview, watch a film or attend a concert, but those snapshots in time won’t reveal his true character. In essence, all of these character portraits were Bob Dylan, just as much as they were not.

Likewise, it’s not about me and it’s all about me. God put us on earth to love and care for one another, not to focus on our own needs being meet 24/7. At the same time, Christ’s death on the cross was for me. He died for my sins. That’s exactly how much he loves me. He loves you that much too.

That’s the sacrifice that truly matters.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Answered Prayers

Our celebration had been delayed. As we sat down at the restaurant, we realized that neither of us had brought our wallets. My husband ran quickly home to retrieve some cash while I entertained the kids and ordered our meals. Somehow my 9 year old son was the only one with cash in his pockets, just enough to keep his sister and himself occupied at the video machines while we waited.

This odd turn of events gave me time to reflect on the odd journey we had traveled. Almost a year to the day that my husband’s airline announced it would cease all operations, we had reason to celebrate. On January 25, 2008, Skyway Airlines, flying as Midwest Connect, told its employees and the community by TV news that all 400 regional employees would be cut. In a cost cutting measure meant to save the company, an out-of-state airline with non union employees and fancy new equipment would be brought in to fly the routes.

Job loss is everywhere these days. Doubtless, your life has been touched by the economic crises in one way or another and the odds are that you know someone faced with similar “cutbacks”, “layoffs”, or “cost saving measures”. Call it what you like, it stings all the same.

In March, sweet relief came in the form of a job offer from JetBlue Airlines. Sean was offered a class date in May. Our relief was short lived. Gas prices soared, aviation was hit hard, and all new hire training classes were cancelled.

Many of you prayed for us: prayed for a new job, for hope, for a marriage strong enough to overcome a rough patch. As the airline industry continued on its freefall, with new layoffs being announced each day, the options for flying dwindled. Your continued prayers of encouragement lifted us up and kept us going. Thank you.

Sitting in the restaurant last night I had time to reflect on the trials and opportunities of the last year. I’ve heard it said that when God closes one door he opens another and Hell is in the hallway. We’ve spent plenty of time in the hallway, yet the doors He opened are filled with joy and promise.

As our bottom line sagged, our faith was bolstered. When all the flying jobs disappeared, we learned we had skills that would lead to new careers. After being abandoned by a company we had been loyal to for 8 years, we discovered who our true friends are. We many not see them as often, but we found we can ‘poke” them on Facebook.

As I waited alone at the restaurant table last night, the Garth Brooks song, “Unanswered Prayers” played on the jukebox. I smiled to think of my high school sweetheart and my prayers that had gone (thankfully) unanswered. Looking back with 20+ years perspective it’s easy to see that God knows what he is doing and leaves many prayers unanswered for a reason. I’m grateful for that. Perhaps in time, I will come to appreciate His timing for this season in my life.

Yesterday, JetBlue called. Sean starts 3 weeks of training in Orlando on February 18th. He’ll be flying an Embraer 190. We don’t know much more than that. We thank God for answering our prayers. Thank you for praying alongside us.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

I offer my story as one of hope. The news reported that over 14,000 people lost their jobs yesterday. The headlines are grim and the days ahead seem dark. Have faith. Keep praying: for yourself, for others, for people you’ve never met. The airlines industry was one of the first to falter. Now, a few companies are beginning to recall their pilots. Like seeing a robin at the feeder on a cold Midwestern day, we need to be alert and celebrate a sign of better times ahead.

Sean returned with his wallet just as our food was delivered. His timing … just perfect.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

He Won't Abondon You

picture by Jill Greenseth

Sometimes in the midst of a crowded room you can still feel alone. I remember in college helping out an old roommate with a photography assignment. She needed a model for some “mood” photos. You can only imagine how many times I made her repeat her request before agreeing. (say it aloud a few times if you don't get it)

We traveled around Washington, D.C. scouting spots where I would look especially lonely. We went to a crowded bar where I posed alone, looking forlorn. The bartender even suggested putting the stools on the bar so I could look especially pathetic. I was all alone at closing time.

We went to a crowded mall. Surrounded by happy shoppers walking in pairs, I sat alone. I did my best to act the part. I was sad and alone in a sea of joy. I was missing out on all the fun.

Our last stop was a children’s playground. As the kids ran carefree and happy, I sat, alone, on a swing, kicking at the dirt at my feet. I didn’t have to act any more. I felt alone. All of locations we’re filled with joy-filled, hopeful people; yet, I had never felt more isolated.

I left my old friend and headed home. I dragged myself into my dorm room, slapped a Janis Ian tape into the stereo and fell on my bed for a good cry. Instead of a being the subject of a photographers lens, I felt like a specimen in a lab. I gave in to the temptation to believe the worst: I was a freak, a loner, worthless, abandoned, and unimportant to anyone.

“When in doubt, look up”, reminds the sweet little angel that hangs in my bedroom. A dear friend gave her to me. This angel is the first thing I see as I wake up each morning. She reminds me that even in the bad times, even in the valley, God is good. He will never abandon me, He is faithful and true. I carry Him in my heart, in every fiber in my body just as surely as my daughter carries her trusty blanket “pinkie”.

“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

There are days in life when things don’t go my way. I thank God for being with me in the days most filled with strife and pain and fear. His love shines through the gloom and points to the skies.

What helps you remember that God is with you and will never abandon or forsake you?

I sometimes find encouragement through song, as in the words above. I am also reminded in the song, “Yesterday, by Mary Mary that “there (is) nothing too hard for my God…any problem that I have he’s greater than them all. So I decided that I cried my last tear yesterday.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Stuff that Counts

It’s always exciting when someone leaves a comment on my blog. Any comment is cause for celebration; someone has read my blog and heard the good news. I don’t know what I expected when I started. I had fantasies of being discovered, starting of community of followers who awaited each message as a chance to write in and share with each other.

I thought of each message as a catalyst to a broader conversation. I agonized over each post, spending hours on each, scrutinizing each word or turn of phrase. In short, I worried what you would think.

The comments were spotty at first. Friends sent words of encouragement. My mom wrote a few anonymous comments (her maternal perspective is easy to spot.) But where was the witty debate? Where was the intellectual repartee? One day a worship leader stopped me at church to share how much he enjoyed my blog when it dawned on me, I am literally preaching to the choir.

I searched for ways to track traffic on the site, ultimately adding a counter. I became obsessive checking the counter to see if anyone had visited. I added a short-hand comment code so visitors could rate the post as “interesting”, “helpful” or “meh?” My husband added a link to this site from a Disney discussion board and anticipated a huge surge in “hits”. I regret to share that he was wrong.

Tempted to give up and focus my energies on other projects, I prayed for guidance. I was reminded of one of my early posts. It had started an important conversation that had occurred off-line. Someone close to me reached out by phone to comment on my blog. He rarely sets foot in church and is uncertain of his faith. My words had started a dialogue that I hadn’t previously dared to open.

After reading your comment today, I visited this site, my anticipation mounting to see the new total on the counter. What happened? Where did it go? I fiddled with the computer settings for a few minutes before I realized the meaning. The number of hits on the site is not what counts. I’m not writing this for me, or even for you, dear reader. I write for the glory of God. If I bring one new believer to Him or strengthen one faltering relationship, every effort is worthy.

Your comments are always valued and welcome.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23 – 24).