Sunday, April 13, 2014

Random reflections on Palm Sunday

So much to be grateful for. 

-- My mom and family. Spending time with them is always a joy. 

-- My husband. He works so hard. I want to be more supportive. It's a struggle when I am so disorganized.
 
-- God's great grace. How I needed it this week -- and of course it was there.
 
-- Hope that springs eternal and fresh each day -- great is God's faithfulness!

-- Sight. Hearing. Taste.  Smell. Touch. 

-- Voice to speak and sing. 

-- Hands to type and write and work. 

-- Church family. Today's worship included a Palm procession with the children and choir; a baptism and confirmation; anthem with a Passion theme; and then a wedding! That service missed the sermon with such a compelling title (What a friend He had in Judas.) I couldn't resist asking the pastor about it and was glad I did, because it offered insight about Christ's love that added to the fullness of the day. 

-- Home. Job. Car. Health. 

-- The ability to read and the freedom to pray and study. This week's First 15 from Craig Denison includes some writings from his dad, Jim Denison, that are part of the elder's Lenten Bible study.  (See http://www.first15.org/)

These are two paragraphs I want to keep fresh in my mind, from today's installment:

Where am I in the crowd? .... Consider one other option. On Palm Sunday, the donkey had the greatest honor of all: it carried Jesus. The donkey carried him to Jerusalem for Easter, just as a donkey had carried his mother to Bethlehem for Christmas. The donkey brought Jesus to the people he came to save. In the midst of a fickle crowd, prideful authorities, and faithless disciples, the donkey did its job. It alone was faithful. 

And now Jesus asks me to love him enough to be his donkey. To carry him to the fickle, prideful, faithless people who need him. To tell his story and share his love in mine. The donkey doesn't matter—only the One it bears.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Still trying to figure things out

Time got away again. I barely scratched the surface of a major cleaning chore this weekend, and about an hour ago realized it was decision time on whether to post anything this week. So, here I am. That's the spirit!
I feel like I'm getting further and further behind on everything -- cards and calls; cleaning; helping; caring. But my  spirit remains hopeful.  God is still preparing me, perhaps? All of my slowness, missed opportunities and shortcomings -- can I believe He will redeem even these things? I know He redeems the big ones. But -- will He redeem  even things that seem to be my fault, such as those brought on by fear-driven procrastination or by my poor choices for how to use my time, serving idols (including my job/desire for security, and health/appearance pride issues) instead of truly seeking to know and do God's will?
When I force myself to slow down and get quiet and listen and be honest about what I hear, I have to say, for today,  I think the answer is yes. 
I need to be grateful and thank God for this weekend's opportunities to enjoy time with a support group; to soak in some sunshine and breathe in fresh air on a walk; to shop and pay for groceries; to sing and worship and have Communion and give in support of outreach programs; to visit a dear friend who likely will be moving out of state; to appreciate light rain; to talk on the phone to loved ones; and to get even some small amount done on that cleaning. To me, it doesn't seem like enough. And maybe that's still the big struggle: instead of relying on what I think, I need to be trusting God. 

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5, 6 KJV)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dreaming of a vacation -- looking back

The vacation was great.  Palatka, Vilano Beach, St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville, Fla. Sightseeing, visiting with relatives, eating and lots of relaxing.  

And now it is over. 

I jotted down lots of notes and took some pictures but failed to find the time to organize them for print.  And as March winds down and a busy April looms, I'm not sure when that opportunity will come.  But I believe it will. 

Meanwhile, in the days between the return from the trip and the resumption of work, I've taken advantage of warmer weather in Oklahoma to try to get back to the healthy habit of walking. Saturday and Sunday brought good steps in that direction. And Monday, I plan to continue to build the habit of talking stairs instead of the elevator at work. 

Why oh why do I think these steps will make it easier for me to eventually write and be of support and service to others? Actually, experience has shown it to be true. 

Hope springs eternal. Again. Great is God's faithfulness. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Today and always. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dreaming of a vacation

I think it's time for a vacation. Florida seems like a good destination. The Jacksonville area would allow me to watch Gene work a bit, then to visit a beach, my uncle and aunt and cousin and Gene's cousin. Anything else would be icing on the cake, so to speak. 

Typically, the days before a vacation make me vow  never again to take time off work and then go for a trip. I don't know which is worse -- wrapping up things at work and at home, or packing for the trip. 

Will it be different this time? I continue to believe it will be. I am trusting God to guide me. I hope to have an update soon. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

55

I survived the week of birthday 55! That should not be a big deal, but the week was quite a roller coaster. Fortunately, the highs far outnumbered and overshadowed the lows -- and, ultimately, I think I found something positive and uplifting in everything that at first seemed like a problem or low point.

And after a few weeks of feeling more and more tired and worn down, my outlook and attitude and energy surged -- possibly starting with the decision last Sunday to resume putting together a few words about life and posting them online each week in this blog.

I'm wearing brighter clothing. I handled several unexpected, somewhat unsettling challenges at work better than I would have imagined -- and when I did lose my cool a couple of times, I think I was able to rebound acceptably. (I'll know more about that in days and weeks to come.)

My desk at work is clean -- and I am determined to keep it that way. A bouquet of yellow roses and other sunshine-colored flowers from my sweet husband graced my desk from Tuesday through Friday, and now brighten my home. Another birthday bouquet sent to the house added to my festive spirit.

I waited until Wednesday for my birthday dinner out -- and it did not go at all as planned. But rather than be upset when the item I ordered because of the fresh asparagus came without it -- and the shrimp in sauce had tails and the clams had shells, neither of which I expected -- I reacted with amusement. My husband's spirit helped out greatly with that.

Also on Wednesday, I accepted the opportunity to provide special music at church on Sunday, and that helped ensure I would have an uplifting song on my car stereo and in my heart and mind the rest of the week as I learned the words.

Then on Thursday came an invitation to eat out on Saturday night. It's something I wanted to do, but after another long work week and knowing I would be leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to take Gene to the airport (before heading to church to sing at the 8:30 service), saying yes was far from my comfort zone. What if it kept us out too late? However, I didn't want to hinder the development of a social relationship. We said yes, and it ended up being an early meal (I guess that's to be expected with a bunch of retirees!) and time well spent.

Three weeks ago, I had read Charlotte Lankard's column in The Oklahoman (and on newsok.com)about things she has realized about growing older. I was surprised at how much I agreed with her observations. After all, she is 75!

Still, at the time, it seemed to me like maybe it was a good thing to accept those things at 55 rather than wait 20 years.

Among the things that resonated:

Getting older is not better or worse than being younger, it is simply different. In many ways, life now seems fuller, richer and more honest. ... Spending time with people with whom I have to pretend or perform for them to like me is not acceptable. ... If I don’t like the wrinkles I see in the mirror, I remove my glasses. Ah -- the lines soften immediately. And I finally concede there is not another living soul in the world that cares if I have wrinkles. ... I am aware that impermanence is the truth of life, and so I understand the importance of living in the present moment. ... Aging for me has been about coming home to myself. It is a time of being ... more of who I am: being honest, caring, curious, available, involved and coming to each day with intention.

But as March 11 and my 55th birthday neared, I grew tired of giving in to being old. There are truths I can grasp at 55 -- and among them is that I still have a whole lot of living to do and energy and enthusiasm with which to do it.

So, I still have no plans to color my hair or get treatments to make my face or skin or body look younger. I'd still rather care less than more about my appearance.

What I am interested in is my health and well-being and attitude and spirit and relationships and acts of kindness and service.

My spirit.

On Tuesday, when dealing with one of many challenges at work, I told a colleague I had given myself the gift of optimism for my birthday. Little did I know at the time how valuable it would be.

It's a gift I hope to give every day -- and spread it to others.

Excerpts from my devotional readings on Tuesday contributed to the positive outlook.

-- "When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed in with its wonders." (Rabindranath Tagore, as quoted on Page 71 of For Today, published by Overeaters Anonymous Inc.)

-- From My Utmost for His Highest (): "The only way to be obedient to the heavenly vision is to give our utmost for God's highest ... The test is the sixty seconds of every minute, and the sixty minutes of every hour, not our times of prayer and devotional meetings."

-- And finally, Jesus Calling reminded me that God's grace and strength are sufficient. Evidence of God's faithfulness in that promise emerged throughout the day. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ah, yes: That's the Spirit!

I thought and hoped my return to the blog would be more focused and impressive, but alas. This is me. What you see is what you get (to borrow a phrase the acronym for which has become common around my workplace with a computer upgrade -- WYSIWYG).

The task that needed to be completed on a computer before I returned to this blog took place at the home office, but the concurrent preparation and then implementation of the new system at work kept me distracted enough that I wondered whether I really would come back to this little pursuit known as "That's the Spirit."

The pressing task, the debt that had to be paid, was the writing of my story about the European cruise I took aboard the Crystal Serenity back in September. It has not been published, but it is written and available.

Writing it was every bit as hard as I feared it would be by the time I forced myself to do it, although when I agreed to go on the trip and while I was there and even in the early weeks afterward, I really did not think it would be that difficult. I had hoped that my regular crafting of words to post to this blog each week for a few years now would have made it easier to write something for publication. But it did not. I'm still puzzled by that. I know I spent many years as a newspaper reporter, pushing deadlines but eventually getting stories written about people, places, things and issues. It never was easy for me, but it always felt important and right to do and somehow worth the struggle.

Until it wasn't. Maybe that's the key. That was the job for that time, and after that, it was time for something different. I am sure I could not be a writer in today's newspaper world, but the yearning to write will not leave me anymore than the desire to sing will. Both pursuits now are limited to small audiences. That saddens me somewhat.

And yet, I see how the limited audience is probably part of God's plan.

On Feb. 20 -- day 20 of my self-imposed break from blogging until I finished the cruise story and a couple of other tasks involving the home computer -- I wrote:

No regrets.

Bloom where God plants me.

Not everyone can be great.

Trust God.

On Feb. 18, in "My Utmost for His Highest," daily devotionals based on talks by Oswald Chambers, I read Christ's response after He asked the disciples to pray, but they fell asleep: "Rise, let us be going" (Matthew 26:46). Or, as Chambers notes, it's as if "Jesus Christ comes and says, 'Sleep on now, that opportunity is lost forever, you cannot alter it, but arise and go to the next thing.' Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him."

That's hard for me. I struggle to get started on taking action, and then I struggle with regret for lost opportunities.

And still Christ calls: "Rise, let us be going." He lets it go. Forgives. Doesn't look back. Looks ahead to the next opportunity, all the while offering His love and presence. And what is the next thing? "To trust Him absolutely and to pray ..."

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Sunshine brightens a blue sky and pushes the temperature into the 70s. I should be walking! But my faith tells me there will be other days to walk. Today I return to writing and also some literal and figurative housekeeping.

But shouldn't I be visiting the people from church who are on my list? I can't really explain why sitting inside is the right thing today. But it is. (I did stand in the sunshine in the back yard while making a phone call, to enjoy the beautiful, fresh air.)

I didn't give up anything or add anything for Lent this year. This isn't the first time that the best I could do is just "give up," and take Lent -- and life in general -- one day at a time, seeking God each day and trusting Him to guide me. To my surprise, that's what the sermon was about today. The preacher expounded on the merit of sometimes being willing to just give up -- and fall into the embrace of God.

So, I'm going to skip the first of the congregation's Lenten challenges, which was to spend a week (or even a day) in the shoes of someone without a car, to rely on public transportation, friends, feet or a bicycle to get around. And I won't make that hospital visit. I hope I will send a couple of cards. And I have a couple more phone calls I need and want to make.

I will take a deep breath. I will exhale slowly. I will rest in God's radiant presence (see "Jesus Calling," March 9).

"But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:40-42)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Time to pay up

Finally some clarity! My blogging stops until I finish some projects that are more pressing. That could be two days or two weeks -- Lord, please don't let it be two months! I desperately need to use my computer time for at least two and maybe four lingering tasks.

And when that's done, I'll decide whether this experiment is over or just on a break. My hope is it's just a break and that I will return refreshed and with more spontaneity, sharper perspective and less fear.

How did I go from writing about the vibrant spirit of people and things around me to the confused spirit within? Of course, I know the answer: It's part of my spiritual journey, a search for deeper meaning and greater understanding. It feels like a calling.

But right now, as January 2014 comes to a close, the same voice that calls me to try to share my own spirit says it's time to put this away for awhile and share the spirit of a wonderful experience I enjoyed five months ago. The bill is due. Write it. Just do it!

I had resolved to complete this project while my husband was gone on a weeklong trip through last Wednesday. But I let one excuse after another get in the way -- and now he's back and spending a lot of time on the computer, and my work is undone.

It is time to rise above whatever has been holding me back, most likely fear, pride, insecurity and perfectionism (what a crazy combination, but all are factors).

I know God gives me victory over those things if I will but ask and receive. I've asked. It's time to receive. I need to pay this debt so I can focus on the growing number of opportunities to go beyond written words to touch lives with actions.