Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fresh-fruit

I'm aware that I say I want to serve God, but the reality is I'm just willing to try it if it fits in after I've attempted to take care of my other needs and desires. Sigh. I can't find time to serve or figure out what to do because I try to fit it into the leftover time. 

Perhaps I need to tithe my time: 24 hours in a day; 16 hours awake; 1.6 hours serving God. (Or: 168 hours in a week; 112 awake; 11.2 hours per week serving others for God. 

These ideas came into focus this morning as I was thinking about turning the page from November to December, after I read my First 15 devotional by Craig Denison.  

The emphasis was on partnering with God for His purposes. In the guided prayer portion, the Scripture for meditation was John 21:15.

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.'" John 21:15 

Next was a call to "assess whether Jesus is truly your greatest love." "If he isn't — if you wouldn't follow him anywhere — take time to surrender anything you've placed above him."  

(As I stated above, I am aware that I place my comfort and desires ahead of serving God by serving others. I also tend to put what I think my husband would prefer ahead of acting on nudges from God. Awareness is a step I've taken before. Am I yet willing and able to surrender? God help me!)

Next: "Ask (God) what He would have you do and where He would have you do it. Be faithful to respond in obedience and trust today."

"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21

When I turn the page to a new month, I often think of it as a chance to start fresh. Maybe I can finally do this different. Typically, only a bit of change occurs. Slow progress; far from perfection. 

But another reading from today reinforced my resolve. It tied this call to action to the Advent theme, a time of preparation to celebrate God's gift of His son to save His people from their sins. 

This is from the Advent devotional by Janet Denison (Craig's mother), writing about Jesus as the "firstfruits" (1 Corinthians 15:20):

"Whom would God ask you to joyfully serve this Christmas? Should you encourage (others) to serve as well? There is a lot we can do to brighten someone's holiday. ... 

"Jesus was given the title 'firstfruits' to remind us that we will live eternally, but firstfruits had another meaning as well. The firstfruits of the harvest was the portion given to God as an offering. Will you begin the Advent season with a plan to bring a portion of your time and blessing to someone as the firstfruits of your gift offering?"

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Incomprehensible

I just don't do holidays well. I try to write about how this is for me in hopes I can explain and understand it. But so far I cannot find words. 

This is especially true at Thanksgiving. 

As I've written several times this week: I count my blessings every day. I express gratitude to God and also try to make sure those around me know I don't take blessings and kindness for granted. 

But words and expressions seem inadequate. 

I guess what it boils down to is that I do not feel worthy of the abundance with which God has blessed me. 

Family. Faith. Friends. Health. Love. Comfort. Security. A positive outlook. Compassion. More material resources than I know what to do with. A reasonable measure of intelligence. 

But something seems missing in my understanding of how to connect all that to what God's plan is for me; to return God's blessings to His glory. 

I feel like the message of Craig Denison's First 15 was meant to guide me today, but I'm sure I fell short. 

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:3-6

And later: 

God is calling us to a lifestyle of love. To be poor in spirit is to “count others more significant than yourselves.” A common misconception in living low is that we must try and find ways that we are worse than others. God is not about comparison. His ways are not like ours. Rather, he is calling us to stop looking to ourselves at all and solely look to the significance of others. Jesus knew he was sinless. He knew he was God. Still, he counted others more significant because of his love and grace. We don’t have to pursue false humility to love others well. Rather, by the grace of God we must stop looking to our own needs, our own sense of pride and reputation, lay down our lives at the cross of Christ, and love as he has called us to love.

....... 


On Thanksgiving and always, I am grateful for God's grace that covers my inadequacies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Grateful

Thanksgiving seems a lot different from my unemployed perspective. 

I'm not talking about the gratitude for blessings despite not having a job, although that is very real. Or even the equally real gratitude I feel for my husband and circumstances in our lives that make it unnecessary for me to be actively seeking a job at this time. 

I'm talking about how preparation for a holiday always involved days of doubled-up deadlines -- some of the busiest days ever working at the daily newspaper. And how hard it was to take off the Friday after, because no matter how many people were off, the same amount of work had to be completed. 

Interestingly, without that stressful prep, this year I've often lacked awareness it is Thanksgiving week. I am not proud of that. 

I do count my blessings every day. I express gratitude to God and also try to make sure those around me know I don't take blessings and kindness for granted. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Transitioning

Tonight marks the completion of my first month unemployed. It has been a whirlwind. 

I had great plans for my transition, with a two-week plan of priorities to take care of before I began traveling with my husband. But by the end of the first week, I knew I wanted to make an unplanned trip starting the following Sunday to accompany my mother to Florida for my cousin's funeral. And since that time, I've hardly known whether I was coming or going. 

I was on the road Oct. 23-27; Nov. 1-4 and Nov. 7-12. We head out again on Friday, Nov. 18. 

Some of my observations:
- I'm not a good traveler, starting with my poor ability to pack.
- I'm not good at transitioning from traveling to being home. 
- nothing changes if nothing changes. 
- more has changed than I give myself credit for. 

With almost a week between the most recent trip and the next one, I experienced some optimism about getting the two-week transition goals completed by the end of the first month. As today winds down, I see that's not happening either. I keep moving forward, but it continues to be much slower than I would prefer. 

I wrote some about it Sunday morning: 

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

I am unemployed. That's different. 

I am still a mess. I am still chaotic. I still don't have a plan. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I just get impatient and start to worry. 

What am I worried about?
- Number One fear: that Gene will get frustrated or annoyed with me. What are his expectations of me? I seem more concerned about that than about me expectations or desires for myself. NCINC. 
- 2. Am I doing what I need to do? 
- 3. All this health stuff. I wanted to be taking fewer meds and supplements, not more. 
- 4. Unexpected (unplanned) Florida trip kept me from my two-week transition plan. And I've been in chaos ever since. So my head is spinning. Instead of anything being simpler, it seems more chaotic, though fortunately not more complicated. Just different. 
- 5. Relationships other than Gene. Family.  Former co-workers. Church friends. OA friends. People in need. 

I trust God. I need to be patient. I will be patient. I will keep taking actions that I feel God and His witnesses on earth -- including His spirit in me -- are directing me to take. I will be grateful. I will give God the glory. 

 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reflections

I didn't vote for Donald Trump. But it really came down to not being able to vote for the man Trump showed himself to be as a candidate. The negatives about the candidate I voted for just were not as clear to me when it was time for me to mark my ballot. Before and after, I prayed for God's will to be done. And I prayed and continue to pray to know how to respond and live. (And it did occur to me that whether my support be for an athletic team, a policy or a person, I'm often not on the victorious side.)

I will support the new president with my prayers. I will attempt to be a positive, gracious voice in my limited realm of influence. I will seek to support this nation and its guiding principles. And I will strive to seek the Lord first, in all things. 

I prayed throughout the official Election Day. I did not turn on the TV. I had a strong realization of how all-or-nothing I am. Catching a glimpse of "The Young and the Restless" on the TV screen while I was looking for ESPN on the treadmill was an early reminder. It was several years ago that, for Lent, I gave up watching soap operas. And I never took them back. I was tempted many times along the way but know that, for me, it would be like trying to eat a binge food. I can't just partake of a little and then turn away. I get sucked in. Emotions and other components of my brain get triggered, and it is hard to shut them off or return them to normal. 

So, I didn't watch any election coverage on TV. I limited myself to Facebook -- which includes a lot of my former colleagues as a journalist, and the links they shared -- and NewsOK (the website of the newspaper that laid me off Oct. 16) and looking over my husband's shoulder as he checked Facebook feeds and links. 

I was surprised to learn about 9 p.m. that Trump was being projected as the winner. When we turned out the light after 10:30 p.m., more sources were projecting the victory for Trump. But I remember thinking: I won't be surprised if that changes by morning. In this election, nothing would surprise me. (As of 10:30 a.m., I still have not read any accounts to learn the margins or assessments of what happened. I slept late and am still in prayer, meditation and reflection mode. I am grateful to at least temporarily be retired and able to rest, relax and reflect in an attempt to rejuvenate some worn-out aspects of my being.)

Now, that element of not being surprised provides a source of hope. Maybe the man elected as the president of the United States will prove to be more honorable as a leader than he was as a campaigner and in some aspects that have been reported about his professional and personal life. 

And above all, I place my trust in God. I pray to know and do His will. I think that will require me to work for peace; show compassion;  be merciful, generous, humble and gracious; and let God's love lead me and flow through me. 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 
8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
Romans 8:38-39

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?LUKE 12:22–25 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. DEUTERONOMY 31:6 


He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8 (King James)

He has told you, O man, what is good; 
And what does the Lord require of you 
Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), 
And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Micah  6:8 (Amplified)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (English Standard)









Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election reflections

I'll be traveling Tuesday, so I requested an absentee ballot for the general election. I put it in the mail Saturday, in hopes it will arrive at the county election board office by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Preparing to vote reminded me of my college test-taking days. I often procrastinated and then had to cram before the test. That's how I felt Friday night and Saturday. Who knew there was such a thing as vote anxiety?

As the presidential election campaign progressed (or deteriorated, as the case may be, when it came down to the major party nominees), I'd found myself praying along the way, as I tried to find a clear reason to vote for one candidate or the other. All I could ever come up with was reasons I didn't want to vote for either one. But I did not see that as a responsible option. 

Friday night, after more seemingly futile attempts to find credible information to help me make a decision, I prayed with renewed focus.

Dear God, I've been praying, and now I'm cramming before the test. Who do I vote for for president? 

I lifted up the name I was leaning toward and my reasons. It wasn't the decision I would expect myself to make, but it's the answer I kept coming up with when I evaluated my choices based on my understanding of biblical principles. But I acknowledged I could easily be wrong. 

Whom can I trust? How can I know who to trust? Many of my friends whose opinions I respect line up passionately on opposite sides. They absolutely do not see how anyone -- especially a Christian -- could vote for the other candidate. But when I look at these friends' reasons for their choices, they seem to come down to what they believe in. It's an act of faith, that the candidate and-or the candidate's party will perform based on his or her promises and platforms. But I really could not come up with that level of faith for either candidate or party. 

I found myself asking: What would Jesus do? He would pray to His father and He would trust His leading. Thy will be done. 

And so, I decided to stay with the choice I had lifted up in prayer. But I added in prayer: "Unless You, Lord, give me a clear reason to do otherwise. And I will trust that, whatever the outcome, You are in control. And I will pray to know how to respond, to Your glory. Do I need to be more involved in social/governmental affairs? Compassionate activities? Church work? Please help me know and do!"

The next day, I filled out the ballot and mailed it in. I'm still unsure, even though it's too late to change. By the end of Saturday, I felt pretty sure I'd made the wrong choice, but today, who knows??? I do know that, as I participated in Holy Communion this morning, I prayed for forgiveness if needed, but mostly for God to work this election cycle for His purposes. And I trust that He will. 

Meanwhile, it's crazy that so many people have already cast their ballots, even as the campaigning continues in full force. 

Oh well. It's out of my hands now. What now? Please help me know and do your will, Lord, to Your glory. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Five years

Today was the fifth anniversary of my Daddy's death. For the first time since then, Oct. 30 again fell on Sunday. Maybe that's why it seemed like a milestone for healing and moving forward. 

It's not that we hadn't been doing those things along the way, but much about this fifth year has been even more cathartic. (On March 20, which would have been Daddy's 90th birthday, Mom and their six kids and many of the grands and greats gathered on the farm for a fish fry and to spread his ashes.)

As was true that Sunday five years ago, today was my oldest sister's birthday. And as was the case that day, she and all of us seem able to celebrate each milestone in appropriate ways. We treasure lives and memories. I love that Mom took a beautiful flower arrangement to church in Daddy's memory -- and afterward gave them to Becky to celebrate her birthday. 

Love understands that. We weren't all together this weekend, but we were united, as always, in the spirit of family. I thank God for the love of this family and for His continued blessings.