Monday, August 30, 2010

The cycle continues

After more than two weeks -- including a week of vacation days -- pedaling only on the exercise bike and bypassing the two-wheeler, I forced myself to get out of bed, get dressed, strap on the helmet and head down the street.

And so another positive cycle resumes.

My thinking is different when I pedal through neighborhood streets than when I walk along the same neighborhood sidewalks and trails. I think it's the combination of the refreshing breeze from my faster pace and the need for heightened alertness to avoid any sudden movements by cars as neighbors get ready to head out from their driveways and streetside parking.

Among my thoughts today:

It's so much easier to just ride the exercise bike. So, why bother to ride outside? As with going to church on Wednesday mornings to pray, I can't really explain why it's worth doing. I just know it is. For some reason, to decide not to ride outside today, when I knew I had the opportunity, would have been a negative start to my day and week. I guess it's as simple as that. That was the strong feeling in my gut/spirit, and I responded. I feel better for it. One reason I had opportunity today is because I'm back on the 11 to 7 schedule at work. I'm much less likely to ride outside when I work 10 to 6. And, as for why I didn't ride during my vacation, well, many things did not go as planned that week. Riding wasn't a priority. An interesting thing is that I ride the exercise bike about every day, usually while watching TV (often Texas Rangers baseball) or reading my daily meditation books. I can do it early, late, wearing anything or nothing. It's easy, convenient and seldom the only thing I'm doing at that time. Riding the two-wheeler outside takes deliberate effort and focus. But I enjoy riding the two-wheeler outside. I'm glad to realize I don't feel obsessed with it but can just choose to do it for pleasure. (Hmmmmm. Something to ponder there, for another time.)

When walking or riding, I typically make it a point to pray. Again, there's something refreshing about praying and meditating surrounded by the outdoors. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving. (Thank you, God, for Your mercy, love and grace. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for Your graciousness, love, spirit and all You are. Please help me know and do Your will, one moment at a time, in all things, to Your glory. You are God. You are God of me and all that is. You. You alone. Loving. Gracious. Omnipotent. All.) Prayers for family and friends and circumstances. Top of the list: My dad's continued medical tests.

The rest of my thoughts were pretty much a jumble: trying to think of something to write about and whether I even have time (I didn't, but I did anyway!); anticipating September, historically a very rich month for my family and myself (expect to read more later about that); work concerns; priorities, etc.

So, yes, the cycle continues. And, thanks be to God, the cycle continues to be positive.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Expression of gratitude

I've written this before, but it's time to do it again. Here's an accounting of just a few of my many blessings for which I am grateful to God and want to give Him the glory:

-- The love and faith of my parents and family.
-- The love and support of my husband.
-- A growing attitude of faith, acceptance and gratitude, in the face of whatever comes in life.
-- Appreciation for the good things in life.
-- Willingness to look for the good things in life, even when much seems less than good for me or others.
-- Health.
-- A reasonable dose of intelligence and common sense.
-- A job that continues to offer many more positives than negatives for me.
-- A loving and supportive family of faith, including but not limited to those who are members of the church I attend.
-- A loving and supportive fellowship of friends on a 12-step journey of recovery, one day at a time.
-- God's word through the Bible. The Psalms may still be my favorites, but there are great passages throughout. This week, I've been reading from Job, Corinthians, Psalms and Proverbs. Lately, Scripture reminds me that it's OK to be repetitive in my praise. God's not demanding eloquence. He wants heartfelt, honest expression.

This list could go on and on, but it doesn't all have to be written tonight. It just seemed important to put in writing some of the thoughts of gratitude I've been feeling personally and expressing to others as I have opportunity. There are still many other things I want to write about. I guess I could add to my blessings list that I am growing in patience as well as an ability to prioritize. With it continues another blessing: Hope that springs eternal that someday I will be able to let go of the lesser things and focus on the things that are truly important in life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When words fail (pray, trust and obey)

I just realized (again?) one reason the self-imposed blog deadline is sometimes difficult. It's because even though I say I have no rules and don't have to have a theme or strong focus or be clever or witty, I always do want to achieve all of those things.

I don't expect to have time to write tomorrow (the actual deadline day), so I wanted to get it done tonight. I've been trying to think of a topic all day. I had a great weekend and a great prayer time this morning -- but none of that really inspires me to WRITE. For today, my thoughts are distracted by knowledge that close loved ones are facing times of uncertainty involving health and other issues. As I sit here trying to find words to write, I drift into prayers for those things on my heart that I do not want to be writing about right now. Strangely, my awareness of the power of prayer seems intensified as I struggle to write. I want to write, and all I can do is pray! So I guess that's the right thing to do. I thought writing would bring a new perspective of faith and hope, but all I can come up with is Amen. Trust and obey (words on my heart as I left church after prayer time). Pray, trust and obey, humbly and gratefully, to God's glory.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swinging for the fences

I've been going through a period of second-guessing and self-doubt. It's what has kept me from writing about the reunion and some other topics that have been on my mind and heart, including issues about singing and insights about the bunny in the neighboring backyard (I observe him often because there's no fence between us).

I need to remember that the best part of this blog for me is that I can write through the writer's block or whatever it is. I don't have to have a strong lead or theme going in. I have all the space I need to write until I find out what it was I needed to write about. Now, whether I have all the time I need is another matter, and it's a major source of second-guessing and self-doubt. Many times when I sit down to write, I think I should be doing something else. Many other things should be more important, shouldn't they?

Perhaps. But as the guest preacher at church said Sunday (this is me poorly paraphrasing her paraphrase of a prayer she learned in college): Lord, please help me know what you would have me do in this situation. And if I choose the wrong thing, I pray that you can use even that for good.

One of the things I tend to waste time doing is watching sports on television. Last Saturday, I happened to catch some of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Dallas Cowboy great Emmitt Smith's speech was filled with examples of faith and gratitude for others, but also amazing clarity in setting goals and achieving them. He almost came across too perfect to be real. The next day, I heard him in an interview, where he was asked how he did that without having it written out or using a teleprompter. He said he wanted it to be from the heart. But he admitted he forgot something important, because he had not mentioned his college team, the Florida Gators. Now, some commentators said they thought it was intentional (some lingering resentment about something), but I just don't think it could have been. But for me, it was a good reminder that even someone who is so confident, goal-oriented, successful and faithful (interesting that humble does not come to mind as an accurate description) also isn't perfect.

Emmitt's speech was sandwiched between some Texas Rangers baseball games for me. I don't remember whether they won or lost on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but I know they are in a pennant race, and it's hard for me not to get caught up in the frenzy, although teams I follow always tend to fizzle before the finish. Even now, this team can be so good on hitting, pitching and defense, but sometimes they make mistakes that just seem stupid.

Sometime during the past week, I realized that I can relate baseball to me and singing. Josh Hamilton is my favorite player, and I always want him to at least get a hit, and it's awesome when he gets a home run. But you know what? He usually strikes out, flies out or grounds out at least once or twice a game, and often more. And yet I, an untrained singer, expect to hit a home run every time I sing for church or family. What's up with that?
(I was talking to a friend about this, and the question came up: What would be a home run regarding singing at church? I said that would be when I'm just totally trusting God and singing to His glory, and not worrying about how I sound or what people think, although somehow in such moments, I do also feel connected to those who are listening. It comes from preparation that includes choosing, learning and practicing a song, eating right, resting, praying. And then just trusting. I guess it's often what seems to me a lack of preparation that keeps me from fully trusting, even though I've seen over and over that God is able to use even those situations to his glory.)

Sometimes when I watch the Rangers, I think they're too relaxed. Sometimes Josh comes up to the plate, and they really need a home run, and he just hits the ball to second base or strikes out. But I've also heard athletes and coaches say that a key for them is to not get too high about a win (or a home run) or to low about a loss (a strikeout or error). That's something I struggle with greatly, whether watching a sports team or taking part in my own game of life.

As I continue to ramble and try to wrap this up, another thought comes to mind about something the guest preacher said Sunday. She was talking about a church member who felt certain the world was going to end on Dec. 31 one year, and the woman had prepared for that. And when it didn't happen, she didn't know what to do. The pastor asked her what she did before Dec. 31. Did she love God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength? Did she love her neighbor as herself? Did she walk humbly with God? (There were others, I know they are in the Bible, but I wasn't taking notes and can't remember and am flat out of time -- beyond out of time!) She told the woman she should just keep doing those things. (The pastor also offered a quip that I'm sure I've heard before, but it sounded fresh, that maybe the reason the world hasn't ended yet is because people keep making predictions, and God has to cross those dates off his list because He said in His word that no one will know the time in advance. It got a pretty good laugh.)

P.S. One other thing I gotta mention: I wasn't thrilled with my singing at my parents church, the church I grew up in, the previous week. Practice went well and it was a song I love to sing and share the message of, but when I sang during the service, I seemed disconnected. I don't know what that was about. I prayed before and during. It was more like the old confusing times of singing. And people didn't respond the same. I have continued to pray the same prayer: It's about God; it's not about me. But it was interesting. And then a woman I don't know said that I had such a youthful sounding voice. At first, I thought she might have said beautiful, but as I was trying to decide, she said I sound like a teenager. I told Mom I'm not sure what she meant by that. I know now that I probably didn't sound very good when I was a teenager. My voice was weak and undeveloped; what I heard inside my head didn't get very far beyond my mouth. But I can think of some aspects of a youthful voice that could be complimentary, especially for a 51-year-old. So why can't I just focus on those?
It made me realize that I still don't have much confidence in my singing. That singing for me is about words and feeling. And when for some reason it doesn't seem as if the feeling is there, I fear the singing isn't very good.

As usual, I just continue to lift it all up in prayer. (Is that like swinging for the fences?) I'm still hoping that writing and "publishing" will help me clarify or get rid of some of these words crowding my mind and thoughts. Unfortunately, right now it looks as if the more I write, the more I think. I know that not writing is not the answer. So, God willing, I will continue to write as I live and learn.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Experience, remember, smile and thank God

It's my self-imposed blog-posting deadline, but none of the things I'd hoped to write about are ready. I smile to think of the family reunion in Texas; the bunny in my neighbor's backyard; my continued and growing awareness that attitude really is important and that each person can control his or her attitude; the amazing grace and camaraderie that keeps occurring at work in difficult circumstances; and so many more things. Many things make me smile right now, and I'm grateful for that. I want to write about them, but I guess it's not time yet. For now, I just experience, remember and smile. I thank God for His mercy, love and grace that blesses me daily. I pray to know how to return these blessings to His glory.