Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thinking of heaven and faithful witnesses there and on earth.

I know the reason my thoughts keep drifting to heaven and that amazing cloud of witnesses there is because my Dad joined that faithful throng one year ago today.

My Dad. Charles Davidson. The Psalmist's son, making me a daughter of the Psalmist's son! No wonder Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd ...," resonates continually in my life, and never more than today.

I also have a cloud of godly witnesses on Earth, and they bring meaning, focus and joy to this journey. Many are known to me, including my family and dear friends. But others I only know through those connections -- and nowadays even sometimes the earthly witness comes through the unlikely channel of Facebook.

These are a couple of the ties that bind that have lifted me in unexpected ways in the past year. (I hope I get the details right; feel free to correct me if I don't, so I can set the record straight.)

-- Jesus Calling daily devotional by Sarah Young.

I was introduced to this by my Mom, right after Daddy's Oct. 30 passing. She said she was uplifted by the words for Oct. 30, including:

I am with you. I am with you. I am with you. Heaven’s bells continually peal with that promise of My Presence. Some people never hear those bells because their minds are earthbound and their hearts are closed to Me. Others hear the bells only once or twice in their lifetimes, in rare moments of seeking Me above all else. My desire is that My “sheep” hear My voice continually, for I am the ever-present Shepherd. ...

Rather than Psalm 23, the Scripture was John 10:14, 27-28: "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

As for the cloud of witnesses, Mom had told me she was sent the Jesus Calling book by the godly, recently widowed grandmother of one of her grandsons. I think I saw Mom reading from the devotional or heard her comment on it a few other times before Christmas, so I ended up buying myself a copy to start the year. I now have it as a phone app, too, and read the Scriptures and meditations daily -- often more than once. They focus me on seeking and staying in and being grateful for God's presence, and to trust Him and thank Him in all things. It continues to be transformative for me. And my sharing of how it has helped me has also connected with at least a few other people seeking the same kind of renewed focus on and trust in God. Does that mean I'm also part of the earthly cloud of witnesses? I am humbled and blessed.

-- The plant I brought home after Daddy's celebration of life. But alas, I am out of time, so I will have to write about this later. Stayed tuned.

For now, in closing, I'll just again express my love and thanks to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, my own Mom and Dad and the great spiritual witnesses in heaven and on earth.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thinking of Charlie D. -- Yes, that's my Dad

Tuesday will be the first anniversary of  my father's death. One of the requests he made when he knew his days were numbered was that I come up with a song about Charlie D.'s farm, to the tune of "E-I-E-I-O," to sing at the gathering after his celebration of life. Yep, that's my Dad! That request, which was fulfilled with great help from my youngest sister, Amy, on the lyrics, has been very much on my mind, along with other memories from his life, especially that last couple of years as God graciously carried our family in His loving arms.

Of course, my heart still feels heavy with the loss and there is an empty place in my life that will never be refilled on this earth, but my strongest feelings when I think of my Dad are just how grateful I am to God for His blessings to our family and the moments we were given and still get to cherish and love and be there for each other. Daddy wasn't perfect, and none of us are, but God's love that binds us truly can and does overcome our shortcomings, even as we can strive to do better. I thank God for His loving presence and blessings, and continue to pray daily (or close to it) for my precious mom and all of our family.

Charlie D’s Farm

Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO
And on that farm he lived his life, EIEIO.
As a little boy, as a family man
And he made it pretty clear he'd be there to the end.
Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO.

Charlie Davidson had a farm, EIEIO.
And from his dad he learned to work, EIEIO.
Hauling hay bales here, working wheat fields there.
Herd the cows, feed the pigs
Lots and lots of farm chores.
Charlie Davidson had a farm, EIEIO.

Ol’ Charlie Davidson had a farm, EIEIO.
And to that farm he took his wife, Siegmund, Alice Ruth.
With a milk plant job, workin' night shift there
Wearin' whites, smelling whey
To feed a growin' family.
Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO.

Ol’ Charlie Davidson had a farm, EIEIO.
And on that farm they raised six kids, EIEIO.
With a Becky here and a Barbie there
Here a Mike, there a Pat, then they had a Kathy.
Turns out 5 was not enough,
So then came Amy Lou.

Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO.
And on that farm he had some cows, EIEIO.
Plus hogs, chickens, cats and dogs , EIEIO.
With a moo moo here, an oink oink there, a squawk and a bark and then a lot of meow
Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO.

Ol’ Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO.
And on that farm he taught his kids the value of hard work.
Pulling sunflowers here, grooming show stock there
Building fence, catching calves
Loving land and family.
Ol’ Charlie D had a farm, EIEIO.

Dear Charles B. Davidson had a farm, EIEIO
And on that farm he lived his life, EIEIO
Watching grandkids grow, seeing great-grands born
A legacy, stretching far
On and on and onward.
Old Charlie Davidson had a farm, AND WE LOVE HIM SO!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sometimes God makes His message very clear

Sometimes, God makes it really clear where my focus should be.

This is how it unfolded Friday.

Reading this:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

in Jesus Calling made me think of one of my go-to Scriptures, which speaks directly to what I need today:

(paraphrased) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.

Then I read on Facebook:

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."  
 (Isaiah 26:3, NIV, Copyright © Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV)

And then in my Upper Room devotional:

"Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3, NRSV)

And so, dear Lord, I pray to do so: to keep my focus on You. I desire Your peace. Please help me live to Your glory, today and always.

(Another interesting note: My A Praying Heart journal reminded me of the importance of prayerfully reading and meditating on God's word, clearly an important part of getting Him back to first place in my heart and life. So, I went to the full chapters of the excepts referenced above. The Exodus passage included Moses' cry for God to "Show me You glory." This was also part of Tuesday's A Praying Heart devotion, and it noted how God showed His glory in His goodness. This stuck with me, and now it seems to be reinforced. Things don't always fit together, but it seems to help me when they do. And my daily prayer continues to be: Thank you, God, for Your mercy, love and grace. Please help me know and do Your will, one moment at a time, in all things, to Your glory. I thank You for Your presence. I trust You, Lord.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Truth, consequences and matters of perspective

I continue going through a weary phase. I find myself not wanting to do anything.
Sometimes taking a break is the right thing. I did that weekend before last, because my body was physically exhausted and in pain. Even then, while I skipped some commitments and tasks, I maintained a base level of activity.

When it's more of an emotional weariness, finding that balance between taking a break and taking care of the basics is just as important.

The thing I was aware of today is that there are physical and emotional consequences for me if I don't take care of some of those basics.

For instances:
-- I'm really tired of going to physical therapy and doing additional back exercises at home. The therapy is time-consuming and several of the exercises are uncomfortable. But I like the consequences of not going even less: right-side pain below and left-side pain above where my spine has that significant curve.
-- I've been wanting to watch a few new TV series in recent months, including "Dallas" a while back and last Wednesday and last night, "Nashville." But I know what happens when I start watching TV series or soap operas. I get hooked in and start building my schedule around them -- and then feel guilty for wasting my time and even tireder.
-- When I'm tired, weary or overwhelmed, I have that natural tendency to reach for a pick-me-up snack. The things I reach for are supposedly healthy. But as I've written many times: For me, if hunger isn't the problem, food is not an answer; it just adds to the problem. (It's somewhat similar to the issues involved with watching serial TV.) But the temptation still comes around, and sometimes I act on it.  And then I am heavy with the load. The days I manage to "keep it simple" foodwise, I always end up feeling better afterward. Always! I'm praying to stay focused on God to nourish my spirit instead of turning to mindless eating today.

And here is some perspective for me:
-- Think of the mess I'd be in if the Texas Rangers were still playing baseball. I don't want to think God took them out for my own good, but the thought has crossed my mind more than once.
-- I was complaining about how insurance is handling my physical therapy costs, and now I've learned it would be the same even if I had ended up going to the hospital emergency room and perhaps eventually for traction or back surgery. I'd have to meet my deductible before percentages and co-pays kick in. The interesting perspective: That goes to show how long it has been since I've needed medical care beyond office visits, lab work and services and treatments covered by co-pays.

In closing, a Facebook friend posted this along with a note that Wednesday was the anniversary of when Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. It reminds me of Martina McBride's song "Anyway," which is one of my favorites. And it speaks to why I keep on keeping on.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
-- Mother Teresa

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Timely Words

I am grateful for many sources of timely words of inspiration in my life. I especially treasure these pearls of wisdom and hope when I'm going through what I call a slump, this time apparently the result of general tiredness of mind, body and spirit, along with (or perhaps fueled by) some physical maladies. These are some that have been particularly helpful in recent days:

-- Upper Room Oct. 8, inspired by Colossians 3:12-17:  "It is much the same with what we learn from God’s word. We can read the Scripture, highlight favorite passages, and make notes in the margins of our Bible. We can attend Bible classes, hear sermons regularly, and discuss what we’ve read. But actually doing something with God’s word is the real work, the evidence that we have read and studied the Scripture. (Written by Pat Rowland, Tennessee)

-- Jesus Calling, Oct. 9, had a beautiful reminder that even though I'm making great strides on keeping my focus on Jesus, which indeed pleases Him, He is distressed when I complain. And the timing was perfect, because, try as I do not to complain, I had found myself doing it more and more. The reading, supported by Philippians 2:14-15, suggests that when I am tempted to grumble aloud to others, I should take it to Jesus, instead, trusting Him to restore His thoughts in my mind and His song in my heart. 

-- Upper Room Oct. 10: Jesus said, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4)
"Like the soybean and corn sprouts sending the roots into the soil, a Christian’s action is to delve into God’s word, the Bible, in order to grow spiritually and to produce fruit. The fruit grows when we spread the good news and lead people to Christ. We can do this by telling our story — what God has done for us. Sometimes we use words; but always we can tell our story by living so that others can see Christ in us. Just as emerging plants receive the sunlight, we want to receive what God sends our way to strengthen us and encourage us for whatever lies ahead." (written by James H. McKelvey, Tennessee)

-- Voices of Recovery, Oct. 11: Just the words I needed to read to remind me that eating over stress, pain, tiredness, frustration or any other problem doesn't help solve the problem. It just adds various other problems. "My Higher Power gives me the choice to be able to say: I don't want to eat that, to go down that path. I know what will happen." I don't always make the right choice for me, but this reminds me that I have experienced the reality that when I do make good choices with food, things go much better. Abstinence from compulsive overeating, for me, really is the softer, easier way.

-- A Praying Heart, Oct. 10, which I read last night as I was wondering how I would get everything done I thought I needed to do before work today. It is titled "Dealing With Distractions." The Scripture is Proverbs 4:23, as presented in The Message: "Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions."
Among the suggestions of the meditation: "When you find yourself wrestling with distractions, you might want to try praying the distractions. That means offering up to God any errant thought that might come to your mind."

-- And then perhaps the most timely, shared by a Facebook friend on Oct. 10, although I can't figure out the source: "The Bible never once says 'Figure it out' but over and over says: 'Trust God.' He's already got it all figured out."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Missed catches and second chances

My efforts to get to a Texas Rangers baseball game this past weekend and then continuing to cheer for them as they squandered what seemed to be their destiny as three-peat American League West champs provided more lessons than I care to count or have time to write about right now. In fact, I don't have time to write about any of them, I realize as I look at the clock.

But I have to write something. So I'll go with this for now:

The Rangers collapsed at the end of the season, just enough to miss out on winning the American League West pennant. They are in the playoffs, which starts with a one-game wild-card match, for the chance to play a series with the top seed. (In an interesting twist, they will be playing Baltimore, a team with a roster filled with Rangers rejects and managed by one, as well. This may not bode well with the way things are going!) The Rangers needed two wins in their final six games to win the pennant, and they only came up with one win. It's one thing when a team lets a championship get away because of injuries or another team playing better. But watching these games, it looked like the Rangers lacked focus. They had chances to win almost every game and squandered the opportunity. What is up with that?

The thing about me and sports, though, is that one way I justify watching them is to take away life lessons. One of my lessons from the Rangers' last 10 games or so is that I have no control over what the players or the manager do. There were some decisions that for the life of me I cannot figure out what they were thinking -- were they thinking at all? It looked like the manager had lost his mind a couple of times -- but that's how baseball goes. I have no control over their decisions or actions. But I do have control over mine.

One of the glaring miscues Wednesday was when former MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton missed a routine catch, allowing two runs to score. Over this troublesome span for the Rangers, this once-sharp player just hasn't been with it. Wednesday's gaffe was painful to be watch.

But I was quickly aware of my own missed catch from the night before. I am a copy editor, and before I left work Wednesday, I saw that there was a correction being printed on a story that had been edited Tuesday and was in Wednesday's paper. A reporter had written billion instead of million in the first paragraph. And -- you guessed it -- it was a story I edited. In my defense, I can say the deadline had been crazy and I didn't have time to think about each detail as much as I would have liked. But I do remember thinking: "Billion? Hmm. That sure seems high." When I read the rest of the story, I was able to rationalize it could be right. I didn't work out the math, but I decided to trust the reporter and think, yeah, that might work.

When the newspaper makes mistakes, we run corrections. The mistake wasn't my fault, but a part of my job in which I take pride is making great catches. (I did make at least two otber significant ones that night.) But I feel as if I blew a great chance. I hope that rather than become paranoid, I can redouble my focus and follow through when I have questions.

The second takeaway is that even though the Rangers blew the race for the pennant -- which would have earned them a tangible title that couldn't be taken away even if they crumble in the playoffs -- they do have a second chance for what may have been their bigger goal this season: Winning the World Series. It looks like a very long shot, but the last two years, when the Rangers were in the Series but didn't win, the title went to teams that started as wild cards. I won't list here the multiple reasons why the Rangers' situation this year is much less promising or inspiring than those of the Giants in 2010 or the Cardinals in 2011, but the Rangers do still have a chance. At least until tomorrow night, when they play that one-game match.

I get second chances, too. Part of what I don't have time to go into right now are events of the weekend that included some miscues on my part. I hope to share them soon. Through prayer that helped keep me aware of God's presence as well as attuned to His guidance and strength and protection and security for my life, everything turned out OK. God blesses me when I turn to Him in prayer and seek His guidance and do my best to trust and obey, and in all things praise Him and give Him the glory.

I pray to stay focused on what I can control or at least influence: My actions. My words. My attitude. My prayers.