Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Closing the blog on 2013

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

The familiar words of the Serenity Prayer, quoted in my Voices of Recovery devotional book on Monday, have helped me as I try to let go of 2013 with so much undone.

I can't get back the insurance benefit of not going to the dentist all year -- and the possible detriment to my dental health. I can't get back the moments I wasted instead of giving time, effort and-or money, visiting, calling or sending cards.

As always, the year held many blessings and high points. My trip with Mom on Mother's Day to Arkansas for a niece's graduation; sons born to two nieces; and a European cruise were some of the highlights.

The year got off to a rough start, with an emergency room visit before the end of January, followed by the death of my cat just a few days later. It ends with fervent prayers for a loved one's recovery from troublesome cancer and related concerns.

And, for all my good intentions, I'm not sure I've made any progress on becoming more giving and helpful and less self-focused. It is still a major goal.

The devotional provides guidance as I hope to use that prayer moving forward.

"Now, when I find myself troubled by a situation, I think about it while I say the Serenity Prayer. If it is something I can change, I think of the steps I can take to begin the change, and I pray for the willingness to take action. If it is something I cannot change, I turn it over to my Higher Power and pray for the willingness to accept it."

I've read this page in Voices of Recovery many times, but yesterday and today are the first times it actually seems like something that could work. I hope to try it.

One other quote comes to mind as I close the blog on 2013. It is from today's My Utmost for His Highest selection by Oswald Chambers: "Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him."

And this Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11-13: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Amen. And good-bye, 2013.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What was I expecting?

I don't know what I was expecting, but I'm pretty sure this is not it.

So I will continue to watch and wait. That is faith. That is hope. That is love.

Christmas isn't the end of God's story. Nor is Easter. Every day is a beginning and an end -- and also a continuing.

Maybe that's why we celebrate Christmas and Easter and birthdays every year. New gifts are revealed each time. But will I see this year's gifts? Or will I overlook them? If I see them, will I accept them? Will I appreciate them?

God is doing great things. I know this in my heart. If it's not obvious to my eyes, mind or experience, it's only because I don't see the whole picture. I trust that God does, and that He is in control.

Sometimes I find what I need or want to know when I write. This Christmas, maybe I need to try something different. So, as I head to a second Christmas Eve service for the night, I pray to be receptive to whatever God has planned. Lord, please help me think less and trust more. Let me feel and share your joy.

And, yes, right this minute, that would almost seem like a miracle ...

(More to come, whenever .....)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dare I even dream?

What does God expect?

What do I want?

Those thoughts were triggered by a series of comments from friends and readings from devotional books since the start of the month:

-- A friend talked about her house she loves, but how she feels out of place in her neighborhood with high-echelon academic and philantropic leaders.

-- Another friend described her trip to New York City with a benefactor, a kindly and rich older woman who more or less adopted her. I know this older woman, and she seemed to adore me, too, at one time. If I'd played my cards differently, could that have been me on that trip?

-- And one more friend told of her granddaughter, who helps train dogs for a legendary football coach and a superstar country entertainer who live in my town. How does that happen? (I know I have friends and family members who remember when I bordered on being a stalker of this music star!)

-- The Dec. 11 Jesus Calling meditation, encouraging me to hear Jesus saying "bring Me all your concerns, including your dreams," and me realizing: I don't think I even let myself dream anymore. What are my dreams?

There were times that I dreamed of living in one of those wonderful houses, taking wonderful trips, meeting and working with celebrities. I guess I knew I would never have the ambition and drive to make the kind of money to afford those things, so I dreamed -- or, more accurately, WISHED -- for them to somehow just to come into my life.

IF I'D PLAYED MY CARDS RIGHT ... I've interviewed celebrities before, but I felt like the fish out of water. I wanted to be friends, not a reporter, especially because I didn't feel very competent as a reporter. I don't think or write quickly; my questions as well as my insights usually take shape quite arduously.

Now, it seems instead of dream, I'm more likely to pray. I pray to keep my focus on God, and to know and do His will. I pray for healing and strength and blessings for loved ones. I pray for wisdom of leaders of churches, schools, governments, businesses and organizations, from the most local to worldwide levels. I pray for peace.

But God wants me to bring Him my dreams? Dare I?

To be continued ....

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everyday Christmas and Thanksgiving

It's 11 p.m. Dec. 10, and I have done nothing to prepare for Christmas. When Dec. 25 falls on a Wednesday, it's harder for the extended family to make plans to be together. Will it be the weekend before or the weekend after? No one has extended an invitation or declared intentions for a family gathering. The best I can tell, there is a sense that my siblings and our mom may not all be together at the same time this year.

It will be different with my husband's family, too. In recent years, we've spent a day and sometimes overnight celebrating with his sister, but this year she is going to spend the holiday with her son in California, rather than him coming to her house in Texas. I've actually volunteered to work on Christmas Day, so those with children and families close by in Oklahoma can spend time together on the holiday.

Will it even seem like Christmas? Or will it seem more like Thanksgiving, which for me in my adult life working at a daily newspaper has generally meant just having Thursday off, and sometimes not even that, which makes it hard to be with family in other cities and states.

But Christmas and Thanksgiving aren't just about dates on a calendar or even about large celebrations with family. They are a spirit and a commitment and an expression of love in action. They are gratitude to God for daily blessings and the gift of His beloved Son, Whom He sent into the world as a baby, God in human flesh, to grow and live and love and provide an example, and then to die on a cross as a young man, but to rise from the grave three days later, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I may have done nothing to prepare in terms of decorating or shopping -- or even scheduling gatherings on a calendar -- but I am praying for an open heart to receive God's gifts of Christmas each day, and to respond with gifts of gratitude in loving service to others, in His name.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What does God expect?

Below is what I posted truly as a place holder on Tuesday (under the heading: Yes, I am cheating ... To be continued) -- and probably illegally at that, because it is pulled directly from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers for the day before.

Now for the Saturday update: After a last-minute decision to go to Arkansas this past Saturday morning to see my brother and his family, and to stay, one day at a time, through Tuesday morning and go straight to work three and a half hours away in Oklahoma City, I felt too tired to post anything, but had no idea when I might get back to this. And I feared just letting it go. I'm not sure why these posts are important, but something about the discipline -- even when I have to fudge a bit like this time to meet my deadline -- helps me. Or maybe it's not even the value of the discipline as much as just responding to what still feels like a call from God. So, on Tuesday, I posted this text that inspired what I likely would have written, knowing I could and would update it later.

For me, it's not even about being perfect. It's about wanting to be useful, helpful, meaningful, loving, caring and have purpose in God's world and in relationships with people. What the text helped me see is that I do tend to focus on or worry about whether I am letting God use me the way He would like to. I tend to think I fall short. And this helped me again to fathom that I truly just need to focus on the love of God through Christ, and to TRUST HIM. Last weekend was one more example of how, when I do trust that part of me that is focused on God, I end up where I am supposed to be. I have no doubt that was the case then. So how can I not also trust Him to help me take care of what's in front of me now. And so I will.

(Excerpts from the pilfered text follow, with emphasis added.)

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect . . . —Philippians 3:12

It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do — God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. ... What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick.

Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. ... I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. ... God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.