Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Outlive Your Life (on a budget)

My church is in the middle of a sermon series called 'Outlive Your Life'.  Its a catchy phrase and a good philosophy.  Thousands of booklets have been printed up and some pretty high tech presentations have been made.  Last Sunday was particularly interesting to me.  The idea was presented of the church purchasing or renting houses in certain strategic areas of the world, where families can go and stay for days or even months doing missions work.  I think that is a great concept, and will make many people much more likely to explore that as an option for themselves or their families.  The brochures are also outlining a guide for giving money to the cause.  I'm sure that just seeing the numbers, ranging from $500 over 2 years to a million dollars, will be all the incentive some need to re-evaluate their own spending habits and begin to give sacrificially.  It is an exciting concept and challenge, and I am proud that my church is pursuing this as an ongoing philosopy.

However, I find myself thinking about so many individuals I know that are probably feeling a bit (or a lot) overwhelmed by the whole idea of outliving their lives.  It seems to be all they can do to face each day with what little sanity or money they have to scrape by on.  Sure, for some people, $20 a month for two years is nothing at all.  For many, it would be noticed.  For some, it is an impossibility.  OK, nothing is impossible for God--I get that.  But speaking as someone who has not had over $7 left in the checking account in any given pay period for over five years now, giving big money-wise may not be the avenue some can pursue.  And while going somewhere else sounds exciting and important, being off work for even a day is not a luxury that all people can enjoy.

For others, they are so bogged down with emotional stresses that going out or giving to other people can also be a stretch.  I think about one of my friends that struggle so much with depression and single parenting responsibilities--she is doing good to get herself and her kids dressed and to church every now and then.  She is not in a very good place right now, and giving/living extra would be tough.  Sunday's message would likely have depressed her even more.  Others face an uphill battle if they are the only church attending person in their families.  Sometimes gung-ho pursuits of God are not encouraged or welcomed by other family members.

I've thought about this a lot in the past few years--how do you give to God when resources are limited?  I have come to realize that this has much to do with how one defines 'resources'.  If it only means money or outgoingness (is that a word?) or even time, then it is possible that sure, some people would be extremely limited in 'giving this away'.  And in a culture full of pretty, over-extended people with disposable income, this may seem to be the resources that are most valued.  But, what if giving and living go beyond that?  How can a person give with an abundant heart in a different kind of economy?  Here are just a few ways someone may choose to outlive their lives, which is really about doing more than they are now to make a difference in someone else's life:

--Call, text, message, stop by, WRITE A LETTER, send a card--something to let another person know that they are being thought about.

--Got something that is not being used or appreciated (book, CD, clothes, toys, plaque, etc.)?  Give it as a 'happy'.  People seem much more comfortable taking something and not feeling obligated to reciprocate if they know no money has been specifically spent on them.

--bake bread, cookies, cake--with a note attached.

--Do you have a volunteer (or even paid) teacher or minister that is there every week for you or your kids?  ANY show of appreciation will go further than you can even imagine.  Darren still has notes and cards of encouragement in a box that came at just the right time, and only cost someone a little time.

--Read the Bible and pray.  This one sounds like a typical, throw-away church answer, but if you haven't been doing this or doing it often, then any increase will be living more purposefully.

--Reconnect/renew an old friendship--I find that the older I get, the fewer and fewer heart connections I make.  It has been so neat to find old friends through Facebook and use that as a ministry tool.  When someone knows and remembers your stuff and your baggage, and likes you anyway, it can open neat opportunities to minister in ways that are difficult with less history bound friends.

--Take every opportunity to provide a meal or two with you get sent that mass email-- To be honest, this is one I always knew was a neat idea, but never acted on because I thought "I'm sure someone else will take care of it".  Not anymore.  For over 3 months last year, we had a different family bring our family supper EVERY night when I was not able to get around.  This was the highlight of the family day, and gave everyone a sense of normalcy in a difficult time.  They will not care what you bring.  Trust me.  For some people, this will be a sacrifice due to cost.  How about fasting for that day?

--Begin (or continue) a journey to health--this can be a huge witness, as well as improve your standard of living, making giving more of an option.

--Give something up -- a TV show, a snack, a manicure, a vacation, a habit, a memory, a guilt-trip

--Spend time with __________ --I left this blank because each person will have someone different that could most benefit from the attention.  In a culture when we are so connected technologically, we are sadly becoming more and more disconnected from real relationships.

--Share your new insights in a blog (hey, I like that one :)  Somebody might just need to read what you have to say.

I guess the bottom line is that God knows where people are.  He knows when someone is giving and when someone is holding on tightly.  He is more concerned with our heart than our gift.  And it is not that He needs anything we have to give Him.  He just knows that WE are the ones who need to give.

So, how can you outlive your life today?

Saturday, January 15, 2011


On my way out of the grocery store today I grabbed one of the free magazines that are offered at the entrance.  Several hours later I was reading an article that was written by a girl I knew in college and haven't seen in over 20 years.  I recognized her picture in the table of contents, and she looks just the same, except that her hair isn't as big (it WAS the 80's, after all).  What I read was sad, and heart-breaking, and inspiring, and lots of other things all at once.  You see, the article was about infertility, and it chronicled her story, one that still hasn't ended with a baby in her arms.

In the middle of my routine life of never-ending cooking, cleaning and boyness, it is easy to forget that there are so many people who would willingly, in a heartbeat, trade their freedom, money, published articles, and downtime for what I have and take for granted and even complain about, at least mentally.  It is too easy for me to look at people my age that don't have children and assume it was a conscious choice, or to wish longingly for the simpler, quieter life they must enjoy.  Then, out of nowhere, I am reminded of my old friend, and my heart hurts.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The nasty sting of the Green Hornet

It's Friday night, and my 14 year old is in his room doing what he has been doing a lot for the past couple of years--sulking because I won't let him go see the latest, cool guy movie of the week.  Tonight's main feature:  The Green Hornet.  Neither one of us are too surprised by this.  It is rated PG-13, which just 10 years ago has content that would easily give it an R rating, and usually raises many red flags with regard to language and sexual content.  Since this one was written by and stars Seth Rogan, I didn't have high hopes anyway.

Before we go see ANY movie, I always read the review from Focus on the Family at  I highly recommend this, as it breaks down each movie into categories such as violence, drug/alcohol use, etc.  Everyone in my family knows this is a requirement before considering any movie.  Its not just the kids, but for me and my husband as well.  I can't stand gratuitous bad language throughout, and he doesn't need to see any movie with nudity, period.  Movies are also iffy for the boys if there is name-calling like idiot and stupid.  I learned early on in parenting that they parrot just about anything they hear, especially the bad stuff, and since they aren't allowed to call other people idiot or stupid, why would I want to put that in their brains to have to later struggle not to say.  Anyway...the Green Hornet.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, sandwiched between two superhero loving brothers, so I was familiar with Spiderman, the Hulk, Superman, Super Friends, and my personal favorite, Aquaman (I was a beach girl).  I knew about the Brown Hornet from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, but didn't know much about the Green Hornet.  Just this week there was a marathon on SyFy of the TV show from the 60s, so I was able to watch a few episodes and find out his story and issues.  I actually enjoyed what I saw.  The Green Hornet was a rich kid named Britt whose father had died and left him the local newspaper that the dad had published.  He was like a vigilante hero who was considered an outlaw, and captured the bad guys using karate kicks with the help of his Asian sidekick.  It was all 60s modern and fun, and not as quite as silly as shows like Batman and Robin.  Britt ended the show with a different pretty girl at the end of each episode I saw, and was portrayed as a ladies man and partier, but this was all implied and happened off screen.  Knowing today's movie atmosphere, especially when combined with Seth Rogan, I could see this twisted in all kinds of ways.  Here's how tonight's movie chose to portray Britt/Green Hornet (according to Plugged In Online):

Sexual Content:

Britt is a womanizer, and one of the first things we see him do is make out with a lady in (and on) several of his father's cars. (It's a fast-motion montage played for laughs.) He later wakes up with this same-said woman in his hide-a-bed and can't remember her name. Bikini-clad girls frolic in his pool, and partying females cavort with him at a wild shindig.

He leers at and makes rough, crude come-ons to Lenore, his administrative assistant at the Sentinel. She puts up with it for a while, but when Britt tries to kiss her she tells him if he makes a pass at her or ogles her any more, she'll slap him with a sexual harassment suit. She likes Kato, however, and the two of them have a chaste date. (To make Britt angry, Kato later suggests with hand motions that the two got intimate.)

Women wear tight-fitting, revealing clothing. Kato draws erotic pictures. "Kato, you are a pervert," Britt tells him. One man visits a prostitute. Britt and others make loads of crude references to male and female body parts. A "kiss my a‑‑" slam evolves into a semi-graphic tirade. There are a few joking "partner" references to Britt and Kato's relationship. Britt describes a certain food as an "orgasm in your mouth."

Crude or Profane Language

Characters say the s-word nearly 40 times. Crude references to private body parts are common. Jesus' name is abused once, and God's name is taken in vain about 10 times (including once with "d‑‑n"). Other bad words include "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑k."

And these are just two of the categories.  Once again, I have to wonder why in the world this is necessary.  This movie could be just as fun, just as engaging, and make just as much money without all the crud.  Seriously, an orgasm in your mouth?  Really?  Way too many people I know think I am naive and too restrictive for saying no to this.  Naive to think that keeping my young teenage boy from this will do any good, and is just taking away his fun and will make him much more likely to rebel as soon as he can.  So am I supposed to just go along with the crowd of unprotective, uninformed parents who let their kids do whatever, with no restrictions, just to avoid conflict or not wanting to seem like a mean parent?  Won't he feel left out on Sunday morning when all the boys in his small group at church are talking about how fun and cool it was?  It would make my job as a parent so much easier if there were masses of parents saying, "No!  This is not what we do and not what we stand for and not what I want swimming around in your subconscious".  But even if they don't, I will continue to stand with my few like minded parent-friends.  They'd be easy to find tonight--a few feet away from their oppressed kids, preparing to fight the good fight yet again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flight Lessons, Anyone?

Over the past year or so I have spent many hours with various medical personnel in my quest to improve my mobility.  This morning was no exception, and I had a session with a therapist that I have been working with for about three months.  Everything was going along about the same as usual, when he made a comment about needing to return a call to a flight instructor to set up his first flying lesson.  Now, that is not something I hear people say very often, so I thought it was definitely worth some follow-up questions.  Like, is this something you've always wanted to do?  This led to an extremely interesting hour where he did most of the talking, and I learned things like:

--the world is 80% likely to end on December 21, 2012 (which is a Friday, by the way).

--It is all part of an 11,000 year repeating cycle where the poles reverse because of an increase in solar flares.  This would have explained the flood Noah experienced.

--He checks a website daily that chronicles the latest cataclysmic (sp?) natural disaster.  There were 6 listed this morning.  This doesn't include the birds, crickets, bats and bees that are strangely dying in mid-flight.

--This ultimate 2012 event will wipe out 3/4 of the population immediately, but he and his family are already making preparations, by stocking up on rope, alternative energy sources, seeds, survival tools, etc.

--He will be spending the next two years putting in massive training exercises with his kids on how to build shelter and forage for food.  (They are under 7 years old).

It definitely wasn't a conversation I was expecting today.  I checked out the website.  Apparently, he is one of many who believe this.  As I was leaving him, he mentioned that as the time gets closer (he's known about this for several years), he is becoming more concerned and stressed about what all has to be done.  Yeah, I bet.  No amount of rope or knives would have me prepared to kill any animal to make clothes or build a house, even if I had more than 2 years to prepare.

However, I did walk away thinking about this--in one way or another, at some time or another, this life and this world as we know it will end.  What would I do differently if I thought my time on earth would end in 2012?  Or in 2 months?  Or 2 days?  I am guaranteed nothing, so I must make the most of every day.  Live with meaning and purpose.  Like Tim McGraw sings, I need to live like I am dying.  Forget about me riding any bull, though, whether it is named Foo-man-shu or not.

Oh, and the flight lessons?  That is so he and his family can travel to the other side of where the first of 3 massive tidal waves will start.  My family?  If it's like any other time we need to leave the house in a hurry, I'm sure we'll still be looking for someone's shoes when they have hit the coast of Timbuktu.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fresh Eyes - Those blasted in-laws!

I've been revisiting one of the most fascinating sections of the Bible for me--the stories of Issac and his wife Rebekah, and their twin sons Esau and Jacob.  They are introduced early on in the Bible, in Genesis.  We aren't given a whole lot of details about their parenting styles, but it is obvious they made some big mistakes and bad judgment calls along the way.  For one thing, each parent had a different 'favorite' son (which was in turn passed down to Jacob and his sons a little later).  Rebekah mainipulated everyone and convinced Jacob to lie big time to his daddy, causing his brother Esau to hate him and plan to kill him.  Really fascinating, tragic stuff. 

In the middle of their story though, two little verses stood out that I guess I had missed until today.  It made me think of a statement Beth Moore used in one of her Bible studies once:  It is obvious men wrote the Scriptures, because women writers would have included so many more details--stuff that women would just love to know.  You know, like the reason men hate to get the call that gives details about a friend or family member's baby delivery.  "Well,  Dave and Jill had their baby.  Its a boy".  The man thinks this is enough info, and if he is thinking ahead will at least find out a name.  Not the woman.  She wants details.  Did Jill have a C-section?  How long was labor?  How long was the baby?  Does he look like Dave, Jr. did when he was born 7 years ago?  Was the labor nurse nice?  That kind of stuff.  These two verses simply said:

"At the age of forty, Esau married two Hittite wives:  Judith and Basemath.
But Esau's wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah."

And that's it.  I just laughed, and then wondered why.  There HAS to be so much more to this story.  What did these two daughters in law do that was so bad?  Did they gripe and complain?  Were they bad mammas to those precious grandbabies (not as precious as Jacob's grandbabies, of course, at least not for Rebekah :)  Were they bad tent keepers?  Did they not cherish Esau?  I mean, he was 40 and had to divide his time between two new wives.  Were they vegetarians?  Esau was a skilled hunter, don't you know, and may have preferred lamb shwarma over falafel or tabouli.  Those Hittites are just trash anyway, right?

I don't know the answers, but I love that it was seen as something important to include in Scripture.  It may be just the thing that someone, somewhere needs to know today:  they are not the first ones with in-law issues, and they won't be the last.  Just ask Isaac and Rebekah.
                                                                                                                (from Genesis 26:34-35)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I am not a worrier.  I might be wrong, but I think I've always been this way.  It doesn't make sense to me to expend mental energy on something I can do absolutely nothing about anyway.  However, I know a LOT of worriers.  Chronic, anxiety ridden friends who see the worst coming in every late phone call and unmarked envelope.  It just makes me sad to see how worrying about what could happen steals the joy of what they could be experiencing right now. 

I was reminded of a song from college this morning as I was reading some Bible verses from the book of Matthew.  Jesus was telling the crowd listening to Him not to worry about what they would eat or wear, or even about what would happen tomorrow, because He would take care of them.  He did not say bad things would not happen, or that they would never have money/resource problems.  He didn't say that loved ones would never leave, or that their life would be easy.  In fact, He often told them to be prepared for tough times, particularly if they followed Him.  However, Jesus did promise to never leave them, or forsake them.  Worry just shouldn't be part of the equation, because He is there instead.

Which led me to youtube, to search out a song from my college years.  So, in the words of that great philosopher Bobby McFerrin, 'don't worry, be happy'.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sentimental fool--Modern day retrosexual

He came from somewhere back in her long ago.
Sentimental fool can't see, trying hard to recreate what had yet to be created.
He just can't seem to see, that it never really was...
She had a place in his life,
He never make her think twice....

She musters a smile, for his nostalgic tale.
Only to realize, it never really was.
As she rises to her apology anybody else would surely know, he's watching her go...
But he still believes.

I heard this song on the radio the other day--'What a Fool Believes', by the Doobie Brothers.  It came out when I was in elementary school, and I heard it on the radio a lot then.  I never was too good with lyrics anyway, so I never really paid attention to what it was saying.  I would just join in singing 'what a foo-ool believes, dabba dee, something something goes get ice cream'.  Standard made up little girl lyrics.  I was intrigued by some of the bits and pieces I picked up listening recently, so I looked up the lyrics when I got home.  I thought it was absolutely fascinating, because it tells a story that I seem to be seeing over and over again with my friends, and it is absolutely heartbreaking.

As the song goes, this guy runs into an old 'girlfriend', one that he has apparently been thinking a lot about and hoping they will get back together someday.  It becomes evident that this girl doesn't know or remember what he is talking about, and that there may never have been any kind of connection at all.  She makes some awkward excuse, says goodbye, leaves, and this guy watches her leave but still believes that one day they will get back together.  Now, the song doesn't get into this, but I am a sucker for a good backstory, so I will just make one up.  I don't think they were ever anything.  She was nice to him in junior high and maybe threw him candy off the homecoming float at the parade.  Maybe she signed his yearbook 'love always--be sure to keep in touch'.  He's been fascinated with her and knows that given the opportunity, she would realize it is HIM she really wants.  Sure, its been 15 years, but they have their high school reunion coming up, so hope reigns eternal.  Overall, a sad story.

Or, maybe they did have something going on.  They dated and promised and have a history.  They broke up and went their separate ways.  Married, with children.  Yet he still obsesses.  Maybe not openly, maybe his wife would never guess, but there are times when he retreats in his mind with the vision of life as it should have been, and could possible be again one day.  THIS is the reality I see too many of my friends living, and this is tragic.  It was bad enough 30 years ago when these people could have gone their whole lives and never run into each other again, but now, with the Internet and especially Facebook, reconnecting, or at least fantasizing about it, becomes all too easy and common.  It makes the possibility of making 'what could have been' into 'what might be again', and sadly, it is destroying relationships left and right.  There is even a new sociological term for it: retrosexual--reconnecting and establishing an old relationship through use of social media.  I have 6 friends that I know of that are now either divorced, separated, or having an affair because of this type of reconnection in the past year alone.  That doesn't even count the ones that would never act out on any feelings, but are still caught up in the cycle of checking out statuses, friend requests, and family photos to see if the spouse is now ugly or old looking (and hoping they are).

According to the Doobie Brothers, there is not much help for a person like this.  He is, according to them, a fool.  I know otherwise; that while tragic, people can be free from this viscious, mental anguish.  And believe me, it is anguish.  It may sound simple and Pollyanna-ish, but God specializes in this type of reprogramming and redirection.  We just have to be willing and open to it.  If we aren't, and continue to hold onto some fantasy that will only bring heartbreak, well, then maybe we are fools after all.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Toto, I KNOW we aren't in Kansas anymore.

I really miss Kansas.  We only lived there for a year, and that was over three years ago now, but I still miss it.  It was hands down my favorite place that I have lived since I've been married.  I didn't think it would be before I moved there.  I mean, who ever hears anything about Kansas, other than the Wizard of Oz, and the Kansas part of that was black and white and full of tornadoes.  I was skeptical at first, because it was VERY far from family, and we knew nothing about the area.  But, my husband was very excited about a job opportunity there, and so off we went.  We moved to a suburb of Kansas City, which is on the far east side of the state.  Some of our favorite Kansas features were, in no particular order:

--libraries--amazing system with any book/movie you can imagine, with a free loan system if they don't have what you want.  There are almost daily programs for kids, with top notch presenters and hands-on activities.

--homeschooling--is very common and not considered deviant.  Homeschool groups and co-ops abound, as well as sports leagues, bands, scout groups, and library groups.

--community activities--daily, free, interesting, diverse

--Whole Foods and Wild Oats--enough said

--church--because it is not the Deep South, church becomes a conscious choice and not a cultural expectation.  Parents seem more invested in spiritual outcomes and attenders seem more privileged to be extended God's grace, as opposed to entitled to it by birth or heritage.  The church we attended (and where my husband worked) experienced a terrible upheaval due to staff issues when we were there,  and the church did not collapse or implode, and continues to reach people today.

--schools--even though we were homeschooling, the schools were very impressive and community based.  Very well rounded opportunities.  Most kids walked to school in our neighborhood. 

--Scouting--I miss this very much.  It was the best program we have ever been a part of, both with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

--Fitness--people were healthy.  People exercise and eat well for the most part.  It was normal for people  to order shares of grass fed beef and eat free range eggs.  Even if they didn't get organic foods, there was a basic understanding that it is obviously better and would be more consumed if it were more affordable.  We were vegetarians, but that wasn't freaky or any cause for concern.  Different maybe, but to each his own.  Almost every restaurant had vegetarian options, and several only served organic meats.

--Parks and pools--the community pools were water park quality and the parks were great.

--Easy to live cheaply--OK, I guess anywhere you live you have to be smart and it always takes money to live, but Kansas offered many opportunities to do the 'extra' stuff - plays, museums, pools, classes, movies, etc.--for free.  It may be only once a season, but it a person was willing to endure the masses,there was free fun to be had.

--Snow--lots of it, several times a year.  People didn't become idiot drivers at the sign of the first flake, either.

--Neighbors--this one should probably have been listed first.  I can't describe to you the sense of community and fun that surrounded the people we lived near.  People were outside all the time,  kids played together non-stop, and there is no way we will ever capture that again.  It just doesn't happen like that where we are now.

--Racism--I guess I would sound clueless if I said I never saw or felt it, but I just didn't.  People were  people,  multi-racial couples were everywhere, and no one stared or glared that I could tell.  That is sadly not the experience in Mississippi, where racial tensions underlie almost every interaction, whether intentional or not. 

--Coffee shops--cool, everywhere, all with soy milk

--Garage sales--I am NOT a garage sale person, and never have been, but I went as much as I could there.  I bought Christmas for everyone for $51 that year.  These people had good stuff, lots still with tags, and would leave unsold stuff on the curb sometimes.  I never got any of this stuff, but some other people sure
racked up.

More than any of this great stuff, though, was by far, without a doubt, the kindness and civility that marked EVERY SINGLE interaction we had with strangers everywhere.  Customer service was incredible, and people seemed genuinely glad to serve and interested in engaging people in conversations.  Darren told me about it after his initial visit to Kansas, and while I believed him, I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  I was wrong.  It was amazing, and just reinforces how much I miss Kansas just about EVERY TIME I have to go out in public here.  People are rude, indifferent, uncaring, aggravated here--you name it.  I can not believe that I can routinely check out at a store without having any eye contact or verbal interaction with the cashier.  Wal-Mart in Castlewoods is the worst.  The worst.  Kroger does much better, because they have daily secret shoppers and are rewarded if they get individual good reports.  I say they should do that everywhere.  Do you think you might could get off your cell phone for just a few seconds as you are handing me my change and fries at the drive-thru?  What about you, people at church and soccer games?  I see you every week.  Do you think you could acknowledge my existence?  Novel concept, I know, but now that I have experienced it on a cultural basis, I long for it even more here.

In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed, hoping people will be nicer to each other.  But I won't hold my breath, though.  People around here might not even notice if I pass out.

Have I mentioned that I really miss Kansas?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Video of the Day

I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and just saw the video.  Nicole C. Mullen is such an amazing singer, and this one made me cry.  (Don't say you weren't warned).  It is also nice to be reminded of the good stuff that is out there, as opposed to so much being pumped out and labeled as 'entertainment'.


Epiphany  (pronounced Ee-pih-fuh-knee - or something like that).  Until a couple of months ago, I had only a vague understanding of it as a word, but did not know it was an event.  I had heard people or characters in a book mention 'having an epiphany', which was like an 'a-ha moment', a time of clarity about something or someone.  In recent years, I would have to say any type of epiphany moments for me are limited to trying to remember why I walked into a particular room, so I just stand there are slowly look around hoping something will trigger my memory.

As it turns out, Epiphany is a day celebrated by people in many countries and various religious backgrounds.  The date varies, but many celebrate it on January 6th.  Some even recognize it as an entire season (from January 6th to the beginning of Lent - right after Mardi Gras).  Several European countries recognize it as a national holiday, with schools and banks being closed.  Epiphany itself means 'manifestation', and celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men to see the baby Jesus.  (Some traditions focus on this as the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River some 30 years later).  It follows the 12 days of Christmas, and like the Wise Men did, is a time for observers to give their own gifts to Jesus - money, time, service, devotion, etc.  I think this is such a neat concept, especially coming right on the heels of Christmas, when it is easy to say we are celebrating Jesus, but those credit card statements and extra pounds say something else entirely.  This, along with the idea of Christmas lasting almost two weeks instead of one day as well as being so close to New Years Day and the resolutions that go along with it, gives such a neat opportunity to really do some soul searching and provide teachable moments for our family.

Last night we had an 'Epiphany Feast' at our house with a few other families that are also walking through the liturgical year with us.  I'm not sure how much of a feast it was, with the main attraction being hotdogs and cupcakes, but I guess feasting with kids takes things in an entirely different direction.  None of us really know what we are doing with all of this, but it sure has been fun for my family to work through it all with other friends who are sincerely trying to journey through life in a purposeful way.  No one (including me) had any publically stated gift for Jesus last night, but I think we sure are more aware of it than in previous years.  My family has talked about it some (support a child in another country; buy a goat or some chickens for them--this is being promoted as a ministry by several organizations right now, which is such a neat idea; do more hands-on ministry ourselves), but we haven't landed on anything yet.  The two oldest boys even suggested actually adopting a child, a girl this time, since we have a house now and so much more room.  Discussions on that one broke down about the time I asked which one was willing to give up their bedroom for this child.  I do love that they are starting to think big, though, and are realizing it is not all about them.

I guess its time to take down our Christmas trees now.  Yep, we still have all of our Christmas decorations out, since Christmas ended for us a couple of days ago.  I think I may just need to listen to Sinatra and Crosby a little more today before they are packed away for awhile.  If I come across any Epiphany CDs, I'll let you know.  Until then, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fresh eyes - Galilee of the Gentiles

Today part of my Bible reading was from Matthew 4:12-25.  Verse 13 starts with Jesus leaving the town of Nazareth, where he grew up.  This story is explained in much more detail in Luke 4:16-30, where Jesus basically gets up in front of people He knows in the synagogue, says He is the fulfillment of prophecy, they become furious, and take Him to a cliff to kill Him.  My Bible labels this as "The Announcement of His Ministry".  Some announcement, huh?  He pretty much had to leave or be killed, so where should He go next?  He went and lived in Capernaum.  OK.  So?  This is where my eyes were opened in a fresh way today.

Capernaum was about 25 miles from Nazareth, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Whereas Nazareth was considered by many Jews as the 'Jew trash' section, verse 15 calls Capernaum the "Galilee of the Gentiles".  I hadn't really considered this before, but this was a very big deal.  Capernaum was part of hub of transportation for people from Europe and Asia to Africa, and King Herod has chosen a spot just a couple of miles away on the tallest hill to build his temple.  And his temple was huge; a monument to the Greek culture and architecture that he loved so much.  So, while technically Capernaum was a Jewish town, it contained many different cultures and people groups - those pesky Gentiles that Jews despised and thought of as lower class.  So much so that the Jews who chose to stay in Capernaum and live and work beside these 'low-lifes' were considered second class Jews themselves (like Peter and Andrew, James and John).  Verse 16 goes on to say that because Jesus moved there:

       "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow
       of death a light has dawned".

How amazing that in the handful of verses that I have read many times, I am reminded again that Jesus came and lived and ate and worked and loved and touched and walked in places so many people disregarded as worthless and dirty.  They didn't want any part of Galilee to be associated with Gentiles.  But Jesus did.  It is why He came--for someone like me.  A dirty Gentile.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Dose of Reality

I've spent more time this past year in hospital/doctor waiting rooms that I care to recall.  Between mine and my oldest son, we logged in dozens of hours and racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills.  Much of the time was spent in the germy chairs surrounded by people from all literally all kinds of places.  Frustrated people.  Tired people.  Desperate people.  People looking for answers.  I have somewhat more patience than many for situations like this, because I am such a people watcher and analyzer.  Does it really make sense to yell at the receptionist because you couldn't find a parking place?  Is it in your best interest to yell at the person you are with when their name is finally called, "Don't act like you're getting too much better--we haven't got that insurance check yet!  And be sure to turn your arm some right before they take that X-ray picture!". 

Regardless of the intensity and duration of whatever I am facing, I ALWAYS walk (or roll) away from my appointments so thankful that it isn't as bad as someone else I saw that day.  I was reminded of this today when I had to take the middle child for an initial appointment with a pediatric specialist at University Medical Center.  Sure, we had to park a long way away.  We had to wait a while to have about 2 1/2 minutes face time with the doctor who charges over $100 per visit.  We aren't done yet with this process.  But you know what?  When we left, he walked.  He talked coherently (for a 10 year old boy, anyway).  He went to the bathroon unassisted.  He laughed.  We passed at least 10 other parents with their children that don't do those things, and probably never will, and it broke my heart all over again.  I know I am blessed, and I am most thankful.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Eve - a typical woman?

It's a new year, and once again, I am beginning the process of reading through the Bible.  The beginning is harder some years than others, because I have the tendency to think 'been there, done that', particularly in Genesis.  I should know better than that by now--each reading brings something fresh and new.  Today just reinforced that.  I was reading Genesis 3, when the serpent came to Eve.  He asked a simple question, one that was almost word for word what God has said in Genesis 2.  Basically, did God really say you could not eat of the fruit of that tree?  Well, yes, that is what He said.  But, in answering that question, Eve embellished a little, adding that not only were they not to eat it.  They couldn't even touch it.

Now, I don't know if God actually said that last part or not.  I suppose He could have said that originally and like many things he said, it just didn't make it into Scripture.  But, assuming He didn't say they could not touch it, where was Eve coming from with that?  Did she really think that?  I mean, it probably was a good idea to stay away from it, to not be tempted, but was she bitter about that?  Resentful?  Longing?  Had she spent much time lamenting her boundaries, making it so much easier to for the serpent to give in to temptation?  I don't know.  I do know that she gave in, taking her man down with her.  I also know WAY too many women (and men) that are eaten up with the 'whys' of their life--Why did things have to turn out this way?  Why can't I have 'that', too?  Why don't they care and respect what I do?  Why do we never get to go to Disney World? And on and on.  What makes it even sadder is that so many who dwell on the whys and have nots are believers.  Christ followers who know they are loved and special and redeemed.  Yet they simmer and wonder why, and all the while miss out on the fullness of what all she could have been enjoying.

I am a daughter of Eve.  I pray I continue to learn from her mistakes, and never take the wisdom and new revelations of her story for granted.