The Gift or the Giver?

What if on Christmas morning that gift that you’ve been longing for is under the tree? What would it be for you? The latest technology? The keys to a new car? That outfit you’ve been admiring in the store window?

What if, when you opened that gift, you said thank you to the giver, but then didn’t acknowledge him the rest of the day? What if, in the days and weeks to follow, whenever you talked to him, you just asked him for more stuff? You wouldn’t have much of a relationship with him, would you?

What if, instead of a gift under the tree, you found that person simply wanting to spend time with you? Would you be satisfied? Would it be enough simply to be with him? After all, you have let him into your life. You’ve told him you love him. If he never gives you the things that you want, but is always there by your side to listen, love and care for you, would that be enough?

I think that’s how I’ve been treating God lately. There are so many needs; not just my own. I have friends who have great concerns that I have promised to pray for. I have one nagging health issue that I really want to go away. So that’s what I’m asking for. But I’m not asking God to simply be with me, to enfold me in His arms and to keep me safe from the attacks of the enemy that would tell me God must not really love me if He keeps letting me experience this trial.

What do I really want, the Giver or the gifts He might give? Do I want heaven because of what it means to be there? No more tears, no more pain, streets of gold. Or do I long for heaven because it means perfect communion with God?

Today I am singing along: “All I want for Christmas is You.” Won’t you join me?

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photo credit: thedigestonline.com

The Advent

104_0443 - Version 2I have been absent for awhile. I have no excuse. Sometimes I think I just get in a writer’s funk. I don’t feel like I have anything to say that anyone wants to hear. So I stop talking. Discouragement comes easily as I look at stats and wonder if my words mean anything to anybody. The thought runs through my head, “Is anybody out there?”

For 400 years, the people of Israel thought God was silent. There had been no prophets speaking His words. Thing was, though they couldn’t—or wouldn’t—hear Him, He was still at work. The stage was being set for the ultimate Word that would be shared with the world.

If you’re like me, when you’re reading your Bible, you skip over all those names in the geneologies, but they represent the behind-the-scenes work that was being done in preparation for the Word becoming flesh. Adam to David to Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Word of God who came and dwelt among us.

When I’m silent, it doesn’t mean I have nothing to say, it means that I’m not taking the time to think and listen and write. Most of the time when I’m silent, it means I’m too busy.

When God is silent, it’s like the darkness before the dawn. There is movement, we just can’t see it. Or maybe we could if we studied the sky in the east. Maybe the problem is we’re just not looking in the right place. We’re not quiet enough to hear.

Stop. Listen. Do you hear the sounds of His coming?

He’s coming.

Facing Election Season

vote-for-me-noteI always liked to go to my mailbox every day when I was younger to see what treasures the mail carrier would bring. The novelty has worn off a bit as bills and junk mail dominate now. Lately, I’m completely tired of the political ads that show up every single day leading up to an election. In Florida, we’re facing a gubernatorial election next weekend. Who will lead our state? We’ll know in a week. What concerns me more, where all politics are concerned is this: Who is telling the truth?

I don’t know these people; I don’t live with them day in and day out. I don’t see the little decisions they make. I only see what is shown to the public and what is reported by the press. And Lord knows I can’t trust the media.

So, short of traveling to the home of every candidate, what can we do to position ourselves to vote for the most qualified person, since all most people get is the inundation of political ads?

1. Pray

2. Pray some more

3. Do your own research. Which organizations support this person? By whom are they endorsed? What bills have they supported? Go to rallies or town hall meetings. If the candidate has a get together, go. We recently had a school board election in Orange County and a man we didn’t know who works with our organization was running against the incumbent whom we had worked with on several different occasions. Instead of just trusting that the man known by many of our friends would be the better candidate, we invited him to our home to speak with a group we included that evening to hear what he had to say.

It takes effort to be involved, but when I look around and see all the horrible choices some of the leaders in our country have made, I see the necessity. Political correctness is running amuck, common sense is anything but common, corruption is rampant. Change is necessary, but only if it’s in the right direction.

4. Believe that God is in control. Romans 13 says that all authority has been established by God and there is no authority that God did not establish. He is ultimately in charge and He’s got this.

Now get out there and vote!

 

image from: http://www.littlestuff.co.uk

Fire Ants in the Rose Garden

IMG_2441I love roses. Not the artificially perfumed hothouse roses you find in the florist shops; the honest-to-goodness home-grown kind I find in my own garden. One thing I don’t love is the weeds. And the fire ants. Welcome to Florida.

The other day I was dead-heading my roses—a necessity if you want to keep blooms on them all year long—happily trimming along, enjoying the beauty and the fragrance when OUCH! I felt a sharp stinging on my foot. What the . . .! For something 1 millionth my size, that little fire ant sure packs a punch, especially if he’s invited several of his pals over to join him.

I’m not allergic to fire ant bites, thank the Lord, but I have a friend whose son is. When he inadvertently stepped on a hill, he nearly had to go to the hospital. Some quick administration of Benadryl averted a disaster.

But the itching and pain can still cause a lot of discomfort, even for the non-allergic. But mostly, I just hate the fact that my beautiful garden is a haven for the heartless beasts.

But isn’t that just like life?

You’re going along nicely, appreciating the beauty around you, being thankful for the beautiful creation, happy with your friends and family. Suddenly WHAM! something hits you broadside. Maybe a child suddenly becomes sick. Maybe a parent passes away. Maybe a pipe bursts in your house and causes a major flood.

Like those little fire ants in my rose bed, the sorrows and pains and grief of this world can distract me from the beauty. But my roses are still beautiful and fragrant.

And God is still good.

Just watch where you’re stepping.

Why I’m Choosing To Do The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

alsa_logoI’m not really one to jump on a bandwagon. Unless it has to do with chocolate. So when my friend Alyson nominated me to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I hesitated. I didn’t want to do it just to do it. Because everyone else is doing it. I’ve watched the heart-wrenching video from Peter Frates. I know what it’s about. And I usually don’t give to organizations like that because my funds are so limited.

But raising awareness is good. Maybe not as good as raising money. But maybe if I make someone who has more money than I aware of something, they’ll be led to give. I changed my profile picture on Facebook to the Arabic “noon” to raise awareness of and show solidarity for the Christians in Iraq and the atrocities being perpetrated against them.

But did I want to jump on this bandwagon?

And then I remembered Anni.

I met Anni at a bridal shower for my friend Faith. I sat with her at the table and asked her to tell me her story. Anni is a beautiful, outgoing, faith-filled woman whose father has ALS. Anni is his caretaker. She has put her life on hold to honor him with her service. I was so impressed by Anni’s selfless attitude. She has a really hard life. But she has some really good friends. And she loves her dad.

Chances are, her dad is not going to be around a whole lot longer. Anni needs help with meals, with getting out of the house every once in awhile, with shopping, with housework. She can’t do it herself.

One thing that Anni said to me is that, though she appreciates beyond words the meals and supplies others bring for them, she can’t stand the term “beggars can’t be choosers.” She considers herself a beggar because she needs to ask for help. She wishes people would realize that she doesn’t like to have to ask, and she’d do it herself if she knew that wouldn’t kill her in the process. She’d like for people to ask her, “What can I make for you for dinner tonight? What do you really love that you haven’t had for awhile?” Why should she not get to choose just because she’s had to ask?

So, I’m doing it for Anni. I’m going to have my son pour a bucket of ice water over my head and post it on Facebook and Instagram because that’s what Pete Frates wants me to do. Though I have no funds to contribute, I hope I am raising the awareness of someone who does. You can give at this website.

Look around you. Is there someone who is taking care of a loved one who is terminally ill? Are they bearing the burden alone? Ask them what they need. Be there for them. They are there for someone else.

Like Anni.

Here’s me, being doused.

Wait, What?

huhI don’t consider myself a political activist, nor do I consider that I am fully informed about all that is going on in the world. And I take most of the things I read on the Internet with a grain of salt. I know that journalism looks less like the non-biased institution it used to be and more like a pawn of different political parties, and that bothers me, being in journalism for many year as I was. So I do tend to check out the things that I read. But unless I have access to the person about which the story is written, I know I don’t have all the facts.

That being said, there have been several stories in the news lately that made me stop and say, “Wait, what?”

First is the story of a man in Texas who was told by the manager of his apartment complex to take down the American flag on his apartment balcony because it was “A threat to the Muslim community.”

A man is flying an American flag. In Texas. How dare he be told to take it down? He wasn’t waving it in anybody’s face. He wasn’t yelling “death to Islam!” If those who feel threatened by the flag—and I’m guessing it was not a large number, but probably a vocal, like, 1—don’t like it, they can MOVE. You live in America, dude. Deal with it.

Then, I read about a military mom of 3 who was blasted on social media for her stance on her Constitutional rights.

Holly Fisher lives in West Virginia. Her husband is in the Army. She is pro life, believes in the Constitution of the United States of America, and is a gun owner. She also has small children. After the Supreme Court decision came down in favor of Hobby Lobby and other family businesses, Holly’s husband took a picture of her wearing a pro-life T-shirt in front of a Hobby Lobby holding a Chick-fil-A cup, which she posted online. Then, on July 4th, she posted another picture of herself in front of her American flag, holding a Bible and a gun. She says it was an illustration of her First Amendment rights. People compared her to a terrorist. She was appalled at some of the responses.

Later, after she complained that, due to ObamaCare, she had lost her baby’s cardiologist, someone on Twitter responded, “Good, I’m glad she did. One less conservative underling to worry about. Have a nice life.”

Wait, what? You’re saying it’s good that her baby is sick, has lost her primary specialist, and could be at risk for her life just because you don’t agree with the child’s mother? And what don’t you agree with? The Constitution? Really? How twisted is that?

Lastly, a Florida mom was arrested for letting her 7-year-old son walk to the park by himself. Remember that post on helicopter parenting I wrote recently? Stuff like this just makes me shake my head. This boy had a cell phone with him, had just made contact with his mom to say he was coming home soon and had been to this park many times before. Police saw him, questioned him, then went to his home and arrested his mom on felony child neglect charges.

Wait, what?

Could they not just have taken the boy home and cautioned his mom that it was probably not a safe idea to let her son do this alone? Was arresting her and totally freaking out her son necessary? How does letting your child walk to a nearby park by himself constitute felony child neglect? I let my 11-year-old daughter walk across the street to youth group by herself. I understand that there are bad people around, and I understand that it is not the same world in which I grew up, but this situation is completely beyond the realm of sense.

People are offended way too easily, they think the worst of people, they speak (or write) caustic, hateful words. It breaks my heart that decency seems to be nowhere to be found in the world today.

Heaven help us all.

The Four Kinds Of People I Meet On My Rides

little-econ-02As you’re probably aware by now, I ride my bike often. Because summer in Florida is, how shall I say this? stinkin’ hot, I ride as early in the morning as I can get myself out of bed. And since I’m not a morning person, that’s not like 6 a.m. or anything. This morning it was closer to 8:30 because, along with being a bike rider, I’m also a baseball fanatic, and so I stay up late in the summer watching my team—the best-record-in-baseball Oakland Athletics—until way too late at night.

But I digress.

As I was riding my 11-or-so miles this morning, I was struck by the different people I encountered. I’m a friendly person, and I’m not speeding down the street on my bike, so I greet each person I meet along the way with a friendly, “Good morning!” As I do that, I notice four different kinds of people: the cautious, the clueless, the cheerful and the condemned.

The Cautious

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but a large percentage of the people I encounter are not readily willing to meet my eye. They have no smile on their face, and they certainly don’t greet me first. But, I’m determined to leave no one out, so I cheerfully greet each and every person, no matter how glum they look. And you know what, my greeting almost always elicits a response, and sometimes even a smile.

The Clueless

In the era of earbuds and mp3 players, I encounter a lot of people who are simply in their own little world. They’re not looking around; they’re not engaging with what’s around them. I say my usual “good morning” and get no response in return. But this cluelessness doesn’t just apply to the walkers, runners or other bikers I see on the street: This morning, a big ‘ol truck completely blocked my way (I ride on the sidewalk because I value my life here in Orlando, a most unfriendly biking city) and the driver never once glanced in my direction to see that I wanted to get by.

The Cheerful

There are those few that will give a friendly wave and greeting even before I get mine out. They seem happy and looking forward to whatever their day holds. Be they young, old or in the middle, these people are facing life with a smile.

The Condemned

I chose this last label not because I am condemning these people, but because they themselves seem to be condemned—by others, by the world, by their circumstances. I don’t know their stories, but I know that God loves them, and so I greet them. The dirty homeless man with the startled look on his face; the young man with the off-center hat and the the tat-covered arms; the old woman shuffling along to the bus stop. They are people, they deserve attention. They deserve love. And you know what, they almost always greet me in return. In some I see the hint of a smile, in some it may just be a polite habit that was ingrained from their childhood. But maybe, just maybe, my friendly greeting will help them know that I saw them.

They are not invisible.

They are loved.

Photo from bikeorlando.net