A Sponge Out Of Place

sponge on the roadSometimes when I ride my bike in the mornings before it gets too hot, I happen upon some strange things. The other day, it was a dried out kitchen sponge just lying in the middle of the bike lane in a quiet neighborhood. Trash isn’t necessarily hard to find, but I found this little yellow sponge to be uniquely out of place, and a poignant reminder of a spiritual truth: Unless we are soaking in the presence of the Living Water, we will be like that sponge in the middle of the road.

What do I mean by that exactly? Well, what was that sponge doing? Was it fulfilling its purpose? No. It was dried up. It had been cast aside, or lost. It was insignificant.

Take that sponge back to a body of clean water, and it could once again do what it was meant to do. It might need a run through the washing machine first, but what once was a dried up piece of trash that nobody wanted would become a useful household item again, doing what it was created to do.

I’m not suggesting we have to be doing something to be acceptable to our Heavenly Father. He loves us whether we’re doing what we were created to do or not. But how much better is it when we are walking with Him, doing what He wants us to do, and fulfilling our God-given purpose.

I didn’t pick up that old sponge that day and take it home and rehabilitate it. But that’s what God has done for each one of us. He has poured His Spirit into us and given us purpose. I know I’m happiest when I’m doing what God wants me to do. How about you?

3 Things I Learned On The Day I Got Engaged

Today is the 25th anniversary of the day my husband asked me to marry him.

sc0079bb1fAs I reflect on that day, there are a few things that I might not have realized then, but that I’ve come to see as truths over the last 25 years.

1. Though I always wanted to have someone to love me best, little did I fully know that I already did. Though we loved each other and were excited about embarking on this new adventure, if David and I had any notion that we were the answer to each other’s emotional needs, we were going to be sadly disappointed. David is not the answer to that dream I had of having someone always know where I was and love me more than anyone else, though he does those things (except the knowing where I am part. Sometimes he forgets). Jesus already did that. I know, I know, He doesn’t play favorites, but the fact of the matter is, if I was the only one in need of salvation, He still would have died for me. That’s pretty spectacular.

2. That day was the beginning of a lifelong learning process. I’ve had friends who have struggled with the question: How can I be sure? I would venture to say that it’s not a matter of knowing that your marriage will be all wine and roses, but knowing that this person is someone you’re going to make the choice to stay with and love and support for the rest of your life. I’ve been married 24+ years, and there are still things I’m learning about my husband. And he’s not the same man I married, so I have to grow and learn and change right along with him. Thank God we’re not the same. How sad would that be, to not have grown and changed after 24 years?

3. Getting to be with my best friend every day is the best thing ever. We can look at each other now and see the gray in our engagement anniversaryhair and the extra pounds which we have to work really hard to keep off. We can look at our 3 kids and know that some day, it will be down to just the 2 of us again (and probably still a multitude of small animals, if he keeps agreeing to me having them) because time keeps marching on. But we still love to do things together. We still have to tell each other we’re sorry and to ask forgiveness. We still have to date and play and laugh together. And we still have to choose every single day to say yes, I’d marry you all over again.

Happy engagement anniversary, Hunny! Thanks for proposing 25 years ago.

You might enjoy previous posts I’ve written on this day last year and the year before.

Cinderella: A Movie Review

 

 My 12-year-old daughter and I went to see “Cinderella” the other day. I’m not a huge Disney princess fan, but I like the idea of the live-action movies. I must say, I loved this one. As Morgan and I ate lunch afterward and talked about it, I wondered aloud, “Is there anything about this movie that I didn’t like?”

First of all I need to admit that I’m not a really discerning movie watcher. I don’t analyze lighting, the musical score, costumes, etc. If I like the story and feel it was well acted, that’s good enough for me. Here are 4 things I really enjoyed about this new movie.

1. Good dad models. First we have Ella’s dad. He loved her and her mother beyond the moon. Yes, he was gone a lot with his job as a merchant, but when he was home, he was all there. He wasn’t afraid to tell Ella that he loved her, and he wasn’t afraid to show her he cared. 

Then there’s the king. In this movie, the prince is called “Kit,” as he says that’s what his dad calls him when he’s not peaved with him. The king is kind, thoughtful, and also isn’t afraid to tell his son that he loves him. The respect and love between them is evident and sweet.

2. The fact that you don’t have to have a dark soul to be interesting. Ella is faced with monumental grief when he mom dies (not a spoiler: everyone knows Cinderella has an evil stepmother) and yet her focus is rarely on herself. When she’s grieving her banishment from the ball and her mistreatment by her “family,” an old hag asks her for bread and milk. Without hesitation, Ella provides it. She genuinely cannot understand why her stepmother is so evil. Ella is sweet, caring and kind. Which leads to the 3rd thing I liked:

3. The running theme of having courage and being kind. Before she died, Ella’s mother said to her, “Have courage and be kind. Promise me!” And Ella never forgets those words. She lives them out her whole life. Again after being banished from the ball by her stepmother, Ella runs to the garden and cries out to her mother, apologizing because she’s tried to be courageous, but feels that she has let her mother down, because she just has no courage. But she does. To stay kind in the midst of mistreatment takes courage. Bitterness is easy.

4. Humor keeps the spirit light. I admit it, I cried at least 4 times during this movie. But I also laughed. The magic was lighthearted and the computer animation of the mice turned horses and the lizards who become footmen and the goose who becomes the coachman who doesn’t know how to drive served a humorous purpose that made this story of the poor cinder girl easier to bear.

There is no bad language; there is no sex —just 1 kiss between Kit and Ella after they marry; there is no violence (unless you count a cat chasing a mouse and crashing into a cabinet in the pursuit). 

I will be purchasing this movie when it comes out on BluRay so that we can enjoy it again and again. I recommend it for audiences of any age, even though a mother and father dying might be hard on the littlest of kids. Well done, Disney.

“Old Fashioned”: A Movie Review

old-fashionedI have read a lot of blog posts recently about the blockbuster movie “50 Shades of Grey.” I never read the books, I don’t plan on seeing the movie. I have read a lot fewer posts on the movie “Old Fashioned.” In fact, I’ve only read one, and what that one writer had to say was that most “Christian” movies are “painfully” bad.

I have to disagree.

Whereas I agree with some of points the writer was making (you can read the post here), I thought that “Old Fashioned” did more than just give us a treacly story that spouts Christian doctrine to an audience in need of salvation (my words, not the author’s). The blog post author calls it a “response” to “50 Shades,” but I disagree. I think it stands on its own without apology.

“Old Fashioned” is the story of Clay and Amber, 2 diametrically opposed 20-somethings both fighting their own demons. Clay seems to be trying to prove something by setting relational standards for himself that others find odd and restricting. He refuses to be alone with a woman who is not his wife; he doesn’t believe in dating; he won’t kiss his future wife on the lips until they’re standing before the preacher. Some might think that’s how moral, God-fearing young men should act, but for Clay, his convictions don’t seem to have their root in a relationship with God, but rather a desire to excise his personal demons.

Amber, on the other hand, is a fun-loving young woman who keeps a big jar on top of her refrigerator into which she puts all her cash. Why? Because as soon as it’s full, she knows she has enough for gas money to leave again. She’s lived in 14 states in just a few years. Some might call her a free spirit. But she’s really just someone deathly afraid of forming lasting bonds that will some day cause her great pain.

Is “Old Fashioned” a poorly made movie? Is the overtly Christian message offensive? Looking beyond the obvious to catch the underlying themes is what discerning movie goers and readers really want, and I think what’s below the surface in “Old Fashioned” would satisfy any who are willing to look. Could the movie just be written off as a sanitized version of a titillating rival? It could, but I think that does it a grave disservice. Is the acting top tier? Probably not. I didn’t recognize any of the names.  But I cried, and I laughed, and I loved the way the movie made me feel throughout. From the feisty old aunt to the misogynistic friend to the flower shop owner who just wants to find love, the characters in the movie are believable.

I’m no film critic, but I know what I like, and “Old Fashioned” fits the bill. Even my husband, who is more of the action-adventure-the-more-explosions-the-better type of guy, liked it. So that’s got to tell you something.

Five Near-Birthday Observations

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-10I’m 2 days away from my 53rd birthday. And I’m OK with that.

I’m sitting on my back porch this late December morning, in 70+ degree weather, remembering the gathering of 50 friends I had around me for my 50th. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years. Wow. Time does fly; it’s not just an old adage.

My eldest turned 18 2 days ago, and I’m OK with that, too. It doesn’t make him a different person. It doesn’t make me less his mom. His journey to manhood keeps going.

And my journey continues as well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way of my 53 years.

1. People come and go from our lives all the time.

It’s a smaller world now than it used to be. We have text messaging that puts us in touch with people instantly. We have Facebook, which gives us a glimpse into their lives. But sometimes, we just have to let people go and be thankful that we got to spend a little time with them anyway.

2. Age doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to friendships.

I have friends who are in their 80s, I have friends who are in their 20s. Since I had my kids a bit later in life, the majority of moms I hang out with are a lot younger than I. I may not be as hip as they, but they keep me feeling younger than I really am.

3. Faith is not a feeling.

I am going through a highly annoying health issue right now associated with menopause, and it has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. But one thing I have said over and over is that I would rather have Jesus and this issue than no issue and no Jesus. No issue with Jesus would be ideal, but if that never happens, can I be content? If I don’t feel like God is even listening, does that mean He’s not? If God’s character was based on my perception, than He wouldn’t be much of a God. He’s a lot bigger than how I feel.

4. I really and truly am not in control.

There’s a saying: “Man makes his plans and God laughs.” I think God does a lot of chuckling when He’s listening to me. I like to have things planned out. We take a trip, I like to know where we’re stopping along the way. I want to know where my kids are and what they’re doing. I want to be in the know for anything that’s going on around me. But you know what? That’s not how God wants me to live my life. He is in control and if things don’t go the way I think they should, that’s because He’s got something better in mind. Boy, that’s good head knowledge; now if I could just put it into practice.

5. Last but not least, there is no hope for this world apart from Jesus.

A day does not go by that we don’t hear about some terrible tragedy or another. People dying, evil dictators torturing their detractors, planes mysteriously disappearing from thin air. Evil seems to be rampant and taking over the world. And there is no hope for it aside from Jesus. You can’t legislate morality and you can’t expect anything to get better if people’s hearts remain unregenerate. Protests, laws, micro-management are not going to help. Only Jesus.

So, 53 years are almost in the books. There are many more lessons to be learned.  What are some of the truisms you’ve learned on your journey?

 

Image from november2013calendar.org

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.