Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lent Day 14: Life on pause, temporarily

The same questions: "So what are you doing? You looking for work?" I've heard it dozens of times this sabbatical year. I'm always at a loss for an answer.

The last waiting season, I was in England while W finished his PhD. I took art lessons, toured Cambridge weekly with a fabulous (and free) blue guide, wrote, and rested. I'm similarly engaged this time around, compounded by work with/for other people. Last week I edited 4 articles for others. This week I helped 2 speakers pull together public talks. I've met with 6 people (but it's only Thursday morning.) This pause is productive: I'm helping others though it feels like my career and interests are paused. I bought an art notebook. I've written blogs, my Lenten discipline.

Real Simple Daily Thought here.
Friends remind me, "Don't worry. Remember the great fit that found you after the last sabbatical?" I do remember! Work that was pure pleasure, morning by morning. I couldn't wait to get there every day.

I'm not worried. I've begun to feel energy rising for the next thing. I'm not quite ready to apply for the jobs I've seen posted. The right thing hasn't come along.

Meanwhile, I'm happy. Very busy. Occasionally I feel a bit impatient, anticipating the new things ahead. (So I'm almost open, should you hear of work that's a good fit for a writer, speaker, editor, and connector. Smiles.)

Most of us will experience "seasons between." Jesus never seemed hurried or anxious about the future. He didn't rush toward the culmination of his life, that ugly cross and beautiful resurrection. He spent each day as it came, intentional about pleasing his Heavenly Father from morning to night. Why do we feel harried, rather than living one day at a time?

How can we value these pauses, when the next thing is not yet apparent?
  1. Be grateful. How many people have time to reflect and choose their hours in Western society? Are most of your friends running on fumes? Thank God for the respite. He hasn't forgotten you. Maybe He's healing something inside you. Is He building something new, something not yet apparent?
  2. Be prayerful. Seek God's face on these quiet days. On days when you're hunting for work. On days when you catch up on chores. On days when you have no to-do list.
  3. Be intentional. Examine yourself to plan your trajectory, going forward. WHAT ARE: Your strengths. Your loves. What fills you with joy. How you best work (with others? alone?) The things in the past that made you laugh out loud. The skills you have developed over years of work and play.
  4. Be mindful. How can you help those who are exhausted? My husband has the opposite schedule: every minute full, teaching, speaking, researching. I try not to load him with my ideas. How can you lighten the load for those around you? (Husbands, hint hint - how about picking up some cooking and cleaning stints for that exhausted wife? Dads, how about getting up at night to soothe the baby? Mom's actually WORKING during the day, too! Employers, relieve the burden of underlings. Coworkers, pick up a task for peers when you have a slow day?)
  5. Be willing. Do what you need to do to bring in survival income. Volunteer. Help out in church and the community. Maybe the person volunteering beside you will be the link to your next opportunity.
  6. Be alert. Look for opportunities coming your way. We are designed to work and enjoy it. What is on the horizon that will use your gifts, education, and experience?
Read more:
*The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 NIV

*And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD of Heaven's Armies was with him. 1 Chronicles 11:9 NLT

*The light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds. Isaiah 30:26 NLT

*We want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end. Hebrews 6:11 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Giver of light and hope, keep your children safe as we wait for the promised day of healing. May we faithfully do your will, eagerly anticipating that day when all earth will rejoice in your presence. Amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lent Day 13: Worth a sweat


Ladies perspire. They don't sweat, according to Victorian manners.

Nah. Not true. In the women's exercise "bootcamp" I attend a few times a week, we sweat. The trainer Mark Haner motivates a group of diverse women to action. We work together at 3 levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Mark may be nice (he never yells or criticizes) but he tells us what he expects, walking around the room gently correcting and assisting us to better form. (Check out DIFY. Routines are available online; try his free 2 week trial session complete with music and timer tracks.)

I'm awful at this. Out of shape. A mess of "not fit." But I'm encouraged rather than deterred by the workouts. I may join the online sessions as we begin to travel but I'm not quitting. I'm not as sore as I was 4 weeks ago, not even after doing three circuits on Monday (pushups and 4 other tortures paced by 20 seconds of squats = 15 sets of squats. Yeah. Ouch, right?) The first time we did that routine, most of us could hardly walk until Thursday. Mark promised to think up new things for April. Lucky us.

Actually yes. Lucky us. Though exercise isn't the most fun part of my day, I can feel my muscles begin to emerge from slack to engaged. From soft to more distinct. I chatted with one of the women who pumps out advanced pushups and pullups while I struggle with the beginner sets.

"I've been doing this for three years," she said. "I could hardly do any of this when I started. You'll get better. Trust me."

Life is like that. Things worth doing take effort and sustained, habitual engagement.

Here's a triumph to share: I can usually find the first three chords on my new guitar. I'm slow on transitions. The guitar sound isn't very pretty (but it's not too awful either = a Seagull S6 acoustic). I'm now starting on scales, relearning the patterns that come naturally to me on piano. But I am SO happy about those three chords. Just saying. (Strum strum strum. Guitar break.)

When you start something new, keep this in mind:
Real Simple's Thought of the Day
  1. Others have done this successfully. You and I are probably not the least gifted on the planet. The thing that interests us is worth a good try. We may succeed. (That core assumption helped me in childbirth: I considered that millions of Chinese women had successfully given birth. The likelihood that my child's arrival would kill me were low. OUWIE, it still hurt!)
  2. Any effort is worth our best effort. Is this worth your time and trouble? If so, put your heart and soul into it.
  3. Look forward to mastery. You may have a long way to go but doing this give you one more win on which to build the next. My success as a piano teacher helps me apply chunks of information - theory as well as pedagogue - to this new endeavor.
  4. Get good mentors and teachers. From the library, I signed out an armful of guitar lesson books. Each one teaches from a different vantage point. I check methods online. I'm learning a lot through these mentors. Eventually I'll need a face-to-face teacher to boost me through roadblocks.
  5. Persist. It takes time for the body and mind to create reflexes. Our brain is rewiring new habits of prayer, scripture reading, music lessons, job skills, or exercise.
  6. Accept your limitations. I'm never going to be as fluent as someone who started in their teens. Big deal (not)! I'll be MUCH better than if I hadn't tried. That's good enough for me.
  7. Enjoy! While practice is arduous and tedious at times, note how much better you are getting. I actually can imagine and put my fingers on an A chord (the easiest) without too much thought. I couldn't do that last week. Playing that chord makes me happy. Knowing I will take the A chord for granted in a few weeks makes me even happier.
  8. Thank God for the ability to learn. Gratitude makes each accomplishment sweeter, whether it's hard won or comes naturally.
Read more:
*David had said to his troops, 'Whoever is first to attack the Jebusites will become the commander of my armies!' And Joab, the son of David's sister Zeruiah, was first to attack, so he became the commander of David's armies. 1 Chronicles 11:6 (NLT)

*Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

*God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43 (NLT)

*The entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that Jesus was doing. Luke 13:17

*Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

Moravian Prayer: To you, Sovereign God of all creation, we raise our voices in glad thanks and praise. Your blessings preserve and sustain us. Alleluia! Alleluia! In Christ our Savior’s name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lent Day 12: Panic stations

What makes you panic? Chokes off your breath and makes your stomach heave?

Do you remember riding the roller-coaster or Zipper at the fair as a teenager? I loved loved loved the upside down, flip me over, screaming-with-adrenaline jolt of those rides. I tried them a few years ago and hated it! My life had become so hectic and stressed that there was no margin for physical shocks. Besides, older bodies handle balance differently. (Don't believe me? Try soaring high on a tree swing. There's a reason - besides weight - that kids use them more than their parents!)

Some people start out timid. They lack courage until they become confident, one small success after another. Others begin with a roar, climbing the fridge at age 2, skiing the bunny hill at 3, and never looking back. Many of us like learning new things, but learn caution as we go along. A few become debilitated by fear: their experiences devastate their confidence.

Among Jesus' disciples, Peter was the early adopter and fearless flyer. Thomas was more cautious about accepting what he was told. Each of them found a role in God's kingdom. Jesus accepted them as they were and built character and stamina into his followers.

He can do the same for me. And for you.

What are you afraid of today? How can Jesus help you through? Start here:
1. Commit your whole self to God, fears and all.
2. Admit that you're not in control .. and never have been. We often fear what we cannot anticipate, plan for, or dominate.
3. Cast your cares on God, who knows the past, present, and future. He is big enough, smart enough, and loving enough to see us through and to make things go as He has determined they should.
4. Lodge your present fears and future hopes in God's reliability--His unchanging Goodness and Justice.
5. Live in the moment. Enjoy the day. Though it is wise to plant crops for a future harvest, anxiety about future rain or hail ruins the view of today's sprouts or a field of golden grain!
6. Be grateful. "This is the day The Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Count your blessings!

Read more:
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Psalm 30:3 (NIV)

*She [Wisdom] offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly. Proverbs 3:16–18

*The disciples woke Jesus up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. Luke 8:24

*For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, "Don't be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What's more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you." So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island. Acts 27:23–25

Moravian Prayer: Master of wind, wave, and fire, we are terribly aware that the fiercest storms that threaten us can come from within rather than without. Lead us to the calm center where you are with us. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lent Day 11: Best friends

What a happy day! Brides post their wedding pictures on FB after celebrating a princess day. Guys are usually slower to admit they had a great day; their friends also don't tag as many pictures. But you can see the expectation on the couple's faces. They have married their best friend and hope every day is as happy as their first together as wife and husband.

I have single friends who live with their good friends. When one or more of the gals (or guys) finds a mate or moves away, the person/s reconfigure their lives and living space. It's a mobile and shifting world out there for singles. But some remain best friends with former roommates, colleagues, and childhood acquaintances, through thick and thin.

Pastor Don Ross (Creekside Church, Shoreline) talked this weekend about the traits of good friends. (Well worth a listen: click here in a few days.) He said these three things - when reciprocated between friends - were good indicators of the quality of friendship:
  1. Friends are consistent and dependable. 
  2. They're honest and trustworthy.
  3. They are willing to tell the whole truth, even if that may hurt their friendship ... because they care enough to tell the "last 10%" of difficult truth toward the maturity and wholeness of their friend.
I thought about the people I value most as friends. Even if I shock them with ideas or plans, they give me good feedback. They like me enough to be unwilling for me to move ahead without thinking things through. They bolster me because they know my gifts. They walk alongside to question me and cheer me on. I do the same for them, though it's not always easy.

The most challenging friendship-relationship may be with those closest to you. How about your spouse, the person who never leaves? S/he moves into your bedroom and becomes a neat freak so you have to clean up ... or is a total clutter-bug who messes up your space. You share the bathroom, the kitchen, and the living space with his or her expectations, hauled into your home from their past. Even after decades, s/he surprises you with good and awful truths about her/himself and you.

Sometimes we struggle emotionally when dealing with elderly friends or parents who need our care. Medication and aging may redefine their personalities and bring out the best (or the worst) in them. Are we still loving and kind? Good friends?

How do we negotiate the variety of friendships we encounter?

Our best friend - Jesus - is consistent, honest, and has our best interests at heart. That security helps us accept friendship, given, received, and shared.

Jesus' inner circle included those who knew who he was. And it included the man who betrayed him to his enemies. Jesus' extended circle of male and female friends benefited from his wisdom and insight. These people cried at his awful death. Rejoiced at his supernatural resurrection. He was a true friend to them all, offering grace, second chances, and his loving kindness without reservation.

I'd love to be that kind of person to my friends. Many of them are that to me. Thank you, friends!

Read more:
*The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Psalm 27:1

*And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:8-10 NIV

*He guarded his people as the apple of his eye. Deuteronomy 32:10

*Christ says, "You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit.” John 15:16

Moravian Prayer: Why did you choose us, O Lord? What can we possibly do for you? Show us the place you have for us in your church, so we can together bear much good fruit to your glory. Amen.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lent Day 10: The hope of life

We've been friends for years. Karris and I have lived in the same city and thousands of miles apart. We've shared music, prayer, and conversation. She taught one of my kids piano while I taught her. She and another single student came for supper before her lesson for years,

I went to visit her in the hospital today. Cancer has invaded her body several times, but her spirit and vision are undaunted. Watching Karris, I'm encouraged by God's work among us. Her body is frail. But she is clear about what God has spoken to her.

And that gives her hope.

And it gives me hope. We know God alone can do the impossible. He alone can override natural laws for disaster prevention, restoration, or healing.

We live with the hope of life. Life eternal. Life here and now.

Lent reminds us that we have the receipt in hand for God's intervention. Jesus "paid it all."

Do you need hope today? God's answers don't always look like our questions. He does more than we expect. Gives us more than we ask for.

So take courage. Come to your Heavenly Father with your petition. Be willing to trust and obey as you come. And see how faith in Christ and trust in the Father will transform discouragement to hope ... and your darkness to God's light.

Read more:
*When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

*If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31 NLT

*I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

 Moravian Prayer: In dark days, Protector God, we are tempted to sink into despair. Please keep reminding us that you will never abandon us and we can always rely on your support and sustenance. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lent Day 9: Quick and to the point

Seeing herself on the IPad camera
This has to be quick. Little Miss is here today. She's already written on the door of my office, tossed the pewter cat on the floor, and is splashing in the dog water. Rescue needed. I'll be back!

It's fun to watch babies grow. Miss K is 19 months and beginning to express herself. She has the run of the house so we keep our eyes on her all the time.

Miss K hears Kirsten's dog barking
over the phone
I wonder if God built in us his own sense of wonder and delight as we grow in the faith.

We know he never takes his eyes off us. Any of you with children or grandchilden can understand why!

Read more:
*We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Psalm 124:7

*Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her."Proverbs 3:13–15 NLT

*For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NLT
Moravian Prayer: Liberating Savior, there are so many ways in which we can be ensnared by things of this world. Give us discernment, that we may always choose the freedom of right relationship in you. Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lent Day 8: New every morning

What a gorgeous setting for the new morning. W and I slept on a friend's boat overnight. We love the gentle rocking of the waves in the sheltered harbor. We've enjoyed a nice "sampler" dinner in Seattle (promo for the Museum of History and Industry), read in the cozy lounge aboard the boat, and rode back to a meeting at the university before 9am.

Now it's time to tackle something I haven't ever wanted to do ... before this. Learn some guitar chords. I picked up a guitar by Seagull yesterday. The reviews recommended the model for beginning and intermediate players and the price was good enough that I can resell it if I don't like it.

My mom used to strum guitar. I asked my son if he was interested in playing.

"Mom, you made me take guitar lessons," he reminded me. So I'll snag him to teach me the basics. There are many tutorials online and I've played by ear on piano all my life (well, since age 5) so here I am, ready or not.

Music calls me now and then. I think I'm done, then off we go again. After a piano degree, I played weddings, funerals, churches, and cruises. I taught piano, organ, keyboards, theory, and harp.

After a few years of harp lessons, I was bored silly because all harp music sounds the same to me. It might be so with guitar, too. However, it's easier to pack a guitar than haul around an orchestral-sized pedal harp!

This might even be fun. One of the things I appreciate about playing piano by ear is that moving my fingers slightly results in completely different chords. I suspect the guitar functions similarly. Can't wait to start!

God is endlessly creative and has invested himself in his creatures. We love to invent and reinvent our worlds. Who knows how God can use our attempts? Some day I may need to know how to pluck guitar strings.

It takes hard work and perseverance to acquire a skill. Sometimes we're grabbed by a new effort; sometimes we quit an experiment that's a poor fit for our gifting or interests.

What new thing is kicking your brain or body into gear? I'd love to hear about it.

Read more:
*Moses said to the Lord, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:15 NIV

*My child, don't reject the LORD's discipline, and don't be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:11–12 NLT

* (Someone with a rough start - at least for his mother): There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!" And God granted him his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9–10 NLT

*When Paul had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. Acts 16:10

Moravian Prayer: Transfigured Christ, open our eyes to your glory and give us your vision, so we may go wherever you send us to tell the good news of your life, death, and resurrection. Amen

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lent Day 7: Life in test mode

 I failed a test this week. I prepped for it, stepped up to the plate, and fell flat over my sneaker laces. Maybe you've been there:
  • When you miss a deadline, do you beat yourself up for it? 
  • If someone comes in the door and your entry is a mess, do you fret for days? 
  • If a deadline seems out of reach, do you give up instead of pressing on for one more try?
  • You had a great opportunity and it flopped. Now you are scared to try again.
 One of the hardest tasks for goal-setters and high achievers is self-forgiveness. Letting go of failure. Looking beyond the obvious miss to a possible future win.

"Always Hopeful" by Toni Grote
We sometimes find it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves. Is there something in your past (or in the day) that you need to release in order to move forward?

God has completely forgiven us through Jesus Christ. That means he does not remember our sins against us. He knows we have messed up (there's no God-amnesia, after all!) but he doesn't hold our past against our future.

Consider doing the same for yourself today. Learn from the past. Let it go. Then look to the future with hope and a sense of possibility.

Read more:
 *The Lord says, "I will not continually accuse, nor will I always be angry." Isaiah 57:16

*Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:20

*Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Forgiving Savior, as we journey through this season of Lent, our hearts are overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for the patience and love you show us. Bless us always thus, we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lent Day 6: Victorious here, decimated there

Samson was a strongman. Judges 13-16 records his incredible feats. He tore city gates off their hinges and carried them to the next hilltop. He caught 300 foxes and tied their tails together before releasing them--tails on fire--into enemy grainfields. Using a donkey's jawbone as his weapon, he slaughtered 1000 Philistines.

And yet, he was utterly stupid in his sexual appetites. The classic tale of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) tells how she asked him many times for the source of his strength. When he made up a reason, she set him up for entrapment. The men paying her for information would spring on Samson and try to capture him.

You'd think after a few times, Samson would catch on! This woman didn't have his best interests at heart. She used information given during intimacy against him. He escaped each time only by lying to her.

The fourth time, Delilah nagged him that he didn't love her enough to tell the truth. She wore him out with her questions. However, instead of leaving, Samson was so "in love" that he told her his secret. Sure enough: she laid the snare in which he was caught.

It's easy to judge Samson for his lusty habits. Yet, how many times have we indulged in behaviors and thoughts we know are unhealthy or unwise? How many times have we fallen to our knees to beg God for forgiveness "one more time"?

Often our greatest strength is coupled to our greatest weakness. Samson's strong body probably coursed with testosterone, making him vulnerable to physical lust. You or I might be comfortable performing in public, but secretly harbor pride and condescension of others. Those skilled in cooking may be prone to overeating. We may be storytellers inclined to gossip. (You get the picture.)

Only God can give us the will and the tools to elude sin and its consequences. Jesus came to purchase our freedom. He offers us abundant life that comes from communing with God, no sins between.

What do you (and I) need to ask God's help for today?

Read more:
*Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Psalm 25:18

*From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:13-14

*We intend to do what is right not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others. 2 Corinthians 8:21

*When you were dead in trespasses, God made you alive together with Christ, when he forgave us all our trespasses. Colossians 2:13

Moravain Prayer: Christ Jesus, suffering Servant of God, we bow in utter gratitude before your cross. Thank you for lifting us from despair and showing us the way to forgiveness. We know what you require of us for right living, O Lord – kindness, justice, and humility before you. Strengthen us to live according to your instruction. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lent Day 5: Good habits matter

We sped up to Canada to see our parents Saturday. Mom was shedding things from her craft room, her repository for sewing, knitting, and crocheting supplies for 40 years. The room has always been tidy, even packed stem to stern with supplies. Mom's "a neat packrat," according to her own description.

Over several weeks, my mother tackled the bulk of the room, organizing books, patterns, and fabrics into boxes and cabinets. She and I took everything off the pegboard hooks on the notions wall. We sorted zippers, needles, cording, and hobby tools into "keep" and giveaway piles.

With one or two packages of each thing, the wall looks much neater: Mom can see what she has. There's even a special area on the pegboard wall for Adelina, the granddaughter who loves crafting. What a treat she'll find on her next visit, with chenille stems, silk flowers, and ribbons ready for play!

Once we were done, my folks took us to their home gym in the basement. "Your father got a new treadmill. You should see this! Just what we need. One more piece of equipment," my mother shook her head.

[I've been thinking about our bodies as habitations of the Spirit. Keep this in mind as you continue: Dad's a spry 80 years old. Mom's a fit 77.]

"I work out on that 20 minutes a day," Dad said, pointing to a stair-stepper. He also uses the treadmill, eliptical, and a rowing machine. It's a true home gym, used daily! rather than gathering dust.

Meanwhile, Mom walks. A lot. (Her pedometer recorded 16,000+ steps Thursday and the same again by Friday evening.) Behind their house, a berm restrains a small slough that floods annually. The gravel path on the berm is the perfect river walking trail for the neighborhood. (My mom also lifts light weights. She does hundreds of reps when she gets going.)

My folks formed good exercise habits as young adults, reinforced by genetically-German discipline. I remember Dad calling us kids to do the RCAF workout in the living room. Awful pushups and situps. Jumping Jacks, jogging in place, and torturous leg raises. He snorkeled at the local lake after work every summer. (Is that where I got my love of swimming?) Dad kept working out after we left home: his habit of movement has kept him in good condition into his 80s.

Our parents don't eat out a lot. Mom's been the primary cook, serving her family real food (not packaged or pre-made for warmup). Saturday nights when we were youngsters, Dad's gave Mom a break by taking his chef rotation. He had two specialties: pork and onions or spaghetti and meatballs (not the healthiest, maybe?) We kids thought both options were delicious.

I'm amazed when I see my folks. They're fit, healthy, and going strong. Dad and Mom continue to learn new things, their minds sharp as they keep their bodies in shape.

My brothers and I are grateful, both for our parents' efforts and God's grace. Our folks have outlived many of their friends who neglected their health. We recognize that God provides daily sustenance. We pray for his intervention and help, regardless of our natural physical prowess (like the warriors in the scripture below).

However, taking care of yourself helps in the long run. Watch this startling video from the Heart & Stroke Foundation as you make your choices today. The quality of your last years may depend on your current habits!

Lent means giving up something dear to remember all Christ suffered. Perhaps it's a good time to think about how we treat our bodies. As whole persons (body, soul, and spirit), undivided in our service to God, surely He holds us accountable for caring for this treasure of physical presence on earth. Do you agree or disagree?

Read more:

*How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? Genesis 39:9

*There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. They waged war against the Hagrites, the Jeturites, the Naphishites, and the Nodabites. They cried out to God during the battle, and he answered their prayer because they trusted in him. So the Hagrites and all their allies were defeated. 1 Chronicles 5:18–20 NLT

*Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:35-40 NLT

*Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Moravian Prayer: Giver of strength, help us to remember that we can rely on you always. No trouble is too large or too small for your attention, if we would just ask. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent Day 3: That's enough for me

The Western economic model is driven by envy and greed. Advertisers tell us, "It's never enough!" We make light of our obsession with stuff by calling our accumulation trips to the mall "shopping therapy."

We forget, in the rush and bustle of a society consumed by things, that love and meaning are not attached to material goods.

God calls us to a life with new values. He's our source for what we need. His hands give us provisions for each day.


On this third day of Lent, look around. Are you starving? Am I sleeping outdoors in the cold or brutal heat of the day? Are our children without clothing? Most of us admit, "Hardly the case!"

God, who sees the sparrow and numbers the hairs of our heads, watches over us. That's enough for me. How about you?

Ready to be grateful for today? Me too!

Read more:
*Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." Psalm 5:3

*Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5–6 NLT

*You shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace. Isaiah 55:12 NEV

*Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 NIV

*Jesus said to his disciples, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” Luke 22:35 NEV

Moravian Prayer: We know it is your will that none of your creation should lack for anything, O giving God. Make of us your hands and feet, that it may be so throughout the world. Amen

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent Day 2: "I choose you"

It's great to be chosen. Remember those awful ordeals in elementary school, where the strongest kids were chosen for sports teams and the rest of us got picked "middle and end" of the draw?

Over 36 years ago, my good friend and I chose each other. We got engaged. My mom and I planned the wedding and sent invitations to friends and acquaintances.

Over 35 years ago, W (that friend) and I got married. We agreed our marriage would be "for better and worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer." I walked down the aisle thinking, "This is the person I'll grow old with. I bet I'll still like him when we are 60." (Mind you, I also thought, "Thank God, I don't have to date anymore." A strange sentiment for a bride, perhaps?)

W and I have had romantic years and fight-it-out years. Kid years when we hardly saw each other: I nearly drowned in childcare and homeschooling while W worked overtime at church. We spent years praying and puzzling about how to guide our interesting and exasperating teens. There were years of sickness and health for our daughter when we had barely enough energy to get up in the morning. Two sons married. One child moved out of town. We went back to school to learn new things. We traveled to foreign lands to teach. And we're still together.

Even more enduring (and endearing) is the model of love we learned as part of God's family. God chose us and committed to us before we loved him or knew him. He called us to Himself, inclined us to listen and respond, and provided reconciliation between us through Jesus Christ.

On this second day of Lent, I'm grateful for many experiences of loving and being loved. God has taught us that love is meant for giving and receiving. W and I are blessed with good parents and siblings. We love our children. We have many friends to hold dear.

Underneath the experiences and the years are the Everlasting Arms, sustaining, caring, and enriching every interaction. I'm so glad to be God's beloved this Valentine's Day. How about you?

Oh ... and of course I'm grateful for Prince Charming, too! Love you, hon.

Read more:
*I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17

*Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

*Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 NIV


Moravian Prayer: Instructor of the universe, we wait with open and longing hearts for you to teach us the ways in which we should live in a right relationship with all you have created. Amen. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent Day 1: Word wrapped in flesh

It's the first day of Lent, time to pick up words as a spiritual discipline. Sign up via email or Reader feed to get this year's blogs.

This morning I met with a gifted group of writers. Our critique group allows a half hour of discussion on each person's work. The variety of interests, stories, and vantages on life amazed me.
Our backgrounds include vocational ministry, music, home economics, prayer leadership, and other jobs.

From diverse backgrounds, we each love Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1). We cherish words. And we're grateful that God chose to invest his creativity in writers like us.

How is God wrapping his words in your flesh? Which words do you speak to God? To others?

Read more:
*The Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27

*My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with flattery.

O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:9–12 NLT

*But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

*Jesus said, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Moravian Prayer: On this holy Ash Wednesday, Christ Jesus, we pray that you will be with us as we enter this time of self-examination and repentance for all the ways in which we have failed to believe or act on our belief. Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

PG Wodehouse comes to town

Taproot Theatre put on a fun matinee Saturday. The play Jeeves in Bloom reintroduced me to classic PG Wodehouse characters: the English aristocratic airhead Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves. (The show runs through March 2 and is almost sold out. Click for tickets here.)
Photos by Eric Stuhaug

My husband and I fell in love with PG Wodehouse's satire-filled humor after watching Jeeves and Wooster, a BBC TV show (1990-93) starring Hugh Laurie (House) and Stephen Fry. I was delighted to see that Taproot was putting on a production about the famed duo.

As usual, the cast seemed to enjoy their roles. Starting with "Aunt Dalia's" summons for Wooster to join her at her country house, we were hooked. "Aunt Dalia" (Kim Morris) had us in paroxysms of laughter with her loud guffaws and great body acting. Matt Shimkus played the comic butler-know-it-all and Aaron Lamb had fun with Bertie's part. Highlights included a hilarious scene of lip-synching courtship, satirical comments on dress, values, and relationships, and the unfailingly beautiful vocabulary. (I miss British English since our 6-month stint in Cambridge.)

The show combined the best of Wodehouse's novels, setting the action of upper-crust culture, 1920s slang, and literary references in an English garden. The more literate the audience, the more fun the play!

Audience reception was fervent and enthusiastic. We were laughing within minutes, sometimes astonished at the play's cleverness, sometimes with pure pleasure at the understated satire.

I recommend this for Wodehouse fans as well as those who need a hearty chuckle or two. Take a friend and enjoy the show! (Click here to buy tickets.)


Media tickets provided the reviewer.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Learning new stuff

The vocabulary of this week's tech class includes weird words and capital letters jammed together. VGA splitter. AirServer. Trello. TPT.

I didn't even know my Mac had IMovie. Never mind linking Apple phones, IPads and laptop.

This course reminds me of a previous "Basics of Computing" class I took 10 years ago. My daughter sat beside me and steered me back on track a few times each day. For her, the sessions were elementary. For me, they were eye-opening.

Back then, finding the Explore button on my Windows machine revolutionized how I used the computer. There was a system to finding files? WOW. Who knew? (My daughter: "Mommmm! Really?!")

Up to that point, I'd blindly try the keys. Often, magically, I'd find my way to my documents. Once in a while, I'd shut down the machine and start over. (Reminds me of how I used to drive in Vancouver as a teen: I'd hope to bump into 12th or Granville Street so I could zip back to the freeway by heading east. I had no idea where I was: those were my go-to prompts. Occasionally I'd have to circle around the city to bump onto one of the two roads.)

This week, I've learned more than what I came for. I've been introduced to tools to do work I've never considered. I got a chance to improve how to help others to set up new blogs. (Check out http://jefferyportmann.blogspot.com, http://craiggorc.blogspot.com, and http://daveecole.blogspot.com. Existing blogs include http://troyhjones.com and http://verlonfosner.blogspot.com.)

Do I know what's going on in the tech world after a few days of study? Not really.

But by going "out there" in a new field, I've discovered a few milestones that can help with future navigation. I'm excited to see how the information I've gathered changes my research and presentations.

How do you handle information you've never encountered?
  1. Compare it to what you already know. For example, digital files have many things in common with the old paper files.
  2. Contrast what you know with the new and different. The process of filing and the ease of sorting differs between paper and digital files.
  3. Use what is relevant. Discard or simmer on the back burner what is irrelevant to your context.
  4. Enjoy the ride! How privileged we are to have so many new tools for thinking about God and serving the world.
Read more:
*You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. Psalm 4:7–8 NLT

*The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it – you have founded them. The north and the south – you created them. Psalm 89:11-12 NLT

*“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.  I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you.

You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.  Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” Isaiah 43:10-13 NIV

*For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6
Moravian Prayer: Holy Parent, we pray in Jesus’ words and Jesus’ name that you will protect us and make us one with each other and with you, just as you and Christ are one. Amen.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Oh the fun to come

This week I'm going so far beyond my comfort zone that you may hear me screaming from the north end (if you don't hear me snoring as things drift beyond my comprehension zone.)

My husband loves technology. Anyone who knows him or has sat in on his university courses gets to see the latest Apple products, the best little gadgets, and the most practical apps. Why? He researches hours a day in his Reader feeds - and can cut to the chase for what works and what doesn't.

I've never learned to do much beyond typing and editing. I use social media to connect with friends. But I'm not one to sit on the phone, to explore computer programs, or install new apps on my IPhone. (I wouldn't even have a smart phone without W.)

I'm going to class, a technology class taught to masters and doctoral students at NU. By my husband. Those of you who know us both recognize the disparity in tech gifting, right? Should be interesting.

 So how can you find "fun to come" in the challenges that don't align with anything you know or have done before?
  1. Decide on benefits. This class will introduce many ideas that I may need for the future. I'm hoping it opens my eyes to consider new ways of thinking and possibilities.
  2. Define your investment. I promised I'd sit in at least today and maybe tomorrow. If I'm totally lost, I won't invest the whole week.
  3. Align with your values. I'm a learner, always eager to know. Mom found my elementary report cards with teacher comments: "Rosemarie could spend more time to perfect assignments. She just wants to finish and go to the library." (Doesn't everyone?)
  4. Invest yourself using your best methodology. I'm going to try my best. I have my computer, IPad, AND pen/paper ready. I'll scribble notes as we go because I never remember the little steps of processes that look so simple in class. (I know this from past experience.)
  5. Take time to review and make the experience your own. I'll blog about it - and you'll get the scoop later, ok?
Read more:
*Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment." Proverbs 23:23 NLT

*Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Jeremiah 4:3

*No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62

Moravian Prayer: Everlasting Father, open our hearts to receive your word today. Remind us that your grace is sufficient in spite of life’s challenges. Guide us through your Holy Spirit and as we journey may we sow seeds of light and truth. Amen.

Go see this show!

I love going to Taproot Theatre and am looking forward to a show on the weekend. I'll let you know how it goes. Here's the info for all you Wodehouse and Jeeves and Wooster fans:
Photo by Eric Stuhaug
Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:08 AM PST
The press release said: “Laugh away the winter blues with P.G. Wodehouse’s classic characters in Jeeves in Bloom.” I had to try – you know. January can be the longest month of the year, and I was about done. So, Saturday night, my husband and I kicked off February, used the tickets provided by Taproot...
Read More »

Friday, February 1, 2013

Who you are

"What shall I call you?" Moses asked God.

"Tell your people I AM has sent you."

The interchange between God and Moses fascinates me. You'd think meeting God and having him speak from a holy place (the burning bush) would be enough. That Moses would be saluting and running off to DO THE WORK he was assigned.

But nope.

Moses excuses himself in every possible way. "No one will believe me. I'm not an upfront leader. I'm a lousy public speaker. And how can I convince followers of my genuine call to lead them?"

God gets irritated and sticks to his choice. "Moses, you're going! But I won't hang you out there alone. Your brother will come with you and help you in your weak areas."

Moses, though reluctantly recruited, never looks back. He has heard the NAME that will define his relationship with God forever. It's the NAME that Moses will so reverence that Israel falls in line behind him.

Wikipedia defines the NAME this way:

Hebrew Bible
The word
Ehyeh (I will be who I will be) is used a total of 43 places in the Hebrew Bible. ... The importance placed on the phrase, as it is used by God to identify himself in the Burning Bush, stems from the Hebrew conception of monotheism that God exists by himself for himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity; therefore "I am who I am" (ongoing). 

 

The All-Sufficient One.
The Source and Provider, in the past, today, and in the future.
He's all that and more.


So how do we define ourselves in the shadow of the NAME?
  1. Acknowledge the difference between the Creator and created things. God is "other." Beyond our understanding forever.
  2. He knows us intimately. Your name, my name, our peers and friends ... He knows us all and cares about us day after day.
  3. He chose to invite us into friendship with Himself. His intention was always loving relationship between Him and us.
  4. He prepared a way for us to reconnect and live alongside Him. (Read about it in John's gospel in the Bible.) He still wants our hearts, though we chose rebellion and independence over harmony and the ultimate freedom to be fully human. 
  5. Admit that He has always left the choice of knowing Him in our hands. Talk about free will: he could have made us robotic followers. It's up to me. It's up to you. He's been waiting for us, watching over us, and giving us hints of His loving presence since we were born.
Moses chose to follow. He argued, blamed God for putting him in tough spots, and got frustrated. But he'd strap on his sandals, stand in the Tent of Meeting to encounter God and get direction ... and off he'd go again.

In the process, this shepherd from the back of nowhere became a great leader, lawgiver, and prophet. The name "Moses" is familiar to many people around the world. As a youngster, God had equipped him in Pharaoh's palace and educated him through the finest tutors. Moses forgot who he was until God called him over and said the NAME.

Do you know who you are? Have you heard the NAME calling out to you and giving you purpose, whether you're known in the courts of favor or abandoned on the deserted sands?

Read more:
*I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27 NIV 

*It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough." Psalm 37:16–19 NLT

*Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:21 (NIV)

*In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3 

Moravian Prayer: O Master-builder of creation, may we, like wisdom, rejoice before you always, treasuring instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold. Amen.