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One more chance to get it right

On this Election Day 2012, the question in the minds of most of us is who will be the next President, Congressman, Senator or other State and local officials?  Hopefully by this point we’ve studied the issues, made our selections and have already voted or plan to do so before the polls close today. It is important, if not critical.

We’re told that elections are all about hearing the voice of the people and knowing how they think. Our chosen representatives are supposed to listen to our voices and stand up for our choices when they create and enforce legislation. That’s what our forefathers intended, but reality demonstrates something else coming out of Washington these days. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are one nation under God. Our currency bears the inscription, “In God we trust,” but neither appears to be evident. What changed?

Perhaps it’s we the people. Have we become so proud that we’ve placed our trust in men’s ideas instead of God’s wisdom? Are we so arrogant that we value prosperity above righteousness? Do we value convenience and comfort above human life?

Are we looking at this election the way God sees it? I’m just saying, our nation is in need of help in so many areas, and He says if we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land. I’m praying for one more chance to get it right.

Fall Castings

The calendar reveals that the season has officially shifted to fall, and as I gazed out my window, I could not help but notice the flurry of leaves falling from some of the trees. Here in Pennsylvania the foliage is just beginning to turn. Although a few trees wear coats of red and gold, most continue to sport their green. Only a few trees are beginning to shed their foliage. As I thought about the trees casting their leaves in preparation for the winter, I wondered if the shedding related to life in general.

Actually, it caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a former coworker now retired. Although her life has been riddled with hardship, she chooses to focus on what is good and positive rather than what is no longer possible. Her husband has traveled a rough and difficult road of health and though making progress, he’s unable to do some of the “chores” that usually would have been meaningful. Without use of his limbs, he could no longer mow the grass, tend flower beds or work on the car. It troubled him to have to pay someone to do these tasks. In years past, though bothersome, these jobs would have been a simple undertaking. My friend reminded her beloved spouse that it was OK to let some of these things go. The chores would get done but in another way. She encouraged him to let these jobs go and save his energy for those activities that were more important or pleasurable.

Sometimes in life, we are forced to let things go – a relationship, job, house or a myriad of other things which seem important to us. We can fight the loss and become depressed, OR we can let them go tumbling beneath us like the tree leaves in autumn. We can choose to focus our mind and energy in other directions and with higher priorities.  It seems fall’s castings may relate to life after all.

What do you do with cracked pots?

Before you think I’m crazy or using the term loosely to refer to those who disagree with my point of view, I’d like to clarify. I’m really talking about all of us because in one way or another, we’re all flawed human beings, and these imperfections, whether congenitally- or experientially-related, influence our lives. The way they impact us, depends a lot on how we choose to view and deal with them.

Few of us would judge a little boy who experienced a double amputation of his legs below the knees if we watched him sitting in a wheelchair or on the sidelines watching other children compete in running games. We’d understand that he had a justifiable reason to watch the world go by. We’d have compassion on him.

This is the story of Oscar Pistorius, one of the South African runners in the 2012 Olympic Games, who experienced this situation because he had been born without a fibula in either leg (fibular hemimelia). Yet the scenario painted above does not reflect Oscar’s life. Greatly because of his mother’s influence, he overcame an attitude that could have crippled him for life. Instead, with the help of specialized Flex-Foot Cheetah carbon fibre transtibial prostheses he overcame his handicaps and went on to achieve great things. We could name others like Joni Eareckson Tada and the late Chuck Colson, who started outstanding ministries because of what happened in their own lives, results of accidents or poor choices. Although you and I may not have suffered to the degree that these folks have, the point is that these challenges helped them to find their niche because they chose to allow God to use it.

Life comes at us from all directions – health, finances, relationships …, and we can choose to be blown over or take courage and stand up again. What we learn from these experiences will help to define who we are as well as shape who we are becoming. And, it may provide another aspect to consider when discovering where we fit – our niche for business, job search, ministry, service, writing, etc.

So what’s in your past that’s changed you, created a new sensitivity or heightened awareness and passion? Write these things down and see if a pattern develops that might direct you to future endeavors. See if you can find a spot for your cracked pots.

What do you do if you are directionally challenged?

I attended a training seminar today in a different town about an hour from my home. My GPS is, shall we say, less reliable than I’d like. It cannot even direct me to find my house when I am a half mile away. Good thing I know where I live.

Since my husband has a better sense of direction and loves maps, I asked for his help. That was a good thing. He searched Google and printed out a set of maps for me, highlighted my route in orange and sent me on my way. He did an excellent job. I not only found the spot easily, but I made good time – better than my friend who took the turnpike, and she had to pay a toll to sit in traffic. So why, if I had such wonderful help in finding my route am I directionally challenged? I think it has to do with the pride factor. You know what the Good Book says, “Pride goes before a fall.”

Since I had no difficulty finding my way to the site, why should I anticipate any issues coming home? That’s where I went wrong. Enter the no left turn sign at the end of the road where I had made a right hand turn earlier in the morning. Ok, so now what? Turn back and look for signs, right?

“Should be easy enough,” I thought. Except for the fact that I wound up in an industrial park. They don’t make it easy to get out of those; nevertheless, I made it. Hmm, just ask the guy coming out of the restaurant how to get to my route. It’s a main highway so it should be no problem. New dilemma. He did not speak English, and the only other person walking around was across the median strip. So I gave up on asking for directions and drove. I couldn’t really be lost.

I found a road with a familiar sounding name and decided to turn there. I came to a light and a junction for another major thoroughfare. Since the light was red, I rolled down my window to ask the person in the car to my left. Can you believe it, she just yakked on her cell phone while her daughter, the driver, put her hair into a pony tail? (People do really strange things in their cars, but that’s another post.) The woman on the right, however, was alert and told me to continue on my current route. She said that I’d run right into the road I wanted. She was right. Within minutes, I was back on track.

So maybe I’m not as directionally challenged as I thought or perhaps the Lord figured I’d learned my lesson. I’m glad He’s merciful.

What were you doing at 10?

Let me first put you on my page lest you think I’m investigating a crime. I’m not talking about 10 o’clock either AM or PM. Rather I mean age 10. I’ve been doing some reading on assessing your talents and gifts and discovering your purpose as part of God’s ultimate plan for your life. As human beings, we can get so distracted and off base. Many people say that age 10 is the time of life when your interests and leanings are in their purest form. I guess it makes sense then to look back if we don’t know where we should be going.

It seems like a long time ago, but I turned 10 when I was in 4th grade in Miss Lewis’ class. Miss Lewis was ahead of her time in many ways, and likely she rocked many conventional boats. I remember her deciding that a camping trip was a great way for our class to learn. To be honest, I don’t recall any scheduled classes, but we swam, hiked, played games and explored. Somehow she also convinced my parents to go along as chaperones, driver and cook. Miss Lewis would invite us over to her house and gave us opportunities to do things our parents would not. These were good things like painting her porch or real cooking. Our folks could not afford the time or extra paint/ingredients to let us do these things at home, but Miss Lewis did.

She also had an old fashioned player piano. The rolls were in good shape and not only could you pump out a proper tune, you could sing along because the words were also printed there. We had so much fun with it. Miss Lewis was unconventional in other way. She was not afraid of any question and got us involved in discussions quite often. We’d review subjects with games and other innovative methods more characteristic of today’s classroom. Though I did well academically in her class, I remember more about the relationships of the age.

I finished my 10th year in Mrs. Johnson’s class, a strict woman with shoulder length hair that appeared to be glued in place. No way would the wind move her “do.” I remember academics in her class as they seemed easy. It was in her class I realized I liked to write. Maybe I’d finally just learned the stuff I was supposed to as I recall getting a 100% on the California Achievement Test that year. Mrs. J was shocked. I guess I was her first student to do that. Whoa. I think I found my claim to fame. I wonder what I should do with it.

So how does all of this play into what I should be now that I’m grown up? I can see how these people impacted me, but I think the jury is still deliberating. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

The monarch is coming

In our area, August ushers in the last weeks of summer and with it the emergence of the monarch butterfly. The monarch egg hatches into a green caterpillar with black and gold stripes. By now he has had his fill of leafy greens, spun his chrysalis, experienced metamorphosis, and is preparing to emerge. What is interesting is that each year the process is repeated four times with four generations. You can click here to read more but that is not where I’m headed.

You may have heard this story about the monarch butterfly before, but I think it bears repeating. A young boy happened by the chrysalis of a monarch butterfly just as it was beginning to emerge. He watched the intriguing process and was touched by how hard the emerging butterfly had to work to break through to his new life. He wanted to help, so he slipped his pen knife from his pocket and began to gently cut away the butterfly’s prison walls so that he could be free. He continued to watch as the monarch spread his beautiful wings and died. When the troubled boy recounted this event to his father, the father explained that the process of breaking through the tough shell is what makes the wings strong enough for him to fly. Without the pain and struggle, he was too weak to live.

I like to be reminded of this illustration especially when life’s dramas tend to wear me down and choke out my hope for the future. Just like the butterfly, I need these struggles to change me and make me strong so that I can fulfill my unique purpose in life. Through such times I learn to see just how great God is. He uses these experiences to make me kinder, more forgiving, more compassionate and able to extend grace to those who are in need of it. And through it, I am prepared to continue to follow the plan God has for me. Isn’t it exciting to see how God uses His creation to explain many of the mysteries of life?

Perception or deception?

 

 

I enjoy watching the birds at the feeders outside my window and often observe life’s lessons as I see how they interact with one another. Though the titmice would not eat with the pineskin finches or the cardinal with the purple finches, they did share. They actually appeared to take turns, though sometimes reluctantly. I observed their pattern of orderly coexistence until a raucous call disturbed their meal. All of them scattered to distant points. None challenged the loud newcomer.

 

The blue jay in all of his blue and white splendor landed on the deck rail, and with one more call seemed to shout, “I’m here now. Out of my way.” His beauty far surpassed those of the smaller more common avian species, and he appeared to know it, and played it to his advantage. Taking his time, he picked at the seed and took his fill. He seemed oblivious to the line of birds on the house roof fearfully hoping for another opportunity. It was all about him.

 

Don’t you know people just like that jay? Everything revolves around them. It’s all about what they want and how it suits them. They don’t even consider others exist. I confess, loud people like that who push their way in and take over, annoy me. I decided there might be a lesson here, so I researched a little about blue jays in hopes of finding some applicable example to follow in dealing with such aggravations so this type of people could change.

 

Interestingly, I discovered that the cyanocitta cristata, more commonly known as the blue jay actually displays a high level of intelligence as he can solve problems, gather a cache of food rather than just consume it, and communicate more than many of his feathered friends. His hawk-like scream that scatters the birds at the feeders also sounds an alarm of danger in the forest when intruders approach. He does add value apart from his good looks.

 

Oh, and the lesson I learned for myself? Annoyance with jay-like people is not necessarily an indication of right and wrong in a situation, but it might be a gauge showing my perception filter is clogged.  Rather than seeing the negatives, the obstruction prevented me from looking deeper and focusing on the good to be affirmed and encouraged. Instead of pointing the finger, I had to look in the mirror. Don’t you hate when that happens?