Friday, February 12, 2016

Perspective is Everything

A few hours ago, my world was white.   We awoke to snow covering the ground and roads and still pouring from the sky.   Beautiful surprise.

My neighbors may have known it was coming; I had no idea.   Not liking to engage in the mass holiday celebrations and long lines at restaurants, my husband and I decided to do our Valentine's date last night.  We had two gift cards from our favorite daughter and son-in-law for a restaurant that is named after the dessert it specializes in.  Okay, I'll name it; we ate at the Cheesecake Factory.   I must say, dessert was the highlight!   But that is an entirely different post.  

After the restaurant, we went by the Redbox and picked up a couple of movies to watch with our teenage sons at home.   Yes, our date nights are HOT!  Right?  Sadly, before the end of the first movie, just before 10:30 pm, I could no longer follow the movie nor keep my eyes open and I went to bed.   But that is also another story.   All this information is simply just to explain that I did not watch the news or know if snow was in our forecast.  I was totally surprised.

I was enjoying watching the snow continue falling and hoped for several inches.  It was so beautiful.  And our poodle was enjoying his frolicking in our backyard so much!  

A couple of hours ago, my seventeen year old asked me if I would go with him to a local store to buy tools  for an auto job he is working on.  I don't like those stores but given road conditions, I decided I should definitely ride along with him.    Happily, there is a grocery store right next door to the store he was going to and I desperately needed to shop for groceries.  So once parked, he went one way, and I went the other.  

But the point to this is actually in the getting there.  I was amazed when we pulled out of our neighborhood and found clear roads everywhere.   As we drove into town, it looked like it was just another rainy day, except it was snow falling from the sky; but it was immediately turning to water on the roads.  

I realized that this mimics my thoughts, attitudes, and mindset.  While in my house, all I could see was snow pouring down and my yard turning white.   And the street in front of my house was covered; there were no tracks through the snow.  Similarly,  I come at life from my upbringing, viewpoints, and preconceived notions about life and people; sometimes I am wrong.  My way of thinking is just that, MY way of thinking; it doesn't mean it is relative to anyone else or their thinking or the way they see the world or any given situation.  

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 
I Timothy 1: 14 
  This has been part of my learning curve in inner city ministry.  One of the young moms I mentor recently told me that she doesn't always want to hear what my opinion of her situation is  She doesn't always want my advice!    


  She said she will not learn from my mistakes; she is stubborn and will learn from her own mistakes.  That makes me cringe.   If she would only do what I say, and not what I've done, then her life could be better!  But her perspective is that she has choices to make and she will make them based on her thoughts, feelings, and her perspective.

So once again, my choice comes down to grace and love.  I might not agree with her choices.  But Jesus didn't call me to agree with her; He called me to love her.   He poured out His love, redemption, forgiveness, and unfailing grace to me and only asks that I pour it out to others in turn.

And that is the eternal perspective. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Season of Love

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."                         ~ Jesus  (John 17: 20-23

The season of love, Valentine's Day, is upon us.  The candy and card companies and retail stores have been pushing their related merchandise since the day after Christmas in my neck of the woods.   And yet, it seems we get farther and farther from LOVE, what love truly is.   Why is it so difficult to love well day after day?   I know that I tend to get so caught up in my agenda, I fail to be what God tells me to be to my people, especially when they aren't on board with MY agenda.   

Bonnie Gray, in her latest blog post at, Let Go of What You’re Holding Onto And Let Me Love You Today {Remember}spurred my thoughts to love and how inept I am in the love I give to those around me.   As usual, I was led to dwell in the word of God.  Her words reminded me of how weakly I love and how strongly God loves.  Nothing I say can compare to what He has said and continues to say about love.   So as a reminder for this Valentine's Day, I decided to share His instructions for loving well, our divine call.

  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13

And now my friends, let's go love well!    

Friday, February 5, 2016

Restlessness, Menopause, Spiritual Warfare, and Rude Children

A feeling of unrest has surrounded me for months...  I'm not doing enough...   I am not enough... I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty or thin enough... and the list goes on and on.

I have had  a longing for nearly two years to move to a new home; it's new to us but is a very old home in Knoxville's center (inner) city.   I have had a vision of our family serving our neighbors together; Bible studies, meals together, offering homework help for neighbor children, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  

And then, it all came crashing down!   Maybe I'm being a bit dramatic.  But that is how it felt for a few hours.   The impetus?   Mix a ten year old, smart-mouth, disrespectful boy (and a few of his friends who laugh and thus encourage him) with a menopausal, hormones dying woman and stand waaaaayyy back!   It's not going to be pretty.

I did not lose my temper with the boy; however, I did point out to him that his attitude was not conducive to my wanting to help him with whatever problem or need he might present to me during our time together.

Unfortunately, my husband did not have the same good fortune as the boy.   He said one slightly offensive thing to me and I unleashed my wrath.   Thank heavens he has been working on yielding to the Spirit and had the wisdom to speak softly and ask questions.   We had gone to pay a bill and put fuel in his car.  I came undone at some comment he made that I cannot even remember now.  He knew I was stressed and tired when I had returned from my volunteer gig; so when I came undone, he began to ask exactly what had happened.   It's hard for an argument to escalate if one partner remains calm and collected.   He let me talk about the frustrating experiences and the fact that I had been "on edge" all day, even prior to my time with the kids.  

He asked what was making me edgy.   It is really hard for me to be nice when asked the same question multiple times over many days.  After all, I had shared the confirmation after I saw my GYN doc a few months ago,  "There is no doubt you are in menopause!"   What a loaded bag of trouble that one statement is!   I don't even recognize myself some times with the struggles I'm having getting along with others and the lack of nice I have circulating in my thoughts.   The lack of nice is directed externally and internally.   It feels a lot like spiritual warfare.   I have so little patience with myself and with others; it wears me out by about five in the evening making it difficult to keep fighting back the negative responses that come into my mind.  

I know this is a temporary state of being.  Thank you Lord and please don't let it last for five to seven years the way I've been told it could!!!   I find myself singing the Fruit of the Spirit song inside my head trying to focus on how I should be instead of how I feel.   Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

But by five o' clock most evenings, I want to quit everything.   "Forget our desire to move.  I will not be a nice person much less a good neighbor.   I will not shine God's light.   How dare that child be such a rude individual; there are so many other places I could be and things I could be doing.  I don't HAVE to use my vehicle, time, fuel, patience (it's wearing thin!) to deal with this.   I could be home reading a book, cleaning my house, cooking my own supper."   

When I took a step back from it and talked it through with my husband, I could hear all those "mys" and "I's" in that tirade.  And I told him, "I'm so selfish, self-centered!"   Deep breath.  

He talked me down and I'm grateful.   I know these feelings will return.  I don't know if menopause is truly to blame for all my negativity; but I do believe it is a factor, even if only a small one.  I don't know for sure that the enemy is engaging me in spiritual warfare; but I do know it feels like he is. And I do know that he operates in exactly these ways:  making us question our own self-worth, plants discontented thoughts in our heads, or worse, tries to separate us from healthy, fulfilling relationships with others. I know that children are going to be mouthy and disrespectful at times.  I have to expect it and be prepared for it in order to be successful in working with them and showing them God's love.  

I decided to share some REAL here because I know that the journey is hard and tiring and sometimes we want to give up.  Someone please, tell me I am not the only one who has these struggles!  But I also know I have a Father who loves me in spite of myself and I need to look to HIM  for comfort, rest, and goodness.  He is always the answer!