Friday, December 31, 2010

To Have or Not to Have?

Lavish vacations in an enormous beach house with lobster for dinner each night, spa treatments for the ladies, new cars, a house being remodeled, i-phones for kids, and an easy $80.00 in each of the teens pockets on any given day. Do you live this way? The majority of the world does not, but there are a few who do. Those who bring in well over six figures and enjoy every penny of it. They are the rich, the privileged as some say. However,I wonder just how privileged they are.

Proverbs 30:8 reads, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

How does one live with that much luxury and not become enslaved to it? How do you not become so accustomed to it and then not expect it nor associate the meaning of love and happiness with it? I don't know. I've never lived that luxuriously and you know what? I'm glad.

Ruth Bell Graham said once that when she visited the Queen of England and later a missionary living in a mud hut, both times she felt she had entertained royalty. Some of the most incredible, God fearing people I've ever met are those who simply live on their daily bread. They don't have much left over after the bills are paid, yet they are full of life and equally appreciate the small and big things in life. In addition, they are some of the most giving people I know.

There are others I've met who have a lot, but love to give. One of the families I met a few years ago had recently adopted two children from Russia. They live on a good stretch of land, a ranch with horses, and have enjoyed some nice vacations I'm sure. Both parents earn a sizable income. Renee, the mom, shared with me, "We can tithe the ten or twenty percent. That's not a sacrifice for us. We wanted to sacrifice." The result? They adopted two older children from an orphanage in Russia and have had their world turned upside down ever since. Renee told us,"We never had any problems with any of our kids."

Then her husband, Todd chimed in,"We're making up for it now." They have a long road ahead, but show no signs of backing out. They wanted to give back and sacrifice. They wanted to make a difference in the lives of two children and I know they are.

The best reason to have is to give and to much that is given, much is required. I'm drawn to a picture of the Dead Sea in Israel. It is dead because there is no outlet. It is an immense pool of salt water, so much salt that one easily floats on its surface and nothing living can survive in it. I would much rather be a tributary like the Blue Nile. It is the source of the most water and fertile soil in Africa, the hottest continent in the world. The only way to do that is share and spread the love. After all, we can't take anything with us when we leave this world except the people we've loved to Christ. Everything else is temporary.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shut The Door?

We are getting slammed. The winds must be about 20-30 mph and the wind chill factor below zero. Thankfully, I still have power. It is a quiet cozy evening at home which brings me to something my Pop Pops said last night during dinner. In response to my comment about how cold it was he replied, "Once I close the door, I don't worry about the weather outside." I couldn't help but reflect and ponder how that kind of philosophy may apply to life. In other words, once you shut the door, you don't look back and entertain thoughts of what if's or if only's.

Luke 9:62 reads,"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."There is definitely a time and context in which to press on ahead and not to worry about whom or what's left behind.

Yet I also think of a hymn entitled, They will know we are Christians by Our Love. 1Corinthians 13 gives a most detailed list of what true love is and how it looks. No where in that list does it say to cut someone off, disown them, or close the door. People do it though. They do it to their own family members. I've seen it in my own family.

Somebody says something that gets taken the wrong way, attitudes flare up and nobody talks to anybody for years. People decided it was better to close the door and leave the cold people with the coldness, out in the cold. However, what they don't realize is that the icy wind has seeped inside the chambers of their own hearts and any warmth has eluded them. They don't even think or talk about those left behind. It's as if they don't exist anymore.

Not too long ago, one of the artists in my church created a digital picture of an iced heart surrounded by burning candles. The heat from the candles was actually beginning to melt the ice away from the heart. Heat and warmth that says, "I love you! I believe in you. I keep no record of wrongs and I just want to be a blessing to you. Let's talk about this and work things out."

It sounds crazy and illogical, doesn't it? However, doors are there to be opened and closed. The only weather that should be kept outside is the battering of ice and snow on a night like tonight. Let's not leave the cold people out there, too. Eventually it's bound to kill them instead of change them.

My hope and prayer for my family is they would realize the coldness that has seeped into their own hearts and long for the warmth and healing that comes with love and forgiveness. I hope you too, would rather see that for yourself in your own life and be one of those many candles burning brightly; burning and melting the ice away.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For the Girls

Today was the last day of school before vacation. Katia, Bethaney, Alicia, and Laurie were so excited! They have been counting down the days 'til Christmas like any child. Upon entering my class, they discovered their handmade stockings filled with goodies and warm, fluffy scarves awaiting them. They were thrilled. After pulling the items from their stockings, they pranced around the room with their fluffy scarves draped around their necks saying, "We're all princesses. Ms. L is a princess, too." Innocent, dainty, beautiful and childlike they are. They are children who are free to express themselves and not yet hardened by life's pits.

If only life was always that simple. Fast forward about 30 years or so and life may or may not be so carefree. My heart broke tonight as I listened to a dear friend share her hurts and frustrations. Her marriage has not been one of bliss, but much disappointment and pain. She dearly loves her husband and children, but feels as if she has been treading water for the last umpteen years and quite alone in the midst of everything. I wish I knew what to say and how to comfort.

Although I have not walked in her shoes I certainly know what it is like to be and feel alone and not treasured at times. I imagine there are many other young girls and/or women whom have wrestled with these thoughts and feelings as well. We are not alone.

Somehow, I wish I could take everyone of us, who has ever felt inadequate and alone, back to an earlier time; back before those poisonous darts were aimed and fired. I wish we could all be like Katia, Bethaney, Alicia, and Laurie prancing around and declaring, "We're all princesses!"

I know my dear friend has such beauty and depth in her. I see her gifts of creativity and warm heart. I see her willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others, most importantly her family. She has great treasure within her.

As women, we are God's gift to men. "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to alone; I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18 NASV)

As people we are God's gift to each other.
" that there should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1Corinthians 12:25-26 NIV)

I love my dear sisters and friends. In spite of life circling around and firing those poisonous darts that aim to infect us with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, may we remember the treasure and gifts planted within each one of us to bless and brighten others' days. May we remember we are gifts! We are princesses! We have value and we are not alone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The War

It's been over a week since I tried the drops of rubbing alcohol and I continue to find those disgusting, evil white bugs on the Begonia. Not to mention, now the Lamb's ear plant in my classroom is dying. It has something on it as well and the leaves are no longer lush and green, but slowly shriveling up. The lady at Adam's warned me that it wasn't meant to grow inside, but I wanted to try it anyway. I thought my students would love to feel it's fuzzy leaves. I know I do. The leaves still feel soft and fuzzy, but are now dying. I hate it! I hate that shriveled up look with branches listlessly hanging. I don't know what else to do. How can I help it? How can I win this war?

I am taken back to the story of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. The story goes that Jerusalem was invaded and the Jews were expected to follow the ways of the Greeks. Their temple was desecrated and the menorah taken away. For two years, a group called the Maccabees fought tirelessly. They hid in the mountains where it was safe and slowly overcame until they were able to regain Jerusalem and the temple. Once victorious. they cleaned it up and found they only had enough oil to light the menorah for one night. God did a miracle and the oil lasted eight long nights until they could get more. It took them two years, but they won. They faced the darkness head on and regained what was lost.

Back in September, the middle fingernail on my right hand got slammed while trying to close the hatch on the back of my SUV. Ouch!!! It hurt so bad. For about 10 minutes or so the pain radiated through out my whole nail. I never knew I could feel such intense pain in such a small area of my body. I had no ice to put on it.

Today the pain is gone, but it is nasty as ever to look at. The bottom half of the nail completely blackened. I've grown weary of seeing it and explaining to all who ask, "What happened to your finger?". It is a horrible reminder of the pain I felt that day.

Yet there is hope! About a week ago I noticed the cuticle is no longer back and I can see a new nail starting to come forth. It has a long way to go, but there is progress. How I wish it would grow out faster. How I wish it didn't take so darn long. Kind of like my plants that have been brutally attacked by the evil insect world. I want those horrible pests dead and gone once and for all. I want the new leaves to burst forth and its fullness to be restored.

Joshua 1:9 reads,"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Things never seem to go easy. At least not with regards to things worth keeping. The war continues to rage on daily, but there is hope. I don't know that my Begonia will definitely regain it's robustness and beauty, but it is worth fighting for and protecting. I am not giving up. After this morning's application of more alcohol, I am hoping there will be no more bugs. In its place, I would love to see some new leaves sprouting.