Avoiding Soul Insanity

Monday, October 29th found me in Nyack, NY waiting for the arrival of Hurricane  Sandy.  As the day went on, the wind picked up, the chimney in the old brick house I was in along the Hudson River rumbled, and the trees swayed.  Power went off twice that afternoon and each time came back on within 20 minutes.  At 6 pm the power went off – the wind started screaming and howling, the trees bent to the ground, and Sandy was here.  I taught the group in a circle of candlelight.  When a power substation or transformer would blow, we’d watch through the windows as blue balls of flame and light illuminated the dark and stormy skies.  Only then could we see the ferocious wind bending  trees to the ground.  The light show over, we would turn back to the discussion.  At 10 pm, I slid into a bed in the third story of the house as the hurricane roared.  Tuesday morning we woke to trees downed on power lines, uprooted along the river, and I found myself grateful for the protection God had provided.   When I was able to get out to the Newark airport on Thursday, the power was still off at the house on the river.

This was one of those years in our lives when the trials and struggles felt much like a hurricane.  As the winds of the storm batter our lives, we find the grace of God in the midst of it all.  In April my father went home to be with Jesus and we spent the summer helping my mother, who has dementia, move into assisted living.  Our daughter’s inoperable brain tumor spawned side effects around the same time, and the force of the hurricane winds seemed unending.  But God was faithful in the midst of it all, with many answered prayers.

Over this year, we have felt our priorities shifting.  Dan Webster, founder of Authentic Leadership, has been a strong influence in my life and and he says:  A lack of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a condition of soul insanity.  There are things that God does in the heart of a leader that only get done in quiet.  So I have decided to take a “sabbatical” from December 14th –January 9th.   In order for me to be able to slow down, reflect, and relax, I will not be checking work email during that time period, nor answering any phone calls.  In fact, because I anticipate over 2500 emails when I return, I’ll simple delete them all and start over.  I suspect that making that commitment is the only way I’ll not be tempted to check email.

We are thankful for God’s real and loving presence in the midst of this year and are grateful for all we have experienced and been given.  We pray that you will trust God for holy courage as you experience the storms of life.  He is faithful.

Life Comes Full Circle

I got a card in the mail today from my mom.  It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.  She has dementia and after Dad’s passing in April, we moved her to an assisted living facility this summer.   She was so confused when we moved her that she didn’t understand her new place was even an apartment.

I went back to see her in October and she had a wreath on the door she had made and a pumpkin on her TV she had painted.  She had friends she walked with each day.  She was doing well.

When this card arrived, I could tell she had made it at craft class.  I haven’t gotten a letter from Mom in over two years.  She wrote a brief note telling me about making the card and that she missed seeing me.This card is proudly displayed on my refrigerator.  Every time I see it, I’m reminded that she’s doing OK.

Mom used to hang my art work on her refrigerator.  I’m privileged and honored to be here to care for her as she ages.  That’s what family is all about  – loving and caring for each other.

Tough Sloggins

Years ago, my husband and I spent 3 weeks canoeing in Canada’s Quetico Park.  There were 5 of us, and we portaged 24 miles and paddled 150.  We went in to the park before it officially opened, so the ice had just melted.  It rained constantly for the first 10 days.  I would wake up each the morning, praying for sun.  By day five, the only way to cook supper was with our little cook stove since it was too wet to start a campfire.  On day eight, we arrived at a portage called Tough Sloggins.  In normal condition, it was a path of muck and goo that made the portage difficult.  With all the rain, we paddled through the portage, found a beaver slide to ride the canoes on, and went on our merry way.

Sometimes life seems like tough sloggins.  For us, the month of April was so.  Bill’s uncle passed, then my father graduated to glory.  He was the care giver for my mother who has dementia, so I spent a lot of time getting home health care lined up for her until she can get into an assisted living apartment. Our daughter has an inoperable brain tumor, and side effects from her medicine became apparent in April.  Driving home from my father’s funeral, I recalled the tough sloggins portage.  April was feeling like the muck and goo – except for the prayers and encouragement of our friends.  Those prayers saw us through.  Like the days of rain that filled the portage, the prayers made our way through April, and now May, easier.

So this is a thank you for your prayers, notes, flowers, and words of encouragement over the last several weeks. They have brought our entire family great comfort. Thank you for walking with us on this journey and for making this walk much easier.  In both word and deed you are Christ to us.

 

Take This Christmas Story Quiz

 

As children, we hear the story of Jesus birth told.  Over the years we continue to hear different versions,  so I was surprised when I first took this quiz years ago to realize how distorted my view of the story was from Scripture.  Here are a few of the questions – see how you do.  Answers are at the bottom.

1) What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?

a) no room in the inn  b) you can use a stable  c) both a & b  d) none of the above

 2) Jesus was delivered in a

a) barn   b) manger  c) cave   d) unknown

 

3) The wise men found Jesus in a:

a) manger   b) stable   c)  house   d) none of the above

 

4) Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?

a) the angel    b) Mary’s mother   c) Herod    d) Caesar Augustus

 

5) Who saw the star in the east?

a) shepherd    b) Mary and Joseph   c) three kings   d) none of the above

 

Answers:

1) D  Luke 2:7                      2) D –Luke 2: 7 –  possible a cave since stables were usually in one, but unknown

 3) C – Matthew 2:11                       4) D – Luke 2:1,4               5) E – Matthew 2:1-2

 

Merry Christmas

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.”   

 Luke 2:14

 

Celebrating 60 Years of Marriage

This past weekend was my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.  We didn’t expect them to make it.  My dad, now 91, had been given 30 days to live last Christmas while in the hospital.  The doctors said he went downhill so fast, they didn’t expect to stabilize him.  He has congestive heart failure and his kidneys aren’t working well.    As he says, “I proved them wrong.”   So Saturday, we had Christmas on the Farm – an open house to celebrate 60 years of marriage.

A lot of people don’t make 60 years.  In fact, when Bill and I say we’ve been married 31 years,  we get expressions of surprise.  It’s a sad world we live in when long marriages are rare.  So celebrating 60 was a way of showing our kids, the grandkids, and friends that it can be done.   Dad and Mom love each other deeply – he’s there for her in the early stages of memory loss, she’s there for him when his arthritis starts screaming.  It’s what marriage is all about – trust, love, and perseverance .  Congratulations Mom and Dad – you are incredible role models.

Eye for an Eye – Revenge

Can you remember a time you wanted revenge?

We all can and ABC is now capitalizing on that idea in a new series called Revenge.   It’s built around a new woman living in the wealthy Hamptons.  What her neighbors don’t know is that she’s back for revenge – having lived in the neighborhood growing up.   Revenge is  anger, drenched in bitterness, resentment, and hostility.    Science has shown that people seeking vengeance bring bitterness and anger into every relationship and interaction.  Revenge can also lead to depression, anxiety, and increase alcohol and substance abuse. Mayo Clinic research.    So in steps ABC to celebrate something our culture and we as people need to experience less.

I have a suggestion for  the producers.  Instead of seeing episodes where people’s lives are ruined by anger, bitterness, and revenge,  I’d like to see a show where the people who may appear to deserve revenge, actually experience forgiveness.   The stunned looks on their faces when they realize that someone they harmed had actually done something good for them would be powerful, and might inspire others to do the same.  The benefits of healthier relationships, less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, less depression and lower risk of substance abuse would be celebrated.   Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”   What the world needs now is  not more blindness. We need to forgive – it’s priceless.

Should We Rejoice over Bin Laden’s death?

 

I hesitate to write this blog as I know it will be taken wrong by someone, but here goes.   I watched the new coverage this morning of Osama Bin Laden’s death – people climbing light poles, waving flags, dancing in the streets.  In a flashback, I saw Muslims dancing in the streets, waving flags, and rejoicing on 9/11.   Don’t get me wrong, Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice and paid for his hatred and murder of innocent people.  But it saddens me to see Americans rejoicing at the death of a human being, however evil he may have been.   I understand their reaction, I just think it moves us one step further away from being a people of compassion.

 Osama Bin Laden believed on his death he would go to heaven.  My faith and walk with Jesus Christ teach me that his fate will be very different.  But my walk with Jesus also teaches me to feel extreme sadness that any human suffers his fate.  Charles Spurgeon said it best:    “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”  Why do we pray and implore them to stay?  Because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and our enemies.  Many brave men and women have fought to keep us safe, to protect our homeland and to save the lives of those on 9/11.  They deserve the ability to find satisfaction in the justice served this day.  I just pray that satisfaction is tinged with sadness that another human being was lost, truly lost. 

 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – please share.

What I Learned Serving the Homeless

Our company last week spent an evening volunteering at the Nashville Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless men and women of Nashville.  We worked the serving line, prepping 560 trays of food for men who were searching for food, warmth, and a little caring on a very cold night.  While we had fun as a team in serving, several insights have had an impact for me.

1) Mr. Darrell, an employee of the mission, said he enjoyed our being there because we enjoyed doing it.  He commented that several groups come in and serve in silence and look like they are struggling.  So I want to do all I with joy and smiles– bringing smiles to the faces of those we serve.

2) A colleague told us later that her father died in a homeless shelter – and she never knew he was there.  She was looking for his face in the faces of the men we served – and it was a hard night for her.  It reminded me to see the world from other’s perspective.  

4) The Rescue Mission sees lots of volunteers this time of year – and very few the rest of the year.  I want to make a commitment to serve when I am most needed.

 3) As another colleague Jamie said, on Sunday we worship a homeless man and on Monday we forget the homeless.   I don’t want to forget or ignore those in need – I want to love like Jesus loved.

See you had no choice which day you would be born

Or the color of your skin or what planet you’d be on

Would your mind be strong or your eyes be blue or born

Whether daddy would be rich or if mama stuck around at all

So, if you find yourself in a better place

You can’t look down with a frown on the other guy’s face

You’ve gotta stoop down low – look him square in the eye

And get the funny feeling  you  just might be dealing with the face of Christ.

Chris Rice – lyrics from The Face of Christ

 

Why do we cry at weddings?

 I’ve been to a lot of weddings, but none have touched me as deeply as the wedding of Michael and Merrill. A simple, beautiful wedding, held down by the river at Grace Chapel, it was deeply moving. Under an archway built of branches and with the sun setting at their backs, the couple exchanged beautiful vows they had written -“You have captured my heart.” And it was so evident that the Michael had captured Merrill’s heart. Her face was lit from within as the excitement about marrying the man she loved was reflected in every movement, facial expression and word. She couldn’t wait. Michael choked up over his vows. Their love was evident to all who attended and, of course, I cried.

Thirty years ago Bill and I exchanged our wedding vows – til death do us part. It’s been an adventure, a delight, and a blessing to be married to my spiritual warrior. It’s also been hard work – learning to truly listen, to respect and to give. The years have melded, molded, moved, and made us into a couple who cherish our time together. At our wedding, my grandmother gave me her best advice: Never go to bed angry. I didn’t know at the time that her advice came from the Bible – “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”(Eph 4:26) Jesus stood with Michael and Merrill at their wedding as they asked him to bless their marriage. He entered our marriage two years after we said our vows and captured our hearts. I think that’s why I cried at their wedding – it foreshadowed a future reunion of even greater excitement and beauty – with Jesus.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. – Song of Songs 8:6

How to Turn Stress into Rest

 “The absence of quiet in a man or woman’s  life leads to a state of soul insanity.” -Dan Webster

 Since integrity is doing what you say you will do, and because  my core value is faith, I believe in the value of rest and quiet.  So in our home, Sunday is a protected day of rest.  I don’t fire up the computer from work and check email or work on projects no matter how overwhelmed I may feel.  Over the course of time, I’ve learned the value of a Sabbath day.  I look forward to that day as I know I won’t be working and that I’ll be spending time with friends, family and God.

 Last week I landed a large contract and had the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed with work.   By Thursday, I was strung tight as a drum.  Thursday evening my husband and I sat on the back patio in the porch swing as the sun went down.  We watched a star as it rose in the east, as more and more stars started to twinkle in a darkening sky, and then it happened – the insects began to sing.  The pleasant music of nature had a soporific effect, washing away the stress and tension and gently wooing me to rest and relaxation.  I’m not sure how long I sat in the swing – motionless, simply listening to God’s creation.  Surrounded by insect songs,  I found soul sanity.