Monday, September 28, 2009

Pleasant places

Today the husband and I returned from a 4-day trip to Michigan. And I have to tell you this right up front: we are blessed. (No, David does not always look this goofy, but at the moment I don't have a better photo. Smile.)

It was a weekend of pleasantness as we gathered with friends and family, renewing old ties, exchanging issues of the heart with kindred spirits, David on a early morning fishing trip while I walked around a familiar lake with a friend, us celebrating my birthday with those who love me most, getting a report on how much my health has improved from my naturopath doctor.

I have to tell you right now, our boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places! (Psalm 16:6)

And all the while, I was starting to understand things about myself that until now have been unknown to me. Just some moving and shifting, adjustment of my heart attitude toward others, an awareness of how I can be critical with those closest to me. A yearning to be a better woman, a better reflection of my Abba-Father.

This morning I realized at about 9:30 am how truly blessed I am. After a pretty hefty struggle with my health and adrenal glands since March, the doctor tested me and was excited over the progress I've made. Even said I am doing great. Hormones are regulating, too. Allergy misery is now subsiding; back is in alignment after an adjustment.

I am comfortable. And since it has been a rough year healthwise, this discovery of rest and overall wellbeing brings delight and new hope. A month of seminary under the belt, with lots of challenges to come. But this life is good. Even the discovery of the ugliness in my heart is a gift on this journey of growth. Time in the car spent with my husband discussing where our marriage is going right and how we can improve on the things that cause each of us pain.

Nothing is perfect; but the sum total of it all is good. Even very good. Will you take a moment and reflect on where things are going right for you as well? Although we have many friends struggling with the weight of life's trials right now, I hope you can see the ways in which you are blessed, through common grace and yes, even God's intervention in your life specifically.

Perhaps this song by artist Allen Levi will help you get your mind in the right place. Click on the musical note to play. And may you discover your delightful inheritance...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Comments don't work

Sorry, everyone. I know my "comments" feature doesn't work, and that has been frustrating for some of you. Especially on the last post!

I'm frustrated, too, and am asking a friend who knows html if she can help. And if you know anyone who might be willing to help fix it, feel free to contact me.

Quotes for today:

"There are many things that are perfectly legitimate, but if you are going to concentrate on God you cannot do them." - Oswald Chambers

"To accept and live within my limitations is freeing . . . to be faithful to my true self, I must continually resist not just sin but many forms of virtue that may not be appropriate for me right now, many legitimate expressions of Christianity that aren't legitimate for me, many good deeds that aren't mine to do. Christ's "narrow road" is that of doing only those acts that arise from real faith, knowing that 'everything that does not come from faith is sin' (Romans 14:23)."
-Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watch your language

Yesterday, I was told that Titus 2 supports the fact that women are built to be "housewives." This is the passage where Paul is exhorting younger women to honor the Word of God through their conduct.

First of all, let me say that the term "housewife" has got to go. The actual word of God, depending on the translation you use, calls them homemakers or keepers of the home. Women are not married to their houses, people! And this is not about being politically correct. It is about honoring those women who are serving Christ through tending to the needs of their families. Call them homemakers, for that is what they are.

Secondly, am I being disobedient to God if a) my husband helps to keep my home, by contributing to the cooking and cleaning or b) I sometimes hire someone to do the basic cleaning at my house? I can't find any Scripture to back that up. I can find Scripture, namely Proverbs 31, that suggests a women's sphere of influence can be much larger than the four corners of her home.

And, here is something I ponder: if the Apostle Paul commissioned Phoebe as a full-fledged deacon to deliver the book of Romans over land and sea to its intended recipients, who in the world was keeping her home? And was she being disobedient to God by filling her leadership role in God's Kingdom while neglecting her household duties? I think not.

I hope, after reading this, that you will never again call someone a housewife. Even if you mean it in the nicest possible way, the language we use means something. Being a homemaker is a noble calling, one that deserves to be celebrated and honored. Let's part with our deeply-held patriarchal lens for a moment and get a clearer look at all that God intends for his daughters. In my humble conviction, the very furtherance of God's Kingdom here on earth depends on it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thankful for!

Wish you could automatically format a bibliography in MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian formats?? If what I just said made no sense to you, come back another day for more musings on my spiritual journey.

But if you are the type of person who has to write papers or articles or books, might be your next best friend. You may not even need to type in the information from your source, since you can search for it online and it can fill in the blanks. Eureka!

Here's how it works, from the site:

Welcome to BibMe! The fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It's the easiest way to build a works cited page. And it's free.

1Search for a book, article, website, or film, or enter the information yourself.
2Add it to your bibliography.
3Download your bibliography in either the MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian formats and include it in your paper. It's that easy!

One last thing. What are you waiting for? Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finding joy in the struggle

Another quote from Mike Mason's book Champagne for the Soul:

How strange and vibrant and astounding is this gift of life! So what if it's hard? So what if we're hounded by troubles, pressured and embattled on all sides? So many good gifts outweigh the trials. Thank God that we encounter some resistance to our cavalier passage through this world. Thank God he has designed life not to be easy but to test us to the limit and so turn ingrates into children of God who are strong and fearless and full of love.

"Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!" Psalm 118:15

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Day at the Fair

It felt exactly like the stomach flu. But in all reality, it was probably never the flu. Misdiagnosed incorrectly by a nurse over the phone. In reality, it's just really, insanely bad allergies and drainage. Let's just leave it at that, shall we? My doctor said it explains all my symptoms...and she handed me nasal spray and directions to buy claritin asap. It is no exaggeration to say that I now HATE ragweed.

So I was fuming about this yesterday afternoon, because although slowing down can be therapeutic, I lost a whole week of school and life, for crying out loud. I lost five pounds and have grown increasingly weak when I could have taken a claritin?? Enough said.

Anyhoo, I didn't sleep all that well last night, for the sixth night in a row. Drainage isn't completely gone yet. But when I woke up, I felt well enough to seize the day. Get out of the house and experience sunshine and companionship again. It was a welcome relief.

So the husband and I went to my nephews' 9 am football game--the 13 year old and the 11 year old played back to back. And although I've never been a football fan, it was pure bliss to be seated next to my husband and my niece, my sister-in-law's mom and my brother-in-law. I even ate popcorn!

I really do need to get out more! While I was sitting there, my sister-in-law's mom started talking about how the Grabill fair is going on, and all the crafts and merriment, and my 14-year-old niece asked if I had ever been. "You've never been?" she said. "Seriously?" "I know, it's shocking, isn't it?" I replied.

And then we went to the Grabill, Indiana, fair, David and I. And it restored my faith in certain segments of Americana, friends. When we first entered the town, there were more Amish buggies than cars, and I love to watch the Amish tooling down the road, capable and content. We saw some Amish at the fair, too, three girls in fact. They were about 14 or 15 years of age, all three of them dressed in the standard long sleeve dresses with hems below the knees, utilitarian black lace-ups, and bonnets. Except one of them was talking animatedly on her purple cell phone. Where was my camera?

[Side note: many amish are allowed to have cells because they are not considered "links to the outside world"--that is a landline does not go out from their home to the outside world. See this story for more notes on Ohio amish culture.]

Then I saw another interesting site. A young woman dressed in some sort of costume, probably to reflect the colonial era, was sitting behind a tent with her pack of pall-malls next to her, puffing on her cigarette. And the combo of the hat and the nicotine just made me shake my head in wonder.

But the sweet parts of this fall fair mostly fall in a road of antiques and quaint shops that are all connected, and the old Souder general store, that is full of all sweetness and candy and things like that. There was a guy standing in an old-fashioned cart filled with barrels of old-fashioned soda. And the husband got a root beer for $2. It was fun to look at all of it, but when we really got down the lane into the thick of the people, it was as overstimulating as it was beautiful.

We ran into some friends from church whose four-year-old son had this great shirt on that said something like: "Sorry, ladies--my mom says I can't date." And when I read it out loud he started laughing, which put a smile on all our faces.

It wasn't long before I started to tire and we had to leave. But I was so thankful for our moments in the sun, beside the rest of the hardworking hoosiers, and I felt connected to something bigger. Something that isn't made up of all smoke and mirrors, corporate greed, or the 24-hour Crisis News Network.

I stepped back from it all and realized small towns are still thriving in pockets and places where wood furniture is handmade by calloused hands connected to men who wear broad-brimmed hats and drive buggies. Where the town hardware store is the busiest spot around. And people are friendly because they want to be, not to sell you something.

Quite possibly, next year I will find a bench just on the outskirts and watch people the whole day. To remind myself how important flesh-and-blood community is in the era of twitter, blogging, and instant online transactions.

And that is reason enough to make the Grabill, Indiana fair an annual tradition.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When life hands you the stomach flu . . .

I cannot bring myself to complete that sentence! All I can say is I am into the fourth day of this ridiculous, and persistent nausea, achiness, and general weakness, and the advantage of being almost-37 is that I have purposed to accept it.

I decided to take the grown-up approach, especially after talking to my doctor's nurse, who told me I am almost certainly suffering from the latest bug she's been seeing. She was sympathetic, but not surprised that every night includes alternating episodes of cold and hot, which keeps me waking up perpetually, until the sun finally peeks in, and I awaken to another day of yuckiness. Beautiful, eh?

My usual prayer when being assailed with a flu or a bronchitis or a strep throat, etc., is to ask God that it would be the 24-hour variety. And the husband did pray over me last night, asking God to give me a better day today. I do see a teensy bit of improvement in that I actually ventured out of the house and took a 1/4 mile walk around the neighborhood. If the nurse is right, I've got to be almost to the end of this little episode, which gives me comfort.

But meanwhile, my life's activities have grinded to a halt. No classes yesterday--and I only get one skip in my night class, Spiritual Formation. But there was literally nothing I could do. I canceled two appointments as well, but was a bit surprised to find that I can still read my world religions and even my hermeneutics text while feeling . . . I won't complete that sentence either. If I take my time, I can get through them.

Today I received my Real Simple magazine in the mailbox, and I slowed down to read it, after having consumed entirely too much television over the last three days. And a writer named Daphne Murkin had written an article titled "The Memory Game." I especially appreciated this quote:

"Contemporary existence demands so much splitting of attention--between phone calls, emails, text messages, Twitter, and the constant allure of online shopping, not to mention TV and DVDs--that only the most strong willed go through life in an undistracted fashion. The problem in turn with being so distracted is that we inhabit daily experience in an absentminded mode and, as a result, have more difficulty forming strong memories, as though the passing moment didn't leave enough of a trace."

And you have to know what I was thinking. Getting the flu slows you down long ago for you to notice that you tend toward distraction. And to realize that you don't want to live absentmindedly. That you want to live this abundant life Jesus calls us to, forming strong memories, living well, gratefully, and graciously.

I am not recommending sickness as a cure for distraction (or a weight loss cure either!) but it does force us into slowness and contemplation at times. When life hands you the stomach flu, you might as well accept it. Slow down. Reflect Jesus well and lovingly. Appreciate the health you've been given. Cut down on distractions.

And if at all possible, complete your hermeneutics reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Weary, but happy


Excuse me for not posting about my first seminary week earlier. But I am exhausted. And the husband is exhausted. And the dog . . . well, we don't have a dog, but if we did, I have a feeling she would be tired, too. As it is, even the house plants appear slightly droopy.

I feel that I am among friends at seminary, and that will make things easier as the semester progresses. I've created a semester assignment calendar that hangs on the wall and was also copied into the smaller planner I carry with me. No excuses for late assignments!

I have changed my expectations about being able to handle a 12-13 hour on Tuesdays and will now be missing chapel to arrive on campus for a 12:30 class, and then to leave the premises at 9 pm after my last class is over.

Two of my classes are large and filled with a combination of undergrad students and seminary students. I'm not thrilled about this, but I'm working on having a positive attitude and simply trying to learn all I can. The third class is smaller, seminary-students only, and will be so challenging and stimulating. I'm quite excited about it.

And as I start this journey, believing that God is calling me to use my full giftedness, I am also asking God to show me how to respect other convictions and how to give the new friends I meet the benefit of the doubt.

For instance, in the challenging class, we were encouraged that we will use what we learn in our preaching ministries. The professor added "or when you teach women." Because I was the only woman in the class, I quite naturally, took this personally. And it didn't make me happy in my heart, friends. Far from it.

But as I gave myself some time, I came to realize that the professor was actually trying to be inclusive rather than exclusive. That is, he is honestly used to teaching males how to preach. And because I was also in the class, he wanted to make sure I was included. I truly believe he didn't know where I was coming from or how I believe God wants me to use my gifts. That will come in time.

Grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy. I am asking my heavenly Father to help me act as He would.

And one thing I'm grateful for, that I know has certainly evolved over time at this seminary, is that they have emphasized that grades are not the most important thing. They are encouraging us to develop a desire to learn as a way of loving God well, and others well, too. More later...for now, I rest.