Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent - Transformed Through Waiting

I was asked to write a couple of advent devotionals for our church this season--there is the first installment.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (New Living Translation)

“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.

“In those days and at that time
I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this will be its name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’

This time of the year often takes on a totally different sentiment than we intend for it to possess. Life gets crazy; we become busier than ever and somewhere in the midst of living our life, we forget that this is a season of great hope and anticipation. As followers of Christ, we want to believe that Christmas holds spiritual meaning, but finding the time to explore this significance doesn’t always fit into our busy holiday schedule.

As Jeremiah prepares God’s people for the eventual coming of the Messiah, he implies that waiting for the Lord’s coming is not a passive pursuit. We are challenged to an act of waiting that is fervent and active. Advent is not just about waiting for God to fulfill his promise. It is about being transformed through waiting.

The challenge this season is to not only understand, but also acknowledge the fact that God’s promises are true; that we can have confidence in His word as we allow this fact to restore us. Pain, disappointment, regret and heartache are aspects of life as we wait, but hope is alive within us because Jesus provided the supreme sacrifice on the cross. It is through His sacrifice that we are assured eternal life and afforded the opportunity to anticipate the day the Lord will return

“We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope,” Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Death at Walmart--So Senseless!

What have we come to? Stores open at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning; only stocking 6 to 8 of the “bargains” advertised in the flyer—then we are SHOCKED when 2000 people await the opportunity to buy a big screen television at a bargain basement price, but what is the cost??—a human life??? How insane is that? Surely these people at Walmart feel all kinds of remorse – the kind that doesn’t allow you to sleep or even get through the day, but alas that isn't even the case. This Walmart worker was someone’s son—perhaps someone’s husband or someone’s father. What is WRONG with our society that someTHING is worth the price of some ONE?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happiness Doubled by Wonder

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, English writer (1874-1936)

This Thanksgiving I am not only thankful, I am truly grateful. I say this at a point in my life when one stepson moved in a week ago and the second one arrives on Monday. That will make a total of 5 males and one female in this household--5 adults and one adolescent living under the same roof and I am “doubled by wonder”? Why? Because God has chosen me to find and experience another great love, He has offered up the opportunity make a difference in the lives of those around me and has given me some sort of supernatural energy that is, most definitely, a prerequisite for my predicament.

I have never been one to take the easy road—how boring that would be? I have been known to claim God’s promises and then “test” Him or perhaps it is God who tests me. Whichever is the case, this Thanksgiving I honor the love that permeates my selfishness and calls me to a higher plane—a love that is sufficient and graceful--a love that puts what I want or need in second place to the needs of the ones I love. A love that I am incapable of, but with God through me is totally possible.

"By HIS own hand he leadth me"... as nostalgic as it seems---"This I know for sure."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday Triviality - Three Decades of NOT Being Cool!

Taking my lead from Annie at Anniegirl1138, here is the Tuesday Triviality...
I was NOT cool in the past. I was lucky that my high school was known for music instead of sports, so for that--I was fortunate.

In the 1970’s
I was a “yell leader” for my school. This was for the girls who didn't have a chance to make cheerleading.
I was the treasurer of the student body
I listened to the radio non-stop.
I weighed 135 pounds at 5’11” and thought I was fat.
I played with Barbies until moving to Hastings, NE where my best friend thought they were lame, so I quit.
I rode a purple Schwinn banana seat bike.
I lived in a small town in Nebraska and walked/rode everywhere in town—it was really awesome.
I was not allowed to wear a halter-top—so I definitely missed my chance.
I didn’t go to any high school dance, including prom because, at the time, it was “against my religion”—now I look back---how stupid.
I was NOT allowed to watch “Family”, but would sneak a peak every once in a while.

In the 1980’s

I was selected for an elite Madrigals group at my high school and then--we moved my senior year.
Graduated from high school and then university.
Voted for Ronald Regan (and would again).
Listened to the Doobie Brothers and Eagles non-stop.
Stayed up to watch Princess Diana’s wedding at 4 in the morning.
Watched Dallas and Dynasty and could tell you who killed JR in 1991.
I didn’t miss “Days of Our Lives”
Drove an ancient VW hatchback that didn’t have heat—I used a scraper to scrap the INSIDE of my front window.
Met Don and married him the same year as Diana married Prince Charles—I was much more successful with love, but ended up having to live the same loss.
Gave birth to my first child, just as the decade ended.
Graduated from college and got my first teaching job (which I still hold today).

In the 1990’s
I lived through the Midwest Flood of ‘93.
I became a mother for the second time.
I traveled for the first time in my life to Washington D.C with a group of 30 middle school students---TWICE.
I thought I knew it all…and maybe I did then????
I gained 130 pounds, but didn’t really have an image issue—go figure.

In the 2000’s
I got one master’s degree and then decided to get another one.
I had gastric bypass and lost 140 pounds.
I lost my husband and my identity.
I bought a home by myself for the first time.
I traveled a road I never intended to.
I began to write again by starting a blog.
I met and married my second husband.
I became an instant mother of six and a grandmother.
I took up running, biking and swimming—a healthy lifestyle for the first time.
I decided that it isn’t about me, but about my influence…geezz…it took long enough.

What about you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

Inspired by the "Cardboard Testimonites" at Hillside church, our local, ministry team created a similar experience at our church today. Kent and I could not pass up the opportunity to give God the glory for what has happened in our lives.

After you view the video, you will understand our testimony:

OUR plans shattered by the death of a spouse.
Living GOD’s plan for the future.

I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotion that seemed to overwhelm my family, my friends and me upon experiencing this moving event. Kent and I recognize God’s hand in our situation, but have been hesitant to claim it—as we did today through the cardboard testimonies.

The biggest blessings came from my stepson, who came to live with us this week. I am encouraged by the possibilities this “new start” will afford him and the opportunities for growth it will afford all of us. On the way to get into the car after the morning’s service, he told Kent that he was moved by our testimony and that our words were not only our (Kent and my) declaration, but also that of the entire family. When Kent recounted this incident to me, tears filled my eyes and my heart was completely filled with the promise that we are not in control, but God is…what a relief! Blessings abound!

How about you? What is your cardboard testimony?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything I Know About Life--I Learned From a Middle School Basketball Game

Chandler’s first middle school basketball game was tonight. He started at center. On this, his birthday, Don would have been so very proud of him. Chandler had a cheering section this evening. Kent and I attended, Chad and Joy, Grandma and Grandpa Abla, and Charleen were all present for his debut. As I sat watching Chandler play, I was surprised to find how much the game resembled lessons I have learned in life, so in honor of Chandler’s first game, I bring to you…

Everything I know about life I learned from a middle school basketball game.

I learned that…
  • You wont always be first string, sometimes your job will be to come in after the all-stars are tired and take the game from there. There is no glory in this except the self-satisfaction of knowing that without you the game wouldn’t be possible.
  • You will always have folks to cheer you on, even if you totally mess things up.
  • You may have killjoys in your life who are pessimistic about pretty much everything—stay away from them—they affect your positive mojo.
  • Sometimes you have a good game where everything goes perfectly—you are in a zone; then there are other times when you couldn’t make a basket if your life depended on it.
  • Most of the rather big mistakes you make are soon forgotten by others, but remain in your memory forever--what good does that do?
  • Sometimes you get a “bad call”, but there is the benefit of the ability to blame someone else for it (referees).
  • Guarding yourself from injury is the first line in self-preservation.
  • You can’t make it to the end of the game without your teammates. It takes five to play basketball. It takes more to play in real life.
  • No one else will remember the score in a week, so perhaps you shouldn’t keep it. Sometimes we require more from others than we do ourselves. We remember the hurts and the offenses against us far more than they merit our time or energy.
  • Sometimes the game isn’t about the game. Chandler played a rather seasoned team tonight. He calls the Monticello Sages the Monti-steroid Sages because their 7th grade center is 6’2”. Anyway, after a crushing defeat he went to the concession stand and began to make friends with the other team—it’s his nature. For him, it is more about the relationships than the game – I couldn’t be more proud.
  • It is essential to have a strong coach, one who has played the game before you; one who owns the playbook; who encourages you; who calls you to discipline and finds value in who you are.
I am sure there are many more life lessons to be gleaned, but these are but a few of my personal insights. Care to add more???

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tuesday Trivialty is BACK--Take the Challenge

Complete the following task with a word beginning with the same letter as your first name—common—it’s just for FUN!!!

1. What is your name: Marsha
2. A four letter word: Mall
3. A vehicle: Mustang
4. A city: Madrid
5. A boy's name: Michael
6. A girl's name: Melinda
7. Drink: Mountain Dew
8. An occupation: Monk
9. Something you wear: Muffs
10. A Celebrity: Madonna
11. A food: Macaroni and Cheese
12. Something found in a bathroom: Make-up
13. Reason for being late: My car wouldn’t start.
14. Something you shout: My goodness!
15. An animal: Mongoose
16. A body part: Mind
17. Word to describe yourself: Meaningful
18. A favorite word: Miracle
19. A movie: Mama Mia
20. A book you enjoyed: My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picault

Leave your answers on a comment or refer back to your blog!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Art of Racing Against the Wind

A couple of weeks ago Kent and I participated in the “Spooky-Du(althon)”. It was a 1.8-mile run, 20-mile bike ride followed by a 1.8 mile run. My initial intention was to complete the entire race myself. As has been chronicled here ad nauseum, running is not my forte; I don’t really even like it. So when I noticed there was a “team category” for this race, I jumped at the chance for my husband to complete the run and I would complete the biking portion of the race.

Though it was unseasonably cold the morning of the race, we were filled with anticipation . The 1.8-mile run curved through Weldon Springs State Park (a beautiful venue) while the bike portion of the race was twenty miles through the Central Illinois countryside balanced with hills, curves and flatland. I was confident about the ride, as I am a much stronger cyclist than runner, but when confronted with the added hardship of 20 mph winds directly in my face, the first ten miles was brutal and my confidence began to diminish. Even seasoned tri-athletes said it was a challenging ride. Many times during those first ten miles I simply wanted to quit, or get off the bike and walk. I can’t remember ever challenging myself as hard physically.

As I approached the turn around, the front-runners in the race passed me going the opposite direction. I looked up to find smiles on their faces and an occasional encouraging “thumbs up”. It was obvious that if I could simply make it to the turn-around I would find great relief. The race totally changed at the turn-around. Heading back to the starting line, with the wind at my back, I was able to ride effortlessly much faster than my average speed and I felt a smile replacing the scowl on my face. Crossing the starting line was sweet and more rewarding than I can say.

Often, our lives simulate a race against the wind. We find ourselves maneuvering the hills and curves of life that we never dreamed would impede our journey. Adversity mounts to the point of breaking our spirit and we simply want to quit, or at least get off the “ride” for a while. Facing life’s trials is not for the faint of heart. The knowledge that the “turn-around” is within reach, where the wind will carry us to a more contented place, somehow keeps us going. Finding the courage, energy and strength to merely make it to the turn-around is the challenge, but we do make it; where the road gets easier, and the ride sweeter, where the smile returns, and contentment rests…that is…until the next race.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Above the Fold

I know I have taken a hiatus from blogging, but I am back...

On the eve of what will certainly be the most monumentally historic election in our country’s history, our local newspaper has seriously missed the mark. There is a three-inch banner story at the top of the front page (no picture) about “Obama expanding ‘blue states’”—and that is the ONLY mention of the election on the front page. I am not kidding. The story covered on the rest of the front page with a 5 1/2” by 8” FULL color photo is entitled “Pennies from Heaven”. This story chronicles a family that is renovating an older home; who are finding pennies everywhere in the home and are sure that the spirit of their dead grandmother is leaving the pennies around the house. WHAT???? Just so you don’t think I am making this up, here is the link to the story:
Pennies From Heaven

In the graphic design world, there is a concept referring to the positioning of enticing news stories and photos placed above the fold on the front page. Supposedly, this is prime placement for articles that attract people to purchase the newspaper. Is the “ghost penny” story really what the editors of the Decatur newspaper think will entice intelligent people in our community to buy and read this newspaper, especially TODAY—the day before election day?

In the past, I have threatened to stop reading our local newspaper for a multitude of reasons, but this time—I MEAN IT. No longer will I patronize (vt. to be a regular customer of a business) the Decatur Herald and Review as long as they are determined to patronize (vti. to treat somebody as if he or she were less intelligent) me--and THAT you can print ABOVE THE FOLD!