Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What a Fool Believes

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's harder than you think.

YOUR ARTIST: Dooobie Brothers

Are you male or female: Evil Woman

Describe yourself: Minute By Minute

How do you feel about yourself: Disciple

Describe where you currently live: Chicago (or kindof close)

The first thing you think of when you wake up: Here to Love You

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: China Grove

Your favorite form of transportation: Flying Cloud

What is the weather like where you are at: Rainy Day Crossroad Blues

Your best friend is: Closer Every Day

Your favorite color is: White Sun

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Black Water

What is life to you: Dangerous

What is the best advice you have to give: Don’t Be Afraid

If you could change your name, what would it be: Mamaloi

Your favorite food is: South of the Border

How I would like to die: Dedicate This Heart

My soul's present condition: Echoes of Love

What are you going to post this as: What a Fool Believes

Now it is your turn---

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Theology according to “Saving Grace”

If you haven’t watched “Saving Grace” on TNT, it is an interesting spin on God and his relationship to us. This message is often conveyed through an angel named Earl. The premise of the series is that God sent an angel who offers a jaded Oklahoma City police detective (Grace Hanadarko) the chance to redeem her life following a drunk driving accident in which she kills someone. Her character is extremely flawed, which is why I guess I can relate to her so well. I don’t always agree with the theology expounded in the television program, but I often gleam some understanding through Hollywood’s feeble attempts. If nothing else, it often sparks major discussions within our household. The following scene takes place in a Jewish temple. Here is a short discussion between Earl and Grace concerning prayer.

Earl: All kind of prayers, popcorn prayers, Hebrew prayers, screamin’, cussin’, questionin’: all prayers
Grace: Prayers in here may be important, but ‘please let me score a touchdown, please help me find a parking place’ what about that crap
Earl: You don’t think God can handle the big and the small
Grace: Some dope prays for the light to turn green same time a family prays for their sick baby—light turns green baby dies—why doesn’t he save the baby?
Earl: I don’t know God makes the decisions not our desires.
Grace: Really, GOD makes the decisions?
Earl: Yes
Grace: So, ok God decides to kill 6 million jews, machete a million Africans?
Earl: God decided to give you all a choice the people who gassed 6 million Jews and Machete a million Africans made that call
Grace: But God is the decider he could have stopped them
Earl: He can do anything he wants. He could have created each one of you to worship him, but what would be the fun in that. He wants you to come to him on your own, to pray because you want to
Grace: But why would I pray to someone who stands by and does nothing when he could do everything?
Earl: Is that what you want? If God did everything then what would you do?
Grace: Dance…Laugh...same things I have always done.
Earl: Dancing has always been one of my favorite prayers.
Grace: I still don’t see the point of prayer
Earl: It prepares you to see God in any situation
Grace: I don’t feel it—not the kind of prayer you are talking about.
Earl: What do you think summoned me?

Prayer is an interesting aspect of our relationship with God. What is the point? I believe the answer actually comes from Earl “It prepares you to see God in any situation”. My prayer life was never as active as it was after Don died. Perhaps I was longing to see God in my situation perhaps I was in the cussin’, questionin’, screamin’ mode. What I learned is that we are not promised a life without struggle, difficulty, or suffering. What we ARE promised is that God will be there to see us through, so that what we go through isn’t in vain; so that we can not only see God in our situation, but we can find the strength to make it meaningful.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the Most Unlikely Places

There are times in our lives when God seeks us out, grabs our attention and causes us to assess our walk. Sometime he does this in the most unlikely of places—let’s say, for example, on a cruise ship.

On the morning of our final day at sea, Kent and I headed to the dining room for breakfast. As fate (or divine intervention) would have it, we were seated next to a couple we had enjoyed the company of the previous morning—a career Navy officer and his wife (Tom and Anne). After exchanging greetings, another couple was seated next to them. Mike and Claudia were from Ohio, newly married, and on their honeymoon.

We learned Mike was a high school history teacher and football coach. Of course I felt an instant connection (it’s a teacher thing). We talked NCLB, IEP’s, PBIS and RTI—until we realized the others, eyes glazed over, were not following our acronym saturated conversation. The converstion then turned to more general issues about education and life in general. What impressed me about Mike was his obvious passion for his vocation. You might think this is normal in young teachers, but often it isn’t the case. It wasn’t long until I sensed that his passion went beyond the classroom into the lives of his students. I was right.

Routine conversation led to the fact that my brother was a children’s pastor and my father a minister. Mike openly shared that he and Claudia fostered a small group for high school students through “Young Life”. We then began to discuss ministry and the role it played in our every day lives. The Navy officer, Tom, began to speak about the church they had left in Memphis when they moved to Maryland and how they hadn’t found anywhere to land since the move. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke of the purpose that seemed lost in his life. They had lead a Divorce Care small group in Memphis and were actively involved in their faith community, but since moving found it difficult to find a new church home. He spoke passionately of specific situations where he and his wife were able to minister to others going through the pain of divorce and how energized they had been during that time in their lives.

A fervent Mike, wanting disparately to encourage this Navy officer, shared the analogy that God was like the water flowing though a water slide. He is always there—flowing through our lives. We can either jump in and take the ride or sit on the side and simply watch the water flow. Tom responded with a grin that replaced the tears, “Seems we need to jump back in the water,” he replied.

As we stood to leave our two-hour breakfast, the standard, “Have a nice day” was replaced with, “I promise to pray for you.” WOW—right there in the middle of the Carnival Liberty dining room, God was present.

It may seem as if the Navy officer and his wife were the ones ministered to the most, but that just wasn’t the case. Each of us were ministered to, challenged and encouraged throughout the morning. My own spiritual walk had been in need of resuscitation for some time. Little did I know that God would provide the intervention my soul needed in such an unconventional way; providing a jumping IN point where I could capture, once again, a glimpse of the dream HE had for my life. It was time to redirect my actions to encompass the core values of my soul.

What did this encounter mean for me personally? It means setting new focus. leveraging my time, energy and resources (McManus). It means refusing to waste time on "stuff" that doesn't really matter and focusing on "stuff' that not only will matter today, but will have a lasting effect tomorrow. I walked away from breakfast that morning feeling more energized that I had been in a very long time.

When we got back to the cabin, I grabbed my iPod, towel and headphones then headed to the deck to grab some sun. The events of the morning freshly on my mind, I placed the earphones in my ears, hit “shuffle” on my iPod and laid my head back on the deck chair. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the song that began to play. It sealed my deal with God. Tears streaming down my face on the sun deck of the Carnival Liberty, God continued to minister...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SCUBA and Life Part II

My husband loves to SCUBA dive-it is truly one of his passions. He often teases that my willingness to become certified was a condition of marriage. I completed my certification at Crystal River in Florida not long after we started dating. It was an inland venue and though the manatees were quite awesome, the water was cold and the fish were—well—rather unattractive. It was at this point I informed my husband that if he intended for me to continue this diving business he would have to take me somewhere with warm water and pretty fish.

Fast forward two years and we sign up for two dives on our cruise through the Caribbean this past week. The closer the time came to dive, the more apprehensive I became. It had been over two years since my last dive. What if I forgot my training? What if I made a fool of myself, or worse one of Kent? What if something went terribly wrong and I didn’t know what to do? It was unmistakably clear: FEAR had its grip on me and was reluctant to let go. What “fear” failed to realize is that I am just obstinate enough to fight it. I understood it wasn’t necessary for me to be courageous—as much as it was to appear courageous.

Aboard the dive boat appearing to be calm, cool and collected, I donned my BC, regulator and tank. I strapped on what I thought to be enough weight to take me to the appropriate level to begin the dive. Hoping it would be like riding a bicycle; I jumped in with enough partial confidence to get wet. There were two impending roadblocks: #1. I wasn’t descending (not enough weight) and #2. I couldn’t clear my ears. After reaching 50 feet or so (only by pulling myself down a tow and feeling my ears push so hard into my brain that I was sure brain matter was oozing from my ears), it was apparent the dive would have to be called. I was disappointed in myself compounded with guilt that Kent would be unable to continue this dive (dive buddies stay together no matter what-at least the good ones do). When we finally reached the dive boat, shed our gear, and wiped the blood from my nose; I sat pensively.

When I am disappointed in myself—which is far too often—I need time to contemplate, hash over in my mind what happened and seek resolution. It was the encouragement of my dive buddy and that of the dive master that finally broke my reverie assuring me many folks have to call dives for similar issues. I wasn’t a failure; I just needed to regroup and give it another shot.

I have never been known to run from adversity. I do; however, tend to step back, regroup, and even distance myself. Not this time. If I was going to continue to be a SCUBA diver, I HAD to go on the next dive. I had to overcome the fear and press on.

Guided by the dive master, I added several more pounds to my weight belt. Stepping off the back of the boat with cautious confidence—down I went, gently clearing my ears with each breath. I was diving—success—at last.

Isn’t this how life’s difficulties can be at times? We intend meet them head on, but without much forethought or preparation expecting everything to go off without a hitch. We dismiss the importance of reviewing what we already know, accepting the wisdom and encouragement from friends and most of all we tend to press on without the “life Master”.

How much easier it is to navigate difficulties when we fully consider the wisdom of our past, embrace the support of those who have already walked the journey, but most of all pursue God’s leading in our circumstance. That’s when we triumph over adversity. That’s when we realize life is not about us. That’s when our reward is crystal clear, blue water and pretty fish.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marsha's Cruise Tips

This will begin a series of several post concerning our cruise. Some of them will provide practical information, some short vignettes and some musings from aboard the Carnival Liberty 2009.
will….” or “next time I won’t….”. This time I decided to make a list of Marsha’s Cruise Tips:

• Boat Drill: GO LATE, seriously wait about 20 minutes before going to your muster station. IF you don’t you will be stuck in the back of an extremely hot group of grumpy people with HOT lifejackets on. Save yourself the grief and be fashionably late.
• Get a cabin with a balcony if at all possible. I know you say you won’t be in the cabin that much, but it makes all the difference in the world when you are there.
• If you want good food all week—just plan on eating every meal in the dining room. This is one area that has really declined since my last cruise three years ago. The “Lido” deck buff
I have been on three cruises, but this was Kent’s first. Every time I go, I always say “next time I et style food was mediocre at best. They do have 24-hour pizza that’s pretty good, but the food in the dining room is always great.
• Buy only ONE soda card to share per two people. You might have to be a little sneaky passing the card back and forth, but it saves bucks.
• Don’t buy all those photos taken by the ship’s professionals. They are really expensive. Just buy one as a souvenir and take snapshots. Candid pictures will mean more anyway.
• Go to dinner the first evening about 10 minutes late. This will save you the hassle of the first night cattle call/find your table mess. Just wait and walk right in—fashionably late again.
• Room service is complementary—so take some empty Ziplock baggies with you in your suitcase and on days that you have shore excursions order pbj’s, fruit, chips for breakfast from room service and take them with you for the shore excursion.
• In Jamaica, don’t leave the boat too early for your excursion. You only need about 15 minutes and if you get there earlier you wait in a REALLY hot building.
• Remember that the shore excursions are reasonably priced comparatively, but what you get by booking them through the cruise is that you are covered under the cruise insurance (huge benefit if you dive) and the boat won’t leave without you if you happen to be late.
• Don’t forget to take cash (esp. small bills) with you on excursions for tips or emergencies.
• For those of you who enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage—according to our table mates they NEVER buy alcohol on the ship. Apparently, they bring their own—checked bags are never “checked”, so a little bubble-wrap protects the product and you’re set for the week.
• Remember you don’t have to do everything and doing nothing is doing something—at least on a cruise.
• If you don’t enjoy meeting other people, interacting with other people, sharing life for a week with interesting folks from around the world—find another vacation a cruise just wouldn’t be your “cup of tea”. On the other hand if you enjoy people a cruise can be the best vacation ever.

Feel free to add things I may have overlooked or forgotten.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

In Loving Memory...

Margaret "Mamaw" Ellen Abla went to be with her Lord Sunday July 5, 2009. She was loved passionately and will be greatly missed.

Here is the obituary for the newspaper. It is rather impersonal, but a more personal picture of "Mamaw" is forthcoming.

Margaret Ellen Abla, 89, left this world to be with her Lord Sunday the 5th of July, 2009 at Mckinley Court Nursing Home. “Mamaw’s” final days were spent surrounded by the family and friends whose lives she had touched in many ways.

Margaret was born in Lamar, Colorado to Ross and Maggie Curry, she was one of six children. In 1937, she married Glen Abla and began her life of ministry in the Church of the Nazarene. Following their retirement, Margaret made her home in Denver, Colorado. She moved to Decatur in 2003 where she was a joy to those fortunate enough to have shared her life.

She was a member of First Church of the Nazarene. Margie enjoyed family gatherings, shopping, discussing politics and Monical’s Pizza. Her love for the Lord was evident by her dedication to the ministry and her love for those around her. “Mamaw’s” smile often lit up a room, especially when sharing one of her many stories about her life as a pastor’s wife and evangelist.

A celebration of the life of Margaret Abla will be held at the Decatur First Church of the Nazarene 7:00pm Tuesday evening with visitation one hour before the service from 6-7.

“Mamaw” has left many memories to be treasured by her beloved children Edwin Abla, his wife Janice of Decatur, her daughter Sharon Miller and husband Bill of Parker, Colorado. Her memory will also be cherished by her grandchildren Marsha Cuttill-Price, Marc Abla, Evan Abla, Scott Miller, Lauren Miller, Lindsay Miller and Michael Miller along with her many loving great-grandchildren and friends.

The family appreciates your continued prayers and support. They request any memorials made in honor of Margaret Abla be contributed to Compassionate Ministries, Decatur First Church of the Nazarene.