Still pouring….

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There’s a small(er) town near here with water that, um…smells.  Water isn’t really supposed to taste, much less smell, at least in my thinking.  I would go on record by warning anyone who visits this place to definitely not buy a fountain drink in town.  I am told that our town used to have water-plus also.  Sometime in the semi-recent past, the town fathers decided to go with something called “third-stage water treatment”.  I don’t know what that means, and although I still like to have bottled water in the house when we have guests, I’m definitely okay with drinking our H2O for myself, especially after visiting our little neighbor a few miles away.  Water of course, even the odiferous kind, is life-sustaining. Perspective, I guess.

Water is an apt comparison that Isaiah uses when he speaks of “pouring out that with which you sustain your own life”, as mentioned in last the couple of blogs.  We have important talents and experiences and qualities that help make us who we are, and we need to unafraid to share those when the opportunities arise.  But here’s an additional thought:

Lest I think Isaiah’s encouragement is giving me carte blanche for making my big splash in the world, a cautionary note is in order.  It can be quite tempting, after identifying  what seems to be a special talent or personal  “pearl”, to allow (or even worse, promote) myself as the focus in the situation.  I love the account of Peter and John after Jesus had risen, hung out for a few days and then returned home.  These two newly renewed men were walking into the temple when they saw a beggar, lame and sitting by the building asking for money.   Now lots of us grew up with the Sunday school song that was Peter’s reply, “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And the end result was pretty cool.

But what a lot of us old time Sunday-schoolers might have missed, is actually the first thing Peter said to the beggar.  He said,

“Look at us!”

After which, he proceeded with the other words (although I doubt that he sang them….)  My point is this—the reason for any attention being on me is not about me, at all.  I may have the best tasting, thirst quenching water ever created, but the water itself belongs to the One who created it; in fact, to put it succinctly, Jesus calls Himself the “living water.”  Now, I am to allow myself to be “seen”, which speaks to a certain level of vulnerability of course, but this personal visibility is to be immediately reflected upon God, who alone knows how to utilize the gifts He so wisely puts within us.

So, yeah, bottoms up!

Pigs and Pearls

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Having just referred to St. Aug’s comment re: “men’s souls hang on your gifts” and quoting the prophet Isaiah about pouring out “that with which you sustain your own life to feed the hungry and to satisfy the need of the afflicted”, Jesus’ somewhat uncomplimentary metaphor warning us to “not cast your pearls before swine” seems, at first glance, a bit harsh to our 21st century sensibilities.  No doubt, it was to 1st century ears also, particularly considering the religious and social context of the day.

Here’s how I unpack it—

A short take: Everyone has influence, period.  Everyone has a “hidden congregation” that’s watching and learning.  They need what you have to give, which makes each of us responsible for finding out just what that is, and start giving it, even if we don’t know who “they” are yet.  However, pearls take many years to form, and are an organic result of an irritation inside the shell.  Therefore, they are more fragile than, say, a diamond.   Which means you have gifts (sometimes born of inconvenience, irritation, or downright pain) that you might not even be aware of yet, experiences that others need, talents gained, hardships overcome.  Jesus considers these things precious when placed under His care, and He knows who needs them.

Secondly, since they are precious (and admittedly, sometimes fragile), these gifts must be respected and treated with care.  This is where heavenly wisdom is sorely needed.  I see young teenagers giving their hearts and bodies away before they can barely read and write coherently.  I see parents wasting their children’s childhood on drugs and alcohol, or on too many meetings at work (or church!) In these ways and more, pearls are crushed under muddy hooves.

And just a tangent thought: Jesus’ “casting pearls” comment also appears somewhat paradoxical, when compared with the whole “give up your life to find it” idea.  That is one of the many things I love about the Bible.  Like David Limbaugh so endearingly puts it in his book, Jesus on Trial, the paradoxes, the seeming contradictions in the Bible, are invitations to dig deeper to resolve them and thus, far from smashing our faith against the rocks of unanswered questions…

… they serve to help us walk on the water more confidently with Him who holds our hands.

If….then

Choices…consequences.  If I eat too much chocolate, then I get fat(ter).  If I pull the car into the garage too fast like my husband has repeatedly warned me against, then I rip off the mirror, busting the window into a gazillion shards of glass, costing us hundreds of dollars, and having to call my husband to tell him that I pulled the car into the garage too fast…again.  You know, things like that.

We live and breathe if/then’s.  Of course, we’re in good company–even our stone age ancestors had to learn that fire was good in some ways…and not so good in others.

Here’s one of my fave’s that’s really worth chewing on.  It’s a quote from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 Amplified Bible)

What do I sustain myself, my very heart and soul with?  Okay, money is always a good indicator about where our hearts are, and I’m in total agreement that no matter how little one has, some of it has to be given away to help someone else.  But how about the other things “with which I sustain myself”?

A big one for me is time.  Is my life so full of chores and projects and responsibilities that I don’t have time to pause and listen to a friend in need? Or is a child’s hug somehow an interruption?

Another one is talent and personal skill set.  Can you make music? Sing? Build a wall (or a new drum “cage”, as the case may be in our church)?  Can you make people laugh?  Cook?  Okay, maybe these aren’t the things with which you bring home the bacon, but not everything of true value is recognized on Wall Street.

I think it was St. Augustine that said “men’s souls hang on your gifts”.  Jesus, Himself, warns us not to bury what He has given us, but to invest it wisely.  IF we pour out (not dribble, by the way) these things to help those in need–not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, relationally–THEN our own personal clouds begin to dissipate as well.  Interesting paradox, this whole “losing my life to find it” thing.

If I get up at 3:30AM to write this post, then I’ll probably need to sleep in.  Good thing it’s Saturday….

NIghty night……….dawnlizjones

So who needs GPS??



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Our middle daughter was interested in cartography even as a young adolescent. She loves travel, and I suppose that has fueled her love of maps. She would sit in the back seat with the Rand McNally or AAA or some other paper route open in her lap while her sisters were typically reading or sleeping as the old family car rolled merrily down the interstate on one of our many long road trips. That was, of course, somewhat before the days of ubiquitous GPS cell phones which, even at this writing, her father and I have yet to own.
IMG_20150314_102847650_HDRMy husband’s usual position was in the driver’s seat (traditional, right?) and if we were lost, his usual position was to stubbornly plod ahead instead of “wasting time” by asking for directions (typical, right?). Bob has on numerous occasions referred to the “map in his head” and is incredulous that I clearly don’t possess such a gift. I imagine that growing up as one of four boys, and having three daughters and no sons of his own hasn’t helped that perception much. Nevertheless, I am usually content to be a passenger/navigator.
Of course, then there was the time we were coming home from yet another family vacation/reunion somewhere out West, New Mexico as the story goes. We had a suburban full of girls (nieces included) winding our way toward our Missouri home when, somewhere in the Oklahoma panhandle, my beloved pilot misinterpreted his psychic guidance signal (as well as the signage in a small town). Ten miles down the road, we were met with a billboard welcoming us to…

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                                            COLORADO?!?

Okay, in his defense the signs on the town square to which our highway had led us were numerous and confusing, and most importantly, no expletives escaped his lips, even when after stopping the car to turn around, the engine wouldn’t start. Shades of the Twilight Zone…
Many have liken life to a journey, an adventure, a road, all carrying with the metaphor a sense of moving, preferably forward. It bears worth repeating, (because God repeats it many times in various ways), that for the Christian, not only are we very susceptible to untoward detours, but we are even more so provided with ways back onto the right path. Consider:

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Just as road signs can become jumbled and confusing, what we expect to be signposts and guiding arrows in life can let us down. A personal mentor leads us astray, a trusted relationship is not as trustworthy as we once thought, a spiritual hero falls off the pedestal. Before we realize it, we may be in the wrong moral lane and miss our turn off. Our cause and effect expectations of “if-I-do-this-then-this-will-follow” don’t pan out as promised. Promised? By whom? Perhaps this is the first question to answer, and answer with uncompromising (if not painful) integrity.
• Then, getting past the blaming game, which is simply another way the Enemy helps us to waste valuable time, we must move on to fixing the situation. Time does not wait for us to have a pity party. This reminds me of another little family holiday when traveling a familiar way to see loved ones at Christmas. It was the way we usually went, but unbeknownst to us this particular passage over the railroad track was out of service and someone had prematurely removed the crossing barrier. Of course, it was covered with snow, so if anything looked out of sorts, it was adequately hidden. As in the past, we innocently started to drive over the crossing, only to get stuck about three feet from the track! (Same car, by the way.) There was a train scheduled to roll down this way, and so time was of the essence. Similarly, we should never waste time getting back on God’s road, even if it seemingly wasn’t our “fault” for getting off in the first place.
• The first step in finding our way back to the correct road is to admit

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we’re on the wrong road. Our Father, Who loves us dearly, has many creative, oftentimes humorous, but certainly provoking ways of getting our attention. Some may be as large as the billboard announcing our arrival across state lines heading back toward the Rockies! Some may be more subtle. But God knows how to speak our language, whatever it may be. Our part is to pay attention, to listen, and to be honestly wanting His direction. Or at least wanting to want His direction. One of my personal favorites is from Isaiah: “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

• It is to be expected that, the second we even consider the possibility that we are going the wrong direction and seek to recalculate our bearings, there will be opposition from an Enemy that will throw everything he can in our way. Just like our old car refusing to start after Bob pulled over to confirm where we were and how to get back, when we realize a change is needed, frustration, agitation, and fear are ready to open the flood gates for discouragement, doubt, and spiritual malaise. As difficult as it may be, getting back on track must be accomplished. Summoning all the resources that are made available to us, there is nothing more important at this juncture that to be on the road with God. If Bob had ignored the road sign, we would have ended up in the Pacific, rather than back home in Missouri. Even if it meant calling a tow truck, we must go the other way!
• Which brings up another thought. My husband was not the only one in the car, going the wrong way. He had the six of us girls with him, poor lad. (Anyone who has ever road tripped with women can fill in the blanks on this one…) This is important to consider in that since he was at the helm, we were somewhat effected by his navigational decisions. If this doesn’t strike a little fearful respect into leadership, then the followers should be forewarned! In other words, making sure our road is God’s road isn’t just about “me”.
• It was helpful in our case to backtrack from where we were to where we got off track and go from there. That might not always be the case in life, but it does present a potential option in some circumstances. What was the first wrong turn? And therefore, what can I do to prevent THAT from happening again? Do I need a more readable map? Do I compare the map with the road signs? Or (as is sometimes to my discredit in the passenger seat) do I need a better navigator to interpret the map with the road signs? It is said that knowledge is power, and prevention is very powerful knowledge indeed.
• Even if the car won’t start again, or the bridge is out the way we came, one thing about this journey with God: there is always, always, a way back to Him. All we have to do is to look down the road toward Him, and we will begin to realize that He is already looking at us, and always has been. The way back may not be easy, but with Him, it will be sure.
It was really good to pull into our driveway, even after (especially after) our little detour. Thankfully, the old car started up after a brief rest on the side of the road at the Colorado border.
And no tow truck was necessary (well, this time anyway).

(1) Isaiah 30:21(NASB)

And speaking of new tricks for old dogs…..

My first Hobby Club bread.
My first Hobby Club bread.

One of my New Yorker daughters signed me up for a Hobby Club, hosted by one of her work buddies, Tyler Riewer.  (That’s rEE-ver, for the uninformed, a very nice Germanic name, very much unlike Jones, which is so common as to be utterly boring…more on that another time.)  Mr. Riewer’s Hobby Club gives all the members a chance to experiment with new and different activities, one for each month of 2015.  Included on his website (check it out—it’s really fun!) are instructions for each undertaking after which we are invited to post our Instagram photos so we can all enjoy laughing at ourselves and each other.

This month of January, we delve into the floury depths of breadmaking.  Now, this is not an altogether unexplored territory for me, since I already make most of our own bread for health reasons anyway, whole wheat, no salt, no white refined sugar, all that.  But what this club is doing is taking the breadmaking art to a new level for me—they actually expect me to use (gulp!) measuring cups and a receipe!

What Mr. Riewer doesn’t know is that Instagram is, in itself, a new and different activity for me.  As are  many of the other cultural changes that have come about secondary to the birth of the internet.  I have embraced a somewhat love/hate relationship with the web, for example, but I suppose each new discovery and invention presents its own opportunities for good or bad.  Kind of like money, or guns, or parental authority; it’s all about the choices of those that use it.

But some things do not change, at least for me.  Like the joy of seeing my grandchild, (even if it is only on a video chat instead of in person).  Like the sound of football on in the family room.  And of course, like the smell of fresh bread baking on a cold January day.  ‘Nuf said.   I need to go make that baguette.

Thanks, Mr. Riewer!

Mom for Hire

Self-explanatory...
Self-explanatory…

Posted: MOM FOR HIRE, used but in acceptable condition.  Still capable of giving unwanted advice, making you wear a hat in the cold, and generally being an embarrassment in public. Does not do windows.  Inquire below–

That title is almost as pretentious as tagging myself as a “writer” in the new facebook page that still trying to link to this site!  But if so, it’s probably of little consequence, due to the nature of the blogosphere.  It’s not like being in high school when you had to read something and do a book report (I wonder if they still do that??)  And I know that this post is mere nano-particle in a galaxy of worm holes and flashy comets (yes, I was a Star Trek fan back in the day–the original version, to be clear.)

And yet, there is something to be said about starting my twenties by having three babies and ending that decade with selling Girl Scout cookies while putting their father through grad school.  (I.U.-Bloomington, go big red!)  My thirties were filled with prepubescence and flaming adolescence, braces, sporting events, and the task of helping the girls “find themselves”.  That’s right, we have no sons, and I was informed that our house rules were “strict” by their friends’ parents’ standards.  My home became know as “the Convent” and I was nicknamed (affectionately, I hope) “Mother Superior”.  

Forty-something was the transitioning from a full house to my little goslings flying off to college one at a time.  I remember the night of my actually “empty nest” experience.  Our baby girl, Heather, was on her way out the door for her first night in her new dorm room.  Now granted, all the girls spent their first two years of collegiate existance at the small college where their dad is a prof.  Basically, down the street and around the corner.  But still, this was a bit of a milestone…at least for me!  Goodbye hugs, etc. No more Boom Boxes competing on different levels of the house.  No more choir concerts, band concerts, and various awards ceremonies at the high school.  No more prom dresses, monthly allowances, or staying up waiting from someone to make it home by curfew.  Wow.

The college starts their year like most, in August.  Here in southern Missouri, August is not the most pleasant month, unless you’re a tropical iguana.  Naturally, Heather’s dorm was un-airconditioned, and she was living (as I recall) on the third floor.  It wasn’t long (a few hours, max) before I picked up the phone for a request to bring herself and two or three of her new friends “home” to spend that night in the cooler air. 

The empty nest can be a bit overrated anyway…

People tend to refer to life stages as “seasons.”  My life is better described as “spasms”.  I am now in my mid-fifties, gray-er, somewhat more experienced.  I have grown to appreciate my parents, who are now in their 80’s, and the humor through which they process life.  I have grown to value my past struggles and mistakes, and embrace whatever God has for me (and my family) for the future.  

So that.  If you are over-heating in life, or even if not, I invite you to join my blog-nest, thoughts (and responses) from a well-used mother, from my home to yours.    —-    dawnlizjones