Put on notice.

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280There is a distinct difference between a whistle-blower and horn-blower.  A whistle-blower, as current events has shown all too poignantly, has more to do with drawing attention to others, usually carrying with it negative connotations.  A horn-blower has to do with promoting one’s self, also with ironically negative connotations, at least with one’s peers. 

Except that there are a few finer nuances with blowing one’s own horn (ask me how I know this).  One category, in fact, has to do with a type self-promotion in the eyes of others that can be done in ways so subtle as to even disguise itself from the one actually doing it!  Another Continue reading “Put on notice.”

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Just say it

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Face it, there are just some things we don’t like to admit.

I think I’m getting pretty good at the phrase, “I’m sorry”.  If something goes wrong, I just kind of figure it’s probably my fault.  There’s an art to apologizing and I’ve had plenty of practice. 

I’m also quite adept at “no”, as in, “I can’t accommodate what you want me to do at this time.”  That just has to do with personal boundaries and allocation of resources, also a finely honed skill. 

Possibly near to the top of the list of difficult things to say is Continue reading “Just say it”

“I’m bleedin’, Burt!”

wood 2That title is from It’s a Wonderful Life, and maybe this Christmas I can get my family to watch it with me (but I doubt it.) Regardless, Friday is “pizza and a movie” night at the Jones’ home.  Homemade whole wheat crust (it makes you actually use your teeth) with several toppings, including my own “special” sauce, freshly-picked herbs from the garden and two or three different cheeses.

In our division of labor when it comes to pizza, I do the cooking, the family does the eating.  Occasionally, I get a bit happy with the sharp things, and am currently typing this with a finger bandaged tightly to stem the flow.  But the pizza was superb (if I do say so myself) and life goes on…

With little incidents like this, we generally just chalk it up to that “life-goes-on” thing, but in the deeper scope of that life, pain creates a conundrum on a spiritual plane that must be addressed.

Some think of only two options when it comes to pain and God: a) He may be good, but not all-powerful, or He would stop this nonsense, or b) He may be all powerful, but He must not be good, because He allows this nonsense to continue.

Others far smarter with many letters behind their names have tackled this one, throughout the millennia, in fact.  I’m a bit less distinguished (hey, I have a nursing degree, does that count??) but even in my puny mind there’s got to be more than that when considering the Divine!  In my profession, we tend to have our patients rate pain on a scale from one to ten, one being a hangnail, and ten being childbirth—okay, that’s just my definition, but we do even have one for children:

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Photo credit: http://www.chongholee.com

Few believers would throw away their faith on #3, but let’s face it, it gets a bit more tempting as the scale continues.  Then there are those who don’t even bother themselves with it, since (a) and (b) seem to have it covered.

To say that pain disproves the existence of a biblical God seems a bit shallow, and a bit of a cop-out really, accepted by a heart that has been beaten down with bitterness and disappointment and excruciating, heart-bending agony.  What if our pain is actually a clue to His existence and the reality of what His Word says about life, and love, and the eternity that is “written in the hearts of men”?  What if pain is telling us that what is happening is not right, was not originally meant to be?  After all, we don’t exist in a vacuum, and to not care about pain tends to define the sociopath.   At the end of the day, I have to allow for mystery, even disquieting mystery surrounding pain.

So how can I be faithful to a God I do not fully understand?  And yet, how could I worship a God that I do fully understand?  I posit that it’s not actually an issue of understanding; it’s about trust.  God does give me sufficient understanding so that I can trust Him in the things that I don’t understand.  Besides, a disciple isn’t called to always know the what’s or why’s of his master, and even the best of friends aren’t automatically privy to the heart of one another. bandaid

Thankfully, when I’m bleeding, He gives me more than a bandaid. 

(Hey!  That’s a good title for yet another post!)

Providential mathematics (or, holy ‘rithmatic)

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My dad is a mechanical engineer, a P.E. to be exact, and those from engineering schools will understand what that means.  I grew up with T-squares, and triangles, and old Boilermaker bookcovers from the 50’s.  Dad’s been retired for years, but that part of his huge legacy lives on in me, (as well as my brother, also an M.E. from Purdue, who coined the phrase, “may the Great Rhombus bend your straightedge”.) Dad, in his own brand of jocularity, once told me I could go to any university of my choosing as long as it was Purdue, and could be anything I wanted, as long as it was an engineer. slide-rule-332493_1280

HA!  Good try, Dad.  I have yet to experience a yearning for calculus.

That’s the context; here’s the story:

Mom and Dad, being the wonderful parents they were to four teenagers, were attending the Continue reading “Providential mathematics (or, holy ‘rithmatic)”

#QuietTime In #NewYorkCity

(“…one of these things is not like the other….”)

I have noticed that if I am going to be outside in the garden, I must apply myself to the task of becoming “acclimated”.  Heat, sweat, cold, rain, bugs—they are all part of the “outside” experience, and I will make appropriate (and sometimes creative and/or humorous) adjustments and provisions according my level of commitment.

I have layered on the clothing to go out in the early pre-dawn hours, even before the birds wake up, when it’s only in the 40’s or so.  This means long johns (to preserve my heat) and steaming hot tea in a pump thermos (to preserve the tea’s heat).  I have used so much bug spray that I’m thankful I am no longer of childbearing age.  I have set up a fan in the corner of the patio and even purchased an adjustable umbrella for when it’s hot, and when that isn’t enough, can be seen festooning said umbrella with kitchen towels draped strategically to provide shade from the inconvenient angle of the sun.  There is just something healing and healthy for me when it comes to spending sizable quantities of time out of doors, and I consider it a bit of an adventure to finds ways to fulfill this need.

One weekend I was visiting my daughters in New York City. One of them had graciously found a studio apartment for myself and her sister, Jessica, who had flown in from Los Angeles. This delightful little domicile was located within one of the tiniest of NYC buildings, which means it was only seven or eight stories high. (In my town, the tallest building is maybe four stories, and is itself dwarfed only by the local grain elevator.) I was very thankful for the accommodations, and mildly amused that it was right next to a similar building that sported a huge “Hell’s Angels” sign outside—no one in their right mind would bother us that night!  At any rate, since Jessie is not a morning person, I was determined to find a slice of time to myself in the quiet of dawn.  But does such a thing exist in the “city that never sleeps?”  Early in the morning, my Bible and I found ourselves determinately mounting the several flights of stairs to the rooftop, a place, I have come to learn, which is frequented by the veteran city dwellers due to the lack of space elsewhere.  Sitting at a table that faced the Empire State Building, I could feel the occasional rumble of the subway far below, but even so the relative quiet and solitude was blissful.  That is, until it started to rain.  Not a typical Midwestern downpour, mind you, but a New York City drizzle, just enough to dampen my expectations, as well as my T-shirt.  Looking around for suitable protection (mostly for the book more than for myself), I found an old blanket and threw it over myself, just enough so I could stay up on that peaceful outdoor rooftop a few minutes longer. 

Creative resiliency is also an important aspect of our relationship with God.  When we embark on our journey with Christ, He forewarns us that a certain “acclimation” is to be expected:

  • The rumble of life under our feet, the sprinkles and downpours of sorrows and disappointments, are all part of staying in the game and embracing the identity that He provides. It is comforting to know that, regardless of how we feel, we are never alone in this adventure. There are those who have gone before us, and there are those who will experience the same things after us, and in it all, God has promised that He is with us, and will never, ever leave us alone. (1)
  • Sometimes it takes creativity to believe in what possible goodness lies beyond what we can presently see (it’s called faith), or creativity to imagine that God has options we are not even aware of (it’s called trust), or creativity to rearrange and manage our lifestyles to spend time just getting to know Him better so we can increase our faith and trust, (it’s called an alarm clock…) If anyone needs a little nudge of encouragement in this direction, check out the account of a guy named Gideon. (2)
  • We douse on the bug spray of wisdom and obedience which certainly makes us less attractive to the world’s ways, and sometimes doesn’t particularly smell so great to us either, at least at first sniff. This “world-repellant” comes in the form of doing what God says for us to do, (obedience is very activity oriented), and will probably afford us less popularity, less attention, but will also mean fewer uncomfortable bites! The sting of personal/spiritual/moral compromise is worth avoiding at all costs. (3)
  • Sometimes God even sends His angels in the most unusual and unexpected forms, like big bikers with tattoos (gotta love ‘em!) to ward off my would-be attackers, or an old cast-away blanket to protect God’s words and promises that have been written on the pages of my heart from smearing off in life’s rain. (4) 

Being outside isn’t always easy.  In Missouri, they say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.  But it is well worth the effort to be surrounded by God’s creation, and even more so be surrounded by God’s graceful plan for our lives. 

So grab your cap, and your can of Deet, and let’s get going! 

  • Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 12:1,2
  • Judges 6 and 7 (One of my favorites!! I have to meet this guy in heaven!)
  • Proverbs 8:1-14
  • Proverbs 4:23, Hebrews 1:14 and Hebrews 2:1

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Life in the Recycled Bin

I love recycled things.  Most of my clothing is secondhand in some way.  Of course, when you have an inseam of 35”, it’s a little tough to find things at the mall like “normal” people do anyway.  That, plus the fact that frugality of budget is something I grew up with, so I turn to others’ castoffs to find my own brand of style. 

Here is my secondhand dog. IMG_20150220_160039564 His name is Buckley, the Mighty  Wonder Buck for short.  We found him at the local pound not long after he had been picked up and deposited there by the police.  He has nosed his way into our home and hearts.

This is a project from the Hobby Club that I’m a part of. IMG_20150222_071947978 Living in a small town, I do not have easy access to some of the different “ingredients” for the projects, so—that’s right.  Let’s find what I have and make it work!  (Or at least try it…!)  My NYC artist daughter made this cup as one of her first pottery projects in college.  Its newly recycled life is as a scented candle.

Quilting goes way back.  It’s a fine American artwork borne of necessity.  Why waste fabric if it could be turned into something useful for the family?  These two quilts have significance to me.  One is called the Crown of Thorns, quiltand the other is the Flying Goose pattern (my husband’s nickname is Goose.  Goes waaaayyy back.)IMG_20150131_120625791

I also have enjoyed making old-fashioned grandma booties.  Every scrap of yarn is recycled in some way.  Sometimes the yarn is “just leftovers”, sometimes it is unraveled from other projects that have been deemed damaged goods, excess baggage, or just no longer useful.  But they’re warm and fuzzy, like a nice hug for your feet. IMG_20150222_145722424_HDR

It’s all just a reminder that  this is exactly what Jesus does for us—taking what is otherwise damaged and despised, and turning it into something fabulous and functional.  So next time you feel your life is unraveling, trust it to the Master’s capable and creative hands!

And you might just get your socks blessed off!

The Mighty Wonder Buck

The Mighty Wonder Buck is learning at a fairly enjoyable rate.  The other day I was able to take him to a newly refurbished town park and actually let him off the leash!  I call the park “refurbished” because it has been closed for 20-plus years, and has recently been reopened by the efforts of mountain-bike enthusiasts who have teamed up with the city to make some sizeable improvements.  This particular park is a largely wooded area, fenced in by ancient barbed wire (of questionable efficacy), and includes the boundaries of the historic Deepwood Cemetery (established 1869), an active railroad track, and grazing cattle on one side and fairly impressive bluffs on the other. Various parts of the park lay under water when it rains, or is at best soft and muddy for days afterward. The biking/hiking path that has been transposed upon this small sample of local geography winds its way through a small creek (three times) as it takes the participant up, down, over, and through woods and rocks on what is mostly hard pack hidden by leaves and punctuated by tree roots.

In other words, it’s hilariously fun!

And especially fun if you’re a dog like Buckley, with Labrador blood coursing through your canine veins.  Once he and I reached the park, walked over the sturdy wooden bridge, and hiked back into the woods to the fork in the path, I just had to venture taking him off the leash.  He had his multiple identification tags jingling on his very secure collar, so at least if he did run off, some kind soul might be able to expedite his return.  The sound of his tags also gave me some assurance of his whereabouts.

And off he did go!  Dog heaven!  What a joy, a real joy, to see the Buck do what he was created to do—run!  What an athlete!  What grace and agility!  All of his senses were keenly engaged in this outdoor environment, and he was absolutely loving it, absolutely loving life at this very moment.

There were, however, a few things to consider.  For starters, it was very important that he learn to stay clear and on this side of the fence.  The barbed wire was dangerous, and even though Buckley was well able to squeeze through and back again, it would eventually cause him harm, even without him knowing it at first.  That night at home, in fact, it was my husband that noticed the Buck had been bleeding from some thankfully superficial lacerations to his underbelly, obviously procured when slipping through the fence.  Thankfully, also, it only took twice for me to give the command concerning the fence; the third time, as he approached it, Buck looked at me, and when issued the “no”, he obediently took off in the other, safer, direction, thus sparing himself further harm, even though he might not as yet been cognizant of the self-injury he had already inflicted.  Good choice!

Secondly, as I walked along the path, very consistently staying on my predictable course with my predictable speed, (which is considerably slower than my dog’s), I occasionally called for Buckley to come to me, purposefully interrupting his activity and calling for his interests to acquiesce to mine.  This willingness to be immediately obedient is extremely important if a dog is to be trusted off the leash.  And my consistency on the path is important for him to feel safe, knowing where I am at all times.  He is allowed to range freely, but only within the sound of my voice.

These two thoughts bring me to a clearer understanding of our dealings with God, as our Shepherd and personal Handler:

  • First, we must learn to recognize and accept the boundaries that God has for us, since they are for our good and protection. We may think that we can squeeze “through the fence” and back again at will and remain unscathed, but we delude ourselves. Eventually, the lacerations from the barbed wire of sinful choices will become apparent, and sometimes to others before they are even clear to ourselves.  We must be responsive to God’s loving “no”, and turn to enjoy the full expanse of the area He has provided for us to enjoy, rather than seeking what He has wisely forbidden.
  • Secondly, Jesus walks a consistent path of love. His truth is knowable; His commands are not burdensome and His assistance is always immediately available. Around this path He graciously gives us much room to range and explore, as long as we stay within the sound of His voice and come immediately when called, even at what we first perceive to be our own inconvenience.  Just as I would reward Buck with a small treat simply for obeying, which is in itself the true lesson, and send him on his way again, so God is interested in our obedience for obedience’s sake, for He knows the success of all other assignments rests on this imminently important life skill with Him.  We must become trustworthy to His Voice.

As with many progressive community movements, certain “improvements” preclude other freedoms.  This particular park is no longer open to dogs not on leashes.  As a recreational cyclist myself, and based on the level of cycling difficulty with the pathways in this one area, I not only understand, but sorrowfully acquiesce.  That is, Buckley and I just don’t go there anymore.  In its place, however, we have found a private area that has creek paths, fallen trees, and plenty of forested fun, and that without all the fences and barbed wire as much as before!  Plus, now that Buck has proven himself to respond to my voice and command, he has increased space to explore his talents.

Perhaps that’s what God has in mind for us also…

#dogs #Godsvoice #fences

(excerpt from God Loves Dogs, by Dawn Jones)