Tuesday, December 25, 2007

All I want for Christmas is skepticism

Atheism seemed quite popular in 2007. Millions of people bought books and read web site authors who think that faith is some kind of mass delusion, and religion is for the weak-willed or stupid. So many people in this world are skeptical (some are downright hostile) towards people of faith.

On Gerry Charlotte Phelps's web site, guest blogger Rubel Shelly flips this thinking around, and makes the case that faith is skepticism of the world:
Faith's view of this world is strangely skeptical. No, more than that. It is a posture of unequivocal distrust leading to rejection! When the world recites its mantras - you matter only if you are beautiful, the most important thing is money, winning is everything, Look Out for Number One - faith protests them all.
Read the whole thing here.

You may have found every earthly thing you wished for under the tree today. And that's wonderful. But don't let those things be the source of your happiness, or define the quality of your life even for a moment. Because remember, in one moment they could be gone.

Be skeptical of what the world values. Seek out the gifts our Father gives, and "let Christmas deny the hold of this world on your heart".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Letting Go

I picked this up somewhere, and it was just what I needed. Author unknown.

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God,
Because God is my friend.

But then, instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help,
With ways that were my own.

At last, I snatched them back and cried,
"How can You be so slow?"
"My child," God said, "what could I do?
You never did let go."

He wants to help. Let Him.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanks, but...

...I want more.

A while back I picked up a movie I had never heard of from the bargain bin at the pharmacy. I'm not recommending you see it, because it's kinda vulgar. I'm not even sure why I bought it. But I felt the urge to watch it again last night and I remembered that even trashy movies can contain life lessons.

It's about a woman who wanted to be famous. In the course of getting famous she also got a bunch of stuff she didn't know she wanted but was glad to get, including a loving husband who believed in her. She also got a few things she surely didn't want - a severely handicapped child, then cancer.

Her way of praying was to go to a specific tree in a city park and look through the tree's branches to "Him" up in the sky. She went to her tree to ask Him for advice, to bargain with Him, to scream in anger at Him. And when she had all that she ever wanted, she boldly asked Him for more. In my opinion, she wasn't being selfish or ungrateful. She was acting on a belief that she had the right to ask for anything.

I haven't always believed that. Even now I sometimes hesitate to ask God for what I want because my life is already so wonderful. I slip back into "zero-sum" thinking...that there is only so much good stuff to go around, so if I get the next thing I ask for then something has to be taken away (from me or someone else).

But that's not how God is. He wants to give us what we desire, as long as it is good for us and within His plan for our lives. He wants us to ask Him for anything.

So be grateful every day for what God has given you. But don't be afraid to ask for more.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hi there Classmates!

In case anyone actually makes it here from Classmates.com...hello! While this doesn't contain everything I've done in the last 29+ years since high school, this is a good place to get to know the "me" I have become.

And for my regular readers...I KNOW I AM BEHIND ON BLOGGING. It's been a crazy-busy-stressful couple of months. But things are good. I just got a new position at work that's kinda perfect for me. Everything I've done at work for the past decade has (hopefully) prepared me for this assignment.

More to come (I know, I ALWAYS say that).

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Confident Woman

Just started reading this today.

From Chapter Four - Seven Secrets of a Confident Woman:

Secret #1 - A confident woman knows that she is loved.
Secret #2 - A confident woman refuses to live in fear.
Secret #3 - A confident woman is positive.
Secret #4 - A confident woman recovers from setbacks.
Secret #5 - A confident woman avoids comparisons.
Secret #6 - A confident woman takes action.
Secret #7 - A confident woman does not live in "if only" and "what if".

So far I'm loving this book.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I love Saturdays

Especially those rare Saturdays when you have nothing really planned, and the homestead is already clean, and the laundry is already done, and you can leisurely browse the local outdoor market for a ham and cheese crepe and some pretty flowers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More good stuff from Dawn

Sorry I haven't posted much lately. It's been a busy and stressful couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to a visit from my niece and sister-in-law this weekend. And right now I have to get back to cleaning up the remnants of my kitchen and closet reorganization project - you know, those last few (hundred) things that came out of one closet or cabinet and have no obvious new place to go.

But we can always count on our friend Dawn to give us something good to read:

Ten and 1/2 Reasons to be Chaste

I particularly like Number 6 - "Be the Kind of Person You Would Want to Marry":
Before deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want that person to have a solid character. That includes possessing faith, integrity, trustworthiness, and self-control.

The fact is, like attracts like. A person with a rock-solid character is going to be attracted to someone who possesses those same qualities.
Yep, self-control. Still struggling with that one.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Timing ISN'T everything

There is also motive. And method. And the end result.

Take this sad story. A mother driving her four kids races to beat a train and almost wins. She was so focused on the train she was racing that she didn't see the other one. Her apparent motive wasn't really bad in itself. Those freight trains can be really, really long. But her method was stupid, her timing was way off, and the end result was horribly tragic.

In this case, it was the mother's conscious decision to do the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way for what she must have thought was the right reason. The kids could do nothing but go along for the ill-fated ride.

There is something going on in my life right now that, if it had been happening even just a few years ago, would have had me extremely angry and worried to the point of illness. The drivers in this scenario are people doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons in the wrong way. And while I'm just a passenger with no control over the situation, and the timing and end result are unknown, I'm OK. The worst thing that can happen to me is no big deal, and may actually end up being a blessing.

And that's because my trust isn't in those drivers, it is in God. He has proven to me again and again that His promises are true. Especially this one:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:10-12)

So I'll leave the end result and timing to Him, and not worry about it. I'll do my best to glorify Him in how I react. And I'll pray for the people in the driver's seat, that they might stop what they are doing before they hit the train.

And if they don't stop, I pray that God use me to somehow help the other victims.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Wedding cake cookies

Here's why I've been so quiet this week:

I just finished packaging the 150th cookie for my friend's wedding tomorrow. Now I just have to figure out how to get them down to my car:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dream Cruise 2007 - Getting to Barcelona

Read Previous Installment:
...brought to you by...

After months of planning it was finally time to pack and go! Five people x two checked suitcases + eight carry-ons = 18 pieces of luggage. So this is about half of it!

We left on a Monday afternoon. Our transportation to the airport got to the house right on time. We weren't really expecting a limo (we were thinking a van of some sort). But hey...we'll take the nice ride!

The thing I like least about traveling is the flying. Not the flight itself, but getting to the airport, waiting in lines, delayed flights, uncomfortable seats and lousy food. Well, on this part of the trip...we had NONE of that!

Here's where I shall institute The Donkey Ratings System. Remember my friend The Donkey? He's going to help me give you an idea how much we liked or disliked various aspects of the trip...on a scale of one to four Donkeys, four being the best. Because as that old saying goes, four donkeys are always better than one! (OK, I made that up.)

First, the limo ride. The limo was cool and the ride was quick and pleasant enough...but it was just a pain to get in and out of that vehicle. I give it 3.5 Donkeys.

Now let's talk about Air France. Our Air France experience didn't start off too great, as it took several online attempts and one kinda long phone call to confirm our seats the night before we left.

But everything else...WOW! The plane was beautiful and comfortable and there was a video monitor for each passenger! The video services available included a menu of movies and TV shows to choose from, lots of video games, and a channel which showed the flight's progress on a map. The service was spectacular. And the food! This picture of our dinner does not do it justice!

If I didn't know better, I would think that the baguette was baked in the airplane galley!

We had a bit of a delay once we landed in Paris. The airport has a lot of construction going on, and we taxi-ed about 20 minutes, then got on a bus, then through the passport desk, then through security again, then another bus and we were finally on our way for the short flight to Barcelona. FYI...the signs in the Paris airport are in French...who knew?

I can't blame Air France for the problems at the Paris airport, and the plane for the connecting flight wasn't that great, but overall I give Air France 3.5 Donkeys!

By the time we got to Barcelona, we still had about six hours which we could have used to tour some of the city, but we were just too tired. And we had a scare at the airport when it seemed that only seven of our checked bags arrived. Just as Mike was going to the line to file a claim, the rest of the bags arrived, to our great joy!

The only interesting thing we saw on the way from the airport to the ship was a cemetery built into the side of a hill. None of us got a picture, but I have since learned that the name of the cemetery is Montjuic. Barcelona looks like an interesting place. I would go back there exploring sometime.

But for now, we were happy to finally be on the ship. In the next installment, I'll tell you all about the amazing Celebrity Millennium.

(to be continued)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Electricity = Good, Electricity = Bad

I have survived the big storms in Chicago. There is more rain expected tonight, but the super-duper winds and tornado fears have diminished.

My neighborhood was without power for almost 24 hours. Some of the stores are still closed, but my building is back. It wasn't too bad climbing up the 11 flights of stairs last night. What was worse was having to go to work without washing my hair. I couldn't get water because even the best municipal water pressure won't deliver it that high without the help of a pump. And I had only enough bottled water to wash the rest of me.

Since I couldn't really do much of anything else last night, I watched the storm for a while and got to thinking...here I was in the dark because I had no eletricity. But there was plenty of it outside. Same stuff that in one context is good, and in the other is deadly. Just like the water, which we cannot live without but is drowning homes just a few miles from here.

Can you think of anything else that can be very good or very bad depending on where/when/how often it is used/consumed/partaken of? How about...fire...sex...the internet...food...alcohol...gambling?

What would you add to this list?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flip-flops are not real shoes!

See Mikey, I told you so!

The problem with the flip-flop, [Dr. Steven] Ross explained, is "it doesn't meet the basic criteria of a shoe, which are protection, support and shock absorption. The other most popular shoe, the athletic shoe, does, which is why we recommend wearing it instead."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dream Cruise 2007, brought to you by...

Before I tell you about the cruise, I would like to let you know how the whole thing came about, and who we have to thank for making our wonderful trip possible.

The idea was born quite a while ago. When my brother- and sister-in-law started the home schooling of my niece and nephew, travel to historical places was planned as part of the curriculum. But the year was 2001, and early that fall world travel suddenly lost its appeal just days after we lost my husband Daniel.

Over the years there was some school-related travel, but other events made a big trip overseas a low priority. That's how life goes...priorities and plans change.

Once the kids neared their high school graduation last year - the same year their parents would celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary - the idea transformed into a dream...a dream cruise in the Mediterranean.

From the beginning, this dream had a sponsor...

I've written about Daniel's dad Teofil before. Well, he was a unique and very generous man. He never made a big show of his generosity. He would decide to do something, and just do it. Like the time he donated sod (and a lot of it) to the church in time for our wedding.

And he wanted to give us the cruise as a gift. His health would not allow him to participate, but he would be with us in spirit. He passed away last fall. But his generosity extended beyond his earthly life, and the dream became a reality.

And so we thank you, Grandpa Phil, for the trip of a lifetime. We think about you every day.

And we toasted him every night on the cruise, as you will see.

Next...Getting to Barcelona

Monday, August 13, 2007

Please stayed tuned

Hello. I am The Donkey.

Aunt Judie asked me to let you know that she is still working on organizing the cruise pictures. It's a big job - there are over 1200 pics from four cameras to get in order.

Between you and me, the real reason she's not done is that she keeps daydreaming...looking at the pictures and sighing, imagining she's back in Santorini, where we met on the staircase.

She should be done in a day or two. If she lays off the ouzo.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Back online

I've got lots to tell you, but for now just wanted to let you know I am back (in my Michigan) home safe and sound. Pictures and stories to come.

The cruise was even more wonderful than I expected. If you have never been on a cruise, and you would enjoy a vacation where you are pampered and well-fed and wake up in a new place each day, I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bye for now

I'll be offline for the next two weeks. Our Mediterrean cruise is on! The ship, which was in dry dock until last Friday, is on its way to meet us in Barcelona tomorrow. I won't be blogging at all until we return. Then, watch for pictures...lots and lots of pictures!

Please pray for our safe travel...thank you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More wisdom from the movies

There's a scene in the movie While You Were Sleeping where the father of the family ponders the events of their turbulent week. One son is in the hospital just out of a coma, and he's talking with the other son, who is about to finally tell him that he doesn't want to work in the family business:

Dad: It's been a helluva week, hasn't it? Life is a pain in the ass, I'll tell ya. You work hard, try to provide for the family. And then - for one minute - everything's good, everyone's well, everyone's happy. And in that one minute, you have peace.

Son: Pop, this isn't that minute.

You might think that life is supposed to be mostly made up of those moments where "everything is good"; that bad things do happen, but it's OK as long as they only happen once in a while. I guess there are some people for which that is true. There are even those fortunate ones who have seem to have a charmed life - a loving intact family, always enough money in the bank and food to eat and clothes to wear, no major illnesses or deaths. Fortunate, indeed. But also totally unprepared when the inevitable occurs.

When Danny died, I was working my way through the list of people to call and came across the number of our neighbors back in Michigan. We weren't particularly close; I cannot even remember their names today. I called them just moments after they had received the news from our friends across the lake. The man had become hysterical when he heard...he was screaming and sobbing in the background. His wife told me that he had never before known someone who died...not even a grandparent.

I wish life was like that lake we lived on...beautiful and calm with a few ripples...and on those stormy days, waves we can handle without much trouble. But I've found that life is more like the ocean...constantly rocking and churning, and sometimes violently stormy with waves so high you can't see the horizon or anything else. And it's only once in a while you get those moments of complete calm and peace...just as the dad in the movie described it.

Does that mean that we have no choice but to be uneasy and unhappy except in those rare moments when everything is good? No. We can choose to recognize that there are still lots of things to be thankful for, even in the worst situations. And we can remind ourselves that no storm lasts forever...whatever we are going through will eventually pass or be resolved.

There are storms going on all around me right now, and I have no idea when any of them will end and what kind of damage they will leave behind. But I am at peace in the midst of the storms, because I know God loves us. He has shown me again and again that it is always safe and warm in His boat. We just need to stay in the boat and trust Him.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pencil me in

UPDATE: See correction below.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy")

"Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." (Admiral Josh Painter in the movie "Hunt for Red October")

"I want you all to forget the flight plan. From this moment on, we are improvising a new mission." (Gene Krantz in the movie "Apollo 13")
Planning is a good thing. It is better to plan than not to plan. When I worked as a Project Manager, planning was over 90% of the effort...making plans then planning alternative plans in case the original plan didn't go as planned.

In the true story of the Apollo 13 space mission (the movie is a favorite of us project managers), the lives of the astronauts depended on their own ability - and that of thousands of people on the ground - to completely write off the original plan when something they didn't plan for happened. When they realize they cannot possibly land on the moon and get home alive, they take just a moment to grieve their lost moon before shifting their focus to creating and executing a new plan. If they had spent too much time indulging in their disappointment before moving on, those three men flying in their damaged spacecraft may not have made it home.

My guess is that a very small percentage of all the plans in the history of humanity have ever gone off without a hitch. In my circle of friends, only a very few (one nurse and a couple of priests*) are in the careers they originally planned.

In my life, all my plans are written in pencil. The route I drive to work, lunch dates, vacations, my career...all these plans come with the disclaimer "subject to change without notice". When things change I still feel disappointed sometimes, but I don't stay in that mood for long. I wonder at and take comfort in the fact that while my own plans are in pencil, God's are in ink:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV])
God's ink is pretty much invisible to us until the moment arrives. But trust in His promise that He will work out all things for good (Romans 8:28) and don't worry about it. He's God! Who could be a better project manager?

For a long time, my plan has been to be on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean two weeks from now. But last week a submerged rock and a failed electrical system combined to put a big question mark on that plan. The ship is damaged, but is supposed to be repaired and back in service in time for us to sail as planned.

And if it isn't? Well, we might just fly to Europe anyway. Only God knows where we will end up.

*Later today I thought of more of my friends who actually are still working in their original chosen profession...including my brother-in-law the accountant. Or as his mother would say, "my son is A CPA Man".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A thrilling evening

Last night I met one of my favorite bloggers who I mentioned in my last post, Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol. She was in town to speak about her book The Thrill of the Chaste, which I reviewed when it came out last year.

We also heard a little bit about her new job with The Cardinal Newman Society Love and Responsibility Project, which I will write more about later.

It was a stormy evening, but the rain stopped in time to have the talk outdoors. Listening to Dawn speak reminded me just how awesome God is when it comes to preparing people for His purpose. Dawn's life has taken a lot of twists and turns, all of which brought her here to this place on this day to speak...with a microphone...about sex...from the door of a Catholic church...in the middle of a busy Chicago neighborhood.

Kinda makes you wonder what God is preparing you for, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

You are not what you lack

A while back I had drinks with an old friend who asked about my love life. He was aware of my beliefs and my commitment to refrain from sex until I get married again. He said that while he admired that, he still thought I would be better off with a boyfriend; and since I am an interesting and attractive person, I would have no trouble getting one...if I was willing to put out.

So if I would just become someone I am not, compromise my beliefs and give away something that is precious to me, I can have someone to go to dinner and the movies with! Doesn't sound like a good trade to me. And besides, why would I want a man who wants a woman who would become someone she is not, compromise her beliefs...?

There are times when it is extremely tempting to give up and give in. I am healthy and have human desires. I may be abstinent from sex with my body, but that's not the same as being chaste in mind and spirit...especially since, as a widow, I know very well just what I am missing.

We live in a world that says "if it feels good, do it" and "if you want it, you should have it". The world looks at the lack of something in our lives as a total negative, when in truth it can be a blessing. If for no other reason, such a void in our lives can make us appreciate all the things we do have.

Our friend Dawn at The Dawn Patrol wrote a wise and beautiful essay in response to a reader's question about how she can consider chastity to be "...suffused with the thrill of wonder" instead of a void in her life. (Make sure you read the comments...lots of wisdom there too.)

So as I face another Saturday night without a date, I won't look at the lack in my life as defining my life. My singleness is not who I am, nor is it a burden to be lamented. It is simply one facet of the precious gem that is the life that God has given me.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The sounds of silence

A couple of weeks back my niece lent me her car while mine was in the repair shop. It had a different kind of radio/cd system that involved a panel that opened to reveal more functions than would fit on its face.

I say "had" because around day five of driving her car, the panel wouldn't close. I couldn't turn the radio off, change the volume or the station. As I was trying desperately to find a way to fix it, I broke it completely. And so for the last couple of days I had no radio, no CD and no iPod because my adapter was in my car, in the shop.

It made me realize just how very little time I spend in a given day without some kind of audio and/or visual activity. Riding for even the 15 minutes it took me to get to work was a very odd experience because I'm usually listening to something.

Even in my "quiet time" first thing I the morning I'm either reading or speaking to God, without giving Him time to talk to me. This morning in my reading I came across this quote from Mother Teresa:

"In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice."

So I gave it a try. I made a serious effort to be silent and listen. I didn't hear God's voice, unless He was singing the theme song to the TV show "Scrubs":

"I can't do this all on my own. No, I'm no...I'm no Superman."

I suppose it could be some sort of message, reminding me to lean on Him. Or it could just be the song is still stuck in my head from last week, when my nephew wouldn't stop singing it.

Perhaps listening in silence is like any other skill...I need to practice. I'll try again by driving to work without the radio on. And perhaps God will answer my prayer by taking that darn song out of my head!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From sea to shining sea

Today we honor the birth of our nation.

When we ask God to bless America, do we imply that the rest of the world is not worthy of God's blessings? No. None of us is worthy...but He blesses us anyway and allows us to be a blessing to others.

When we fly the flag, is it arrogance and conceit...a way to say that we think we are better than anybody else? No. The flag is a symbol of our identity and history.

When you hear people bash America, focusing only on our flaws, does it make you angry? It makes me sad, just as I would be if people focused only on my flaws.

Is America perfect? No. But I would not want to live anywhere else.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The meaning of life in one word - Part IV

Part I, Part II, Part III

I am awed by how much emotion a song can inspire. For me, a song is so much different than a poem. Hearing words with music, when the words mean something to me, is heart-touching experience.

Consider what kind of relationship is captured by these few words from an old song:

The story of my life
Is very plain to read.
It starts the day you came
And ends the day you leave.

Then picture this kind of relationship, described in a popular song of today:

I could have another you in a minute
Matter fact, he'll be here in a minute (baby).
So don't you ever for a moment get to thinkin'
You're irreplaceable.

I used to long for the kind of love relationship described in the first example. As I got older I realized that there is something seriously wrong with even thinking that your entire existence is dependent on the love of one person. At the other extreme, how sad is it to think that you could be living with somebody one day, and kicked to the curb the next? And as you're moving your stuff out (a task made easy because everything you own is in a box to the left), you are told that your replacement will be at the front door before your cab makes it to the end of the block?

Your human relationships are healthy and contribute postive meaning to your life when they fall somewhere in between those extremes. Your day-to-day existence is filled with relationships, and each one is a piece of the meaning of your life as a whole.

But the one relationship that means the most - your relationship with God - is more extreme than either of the above examples. Because to God you ARE irreplaceable. God's love is always there, even when you screw up and deserve to be kicked to the curb. God's love is unconditional...it does not depend on what you do or don't do.

God's love is the story of your life, because you have a relationship with Him even when you don't nuture or even acknowledge it.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wedding dress cookies

I made these for a bridal shower. You can't see the detail too well, but there were three different dress designs:

Monday, June 04, 2007

The meaning of life in one word - Part III

Part I, Part II

I found an old friend the other day. She's been in the same place for 31 years, while I have moved around a lot...changing jobs and addresses and my last name. I've often thought of her and thought about finding her. I knew she was nearby, but never took the time to look her up.

So the other day when I had a couple of hours to fill between one thing and another, I found myself talking a walk in the sunshine surrounded by green grass, colorful flowers, noisy trees (I'm in 17-year-cicada country) and carved stones. Gravestones, that is. Cindy's was lovely...embedded with a rosary.

She was walking to school when she was struck by a falling light pole, which was falling because it was hit by a car driven by one of two guys who thought drag racing was a cool idea. As I remember it, she died a week later.

When you reflect on such a life - cut short in such a stupid way at 17 - it's natural to think "what a waste". And of course, it was. But no life - even one so brief - is without meaning. For here she was...remembered with love by those who had a relationship with her. This place is full of such memories. The dates on the stones reflect the longest and shortest of lives. My guess is that most of these graves are not visited at all any more, the loved ones who cried there long gone, perhaps even buried nearby.

Are the people who are not visited forgotten? By mankind, maybe. But not by God. For each soul that once lived in these earthly shells is dear to His heart.

And it is our relationship with God that is the most important of all.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The meaning of life in one word - Part II

Read Part I


1. a connection, association, or involvement.
2. connection between persons by blood or marriage.
3. an emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students.
4. a sexual involvement; affair.*

—Synonyms 1. dependence, alliance, kinship. 2. affinity, consanguinity.

(Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random
House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.)

Think about all your relationships. There are so many kinds...family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, schoolmates, teacher/student, pastor/congregant, coworkers, internet buddies, even store clerks and service providers. Each of our relationships is a connection with a combination of depth, length and importance. And each one is a piece of the meaning of our lives.

As you go through your day, you probably don't think about each relationship and what the interaction with that person means to you (or them). Was the encounter positive or negative? Was it give and take, or was it one-sided (did you only give or only take)? Were you glad to have seen or talked to that person? And what about the relationships with people you didn't interact with today? Even the relationships you neglect or avoid are meaningful.

In the book and movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a guy named Eddie dies thinking that his life didn't mean much because he never got to live the life he dreamed of. He wanted to be an engineer, but instead spent all of his life (with the exception of serving in the army during a war) as the maintenance man at an amusement park. The five people he meets are there to teach him just how meaningful his life was.

I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to be dead or dying before I realize what each relationship in my life means! I want to experience it every moment of the day, in every encounter. I don't want to go through life just skimming the surface...I want to experience life deeply. I want to go to bed at night knowing that even though I sleep alone, I am never really alone, because I am connected.

And the most important relationship in my life? Well, that one I'll tell you about next time.


*Notice how the word "connection" is missing from this definition? An interesting subject for another day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Did you ever think I would say THIS?

I know I owe you another post on the meaning of life, and I'm working on it. But right now I have to shower and get to bed because I am exhausted from...

...wait for it...

...my hip hop dance class.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The meaning of life in one word

A couple of months ago I was doing my normal drive to Michigan for a visit. This was going to be a week with the kids only, as their mom and dad were on a romantic trip for their 25th anniversary.

I was within a mile of my destination when the podcast I had been listening to started to really touch my heart. I felt that what I was hearing was something extremely important because that heart started to race. I ended up pulling over a couple of blocks from the house so I could really listen to what the speaker was saying. It's a good thing I pulled over, because I burst into tears.

The speaker - Ravi Zacharais - is a preacher who travels all over the world. He was preaching on "The Pursuit of Meaning - Regaining the Wonder" (you can get the podcast here). At one point Ravi talked about the tragedy of traveling so much that whenever he came home, his little girl Naomi, still in her walker, would not recognize him. After a particularly long trip...

...I arrived home and little Nimmi was in her walker. As I said at that time her cheeks were so bulging that it made her eyes look like an afterthought - cute as a button. I had been actually traveling for so long I was not sure that she would remember me. And when I came there and walked into the kitchen where she was with Grandma sitting at the kitchen table she was in her walker, I put the two suitcases down and she lifted up her chubby countenance and looked at me and I looked back. For about one minute we had a staring contest. And finally she made a charge in my direction and nearly flipped over that walker. I put my arms out as her two arms shot out like pistons...I picked her up and wrapped my arms around her as she nuzzled with her face resting on my shoulder. And as I looked with that tiny little body wrapped in my own arms I looked over to see Grandma, instantly the tears started to run down the face.

Ladies and gentlemen, before God I beg you to believe me. Of all the thrills of lucrative benefits that the business of the preaching world could have brought to me; of all the wonder that comes from preaching at a conference of such great names; of all the joy that comes from meeting other people at conferences and what have you, of reading some great books and studying philosophy as much as it can dazzle your mind...all of them paled for so long into insignificance as I realized in that one minute I learned more about the meaning of life than all the books in philosophy I had ever read.

Meaning comes from relationship.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The meaning of life

Well, that's quite a subject to start when it's already past my bedtime. It's an age-old question, asked at least once by probably 99% of all people who ever lived.

What is the meaning of life?

Can you give an answer in one word? I can.

Think about it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

**Liveblogging** S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y

For the first time in as long as I can remember (OK, that's not saying much), it's Saturday and I have no obligations to fulfill, no work assignments, no appointments, no social engagements. I've got stuff I should/could/would do...but if I did absolutely nothing the consequences would simply be a wasted day.

So what am I doing up at 5:53 am? Well, I've wasted enough days in my life already and I don't want this to be another one. Therefore, I'm going to "liveblog" the entire day and document what I do. To you it might be a tad boring, but to me it's a challenge. So check back often for up-t0-the-minute coverage of a day in the life of Aunt Judie!

**6:02a** Finished first post. OK, that goes without saying.

**7:32a** I realized as I was getting dressed that the reason I have nothing to do today is that I set it aside as a "catch-up" in preparation for going to Michigan for a visit. But the work reason for my visit was cancelled. Also, I usually teach a computer class on Saturday mornings, and this is our "off week" between sessions.

So far I've showered, dressed and done my morning study/prayer time. I'm studying a devotional called "Women of the Bible", and this week it's about Esther. Talk about God using unexpected people in big ways! I also made my bed...and discovered it must have been a while. I found four books and three magazines...yikes! Now I'm off to breakfast at one of my favorite spots. Not sure which one...I'll decide in the car.

**11:03a** Ended up at Butterfield's, one of those places that serves only breakfast and lunch. Which is appropriate, since I had the Monte Cristo sandwich and it was so big I'm having the rest for lunch. (By the way...it was good, but not as good as yours, Carol!) After I got home I made two batches of cookie dough which is cooling in the frig. Now I'm off to the craft store for ideas...I'm making samples of wedding cookies for two customers.

**1:32p** Back from the stores...didn't find any new ideas for cookie decorating or packaging. This is the hardest part...coming up with the designs. Well, I think I'll take a break and watch a movie, which I haven't done for a long time.

**6:01p** Watched "Casino Royale". Not usually an action movie fan, but that was good! Then took a nap. Time to bake cookies!

**9:03p** Six batches of cookies and four loads of laundry...DONE! I think I'll watch another movie.

**11:55p** Well, with one pleasant interruption for a phone chat with my sister-in-law, I finished the movie "Braveheart" (which, by the way, is a chick flick despite the blood and gore) and find myself at the end of a pretty productive and fun day. Gotta be at church early, so I'll say goodnight.

Thanks for tuning in!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Unforgiven - Part V

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV

In 1933 a baby girl who would become my mother was born. I'll never know what made her the person she was when I knew her. But I'm pretty sure she did not purposely become an alcoholic. I know she did not have a childhood dream to someday abandon her husband and four young children. And she certainly did not intend to die at age 43.

She died thirty years ago, and it took over twenty years for me to forgive her. In all that time my unforgiveness did not hurt her one bit. It only hurt me and, in turn, caused me to hurt the people in my life.

Forgiveness is the only thing that can end the cycle of hurt.

There is a lot more to forgiveness, as far as achieving it in every situation and with every person or institution that has harmed you. You may find that you even have to forgive God Himself.

I spent (wasted) a lot of time being mad at God for my life. Why couldn't I have what other people had - two parents, my own room, a house in the suburbs, a fast metabolism and a yearning for veggies and exercise instead of donuts and television? Accepting my situation and seeing all the blessings in my life took many years, many tears and lots of prayer.

Still today I have trouble letting some things go. Just last week an old friend caught me bringing up an old hurt (a perceived slight, really). I tried to convince him that I wasn't bitter about it anymore, but he wasn't buying it. If I had truly achieved forgiveness for that incident I would not be mentioning it. He was right.

As I said earlier, forgiveness is simple but it is not easy. The "simple" part is to realize that unforgiveness only hurts you, not your enemy. Think about the grudges you are holding right now. Who are you hurting? If you forgive today, even if you don't feel like it, you would wake up tomorrow a different person. Try it with something small and see what it does for you. Then move on to something bigger.

The "not easy" part is to live in a state of forgiveness, every day, in every situation. It's a constant struggle. And you can't fake it, either. You can't say you forgive then still hold onto your grudge...it will show in your words and actions. Ask God to help you see the truth and forgive completely.

We need to forgive others as God has forgiven us. It's for our own good.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Unforgiven - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

Getting called nasty names by an old guy on the radio is one thing. How do you forgive a child abuser or a mass murderer? It helps to try to see the person through God's eyes. I can't say it any better than Stormie Omartian.

She had been forgiving her abusive, mentally-ill mother for years. It took a long time because her unforgiveness had been deep and needed to be "unraveled, one layer at a time":

One day as I was again asking God to give me a forgiving heart, I felt led to pray, "Lord, help me to have a heart like Yours for my mother."

Almost immediately I had a vision of her as I had never seen before. She was a beautiful, fun-loving, gifted woman who bore no resemblance to the person I knew. My understanding told me I was seeing her the way God had made her to be and not the way she had become. What an amazing revelation! I couldn't have conjured it up myself. Nothing had ever surpassed my hatred for my mother, except perhaps the depth of my own emptiness. Yet now I felt compassion and sympathy for her.

The Virginia Tech killer, Chevy Chase's mother and stepfather, Stormie's mother, my mother...they were all born innocent. They all laughed and played as children, they had hopes and dreams. They were made in the image of God, just like you and me.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Unforgiven - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Acknowledging the pain is important, but it is only the first step. How do you leap from that to forgiveness?

You know how your parents would tell you to do things that are for your own good? Things you didn't feel like doing...finishing your homework, cleaning your room, going to the dentist? You knew these had benefits, but if it were your choice you might not have done them because you didn't feel like it.

Same thing with forgiveness. God instructs us to do it...whether we feel like it or not! Because it is good for us.

That's where there is a common misunderstanding of forgiveness. "Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right; it makes you free." (Stormie Omartian)

I read that the Rutgers basketball players have forgiven Don Imus for the awful names he called them. You know what this does for those ladies? It allows them to move on with their lives. And while Imus is surely grateful to have it, their forgiveness did not excuse what he did or benefit him in any material way...he still lost his job.

One of my favorite preachers is Joyce Meyer. In a recent TV show on forgiveness, she made an excellent point. She said that not forgiving is like taking poison hoping your enemy will die.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Unforgiven - Part II

Read Part I

Maybe Chevy Chase is not refusing to forgive his abusers. Maybe he wants to and he doesn't know how. Like a lot of things in life, forgiving is simple...but it's not easy.

Any one of us could sit and make a list of the wrongs that have been done to us...from real or perceived (doesn't make a difference) unfairness to the most unthinkable horrors. Call it a "Victim Resume". I have one. In the course of many years of searching for an answer to my weight problem and unhappiness (thinking the former caused the latter), I have written my Resume down - in detail - and in doing so was able to get closer to letting every item go.

For me the first step was acknowledging that all of the things on my Victim Resume actually happened, that they were wrong, and that they hurt me. I had to let myself feel the pain instead of swallowing it (food being my numbing drug of choice). My Resume was long, and it had some serious stuff on it. But just the act of writing about it, letting myself feel the pain and cry about it made a huge difference in my life.

There are several medical conditions which cause people not to feel physical pain - children who can have broken bones or serious burns without realizing it; diabetics who can have an infection in their feet and not know it until it is too late to avoid amputation. In these cases, not feeling the pain is certainly not a desireable situation.

Emotional pain is the same way. It might seem like not feeling the pain would be a good thing. But just like a broken bone or an infection, the damage of emotional hurt is not going to go away because we ignore it...it is just going to get worse. Eventually, the damage is so great that it poisons every aspect of our lives.


Monday, April 23, 2007


The events of the last couple of weeks have caused me to ponder the subject of forgiveness. First it was the Imus thing, then the human destruction of Virginia Tech, and now Chevy Chase.

Huh? Well, I read this morning that the comedian Chevy Chase (Saturday Night Live in the old days, Fletch and Vacation movies) has revealed in an authorized biography that he was the victim of horrible physical and emotional abuse as a child. And he refuses to forgive his abusers:

"I always turn to it in my mind . . . I'll never forgive them. At their graves I didn't. It was too hard for me. You would think a grown man could shake it off, as the coffin was being lowered, to say, 'I forgive you.' I don't forgive."

I guess you can't really blame him. Just as you can't blame the families of the shooter's victims for hating the man who slaughtered their loved ones, or the basketball players deeply hurt by the words of a radio talk show host, who didn't know them and who they had probably had never heard of before.

But they are also missing the point. They misunderstand the purpose and nature of forgiveness.

In her excellent book Lord, I Want to Be Whole, author Stormie Omartian makes the case for forgiveness as one of the first steps of emotional healing. I am not familiar with what other faiths say about forgiveness. But as Christians, God instructs us to forgive those who have hurt us.

But why should we? The people who have hurt us don't deserve our forgiveness! Well, we don't deserve the forgiveness God grants us, either.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Every girl's crazy about...

...a sharp dressed man.

Guys, take it from me...and ZZ Top! There is just something about a man in a suit and tie, clean-shaved face, freshly-trimmed hair. Wowsa!

As inspiring as the service was for the importance of the occasion, being in church yesterday with all those men - who every other week are in polo shirts or even dress shirts with no tie or jacket - was a surprisingly lovely experience.

Unfortunately, I felt like Cinderella's ugly stepsister, since I hadn't bought a new dress for Easter and went to church in slacks and the same top I'd worn there a hundred times before. I won't make that mistake again!

Guys - and gals - when you have a chance to dress up, do it!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Loosen my fingers, Lord

This morning I was able to catch up on some of the reading that I missed during Lent because of letting myself get too busy with other things (and too lazy to get up early in the morning, my best time for reading and study). My bad.

Wow, I missed a lot of good stuff. The following is from a Lenten reflections booklet called "Stay With Us, Lord", by Father Robert Barron. The one that hit my heart and mind hard was called "In the Loop of Grace". I'll quote it in full (emphasis mine):

"While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

This is one of the great metaphors in the Bible: God is like a father who gives and gives and gives. God's whole being is "for-giving". When we receive the divine life as a gift, we're meant to give it away. There's the trick. There's the heart of the spiritual life. What you receive as a gift - which is everything we have - give as a gift.

When you draw on the divine life and give it away, you get more. We exist in a kind of loop of grace: what's received is given, and when it's given away, you receive more. It's a basic biblical truth. Write it in your hearts: when you cling to your being, you lose it. When you cling to your gifts and your talents, you lose them. You have them and they multiply only in the measure that you learn how to give them away.

Tomorrow we shall rejoice in the glory of the Risen Lord. We will celebrate and feast and be glad that Lent, with all it's sacrifice and gloom, is behind us. But what will we take with us in the days ahead...those "ordinary" days between the two "biggies"?

What I hope to take with me is the renewed realization that my very life is a gift. And that even when I don't think anybody could possibly miss the gifts I neglect to share, I'll remember that those gifts are nothing if I don't turn around and give them to others.

What gifts are you hesitant to share? You'll miss them when they are gone.

Loosen my fingers, Lord, that I may be more willing to give away what I have received.

Father Robert Barron's web site is here. Check it out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

God is always working

It's been a couple of weeks of busy, but there have also been a lot of inspiring stories come my way. (FYI...after this post I'm going to go back to reading Grammar for Dummies...not kidding.)

This story hits my heart for several reasons. It's long, but if you ever doubt that God has a plan, even when things seem seriously screwed up, you might change your mind after reading this. My thanks to the author, my nephew Michael, who gave me permission to reprint this in full.

I sent you a letter about a month ago asking for prayers and financial support for the 2007 Juarez mission trip through Faith Lutheran Church. I figured it would be good to drop a letter to thank you for all your support and tell you a little bit about how the trip went.

We left for El Paso on Saturday and had a layover in Chicago. We were on the plane for about an hour when we were told that due to the ice storm we were not going to be able to take off. We ended up having to spend Saturday night sleeping on the airport floor. A news crew came by and intereviewed a few people from our group and the interviews were played on CNN as well as some local news channels. We were looking for a flight to El Paso, but couldn't get on one out until Monday afternoon. We got on the plane Monday afternoon and sat for about 20 minutes when the pilot announced that he had too many hours without any rest, and they had no other crew. We had to get off that plane and find another way to get the 50 people from our group into El Paso. We ended up dividing into three small groups and finally all got to Juarez by Tuesday around 5:00pm. We were planning on getting there on Saturday night, so our time in Juarez got cut in half.

While we were stuck in the airport for three days some people began to become disappointed that we couldn't be working in Juarez yet, but God was still working in Juarez without us. Seven guys went down to Juarez three or four days early so they could have our sites ready to work on as soon as the rest of the group got there. They, along with the help of four or five Mexican men, were able to help get the foundations laid, and keep the construction on schedule. It was disappointing that we couldn't be there the time we planned, but it was a blessing that the men in the community came together to help us get things done. Lisa, Melissa, and Stormy (the women who run the church) were thrilled to have the Mexican men help out. They have been trying for eight years to get the men involved in the church in some way. Men are a big part of the community in Juarez and the boys look up to the men. Since the men aren't involved in the church the boys lose interest when they get older. The men helping lay foundations gave them a way to help the church and community while still being in their comfort zone. Lisa hopes that the men will continue to help out at the church throughout the year and be there next year to help us lay concerete and maybe let us build more houses.

Even though we were only there half of the time, we were still able to have a successful Vacation Bible School program. On our first full day in Juarez we had over 85 people at our first VBS session. Everything went smoothly throughout the week. We did two sessions of VBS each day and provided lunch for the kids in between. Each session of VBS included songs, a drama, a memory verse, a craft, a hygiene lesson, and English as Second Language (ESL) lesson. We tried to keep a theme for each day, it was difficult because of our time constraint, but our themes were "Jesus Gives us Friends", "Jesus is our Friend", and "Jesus Created the World Because He Loves Us". We aim the VBS program at the kindergarten or first grade level. We get kids anywhere from one year old to 15 years old. The hygiene lessons are simply things that we wouldn't dream of having to teach kids in America. We teach things like blowing your nose, brushing your teeth and washing your hands and hair. Everyday we give out things that correspond with the lesson. We gave out Kleenex, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and shampoo and soap. During the ESL lesson we try to teach the kids something positive while teaching them a few English words and phrases. This year all of the ESL lessons had to do with healthy eating.

VBS is the part of the trip that I do (and therefore think is most important), but the main reason we sent 50 people down to Juarez was to build houses. Our group built four houses. The houses are simple; they have three rooms, electrical hookups, but no plumbing. People are so excited to get houses from us. We do a dedication ceremony for each house where the whole team prays over the house ad we give the keys and a Bible to the family getting a house. This is the most moving part of the trip. The families are so happy to get these houses that by American standards would be practically nothing. One of the families who got a house used to live in a tiny camper that would fit in the bed of a normal truck. This wouldn't be that big of a deal except for the fact that this family had eight kids. The family is now finally able to have a decent place to live. The people are so appreciative and feel so blessed to be able to get homes from our group.

This trip included a lot more struggles than last year's trip had. But for every setback we had, particularly the three days in O'Hare Airport, something good came out of it. This trip made me understand the ability of God to turn adversity into blessings, and it gave me a better understanding of how much we need to rely on Him in all situations. Last year I came back from Juarez telling everybody what "we" did in Mexico, but this year "we" did nothing. God built four houses and provided for a VBS program and we were just the tools He used to do it. It took me three days in an airport and a nasty fever our last night in Juarez to finally understand this. The gifts of houses for the people in Juarez did not come from Faith Lutheran Church or any individual. The houses were a gift of love from God, and I feel privleged to be a part of this awesome experience.

I want to thank all of you again for making this trip possible through all your prayers and financial support. Without your support, this trip would not have gone nearly as well as it did. Thank you so much. In Christ's love, Mikey.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

God and butterflies

I've been busy this week making some of my famous painted cookies for the church bake sale. I was painting this batch of butterflies yesterday:

I had done all the section outlines in black the day before and was painting the insides from a variety of colors I had prepared (royal icing, tinted and thinned out). As I was contemplating the color of each section, it occurred to me that God, while designing all the living things on the earth, had to decide on their color and patterns. He must have had a great time with butterflies! Stripe or dot here? Is this too red? How about a splash of gold? What fun it is to imagine God walking around the earth with His palette of infinite colors!

When I hear a person say they are "not creative"...I always disagree. We were all made in the image of God, and look how creative He is! And whenever we practice our creativity, we're using one of the many special gifts He gave each of us. Don't deny you have the gift of creativity because you're scared somebody won't like what you create - be it art, music, food, words, or anything else that can be created. Explore it and enjoy it, no matter what other people say.

How are you using your creative gifts?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sweet-n-sassy 16!

Happy (belated) birthday to my niece and goddaughter Amanda, who turned 16 yesterday! I wish you were having a party. Instead, let's go bowling! OK!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Treasure each moment

Hopefully you young people out there don't spend a lot of time thinking about death. I sure wasn't about the time this picture was taken:

That is the late great Uncle Dan at a Christmas party in 1978 in his basement...the same basement I would live in for the first year of our marriage (not til 1994). But that's not me he's got his arm around. That's our friend Janet, who passed away this week. She was also our sister-in-law...her sister married his brother.

We all had a lot of fun together in those days. I would try to explain Daniel's headdress, but you really, really had to be there! I'm so glad we took a lot of pictures in those days too, and took care of them enough that I was able to get them into an album just in the last 10 years or so.

None of us knows if this will be our last day here. It is so very important to treasure each moment, make amends for the wrongs we have done, give forgiveness whenever it is requested (and even when it isn't), and tell those we love that we do. That's what life is all about...relationships.

Rest in peace, Janet. You are greatly loved.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hollywood just doesn't get it

In a post about some ridiculous movies currently in production, the Real Live Preacher gives us some good advice:

Listen, I'm just a guy with a bad haircut from a small church you've never heard of, but I hope you'll listen to me for a moment because I have something important to say. When it comes to God, religion, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, ignore just about everything you see on television or in movies. If you are serious about making a spiritual connection with a power greater than ourselves, try the following suggestions:
  • Let go of big things and embrace little things.
  • Ignore loud things and listen for quiet things.
  • Put aside obvious things and seek out hidden things.
  • Forget easy things and learn hard and ancient things.
  • Stop saving your life and start losing it.
  • Let your thinking and believing become doing and serving.
  • Quit trying to arrive and become at home on the journey.
  • Lose your road maps and find a wise guide to walk with you.

Love the idea of God with all your heart, soul, mind, body, life, work, and strength. And while you're at it, try loving other people as much as you love yourself. You won't be able to do either of these, but trying will be very good for you.

Do these things all of your days and forever. Do these things and live.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Amazing movie

Yesterday I went to the theater to see Amazing Grace. It's the story of William Wilberforce, a man at the forefront of the abolition of the slave trade in British Empire (which happened nearly 60 years before slavery was abolished in the United States). It was his mentor, friend and former slave ship captain, John Newton, who wrote the words of the beloved hymn.

It is a beautiful, touching, disturbing movie about something important. Hollywood will put the "important film" label on lots of movies, but this one truly fits. Not only does it teach you about something horrible from our past, the film makers also seek to remind us that the slave trade may be over in some places, but it still flourishes around the world.

Didn't know that? Well, check out The Amazing Change Campaign website.

And go see the movie...today if you can. These days if a film doesn't do well at the box office in the first few days, it can't survive in the theatres no matter how good it is.


On a side note, tonight is Hollywood's biggest night, their most important self-congratulatory event. They will award each other with praise, gold-colored statuettes, and tax-free swag, and celebrate how wonderful and beautiful they all are. And millions of people around the world will watch.

I won't be one of them.

I haven't watched in years, since I realized the "best this" and "best that" was just a way for a small society of elites to reward those who made the right kind of movies and right kind of politcal statements. It's a big kiss-up to the cool crowd from the cool crowd.

I will be shocked beyond words if Amazing Grace is nominated for anything next year. Oh, maybe a costume or lighting award, but nothing signifant. Because this movie doesn't fit the mold. It's a true story of moral absolutes, which don't exist in Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What is love?

Today it seems "love" is all around us. Hearts, flowers, candy, cards...those are all symbols...a way to show our "love" on this particular day.

But what about the other 364 days of the year? What does the word "love" really mean? I've had several encounters in the last few weeks that caused me to give this subject some serious thought.

First, it was a conversation with my friend Father Mark, who brought up love in a conversation about politics (specifically about welfare). Then it was another preacher, a man I don't know, who gave an interesting sermon on that classic description of love in I Corinthians 13. Finally, a page on a daily calendar from yet another preacher wrapped it up for me. I think this is the best definition of love I have ever read:

Love is not a feeling we have; it is a decision to treat people the way Jesus would treat them.
So how do we do that? The second preacher suggested we replace the word "love" in I Corinthians 13:4-7 with "Jesus". Cool, that tells us how Jesus would treat people. Then, we were to replace it with our own name. And here's that result:

Judie is patient, Judie is kind. Judie does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud. Judie is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. Judie does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Judie always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Notice how none of these are feelings that I have, but actions I take (or don't take) that define my love for others.

I'm not currently in a romantic relationship, so I don't expect to receive any flowers or candy or a card today. But that's OK, because I know I am loved by the actions others take towards me.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My kind of college

As many of you know, I went to Princeton University.

That statement is technically correct. I did go to Princeton. For one week. For a youth convention. In the summer of 1978. Except for the 125% humidity, the showers in the dungeon, the towels that never dried, the weird bugs crunching under our feet on the sidewalk because the maintenance staff picked that week to clean out the gutters, and a breakup with my boyfriend, I remember having a pretty good time.

The fact is that, except for the three credits I earned in Music Appreciation last year (yeah for me), I have not attended college. I have no serious educational experience beyond earning my Chicago public high school diploma. My understanding of what goes on in the halls of higher education is limited to what I hear from others. So I would never claim to be an expert on the subject of college.

On the flip side, what makes anyone think that a person who goes from high school to college to graduate school and then right into a teaching position knows about what the world is like outside the academy? They may be experts on their subject matter, methods of learning, and the politics of the sheltered world they inhabit. But it would be arrogant, to say the least, for them to speak with any assumed authority about the "real" world.

On her January 31st radio show, Laura Ingraham interviewed Nido Qubein, president of High Point University. Here is a man who is the embodiment of the American Dream. He came to this country with nothing, succeeded big-time in business, and is now leading a university dedicated to ensuring...

"...that we build a bridge that connects the hallowed hallway of academia with the practical, ever-so-demanding, ever-so-competitive, ever-so-changing highways and byways of life."
Qubein goes on to say...
"A student ought not simply major in college in business or sciences, etc. But rather should also know how to get along with people, how to communicate effectively, how to manage their money, how to invest their time, and so on."
Practical knowledge from someone who knows what he is talking about. If I had the means I would pursue a degree full-time, but only at an institution that hires teachers like these.

I don't think I'd live in the dorm, though. Unless it was the "lights out at 9:30" dorm. Do they have those? That would be my kind of college.

(An audio clip of the interview "Nido Qubein's American Dream" is available free for a few weeks at Laura's website.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mercy me!

When I wrote last week that conversations during my recent vacation had caused me to rethink the way I practice some of my beliefs, I wasn't quite sure how to articulate what I was feeling. But God has a way of giving us what we need at just the right time.

During my trip I was challenged several times about mercy. Having an attitude of mercy towards everyone. Mercy versus judgment. Mercy without enabling. God's mercy being a gift to us that we are then supposed to give away.

Well, it's one thing to know what you're supposed to do, and another thing to figure out how to do it. That's why God puts many teachers in our lives. The person who challenged me gave me the what, making me open to the person who just gave me the how.

Joyce Meyer's "Enjoying Everyday Life" broadcast from yesterday (available as a podcast on her website or through iTunes) is called "If You Sow Mercy, You Will Reap Mercy".

This one's a keeper.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

God appreciates a good try

Sometimes I whine about how long it takes for me to drive to my church (35 minutes). But this can be a good time for reflection and preparation for worship. Unless I'm listening to the "ask the doctor" radio show, which makes it a good time to be grateful not to suffer from the weird ailments they talk about.

On last Sunday's trip I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about some of the strongholds in my life. Well, not really a breakthrough, but a clear reminder of something I believe in (and preach to others) but often have trouble practicing myself:

"Progress, not perfection."

Or, as my friend Father Mark would put it...

"God appreciates a good try."

There are problems in my life that I have been struggling with since I was a child. No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to break through. Back in my teens and twenties I never imagined I would still be struggling all these years later.

But I've come to realize, through prayer and study, that perfectionism and impatience cloud my judgment about how far I've come. Just because I'm not "there" yet doesn't mean I have wasted my time trying. I have to remember that with each try I'm making progress...sometimes even if it is just learning one more thing that doesn't work.

Besides, when I do finally get "there", there will be a new "there" to work towards anyway!

What got me thinking about this on my Sunday trip to church was listening to the song "Try" from the "God is With Me" CD by Norman Lee (you can buy Norman's music on his website or iTunes).

Here's the chorus:

'Cause she tries, in a world gone crazy
She cries, hoping some day maybe
The storms of life will let that sun finally shine.

Every day she walks on faith
And she prays love will conquer hate
And her whole life won't be wasted time.
So she tries.

So I continue to walk in faith. I pray. And I try, remembering that God is using me for some good purpose even when (or maybe especially when) I fail.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Vacation Pictures

Be where you are? Do I have to?

"Be where you are" is a saying that to me means to live in the moment, because if you are always living in the past or the future, you can never enjoy today.

But, but here's where I am:

Chicago, Illinois (www.weather.com)

Quite frankly, I would rather be back here:

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (last week)

I've been cold ever since I stepped off the plane at O'Hare Airport nine days ago after a week in warm. I love my life, Lord, I do. But did you really mean for your people to live in this climate? Seriously. Could you speed up the global warming a bit? Or consider sending me a job offer I can't refuse because it's in sunny Florida?

I'll be waiting for your answer.

PS: It's very hard to type with mittens on.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back home

I'm off to work in a few minutes after my vacation. Frankly, I'm a little depressed. It's cold here, and Florida and the Bahamas are nice and warm.

The trip was fabulous! I'm told the seas were quite rocky, but being my first cruise I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm happy to say that I had not a smidgen of seasickness!

In some ways, this was a life-changing experience...not the cruise itself, but the fellowship, the new friends I met, the things I saw, and some conversations that may make me rethink some of my beliefs. Not my core beliefs, of course, but the way I practice them. More on the trip later.

For now, let me just thank God for our safe and wonderful journey.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Well, I'm off to parts warm and breezy. I'll be on a cruise ship by this time tomorrow. God willing, I won't get too seasick or too homesick.

It's my first cruise, and I'm really looking forward to it. It is my intention to stay completely away from computers and the Internet. I don't even plan on reading the news, other than what they provide on board. I will be totally unplugged. Well, not totally.

My only real concession to modern communication will be my iPod, which I loaded up with lots of music and a few radio talk show podcasts.

Back sometime next week to tell you all about it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's her money

Sorry for the lack of posting. I'm just getting back to "normal" after some hectic work projects, travel and a cold that took a record time going away.

One of the few news stories that piqued my interest since the start of the new year is the opening of Oprah Winfrey's new school in Africa. Normally I don't pay much attention to Oprah. Not that I don't think she's interesting...it's just that long ago she got so "big" that she started believing her own hype. I've rarely watched her TV show, primarily because I work outside the home.

Anyway, the part of the story about the school that got me thinking is the criticism Oprah is receiving for not building such a school in her home country. It just goes to show you that no matter what you do, you will never please everyone.

Excuse me, critics, but it is her money! Who the heck are you to tell her how to spend it? Oh, wait. I forgot. We live in America, where a great percentage of the people think that if you have a lot of money, then it's your fault that other people don't.

LaShawn Barber has the best column I've read on this subject. Apparently, Oprah has tried to help inner-city schools, but even she, the eternal optimist, got discouraged. All my life I have been hearing the political mantra "more money for schools". But no amount of money thrown at a bad system is ever going to make it better.

Oprah is enormously successful because she has talent, was in the right place at the right time, made more good decisions than bad ones, and worked hard. She happens to live in time and place where her particular brand of media appeal translated into mega-dollars. But she's not God (although some people treat her that way) nor is she even close to perfect.

But she has earned her money, and it is her prerogative how to spend it.