Great-full (aka: spiritual warning lights)

Ever have days that are good, but for whatever reason you didn’t enjoy them as much as you should – and you weren’t sure why? Not depressed. Not insomniac. Not sick. Just a certain kind of tired malaise you can’t put your finger on.

That’s how I spent the last few days. Poor Luna was getting a little frustrated at not getting out to walk and play as much as she’d like. But, on our visits to dog parks yesterday and today, she wasn’t quite as energetic as she usually is. Maybe it’s something in the water. Fluoride? Nah… we drink clean water. But, seriously, even among friends it seems there is an undefinable something going around.

So, laying (or is it lying?) around in my free time, my mind wandered to some of those places it tends to go on days like this. Heck, let me be more honest – where it seems to want to go a lot: down. It was berating me for not meeting fitness, home project, and relationship goals- not just opposite sex relationships.

So, while I am pondering these and falling short in taking every thought captive immediately, my mind goes down one more road. Man, why hasn’t God done ______ yet? At this point I am in the groovy ten-year old car stopped at a cold red light and a mysterious red warning light goes on just above the odometer. What? Oh no. What does that mean? Where is the manual for the car. Nope not in the glove box. Green light. Locate manual at the next red. Green again. Light goes off and never comes back on. Fluke. Whew!

At that point, the error of my ways was made clear. Maybe God hasn’t done _____ yet; but look at everything He has done – by omission. Even more, look at all the things God has prevented happening in my life: God has kept the groovy car safe and running dependably and out of the shop. He has kept Luna and me safe and healthy. He has provided a great job through the end of this year. He has kept our home safe and quiet, and free of leaks, floods, ant infestations, etc.

There are hopes and dreams and special things we all want to happen. For whatever reason they don’t or at least haven’t so far. Rather than dwell on that, we can focus on what He has done and has provided. And, to take it a step further, thank Him for things He has protected us from. There are all kinds of people going through all kinds of things every day. Things we would find difficult or distasteful in the least, or crushing and absolutely overwhelming at worst. We can also thank God for sparing us. There is no guarantee that will always be the case. But gratitude is an attitude that is always in season. If we are honest and look around, every day can be a celebration of thanks giving.

No turkey, dressing or side dishes are needed. Just a thankful heart and a realization that our lives are full of great things and absent many terrible things courtesy of our Savior and Creator. Lord, help me to take every thought captive and operate in Your peace and in the realization that everything is in Your hands and You love me and have my ultimate good in mind.

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anti-zombie army

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“Behold a valley filled with bones
Bones on every side
A valley vast, the floor so full
Of bones so very dry

The Lord did ask
Can these bones live?
Might these bones rise once more?
What else was I to say but
You alone can tell, O Lord

A legion now alive
A resurrected army
A living, holy host
Of a people born again

Then prophesy, O son of man
Cry out to this dead hoard
And when they come to life again
They’ll know I am the Lord

And as I spoke what I was told
There came a rattling sound
As bone to bone they formed a mass
Of bodies on the ground

Your dead will come alive
Their graves will lie abandoned
And all those dwelling in the dust
Will wake and shout for joy

And then I called upon the winds
Upon these slain to breathe
At once they stood upon their feet
A mighty, vast army

A legion now alive
A resurrected army
A living, holy host
Of a people born again

Your dead will come alive
Their grave will lie abandoned
And all those dwelling in the dust
Will wake and shout for joy”

Lyrics by Michael Card “Valley of Dry Bones”

Inspired by Ezekiel  37:1-14

turn on’s and turn off’s

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I appreciate modern conveniences. Really, I do. I like turning on the tap and getting good water pressure and a seemingly unlimited supply of H two O without having to slog a five gallon bucket repeatedly back and forth from my place to the nearest source be it ten feet or five miles away. And, sorry, Al Gore, but I LOVE a long hot shower.

I am an incredibly big fan of refrigeration. Especially as it relates to ice- and freshly crushed ice out of the door. Love me some good crushed ice in my frosty beverages. I have decided to finally join the rest of you in the twentieth century when it comes to computers, internet, smart phones, iPods, and the like; and,  am still trying to make it to a level of comprehension consummate with the twenty first.

But there are still some innovations that chap my old fashioned hide while the rest of you all are sporting high tech poly disco fashion fibers. Among them are: Self check out stands – I like human cashiers and interacting with them,  I like humans having jobs;  Super complex television set ups. I have been without cable TV for over a decade and only got a set for DVD viewing about three years ago. Sadly, it’s virtually unused. For some reason I prefer reading. When I go to a friend’s and they ask me to turn on the television it brings an anxiety reminiscent of college algebra – especially if there are more than two remotes. Wouldn’t wanna go back to rabbit ears and walking across the room, but isn’t there a better way than all those remotes and buttons?

I resent the near absolute proliferation of email in personal correspondence. It’s fast, cheap, and easy (refraining from an obvious allusion here) but it is not quite the sentimental and tactile treat a handwritten card, letter, or thank you note is. Perhaps the one “benefit” of technology that annoys me more than anything else – except automated phone systems replacing humans on the other end – is…..drum roll, please……automated restrooms.

Surely, a group of well meaning, intelligent engineers wanting to make our lives easier and with a penchant for type AAA cleanliness thought they could save Mother Nature and the type A’s among us from careless swine, by making toilets, soap dispensers, faucets, and paper towel dispensers- or even worse : hand dryers! – operate with no or very little assistance from us.

While that sounds nice on paper, is it really all that great in practice? It starts in the little stall with the toilet. Your zipper goes down farther than it should and you have to spend waaaaay more time than is normal fishing it out to zip up; or you get that text or call you’ve been waiting on all day and wanna answer quickly. The super toilet of the future flushes again and again and again and again. There is no need. All you did was empty your bladder. More and more water winds down the vortex to go meet Nemo. And the chicks in line for your stall are wondering what’s up with your digestion that you’ve already run through four flushes.

You exit the stall, no one wants to go in that one. They’re afraid that after four flushes if the auto air freshener on the wall isn’t misting it’s toxic Bath ‘n Body Works-esque bubble gum scent, they’re gonna suffocate.

Eager to get outta there, you make your way to the sink to wash your hands like momma taught you. Auto soap dispenser. You do the wave pass past the sensor. Nothing. Hmmm. Maybe you didn’t wave just right. Too fast? You do it again. Nothing. Still not right or just empty? Who knows? You try again. Nothing. Either you are a technotard, the thing is broken, or empty. You’ll never know. You move to the next one. Same drill. A little gramma whose momma also taught her to wash her hands says, “Honey, that one there works.” So you use that one.

Now for the faucet. You do the wave hand pass. Nothing. Wave pass again. Nothing. Reposition a little. Nothing. What?? Ohhhhh! You realized you’ve been duped. This is one of those bi-technological bathrooms. You gotta actually turn the faucet on! They got the high-tech toilet, and the Peter Principle soap dispenser, but are still using the Old Faithful faucets. Nice.

The final part of your adventure. Drying your hands. The paper towel dispensers have the darn red light. You wave your hands. Nothing. Gramma’s friend tells you, “Honey, that’s empty, try this one.” You do. After two swipes you get enough towel to actually dry your hands. An aside: have you noticed those machines make a sound that is unquestionably in the mix in that “Gangnam Style” song? Kid you not! Listen for it next time, you will thank me.

Some stores now, like certain Targets, try to force you to be “environmentally friendly” and blow dry your hands. My skin is already as dry as a leaf about to self incinerate, so I’m not having none of that! Especially with all the dough I’ve dropped there. A couple times, to get my revenge when I didn’t dry my hands on my own clothing and it was cold, I walked out the door where the towels were and dried my hands on a nice new towel. Don’t panic. If you bought one of those towels, I am disease free, and… just washed my hands with hard earned auto dispensed soap and water. And, you really should wash towels before your first use anyway.  They have all that toxic residue from the factory on them. You don’t want that on your precious parts.

Do I stay awake nights pondering and worrying about this? No. Not really. It is obviously a petty first world problem in the scope of things. But, I suspect it’s a bit of a microcosm for the way the push for tech is so big everywhere, and I am not sure tech is always best.  In the end, I am not convinced all this tech is really saving energy all the time. And, when it is, that the money and/or carbon that is required to service and maintain- or replace it when it burns out quickly is worth it.

Sometimes a simpler solution is better. Less glamour, less maintenance, a little more muscle and more long term efficiency. An anecdotal example. Still have an old Radio Shack hand tuned homely radio alarm clock that is so loud it could wake the dead. Maybe it’s what started all this zombie stuff. Simple yes. Still going strong two decades after it was given to me as a junior high graduation gift. You bet. I have had several of the latest greatest digital radio alarm clocks by Sony and other “big names” that sucked. Make that SUCKED. Always managed to die right after the 1 or 2 year warranty expired.  Pretty yeah. Digital yeah. Trash YEAH.

I don’t mean to be anti- tech. Just to say in an age where everyone claims to care about the earth and decreasing the toxic crap we are polluting it with in landfills, maybe we should look at how to be lower tech, simpler, longer lasting, and less carbon consuming. Finding elegant new non toxic mechanical solutions to stuff.  How ’bout stuff that would still work if we were stuck without power for five days or more? Don’t say it never happens: Katrina, Sandy, and God forbid, but if the “big one” ever hits So Cal, it’s gonna a be a few days- if not weeks or months.

I don’t like having to be dependent on machines. I like it when they can work for me. But wanna have an out when they can’t. I have a dish washer but still remember how to wash dishes by hand. And, frankly, I am perfectly capable of flushing a toilet, deciding how much soap, turning water on and off, and getting my own darn towel or towels. And if the store thinks I am not, I’ll be singing “Gangnam Style” in my head…or on special occasions, quietly rebelling and drying my hands on real cotton plush towels when it’s cold outside.

Birds in paradise

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LOVE my new job. I am so grateful to be doing therapeutic chair massage for a local company. I get to do what I love and even better, get to help people relax, feel good and have a happy respite from their work.

I will be moving around on a regular basis but for the last four weeks, I was blessed to work in an office with two large windows looking out on a planter full of Birds of Paradise plants. Not only are they floral eye candy, they are also hummingbird magnets. And since the windows are reflective, the little birds feel comfortable stopping to rest, unaware that I get to gaze at them while they do.

In addition to hummingbirds, various kinds of finches and sparrows happen by as well. About twenty feet across the asphalt from the windows is a large dumpster enclosure. The fun thing about that is that it attracts another of my favorite species: the crows. I find them fascinating because they are so intelligent and can be very funny to watch. They also have an amusing variety of vocalizations.

While the dainty, delicate and agile avian helicopters sipped nectar from the floral birds; the large, black, raucous, slap stick crows raided the dumpster for good eats. One afternoon they toyed with sandwiches. Another french fries. But the absolute best in dark feathered entertainment was watching them enjoy, manipulate, and fly off with tangled masses of what appeared to be either spaghetti or lo mein.

The new job is reward enough of its own. But having a perfect window from which to watch the local birds was an unexpected added blessing. The best kind. Excited to see what pops up at the next post, and extremely grateful to the Keeper of the sparrows and the girl that loves watching them.

“Starlight” 914-S

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Sad tonight. Not sure precisely why. The rainy weather and over a week of insomnia have something to do with it. But, I think the sadness comes primarily from a news story I heard this afternoon.  A  twenty year old young man killed himself today in this county. That happens every day somewhere and is tragic in and of itself.

This young man, however, apparently murdered a twenty year old woman in the house where he lived in South Orange County and then went on a carjacking and shooting spree north bound in which he allegedly murdered two others and injured three more before murdering himself. In this county, law enforcement officers refer to suicide as 914. An attempt is 914-A.  If it is confirmed terminal, it’s 914-S.

Suicide is such a violent unnatural thing. It’s difficult for most to comprehend how down a person has to be to accomplish 914-S. But, seeing and hearing what it does to their friends, family, loved ones, and even mere acquaintances is perhaps even more heart wrenching. They are left to deal with the aftermath.

Unanswered questions. Second, third, and fourth guessing. What could or should they have done? How did they miss the signals? Why? How could he or she have done this to us? If the loss wasn’t enough, there may be brain matter on the ceiling or a blood saturated mattress to dispose of.

But to add to the tragedy of suicide murder?  Murder in the plural. For the fifteen minutes of fame? For notoriety on the news? To 914-A by cop? Goad law enforcement to do the job for you when you don’t have the balls to do it yourself and make an officer live with the fall out of pulling the trigger? Today, the suspect/victim blew his brains out with his shotgun. According to one citizen informer to the news, the brain literally ended up next to his body on the pavement along the yellow lines.

There is just too much of this going on. Too much grief. Too much mayhem. Too much prematurely induced death. But this pop culture twist of taking others with you. Ugh! It’s a whole new low. Murder-suicide is not new. But it seems, anecdotally at least, that multiple murders-suicide with strangers are getting more common.

Why?  I suspect it’s due to a despair of meaninglessness and insignificance. Many of the folks doing this kinda stuff come from upper middle class if not wealthy means. They have it all compared to most of the seven or so billion individuals on the planet. But they’re not happy. Even with the things that “should” make them happy they are not. Despair and loss of hope are necessary precursors for suicide.

Not all who experience despair and hopelessness take their own lives. Of those that do, only a small percentage kill others as precursor to it. It’s a heart and soul sickness. The more material and unspiritual society becomes, and the less meaning and purpose people feel, the more common this will continue to become.

Let’s reach out and share the Hope that is within us. Let’s be more proactive about praying against spiritual darkness in high places. Against suicide and murder and hopelessness and despair. Without being obnoxious and overly overt, let’s be effective models of the transforming power of relationship with a loving and forgiving Creator and Savior.

In the words of Muse in the song “Starlight:”

“Let’s conspire to ignite All the souls that would die just to feel alive.”

“The way down is the way up.”

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At the onset of what to date was the darkest, most baffling and bewildering season of my life, I found myself in the office of a counsellor. An older man – already in partial retirement, but he was very wise and astute. On top of that, he was more kind, caring, and gifted than perhaps anyone else in his field I subsequently had contact with.

He was also a godly man. Toward the end of the first session and the box of Kleenex he had placed in front of me, he said something I will never forget. I have no doubt it was a word from God  to help me press on in the time that has since elapsed.

“I want you to remember something:  … The way down is the way up. … …The way down is the way up. … You are a believer. Remember the story of Joseph. A man who had really done nothing wrong, yet when things seemed to be going his way something that seemed very bad would happen. … God uses those things. It seems very dark to you right now. It is dark. You are down. You are on the way down – and there is probably a little further to go. But I want you to remember, with Joseph, as with other of God’s people: The way down is the way up.  … The way down is the way up. … The way down…. is the way up.”

It sounded so much more eloquent and meaningful coming from him that morning. So simple and taken in context, so true. That day when I was at the end of my rope, he gave me something to help me hold on in circumstances that were out of my control. I have since been able to share this little jewel with a few others. My hope and prayer is that if you are currently on the way down and losing, or have lost hope; you will realize, that in God’s kingdom things often appear topsy-turvy to us. You may be on the way down, but please hold on. It will end up being your way up.

Time to leave time

pics 2-23-04 012Got a phone call today. Bill Ward left time for eternity Saturday around 4:00 p.m. There will be no parades. No facebook memorial pages visited by millions. No television tributes. To the majority, Bill is just another old guy who died.

To those who knew him, Bill was an incredible loving man of God.  Faithful,  kind, gentle, truthful, generous, humble, and encouraging. He and his wife Ellie made up one of the best hugging teams around. Renowned to generations of those who were part of their local church body.

Bill served in two branches of the military. He spent later years humbly serving his church in the capacity of a janitor and chief congregational coffee maker when many a younger man would have already retired. He did not have any biological children but has hoards of children and grand children in Christ.

He was a hugger extraordinaire and always had something uplifting to say. Sweet disposition and a propensity for prayer. A fighter to the end of his ninety-three years. He was hoping to make it to one more landmark anniversary with his bride. Will make up for lost hugs when we meet again outside time in eternity. Until then, Bill, you will be and already are sorely missed.

safe sex?

P1000635Driving home from work last night, a radio news update featured a brief story that 110 million Americans now have STD’s or STI’s. I was floored. What? In a nation of about 330 million? That’s like one-third. Good grief!

Upon arriving home, I felt the need to confirm whether or not my ears and vehicle speakers were working. Sure enough. An on-line US News and World Report story spits out figures. More disturbingly, it says that more than half of all the 20 million new cases each year are in folks 15-24 years of age. Fifteen?!? And it’s more than 110 million.

I’m no prude. Hey, I’d like to get it on with someone more than the next guy or girl. Sorry if that offends you, but I’m a human and am pre-programmed with a bent to love, be loved, and at a deep primal level to ensure the survival of the species. Because my belief system says God created us and wanted one man for one woman for one lifetime, that’s what I’m holding out for. Here is one more reason as if that was not enough.

The story further says that the lifetime price tag of treatment for 20 million infections is about $16 billion. Wow! I went to a Census Bureau website to see if the population level was what I  had recalled. It was lower on the site I looked at: 315 million. Minus 23.7 percent for the under 18 crowd and it bumps up the percentage of adults per capita with nasty cooties.

Until I am a wife, I live a celibate life. Not because I am a cold unfeeling paragon of virtue; but because my Designer wants His best for me – and so do I. This is a tiny bit of info to bolster once again that His way is the right one. And one more indication that the belief in safe sex is really quite a misnomer if it’s not in the context of a super committed loving relationship.