Love in Action

sunset hands love woman

Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

I’m a tad depressed today—this in spite of the fact that it’s been years since I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day the way the morning shows suggest it should be celebrated. So, to adjust my mood (and possibly yours?) I’ll share a sweet story.

After a long, dry stretch of grief, betrayal, and loneliness spent in an unfamiliar southern locale, I have been delivered. And when God’s love gushes into the parched places by way of the thoughtful actions of others, gratitude blooms wildly alongside the relief and refreshment.

Having survived that rough patch and returned to my home state of Minnesota, I have a renewed sense of blessedness. I give thanks for this on a daily basis. Still, living in a world where evil parades as good, I remain in need of daily reminders of what is important, what is true, what is beautiful.

Last Saturday, I enjoyed a wonderful series of soul-satisfying events. A service project at church. Lunch with a dear friend. A long afternoon chat with another dear friend. But the highlight of my day was an encounter with people I had never met, in the dining area of a place I seldom frequent.

Mid-morning on that 15-below wind-chill day, I stopped at McDonald’s to warm up with a fifty cent cup of “senior coffee.” When I got to the counter, the coffee rang up at nearly a dollar. Well folks, I’m pretty close with my cash. I also don’t like restaurant coffee nearly as well as my own home-blend of hazelnut-cocoa, which I produce at closer to fifteen cents a cup.

I declined to pay the buck, explaining that I had expected the same senior rate I’d paid at my Texas McDonald’s.

On my way out, I paused at a table close to a young family—Dad, Mom, and their elementary-age son and daughter. Clumsily juggling gloves and scarf, I replaced my wallet, zipped my jacket, dug for my car keys. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small hand extended with a dollar bill in it. Startled, I looked up to see the older child standing there. “For your coffee,” he offered respectfully.

My heart almost stopped. “Oh, God bless you,” I said. “But no, it’s okay. I have the dollar, I’m just cheap. I didn’t want to pay what they were asking. But thank you.” My eyes raised to the father, who was nodding encouragingly, I said, “Thank you so much. That was such a kind gesture.” And I floated out to my vehicle warmed by a rehabilitated faith in the human race.

What an incredible love-your-neighbor lesson to be teaching one’s children. I nominate this dad as Father of the Year.

I have told this story to some who looked back at me pityingly, as if I should be mortified with embarrassment. Maybe. But I don’t see it that way. I see the experience as a gift, a playful little wink from God. He knows what reminders I need and when. And that personalized bit of heavenly attention is simply one more blessing added to the heap.

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February 15, 2019 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

Mapnesia

map maps american book

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

I suffer from a condition I call Geographic Dyslexia. Very seldom can I tell you whether I’m driving north, south, east, or west on a given route. The day after I had moved into it, I couldn’t make my way back to my own townhouse after running a close-to-home errand. Had to flag down the UPS guy and ask him to guide me home. (I know this sounds crazy, I blurted, but I just moved in, and I am in a panic, and they all look alike, and blah, blah, blah.)

Granted, there are dozens of identical clusters of these structures in my new neighborhood, but still. Talk about humiliating.
After trying in vain to get the hang of the mapping device on my ancient smart phone, I rationalized that the phone’s battery isn’t that reliable, anyway. So for Christmas, I bought myself a Garmin GPS. Best $80.00 investment I ever made.
I now venture out with confidence. No more declining invitations because I’m afraid I’ll never make it to my destination. No more staying in after dark because it’s oh-so-much more terrifying getting lost at nighttime than in broad daylight. No more tears as I berate myself for being so dumb, dumb, dumb. This feeling of freedom from Fear of Driving is a wonderful thing indeed.
Okay, okay: In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that—although I regularly and vocally declare my love for the voice that now guides me—I have actually gotten lost twice since I started plugging this little miracle machine into my car’s idle cigarette lighter socket.
The first time, the wrong destination address got entered. (I should have double-checked it.)
The second time, I was trekking clear across town to Bloomington, City of No Through-Streets Whatsoever. Not Garmin’s fault, this. I blame the blasted roundabouts. A pox on the pretentious city planners who decided these quaint approaches to traffic control would serve drivers well in a country 75 times the size of England, their birthplace!

I say they should show a bit more respect for the directionally challenged, don’t you think?

January 10, 2019 at 5:56 pm 3 comments

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Bulletin Board
My office bulletin board hosts photos of happy people celebrating joyful occasions. It also displays several snippets of wisdom:

•Act as if it were impossible to fail.
•Pray First!
•Philippians 4:6-8 (“Be anxious for nothing . . . whatever things are true . . . noble . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report . . . meditate on these things.”)

These tend to be fairly effective reminders, since they are right there—in my face each morning—as I settle in at my desk. Based on what feels like a pressing need for focus, I may soon tack up a few more helpful prompts.

In her book 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life, Joyce Meyer devotes two sequential chapters to “Don’t Worry about Tomorrow” and “Let Go of What Lies Behind.” If I follow her advice, that leaves me smack dab in the middle of today. I gave this obvious conclusion considerable thought and ended up feeling more lost than found.

Like many of us, I worry. I know I should turn it all over. That I should trust the Lord to sustain me through the future—fog, thunderstorm, or sunshine. And I know the only thing worrying accomplishes is to distract me from those things I can do something about. Ditto for my habit of revisiting past events.

So, why is the simple act of living fully in today’s possibilities so difficult for some of us?

Ms. Meyer revisits this subject in Chapter 74: “Tackle Each Day as It Comes.” Here, she quotes Sir William Osler, “Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your wildest ambition.” And Acts 25:16, “Therefore I always . . . discipline myself to have a clear conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men.”

I thwack myself on the forehead. Well, duh.

Of course it offends God when we waste the coin of life or squander our emotions. Maybe I can’t regulate each little worry that creeps into my mind, or every thought that wanders to the “should haves” of my past. But I can certainly shoo away unproductive musings the second I become aware of them.

This leaves me with a new perspective. I can waste time and energy nursing unfounded fears for the future or punishing myself with remorse over missed opportunities I can never recapture. Or I can adopt as a realistic goal the daily discipline of mind and body, with those chapter 74 quotes in mind.

Reasoning with myself hasn’t effectively motivated me. But an awareness that I disappoint my Creator, this lights a fire in my belly.

Another compelling incentive is a more peaceful heart and mind. With God’s guidance and my commitment to ushering out unproductive thoughts, maybe I can avoid looking back on today and wishing I’d spent more time doing and less time stewing.

#########

Now there’s a quaint saying to post on my bulletin board. What does your office wall look like?

March 26, 2018 at 10:53 pm 2 comments

An Unblessed Day??

CLC Church in Togo.jpg

I say it to people often. Have a blessed day. Particularly on special occasions, as if blessings are somehow meant for birthdays and anniversaries.

I got to thinking the other day about how every day is blessed—regardless of the calendar date. I wake up in a sturdy structure, protected from the weather. Walk my dog in a safe area, surrounded by good-hearted neighbors. Open my cupboard or refrigerator to a selection of nourishing options.

We lost water supply to my subdivision not long ago. That’s the second time in six months that we’ve suffered this inconvenience. Of course, “suffer” is entirely the wrong word. Clean water piped in on demand is just another one of those luxuries I’ve come to expect as a citizen of a developed and (fairly) well-run society.

Yet medical care, police protection, emergency assistance, and a never-interrupted supply of fresh food available within a few minutes’ drive are all blessings virtually unknown in some parts of the world.

And the very word “blessing” is certainly infused with meaning. Online dictionaries define it as a thing conducive to happiness or welfare. Technically correct from the effect end of things. But they leave inquiries into the origin of those good and helpful things unexplored.

People of faith understand that all blessings flow from God’s good grace. Nothing pious about that, since the rains fall on believers and nonbelievers alike, and the crops feed all who either harvest or purchase them. Any lack of shared blessings falls to man’s inadequacy, not the Creator’s.

I heard a radio commentator explain it once: There are plenty of resources to go around. It’s mankind’s greed, corruption, and lack of empathy that cause shortages of universal “happiness and welfare.” The filthy rich autocrat siphoning off aid funds while his subjects starve; the self-centered, jet-setting celebrity, quick to lecture others but slow to redistribute their own wealth; me, settling complacently into preserving what I have for fear of future unmet needs.

But my conscience whispers additional reminders . . .

-One more day passes in which my inoculation protects me against influenza.

-Each Sunday, I worship in a soundly-built church building—much more aesthetically pleasing and secure than the humble structure where my brethren in Tongo gather. (See photo.)

-I wake up, flip a switch, and electricity magically flows into my home, filling the early morning hours with light.

-My furnace pumps out warmth whenever the inside temperature drops below 68 degrees; the air conditioner reverses the process when temps rise above 78.

So, I’m doubling-down today in offering thanks for everyday blessings that I sometimes take for granted and asking for guidance in ways I can serve and share.

How was your day blessed, and what are your favorite channels for sharing?

 

March 3, 2018 at 9:33 pm 3 comments

Hope Endures

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Corrie Ten Boom

The anguish of watching a loved one stumble into the snare of addiction can test even a parent’s love. I encountered such a mom recently and was amazed at her fortitude as she described leading her daughter out of that entanglement by letting her face the consequences of incarceration.

Inspired, I wrote to a young acquaintance serving a three-year sentence for drug crimes to assure him that there is hope in all circumstances.

Dear Robert,

I think often of how far away you are from your parents and how difficult it must be when they aren’t able to visit. My heart aches for each of you, but I am reminded that God can weave purpose through every tribulation.

A few years ago, a dear friend called me in tears. Her husband had been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder. I was stunned. How could this happen to such fine Christian people? My friend’s disabled husband went on to spend a year in jail awaiting the court date because they couldn’t afford both bail and a lawyer.

During his trial it all became clear: In order to access grant money and gain professional recognition, an overzealous prosecutor had re-opened a cold case that had been declared an accident twenty-five-years earlier.

The case crumbled when the “eye witness” broke down. He’d made up his testimony, he said, because he was terrified by the prosecutor’s relentless badgering. Meanwhile, my friends endured twelve months of crushing worry that the truth might never come to light. Yet through it all this couple remained steadfast in prayer, holding onto the belief that God resurrects good from bad.

Your situation is difficult. But I believe that, through it, God can mold you into the person He meant for you to be. It takes courage to endure, but with the Lord’s help, the impossible becomes possible.

Before God led me home to faith in my late-thirties, I sinned in ways that still bring me pain. But He uses my past mistakes to guide me today. There is great comfort in that side of salvation. I can’t explain it, but I can celebrate it. And when difficulties arise, I’ve learned that I can bear all things when I open myself to His offer of strength.

Please know that your church family supports your efforts to make things right in your life. We look forward to the day when we will welcome you back with open arms. Until then, we hold you in our hearts and prayers and entrust you to the Lord’s open arms for comfort when things get tough.

My friend who was falsely accused of murder witnessed to many during his year of imprisonment, planting the seeds for restoration through faith. That’s God making lemonade out of lemons, and He can sweeten your bitter cup as well.

Yours, In Christ

 

February 22, 2018 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

Hope Endures

       Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Corrie Ten Boom

The anguish of watching a loved one stumble into the snare of addiction can test even a parent’s love. I encountered such a mom recently and was amazed at her fortitude as she described leading her daughter out of that entanglement by letting her face the consequences of incarceration.

Inspired, I wrote to a young acquaintance serving a three-year sentence for drug crimes to assure him that there is hope in all circumstances.

Dear Robert,
I think often of how far away you are from your parents and how difficult it must be when they aren’t able to visit. My heart aches for each of you, but I am reminded that God can weave purpose through 
every tribulation.

A few years ago, a dear friend called me in tears. Her husband had been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder. I was stunned. How could this happen to such fine Christian people? My friend’s disabled husband went on to spend a year in jail awaiting the court date because they couldn’t afford both bail and a lawyer.

During his trial it all became clear: In order to access grant money and gain professional recognition, an overzealous prosecutor had re-opened a cold case that had been declared an accident twenty-five-years earlier.

The case crumbled when the “eye witness” broke down. He’d made up his testimony, he said, because he was terrified by the prosecutor’s relentless badgering. Meanwhile, my friends endured twelve months of crushing worry that the truth might never come to light. Yet through it all this couple remained steadfast in prayer, holding onto the belief that God resurrects good from bad.

Your situation is difficult. But I believe that, through it, God can mold you into the person He meant for you to be. It takes courage to endure, but with the Lord’s help, the impossible becomes possible.

Before God led me home to faith in my late-thirties, I sinned in ways that still bring me pain. But He uses my past mistakes to guide me today. There is great comfort in that side of salvation. I can’t explain it, but I can celebrate it. And when difficulties arise, I’ve learned that I can bear all things when I open myself to His offer of strength.

Please know that your church family supports your efforts to make things right in your life. We look forward to the day when we will welcome you back with open arms. Until then, we hold you in our hearts and prayers and entrust you to the Lord’s open arms for comfort when things get tough.

My friend who was falsely accused of murder witnessed to many during his year of imprisonment, planting the seeds for restoration through faith. That’s God making lemonade out of lemons, and He can sweeten your bitter cup as well.

Yours in Christ

 

,           pexels-photo-267559.jpeg

February 20, 2018 at 6:05 pm 2 comments

Rainy Day Unblues

sad moonie

I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t possess as extensive a vocabulary as I credit her with. Still, I could swear Muňeca just rolled dejected, puppy-sad eyes at me in a look that said, What kind of a day is this when a girl can’t even get in one decent walk, between the cold and the rain and the wind?

I shot her back a cocked-eyebrow look of my own that said, “Just be glad we don’t live in Montana. Missoulans are trudging through ten inches of snow about now.”

Funny thing is, this damp and cloudy day didn’t leave me feeling drained and depressed and wanting to crawl back into bed. There was certainly a time in my life when it would have.

This is not because everything is peachy-keen in my little corner of Texas, either. I don’t have close friends nearby. Nice, younger neighbors, but no long-term confidants. I haven’t set aside enough to ensure my future well-being should an economic ripple interrupt the delivery of monthly Social Security checks. And people I love and thought I could trust inexplicably turned on me after my husband passed away last December.

Then, all last week I wasn’t feeling so hot. But I weathered it with prayer, serenely meditating my way through a string of housebound days that I feared might herald a new normal. I am, after all, approaching a birthday that I can hardly believe has snuck up on me, when I actually—usually—feel decades younger than the number would suggest.

So today the sage’s voice that hunkers down in the left half of my brain whispers to its opposing side, she actually has acquired a little wisdom in the autumn of her life. The wisdom to not beat my head against the brick wall of things over which I have no control. The understanding that a satisfactory life requires my greatest efforts, but also my greatest faith in an entity I cannot see or touch. And the knowledge that none of this rests in my ability to conquer the world but in the omnipotence of a Creator God, who hears my plaints but knows better than I how to resolve them.

Patience. Did I mention that older me is more patient, too? It’s not a trait I taught myself. It came from an active relationship with that Creator. Can’t explain how all of this works because I’m hobbled by the limits of human intelligence. But I can guarantee a good result once the practice of daily contact with Him is established.

Another funny thing? For the first twenty years of my adulthood, I wouldn’t have made that claim. Probably would have laughed at it. Did laugh at it. I’m not laughing any longer. But I am smiling. Even on a dreary, cold, rainy, windy day.

 

November 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm 1 comment

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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