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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Car With Two Drivers

Last night on our weekly date night, Jason and I were discussing vehicles (strange topic for a date, I know, but that's where the conversation led).  Jason was talking about a particular vehicle that could be ordered to seat either seven or eight depending on whether you put a bench or two captain's chairs in the second row.  He made the comment, "Yeah, you can replace the middle bench with two captain's chairs just like the two drivers' seats."  Realizing his mistake, he quickly added, "I mean, the two front seats, not drivers' seats." 

We had a good laugh and then discussed the problems that would arise if we were both driving the car.  I would want to do the speed limit while Jason would want to do at least five over.  I would try to stop for the yellow light, but Jason would floor it.  I would wait for traffic to completely clear before pulling out whereas Jason would be comfortable pulling into the closest lane regardless of the traffic in the other lanes.  In short, it would be a mess!  It just would not work at all for the driver and passenger to both have control of the car.

I think you see where I'm going with this.  Who's controlling your "car"--you or God?  Just as with the vehicle, two people can't control one life.  Only one person can be at the helm, or a multitude of problems will arise.  If I'm trying to "help God out" by turning the wheel, stepping on the gas or stomping on the brakes, I'm not giving Him full control of my life.  He's trying to steer my life in one direction, and I'm obstinately trying to steer it in the opposite direction.  "But there's roadwork down that way," I complain.  "I don't want to go that way.  It's rough and rocky, not to mention slow.  This way is clear, smooth sailing.  Why can't we go this way?"  And if I'll be still and quiet, I may hear the answer, "Because, my child, that way leads to a dead end."  Oh!

You see, we often forget that while we may be able to "drive" through this life, we have no idea how to navigate.  I'm terrible with directions.  I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag with a hole at both ends.  You would think I would have figured out by now that I shouldn't try to give directions and neither should I trust my own instincts when it comes to directions.  All I manage to accomplish is finding myself lost, confused and exhausted.

God wants to be both the navigator and driver in our lives.  He wants to direct and steer us in the ways we should go.  All He wants from us is to trust Him and sit back and enjoy the ride.  No, He doesn't really appreciate backseat drivers.

And so, today we must make a choice.  Who's driving and who's navigating?  God will do both if we'll let Him.  And the ride will certainly be more pleasant!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Working in the Dark (Repost)

I experienced something new Sunday night. As we sat in church, a terrible thunderstorm came. The thunder was rolling, the wind was howling, and hail was pounding against the windows. As I was playing through the offertory, the strength of the storm seemed to increase. Then suddenly, the building went black. . . and I mean BLACK!

The piece I was playing for the offertory was a piece that I had memorized, so I just kept playing in the dark. As the lights came back on, I finished the song, amazed that I hadn't missed a note. Not only was I amazed by the accomplishment of playing in the dark, but I was astounded by my ability to keep calm in the midst of the darkness and continue my task. (No one else commented on my new-found talent, but I was impressed and thankful that the Lord had guided my hands in the dark.)

Life is full of storms. Some are strong and lead to times of darkness. During those times, it is our responsibility to stay calm and finish our tasks. It's tempting to stop what we're doing. It's tempting to stare into the darkness. It's tempting to give into our fears of the unknown. But what good does that do? No, there is only one option: we must press on.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Was it easy to play the piano when I couldn't see the keys or my hands or anything else? No, but the Lord led me through just as He will lead us through our times of darkness. Even though we're afraid and we can't see the next step, He has promised to be our Guide. He will keep us on the right path, but we must be willing to keep going. Let's not leave an unfinished melody!

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. - Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Keep Casting Your Net

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.- Luke 5:1-5

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  No, I don't necessarily mean as a fisherman, but as an individual.  Have you ever felt frustration and disappointment?  Have you ever done all the right things in all the right ways and still found that your efforts were in vain?  Have you ever tried every way you could possibly conceive of to remedy a situation and walked away with your head down, tears falling?  If you can answer "yes" to any of those questions, then you can understand how the disciples felt.

I received a healthy dose of understanding last week when I received yet another rejection letter.  This one was not from a publisher regarding a book or a magazine regarding an article, but rather it was a website regarding a job for which I had applied several months ago.  After reading the job description, I was confident I was perfect for the job.  I had all the right skills.  I had all the proper requirements.  But when no word ever came, I assumed the job had been given to someone else.

When I saw the e-mail address of the company, I felt a thrill of excitement.  In the writing/publishing industry, many times you are only notified if you are accepted.  It just takes too much time and effort to notify each applicant.  With this in mind, I opened the e-mail and began reading:

Dana, Thank you for taking the time to apply. . .We appreciate the hard work and effort you put into your application. However, we recently offered a contract to another candidate. 

Some common reasons we may not have chosen your application include:

* We are looking for someone with more professional writing experience. 
* We are looking for someone with more writing experience in the topic. 
* We are looking for someone with different qualifications. 
* The writing in the writing sample was not up to our standards or had errors. 

As much as I tried, I just couldn't hold back the tears. As I read through the list of "common reasons", all I could see was the same accusation over and over again--"You're just not good enough." To be honest, I was ready to quit. "Why bother?" I asked myself. "You've tried and tried, and all you've accomplished is to get nowhere fast. You've wasted your time, your money and your energy. Why? For a career that seems perpetually out of reach. It's just too hard, and frankly, I'm tired of trying.

I walked away from my computer and went to apply myself to something else, so I sat down to prepare my Sunday School lesson. I opened my Bible to Luke 5 and began reading. I laughed and cried as I identified with the weary fishermen. But then, I found encouragement. We all know the story, but read through the verses again:  

And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. - Luke 5:6-7

Think about it--these men were one cast away from hauling in the biggest catch of their lives. What if they had given up? What if they had refused to try again? What if they had failed to follow the Savior's prompting? Think of what they would have missed out on.

I may be one step away from reaching my writing goals, but I'll never know if I'm not willing to take that step. You may be one step away from reaching your dream. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. Eventually, our nets will be overflowing, but we must keep casting them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Are You Calling a "Girly Girl"?

I overheard a very humorous conversation the other week.  The discussion was taking place between two women in our church, one of whom is expecting her third child in just a few weeks.  Because she already has two boys and is the "only girl in the house", everyone is assuming that this expecting mother is hoping for a girl.  Quite the opposite.  As this mother explained to a lady at our church, "I don't want a girly girl.  I want a child that's willing to hunt and fish and do things outdoors.  I'm used to that.  I enjoy that.  I wouldn't know what to do with a girly girl."

Before I realized what was coming, the other lady pointed back at me and said, "Dana's a girly girl, but she still likes to do outdoor things."  Outwardly I was smiling, but inwardly, I was downright laughing.  I have NEVER thought of myself as a girly girl.  Evidently, this lady and I have different definitions of "girly girl."

I define a girly girl as one who loves pink, paints her fingernails and toenails at least once a week, changes purses with every outfit (unless really pressed for time), loves to shop, prefers any inside chores to the heat, cold, or bugs of the outdoors, etc.  In two words, my sister.  Now she's a girly girl, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I, however, am the exact opposite.  I despise pink unless its on a flower.  I hardly ever paint my fingernails or toenails.  I change my purse once a season (if that).  I despise shopping (unless it's at the Goodwill store).  I'd much rather haul firewood or trek through the woods than wash dishes or perform any other household chore.  I don't mind getting dirty, and it's not uncommon to find grit on my face or dirt under my nails.  To me, that is not a girly girl.

On the way home from church that day, I told Jason what had been said.  He laughed and commented, "She doesn't know you very well.  Does she?"  Evidently, my husband's definition of "girly girl" lines up a little better with my own.

When it all comes down to it, though, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me.  My purpose in life is not to make others like me (although I hope they do), nor is to gain their approval (even though that's always nice).  No, all that matters in this life is what God thinks of me.  His opinion is the only one that matters.  And because of His unending love and His rose-colored glasses (tinted by the blood of Christ), He sees me as His beloved child and so much more.  He knows me inside and out, and yet He still loves me.  Talk about acceptance!

Perhaps, like me, you're not the "popular" type.  Perhaps you struggle to feel accepted or appreciated.  Perhaps the "you" that everyone else sees is not the real you at all, but you're unsure how to make the true you shine through.  Never fear, for there is One who sees you just as you are.  You have nothing to prove to Him.  No need to try to impress Him with your actions or words.  No, all you have to do to impress Him is to walk with Him.  Accept His love and offer yours in return.  Stay close to Him and bask in His willingness to know "the real you" and in His love that creates in you a desire to be so much more than you are.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: - Ephesians 1:3-4

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Does the Bible Say About Love - Part 4

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

6Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
 7Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Does the Bible Say About Love? - Part 3

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 5:8
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:37-39
37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I John 3:1
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alarm Clock by Mark Lowry

I tried to find this comedy routine on a video, but this is the best I could do. Still, it's hilarious, so have a good laugh to begin your day.

Alarm Clock by Mark Lowry on Grooveshark

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Does the Bible Say About Love? - Part 1

I Corinthians 13

1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
 4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Is an Emergency!!!

A few weeks ago, when my truck caught fire, I had my first opportunity to call 911 for an emergency of my own.  I've called before to report accidents or emergencies for others but never to call for an emergency of my own.  It was quite a different experience.

First, the 911 operator wanted my name, my address and the type of emergency.  I tried to remain as calm as possible while giving her the information she needed (although I probably deafened her when I screamed at the first small explosion).  She transferred me to the fire department, who wanted all the same information.  My heart was pounding.  My hands were shaking.  While on the phone, I was watching the fire engulf more and more of my vehicle and praying the fire department would reach us before the flames reached the gas tank.

I finally got off the phone with the fire department who assured me they were on their way.  We live less than a mile from the fire department, so I expected to hear sirens right away.  I didn't.  In fact, I waited in a panic for what seemed like an eternity.  The fire had completely consumed the cab of the truck and was quickly making its way to the bed. . . and the gas tank.

"Come on," I pleaded over and over again to no one in particular.  "What is taking so long?  I could have walked to the fire department by now.  Don't they know this is an emergency?"  Finally, I heard the familiar wail of sirens as they grew closer.  I can't explain the relief that flooded my soul just knowing that the professionals had arrived at the scene.

My conversation to thin air reminds me of conversations I've had with God.  You know, when life gets ugly, and I've sent up my heavenly 911 call.  After making the call, I wait for what seems like an eternity and often find myself making similar comments.  "Come on, God.  I'm waiting.  You said for us to bring our burdens to You, so I have, but things are not looking any better.  Can you please hurry this up?  Can't you see this is an emergency?"  And I wait in fear and desperation for the Professional to arrive on the scene and make everything okay.

Isn't it funny how easy it is to forget that THE Professional is always on the scene?  He's already there in the midst of the chaos.  He's there by our sides through the entire ordeal.  He knows exactly what's going on, and He knows exactly how severe He can allow the storm to get before doing permanent damage.  He has a very impressive resume.  If you don't believe me, flip through the pages of your Bible.  This Professional is the One who can part seas, calms seas and even walk on seas.  He can provide food, shelter and life.  There has not yet been, nor will there ever be, a situation He could not handle or an enemy He could not defeat.  And He's here for us all the time, 24/7.

The problem is we're often too blinded by the rain in our eyes and the lightning flashes to recognize the Haven within our reach.  We know He's there somewhere, but when He doesn't answer our pleas to calm the storm, we assume He can't hear us over the sound of the thunder and wind.  The truth is that He hears us just fine, but sometimes it's not His will to calm the storm, but rather to calm us during the storm.  I like the way Max Lucado puts it in his book, A Gentle Thunder:  "Though you hear nothing, He is speaking.  Though you see nothing, he is acting.  With God there are no accidents.  Every incident is intended to bring us closer to him."

No, with God, there are no accidents.  And you know what?  There are no emergencies either.  Sure, it may seem like one to me, but I'm not holding the universe in the palm of my hand.  He is!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - II Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why Can't You Be Like Me?

I recently stumbled across a personality test in a book I was reading.  After reading the names of each personality type and an overview of each, I was pretty sure I knew where I fit.  Still, I had a few minutes, so I took the test.  Imagine my unsurprise when I discovered I was, in fact, a perfectionist.  "Duh," I said, "anyone who knows me can figure that out."

The funny thing is that because I'm a mix of personalities (mostly perfectionist and peaceful/easy going), I tend to have all the bad traits of the perfectionist but none of the good ones.  For example, the first thing discussed about the perfectionist is that she is an immaculate housekeeper and gourmet cook.  Yeah, right!  I had trouble spelling immaculate, let alone being so.  Anyone who has ever stopped by my house unexpectedly knows that my house is a mess! (Sorry, Mom!)  There are dishes in the sink, tumbleweeds of dog hair on the floor, grime in the bathrooms and dust on the furniture.  Immaculate?   Not hardly.  And as far as a gourmet cook is concerned, all I can say is "Ha!"  My meals are edible and some might even call them good, but I'm not likely to win any awards in that area.

Now, when it comes to routines and schedules, yep, I'm a perfectionist all the way.  I like to have a plan, and I'm irritated when that plan doesn't work out the way I think it should.  See what I mean about picking up the negative traits but not the positive ones?  The worst trait of all, however, about perfectionists is that we set unrealistic expectations both for ourselves and everyone around us.  No one can possibly live up to the standards we set.  For this reason, we are often angry, hurt or offended by someone's lack of adherence to our plans for him.

We think everyone should function as we function.  I have a plan; therefore, everyone should have a plan.  I am not a procrastinator; therefore, no one should procrastinate.  Despite my messy house, things in my purse, songbook or class bag should always be returned to their rightful places.  To not comply is risky.  Why?  Because perfectionists are also known to be quite moody.  It's no wonder!  We're trying to transform the entire world into perfectionists, and it can't be done.

As I type this, spelling out the many faults of the perfectionist, I find myself wondering, Why in the world would I want anyone else to be like me?  Moody, irritable, rigid, scheduling the fun right out of life.  Eek!  In fact, it reminds me a lot of a passage in the Bible:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. - Matthew 7:1-5

Instead of looking at everyone else's faults, we need to turn our gaze inward.  Let's examine ourselves first and see where we may need some work.  It would be easy for me to excuse my impatient nature by saying, "Well, I'm just wired that way," but the truth is that not all personality traits are good ones.  Some of them lead to dangerous places.

I said all of that to say this:  You know that person who really rubs you the wrong way?  They do all the things you can't stand and don't seem to notice the way you shudder at their nasty habits.  Before passing judgment on that person or getting angry with him/her, take a moment to examine your own life.  Take care of your 2x4 before fussing about someone else's splinter.  Who knows?  After taking a look at yourself, you may not even notice the other's faults.

I'm busy enough trying to "fix" myself.  I don't have time to work on anyone else!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

Trevor McDaniel is not your typical thrill chaser.  Born of personal tragedy, his reckless nature urges him ever onward to be more, to do more, and no matter the cost, failure is not an option.  Behind this possessive need, however, dwells a kind man hiding from his past and striving to make more of his future.

Natalie Reeve, new to the town of Redford, uses her gift (or curse) of eidetic memory to sculpt breathtaking images that portray far more than the naked eye could ever see.  Her vision allows her to see deep inside of people, witnessing their pain, loneliness and fear, but that same vision often provokes the same feelings within herself because of others' unwillingness to accept her as "normal".  Little does she know that her gift may soon be the only thing to solve the case of a grim admirer who is willing to put his own life on the line to make a statement.

Indelible begins with a heart-racing chase to save a three-year-old boy from the jaws of a mountain lion.  This event ties together the two main characters.  From the very first paragraph, the reader finds himself relating to the characters and drawn into the story as it unfolds.  It is the perfect blend of adventure, romance and suspense.   The story is well-paced with its endless ups and downs of excitement and intrigue.  Even though it is a long book (over 300 pages), it is an enjoyable read and a book you won't want to put down.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Real Heroes

I don't usually do this, but would you mind if I rant a little today?  I saw a sign yesterday that just rubbed me the wrong way.  In fact, it downright irritated me.  It was a billboard for a jewelry store.  Naturally, there was a picture of a huge diamond ring.  But what infuriated me was the caption which read, "We're making husbands heroes."  Excuse me, but not all women are that shallow!   My husband is not a hero to me because he buys me diamonds (chocolate, yes; diamonds, no -- just kidding!).  Seriously, is that all it takes in today's society to be considered a hero?  How sad!

Allow me to share with you why I think my husband is a hero, and it has nothing to do with diamonds (we can't afford those).

1.) He loves me and cherishes me with his words and actions.

2.) He works hard day after day to provide for me and our children (the dogs).

3.) He strives to provide me with anything I need and a lot of things I want.

4.) After 14 years of marriage, he still opens doors for me, including the car door.

5.) He treats me like a lady and challenges anyone who does not treat me as such.

6.) He puts my desires and needs above his own.

7.) He spends his time off with me, even if that means running errands or scrubbing bathrooms.

8.) He holds me when I cry and encourages me when I'm down.

9.) He counsels me in spiritual things and helps me to see dangers in my path.

10.) He is faithful to me and makes me feel special enough that no other could ever take my place.

Now that's a hero!  Ladies, please don't judge your husband by the materialistic ways of this world.  Instead, use the Bible's guide for a Godly husband, and see how your man measures up.  After all, we don't need diamonds.  We need true heroes.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. - Ephesians 5:25