Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Did Jesus Really Look Like?

I'm reading a book called Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm by Richard A. Swenson, MD.  I was really struck by one of the chapters called, "Jesus and Contentment," where Dr. Swanson discusses the fact that Jesus didn't really have a lot of needs--and maybe that's why He was so content. 

There are so many "needs" that were covered in this chapter-"needs" that Jesus really didn't need-assurance, advice, things, information, shelter, money, respectable parents, a luxurious birthing suite, a respectable upbringing, living on the "right" side of the tracks, prestigious schools, good connections, and even food and water (yes, he needed food and water, but He controlled His need and would take food only under acceptable conditions). 

He needed clothing and sandals, but "needed" only the simplest of those things (He WAS fully man remember---and most men just grab whatever is on the floor and think they look fine), and those things are never really described to us.

But here's what really stood out to me--that Jesus didn't need to be handsome and well-groomed. Isn't it stunning that we know nothing about what Jesus looked like? How is this possible? It's not as if the Bible refuses to describe its characters. Saul was handsome and a head taller than everyone else. David was handsome and ruddy with a fine appearance. Absalom was more handsome than anyone in Israel, with no blemish from head to foot, and hair that was to die for. Zaccheus was short and had to climb a tree to see Jesus.


But the Messiah, the Savior of the world, God among us? We know nothing of His appearance except a brief veiled (and unflattering) description in Isaiah 53. Are you ever curious? Was He handsome or plain? What color were His eyes? We assume He had a beard, but was it trimmed or long? Was His hair curly or straight, long or short? How tall was He? Was He muscular? Given that He is the central character in all of history,it is strange that we know so little about these things.

He goes on to say that perhaps the reason so little is known of His physical description is that if we had known of it, perhaps many (or most?) of us would have been more focused on His looks than His message. We have an unquenchable desire to know everything about anyone famous, yet it is those precise details that we obsess about that God, perhaps purposely, leaves out. Could it be that we should be less interested in the outward appearance of people than a person's internal character? And what does that mean for ourselves? Do we focus too much on our outward appearance and our "needs"? Are any of those "needs" more of a "want?"

This chapter is so much more rich than what I've included here, as is the book. I've only touched on the part that really touched me (so far---that's only Chapter 2!). I've always found it interesting that Jesus is depicted as slight of build, brown hair and caucasion, if not slightly tanned from the constant exposure to the sun. And blue eyes? Probably not Nordic. More Middle-Eastern in looks. Who knows, maybe he was a big burly man, like the fishermen! I suppose we need to have that visual to make Him more real to us, but it's simply food for thought today...isn't it interesting that we really don't know anything about His looks? And, yes, I've purposely left out pictures today.


Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
This Kingdom (Hillsongs)
Link to view the book:
Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm (Richard Swenson, MD)

Video Pick: (Part 1: You can find Part 2 on Youtube, once you view Part 1)
Consistently Content (Joyce Meyer)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Make Everything You Do a Hallelujah!

I walked into the gym the other night and this woman I was sort of friendly with back when I tried to take classes (that's another story for another blog) was there. I smiled and said hello, and as I walked past her, she said, "You look great!" I was a bit taken aback. My reply was, "I do?" I wonder why? It certainly isn't my hair-the bobby pins I put in when I left the house to keep my hair off my face make me look either like a granny or a nerd.  "Yeah," she continued. "You lost a ton of weight, didn't you?" Well...first of all, I didn't know I was that fat to look this good! Secondly, I never weighed anywhere near over 2000 pounds, which is what a ton is. Third, I lost about five pounds...and it certainly wasn't from exercising, since I'm allergic to that. But ok, whatever...I'll take it! "Thanks," I said, and wandered over to the machine that would hold me captive for the next 30 minutes. At least I'd have some serious uninterrupted book time.
Treadmills are to Mary as
peanuts are to someone with a nut allergy

She isn't the first one to tell me that I look good-like I've lost a lot of weight...perhaps it's been redistributed to somewhere behind, and when I walk past people, they think, "Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't have been so hasty with my compliment." I don't know, I can't see back there. I wish my doctor would tell me I look good. He just tells me, "You need to exercise more and eat less." blahblahblah...

I mentioned this incident to someone this morning and he said, "I've been telling you that for months! I don't know if it's a weight thing, but you look different." Maybe, just maybe...it's the joy of the Lord. I did have somewhat of a transformation a few months ago, when I came out of that dry time. Could it be the joy of the Lord that people see in me?


I seriously don't know what these people are seeing that I'm not. But I say, "Hallelujah!" The word hallelujah, literally translated from the Hebrew means Praise (hallel) ye Jehovah (Jah). Instead of questioning, instead of griping and complaining, let's try giving a hallelujah-a shout out to God! Imagine going into the gym and instead of all these sweaty people huffing and puffing, they randomly blurted out "Hallelujah!" when they reached their goals! Or standing in line at the grocery store and hearing "Hallelujah!" from register 1 and then from register 5, then from Aisle 6, then from the Seafood Department. Wouldn't that be a hoot? Imagine getting cut off in traffic and shouting out your window, "Hallelujah, buddy!" 

Yesterday, I spoke of a new Christmas CD I had. I heard this awesome song on it (link is below). One of the lines that really struck me was this: What can I do but praise you? Every day make everything I do a hallelujah! It struck me that whatever we do, we should do it as a hallelujah...whatever you do, do it from the heart, for the Lord and not for people (Col 3:23). From the most menial tasks to the most difficult. From the toughest person we deal with to dealing with ourselves. Today, let's make everything we do a hallelujah!


Song of the Day:
What Can I Do? (Paul Baloche)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Just a little Thanksgiving fun today! 



LAUGH LOUD AND OFTEN
LET THE PAST STAY IN THE PAST
AND DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT----
IT'S THANKSGIVING SAVINGS TIME----
YOU GET TO TURN YOUR SCALES BACK TONIGHT
(Jewish people get an extra 5 for simultaneous Hanukkah celebration)



And one more, in honor of our Jewish friends who are also celebrating Hanukkah---

Enjoy your time with family and friends. Life is short. You only have now.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:


(While I don't condone smoking marijuanika, the song is so funny! I LOVE this song)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Quickly We Can Turn!

It's officially Christmas music time in the Flaherty-mobile. I had a new CD in this morning, and "O Come Let Us Adore Him" was playing. Now, we know that is a song that you can sing along to and not even pay attention to what you're singing; it's one of those songs that's sort of just ingrained. I was trying to exit the parking lot of Dunkin' Donuts onto a busy four lane Rt. 24, but I was in no hurry; I never am in the morning. I try to give myself enough time to enjoy my commute. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my commuting principles and policies. 


So, there I was, watching the traffic go by and singing, "OH COME LET US ADORE HIM..." Hmmm, there's a break in the traffic coming, but not quite enough of one to get out. Think I'll wait. "OH COME LET US ADORE HIM..."   Should I go now? No, I better wait. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, in my side mirror, I saw the guy behind me creeping closer to my tail...and closer...and closer...I thought...what is he doing? Trying to go through me? No, I realized that he was trying to "bully" me, or push me into going, even though there were cars coming! "OH COME LET US ADORE HIM....HEY BUDDY...DON'T TRY TO PUSH ME!"...CHRI....IST....THE LORD!" Wait a sec, what just happened? 

Oh, you laugh, but don't try to tell me that you've never done that! In a second, I turned! (and I don't mean the car!) In the same breath, in the same verse of the song! Within the song! How quickly we can turn! How quickly we can go from pious and holy to nasty and selfish! In a millisecond! We should never deceive ourselves into thinking that we are holy because as soon as we piously think we are holy, we will fall. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov 16:18). We are sinful, but we have been redeemed. We are saints who sin. If I am capable of turning on someone while worshiping my Lord, what else am I capable of? Truly!

Let's go back to the song for a moment. A few things were at work here. 

Number 1 (I can't write #1 anymore, because you all will think I'm writing hashtag 1, which doesn't make any sense---the whole hashtag thing is for another day...)...ANYWAY, back to number 1: Oh, perhaps I'm easily distracted? Ya think? Do I really need to expand on that?

Number 2: I was singing a song that I've known all my life. Even though we may love the "old hymns" or carols, sometimes they lose the appeal they had when we first heard them. Any song is like that. At first, we listen to the words and drink it in. "Wow, that's a great song!" we say. After awhile, we hear it and say, "Oh, I love this song!" and begin to sing it from memory without really thinking of the words. If I was really thinking of the words "Oh come let us adore Him," as I sang them, I wouldn't have turned. If I am singing, "Oh come let us adore him"...am I not suggesting that by adoring Him, I would be worshiping Him, following Him, desiring to be like Him? If so, then the guy behind me wouldn't really bother me.

Number 3: As much as we think we can multi-task, in reality, we cannot devote brain space to several different tasks simultaneously. I read an article about that once. It basically said that you can't think about two different things at the same time. You can talk on the phone and wash dishes, but either your attention will be focused on the conversation or the dishes. Did you ever drive somewhere and get lost in thought and say, "How did I get here?". In the same vein, we cannot sing a song of worship focusing our attention on God, and get angry at the bully in the car behind us at the same time. So, my attention was diverted from the song to the bully. (Actually, my attention was probably never on the song because I am easily distracted and I was singing it from memory!) Try it! Try thinking of two things simultaneously--I mean, devote your thinking to those thoughts...see, you can't do it! It's like looking into someone's eyes. You can't do it with both eyes (Try that too!).

Well, after I confessed my sin to the Lord, I had a good laugh. If I'd been watching myself on a hidden camera, I would have thought that was hysterical! It may seem trivial, but confessing the smallest sin keeps us in humility and makes it easier to confess when the "bigger" ones come along. O Come Let Us Adore Him---Christ the Lord!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day (no, it's NOT "O Come Let Us Adore Him")
Your Name, Christmas Version (Paul Baloche)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Change Your Heart...Change Your Now

From "Kristin's Christmas Past"
I watched a sappy Christmas movie the other night about a woman who wakes up on Christmas Eve in her past. She tries to convince her younger self that she should allow her older self to change certain things that evening, so that her (their?) future will be different. Interestingly, she is able to change certain events, but the end result is that everything happens the same way anyway. She is actually unable to change her past, but realizes that she can change her future, if she can ever get back there! Of course, being a movie, she wakes up back in the future...which is really the present. And the thing that really changes is her attitude---her heart, pretty much because she saw things through her older self's eyes and heart.

How many times has someone asked us, "If you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?" If your response was anything like mine, you said, "Nothing, because everything would be different." True. But there are most likely things in our past that we look back on with regret; we wish that we had handled a situation differently, responded kinder, or made smarter choices. It's easy to look back and say, "Coulda, woulda, shoulda..." Too often, this revelation comes too late. We may have lost relationships, jobs or opportunities because of our poor choices.

The good news is that, while we can't go back and change the past, we can impact the future by changing our now...the present. I love the Twelve Step program because Step  8 says, "Made a list of all people we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all" and Step 9 says, "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

Of course, you'd need to know the previous 7 steps to truly grasp the power or those steps. Anyone who has been through any kind of recovery, whether it's alcohol related or otherwise, usually learns---and memorizes---these steps. And yes, they are powerful.  You can view these steps yourself at Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps. I highly suggest you do. You can take out the word "alcohol" and replace it with whatever you feel powerless over---a person, a sin, or even your past. The twelve steps are powerful because they involve your realizing your powerlessness, and  giving up and letting God take charge of your life. Searching yourself. Search me, O God, and know my heart...(Psalm 139:23). Admitting and confessing that you messed up. Confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, that you may be healed (James 5:16). 


It is only when we realize that we messed up that we can change our now. When we realize how our poor choices have impacted other peoples' lives and how the things we've done in our past have hurt others, and hurt ourselves...when we desire for God to change our heart, only then do we really desire to change our now. Now is for the taking. Now is gone as soon as you get to your next now. Now is momentary. You will never get now back. You will never get your past back. Now is so fleeting, that the now you just read is now in the past. Now is like trying to hold a snowflake, or grasp the water that flows over rocks in a stream. It cannot be held, and it cannot be reclaimed. It is fleeting.

You can't go back and change your past. But you can make amends, once you've set your heart straight with God. You can impact your future, but you can't really change that either. It hasn't happened yet, so you really have no control over it. The only thing you can change is now. Admit that you are powerless over your situation, turn your will and your live over to God and receive the power from on High to change your now! Determine to determine your now!


Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
Change My Heart O God (Eddie Espinosa)


In case you're into really sappy Christmas movies, and you'd like to see this movie I talked about, there is still time to see it!
Kristin's Christmas Past (Lifetime movie) Schedule

Monday, November 25, 2013

Our Holy Shock Collar

Psycho Dog has a shock collar. I know, it sounds cruel. I don't know, maybe it is. But it works. She was so out of control that we had no choice. She would attack poor Lucy for no apparent reason. I guess because she's a herding dog, she feels the need to round everyone up, regardless of what they are doing, and the first one to start with is the lazy golden retriever on the dog bed. 

We started out with a bark collar.  If she barked while she was in her crate, or in the car when she spotted a bicycle, motorcycle, runner, or any other moving object, it would emit a low shock and the more she barked, the worse the shock got. She learned not to bark. That worked for some things---like barking (Incidentally, my daughter suggested that I find one for myself so that I would learn to stop talking. I didn't think that was funny).


Because there were other issues, like stalking, we moved from the bark collar to the industrial strength shock collar. This works a bit differently from the bark collar, in that we control the shock strength and timing. If she gets that glint in her eye and starts to go after Lucy, we shock her with a remote control and it stops her in her tracks. The goal here is that after the dog is shocked a few times for any unwanted behavior, the dog supposedly learns not to do that unwanted behavior. (Please note that we did not abuse this device-we only used it a few times-and didn't use the full strength).

Because Foxy is a highly intelligent breed (Australian Cattle Dog), she figured this game out very quickly. By that, I mean she figured out that when she is actually wearing the collar, she can get shocked. She even knows when we pick the remote up and stops doing whatever it is she set out to do. So we know she gets it-oh, she totally gets it! BUT...when the collar is not on, it's a free for all. She knows she will not get shocked. The whole goal of eliminating unwanted behavior is lost on Foxy. She's figured it out...but not completely. Since we hold the control, she doesn't really know if she will be shocked or not, so at this point, all we have to do is put the collar on, and she behaves. We very rarely, if ever have to actually shock her now. She may be highly intelligent, but alas, she is still a dog.

A calm Foxy, wearing her necklace
We are not so much different from Foxy. When it comes to sin, we do the same thing. We seem to know just how much we can get away with and what will cause "shock value." We think we have the game figured out. The thing is, like Foxy, we don't really know when or if we will get caught or shocked. We play the game, thinking that we are outsmarting God. HA! He has His eye on us, just like Brian and I have our eye on Foxy! 

The funny thing is, Foxy seems much calmer when she's wearing her shock collar. When she starts to get a little funky, one of us will say, "Get over here!"  She puts her head down, mumbles and smiles a sardonic grin (yes, she really does smile--sardonically) and humbly walks over for the nightly positioning of her necklace. Once that thing is around her neck, she's like a different dog-much more manageable. It's almost as if she is grateful for the disciplinary device.

When God created us, He gave us free will. We always have a choice. We can choose to sin or we can choose to wear God's disciplinary device---a Holy Shock Collar, which is The Holy Spirit, the Word of God dwelling in us. Some call it our conscience. But I like to think of it as a Holy Spirit nudging. "DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON!"

"Don't touch that!" Shock! "Step away from that!" Shock!"Turn your eyes away!" Shock! "Don't eat that!" Shock! "Change your thinking!" Shock!

Eventually, the "shock value" becomes learned behavior. We can be like Foxy, and try to stay one step ahead of the game, but that gets tiring. Without our "shock collar" we are out of control. But as soon as God says, "Come over here, " and places that necklace of obedience-- His holy harness, His yoke on us, we are at peace. Calm submission ensues. We can rest. We no longer feel the need to act like a crazy animal who lunges at every moving object. 

Foxy's collar is physical. We don't have a physical collar---or do we? God's Word, the Bible is what keeps us from falling, from getting out of control, from both flagrant and insidious sin. We need to stay focused on Jesus and focused in His Word. The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword...it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12). Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path...and a shock collar unto my neck (Psalm 119:105, plus Mary's amplified version).

Foxy can't outsmart us, and we can't outsmart God. So let's stop trying, and come humbly to him...daily...and ask Him to place His Holy Shock Collar on us to keep our feet from stumbling, our hands from idle tasks, and our thoughts from wandering away from His Word.

Blessings Along the Way,
Mary

Thy Word (Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Want Some Attention Too!

Dogs are a lot like children. I remember when my children were young, if I did something for one, the other would want the same treatment. If I paid attention to one, it seemed like the other sensed it from any other part of the house and came running for equal attention. My dogs do that, especially Foxy (aka Psycho Dog). Lucy might put her head on my leg while I'm sitting on the couch and just look at me with those brown eyes, as if to say, "Please love on me." As soon as I say her name, or use my "doggie voice" I'll hear Foxy jump off her throne (aka, my side of the bed), and come running down the hall, mumbling (aka low growl). She'll run into the room and look around as if to say, "Where is she? Is she getting pets? Because if she is, I want some too!" 

We laugh, but don't we do the same thing? Someone at work gets a pat on the back for a "job well done" and we did the same thing last week and got no recognition. Someone at church gets asked to speak at an event and you know you could do that (and probably better!), but no one asked you. Maybe you still have these struggles in your own family (nothing sets us back in our growth and recovery like family! Somehow, we always slip back into our old roles). Maybe one family member is favored and always was, and you are just so tired of trying to compete for attention. Maybe it's your kids-other people's kids are getting chosen over yours. Maybe your neighbors invited everyone but you to their open house or other gathering. Sometimes, it's as simple as the person behind you in line who gets waited on before you and you want to say, "HEY! I was here first!" (Maybe you do say it!).

These things can throw us and we feel like we are back in grade school! The competition. The comparison. The need for attention. "Me first! Look at me! Pay attention to me! Pet me! Love on me! What about me, me, me?"

Paul told the Philippians to do nothing from rivalry, or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:3-5). That's a really hard thing to do when we desire the attention ourselves. When we are passed over, it's hard for us to count that person who did get promoted or chosen as "significant", when we just want to punch them in the face. Oh, not just significant--but more significant! Yeah, right...yeah, no. 

The thing about my dogs that is different from people is that in order to establish my dominance, I need to push one out of the way when she butts in line. When I'm paying attention to Lucy, Foxy cannot decide that I should pet her (and vice versa!); I get to do that as the pack leader. But dogs don't have the depth of emotions that humans do..or the memory. When I admonish the interloper, she backs away obediently and waits until I call her over for a pet (and I always do...but in my time, not hers). 
Foxy reveling in the attention;
 Lucy patiently waiting

It may seem like God is pushing you out of the picture. It may seem like you've been forgotten or passed over. Perhaps it even seems like your Father has allowed injustice. But remember, your Father is also merciful, and it also may be that He is establishing His place as your Pack Leader by making you wait. He has not forgotten you. Stop comparing yourself because there will always be someone to compare yourself to, and it will be a never-ending cycle! Stop competing for attention. Stop striving for favor. There is no comparison. You are you and you have been given unique gifts and talents. God sees you waiting and will reward your obedience by lavishing His love on you. He will call you forth and raise you up in His time, not yours.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



Song of the Day:
In His Time

Video of the Day: a snippet of how and when a pack leader gives affection. See the parallel, but remember that God doesn't withhold affection from us like Cesar is suggesting we do with dogs; but note the part where the highest level of affection comes when the dog is in the lowest, most submissive state. This video is only about 3 minutes long.
Becoming a Pack Leader (Cesar Milan)



Friday, November 22, 2013

Nuthin'!

After almost 60 blogs, today I've got nuthin'! I woke up this morning feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Sometimes that just happens. I had something I needed to take care of, but I just didn't have it in me to take care of it--I would do it, but I couldn't worry about it just yet. I didn't have the energy. As I stepped into the shower, I said, "God, I've got nothing today. I just can't..." 

For the first time in quite awhile, I just didn't fret about anything. I was too drained. It wasn't that I didn't care. It was more that I think I actually cast my care on Him. Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22). The only thing that would sustain me today would be to lean on Jesus. 

If I had to do warfare today, it would be done in a state of quiet surrender...not to the enemy of my soul, but to the Savior of my soul...Jesus. In casting my cares on Him, I was giving my whole day, my everything to Him to take care of. You know, the word "cast" means "to throw." Yup, that was me this morning. I just threw it at Him. 

Don't you think that is where He wants us? In a state of quiet surrender? He wants us to get so sick of doing it ourselves, that we just throw it at Him, and say, "Okay, okay...HERE!" We don't have to wait until we are drained of all energy to do that, but sometimes that's what it takes to get through to those of us who are overly hard-headed (ahem). I think that we do battle best when we are still. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Ex 14:14). After all, if we're busy yelling at demons all day long, how will we hear the still, small voice of God?

So far, I've had a pretty uneventful day...no battles to do. But perhaps that's because God is simply fighting them for me, and I don't even know what's going on! If I really thought hard, I'm sure I could make a list of everything that needs to get done. But I'm not thinking hard today; I'm hardly thinking, and what could possibly be on that list that can't wait? Nuthin'! Today, I'm a human being, not a human doing.

Remember Yukon Cornelius, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? He was the explorer who was always trying to find gold and kept using his pick ax to dig at the ice. He'd take a taste and say, "Nuthin'!" He was always disappointed, because He was in a constant state of searching...he, Herbie the Dentist and Rudolph...the misfits. Well, I've found my Gold...and I've cast my cares on Him today...so I can throw away that pick ax and say, "I've got nuthin'! Nuthin' but you, God, and that's enough for me today!" 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Video of the Day:
Yukon Cornelius-Nothing

Song of the Day: (This is a compilation of videos, so if you'd like to rest in the Lord today, let it keep playing)
Mighty, Rushing Breath of God (Kathi Wilson w/daughters Hannah and Hadassah)

For more information on Kathi's music and the beautiful artwork in her video, visit her website
Living Water Productions (Kathi Wilson's website)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recipe for "Poor Me!" Soup

I started something at work that I can't seem to stop. I bring bagels in when it's someone's birthday. I work with all men, and I thought it would just be a nice...feminine touch...guys don't really think of these things. The problem is that it's never ending. Birthdays happen all year! What's funny is that they really, really love it! 


The other day, I did something very bad. I forgot someone's birthday. He didn't say anything to me, but someone else told me that he was upset that I'd forgotten. Did I feel terrible or what?! I made it up to him the next day, but it wasn't the same. I already forgot and the special day already passed. 


Everyone wants to feel special. But sometimes we have expectations that others don't meet, often unspoken ones. If it's unspoken, that person has no way of knowing what we want, or that they unknowingly hurt us. Sometimes we get excited about something, like our birthday, or something that we want to share with someone, and that special moment isn't acknowledged by someone who is important to us. We feel hurt. Over time, the hurt builds and, if allowed, can turn into resentment. The worst part, is that person we resent may be completely unaware that they ever hurt us! 

Rather than let hurt morph into resentment and allow resentment to build into something worse, like unforgiveness or bitterness, it's important to do two things: 

First, take it to Jesus.  Jesus understands hurt and betrayal more than we know...oh, so much more! But He forgave. He didn't hold it closely to his chest and nourish it and help it grow. He let it go. He may not have experienced the exact situation you did, but He definitely experienced the emotions! He understands, He empathizes and He cares! He thinks that you are special! He celebrates you! He won't forget your bagels. But He won't bring those bagels to your pity party! The pity pot is only built for one. And it's lonely on the pot. Is it really where you want to be? Do you really want to nurse that grudge? Do you really want to keep a list of everyone who has wronged you? After awhile, that pity pot starts to stink, and trust me, people can tell when you've spent time on the pity pot! You have "victim" written all over you. They will run far away!

Second, you may need to let that person know that they hurt you. We tend not to do that, perhaps because we are afraid of their reaction, and we don't want to add anything else to the hurt. And no one likes "confrontation!" But guess what? If they're unaware of the hurt, they will most likely be apologetic! We really have no right to hold someone responsible for a hurt they are unaware of!

It's important to take our hurt to Jesus before we talk to the person who hurt us, because without the healing love of Jesus, our simple, "I felt hurt when..." sounds like an accusatory, "You hurt me!" The beauty of taking your hurt to Jesus is that He heals our hurts and our hearts. We may even realize that we no longer feel the need to make our hurt known to that person. We can just let it go. That's forgiveness...that's the wonder working power of the Holy Spirit.

Unknown victim endlessly stirring "Poor Me" Soup
Get off that pity pot and stop stirring your "Poor Me" soup. Forgive like Jesus did. Let Him heal your hurt and your heart. I can tell you from experience, the soup is very bitter--and you're the only one who will want seconds! The bagels of Jesus are so much better! All the hurt just falls through the hole! And who doesn't love a Jewish bagel?




Blessings Along the Path,
Mary 

Song of the Day
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me (Linda Ronstadt)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Are You Serving Your Ego?

As I write this, I'm becoming increasingly frustrated. Yesterday's blog (which is actually still today, as I write this) did not get sent out. Yes, some of you received it, but you are on a separate list. The blog did not go out to those on the subscriber list as scheduled. I know because I'm on that list...for this very reason. I'm not technical, and don't ever wish to be, so I don't know what happened. There is no technical support for this sort of problem, so I am going around in circles trying to do the only things I know to do that have worked in the past, and they are not working. I even tried praying! Now, I just need to let it go.

I always check my email first thing in the morning, to make sure the blog went out, and today, it didn't. That was frustration #1. Frustration #2 came when I went into the bathroom and looked at my hair in the mirror. Yes, I'm still obsessing over the darned hair! I tried straightening it. As I was doing that, I mumbled things like, "I thought shorter hair would be easier, but noooooo....I give up...I just don't know what to do...I wish I could just shave it off....blahblahblah..." I could feel the peace slipping away. The whole morning was a constant struggle not to lose my peace. 

Then I got in the car...that's where God usually speaks to me. That and the shower. I guess it's because I can't go anywhere. I was trying to learn a song for our upcoming Christmas play, called, "I Wish You Jesus," but I was singing "I miss you, Jesus." I started laughing because I kept doing it. Then I realized that yes, I did indeed miss Jesus. I missed whatever He might have wanted to say to me this morning before my heart got all clouded over with myself. And I also missed His presence in my life at the moment. He was there, but I'd shut Him out. We can't be frustrated and angry and in the presence of God at the same time. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other (Matt 6:24).

When we are fixated on, enamored with or obsessed with something, we devote our time and energies to that. As I let my frustration mount this morning, I allowed myself to be devoted to that frustration. We need to recognize the signs of our egos going astray, those moments of frustration turning into something bigger that becomes our master...because really, frustration mounts when things don't go our way. And that comes back to "me." Only when we recognize it can we turn our backs on it and turn our attentions and our devotions to Jesus...and "despise the other." Where are your devotions today? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your master to you today, and to help you turn your back on anything that is fueling your ego. Proclaim as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)!

And gee, I hope you get this!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song(s) of the Day: (Video stops at 1:08, then starts again at 1:22, with someone reciting the scripture on the screen. The song actually ends at 1:08--it's very cute.
No Man Can Serve Two Masters (Hamster Rap)
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Nichole Nordeman)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Having Technical Difficulties-Argh!

Hello Friends,
For some reason, today's blog did not get sent to all you email subscribers. If you did receive it, it's because you are on the list that I personally put you on. They are separate lists. I don't know what happened. I'm not sure how to get it to send out again without republishing the entire blog. So, I will just post the link here and hope that you find time today in your busy schedule to click on it and read it. Thanks for reading my stories!

http://sonriseinsights.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-great-chasm-of-natirar.html

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

The Great Chasm of Natirar

NATIRAR (Raritan spelled backwards)
This past Saturday, Brian and I took the dogs to the park for a walk. There is a cinder track that meanders around the perimeter of the park, and a river that also runs along the outer edges of that track for much of the time. At one point, a stream shoots out under a bridge and ends up along the other side of the track...water surrounds the path...a river on one side and a stream on the other. A cement ledge borders the other side of that stream and there is a big field in the middle. I hope you can get the picture here...

We were walking nicely along the track, and as we went over that bridge, I noticed two young girls running along the moss covered cement ledge. One was clearly the leader...fearlessly running and yelling at someone...possibly on the other side of the stream. Of course, as the older, mature woman that I have morphed into, I wondered where their parents were.

Once we came around the bend, where the track was surrounded by water on both sides, I saw what I assume were the parents...Mom pushing a stroller and Dad running alongside the stream...on the other side of the stream. The girls were running on the ledge, yelling to Dad, and Dad was following them from the other side, making sure they stayed safe. 

It made me think of our Heavenly Father...how He is always running along the other side, making sure we are safe. We call out to Him...Abba Daddy? Are you there? Is it okay if I run here? Is it okay if I play along the edge? You're still there, right? He delights in us! He delights to watch us and protect us. I'm sure that dad gave his daughters boundaries to stay within while they were temporarily out of his immediate reach. We are always safe when we know our Abba Daddy is right there watching us, and when we stay in the confines of His boundaries. But what about those who run fearlessly along the ledge of their lives without a God to call out to-without that protection, that assurance that Someone is on the other side? He is there; they just don't know it, or they choose not to acknowledge Him, or...maybe they don't know how to reach Him.


I've been to this park hundreds of times. I know the lay of the land; however, I still wondered, "How will those girls be reunited with their Dad?" If you look at the pictures, you'll see another culvert where the stream runs back into the main river. Chasm is the word that came to my mind. Okay, this isn't quite a chasm. A chasm is a deep gorge, a canyon--something quite impossible to cross on your own. But you see where I'm going here? Those girls needed a way to get back to their father. The culvert filled in that "chasm" and created a bridge where they could be safely reunited with their father.

For those who are running fearlessly along the ledge of their lives, there is no way to the other side...not on their own. But the cross provides a way-Jesus becomes that culvert, that bridge to the Father. What a beautiful and selfless picture! 

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). That's pretty straightforward. Do you know Jesus? Have you accepted His gift? Do you run fearlessly along the ledge of your life, wondering if you fall in, what will happen? Or do you run unafraid, in joyful abandon, knowing that your Abba Father delights in protecting you and will always be there on the other side? 


Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
Abba Father (Daniel Doss Band)

Natirar Park Official Website

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just Say Thank You

I got my hair cut last week, and I'm still trying to get used to the new style. I thought that cutting my hair shorter and adding more layers would cut down on drying time, but alas, it did not. I spent more time in the bathroom this morning (Sunday) than usual, and wasn't real pleased with the final look. This led to an underlying irritation as I left (late, to boot) for church...I was specifically late for worship team rehearsal. So...here I was, on my way to help lead the congregation into worship for our Lord, and I'm already irritated and just slightly angry. Hmmm...not a good start.

As I was driving, I had this revelation. (I seem to get these things in the woods and in the car). My hair? Really? Is this what it's all about? My hair? First...how shallow! Second...how vain! It's not about my hair and it's not even about me! Am I really going to let my hair determine my mood? And am I really going to complain about the condition of my hair, when some people are dealing with much worse issues than their hair?


I decided that if anyone commented on my hair, I would just say thank you and leave it at that. I would not go into my diatribe of, "Thanks, but...". Someone did, in fact comment and I did, in fact, launch into my diatribe. She didn't agree with everything I found wrong. She just thought it looked nice. And probably didn't want to hear my complaining.

Years ago, I  sang and played a song I wrote at church. After the service, a friend came up to me and said, "Wow, that was really good." My reply was, "Thanks, but I was a little off key here and I messed up there and blahblahblah." He just looked at me and said, "Just say thank you."

How often do we do that? Someone compliments us, and we say "thank you, but..." I think it's difficult for a lot of people to simply acknowledge a compliment without justifying it. My husband can do that. But many of us feel the need to point out our flaws or our unworthiness. Why? Well, I'll tell you why I think I do it...because if I point out the flaws first, you can't point them out for me. This way I'm safe.You can't make fun of me or laugh at me. I'll do it first. 

I don't consciously do this...it's probably a survival mechanism that I created years ago when I was insecure, and it has just developed into a bad habit. It is only when we have the security and confidence of Jesus Christ that we can "just say thank you."  Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6).


This is me in 25 years...help me Jesus!
We've all heard the expression that we are "a work in progress." We will never be finished until we are finished with this life. If we allow the Creator to continue working on us, we will progress. If we diminish those compliments, excuse or explain them away, we hinder that progress. We can be confident and secure in the knowledge that God is for us, not against us. (Rom 8:31, paraphrased). Let's allow Him to carry on His work in us today. The next time you are given a compliment...just say thank you! 

Blessings Along the Path, 
Mary

Song of the Day (Sorry, Maria, you almost had it right...as a nun, I'm surprised you didn't have the confidence of Christ!)
I Have Confidence (Sound of Music)
If God is For Us (Dwell Live)

Snippet from Joyce Meyer on Confidence



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where's the Mute Button For My Mouth?

I have a very short fuse. Those who know me will probably read that statement and say, "This is a revelation? I could have told her that a long time ago!" No, it's no revelation. It's a confession. And stop laughing.

This morning I spilled a whole bottle of pills all over the floor. Over 200 little white pills spread all over the tile floor, which also housed dog hair and dirt. I quickly got Normal Dog outside while Psycho Dog, who apparently takes over my side of the bed every morning once I'm gone, was confined to the bedroom. Instead of just cleaning up the mess, I felt obligated to add sound effects...mostly terms of endearment directed toward myself...names like idiot, jerk and others, which cannot be repeated here on this holy blog.

It wasn't until I got in the car and was now calmly driving to work that I realized just how much I overreacted and how much aggravation I could have saved myself if I had simply muted my mouth, like I mute the sound effects on my computer games. Those game sound effects are annoying, and so is the sound of my own voice belittling myself. 

I get so angry at myself for getting so angry so quickly at something so trivial. Doesn't help the situation. Then I feel guilty for getting angry at myself. The good news is that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). For a pre-menopausal woman with an already short fuse, like myself, I thank God that those mercies are new every moment!

The next time, If I find it is impossible to mute the sound effects, perhaps I can diffuse the situation by recalling that we are now living in a "tolerant" society. Terms like idiot are no longer acceptable. I should try calling myself a "mentally-challenged, intellectually-disabled, developmentally-delayed person!" It just doesn't have the same effect!


But seriously, when we mess up, God doesn't think of us as idiots, jerks, or dummies (or worse). We are the ones who choose our mental flogging. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (I John 3:1). His unconditional love and great mercy are lavished on us, and that love covers all our sin. If Jesus is our Savior, we need only confess that sin and move on! Oh, it's a joy to be ever-growing...

Blessings Along the Way,
Mary

Song of the Day:
How Great the Love (The Village Church)

Friday, November 15, 2013

See How Your Father Feeds the Quarry Cats

I work in an old quarry. I'm surrounded by rock walls. It's probably not what you're thinking. The old quarry is actually gone.There are now clearly defined lots, and the space is shared by landscapers, builders, mechanics, garbage companies, a storage facility, car dealer overflow lots, and tree companies. And a beautiful lake besides!

I figured I'd keep going with the animal theme...I talked about a cow, then a scapegoat...today it's cats. Specifically, quarry cats. These are not the type of cats who sidle up to people, arching their backs, and purr as they rub along your pant leg. No, these cats are mangy, scrawny, skittish cats who won't let anyone near them. Feral cats. Not the kind you really want to try to get close to. No one really knows how many there are. They just keep reproducing and are best if left alone. No one really likes having them around, but they do keep the mice and rats away. We leave them alone and they leave us alone.

There is an old man who comes around in a truck just about every day, maybe every other day. I don't really notice anymore. I first noticed him a little over a year ago. I would see him sitting in his truck for hours. He would get out and feed the ducks, then sit in his truck some more. I once asked someone who he was and what he does for a living. He told me he didn't know and he feeds the ducks for a living. About six months ago, I saw him walking into the back of the yard next to us, which houses extra cars for a local dealer. Way back in the tall grass, were plastic storage totes, which, I assume, he had placed there. He had fashioned a shelter and feeding station for the quarry cats. No one really cares if he does or doesn't take care of these cats--no one, except the cats.


As much as they don't like people, they come running when he gets out of his truck. He makes sure they have food and shelter. He really cares. He's certainly not a picture of Jesus, but he makes me think of Jesus, when He told His disciples to stop worrying about what they will wear or what they will eat-basically stop worrying about everything in your life! Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air (or the quarry cats); they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matt 6:25-26)

Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?...Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:26-27, 34). I don't think those cats worry about what they will eat tomorrow. I don't ever see any of them wringing their paws in worry, looking anxiously at the road, wondering where their man is. Yet, he shows up. If a lonely, old man cares for quarry cats, how much more does our Father in Heaven, the One who created us in His image, the One who fashioned our every cell to become who we are, care for us? Worrying gets us nowhere. It's like being on that stupid treadmill that I love to loathe. 

What are you worried about today? Finances? Your health? Maybe a loved one's health? An important decision? Getting laid off? Finding employment? Selling your house? The loss of a friendship? Taking on too much? Being alone? Whatever it is, worrying about it will not add a single hour to your life. In fact, it will rob you of the precious time you have. You'll go to bed at night and say, "What happened today? I only remember the worry." Be like the quarry cats-look for the Man who comes to feed you, clothe you and give you shelter. He cares for you, and He thinks you are valuable and important. Let the day worry about itself. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
His Eye is On the Sparrow (Selah)




Thursday, November 14, 2013

Face Up and Fess Up!

I was doing a bible study lesson in which the author asked how incorporating healthy discipline into your lifestyle would make you a happier person. The verses she cited referred to the symptoms and consequences of a lifestyle exhibiting a lack of self-control. One of those verses is Romans 8:7-8: The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. At first, I thought, wow, that's pretty harsh! But then I thought about it...if my flesh is in control of my mind, then of course I will not want to submit to God. I will desire to turn away from God, because I will want to do what I want, not what He wants! You can't do both.
As I pondered that question, I thought about the recent months. Several months ago, I had started eating really well. I had a routine. I felt really good and I noticed that my attitude had changed. I was calmer. I hate to admit this, but I was nicer. But in recent weeks, I've noticed changes. Little by little, I started slipping back into my old eating habits and I noticed a difference in my attitude. My "away from home" attitude was fine; it was my "at home" attitude that was pretty nasty. I became irritable and short-tempered. The Old Mary was back. Why? 

Then I realized that a lack of self-control had made me unhappy with myself, and because I was angry with myself (because I lacked that self-control!), I unknowingly took it out on the one person I live with, the kindest, most easygoing person in the world-my husband. I decided to call it displaced blame. Little did I know that term already exists and it was first "discovered" or explained by Anna Freud. It's basically taking out your frustrations on someone or something less threatening.

Little things started to irritate me. Things that were out of place. I wanted everything in its place, and if it wasn't it threw me! Now, I realize that it was because I could control those things at a time when I was feeling out of control with my eating habits and general health.  Poor Brian. No matter what he did or didn't do, it was wrong. He became my scapegoat.

A scapegoat is someone who is unfairly blamed for something others have done. I think that, without realizing it, I was blaming Brian for all these silly little out-of-place things, when really I was blaming myself, but didn't want to admit I'd failed to achieve healthy goals...yet again.

In the Old Testament, during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, two goats were chosen-one had to be perfect, unblemished for the blood sacrifice. The high priest took the other and ceremonially placed the sins of the people on its head and sent it out into the desert to perish, carrying the sins of the people far from them. A scapegoat. Escape-goat (William Tyndale came up with that, not me). The sins of the people were thus atoned for.

Did I think that by displacing the blame for my own shortcomings, I would be forgiven? It only made it worse, because I felt guilty for the way I was acting! It's a vicious cycle. Only by coming to Jesus, the One who freely gave Himself as a scapegoat for my sin, would I find true forgiveness. I had to face up and fess up to what I was doing. He wasn't disappointed in me for my lack of control! He's used to that!  But He was disappointed in me for blaming someone else for my lack of control-for not taking responsibility for my own shortcoming, my own sin. 

Jesus offered an escape from all of this blaming and shaming and guilt--the cross. He became both the perfect atoning blood sacrifice and the scapegoat for our sins. All we need to do is face up and fess up! 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day:
Jesus Messiah (Chris Tomlin)



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I Learned from a Cow

Did you know that a cow has four stomachs? Well, technically, that is not true. That's what some people think. A cow is a ruminant mammal, which means they have one stomach, but four chambers. When we say, "I chew like a cow" (which I do when I chew gum) or "chewing on my cud" it's because cows seem to chew all day long due to their digestive process.  

I did some research on this topic and found a lengthy explanation, which I'll try to condense. If you're eating breakfast, you may want to take a break. Essentially, a cow eats, then swallows. The food goes into the first chamber, called the rumen, which is filled with bacteria.This bacteria helps to ferment and break down food. The fermented food then passes into the second chamber, called the reticulum, which is structured like a honeycomb. This serves to catch large particles, which are sent back to the rumen (regurgitation) for further rumination (re-chewing). Rumination is always assisted by copious amounts of saliva. A cow produces 10-45 gallons of saliva a day, depending on the food she is eating. The saliva serves as a buffer, counteracting the acid produced from many of the foods. It also helps reduce bloating, which can turn into a huge problem in cattle.

When all is ok to be passed on, it goes into the 3rd  and 4th chambers, basically further filtering and breaking down of things I don't understand..and so on. Basically: Lather, rinse, repeat...chew, swallow, repeat (pardon the pun)...chew, rinse, swallow. 

So, why the lesson in cow digestion? What does this have to do with...well, anything really?

It's about the rumen...ruminating. Have you ever used that word? "Let's ruminate on that." It means to think deeply on something; contemplate, consider, meditate, ponder...to chew on. Ruminate on this...I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds (Ps 77:12). I will meditate on your precepts (Ps 119:78). Joshua was instructed to keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything in it.Then you will be prosperous and successful (Jos 1:8).

How do we keep the word close to our lips? By meditating on it day and night. Like the cow, chew continually! If we are always chewing, always ruminating, it is close to our lips. Ok, this might sound gross, and might be a stretch, but I think that the Holy Spirit is like the saliva that a cow depends on to help break down the food. The Holy Spirit serves as a buffer; we get a check in our spirit when something isn't right-a holy counteraction of acidic things. And if we just keep chewing the word out of a sense of duty or obligation, and it isn't alive in us, we will become bloated and uncomfortable and stop eating all together. We need that Holy Saliva to aid our rumination! 

And that honeycomb shaped reticulum that filters out things that are too big to pass? Sometimes we are dealt with something that is just too great to swallow. We try on our own to swallow it, to digest it, but it's just too much. The Holy Spirit, in our "spiritual reticulum" filters it out and passes it back up for further rumination, along with copious amounts of His Holy Saliva. 

If we want prosperity and success...I'm not talking financial, I'm talking spiritual and emotional...but maybe that includes financial success and prosperity... we need to ruminate, regurgitate when it's too much or when we need further clarification, then ruminate some more. At times, this process may need to go on for awhile before we are able to truly digest it. Sometimes we need to filter out the ways of the world, the well-meaning advice of others, the thoughts in our heads...and finally, when it's safe to do so, to lay down and digest.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
May the Words of My Mouth (Tim Hughes)

Warning: This is just a tad naughty, so don't open it if you think it will offend you...it talks about gas and ...the body part that rhymes with gas...but it's a very funny cow song.
I Am Cow (Arrogant Worms)

For further reading for highly inquisitive or highly bored people:
Digestive Physiology of the Cow