Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Deceit of Descent

I remember going on a school field trip when I was in elementary school to a local park, Lewis-Morris Park. There was a huge hill called, affectionately, "Suicide Hill," because as young children, we tended to run down hills. This hill was so big that if you ran down it, you'd gain momentum so quickly that you'd either fall (and at a downhill rate of legs overtaking body, that could hurt pretty badly) or run so fast your legs could barely keep up.

This past weekend, Brian and I went for our usual hike in our usual park-Jockey Hollow. However, I wanted to try a different trail than the one we typically start out on. We've done them all, but there are so many, we tend to forget the dynamics of some of them. Weeeell...this one had a hill...a big hill...a long hill...a long, steep hill. I don't like hills. But it's all part of the hike, and in reality, hills are really good for me because they get my heart rate up.

It took a long time getting up that hill. I had to stop talking because my lungs couldn't handle the tasks of simultaneous talking, walking and breathing! Again, I realized how out of shape I was. But I focused ahead, watching how seemingly easy my husband and dog made it seem.
The view from halfway up...it's a log steep climb


Going uphill always seems harder, but in reality, descending a hill is more difficult because you need to use different muscles. It requires restraint and concentration. You need to stay on guard for obstacles, which could prove to be detrimental to your balance. Like Suicide Hill, if you get going too fast, your legs could overtake your body and you could fall. Falling on the other side of 50 hurts. 

Going uphill, as difficult as it is, is actually not the most difficult part of a hike. You keep your eyes on what's ahead, you follow the one in front of you and you look toward the peak. You know you'll make it, and once you do, you'll feel a sense of victory. You have more control when you're ascending because you learn to regulate your pace as well as your breathing. You can stop when you need to catch your breath, or when you need to assess how much farther you have to go. Obstacles in your path can be easily averted. 

Our spiritual journey is much like hiking. Going uphill, ascending toward the likeness of Christ, often seems difficult, especially when distractions come and we are faced with discouraging long and steep hills. But take heart. Realize that those hills can be conquered. Some take longer than others, and some are harder than others. But when faced with the alternative, which will lead us downhill, ascending is the better option. 
Almost there

Giving in to what appears to be the easier option will only lead us down the path to destruction, despair or disappointment, and we will find the uphill battle even tougher. Giving in seems much easier than going up. That's the deception of giving in. It, like hiking down the hill, appears easier, but in reality uses different muscles. It requires restraint. It requires concentration to avoid the obstacles in our path. And once we get going, it's like Suicide Hill. The momentum builds and it's harder to stop, harder to avoid the obstacles. Before we know it, we've wrapped ourselves up into a human snowball, barreling down the hill, unable to stop, causing harm to anyone in our path. The deceit of the descent.

Ascending is a much more viable option. Psalms 120-134 are (appropriately, for this blog) called "A song of ascents." When ascending, we keep our eyes on what's ahead and the One Who is in front of us. Jesus has walked the path before. He knows our struggle, He knows our triggers, and He knows what will cause us to stumble. I lift my eyes up to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Ps 121:1-2). As we trudge toward the peak, sometimes we need to stop and breathe, stop and regroup, stop and gather strength. Our help is in the name of the Lord (Ps 124:8).

Sometimes we need to stop to rest and wait for the Lord's direction to keep going. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I put my hope (Ps 130:5). But we keep looking ahead; looking up to the top, knowing that the obstacles that we encounter will be removed by trusting in His Word. He will not let your foot slip (Ps 121:3); knowing that we will overcome this hill, we will get to the top and we will be victorious! With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies (Ps 60:12).

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:13-14).

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Victor's Crown (Darlene Zschech)







Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Believe It and Become It!

I talk a lot. As I've said in previous blogs, I'm an "external processor." It's my excuse for thinking out loud. I've been reprimanded at previous jobs for disturbing my co-workers. My co-workers now (all men who typically talk only when needed) marvel (not in a good way) at my constant chatter. "Do you do this all day long?" they ask, meaning do I talk to myself all day long. Of course I do. The walls need to know that the printer is not working correctly, and the desk needs to know that it's cluttered and the stapler needs to know that I forgot what I was doing when I got sidetracked three minutes ago. 

Some might call me a chatterbox, or say I never shut up. I prefer to say that I "process externally." Just like I prefer to say that I'm outspoken instead of that I have no filter. Or that I focus on the task before me rather than say that I'm scatterbrained, forgetful, and easily distracted. These are things you learn when you build a resume, and I've had a lot of experience building mine! (gentler way of saying I move from job to job with great frequency).

We all know the saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Not true. Words hurt just as much as physical hurt, maybe more. Most likely a good many of you have also heard that your greatest strengths can also be your greatest weakness. For instance, I am very organized and efficient (strengths), but I've managed to frustrate just about every boss I've ever had because I clean up/throw out things they haven't even read yet. I can be too organized and efficient to a weakness.

Given that, how can we take our weaknesses, those things that perhaps people make fun of us for that are difficult to change, and turn them into positive strengths? I think that sometimes, all it takes is a matter of changing our perspective. We become what we believe. We believe what we hear. If we hear, "You're stupid!" all the time, we'll believe it. Instead, we might respond to, "You learn differently." If a child hears, "She's shy," from her parents because she's a bit uneasy meeting new people, she will become withdrawn, believe it and become it. Instead, her parents may choose not to even focus on the child's withdrawn behavior and just let the child be who she is.

Here is my very unprofessional opinion of how we can change certain characteristics around to reflect positive strengths (Disclaimer: this is NOT a list of my traits...well, some are, but not all).

Argumentative:   Expressive
Opinionated:       Unafraid
Bossy:                 Assertive
Stubborn:            Steadfast
Hard-headed:     Stoic
Moody:                Sensitive
Impatient:            Enthusiastic  
Predictable:        Reliable
Impetuous:          Motivated 
Fussy/Finicky:    Selective
Domineering:     Attentive
Clingy:                 Tenacious
Critical:                Assessing

These are just a few. You get the idea. Come up with your own list of negative traits, and instead of believing them, change your perspective.


Of course, many of these traits can and should be worked out with the Lord if they are a problem for you and your relationships. But sometimes, we are simply wired with a strong characteristic that overshadows the best traits in us; one that others find difficult and we find difficult to live with in ourselves. We can ask the Lord to change us. But sometimes that thing that we see as a weakness, a trouble spot is there to serve us in a positive way. We become what we believe we are. Change your perspective of yourself (and others). Think positively. Become what you believe. Believe in your potential.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day 
Accentuate the Positive (Andrew Sisters/Bing Crosby)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Little Commitments

Lucy, me and all my chins
The other day I took my first hike as a single-dog owner. Just Lucy and me. It was a little strange at first. I have to admit that having Psycho Dog with me at least always made me feel safe if I should be accosted by a strange man (more likely, I'd be accosted by a bear). But Lucy and I ventured on and poor Foxy was quickly forgotten.

As I've said before, time spent in the woods usually leads to my thinking, praying, communing with God. I decided that I was going to commit to something that I've been wanting to do for some time, but have been waiting for the pieces to come together. I have a tendency to quit when things get difficult, and the passion for this thing I want to do is so great that I decided in the woods that day that I would commit to starting and finishing it. I started talking to God, thanking Him for gifting me with the talents He's given me to do this thing (and no, I'm not going to tell you until it's finished), and praising Him for His goodness and creativity. Being among nature does that to me. And then He and I talked about commitment.

Not far into the hike, Lucy...relieved herself...the kind of relief that requires a bag. I did what I usually do: cleaned it up and left the bright yellow bag on the side of the trail to collect on my way back. However, I was so into talking with God, gleaning insights, etc. that I walked right by it on the way back. By the time I realized it, I was almost back to the parking lot. I stopped, briefly thought about going back to get it, then said, "eh, whatever." Then I felt a Holy Spirit nudge and the voice in my head (aka Holy Spirit) said, "Go back and get it." Whaaat? I thought. Then I said (aloud) "What if I can't find it? What if it's way far back?" 

"You made a commitment to pick up that poop." the Holy Spirit said. "Go get it. You know where it is."

I turned and groaned...more like threw a mini-temper tantrum, like a teenager being told to go change her clothes or something. But I went back. I realized that if I was going to tackle this big "thing", if I was going to commit to something, I had to learn discipline and obedience. If I couldn't be obedient in this small thing, how would I learn to be obedient in the bigger things? As I walked back up the trail, I heard His voice again, "No commitment is insignificant or small. A commitment is a commitment." I found the bag not far up the trail. It was a minor detour. But what a lesson!

No commitment is insignificant or small. A commitment is a commitment.

I like that. We need to be obedient in the "little" things if we're going to tackle bigger things. We may not make a verbal or written commitment to something...like a relationship, job or project. Sometimes it's an unspoken commitment, something as simple as picking up after the dog, taking out the trash, showing up on time. 
If you're waiting for your "big break," take a look at your commitment level. Maybe you're committed to that thing that will hopefully lead to your big break, but what about the "little commitments?" Be obedient in the little things and I'll bet your breakthrough will come. A commitment is a commitment.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary





Friday, April 25, 2014

Jesus, my Library Book

A few days ago I witnessed a crime. I saw a man, probably an employee of the library, come out of the library with several shopping bags of books on a hand cart. No, he wasn't stealing books. I thought he was walking to his car, but he kept going past all the cars. I wondered, Where is this guy going? He stopped at the dumpster. Yes, he threw the books away! Watching him unload those shopping bags full of books into the dumpster, as if they were last week's leftovers, broke my heart. I wanted to rescue them, but, really, what would I do with all of them?

I love books and I have a special fondness for the library. I've always loved the library. There's
RECYCLE & REUSE! 
something about library books with their crinkly covers, and special library smell, part mustiness, part new book, part...well, other people's germs I guess. They're somehow different from all the other books on my table (aside from the fact that I only have 2 weeks to read them and they do not belong to me)


I feel the same way about Jesus. He's different from all the other gods/idols I've worshiped in my life. And I've worshiped many. When I was younger and more easily influenced, I gave in to the latest trends in an effort to feel complete. Jesus was sort of on the back burner, simmering (not in anger...I just left Him there till I needed/wanted Him/could fit Him in my life). He's sort of like those library books. There's something special...different...unique about Him. And when I read posts on Facebook or otherwise, comments that either mock Him or just make light of who He is, it breaks my heart.

I know that not everyone loves library books like I do. Or even books. Just like I know that not everyone shares my sentiments about Jesus. To some, He's just someone they've heard stories about. He's some sort of deity, to be lumped together with the others they've heard about. They're not "religious" so it's okay for them to speak irreverently of him (I'm not saying that it's okay; rather I'm thinking that they think it's okay). 

When I read these things, I don't feel the need to defend my Jesus because what good would it do? To them, it's all in fun, and the thread grows with each "humorous" comment. You get some "Jesus Freak" comment, it kills the joke. No one wants to hear that. I don't want to get into a debate on Facebook, especially on someone else's page, so I don't comment.  Maybe you disagree. Maybe you feel that we, as Christians should always defend our faith. But I believe that there does have to be some respect for other peoples' posts. Sometimes, we need to keep our opinions to ourselves. And sometimes, you just know that it would do no good; it would do nothing but stir up hostility. And I'm not into all that on Facebook. So I read, and my heart breaks.
What a clever idea!
I would TOTALLY buy this!
When I saw those books being discarded, I felt that same heartbreak; discarding books that were once popular, books that authors worked so hard to write, books that were once meaningful and special were now deemed worthless. My Jesus, my special library book, is discarded in the same manner by those who deem Him worthless. It breaks my heart.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Throwing Library Books Away In Virginia--I'm not the only one who feels this way!
Song of the Day
You Are My All in All (Dennis Jernigan)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living "With Intent"

People ask me how I come up with a blog every day. Where do the ideas come from? Honestly, it baffles me as well. I just start writing about everyday things, and more often than not, the lesson comes as I write. I confess, I don't always learn the lesson at the time.

One person told me that she realized one day, while reading my blog, that I go about my day "with intent." I suppose I do. I don't necessarily look for the lesson for the benefit of writing my blog, but I do always try to look for the lesson as I journey down the path called life. I look for the lesson so that I can grow and change. The mediocre things, the everyday things, the mundane...they tend to just be part of our day. The out of the ordinary things-good and bad alike-they tend to be the things that teach us. But we can learn from the mundane, the ordinary as well.

Very often, we wake up and say, "Oh, another boring day ahead." How do we know that? We don't know what the day will hold. We don't know that we might walk across the street, with traffic stopped on both sides, and halfway there realize that our car is not parked on that side and try to act all cool about it, thereby making us crack up. That's not the start of a boring day. We don't know that we may say something really stupid and hurt someone's feelings, thereby learning the gift of thinking before we speak, and humility at having to apologize. We don't know that we may encounter someone in need and we have just the thing to fill their need, thereby learning the gift of giving, which in turn teaches us how much we really receive from giving. We should be excited about our day, since we really don't know what it holds for us!

We can muddle through our day immersed in ourselves and our troubles, or we can go through our day "with intent," asking God, "What will you have me do today? Where will we go today, God? What will you teach me, Rabboni (Teacher)? Who will we see and how can I make a difference?"

I don't know how I do what I do. Anyone who knows me knows how much I talk (my boss/son is always telling me to stop talking when he's trying to think). I don't love to talk so much as I just can't help doing it. I'm an "external processor," meaning I think out loud. Drives people crazy. I've always loved to write as well. I suppose I just transfer some of that talking into writing and ideas come. That, and the help of the Holy Spirit. We write "with intent." And, at this point in time, it's become a discipline. I'm committed to writing and anything you commit to requires discipline, something I'm not good at, but learning the necessity of.

Going through your day "with intent" isn't so hard. You just purpose to go through the day with a purpose. Ask God those questions when you get up...the ones I mentioned above. Ask Him to awaken your senses to notice those things and those people around you. Maybe you'll write a blog too!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Stop & Listen (Bethany Dillon)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fear of Stairs

Fear. We all feel it. Babies are born with two fears-falling and loud noises. I suppose we "un-learn" the loud noises one. I'm not actually afraid of loud noises; they just startle me at this point. But I do have this weird fear of falling. I say "weird" because at times, I actually feel this strange fear that I'm going to fall down my basement stairs and break my neck when I'm alone, and no one will find me for awhile. Of course, I could fall down when Brian is home and still break my neck and I'd probably still die. I guess there must be another hidden fear of dying alone or something. But really, we all die alone...sorry, I'm going off on a rabbit trail here...my point is, it's an irrational fear.

We learn fear as we grow. We all have irrational fears of some kind, like my falling down the basement stairs. I don't fear stairs in general. Some people fear spiders, or public speaking. Some fears turn into phobias---a persistent fear which the person goes to great lengths to avoid. Clowns, mice, snakes, going out in public, flying. 

I came across a list of phobias on the internet (see link below) and found some really unusual phobias. I've listed some that I found amusing: 

Bolshephobia- Fear of Bolsheviks
Walloonphobia- Fear of the Walloons
Aurophobia- Fear of gold (I've never suffered from this one)
Ephebiphobia- Fear of teenagers (no comment)
Geniophobia- Fear of chins (it's a good thing I don't have Catoptrophobia- Fear of mirrors, or I'd run away from myself every time I saw my multiple chins)
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- Fear of the number 666
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words
Omphalophobia- Fear of belly buttons.
Pteronophobia- Fear of being tickled by feathers.
Linonophobia- Fear of string.
   and finally, my favorite:
Phobophobia- Fear of phobias

Of course, this is all in fun, but these are real phobias, and sadly, real people suffer from them. What is even more sad are these:

Athazagoraphobia- Fear of being forgotten or ignored or forgetting
Gelotophobia- Fear of being laughed at.
Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection.
Catagelophobia- Fear of being ridiculed
Thanatophobia or Thantophobia- Fear of death or dying

Why are these phobias more sad? Because they are more realistic. I'll bet you read that short list and could identify with one or more of them. Because we've all felt that at some point in our lives. We've all been afraid of being rejected, ridiculed, laughed at, ignored, forgotten, and abandoned. We've all stepped out in fear and failed. 

The good news is that we no longer have to be afraid...of failure, rejection, ridicule, spiders, clowns or stairs. Or death. The God who overcame the grave, the One whose resurrection we just celebrated, the One who conquered death, sin and fear offers us new life, and that new life includes giving all our fears to Him. Letting Him, who has already taken on that fear take care of us. I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth (Ps 121:1-2). Interestingly, this Psalm is called a "Song of Ascents...something that implies moving up, not falling down (stairs). When we move up, we move closer to the loving arms of Jesus--arms that are always spread wide for us to fall into.

I realize that there are many fears and phobias that are so great that it takes time and work, maybe work with a health professional to deal with them. However, I also know that my God can work miracles and He can help us to overcome those fears.

We just need to take the first step. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Song of the Day
Always (Kristian Stanfill)
For your reading pleasure: Phobia list

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holy Hiking When I Don't Want To



This past Saturday, we went on the first hike of the season. It was a one-dog hike since Foxy/Psycho Dog is now living elsewhere. I have to admit, it felt strange not holding a leash and a dog. I actually missed the little turd. She's kind of cute in a wooded setting.

Between both of us having been through surgery in the last 7 months and the arctic weather which forced us inside (and the snow that gave us great excuses not to go to the gym), we were just a tad out of shape. The first...I don't know...hundred yards (it didn't take me long), I thought, Ugh, I don't want to do this. This was a much better idea when it was still an idea.

It wasn't that much farther that I began to have trouble catching my breath. I thought, When did they add these hills in this trail? How did it get harder? Yeah, right, as if. Hello, you're just really, really out of shape...not just a tad. A whole lot.

Once we got going, and the endorphins kicked in, and I actually started enjoying the day and the scenery, things got a little better. But boy, that 2.25 mile loop sure seemed like 5. 

When I walk in the woods, I have nothing to do but walk and think, so ideas often pop into my head. I thought about how out of shape I was and how difficult the beginning of the trail was because of that. And how much I really didn't want to do it. And how, when I got going, I slipped right back into the groove.

It's not so unlike reading my bible, spending time...Time...with God. If I put that bible down, or leave it in the car from Sunday to Sunday, it becomes a forgotten "task", not unlike exercise. Once I decide that it's time to get back into my bible reading, the task seems great, for some reason. It's those first...oh, hundred yards of bible reading...picking up the oh so heavy book. Sitting quietly. Figuring out what to read...or perhaps, if I'm feeling very spiritual, asking the Holy Spirit to direct me to a passage and then seeing if that passage really exists, thereby wondering if I was really hearing from the Holy Spirit if it doesn't (Or, if it says something like, "Repent, you stiff-necked heathens!" I'll think, Oh, I must have heard wrong; let's try it again).

But once I start reading, once I put my mind to the task, once I shut out the distractions of the day, it's like hiking. I start enjoying it, the voices of this world clamoring for my attention become more distant and the voice of my Savior becomes more stronger. Well, His voice never changes; I'm simply more attuned to it. What started out as a chore becomes a delight. I'm sorry to say, yes, sometimes it feels like a chore. It's a discipline. One that I haven't nailed down. But I'm a work in progress, and I get a second chance every morning. And so do you.

So get out those holy hiking boots and take a hike in God's Word today. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

I Want Your Presence (Bethany Dillon)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Acting Like a Dog...Again.

Meet Chinook. My grand-dog. I know...he looks like Lucy. All Goldens look the same. I once brought Lucy to doggy day-care and got a dog named Ross back. I only knew it wasn't Lucy because the dog had a different collar. Of course, I would have realized it sooner or later, especially if I'd checked under the hood.

Chinook is our mascot. Rich (my son, whom I work for) often brings him to work and leaves him in the office. You can see where he likes to be. Practically on top of me. My work space is already confined; now I have to step over the dog.

He doesn't move...unless I move. If I go over to the table, he follows me. It's ten feet away. If I go around to the other side of the desk, he gets up to see where I've gone. And if I stay anywhere for any length of time (like more than 60 seconds), he plops down right there. He's getting old, so when he plops, he grunts and sounds like a car revving its motor. Rrrrrmmm.

As annoying as this is, it's also endearing. I'm not his master (mistress? madam? Oh, better stop while I'm ahead...) but while his master is not here, I'm the closest thing to one. I'm clearly the one in charge, and he gets that. 

It gives me a picture of what we ought to be like with our Master. When He is seated on His Heavenly Throne, we are to lay at his feet: calm; peaceful; submissive. As close as we can get. Not needing to do anything except rest. Relax. When He moves, we move. Even if it's only ten feet. If He moves more than that, we are to follow Him to see what He's doing. And to again sit at His feet. Not running about, not running in circles, not running off on our own. Imagine being that devoted, that loyal, that dependent upon our Master?

Dogs can teach us a lot about life and how to live it. Unless you get a dog like Psycho Dog, who is in a constant battle to see who's boss, most dogs look to their "pack leader" for guidance and direction. They move when the pack leader moves. They rest when the pack leader rests. They follow the one in charge. They are obedient (see above disclaimer regarding Psycho Dog), loyal and loving. They love unconditionally. I love how you walk out of the room, and 5 minutes later, when you walk back in, they act like you've been gone for weeks. My husband never does that.

Imagine what the pack would look like if all the dogs did their own thing? They wouldn't know when to move, when to hunt, when to rest, when to stay, when to go, when to eat, when to sleep. It would basically be canine chaos. Not only that, but their chaos could leave an opening for an attack from their enemies...a serious threat to the pack.The pack leader controls the pack. 

Don't we act like that? I'll bet if we could look at us from God's perspective, we'd see a lot a lot of uncontrolled scurrying. Let us come calmly, obediently, submissively, to our Master and lay ourselves at His feet. Let us acknowledge that He is in control, so we no longer need to be. Let us lie down in green pastures (Ps 23:2).

Oh, to be a dog...

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day
I's a Dog's Life (Donovan Tucker)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Because I'm Happy

I started a weight loss program this week and I'm miserable. I really hate counting, tracking, and all that other stuff that goes along with trying to figure out something new like this. I've done the same program before, and it worked. I think the difference is that before, I was really motivated to lose weight. This time it feels like a "should"...a chore. I'm doing it, not because I necessarily want to; it's more like I feel as if I need to. My heart's not in it. I'm much more calm and happy when I'm fat.

This morning I felt frustrated, aggravated, tired, irritable, cranky and defeated. I had set the coffee pot to automatically brew at 6:00am and it failed to work (more like I probably failed to set it correctly). I usually stop at Dunkin' Donuts on the way to work for my coffee, but I thought that preparing my own (with skim milk...oh boy, yay) would save money, time and get me into a better habit. I didn't make good use of my time and ended up stressed. AND I had to make the coffee. AND it was a bad hair day. AND it was raining. AND I was running late. AND, I decided, I really didn't want skim milk in my coffee! I wanted my Dunkin' Donuts with EXTRA WHOLE MILK! Coffee with skim milk? I may as well dump water in it. I hadn't even done this thing a week and I was already hating it. I wasn't giving up the coffee I love in the morning.

I found myself muttering as I tried to get out the door. Stupid hair. I hate my hair...I can't stand this...I hate this...I'm so miserable...

Then I realized that I determined my own mood. I could say, "I'm so miserable," believe it and live it all day, or I could say, "I may be miserable now, but I'm going to positive from here on out." 

I confess that I did not do that. Well, I did. I said it. But I went right back to being miserable. It felt good to wallow in my self-pity for awhile. Poor me...I'm fat and have to do this horrible weight loss thing.

I got to work and saw a coffee cake sitting on the table. Great! (I chose not to indulge).

Then, someone sent me a one-hour video of the Happy song...the one from Despicable Me by Pharrell Williams. It's basically the song played over and over with different people dancing and singing to it. How could I stay miserable listening to and watching this? 


Happiness is defined as feeling or showing great pleasure or contentment. Some synonyms are: lighthearted, cheerful, satisfied, delighted, untroubled, pleased, content...you get the idea. Everything I was not feeling or showing. 

Perhaps I was feeling miserable because I had to give up my will and my desires for eating whatever I wanted to eat. I'll bet if I start to lose weight, my perspective will change. For now, I don't have to like it, but I can still be untroubled, satisfied, content, lighthearted...happy. I get to choose.


Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day---of course...Happy!---and, by the way---this has changed people all over the world---people dancing and singing to their own happiness! How refreshing!
Happy (I Am) Pharrell Williams
or, if you want the longer version:
Happy (1 hr version) Pharrell Williams

Friday, April 11, 2014

Show How Much You Care

The father of a co-worker of mine is dying of cancer. He can barely breathe, and it scares him. I don't know what his "spiritual condition" is; whether he "knows" Jesus in a personal way. I don't even really know much about my co-worker himself in that respect. What I do know is that my co-worker is sad, stressed and confused because he knows his father won't be with him for much longer. Even though death is imminent, it's never easy. He and his sister are doing what they can and what they know how to do for their father to make his last days, weeks or maybe months more comfortable and meaningful. 

In times like these, I never know quite what to do or say. Never having lost anyone very close to me, other than my grandparents, I cannot help with experience (which may be a good thing, since I have that terrible habit of sharing my story on top of theirs). The only thing I can do is listen, offer encouragement and pray.

I told my co-worker that I would continue to pray for his dad, as would my small "life-group" I met with last night. But also I would pray for him, since this can't be easy for him.

Sometimes it's scary to tell people that we are praying for them, if they haven't specifically asked for prayer. It's scary because we're not sure how they will react. Which is actually ridiculous, because who wouldn't want prayer? I've never had anyone react negatively when I tell them that I will pray for them, or that I have been praying for them. Usually, they are touched that I would take the time to do that. People appreciate prayer. They may not even understand it. But they understand that I am "hooked into God," so He must hear me. I once had a friend ask me to pray for her husband because she knew I had "a direct line to God."

People may call me a fanatic or a "religious" person, and they may roll their eyes at my conservative beliefs and convictions on integrity and honesty, but when they need prayer, they always know that I will be there for them in that regard. I consider it an honor when someone asks me to pray. We are told to consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

So, stand firm in your convictions and beliefs. Step out and boldly proclaim your faith in whatever way is natural for you. For me, it's just letting a co-worker know that I'm thinking of and praying for him and his dad. And I know that means a lot to him because

people don't care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.

Show how much you care today.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Who's in Charge?

One more night! One more night until Psycho Dog goes back to her foster mother. We thought we had seen the last of her, but the trainer called last week and asked us if Foxy could come back for a few days for reasons not important to this blog. Well...she is technically still our dog, so how could we say no? This woman is doing us a huge favor by taking Foxy off our hands; we had to help her since she is helping us!

Foxy had been in her temporary new home for several weeks, and when she came back she was very well-behaved...at first. I thought perhaps she realized that this was no longer her domain (even though it never was, maybe we unknowingly agreed with her that it was). Poor Lucy...first Foxy was there for a really long time and made her life hell, then she wasn't, and she was an only dog, which I think she rather liked, then Chinook (my son's dog) came to stay for awhile, then Chinook left and she was all alone again and then Foxy returned. I think they were both confused and neither one knew who was in charge. Hello??? I AM IN CHARGE!

Don't we do that with God? We clatter around noisily, thinking we are "letting" God be in charge, when really we are trying to take over. We get confused in our thinking. We get confused with the rules. We get confused as to where we belong. We just get confused and we clatter around in our temporary home called earth. All the while, God is patiently watching all of this. When we finally look up in confusion and curiosity, He smiles and says, "Hello??? I AM in charge!"

Unlike my stupid and hard-headed dogs, when we hear our Master's voice letting us know who is in charge, we can relax. Or...maybe we are not unlike my dogs and we are stupid and hard-headed and don't want to listen. 

The thing about dogs is they really don't want to be in charge. It frightens them. It makes them insecure. They feel out of control, and act accordingly. They want their master to be in charge. They really do want to be submissive. It's just that every now and then, a psycho dog comes along and gets the lines confused.

Aren't we really like that? Do we really want to be in charge? Do we really want to be left to figure things out on our own? That's a huge responsibility. It's frightening and makes us insecure. Whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not, we really do want our Master to be in charge.

Stop clattering around. Stop running in circles, chasing your tail. Listen to the Master. Heed His voice.

Blessings Along the Way,
Mary

Song of the Day
Jesus Take the Wheel (Carrie Underwood)

Funny notes left with dogs who do really bad things
Shaming Dogs Notes




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Do-Over

So...how did you do yesterday? If you're anything like me, you have no idea what I'm talking about because you've already forgotten what my blog was about yesterday. I do it all the time.

I'm talking about the challenge I put out there to join me in looking outward instead of inward...to dwell on the other person instead of ourselves. 

Well, I'm ashamed to say that I lasted until 7:00am. That's not funny! It's the sad truth. The woman where I get my coffee in the morning asked me how I was and I told her I was tired and I had been off work for many weeks and I'm not used to getting up so early because I got to sleep in when I wasn't working blahblahblah...it was all about me! I never even asked her how she was!


I was reminded various times throughout the day...pretty much every time the conversation turned back around to me...which was often. 

The good news is that I get a do-over! Remember those from when you were little? But it only counted if the other person was a good sport too. Luckily...or, well...thankfully...God gives us a do-over every day. It's called grace. He's a good sport. He is merciful and actually wants us to do well, so He lets us try it again and again.

It's not like tests in school where if you fail, you just fail. And you feel stupid. And if you fail enough times, you stay back a grade. In God's kingdom, if we fail, we just get to keep taking the test over and over and over until we get it right. We need not feel ashamed. We need only listen to the Teacher and try it again. And the great part is that He gives us the answers! We get a Holy Cheat Sheet-His Word. 

I love do-overs. I'm really going to try this thing-this concerted effort to dwell more outward. I really want to care about people. I really want to learn to listen and stop trying to "one-up" them with my own stories that they probably don't really care to hear. Care to join me today?

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I, I, I...Me, me, me!

Some of my friends and I have a running joke when we realize that we've talked too long about ourselves. We say, "Enough about me. How do you like my dress?"

I've been eavesdropping lately to hear how much people talk about themselves. I hear the word, "I" begin a lot of sentences. I have a bad habit that when someone tells me something, I tend to share a similar story of my own, instead of actually listening and caring about theirs; allowing them to have the moment. 

We really are narcissists. One definition I found of narcissism is inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love, vanity. I suppose it's because we are with ourselves so much. Look at social media. Isn't it basically all about me? This blog (as much as I know you love it) is all about me. It's my blog, about my lessons that I've learned that I choose to share with you.

Narcissism is not exclusive to those who think very highly of themselves. People with low-self esteem, those who dwell on feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and insecurity are just as much of a narcissist as the one with the over-inflated ego. Poor-me is as self-absorbed as Look-at-me. We may say, "I hate myself." That's really a statement made out of self-love (in a warped sort of way). To hate oneself, one has to be so wrapped up in oneself, which really is a form of self-love.

I've been guilty of narcissism more often than I'd like to admit. (That sentence is actually a very narcissistic statement). I've dealt with those three "in" words which point inward (play on words is intentional)...insecurity, inadequacy and inferiority...for years. I thought I had them conquered several years ago when I really "got" how much Jesus loves me and dealt with my past, but whenever I encounter something new, I fall right back into those inward "in" words. The devil loves to keep us there so that we cannot be powerful witnesses for God---looking inward and believing those "in" words will keep us in narcissism. But we can be more than conquerers by believing that it is not by our might or power, but by the Spirit of God that we overcome (Zech 4:6)...by the blood of Jesus. When we look outward and up instead of inward and down, we find that we no longer need to focus on ourselves. 

I've decided (oops, there I go...oh, I did it again...there's no escaping it!) that I'm going to try to take more time to listen to people and focus on them rather than myself today. Would you care to join me?  Let's make a concerted effort to engage people today. To notice people. To care. I have a feeling that our day will be a lot more rewarding if we take the focus off ourselves and our problems and make it about others today. Look outward, not inward. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
By My Spirit (Leslie Phillips)



Monday, April 7, 2014

New Beginnings

Spring typically symbolizes new beginnings. Flowers spring forth and bloom. We see new life awaken in wildlife. It is a time, because of the symbolization of new life and beginnings, that we often try new things, step out and begin a new ministry, or try a new venture. 

I was reminded this week, when I stumbled upon a writing I did a few years ago, of the importance of beginnings. At that time, we were attending a Messianic Congregation (a congregation of Jewish and Gentile believers) and the rabbi (Rabbi Jonathan Cahn of Beth Israel) had preached on new beginnings. Below is a loose translation of that message:

The enemy seeks to attack the "beginning"---that which is new. Herod attacked all the young boys in an attempt to destroy the beginning of Messiah's ministry. the Six-Day War was an attempt to destroy a new nation. The enemy will always seek to destroy the beginning because he can get everything that way. It's so new that you're caught off-guard. He will seek to attack God's plan because he has an idea of what's coming.

When God is intending to do something new in your life, the enemy will seek to destroy it. When you're moved to repentance, prayer and holiness, the enemy will seek to destroy. If he can't destroy, he will distract or discourage.

The purposes of God start in a small thing in your heart. God is calling you to guard it-to guard against discouragement, substitutes and distractions. To overcome, you need to BELIEVE, even when it looks like God isn't doing anything. When the enemy goes crazy in your life, God is about to do a new work

When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19).  When the floods come...and they will, when the enemy comes in like a flood and the waters come, God will either part the waters, cause them to recede or allow you to walk on them.

And here's something I read today that's pretty cool. Joseph Prince, in his daily devotional says this: Jesus came, walking on the stormy waters, walking on top of the problem that was threatening to overwhelm them [the disciples]. He is indeed the King and Lord over the storms! When your eyes are on Christ, even though the storms are raging and the winds are blowing, you will know that you are above your troubles and circumstances.

We are told that satan comes to rob, kill and destroy (John 10:10), but we need not fear that the enemy will steal our "beginning" because if we are focused on our Lord, Jesus Christ as he comes to us on the water, walking on top of the problem, we will find that we are capable of doing things we didn't think we could do, like Peter, when he walked on the water.

So, if you are in the midst of something new, if you feel led to start something, and you're feeling defeated, distracted or discouraged before you've even started, take heart-it's just an attack. That means you're destined for greatness. Look up. The Lord God will not let the waters overtake you. 

Blessings Along the Path,

Mary

Song of the Day
The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Half In and Half Out

I recently had a dream that I was traveling on a hiking path in the woods with a friend. She was in front of me pulling someone in a wagon-one of those metal kind of wagon/garden cart you find at a nursery. I was in a wagon behind her, half in and half out of the wagon, the reason being that I was trying to propel myself on the path with my foot. We were going uphill and it was difficult for my friend to pull her wagon and her person, and it was difficult for me to push myself uphill with one foot. 

I have been wondering if this dream had spiritual significance, or if it was just part of a combination of thoughts and circumstances during the day. Because it's stayed with me, I have to think that it did have some sort of spiritual significance. 

Things that move (like a wagon) are usually indicative of our spiritual journey. I would prefer an airplane or a limousine. No, I got a wagon. A Fred Flintstone one at that. I think that the fact that my friend was leading means that she is someone I should look to for guidance; a mentor (and she is). The fact that she was pulling someone in her wagon means that she is serving. Me? Not so much. Maybe I am serving myself? More likely, I think the significance was the fact that I was half in and half out of the wagon. 

I've been dealing with a particular situation that I'm not sure about. I vacillate between yes I do want to do this thing and no it's not right for me. I want to be involved and I don't want the commitment. I want to do it, but I don't like the guidelines. I want to do it my way. Half in and half out.

Is there something in your life that you're half in and half out of? You want to be involved but you don't want to commit? 

Traveling down (or up) the path of our spiritual journey is sometimes exciting, but many times it can be scary or difficult. When we encounter something that causes us to make a choice without knowing what lies ahead, it can be scary. Starting something new can be difficult-an uphill battle. But being half in and half out makes it all the more difficult. And when we're half in and half out, there is no real commitment.

But here's the great thing...in my dream, my friend and I were laughing the whole time! We were having a great time and I remember feeling light-hearted, as if the struggle of pushing myself with one foot wasn't even that difficult. We can enjoy the trek, no matter the difficulty!

However, I know I need to make a choice. And so do you. That's when we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, who will let us know what to do through His Holy Spirit speaking to us, through other people, and circumstances. We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you (2 Chron 20:12). 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you (Matt 7:7). Ask. Seek. Knock. Let's ask Him, "Should I get out and pull my wagon and see what...or who ends up in it? Or are you asking me to get in the wagon and trust you to pull me to my destination?" Either way, it's a win-win situation.

Blessings Along (the sometimes difficult) Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Bumping Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why Worry?

I think I have OCD. I think I have OCD. I think I have OCD.

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked there...

I don't compulsively wash my hands. I don't go back into a room to be sure I switched off the lights. I don't have to touch things when I walk by, like Monk.

But I have been known to obsess about things. (See Treadmill of Thoughts blog in archives:10/18/2013)

I worry/obsess about the silliest things, the little things...like why didn't my blog go out today? Or I need to read all my library books waaaaay before they're due. Or I owe someone 50 cents. Or I need to make juice before the fruit goes bad.

But I don't worry/obsess about big things like what if Brian loses his job and we can't pay our mortgage? Or how are we going to pay all the medical bills we've accrued? Or what if my car doesn't make it another year and I need to buy a new car? It's the big "what ifs?" that I avoid. And they always seem to have something to do with money.

Am I really avoiding these questions or do I actually have faith? It doesn't take a lot of faith to remember to pay someone 50 cents I owe them. They've probably forgotten anyway. Library books...not big on the faith scale. Blog issues? More of an ego issue than a faith issue. Maybe I obsess/worry about these silly things because I can actually do something about them. Those bigger things not so much. They require faith. Maybe I have more faith than I realize. 


God has never failed me financially. He has always provided for me or provided a way out. So, it makes sense that He always will. He's got a pretty good track record. 

It has been said that courage is fear that has said its prayers. I believe that worry is basically fear without faith. If I have faith that God will provide, I have no reason to worry. So why bother?

So...why do I still worry about the little things? It's those little things that trip us up daily. Maybe I need to have a little more faith in other people and in myself. Or maybe my OCD just needs to have an outlet...did you say outlet?  Did I unplug the iron? Did I unplug the iron? Did I unplug the iron?

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Songs of the Day:
Jehovah Jireh, My Provider
Let Faith Arise (Chris Tomlin)