Monday, June 30, 2014

Good, Clean Fun

Today marks my 200th blog! Who knew I had so much to say? Well, I did actually...and anyone who knows me knows that my mouth is a never ending river of words. So, to celebrate my landmark, I have  a joke. That's all. Don't you just love a good, clean joke? Isn't it great to laugh? I don't have any nuggets of wisdom today. No encouraging verses. No funny stories. Just a joke. I hope it makes you laugh. And through your laughter, may you be encouraged today that life doesn't need to be so serious. God gave us humor and laughter. Let's use it! 

A Baptist minister and his wife went to an animal shelter to find a dog. But it was important that the dog be a Baptist. The shelter Director assured them that she had the perfect dog. To prove it, she told the dog to fetch the bible. The dog ran over to the Director's bookshelf, looked over the books, pulled the bible right out of the bookshelf and brought it to the Director! Then the Director said, "Find Psalm 23." The dog, making wonderful use of his paws, flipped through the bible until he came to Psalm 23. He looked up proudly.

"We'll take him!" The minister and his wife were so excited to have a wonderfully trained Baptist dog. 

Later that evening, they had some friends over and they wanted to show off their dog. So, they repeated what they'd seen in the animal shelter, and the dog very obediently fetched the bible, and found many more scripture verses!

"Can your dog do any regular tricks?" asked one of the guests.

"Gee," said the minster, "I don't know. We never asked about that. But he's so smart, I'm sure he can." 

So he said to the dog, "Heel!" 

With that, the dog jumped into the minister's lap, put his paw on the minster's head and began to howl!

To which the minster responded, "Good God, we've got a Pentecostal dog!"

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



Friday, June 27, 2014

That Darned Blinking Cursor!

For some reason, it's easy for me to write a blog. Perhaps it's because it's sort of like a stream-of-consciousness type of writing. There doesn't need to be any specific form. I just write what's in my head and somehow it takes shape. And it typically even has some sort of lesson attached. Also, it's short. There are no requirements. I can make it 5 sentences, 5 paragraphs, or 5 pages (Chances are, however, that the 5 sentences will be incoherent, and the 5 pages will be too long for anyone to desire to read). 

It's a different story when I write...other things that I'm working on. The most dreaded thing to me, as a writer, is not so much a blank screen, but that darned blinking cursor. It's because I have to continue where I left off. Oh, I was on a roll that day. I wrote 3 whole chapters. It was good! But then I took a break and lost my momentum. Oh, I'll never be able to write as good as I did the other day.

I stare at it, and it silently screams at me---type something! Anything! Here! Here! I'm over here! No, don't go back; keep going!

It both beckons me and mocks me. You can do it! Who are you kidding...you have nothing! When I'm on a roll, it doesn't flash; it keeps me on track, and truthfully, most of the time, I don't even notice it. But when I'm stuck, I want to curse it! Maybe that's why it's called a "cursor."

We all have a figurative cursor as we go through life. It's in our heads. We wake up and that blasted cursor is flashing. The demands of the day come crashing into our heads without warning. Sometimes it mocks and belittles us reminding us of how we messed up the day before. Other times, we hear that silent screaming in our heads-Get up! Get up! Get up! Now! Over here, over here! No don't go back to bed, get up, keep going! Yes, sometimes our thoughts are just not formed enough when we awaken, and all we can do is focus on getting out of bed! Personally, that's one of the most difficult things I face on a daily basis! (And that is the time I get up-excuse me...wake up...5:48)

At the same time, the cursor beckons us to quiet our minds, our soul, our spirit before we continue with our day. Our minds are like the blank computer screen. Every morning we are blessed to have another blank page. Our story can continue, or our story can be rewritten. What will we write? Will we look at that blank screen, that cursor, as a blessing or a curse?

What will you write on your blank screen today? Where will you place your cursor? Will you try to go back and edit what you've already written (or said---which seems to be password protected---Undo button doesn't work either) or will you continue on and just write, watching where the story will go? You may be pleasantly surprised, as I usually am when I write, to see the shape that your story takes.

Blessings Along the Path
Mary

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't Be a Dumb Goat

Have you ever watched goats? 

In Matthew 25:31-46, we are told that Jesus, when He comes in glory, will sit on His throne and every nation will be gathered before Him. He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep and goats. The sheep will be on His right (blessed) and the goats on His left (cursed). He will explain to the "sheep" that they are blessed because they fed the hungry, took in strangers, clothed the homeless, visited the sick and imprisoned, and that whatever they did to others, the same was done unto Him (Jesus). Likewise, the "goats" will be damned to eternal punishment because they did none of those things; in fact, they ignored those in need, and whatever they didn't do to others was done unto Him.

Okay, can we just talk about sheep and goats here instead of the biblical exegesis? I'm not an end-times scholar, an apologetic, a pastor or anything else smart and impressive. I have no credentials except the degree of observation. And I was just reading about goats in a backpacking magazine. (Very different from reading a biblical commentary). Apparently, a backpacker can rent goats to carry their stuff along the trail, but according to the author of the article, it wasn't really worth the effort.

Goats are apparently easy enough to train and have a good disposition---they don't spit at you like llamas. They're nimble and can climb rocky places more easily than say, a horse. And because they constantly graze as they go, you don't really have to think about feeding them. They're kind of like a dog with a beard. But they're obstinate. Stubborn. Unmotivated. Strong-willed. Stupid. Okay, sheep are stupid too. But I believe they are easier to maneuver. And they don't try to eat your clothes. The shepherd leads sheep. But he doesn't use a rope to pull them. He doesn't drive them, like cattle. He doesn't let them decide where to go. He leads them to safe pasture. And they typically follow.

Have you ever watched goats? There's a farm near my house where I often see goats in the corral/yard. One day I passed by and they were all standing on the top of some boarded structure (their goat house?). They seem to climb to the highest spot and stand there in a clump. And they don't even seem to be asking, "Okay, now what?" They seemed to be saying, "We're here and you're not." Dumb goats.

The author of the article described how he tried unsuccessfully to pull the goats along the path. One goat fell on the ground with his head twisted. The author thought the goat was dead, until he saw the goat nibbling some flowers by his head. I guess he just got tired and flopped down where he was...and decided to graze while he was down there. Dumb goat. 

Then he tried to get the goat to cross a stream. Apparently, goats are not afraid of water, but each time they get to the water, they act like it's the first time they've ever encountered it. Again, he couldn't motivate the goat to cross. Dumb goat.

And they eat clothes. Why? Dumb goats.

No wonder they're on the left side, cursed and damned. They do what they want and they seem oblivious to the rest of the world, and what's expected of them.

Are you obstinate, unmotivated, strong-willed and stubborn? I'm not going to ask if you're dumb, because it's just not nice to call anyone, especially yourself dumb. But let me tell you this-if you are acting more like a goat than a sheep, that's just dumb. Resign to follow the Shepherd. Life along the trail is so much easier when you follow the Shepherd than when you insist on remaining unmotivated, obstinate, stubborn and strong-willed. Don't be a dumb goat!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Being Kept From Being Swept Away

I learned something very exciting last evening, although it was not exciting when it happened. It was a bit frightening.


Remember yesterday's blog about how proud I was of my swimming dog? Well, I decided to take Lucy for a short hike that leads down to a river. Lucy loves the river, but she usually only wades. I thought I'd continue our swimming lessons by throwing the ball into the deeper water, the current. Bad idea. Of course, now that Lucy swims unafraid, she ventured unflinchingly into the current to retrieve the ball. Except she got stuck. Yes, I watched my dog do the doggie paddle as if she were swimming in place. She was going nowhere. The only reason she wasn't being swept downstream was because she was just on the edge of a big rock that prevented her from being swept away. Luckily, she's a dumb blonde, who is too stupid to know that she wasn't going anywhere. She just kept swimming all proud that she caught the ball. She never panicked. But I did. I thought, "Oh, no, my dog is not going anywhere. She seems to be stranded out there. What should I do?"

I realized that I'd have to go in and save her. I'm ashamed to admit that my first thought was, "How am I going to get out there without getting my shoes wet?" Hey, I'm a girl. Girls think that way, right? (Right, ladies???) I mean, the water was only halfway up to my knees, if that. It wasn't like I really had to worry about anything (besides my shoes, which by the way are hiking shoes which have seen better days). On the other side of the rock, where Lucy was treading water, it was just a tad deeper, but the current was obviously swift enough to carry a 55 pound dog away. 

I was able to hop rocks onto the big rock without getting wet and simply reached in and pulled Lucy up by the collar onto the rock, where she then ambled over to the shore. I have to hand it to her---she never lost her grip on that tennis ball!

Afterwards, I sort of marveled at how calm I was. I kind of panicked, but didn't show it. It took me a minute to think of what to do and how to do it, but I just sort of did it. And I never got my shoes wet!

So what's the lesson I learned? Lucy is not a strong swimmer.Typically, neither are we when we first venture out into the unknown. We may have trained for it, but even if we did, nothing prepares us for the swift currents that come. Swimming in a calm pond is one thing. Being tossed into a quickly moving river is another. 

But the beautiful thing is that if we do find ourselves treading water, swimming nowhere, being trapped by a big Rock that is saving us from being swept away in the current, we have a Master who is not afraid to get His sandals wet. He will calmly hop the obstacles to rescue us. He will pull us up and place our feet firmly on His Rock, where we can rest, or simply amble back to safety. He is always there. He never leaves us. He doesn't toss the ball into the current and then walk away. And as long as we know that our Master, our Lord will always be there to rescue us, we need not worry, we need not be anxious.

So many scriptures come to mind:
 Do not be anxious about anything...(Phil 4:6). He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand (Ps 40:2)  Be not far from me, O God; come quickly to help me O Lord, my Savior (Ps 39:21-22). Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go (Jos 1:9). 

I think I'll stick with the calm pond for the time being. Lucy does much better in calm water. And so do I. It's always good to remember that we must work up to more difficult challenges. It's a process. But God is always there to rescue us, even when we think we're ready and we find ourselves in over our heads, or treading water in the swift current. He is a good God.

Blessings Along the Path and in the Swift Current,
Mary

Song of the Day
River (Bluetree)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stop Over-thinking Your Fear

Do you remember your first steps? Chances are, you don't. But you might remember the first time you did something else...the first time you rode a two wheeler, the first time you spoke in front of an audience, the first time you drove (alone) after you got your driver's license, or the first time you ventured out into any kind of unknown territory...literal or figurative. It was exhilarating...intoxicating even...and frightening! Most likely not in that order. Or maybe all at once.

Taking the first steps toward anything new is scary because of the unknown factor. We're most likely not the first to ever venture out into this new thing; we've seen it done countless times by other people who have not died from it. We know it can be done. But because we've never actually done it ourselves, for some reason, we're not sure if we'll survive.

Normal Dog (aka Lucy) is not quite normal. She doesn't swim. She loves the water as long as she can feel the bottom. Once the bottom drops, she panics. 

I knew she could swim. Isn't it sort of a reflex with dogs? Don't they instinctively know how to swim? I've seen her do it for brief moments-usually to get back to solid ground. She just doesn't seem to have the confidence to let go of the shore. 

Down the street and through the woods is this great pond in the middle of the woods, where
This is not Lucy, but it may as well be...all Goldens look alike!
there is usually no one around. We love to walk down there with Lucy and let her off leash to explore the stream and the pond. The other night I decided to bring some tennis balls with me for an experiment. Lucy loves to chase balls. If I threw the ball into deeper water, would she swim out to get it? Guess what? She did. And then she couldn't get enough! She conquered her fear by simply doing it without thinking. She was so focused on getting the ball, she never gave her fear another thought. I now have a swimming dog. I'm so proud of her!


How much do we hold back from swimming out into deeper waters because we over-think our fear? How much does our lack of confidence hold us back from doing what we truly desire? I'm sure all of us have had that moment where we were on the sidelines watching everyone else do what we wished we could do, but lacked the confidence to join in. Fear of failure can cripple and paralyze us!

I'm no psychologist, but I think that what we fear most is not so much swimming out into deeper waters, but taking that first stroke in the shallow water away from our safety net (the shoreline). It's too close. It's too easy to swim back to safer waters where we can feel the bottom. We risk nothing. It's not so much the fear of the unknown as it is the fear of the journey into the unknown-the process...and then not being able to get back. Being abandoned in the unknown. We spend more time convincing ourselves that we can't...or thinking about the repercussions of failure. But like the saying goes, "You'll never know unless you try."

There's a little saying in the bible that goes like this: I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).  If we keep our thoughts on Him, He will ease our over-thinking mind. 
Lucy had a ball as her incentive. Her focus became getting that ball. What she didn't know was that I had two others in case her first attempts didn't pan out and we lost the ball. If we lose the ball in the deep water, God will throw us another one to keep us going. He won't let us swim out there for nothing. When there's nothing in the deep water, that's when we begin to remember our fear, and panic once again sets in. But God promises never to leave us. He will not lead us to deeper waters and then abandon us there.

We need to be more like Lucy and stop over-thinking our fears. Be a dog! Don't give your mind time to hesitate. Take the first stroke, pick your feet up off the safety of the shoreline and swim out into the deep. Remember your goal, not your fear. And enjoy the journey! It can be scary, but it can also be exhilarating!

Blessings Along the Path and in the Deeper Waters,
Mary

I had a great 11 second video of Lucy swimming out to get her tennis ball, but alas, I cannot figure out how to get it on YouTube.

Song of the Day
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sand Graves

What is it about kids and the beach? Why are children so enthralled with digging in the sand? And why do they love to be buried in it? In fact, I've seen adults being buried in the sand, and they seem to love it too! There's something oddly comforting about being buried in the sand. Maybe it's because we know we can easily escape. 

I watched a family this weekend bury their son in the sand. His head was sticking out of this big pile. He was buried up to his neck, and he seemed very serious about the whole thing. When the mission was completed, they all sort of just sat there and stared at him, smiling. His older sister kept going over to him and kissing him (maybe she was taking advantage of his helpless situation), and his mother was taking pictures. 

Suddenly, the boy shook his head and started wiggling his body beneath the sand. First his neck moved, then his shoulders broke free. Once his arms were free, he gave a violent thrust to the remaining sand and freed himself completely, while his family cheered him on. 

I looked away for a moment and the next thing I knew, the boy was running toward the ocean,
laughing.

Similarly, when we are buried in sin, stuck in addiction, or paralyzed from fear, insecurity, false guilt or shame, it's oddly comforting. At times, we may feel immobilized or trapped in our sand grave, but the weight of that which keeps us bound is familiar, which is...oddly comforting. Friends and family will come to us and give us kisses. They may laugh at our silliness, even when we are being very serious. Sometimes, they will just awkwardly sit there and stare at us, as if to say, "Okay, now what?" 

It is only through the power of God, through the blood of Jesus can we break free from that which hinders us and keeps us bound. It is the blood of Jesus that sets us free. To Him who loves us and has freed us by His blood (Rev 1:5). When we realize that, when we cry out to Him who loves us and sacrificed Himself so that we would be free from the bondage of sin and death, it's like we wake up! We shake our head, wiggle our neck, and force our shoulders out from the sin that weighed us down. We violently thrust our torso out from under the bondage of addiction. We break free from the guilt, the shame, the insecurity, the fear. In the twinkling of an eye, we are free! 

We throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And we run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:1-2, paraphrased). 

Once we experience freedom from the bondage we have been trapped in for years, there is nothing like it. We run with abandon, like that little boy, laughing. Our legs, which were buried in fear, now carry us to new and exciting places. We run toward the water, the River of Life, to be baptized and immersed in new love, new life, new experiences. Freedom tastes a little like chocolate---once you taste it, you just want more!

The next time you feel trapped in a situation, paralyzed by fear, or just burdened by the weight of life, remember that it's only a sand grave---oddly comforting, but easy to escape from. Don't let the devil keep you there. Cry out to Jesus and He will give you the strength to break free from the sand and give you new legs to run to the Waters of Freedom!

Blessings Along the Path of Freedom,
Mary

Song of the Day

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Celebrate You Day!

For the first 50 or so years of my life I focused on what was wrong with me. As an adult, once I took a serious look at myself and really began to understand the power of God's love, I was able to overcome the shame, the guilt, the insecurity etc. I'd lived with all my life. Now, I focused on trying to "better" myself. I tried to change the negative traits into positive ones. And when that didn't necessarily work, I felt guilty. I "shouldn't" be this way. I "should" be more like So-and-So. The pressure I put on myself to be someone I wasn't made it even harder to change. Basically, I tried to change who I was. I was no better off than I was before. The only difference was that now I was aware. And being aware...well, I'm not so sure I was better off knowing if I couldn't change it.

There are things that we can change about ourselves, especially if we really want to live a Christlike life. The fruits of the spirit---love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22)---those are things that are put in us by God. We have the ability to live a life worthy of those fruits. And that's what we ought to attempt to change, and aspire to be because we can. 

But there are things in us that are hard-wired; they are part of our personality. It's who we are. It's what makes us unique...whether we like it or not. And because God made each of us to be uniquely ourselves, we ought to celebrate who we are and not put ourselves down. Focus on what's right, not what's wrong.

The other night I was at someone's house and another person walked in. He said to me, "I can hear you talking out in the street!" The old me would have become embarrassed and flustered, and later berated myself for being so loud. Instead, I said, "I know," and kept talking. It's who I am, and I know who I am. I found it humorous. Instead of trying to change the aspects of my personality that make me who I am, I now celebrate them. And in so doing, I'm so much more at peace with myself. 

I'm sure I've blogged about this before, but it bears repeating. Plus, I can't remember what I wrote 4 hours ago, much less 4 months ago. Isn't that great?! I don't have senior moments. I'm too young for that. I always had trouble retaining information; that's why I need to write things down or repeat your name back to you three times after I meet you (and will probably still forget it). And because I'm always thinking of 5 things at once, I might get confused about what I'm doing in the moment. I'm not old. I'm just busy in my head. 

Today, when you look in the mirror, don't look at your flaws. Don't focus on the wrinkles, or the stray pimple or the crooked nose, or the overweight you (ok, that you can change, but we don't like that topic). Look at the unique creation. Look at the adult version of the child that God formed before time began. Just like a composer hears the arrangement, or the artist sees the finished painting or sculpture; just like the florist knows exactly which flowers will go together best to form the most beautiful bouquet; so did God know exactly what he wanted each one of us to be. Don't try to change yourself to be like someone else, because guess what? They might be trying to change themselves to be like you! Celebrate you today!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Video-it's a little under 8 minutes, but a MUST see. This young woman has chosen to overcome the horrific comments made on YouTube about her and is now an inspiration to many!

Katie Couric interview with Lizzie Valasquez-Voted "world's ugliest girl" on Youtube 

Lizzie Velasquez's inspirational talk





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Don't Get Hit By a Train

There is a railroad crossing on the road I take to get out to the main road from work. It's the first crossing after the station, so a few times a day, the train has to sit on the track for whatever reason---maybe it's waiting for the train to come the other way, or maybe it's early and has to wait to stay on schedule. I don't know. All I know is that if you're unlucky enough to hit it at just the wrong time, you can sit for up to 15 minutes, waiting for those gates to lift. Most people who work here are aware of this, and if you creep up and look, you can see the train just sitting at the station. Then you can just slide between the gates and cross the tracks. Everyone does it, except the bigger trucks or trucks with a trailer or a load...of which there are many where I work.

Well I hit it at just the wrong time the other day when I went out to the bank. In front of me was a garbage truck, a truck with a trailer, a small dump truck and a pickup. I knew 3 out of 4 of them weren't going anywhere. We sat for a few minutes, and then the dump truck (one of the ones I thought wasn't going anywhere) crept up, stopped, and wiggled around up and over the tracks. Then someone came the opposite way and did the same. I figured I could pass the remaining three and slip over the tracks (illegally, by the way...). The problem was, I didn't know how long the train had been sitting at the station. Sure, I might be able to get across fine. But what if the train decided to start moving as I was crossing? Just then a police car came up the opposite way...and drove around the gates! So much for being illegal. As soon as he came to the other side, the gates lifted.

There is a reason for those gates and the blinking lights. Maybe it's illegal, maybe it's not. But it really isn't safe. A person could get hit by a train. That's serious stuff! It's not fun to wait, but the other choice is just too risky. No one likes to waste time, but wasting your life is a lot worse.

As I waited, I thought of God's timing. How often do we take matters into our own hands when we have to wait? We circumvent the safety of God's gates, which are meant for our own protection. Even though we see the obstacle. Even though we hear the warning bells. The problem is, we see the train just sitting there at the station. Why isn't it moving? What's it waiting for? Instead of being patient and waiting for God's timing, which comes with God's blessing, we take the risk and move out on our own. The opportunity is there. Why wait?

Why wait? Because if the timing isn't right, you could get hit by a train. You may see it coming. You may be creeping over that line and just as you do, you see the train move...maybe you can escape the impending doom, but maybe you can't. Or you may not see it coming and you get blindsided or...what's the word when you get hit broadside---T-boned.

Nobody likes to wait, especially when you've been called to something. You're raring to go. You want to move! Your energy and excitement is high. You have ideas you want to implement. Your motivation is strong. You don't want to waste time by waiting for the gates to lift. But that's exactly when and why we need to wait. Getting hit by a spiritual or emotional train can have the same devastating effects as getting hit by a physical train, and can take just as long to recover.

If it's meant to be, it will still be there when you get across the tracks...safely. Stop. Look. Listen...Wait!

Blessings Along the Path (and tracks)
Mary

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Lard Story

If you read my blog yesterday, you may remember that I told you that I once fell in lard, and that maybe I'd tell you that story today. As I write this, I'm not sure if there is a lesson to be learned, or if I'm just telling you a funny story. But I figured someone reading yesterday's blog may be curious about the lard incident.

Brian and I had gone into NYC to see an afternoon show and have dinner at this quaint little Italian restaurant uptown. It was a beautiful summer afternoon so we decided to walk to the restaurant. On our way there, we passed a street fair. Keep this in mind.

There was a cookie place next door to the restaurant, and I cannot pass up cookies, so I got a dozen or so. They put them in a box, like a miniature pizza box; in order to carry them, I had to put my hand under the box. Keep this in mind.

We were walking back to the parking garage when suddenly I slipped in something and fell on my rear end. It happened so fast, I didn't even know what was happening. My feet just slipped out from under me; I twisted all around on the way down and I broke my fall with my arm (luckily, I didn't break my arm!). "What the *$%@ was that?" I shouted. How Christlike of me. 

The first thing I noticed was that the cookie box hadn't moved. I had saved the cookies! The next thing I noticed was that I was covered in something slimy and greasy. I had no idea what it was, but it was all over my hand, my arm and my cute red jeans---the side and  the backside.

My first thought was that I fell in some homeless person's vomit. After my initial shock at having fallen (when you're on the other side of 50, falling is a big deal! It hurts a lot more than it did at 20), I was angry. And disgusted at the thought of having some homeless person's vomit all over me. But after I got my bearings, I looked down and didn't see anything resembling vomit. I had no idea what it was. I'm not sure if that made it worse or better. 

We were in an area of mostly businesses; there weren't too many people around and no fast food or coffee places for me to clean myself off. In fact, there was nothing around that was open. I was covered in some sort of slime and had no way of wiping it off. Remember, it was summer?

Let's sidestep (pardon the pun) a moment to Brian. He'd watched this and had been very sympathetic of my dilemma; however, I'm sure it must have looked very funny, especially my writhing in mid-air trying in futility to right myself--all the while holding a pizza-type box full of cookies perfectly straight. I don't know why it is, but we humans often find falling funny. He was having trouble containing himself. And when he started to lose it, so did I, but not in the same way. "Sure, go ahead and laugh!" I cried. "If it had happened to you, I'll bet you wouldn't think it's funny!"

We had no choice but to keep going. I used my cardigan sweater to wipe off what I had by now deducted as grease from the street fair (remember that?). My chef friend later told me it was probably lard. Who dumps lard in the street, especially at a crosswalk???

After I got the bulk of it off my hand and arm, I tried to get it off my pants. That was futile. I threw the sweater in the next trash can. 

I was now past the anger and on to embarrassment. It looked like I had snot all over my cute red jeans. People were now looking at me. I felt the need to explain to everyone I passed that I fell in something. It's New York City---who cares?!

Suddenly, as we were walking along the street, I started to chuckle. It was actually pretty funny. My chuckle grew to laughter. By the time we walked into Starbucks several blocks away, I was almost in hysterics. I walked regally to the bathroom, with my head held high and my red snot pants screaming, "Look at me!" And look they did. It was all I could do to just contain my laughter.

Face it-falling is funny---as long as you don't get hurt. I have no idea why we find it so, but we do. And just think...I gave new meaning to the term, Lard-Ass (sorry for the very unspiritual word, but I just had to).

The lesson? I guess watch where you walk and always carry something to wipe yourself off with in case you should fall in lard, but more importantly...don't take life so seriously. As long as you're not hurt, learn to laugh at yourself. 

Blessings From the Lard-Butt,
Mary

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Dome Top Was All It Took

Ever have one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong? Well, my day yesterday started off well enough...until "Pat" spilled coffee in my new car after I said, "Don't spill that coffee in my new car." (Pat is a generic name; I've changed this person's name to protect the guilty). It wasn't like Pat did it on purpose and I couldn't be mad. Pat already felt bad enough.

Later, I went to the grocery store, but I was really looking forward to a Starbucks Frappuccino afterwards, so I parked in the middle of the two stores, which was actually closer to Starbucks and pretty far from Shop Rite. As the cashier was ringing up my order, I remembered that I hadn't deposited my paycheck and there may not be enough money in the account to cover the bill. Luckily there was. 

I was on my way out when I was accosted by a young girl who wanted to know if I would like to donate to a local non-profit organization. Every week there is someone different there, so no, I would not like to, thank you. And why do I always say thank you after I say no?  

As I was taking my too-small cart loaded with more than I thought I'd get, a bag toppled off the top. Of course, I was wearing a dress (an above-the-knee one too!) and I almost never wear a dress, so on top of scrambling to gather my items, I had to think about the perverts sitting in their cars who may be trying to look up my dress.

When I got to my car, which was a lot farther with a load of groceries than it was without, I couldn't find my keys, which meant I must have left them in the store, which meant I had to go all the way back, which meant I would be made to feel guilty again by not supporting my local non-profit agency.

Then, the issue became, should I leave my groceries here or take them with me? If I leave them here, someone might steal them. So, off I went, back into the store (with my too small cart still loaded with too many bags), back to the cashier, who said, "No, I gave them back to you." Of course you did. Only I don't have them. 

Again, the young do-gooder at the exit, who must have had a good memory or knew better than to ask a frazzled looking woman if she'd like to donate to a good cause. I found the keys in a grocery bag. Why on earth would I have put them there? Oh, who knows why I do what I do these days. Yesterday, I took off my shoes and socks and put my shoe in the hamper instead of the sock.

Again to the car, which now was parked a mile from the store. How did it keep moving? And I had to go to the bathroom! 

Off to Starbucks for my $50 frozen drink, where I stood in line and listened to a teenager and her mother argue behind me about which break they were in California for...spring or winter. What's a break? Furthermore, what's California? Oh, that's right. That's where it feels like I parked my new car with the Hazlenut smell.

I opened my Starbucks app on my phone to pay and saw only $2.57. Wow, I'm about $47 short. And I can't reload anything on it because I have no money in the account. Luckily, I had cash. 

You know what made my day?  Are you ready for this? 

A dome top. 


Yes, a dome top on my Frappuccino. I never get a dome top. Those are for the kids, the skinny people and the people who have given up on diets---the whipped creamers. Since I never get whipped cream, I always get a flat top, and I always want a dome top---it just makes it seem bigger. Yesterday, I got my dome top. It really doesn't take much to make me happy. But too often it doesn't take much to get me upset either.

As I left Starbucks with my $50 frozen delight with the dome top,  I thought, well, these things are really just minor disturbances. Nothing major. Okay, the coffee in the car thing seemed pretty big at the time, but had I possibly made an idol out of my new car? Now it smells like Hazlenut. That's a nice smell. New car smell doesn't last long. Hazlenut might. 

And is it right to punish someone for something they didn't intend to do? Something that was an accident? Something that could very well have happened by me instead of "Pat?"

And at least I had a credit card in my wallet (with no balance!) in case my groceries had cost more than what was in my account. And at least the bag didn't break when it fell to the ground. And neither did the bottled drink. Who knows if anyone looked up my dress. I'd rather not think about that.

And what about the luxury of being able to have a frozen drink? And a new car? And a back-up plan?


In our overly-scheduled, overly-perfect daily lives, when things go awry, how do we react? When our kids spill, when we misplace something, when we come up short on cash, when things disturb our plan, when people don't say or do what we expect...or say or do something we don't like or agree with...do we get annoyed? Do we fly off the handle or give someone the silent treatment, or are we able to let things roll of our backs? 

It's no use crying over spilled milk, right? What about if you fall in it, like the kid in this picture? What would you do? I think I'd be upset, then embarrassed, then just turn it back around and laugh. How could you not? That's funny! In fact, that did happen to me, except it was lard. Yes, lard. Right in the crosswalk of an intersection in New York City. Maybe I'll share that story with you tomorrow.

How much does it take to rattle your cage? More important, how much does it take to make you happy? Look for the dome top in something today.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Let the Words of My Mouth (Fernando Ortega)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who's Your Referee?

Life is like a football game. Sometimes you're on the offensive team (you offend someone) and then you turn around and get slammed by the defense (you're defending yourself). 

Sometimes you're carrying the ball and running toward the goal and you just get slammed to the ground. Often, it comes from behind and you never see it coming. 

Other times, you've been tossed the ball, thinking, "Wow, this is what I've been waiting for!" and it gets intercepted. Someone else gets the promotion you thought you were getting, or the break you were looking for, or that speaking engagement. Or even...the engagement! You try to be happy for that person, but you're thinking, "When's it my turn?"

Then there are the times you thought you were playing on a team, but no one seems to be on your side. You feel like you're the only one who even knows how to play the game! You thought you were on a professional team, and you have to deal with "these idiots", these rookies---how high school!

Maybe you've been sitting on the bench, wondering when it will be your turn to play. You've had to watch the shining star a little too long, and that shining star seems to be getting brighter in his or her own mind. And why does the coach seem to think he or she is still so wonderful when you're seeing a lackluster performance? "If the coach would just put me in, I know I can prove myself to be brilliant!"  

Or...maybe you're the star quarterback, the best on the team and you're getting weary of performing, of always being in the game. You could use a break, but the coach never seems to put anyone else in. You've proven your value time after time after time and the coach is so focused on winning that he won't even think of putting someone else in. You don't want to let the team down...or your coach, whose approval you're so desperate for.

And then...you fumble. When that happens, some of us are punished by our taskmaster coaches and shunned by the team. Others of us don't need that...we're very good at punishing ourselves when the team is ready to forgive. 

But you keep playing. You're almost there. You see the goal. You want to do the happy dance! Your heart is pounding! You're 4th and Goal...and the clock runs out. You miss the opportunity. You lose your drive. You give up the game. Your heart sinks and you want to punch the happy dancers. It's not fair. 

As long as there are people in your life, you'll be in the game more often than you want to be. You'll get tossed the ball even when you don't want it; you'll get sacked more often than you expected. We all have to deal with conflict and stress on a daily basis. Sometimes you feel like you're just running up and down the field. Life sometimes feels like a pointless game.


TIME OUT!!!



Take heart. Remember the referee? He never takes his eyes off the game. He has control of the game and watches from the line of scrimmage. You may not agree with his call, but it's always final. You can argue with the ref, but I've never seen a referee back down and change his mind.

Who's your referee? 

If you put your faith in people, you'll eventually be disappointed. What makes someone else the expert on your life, especially when they don't even know what to do with theirs? 

If you trust in yourself...well...let me just say that I'd never trust myself to ask myself advice if I already don't know what to do. Me, Myself and I don't always have it all together, and the three of us don't always agree.

Some will trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord, Our God (Ps 20:7)

God doesn't watch our game from His Heavenly Press Box. He watches it from our line of scrimmage. He alone has control of our game, even if it doesn't look like it.  He has the final say. He is the Absolute First and Last Word. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. I am the One who is, who always was and is still to come (Rev 1:8)
We may not like what's happening in our lives. We may not think it's fair. We may wonder when it's our turn. We may disagree with the call, but if we put our trust in the Lord, He will always, always, always take care of us. The final outcome is always in His merciful Hands. We may not win the game, we may miss the goal or the opportunity, but He will stay with us throughout the game and keep us from harm. Trust your referee.

'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.' (Jer 29:11).

Blessings Along the Path (and the Game),
Mary

...and sometimes things get misconstrued in the game and miscommunication causes misunderstanding...watch (and laugh!) how people can misunderstand what you say...

NFL-Bad Lip Reading





Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A New Name

Lately I've been fascinated with...ok, maybe a tad obsessed with the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail, or simply the A.T. runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It's roughly 2,200 miles long, but it's always changing because of modifications to the trail or re-routing. Many a hiker has set out to walk this trail from start to finish--they're called thru-hikers. Some have made it; some have been forced to abandon the trek because of injuries or other reasons---the monotony of the Trail, the solitary life, the unpredictable weather, the constant hunger and thirst, the weight of a 30 pound pack, the bugs, wet supplies, and blistered feet. Many books and memoirs have been written about these experiences. 

I am fascinated by all of this and I've been reading a few of these books. (Two sisters decided to hike the trail together...barefoot. Why?) As fascinated as I am with this, I really can't understand what would possess a person to walk 2,200 miles without a bed or shower. I love to hike, but I hate to camp. So, no, I have no desire to do this, because it involves sleeping outside on the ground. And I would have to remain dirty for quite awhile. And I would smell. No, thank you.

But...I do find this GaMe (Georgia-Maine) fascinating. There seems to be a whole different culture on the A.T. For some reason, no one uses their real names. Everyone has a trail name. I'm not sure why, but I think that's pretty cool. 

I've been trying to think of a trail name for myself. I haven't come up with one yet. Some of the names describe a person, like Hikernutt, Dr. B and Blissful (real people). Others "earn" their names...they are given to them by others...from the trail, like Paul Bunyan, Jackrabbit and Signage. 

When we come to know and accept Jesus as our Savior, we are also given a new name. No longer do we need to call ourselves Lonely. Insecure. Afraid. Ashamed. Guilty. Wounded. Victim. Scarred. Unworthy.  Inadequate. Stupid. 

Our new trail names are ones like Overcomer. Confident. Healed. Whole. Joyful. Precious. Peaceful. Contented. Victor. Blessed.

Jacob's name went from "Cheater and Deceiver" to Israel, which means "Overcomer." Saul became Paul. Simon became Peter. Anyone who has had an encounter with God will never be the same; God gives them a new name.

What would your Holy A.T. name be? Would it reflect who you are in Christ? Or would it be something you've earned along the trail...a name given to you by God? Ask Him...you may be pleasantly surprised!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day--don't be put off by the unknown name--their harmonies are beautiful!
I Will Change Your Name (The Nebblett Family)