Saturday, October 04, 2014

Fairness, Forgiveness...and Pineapples

Sisters...being sisters.
If we forgive a terrible wrong done to us, does that mean we have to like that person and continue our relationship as if nothing ever happened? Is it fair that they receive the benefits of eternity in heaven, if they've been downright nasty most of their life and then late in life accept a Savior who's willing to forgive them and give them eternal life? You mean they'll actually get a mansion - or a room - or whatever it might be - that's just as good as Billy Graham's or Jim Elliot's?

Those are just a sampling of various questions I've heard over the past month, and it's made me ponder. I've come away from it even more convinced in a truth I've held to for a long time now... 

I FIRMLY believe that how we live each and every day is being rewarded NOW. Sure - I get to go to heaven someday, all because of Jesus dying for our sins. None of us are good enough. Perhaps some people will end up getting a mansion and others an eco-friendly tiny house - or, perhaps we'll all get the exact same kind of apartment - it really doesn't matter that much. It shouldn't bother me that a former Gestapo gas chamber guard turned Christian ends up getting the rewards of heaven just like I will.

The rewards of living a faithful, Christian life - including forgiving those who've wronged us - come back to bless us right here and right now. Those people you know - who claim to be Christian but hypocritically treat others badly; lying and slandering and doing things we don't think Christians should do - THEY are the ones missing out. They are missing the blessing of having great relationships with others, because of the way they mistreat people. They are missing the blessing of the joy that's found in doing the best they can - a clear conscience that comes from knowing they've been truthful and treated others with respect. 

I really, really feel like God blesses us with an inner joy, peace and happiness right here and now that can truly and only be found when we're doing the best we can at living the way He wants us to live. Those "Christians" (and only God knows if they truly are Christians) who don't - I'm 99% sure they are not filled with joy, contentment and peace; and deep down they aren't very happy.

I may never be rich with money or possessions - I may not get a gold mansion in heaven - but I am extremely blessed and "rich" right now, knowing that God's ways are always best; knowing that there are blessings each and every day waiting for me if I choose to live in a way that pleases Him. For the most part, those blessings involve relationships with people. They are the "treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19-21) that I'm laying up. I can't take a nice car with me - I can't take my big house with me - but I can take people with me. They are ALWAYS worth investing in.

My daughter shared with me an awesome story about a missionary who was continually wronged by the people he was trying to minister to, and how he eventually came to genuinely love and forgive them anyway. It's called "The Pineapple Story":
It's almost an hour long - but sooo worth the time it takes. It's full of truth...the basic truth that people are more important than things... yet it's also very honest and funny. ("I could be a real good missionary if it weren't for you people!!!" :-)

If you've watched "The God's Not Dead" movie, you might have looked at that atheist professor who is so mean and hateful towards God and towards Christians - watched him come to know Jesus right before he dies and thought, "That's not fair - he gets to go to heaven even though he lived so wrongly!"  

But who really got cheated there?  He did. 

He got cheated out of peace; out of wonderful, trusting and loving relationships; out of true happiness; out of so many blessings that result from living life here and now in a way that pleases God. Yup - he'll go to heaven just like you or I will; after all, it's only because of Jesus' sacrifice that ANY of us get to go. But will he have the joy of hearing God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" ? (Matt. 25:21)  Did he ever experience true joy and peace while on this earth?  That is worth SO very much - and it's something that most people don't experience unless they're sold out to God - like the young college guy in the movie. Yes - he suffered ridicule and lost his girlfriend because he did what he thought God wanted him to...but he also enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing a classmate turn his life over to Christ, made a new friend; and probably saved himself a lifetime of being married to a self-centered woman that wasn't very good for him anyway. We get so many blessings like that when we make the effort to live the way God wants us to - blessings that can't be measured in values of a gold house; but blessings just the same.

AND...we really and truly don't know what heaven will be like...the Bible doesn't tell us a lot. I've heard people say that God purposely didn't give us many details about heaven, because it's so incredible that if we knew more about it, we'd probably all be committing suicide so we could get there sooner! 

Who knows what God might have planned for us? The end of that Matthew 25:21 verse says, "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"   Who knows what God might entrust us with in heaven, because we've chosen to be faithful to Him in big and little things while we were here on earth???!  I'm pretty sure it's going to be awesome, and full of joy - and we won't even notice if forgiven sinners who lived terribly most of their lives share it alongside us. 

Regardless - I know I've got a "rich" life right here and now, by following God's ways. Does it suck that someone who's treated me terribly seems to get by with it and suffer no visible consequences? Sure...but it's their loss, not mine. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Microscope or Mirror?

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Prov. 16:24 

We are watching an eye-opening video series at church entitled "Resolving Everyday Conflict," by PeaceMaker Ministries. It's been very good so far, but last night's session was one of the best.

I've heard and read the Matt. 7:3-5 "get the log out of your eye before trying to take the speck out of your brother's eye" parable preached and taught many times. Yet it's always in the context of examining ourselves before we start judging other's sin. Hearing someone directly apply that teaching to a one on one argument was new for me. 

This approach makes so much sense for derailing a conflict! Jesus' teaching promotes the need to examine ME - my own shortcomings and faults, even in the midst of an argument where I might feel as if I am not the least bit at fault. That's exactly the time when I want to lash out and blame the other person...but we all know how that ends. If instead I could look at my own "log" - my share of the problem that I've brought into this argument - then the inevitable train wreck that's bound to happen once the blame game begins could often be prevented.

"But it IS her fault...she (insert her speck that has totally frustrated you)!" I want to defend myself. I want to be right. I want to point the finger and examine their "speck" with a microscope. Yet, Jesus says I should pull out a mirror instead, and deal with my own part in the disagreement.

Even if I am only 2% to blame, and they're 98% to blame, I still need to start with my mirror and forget about pulling out the microscope. Well...I might feel like those are the percentages, especially in the midst of my anger, but more often than not I'm a lot more to blame than I want to think. Whatever the percentages - no matter how little or much I am at fault, if I could simply say, "You know what? I shouldn't have done (said) that and I'm sorry." Wouldn't that go a LONG way towards defusing the upcoming explosion? Good-bye, log! 

And guess what? That humble, self-examing response almost always results in the other person pulling out their own mirror and saying, "Oh...well, I guess I shouldn't have (insert their speck.)" You've just doused a fire by admitting your own fault, your own "log," in the matter. Even if they don't fess up and apologize for their part in it, their "speck" - at least you've done your part and probably halted the escalating tension, pain and anger that was about to ensue.

Good-bye, log. Good-bye, heated argument. And perhaps, good-bye speck. That's what you were going for, anyway - except now you've done it in a much less damaging way.

Now if I could just remember all of that the next time Nate steps into my kitchen and tries to do things his way...I mean, errr...tries to help. "I'm sorry dear that I like to have one realm in my life where I am totally and unquestionably in charge." Yup...that's a big log for me. ;-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dads and Daughters

I can't TELL you how much this article made me want to shout, "YES!"

Every ounce of it has been our philosophy, our strategy, our life. Did we develop that strategy intentionally? I'm not sure. In some ways - it just kind of happened.

It happens over time, in small decisions and choices you make along the way. Like, years ago, when we heard another dad say, "There's this boy showing an interest in my girl - so I've been pumping iron so I can intimidate him," and you stop to ponder, "Wait - is that the approach we want to take with our girls?"

Sadly, that particular father left his family a few short years after he made that statement. I guess pumping iron didn't make him strong enough to hold his family together, and so I'm glad it hasn't been my husband's parenting approach.

A Dad who encourages and cheers them on

Instead, Nate leans much more towards the wisdom that Jen Wilkin shares in the above article:
Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because, you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness...
The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.

Can I say it again?...YES!

If we do nothing else in life than raise our children to feel valuable and worthy - to their family, to their Creator and to their Savior - I'll be content. They should never "need" a spouse to complete them - or lead them - or follow them. Leadership is not about the strong looking for weaker people to lead. It’s about the humble looking for those whose strengths offset their weaknesses and complement their strengths. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people, not with weak ones. Rather than finding the strengths of others threatening, they celebrate them and leverage them.

Male or female, don't we all prefer celebrating and leveraging to intimidation? At the risk of sounding redundant...YES!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

29 Years and Holding, or Counting?

People refusing to age jokingly announce that they are "29 and holding." When our 29th wedding anniversary rolled around this month, I momentarily wondered if that 29 and holding thing was supposed to apply to marriages as well? Nah.

So young and naive...
Unlike aging physically, when your body gets a little more worn out each year - a marriage that lasts for the long haul should be getting better and better. Kind of like aging in reverse, right? Most newlyweds would probably argue that they are SO happy right now, in their newly-married bliss, that it couldn't possibly get any better. (Ignorance is also bliss.) I probably would have argued that 29 years ago. But now?

I never dreamed "happily ever after" would just keep getting more happily with each passing year!

Sure, doing life with someone day after day, year after year, can get dull and commonplace...if you let it. But it can also get richer, fresher and more rewarding, if you work at it.

As time goes on, you can figure out what REALLY works. And what really doesn't. (But no...I do not have marriage, or him, all figured out yet...give me another 50 years.) You've shared the best of times, and the worst of times. Sometimes those stressful-at-the-moment, terrible times turn out to be the memories you love to laugh about in years to come. You've shared so many memories together, you can reminisce for hours when time allows. That fact alone makes a long-lasting marriage extremely rich.

After 29 years, it's become obvious that a great marriage is much more than just "being in love." Anyone can fall in love. Yet many just as easily fall out of love when things aren't going well.

Not that anyone asked...but if I could give one bit of advice to couples planning to get married, it would be this: get it through your head, right now, that this is a commitment - not a storybook romance - and you're going to do your part to be fully committed. It'll be the toughest commitment you'll ever make; but it's worth it. Know that the other person IS going to fail you. She will make you furious. He will frustrate you to no end. She will have bad hair days and extremely unpredictable mood swings. He will reek after a hard day's work and be too tired for conversation. Whatever the disappointment or frustration - big or small - it will happen. You are marrying a human being, after all, and no matter how perfect you might think they are right now...they aren't.

I should finish with some nice, churchy advice and say, "Make God your focus...put Him first," etc. etc. If you're both Christians that's just an obvious, Sunday School kind of answer. And if you're not - it's a moot point. I know for us, it works extremely well. When you and your spouse are both concerned about being the best that God wants you to be - it's beneficial for all of those around you. Anything that takes the focus off of yourself and encourages you to focus on others is rewarding and gratifying for all involved. If BOTH of you are living like that, you'll BOTH feel extremely satisfied and cared for. As Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" book so pointedly's not about YOU.

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  ~~Philippians 2:3-4

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Uh, UFO? Ah, AFO!

Our boy, the youngest of our seven kids, is probably the worst speller of our bunch. I'm not complaining or belittling him - just stating facts. We all know he's brilliant...he just probably doesn't know how to spell it.

Those spelling errors often make us all laugh - himself included, once he figures out what he did wrong. One of the latest incidents happened when his dad was telling him that it was time, once again, to go pick a sister up at the airport.

"Just think," Nate said, "It takes us longer to drive halfway across the state to pick her up than it takes her to fly here from two states away. If only we had a way to fly there in our own, personal flying machine... I'm sure they're going to have those sometime soon. What do you think they will call them?"

(side note: We do digress and chase rabbits quite often around here.)

Without hesitating, Josiah piped in, "It can't be a UFO - so they'll probably call them AFO's."

We all stared at him blankly for a moment, trying to figure out what the "A" might stand for. Finally we asked him, because no one was getting it.

A bit surprised at our lack of understanding, he rolled his eyes and said, "Well, it wouldn't be an UNidentified flying object because of course we know what it is - so it would have to be an 'Ah-dentified' flying that makes it an "AFO."

Ah, phonetics, you are such a tough adversary for a young boy to conquer, but you do provide entertaining diversions along the way.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Our Tweenagers' View of Dating

One advantage of having children of various ages is the rapport and comradeship that develops between older and younger. Younger siblings often will freely discuss things with an older sister that they don't even think about mentioning to us, their parents.

"Should I tell her I want to be a vet???"  *
Such was the case when our daughter from Texas was home during her grad school's spring break. She stayed up late one evening with our 11 and 12 year old, and reaped the benefit of a very enlightening conversation...

"So - how does dating work?" one of them randomly asked her.

"Well, when someone likes you, they ask if you can go do something together, and get to know each other better. Going out for a meal, doing fun things together, that kind of stuff."

"But isn't the boy supposed to ask daddy's permission first, before you do all that?" asked the youngest sister.

"Oh, ummm...well yes, of course!" fumbled the 24-year-old, not bothering to explain that she has kind of out-grown that phase of life.

"Wow - some guy is really going to have to like you a LOT to come all the way from Texas to talk to daddy."

"Well yes, I guess he will." she mumbled, then tried to change directions. "So, when you're old enough to date, will you ask the girl's dad for permission to date her, Josiah?" 

"Oh...I guess so," he replied unenthusiastically, but then he perked up,  "If I'm really lucky - she will be an orphan!"

(Insert lots of big sister laughter at her little brother's skills of reasoning.)

"So - what do you think you will do on your very first date?" she couldn't resist asking him.

"We'll probably just go out for ice cream. But I think I should tell her, before we go, that I want to be a vet when I grow up."

"Why do you have to tell her that right away?"

"Well, it takes lots of years of going to school to be a vet - she probably won't like that," was his thoughtful reply.

"But you don't have to talk about all of that right away - you can just have fun getting ice cream with her."

"No - I should tell her. Because if I wait and tell her that after we're at the ice cream place, she might get mad at me and not want to ride in the car with me anymore. How would she get home? I always wonder about that in the movies, when the girl gets mad at the guy and walks out - how does she get home?"

You have to give the boy credit for his thoughtfulness, even if he doesn't know much about dating...or taxis.
*photo credit: Denise McDaniel, 2007

Friday, March 07, 2014

We Don't Get Out Much

One of our young and naive daughters uttered those words several years ago. Even though our guests thought it was hilarious, the rest of us grinned and inwardly thought, "But it's true - we don't."

Yesterday reminded me, again, of why I choose not to get out much.

It was my weekly grocery outing to Columbia. Non-eventful...until I finished at the first store and came out to the parking lot. There was a guy leaving a note for me on my car.

"Wow," I thought. "That's a little creepy, but hey, maybe I'll be able to make Nate jealous enough with this story that he won't be in a hurry to leave the country again for awhile." You know us wives...always scheming.

No such luck, however, unless Nate will be jealous of our Forester. Yup - the guy wanted my car. Talked to me the entire time I was loading my groceries, telling me what awesome vehicles Subarus are, and how he especially was looking to buy a used Forester, because he'd owned two different Volvos and they just didn't compare.

Talk about getting your bubble burst in a moment - now I was feeling even older and rustier than my car.

So, I got my rusty self into my desirable car and headed onto the next store.

Due to the fact that I don't get out much, I had never yet approached Columbia's one diverging diamond interchange from a side road. (I normally like going through it - for a short moment in time I can pretend I'm driving in the UK.) For some silly reason I assumed that I could get from point A(ldi) to point H(yVee) simply by driving west to Stadium and then south to Broadway. Perfectly logical. Imagine my surprise when I approached the diverging diamond to get onto Stadium, and next thing I knew - BAM - I was driving east on I-70. The opposite direction of HyVee...and at 70 MPH to boot. Still don't know how that happened.

No - I don't get out much.

A random thought consoled me as I exited off I-70 in order to get back to where I'd started so I could try again. "Well - if that creeper guy who wants my car is stalking me - I probably just lost him without even trying."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I'm Going on an Adventure!

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly 
find out how far one can go. --T.S. Eliot

Most in my family are world travelers, enjoying that "risk of going too far"... but I rarely do. I'm usually the one willing and able to stay home; playing chauffeur to and from the airport, happily staying behind while they go off on their adventures.

However, when our oldest daughter and her husband committed to work in North Africa for two years, with no opportunity to come home - I was once again ready to take my family to the other side of the world. After all, it had been thirteen years since we'd last taken our entire clan abroad, and so our younger three children either didn't remember it or weren't born yet.

(HOW many hours in the air did you say? And we're smiling?!)
An adventure was apparently long overdue.

What an adventure it turned out to be! Getting our entire family together meant eight of us getting on planes and negotiating airports. Once we reached our destination, there were ten of us traveling/living together for two weeks. We were like our own tour group - but without the tour guide taking charge of it all. Never fear. Have you heard that old saying, "Too many chiefs and not enough Indians?" Well, in our family we've probably got too many tour guides and not enough tourists. But it all worked out - we saw some amazing sights, met some even more amazing people, and enjoyed - you guessed it - some amazing family time together.

Someone may be confused about their location.
I can't show you pictures of the places we visited. More regrettably, I can't show you pictures of the people we met. (It's terribly scandalous for a woman in that culture to allow her picture to be taken.) But it was easy to see why my daughter Rachel speaks so lovingly of the ladies she lives amongst. They were so hospitable, accepting, friendly, and so happy to meet us. One was laughingly ready to sign a marriage contract between her son and my 12-year-old daughter. Some were insistent on seeing my girls try to dance - so they could laugh hysterically with us. Another was quick to tell me that she prays for one certain thing even more than I do, since she loves Rachel so much. Another invited all TEN of us to her home for a meal (men in one room, ladies in another,) even though it meant a tremendous amount of work for her and her daughter-in-law, and those two ladies wouldn't even sit down with us to enjoy the meal. We were honored and humbled by all of these ladies who have so little materialistically - yet shared of themselves so freely.

Tea on a Mediterranean beach
The men? Well - men and women don't socialize together, so I have no first-hand experience. I do know that Nate and our son-in-law, Kyle, were often invited to sit and drink tea, and were told, "we are not friends - we are brothers." Tea seems to be the common thread that accompanies all social interactions. Women invite ladies into their home for tea - while the men (who are the shopkeepers, and men do most of the shopping) invite guys frequenting their shop to sit and have a cup of tea with them.

Rachel is there - but behind the camera.
We did get some comical, first-hand experience with the men and boys of the larger cities. Around every corner, another group of males were ready to try out their limited English skills on my daughters... "Hello! Welcome! What nationality are you? I LOVE YOU!" One man was quite creative. As we walked by him, he shouted, "You dropped something!" When one of my girls naively turned to look, he said, "It is only my heart." Thus, our method of walking in public looked like this: Kyle in the front - shooing men away in Arabic - and Nate walking behind, as the rear guard. The rest of us simply kept our eyes down and tried not to laugh.

Josiah managed to hide behind the females.
Yes, it was exotic and exciting to be in such an unnamed, far-off place. Yet the best part of it all was simply having the ten of us together for two whole weeks. We could have been in a random, backwoods place and it would have been just as enjoyable. With four of our seven children now into their adult years - time together is our most precious commodity, a priceless gift.

One challenge of our togetherness was trying to get family photos will all of us in the picture. At one point, we handed the camera to an English-speaking stranger...but he unknowingly chopped one of us out of the photo.

Faster, Nate - faster!
One time, we tried the selfie thing...only Kyle has an arm long enough for that. We sometimes attempted the timer and remote set-up...but there always seemed to be some glitch.  (Nate not being able to run fast enough being the funniest of glitches.)

No worries. Whether or not the family picture attempts were successful, the memories made were exceptional, and not soon to be forgotten.

Of course, the 2,000+ photos I now have on file will insure that we remember as many details of our adventure as possible. And the countless stories we'll be repeating to each other in our old-age? They may someday bore our grandkids, but we'll treasure them for a lifetime.

Here's to venturing out the door countless more times, out of our comfort zones, and being swept away...

"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” --Frodo Baggins, about Bilbo

LOOK - we're all in the pic! Now if someone could dim that sunlight a bit...