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Whoaaa…listen to the (bargain) music

July 14, 2014

I like me a good bargain.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction that I hunted and gathered with excellence, that I conquered Mt. Retail and lived to shop another day.

I really ought to get a special cape for my skills.  It only seems right to have a uniform of sorts.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not cheap.  I like well-made things, beautiful things, things intelligently and creatively designed.  I believe those kinds of things are worth money.  If I don’t have the money, then I will do without.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I get Groupon offers in my email.  Every day there’s something new on sale.  You gotta admit, that’s kind of exciting.

I have to say, however, that I’m not sure how I feel about today’s offer.

Today’s Featured Deal is a ticket to see Peter Frampton and The Doobie Brothers in concert together for $22.50, discounted from $43.30.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Peter Frampton.  The Doobie Brothers.

Um…does Peter Frampton know he’s now Groupon-able?

And when did The Doobie Brothers become the sort of band you need a discount to make worth seeing?

Is this better or worse than being consigned to playing Mississippi casinos?

I’m feeling vaguely distressed and confused, in a baby boomer sort of way…

 

 

 

 

Emotional Hazmat

July 12, 2014

I’m always a little baffled by the folks who read or watch certain things because it upsets them.

The media knows that we’re far more likely to read or view something that has a disturbing, negative headline.  There is money to be made in being critical, manipulative, judgmental, controversial, and downright sketchy with the truth.

We’re quick to take the bait and jump to find out what’s bad, wrong, distasteful, naughty, immoral, unethical, frightening, and downright evil.  It’s rather delicious, in a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad way.

Bad things happen in the world.  There’s no denying that.  And I’m not suggesting ostrich behavior anyway.

But our culture is full of people who feel depressed, anxious, powerless, overwhelmed, sick, and exhausted.  I have to wonder how much of that comes from spending far too much time focusing on what upsets us instead of what builds hope in us.

There’s this passage of scripture in the bible about causing others to stumble in their faith, and it includes causing ourselves to stumble (Mark 9: 42-48).  One of the things Jesus says there is that if your eye causes you to stumble, you should pluck it out because it’s better to enter the kingdom of heaven with one eye than to enter hell with two.

That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?  If we really followed that, who’d be left with two eyeballs?

I don’t really think Jesus was advocating eye-plucking.  I believe he was employing a bit of hyperbole to make it clear how serious it is to not put ourselves into situations where the end result will surely be a weakening of our faith, a degrading of our health and well-being.

It’s not normal or good to agree that people are bad and the world is a terrible place and that it’s just getting darker, because the darker it gets, the brighter light shines, which means that darkness is always on the losing end.  The only way it can gain “wins” is to get light-bearers to agree that darkness really is bigger and badder, and start dimming themselves to match that terrible belief.

If life seems to be sucking the joy out of you, if it feels painful and overwhelming and you really just wish you could find peace and happiness, then maybe it’s time to declare a fast.  Change the diet of what you feed your soul and spirit.

Consider something new instead.  What builds your sense of wonder?  What awes you with beauty?  What makes you laugh?  What makes you sigh in peace?  What inspires you to be a better person?  What encourages you to make the world around you a better place?  What roots and grounds you in hope and love?

Yeah…maybe think about those things.

 

Of black holes and silver linings

July 10, 2014

It’s Thursday?  It’s Thursday.  I don’t know what day I think it is.  I just know I lost a couple in there somewhere.

A couple weeks ago I started feeling pain in the back of my right knee.  I had previously had some bouts of stiffness, which made me a little nervous because it was my left knee that I had scoped in January, which meant the arising issues were in my “good” knee.

I was trying hard to just press through, but I was nagged by the thought that things weren’t getting better and my trip to Brazil is looming.  I was further nagged by the thought that this was the kind of pain that preceded last September’s event where I was climbing my stairs and felt a strong and excruciating pop in the back of my left knee…an incident which culminated in the surgery in January.  So on the way to work on Monday I called the office of my Orthopedic Guy and asked for an appointment on Wednesday morning…which they just happened to have. I just had to make it through the work shift and then through Tuesday.

I made it through the work shift.  I didn’t make it through Tuesday.

I was—get this—climbing my stairs…you know where this is going, don’t you?

I collapsed, crying and gasping for breath, unable to bear any weight on my right leg.  I could feel it begin swelling immediately.  As soon as the Sparkette brought me the crutches from the attic, I made my way to the computer and sent a prayer request message to my church folk in our Facebook group as well as another group of praying ladies.  I knew they’d be on it right away.

And boy, was I glad I already had that appointment the next day with the Ortho Guy.

X-rays, evaluation, a big syringe of bloody synovial fluid aspirated from my (thankfully) numbed knee, some cortisone shot in.  Ortho Guy felt this would likely be enough to get me going, given a few days.

I went home, still hurting but hopeful.  Rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatories.  Ok, I could do that.

I didn’t count on losing a battle with gravity later that afternoon.  I took a tumble with my crutches, feeling like a pinball ricocheting off everything in my personal neighborhood before finally hitting the floor.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what body part took the brunt of that mess.  Poor Mr. Sparky…he’s been present for the birth of all four of our children, but I’m not sure he’s ever heard me scream like that.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard me scream like that.

After a few hours of care, the intense throbbing finally began to subside.  By the time I went to bed I was taking a few careful steps without crutches.  In spite of the misery of the fall, I was already starting to find some relief from the pain that sent me to the Ortho Guy in the first place.

Today I’ve not needed the crutches.  The pain has decreased significantly, although it’s still touchy and I’ve still got a lot of stiffness.  I’ve been very careful about caring for the knee, and by late afternoon I finally ventured upstairs—one foot at a time like a toddler—for a shower.  It was the first time I’d been up there since I left the house Tuesday morning.

Ortho Guy wasn’t particularly concerned that this was an obstacle to my trip to Brazil, and I’m not either.  I consider it more of a bump in the road than a roadblock.  I’m confident God’s got this.

And this cloud story has a silver lining.

When I suddenly couldn’t bear weight on my right knee, I found out just how much strength was in my left one.  The one that has been weak.  The one that has still bugged me with stiffness.  The one that sometimes gets sore.  The one I haven’t been able to kneel on, or squat on, or push up on.

Whatever I’ve asked of it, it’s done.  Sometimes with shaking and strain…but it’s done it.  A month ago I would never have imagined it holding up this well because of the discomfort I still experienced at times.  It’s good to know that 6 months post-surgery, the healing process is still in progress, moving forward.

Who knows what I might be able to do in a month or two? I would LOVE to be able to be able to get on the floor and get up again without making my knees scream at me.  I had figured I needed to just forget about that, but now I’m getting hopeful again!

There is always something for which to be grateful.  My right knee needed attention and got it in plenty of time to heal before I need it to support me for lots of walking and standing.  My left knee showed me that I can ask more of it.  Mr. Sparky was able to take the day off to drive me to my ortho appointment, which is good because I really don’t think I could have worked the pedals on the van.  The Sparkette was an uncomplaining fetcher of stuff I needed while immobilized.  My co-workers graciously and swiftly covered my shifts for the rest of the week so I can rest and heal.  My church folk and the dear ladies of a tight-knit but geographically separated group started praying for me right away.

I mean, really…what can I say, other than I am blessed?

 

 

In short(hand)

July 6, 2014

There are moments she dreams of taking flight, defying gravity as she slips through the wispy blue into the heights of heaven, soaring with the grace normally reserved for swallows and angels and petals blown on the wind.

More often, however, her thoughts turn to the passionate dance of wild fire, the fury of unintimidated flames thundering their light into the darkness and shattering it with laughter’s explosive percussion.

And sometimes, in between the two, she mourns the years she believed all she was told:  that nobody really flies, and fire is too dangerous, and so she should learn to take dictation and get a nice safe secretary job.

 

 

The invitation

July 5, 2014

Passport renewed.

Applications submitted.

Paperwork completed.

This ball is really rolling.

I alternate between wanting to jump up and down squealing hysterically, and wanting to hide in the closet and take deep breaths into a paper bag.  The former generally wins out, but I’d be lying if I said the latter didn’t occasionally have its moments of temptation.

And this is why:  I’ve been accepted as a member of the ministry team for the Lighting Fires trip to Brazil with Global Awakening Ministries, led by Randy Clark and Tom Jones.

I typed that so calmly.  You know…like I go to Brazil every other week, I do this sort of thing all the time, no big deal.

Except I’ve never been to Brazil, or anywhere in South America, for that matter.  I’ve never gone on a trip like this alone, not knowing anybody at the outset, not knowing what to expect, not knowing how to prepare, not even knowing where all the financial provision will come from.

This is easy stuff for God.  But it’s a Big Deal for me.

Last August I was leafing through a brochure about upcoming ministry trips with Global Awakening when I came upon the page for the Lighting Fires trip.  The Holy Spirit lit that baby up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  I knew it was an invitation, a whispered offering of adventure with Him.  But then came January, and knee surgery, and what has felt like a mountain of obstacles.

Like the obstacle of the cost of the trip.  It’s currently estimated to be $3500.  I don’t have that waiting in my bank account.  It will have to come from sources prompted by Him to invest in this, invest in the kingdom, invest in me.

He reminded me that I raised more than that for Project Jubilee.  Which is true.  Like, over $1600 more.

But then He said something to me that sucked the air out of my lungs.

You believed Me to raise that money for the good of others, but you don’t believe I’ll do the same thing for you.

Yikes.

And I could not argue.  He was right, as He always is.

Lord, help my unbelief.

I decided then that I only had one legitimate option:  press forward.   Every excuse to do anything else meant tolerating unbelief. I had to move in the opposite spirit, and let Him move in His own way.

So here I am.  I have 16 days (July 21st) before I need to mail all contribution checks to Global Awakening.  I am setting my face toward September 25, when I board a plane for Brazil.  I have a lot to do before then, but He’s not only the God of finances, but the God of time and energy.  He can make this work.  There is no good thing that can come of choosing to entertain anxiety over the unknown.  Choosing anxiety means missing joy.

And I don’t want to miss a thing.

I need some help.  I need people who pray, people who give, people who encourage.   If any of those categories describe you, then I need YOU.

You can get details about the trip and what I need by commenting on this post.  I will send you the email that many other people received tonight.  Or you can search Facebook groups for “Adventures in Brazil!” and ask to be added.  I will gladly do so.  The Facebook group is a good place to hear up to date information about what’s happening and also stories about what I experience on the trip.

This adventure isn’t just about me.  God has hungry kids in Brazil.  He does amazing things for them, things we don’t see so often here in the US.  Blind people see, deaf people hear, tumors disappear, sicknesses flee, crooked limbs become straight and strong.  I want to see what He’s doing.  I want to participate in it.  And I want to bring it back to benefit all who come in contact with me.  I don’t know what all that means, but, well…that is my blank check to Him.

Only seems right it should go both ways.

 

Chasing sunset

July 4, 2014

Last weekend we gathered in southeastern Ohio to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.

That’s a lot of years, y’all.

It’s a lot of loads of laundry, a lot of head colds, a lot of technological advances, a lot of pancakes, a lot of choosing the hard thing when you’re already tired, a lot of vehicles, a lot of yard mowing, a lot of packing lunches, a lot of miles in the car.

For an afternoon the house was filled with extended family.  The Baton Rouge Sparkette flew in (in an airplane, of course…we’re an advanced people, but not that advanced), The Far-Away Sparkette and her husband and all the Grand Sparks drove in, the Sparkette came with Mr. Sparky and myself, and lots of uncles, aunts, and cousins came and filled the back yard, the living room, the back porch, the dining room, and the garage.  The garage was temporarily set up as Party Central, and we made a few tables groan with the weight of a delicious potluck dinner.  My sister, the master planner of this shindig, did a bang-up job.

The next evening the Baton Rouge Sparkette and my dad went into the garage to take down some balloons still hanging in there as decorations.  I was busy inside when they came back in.

“There’s an awesome sunset,” the Baton Rouge Sparkette informed me.  “We’re going to see if we can see it better from the backyard.”

I immediately dropped what I was doing and followed her and my Dad out into the backyard. It was our last night in Ohio and I didn’t want to miss a good Ohio Valley sky.

We found ourselves a bit disappointed by the view.  The trees and grown so much that they blocked all but some of the color higher in the sky.

“In the winter we can see straight through,” said Dad.  “The leaves really change things for the summer.”

We stood a moment, admiring what little we could see.  And then Dad got an idea.

“We could hop in the car and drive up to the top of the hill to see it there.”

“We could do that?” the BR Sparkette asked hopefully.

“Sure.  Let’s go!”

We sped back through the house, slipping on shoes as we headed to the car.  Within a couple of minutes we were at the highest point in the neighborhood, and…more trees.

We once again tried to mitigate our disappointment by admiring the color high in the sky.  And then the Sparkette got an idea.

“Could we maybe drive down towards the river to see if we could see it there?”

“Sure,” Dad said, immediately turning the car to head down the hill.  We left the neighborhood and crossed the highway for a clear view of the river valley.  No trees blocking our view.  Just pure, glorious color lighting up the sky as the hills around us and the cornfield in front of us slowly settled into dusk.

But I couldn’t get a photo to do it justice.  The bridge right in front of us didn’t even show up on any of the photos.

Dad tried, too.

Maybe with a real camera...

Maybe with a real camera…

But no.

I did get a nice shot of the Baton Rouge Sparkette.  She is easily as pretty as a sunset.

Pretty girl.

Pretty girl.

We stood for a while, watching the sky grow brighter as the cornfields in front of us grew darker.  Traffic whizzed by on the highway behind us, but we barely noticed.  We were too enraptured by the show in front of us.

And then came the dancers.

Up from the grass in front of us arose a troupe of the stars of the ballet of the summer evening: fireflies.  Or as we call them, lightning bugs.  They lit the fields with their sparkle and glow, gracefully arcing across the landscape with an enchanting blink…blink…blink…

In that moment I thought I must surely be the most blessed woman on the face of the earth.  I was watching the splendor of a glorious sunset with my Dad and my daughter in the place I call home (even though I haven’t actually lived there in 28 years) as the cooling damp of the Ohio River air crept across the cornfields and lifted a chorus of illuminated dancers into the air right in front of us, accompanied by the chirp and buzz of crickets and other nighttime singers.

If this isn’t abundance, I don’t know what is.

And it all started because a quick glance at the sky told my dad and my daughter that there was something at hand worth pursuing.  Worth leaving what we were doing, worth heading outdoors into the backyard, worth putting on our shoes, worth getting in the car, worth driving up the hill, worth driving down the hill, worth getting out of the car, worth waiting, worth watching.

I have to wonder how many times God flashes potential abundance before us and we miss it because we do not recognize the worth of the bit of potential.

Had we accepted the limitations of our back yard view, it still would have been a good evening.  We would have thought the sky beautiful and we would have been glad to have seen it.  It would have been enough, and we would have been grateful for it.

But the simple act of chasing sunset transformed enough into more than enough.  Into abundance.

Into life with overflow.

Good night, sun.

Good night, sun.

 

That pokey bit

June 24, 2014

I don’t know why it is, but it seems like every shirt I own has a tag in the back with a bitey little corner on it.  I fidget and cringe and otherwise wiggle around, trying to rearrange my clothing so that bitey corner doesn’t touch my skin.  And the weird thing is that when I poke around back there, my fingers can’t feel the bitey corner.  But the back of my neck sure can.

It’s super hard to ignore, and very annoying.

I’ve thought of going through my wardrobe and cutting out all the tags in my shirts.  But then I wouldn’t know where the shirt came from or what size it is, and while I guess it shouldn’t matter, for some reason it does.

There’s this other thought that nags at me, too.  You see, it’s the same bitey corner in every shirt.  I feel it in the same place no matter what shirt I’m wearing, no matter where it came from or how it’s designed or what it’s made of.

That means that I’m the common denominator in all of my annoying shirt experiences.

And I have to wonder: is it possible that my shirts have normal tags that are properly sewn in, and it’s actually my neck that is hyper-sensitive?  Maybe I just have a touchy spot.

I mean really…who doesn’t have a touchy spot of some kind?

It’s easy to blame our touchy spots on other things and other people.  After all, we feel just fine until someone or something else pokes our touchy spot.  And then it’s like someone detonated a bomb in our emotions.  Suddenly we feel angry or rejected or depressed or anxious or afraid or whatever negative thing our touchy spot covers.  We feel it, and we feel it BIG.  And it’s highly likely that the poor hapless soul who poked our touchy spot is going to get the full brunt of our Touchy Spot Fury.

Yay for them.

If it’s the back of your neck, by all means, avoid the touchy spot.  But if it’s something in you, then that touchy spot is trying to tell you something.  It wants you to know that you have a hurt place that needs to be healed.  It’s disrupting your life, and it’s making having a relationship with you like walking through a field of buried land mines.

Yes, you.

You can cut all the tags out of your shirts, but you can’t cut the humanness out of your relationships.  Someone’s gonna trounce on your touchy spot.  They probably won’t mean to (or maybe they will), but it will happen.  When it happens, you can detonate and release a furious torrent of your touchy spot emotion.

Or you can consciously, intentionally, and purposefully choose love, which is stronger than touchy spots.

You get to pick.

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