Thursday, October 28, 2004

Redeeming the Time

I've always wondered about this snippet found in Ephesians 5 in the familiar KJV. I always thought it meant "buying back the time," since we generally understand the term redemption to mean Christ bought us back. I like how the NIV reads though: making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Fact is, we're all going to spend our time, as surely as we spend the dollars and cents in our pockets.

I tend to get very selfish with my time and greatly resent any encroachment upon it. My mom used to comment how miserable I was when I had money. Maybe she was right. I was always happier broke! Although I can shop as well as anyone, whenever I have some discretionary funds I usually find more joy in giving somehow.

I'm learning the same is true with my time. I can be very miserly when I have some time to myself. Honestly, I can be downright ugly about it! I want to plan every second so I get the most out of it. But I often find it's like trying to hold some of that squishy blob stuff we played with as kids. The tighter you grasp it, the quicker it eludes your control. But if you cup it gently in your hands, you can contain and enjoy it. I'm trying to do that with my time. Loosen my grip on it, so to speak. Yes, there's something to be said for not wasting time, spending endless hours surfing the net or glued to the TV set. My time is as much mine to give though, as it is to spend.

I guess these thoughts have been running through my head since I'll actually have a day to myself every week. Oh Lord, help me to remember that "this is the day YOU have made" and that my times are in your hands!

This Blogging Phenomenon

Blogging amazes me in that just about anyone with internet access can express their thoughts and present them in a form instantly accessible to others. I often wonder if published authors who've paid their dues and subjected themselves to the whims of editors and restraints of the industry don't resent bloggers just a bit? I'll admit, right now it works for me. It's an easy and painless way of getting my thoughts out.

But the other part of blogging that baffles me is how quickly we feel connected to people in cyberspace we've never met. For example, I recently discovered this wonderful blog, Everytime I visit, it's like a trip down memory lane and a personal word of encouragement rolled into one. Another blog I enjoy is Cindy is a talented radio personality, devoted Christian and one of those easy to read writers. Those are just a few examples, but it's always nice to "meet" others who challenge us in our thinking and Christian living.

Well, starting next week I become a 4-day girl. I'll work 4-ten hour days and have a different day of the week off each month. I'm planning to spend some of that time focusing on writing again. I had such lofty goals at the beginning of this year but life took some unexpected turns. Anyways, my only problem now will be ensuring I use my days wisely.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Something to Blog About

Lots of thoughts chasing each other around in my head these days but I can't seem to find the time to get them out! Well, one thing that's been on my mind is an appreciation for God's unconditional love. I like to think that I too, offer unconditional love to those around me but this week it occurred to me that I play favorites. Yep, I do. See, I deal with customers all day long now, and it's easy to categorize them into the ones we like, the ones we dislike, and there are even a few we tend to "hate." Naturally, it's a joy to serve customers who email their POs to us with cute little poems, or the ones who are always pleasant. It beats me how some customers can be so demanding, but there are those who we can just never seem to please. I notice I tend to bend over backwards to take care of the nice ones, while giving the others the bare minimum attention to their unreasonable demands.

Now if God were a customer service rep and I were one of his customers, I wonder which category I'd fall into. Me thinks I might be one of those last-minute customers, always rushing in on deadline with an urgent prayer request. My morning prayers often consist of more demands (Bless me . . . keep me safe . . . help me get through this day) than praises and a heart desiring to seek him. Yet He welcomes me with loving arms anytime I call upon Him. His love for me is not based on my efforts to please Him, but rather on His righteous, loving grace.

Jesus said it's not really any big deal for us to be nice to those who treat us well. That's a given. While I wouldn't consider any customer an "enemy," I realize I need to see the problem ones as an opportunity to share God's love, at least in my attitude towards them.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Extreme Righteousness

I'm just about finished with this excellent book by Tom Hovestol. As I said in a previous blog entry, I started this book hoping to further justify my frustration with the fundamentalist movement. That frustration in itself puzzles me, because I've been away from it for almost ten years now, yet I still feel a need to understand how it affected my thinking. Anyways, what I found in Hovestol's book has been little more than a mirror that reflects my own sense of prideful self-righteousness.

These religious leaders were some of the most spiritual men alive in that day, yet Christ directed some of the most deprecating judgments towards them. Who can find fault with their motives: to uphold and preserve the law of God? Yet in their efforts to live righteously, they lost sight of the righteous One. And their motives blurred their perspective. So enamored were they with their adherence to the law, they failed to see the condition of their hearts.

Before reading this book, I approached the Gospel accounts with an assumption that the Pharisees and I had little in common. This book has convinced me of two things: 1) a need to keep my eyes on Christ and 2) an awareness of my own sinful condition.

It's so easy for me to think I'm always right, and worse, to not consider how I come across to others. Perhaps the greatest thing Christ did for the Pharisees was give them a picture of themselves as they really were.

I highly recommend this book; it will revolutionize the way you read the Gospels as well as give you a greater understanding into the life of the apostle Paul. Just don't be surprised if you bump into yourself in its pages!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Let's Go on a Bear Hunt!

So goes a song we often sang with the kids as we bussed them from inner-city Chicago to Hammond for Sunday School.

"Let's go on a bear hunt (repeat)
Okay (repeat) Let's go (repeat)" . . . and so on and so forth until we came to an obstacle. Then,
"Can't go over it (repeat)
Can't go under it (repeat)
Can't go 'round it (repeat)
Gotta go through it."

Don't know why but that song always comes to mind when I read Psalm 18: 29, "With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall." In this great psalm, David focuses his attention on the ways God has brought him through many difficult situations.

My tendency when faced with a challenging situation is to run. I manage to do so very intelligently, so that even I am convinced that I had no other alternative but to change jobs, quit that church commitment, etc. Only in recent years have I realized this is more than a once-in-a-lifetime battleground decision; it's a repetitive habit engrained in my character. Part of this stems from the fact that I am by nature a peace-loving individual and detest any sort of conflict, without or within.

Recently I changed positions at my company, and for once I feel like I was making a wise decision, based on principle. But I wasn't in the new job two months before I felt those same old feelings stalking me. "Quit. Run. Look for another job," they whispered in my ear. For the first time though, I recognized those feelings for what they were. And God brought to mind David's experiences in Psalm 18, where with God's help, David faced difficult situations head-on. It's been an amazing revelation to learn that pressing on and working through a situation actually requires less energy than orchestrating a retreat. No excuses, persuasion or mental convincing is required. All God really needs is acknowledgement on my part of my frustration and inability to go it alone and a complete abandonment of the problem to his omniscient care and guidance.

I guess this isn't very blogful. I should be commenting on the debates perhaps (excuse me while I gag) or checking out Friday's Feast (yum)! But since this is my blog, tonight I just want to thank God for His faithfulness to me and for the new and wonderful things He's teaching me day by day.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Friday Feast and then some!

What are your plans for the upcoming weekend? Barry Manilow concert tonight :) and I really need to catch up on house stuff this weekend. Birthday party tomorrow too.

Who was the last person you talked to on the telephone? A customer! Some really funny ones today

Name a hobby that you've tried but eventually gave up for some reason. Crocheting. I think I love it for the nostalgia (my gram was a passionate crocheteer (is that a word?), but it bothers my hands too much. I started an afghan for our gameroom but glad I never finished it because we ended up changing our whole color scheme down there.

Main Course
What is the most important personality quality in a mate? WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). I love that my husband can be himself with me and likewise I can be myself with him. No pretense, no games. So refreshing - that's how I knew he was the one.

Why is the sky blue (be creative with your answer)? I have no idea. No time to think about it either. I'm just glad it's not yellow or green or orange. Maybe that's why it's blue - blue is not as hard on the eyes!

So happy it's Friday!

Sat. am: Barry was his usual great self. I take a lot of teasing for being a fan of his, but it's just great music and the stuff I grew up on.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Stop The Madness!

Since I took this new position in Customer Service, most days I've been at work by 8:00 am and am there well after 6:00pm. Most of the girls work 4-10 hour days, but I can't seem to see my way clear to switch to the 4-10 schedule. But I end up working 5-10 hour days it seems! Something's gotta give. It's really not bad - a different kind of stress. A few more months and I should have the hang of things. Again, I thank God for His amazing goodness in blessing me with a sweet Christian girl for a partner. (We're all on teams). Were it not for traffic doubling my commute time, I'd say I really enjoy working for once!

Anyways, I forwarded a tracking number to myself at home and here I am, checking on the status of an express shipment that has to arrive at the customer's site by 6am. It's in Grove City, PA right now. I wonder how I'll sleep tonight?!

The Long Dark Tunnel

For some reason at this time of year, I fight the feeling that I'm going into a long dark tunnel. I can't see the end and the walls are closing in around me. It makes no sense because autumn is my favorite time of year. But when the days get shorter, and Mike starts back to school, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the thought of short days and long cold nights. I think once I recognized this tendency, it helped. I do try to relax more and not put so much pressure on myself about the state of my house, and other things. I can't say I actually struggle with depression but I feel for those who are do. No doubt there are more people struggling with the same feelings than I probably realize.

That's why I have to laugh at church sometimes. It's easy to smile my way through the crowds, nodding and offering neatly packaged greetings. It takes time to stop and find out how someone is really doing.

And even then, how many people can be totally honest with each other? Why do we have to appear perfect in the place God intended to be a repair station? If we're all really just works in progress, why do we strive to put on a mask of completion? I think it's okay, even for a leader, to say they had a rough day. The other night someone told me they told a group of leaders they oversee to just tell their followers things are "incredible" - never let them see any chinks, so to speak. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. I just think it's okay to be human at church.

Well that brings to mind another topic I hope to post on soon: Control freaks. More on that later.

As for the negative start to this post, I must say that day by day, God is teaching me how to overcome my rough days and I don't have near the feeling of dread I usually experience this time of year. But if some of those feelings can help me identify with a fellow Christian, then I can even thank God for these times.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Friday Feast

I've been wanting to do this and couldn't understand why I never got notified when I signed up on the list. Hmmm, and who is Susan? Unidentified emails - DELETE! Oops - that was Friday Feast I've been trashing! Thanks to Friday's Feast for the fun!

I wish my (cell) phone would just make a normal ringing sound! The ring tones (no matter what I choose) on the Samsung phone blend in with whatever music I'm listening to in the car and I keep missing calls.

A bright sunny day, a few clouds in the sky - no rain in sight.

Hmmm. Microsoft Word? English grammar & punctuation. Nothing of real value!

Main Course
Acts and the epistles of Paul. Shakespeare - I'm extremely deficient there.

Gobs of peanut butter. Pretty much like a Reese's cup!