Monday, May 22, 2017

Called on the Carpet


Ever have one of those moments where truth hits you in the heart so hard you have to cry out 'Ouch!"?

I hate those moments; but I also love them. At least when I have a chance to step back and recover from the 'Ouch' part. 

Our deacon was talking about 'Ears open, Mouth Shut' moments- Times when we had a chance to share God's word, but didn't. I don't know about you, but just him mentioning that made me scrunch down in my seat a little bit.

He wasn't talking about us having open ears, but the uninformed masses that don't know God who are ready to hear about Him. They might be ready to hear, but fear freezes the words on our lips and we say nothing, losing a great opportunity to help them get to know God.

The deacon asked 'How many times have we had someone come up to us to teach us about Jesus? In a week? In a month?  In a year? 
Well, that was easy- no one. Not one person ever came up to me and asked me if I knew God or Jesus. Not for a few years, no less just one.

But his next few questions really hit home.

How many times have you talked to anyone about Jesus? In a week? In a month? In a year?

Ouch.

Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch.

Romans 10 talks all about it. Not only to hear and proclaim the Word of God, but to spread the Word to others who are willing to hear, like in verse 17- Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 

Can't really do that if my lips are frozen shut...can I? Yikes!

Many times I felt called to say something to someone and I kept my yap shut. Oh sure, talk about writing, fabric crafts, or movies and I'm a talkaholic, but talk about God? Pass the superglue please!

It also didn't help that the deacon speaking was my husband

There was no way i could scrunch down further in my seat without hurting myself. And when I looked around, I noticed a lot of others scrunching down too. So it wasn't just me after all.

God created us to glorify Him- That's our one and only job on this planet. And as my eyes scanned the room, there was a whole church full of people who weren't doing their jobs- me included.

Double ouch!

Don't get me wrong- I'm in a good church, with good, spiritually driven people. We work together getting the church fixed up (we're renovating when we can), and we also adopted a day care center and donate food to them and the surrounding neighborhood on a regular basis. I run the bread ministry, as a matter of fact! 
But something important got lost in all of that giving. We're feeding people without teaching them how to feed themselves via the scriptures- and I think a lot of churches (and church people) are making the same mistakes. 

If you feed them, they will come...but only until the food runs out. People need to develop a taste for learning more about God before they come back week after week. We need to feed their ears as well as their mouths.

God called me on the carpet that morning. I'm more aware now of His call to action, and less fearful of obeying it. With God beside me, who can be against me? And if He's giving me the words to say, they'll be the right ones- as long as I keep that superglue in my purse where it belongs!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even God Rested!

This has been one heck of a chaotic year. If you don't know why, you might want to read the previous blog posts- but get some coffee first, you'll be a while!

Both my husband and I were burnt out. Completely. Like 'rampaging forest-fire inside a volcano' burnt out. We were coming to the last dregs of our energy, time, stamina, and sanity. His blood pressure was way up, as was my temper. We needed a respite.

We got one.

Thanks to a pastor friend of ours (Yes, you, Rob!), we were connected with a ministry in Maine for a stay at a pastoral retreat cabin in the boonies. As long as my husband qualified (he's a deacon so he could apply), we could stay for a long weekend. After the owner of the cabin read my husband's long list of ministries, he contacted him and said 'Buddy, a weekend isn't enough- if you can do it, I'd suggest an entire week!'

So that's what we did. The week of our twentieth anniversary, in fact.

Granted, at first I wasn't thrilled about being cooped up in a cabin with nowhere to go. Oh, and did I mention it was off-grid? That means there was no TV, internet or even phone service. No screens, no DVD players...nothing concerning visual entertainment or contact with the outside world.

But there were elk, coyotes, and bears around, so they said. That didn't help.

Egad. I was going to die. If not of boredom, by the mauling of some wild animal as I tried to limp my way to civilization.

But wait- was there another way? I could still use my laptop, because the cabin had solar power; I could plug and charge my Link to Sanity (at least during the day), and get some writing done...right? Both my husband and I had a plan. We were going to write, read, write some more, and brainstorm all kinds of things we could do in ministry. After all, that's what busy people do- even when they're supposed to be resting! I even brought a craft with me for my creative side- just in case.

We also had to eat, and there was no way I was going to cook all week. So we made meals we could bake or make on the propane stove/oven (as we couldn't use anything with heating elements like crock pots or microwaves- they take too much power). There was no freezer but there was a cube-like fridge, so we froze what we could for the trip, and packed a massive cooler full of food for single serving breakfasts, lunches, and dinners- and even more than a few veggies and fruits to snack on. We were set.

We visited and stayed overnight with my husband's uncle on the way up, but miscalculated the distance to the cabin (thinking it was on the way), and wound up making a twelve hour drive instead of an eight or nine hour drive to Maine the next day. We had to adjust our time to leave and left as soon as we woke up- about 4:00 am. Let's just say when we got to the cabin at 4:20 pm, we were ready for a meal and some rest.

The cabin wasn't the mud-and-stick hut I imagined it would be- it was a one thousand square-foot pine-scented piece of heaven! The kitchen bore a wood stove (for warmth, not food) that was giving off a pleasant heat that the owner stoked before we arrived. There were even bird feeders all over the place for us to enjoy the local feathered wildlife! We were greeted cheerfully, shown how to work the water pump and energy system, given the basic rules in a notebook, and left to ourselves for the night. 

I don't think we ever unpacked so fast in our lives. 

The kitchen was roomy, and as the oven was baking our dinner, we went upstairs to check out the bedroom. And it was a bedroom. The room was almost all bed! Not only did it take up most of the space on the floor, it was tall- almost up to my ribcage. We both noted the hand-made quilt on it and smiled appreciatively, but then I wondered....how was I going to get up on this thing with two gimpy knees? 

I had to find out if I could get into this massive bed. I hoisted my trunk onto the mattress, and tried to swing my left leg over the top- and failed. I tried again, grasping the quilt and sheets on 'his' side and I tried pulling myself up. After a minute or two, I was on top- and out of breath.

Then I heard my husband chuckle. I would have maimed him (because the Bible says Thou shall not kill, after all), but the bed was so soft and so comfy I almost put off dinner to get some sleep. But my belly complained, and I had to slip off of the mattress ever...so...slowly onto the carpet. 

The next few days were spent sleeping, watching the birds, eating, and reading. It's really nice to be unplugged for a while! I'd forgotten what that was like. On the third day though, we became restless (and we ran out of milk), so we went on an adventure. Try finding a Wal-Mart in the middle of the Maine boonies with a GPS that didn't work until we were miles down the main road! As we left the dirt road and hit asphalt, I'd hoped we'd find the cabin again when we came back.

We found the Wal-Mart at least thirty minutes away, and decided to peruse the aisles a little. I found a few crafty items that I needed, but the best find was... coloring books! I loved to color, but what I didn't know is he loved to color too! All these years and I never knew this. We flipped through about twenty of them before he chose one and I chose two, making sure we also got a big box of crayons and colored pencils. And a sharpener- don't ever forget the sharpener.

That as our only trip out of the cabin that week. The laptops, lesson books, and projects we were going to read, write, and plan, all were replaced by three coloring books, crayons and colored pencils. We were happier than two kids in kindergarten. 
Our TV was the bay window featuring blue-jays, wrens, finches, a woodpecker and one red squirrel; at night we were lulled to sleep by the 'peepers'- little frogs by the thousands that chirped like an orchestra of crickets.

The rest of the week was filled with naps, crafting, and coloring. We didn't do one 'productive' thing the entire week. Maybe that was the point.

Our only adventure with the large outdoor wildlife was a bear removed one of the window feeders with a loud 'Pop!' about 1:00 am mid-week, destroying the feeder. The little birds still flew to the window though, looking in at us as if to say "Dude- where's the birdseed?"

By the end of the week, his blood pressure went down twenty points. My temper dissipated. We visited his cousin overnight on the way home (and this time it was on the way back), and got home in time to spend a few hours with the kids on Sunday. We came home to a clean house- our two friends and the kids all worked to make the house sparkle- my Mother's day gift! The only sad part is we didn't have a 'buffer day' to rest before we had to jump back in the fray on Monday morning.

Sometimes you just have to stop, unplug, watch the birds, and color.

We learned a lot about ourselves this week. We need to rest more. Need. Not want. We have to remind ourselves that even God rested on the seventh day! 
We must plan off time to rest, and not try to 'let it happen'. Busy people who don't schedule time off will never get it.
We also learned that being off grid is good, and not to pack so much stuff just in case we get bored. To take more fun reading than lesson reading. To take less food (we had a lot of leftovers). And to remember to bring coloring books and plenty of crayons and colored pencils. It leads to a lot of really good conversations.

Now that we're back, we're not jumping into the chaos with both feet. Yes, we have a lot to catch up on, and yes, there is a backlog of things to do, but our minds are rested and can sort thorough the muck a lot better now. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're rested! And I'm making a point to keep it that way as long as possible.

I'll no longer get mad at myself for falling asleep on the couch. I'll have a more flexible schedule, so when driving jobs come, I can maneuver things around. I will watch less TV, play less computer games, and time them when I do. Looking back, I was stunned by all of the time I wasted with a screen in front of me! Now if I'm in front of the TV, I'll be doing something productive- like cutting fruits and veggies or sorting through papers. The job is a lot less daunting that way, and I still get to watch my favorite shows.

If you need rest, please plan for it. Even if it's staying home and unplugging everything- do it. Rest your mind, body, and spirit for a day, a weekend, or a week to get yourself back on track with God and His purpose for you. It will be the best thing you've ever done for you and your family!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Feed Your Flame


We all start out with a pilot light- that little spark that inspires us to do bigger and better things. Sometimes we wait for others to feed our flames to take us to the next level instead of finding our own fuel. It might work for a time, but when the fuel from others runs out, we often find ourselves back where we started- that tiny flicker of flame.

We can’t let ourselves wait for someone else to build up our fires. Don't get me wrong- It's great having support to keep the flames going, but the bulk of the fuel has to come from within us. 

Cakes bake from the applied heat, but cakes wouldn’t be the yummy, fluffy things they are without their ingredients!

This not only applies to our lives at home and the workplace, but also applies to our spiritual lives. God gave us the Holy Spirit in our hearts, but it’s up to us to apply the heat and fuel the fire. Use that passion you have deep down inside! Get inspiration from others, but remember if that's what you're depending on, the flames won’t last long without our feeding and fanning them by praying, reading the Bible, going to church and really listening to the sermons.

Don't wait for an epiphany- look within yourself and your environment (who and what you surround yourself) and seek an epiphany through God. Believe me- I’ve done the sitting and waiting thing- it just doesn’t work.

What would make more sense- a writer that waited for a publisher to come and discover her book, or for the writer to contact publishers? No one will hand us our dreams on a platter- not even God will just hand us everything we want- we have to be spiritually ready and pray for it. Babies aren't ready for solid food, and even toddlers with teeth don't get fed T-bone steaks! God will feed us what we need when we can handle it. He's a really brilliant Dude.


Pray. Read. Attend church. Fellowship. Feed that flame within you. Dance around like your spirit is already on fire and the flames will grow. I’m wearing bunny slippers when I dance- just in case someone is making a YouTube video!


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Man vs. Woman Hours

Time is consistent. We have clocks, time zones, and calendars to mark the passage of it, and most people on this earth are all synchronized with time so that appointments can be made, plans executed, and rush hours avoided.

However, there are other types of time that have yet to be fully understood. One is Man Time, and the other Woman Time. These times are never the same when one is away from the other. Let me explain.

When a woman and a man are together (especially if they're married), their clocks synchronize. 1:00 pm is 1:00 pm, and there is very little deviation from the world timeline. A Man Hour is the same as a Woman Hour. But if he needs a part or a tool and has to go to the store, or is involved in ministry? Times, they are a changin'!

'I'll be back in an hour, Sweetheart' can be translated to these timelines:

Hardware store: 1 hour = 2.5 hours per project
If he takes a buddy with him: 1 hour = 3 hours
Car part store: 1 hour = 1.5 hours
Or if he is a car enthusiast: 1 hour = 4 hours
If he is involved in ministry: 1 hour = 2 hours
If he runs the ministry: 1 hour = 6 hours
If he's involved in more than one ministry: 1 hour = 1 day

Using this chart, let's do a few examples. 

Husband needs to go to the hardware store around noon. Don't expect him back until at least 2:30. If he has more than one project to shop for, you might want to make other plans to be out of the house- you won't see him until tomorrow.

The car needs a part. Husband goes to the car shop at noon, don't expect him to return until at least 1;30. He's probably waiting for the part to be delivered and is shopping for upgrades. If he finds the upgrades while waiting, it will take an additional 2.5 hours for him to install said upgrades in the car shop parking lot. Plan an early dinner, since he intended to be back for lunch and never ate.

Ah, the involved man of ministry- A dedicated man he is! If he's lightly involved in ministry and starts at noon, expect him back around 2:00 pm. It will take him one hour to do the work, and one hour to chat with the guys. 

If he runs the ministry, he won't be home until dinnertime. It might have been a one hour small project at the start, but since so many guys showed up, he adds just a few more smaller projects, and maybe one or two bigger ones since they're here working anyway. And let's not forget he ordered pizza for them so they'd stay longer- and forgot to save you any, because you we're supposed to have lunch together.

And if that ministry coincides with one or more of his other ministries...let's just say you have the weekend all to yourself.

To be fair, there's also Woman Time. Depending on the circumstances, these times can change, but it isn't the same for all women. We like to keep the guys on their toes.

The woman's 'I'll be back in an hour, Sweetheart' timeline can look something like this:

Dutiful shopping (errands for the family like groceries, etc.) 1 hour = 1 hour
Dutiful shopping if there's a sale: 1 hour = 1.5 hours
Fun shopping (going to shop for herself): 1 hour = 2 hours
If she's a clothes horse and shoe lover: 1 hour = 5 hours
If she's a crafter: 1 hour = 4 hours
If she's a crafter 'just looking': 1 hour = 6 hours
If she's with a friend, multiply by 1.5
If she's with more than one friend, multiply by 3
If she's involved in a ministry: 1 hour = 1.5 hours
If she runs the ministry: 1 hour = 2 hours (because she has to clean up)
If the ministry is a social event: 1 hour = 3 hours
If the ministry social event has food: 1 hour = 4 hours

If she's by herself, expect to see her soon, but if she's with friends... You might want to call the guys in for a ministry project!

I'm just here to help, folks. Now when your other half tells you he'll be back in an hour and you know what he's involved in, you can plan accordingly. Just remember to apply your own timeline so you can at least see each other once before you go to sleep that night!