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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wares For Sale!

The mall.

It's a multi-culture place.  Every age, race, and size can be seen there.  Some on a mission for specific purchases.  Others there to socialize, window shop or let their toddlers play in the playground.  Still others use it as their indoor walking path and get there early to walk the floors.  It's a marketplace and community center all in one. 

One thing uniquely different about the mall is the kiosk vendors that line the center of every hall.  They are the merchants that sit on stools all day and have their merchandise out on display.  They cleverly and strategically place themselves right in our walking path.  Instead of waiting for customers to meander into their store, they take the offense and sit among us.  It's a brilliant and clever business move. 

Many of them take it a step further.  They will actively seek out potential customers and approach them as they walk by. 

"Would you like to try this new perfume?"

"You look like you could use a good massage."

"What adorable children!  Have you been properly archiving all your memories?"

As consumers we have a choice.  We either stop and give them our attention, or say 'No thank you' and continue on our way. 

I have to be honest.  I've stopped a couple times just to be courteous and before I knew it, they had me convinced how badly I needed that hand cream and I was suddenly reaching for my wallet!  Within 4 minutes what I thought I didn't need became a necessary purchase!  I was caught in their snare.

Others though, I was glad to stumble upon.  They offered something that I knew was a timely purchase for me and I wouldn't have purchased it if they had not approached me personally.  One time, it worked highly in my favor.  I received a free gift worth a good amount of money.  I was so happy I stopped to listen.

Life is full of kiosk vendors. 

They cry out to us.  They signal to us to come and see what they are 'selling'.  They can even be aggressive to gain our attention as they sit among us. 

Wisdom and discernment is needed!

Some are nothing but a snare.  Others, though, offer the things of LIFE like Wisdom, Truth, Understanding, Love.  It is our choice whether to stop and listen.  And, it is our choice to stay or walk away. 

May we be careful and choose wisely.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm All Ears


If you've ever tried teaching an unteachable person, you already understand. 

They come to you for instruction, but resist every word you say.  They close themselves off from anything new.  They already 'know it all'.  Of course, the one that misses out is them.  They sabotage their own opportunity to go to a new level of understanding.

The thing is, we have all been there at some point. 

Especially, as we get older, it can get harder to stay teachable.  Hence the phrase, "It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks."  We can get set in our ways.  In our thinking.  In our 'this is how it is and no one can tell me otherwise' mentality.  And, the one that misses out is us.

It's like a man that lives on an island his whole life.  He knows that island like the back of his hand.  And, He truly believes that nothing else exists beyond that island.  No one can tell him otherwise. 

A wise man knows that he has not yet arrived.  He realizes he would be a fool to think he knows it all and to resist anything new.   He is careful to stay child-like and open to his Teacher's Words.  He never stops being teachable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Handle With Care


Handle With Care


Our fragile packages are labeled that way for a reason.  What's inside is precious and probably has a monetary worth.  The one that sent it is giving the receiver a heads up.  And, if the receiver is alert, they will be sensitive to the instructions.

There are things in life that need to be handled with great care, too. 

Precious things. 
Things that the Great Giver has given us. 
They are worth much to Him and He entrusts them to us. 

And, if we are alert, we will be sensitive to His instructions and


Handle With Care

Monday, April 25, 2011

Practice Giving

Two words came to my mind today.

Practice  Giving


For some, giving comes very naturally. 

They're the ones that are behind you in the grocery store and give you the extra $1.50 when the cashier tells you you don't have enough to pay for your food.

They're the ones that tip the waiter the little extra rather than figure out to the nickel what the gratuity should be.

They're the ones that offer the rides home, help the elderly neighbor mow her lawn, and spontaneously offer to buy all the neighborhood kids a popsicle from the ice cream truck.

They are givers.  Joyful ones.  You can tell -- they love to give!  And, they are an example to us of how our Father gives.  Like a waterfall that doesn't hold itself back, but generously pours itself out.


I have to say, I'm not quite there in such reckless giving.  My husband laughs at me as I check things to the penny (well, pretty close to the penny) and give only what is required.  No more.  No less.  Just what is fair.  I can be more focused on holding on to what I have for myself, than to offer it away.  It's a self-preservation mentality.

But, I know, I'm the one missing out. 

I think giving might just be one of the best kept secrets.  A man reaps what he sows.  So, in faith, as he joyfully gives, it boomerangs back to him. And, many times, in more abundance than what he originally gave.  He was trusted with little at first, but then given more to be trusted with in the return...of which, with the same attitude, he gives again, and is returned again with abundance.  The cycle continues and the man ends up being more blessed than if he had never given at all.  I can tell you one thing... I have never seen a giver not provided for.  Their well does not dry up.

Practice Giving.

For those that giving might not naturally occur (like me),  a conscious step into it might need to happen.  Begin to start looking outside yourself.  Outside your own immediate needs and agenda.  Begin looking and praying for an opportunity to give.  Some givers actually budget a 'miscellaneous giving' in with their spending.  They set aside a portion of money that they'd like to give away by the end of the month.  I love this idea because it makes the idea of giving fun and opens the door for our Father to begin opening our eyes to the needs around us.  Maybe it's not money though.  Maybe it's time.  Maybe it's service.  Maybe it's even prayer.  It's a focus shift from self to others.  And, it will ultimately teach us, as givers, that we truly are cared for in this world by our Father.  And, that we can relax and let go and let Him care for us and care for others through us. 

Practice Giving.

And, just see. 
Just see what our Father will do through us, and change our hearts to be reckless and amazing givers!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Erase and Start Over

Chalkboards are great for students.

They are so forgiving in the student's learning process.  No matter how many mistakes are made, the opportunity to erase and start over are available.  And, at the end of the day, they are washed down completely.  I remember the big huge sponges in elementary school that were soaked in water.  What a bath it gave those chalkboards!  Not one chalk mark remained.

The next day, students are welcomed back into the classroom with a clean fresh slate, not smudges of yesterday's wrong answers.  New mercy every morning. 

It's a visual of Second Chances.  Mercy.  Forgiveness. 

Our Teacher is gracious with us as well and quick to grab His Eraser and Sponge to our chalkboard when we ask Him to.  Like any good teacher, He's not going to let yesterday's wrongs hinder today's lesson plan and our chance to move forward in our learning and understanding. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Box of Crayons

Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Purple and Green all live in the same crayon box.  It's snug quarters, but they are learning to live together. 

Each one is uniquely special.

Yellow does a stellar job at making sunshines. 

And, no one can make grass look so good as Green can. 

Orange isn't showcased as often as the others, but when he is, it's quite impressive!  What flavor he brings to Autumn!

Blue is seen everywhere and pulls off amazing oceans and skies!  But, he has to take turns with Grey depending on the weather.  It keeps him humble.

Purple and Red's talents blossom beautifully in the Spring.  Many appreciate and enjoy the beauty they bring to landscaping.


But, oh what a delightful sight
when they all work together in the form of a rainbow! 
When the Artist pulls each one out and
displays them side by side.
How they compliment each other! 
There is no reason for envy or boasting
for together they are even more beautiful
than when they stand alone!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Security

SECURE:  Unafraid, untroubled, (free from fear or doubt; easy in mind)

It goes without saying that feeling secure is very important to people.  We need to feel secure in our relationships, secure in our finances, secure in our future, secure in -- well, the list can go on and on.

It starts at a young age.  Our father's big arms spoke volumes to us as children.  Our other role models like teachers and police officers reassured us that we were safe in their care.  We may not have known the word 'secure' but we knew when we felt it and we knew when we didn't.  It was a big deal to us.  We needed to know that in this big world someone had our backs.  And, if we didn't feel secure, it most likely affected just about every area of our lives -- our grades, our attitudes, our decisions, etc.

When we grow up, things change, of course.  We don't go asking our mothers to hold our hand in the dark while we fall asleep or our fathers to hold us while we cross the street.  An independence takes place, and naturally so.  But our heart still cries out for security.  Many of our worries are rooted in the lack of it.  We can feel like we're on our own in this big world to care for ourselves and protect ourselves.  Many of our decisions and pursuits can be fueled by our need to feel secure.  We want to be 'unafraid, untroubled, (free from fear or doubt; easy in mind)'. 

We need to remember something, though. 

God doesn't call his children 'grown ups'.  We are always children to Him and He has created us to lean on Him.  He is our Father.  And with that title, He fully, personally and voluntarily accepts the responsibility of carrying the load, being our Defender, being our Protector, being our Provider, being our Everything -- including our absolute and complete Security.  But, if we don't allow Him to care for us, we will only continue to pursue other things, people or avenues until our need to feel secure is met.

There is a promise that He has made...  I will never leave you nor forsake you.

To me, that says, He is ready to go the distance with us.  He is already committed to us.  He is already the kind of Father that we need Him to be.  And, He is the Security we've been looking for.


 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers had great perspective on life. 
Whether it was rainy or sunny.  Cold or warm.  He sang his song to us...

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Won't you please,
Won't you please,
Please won't you be my neighbor?"


It was always a beautiful day for Mr. Rogers.  Because it was always sunny?  No.

It was beautiful because he wasn't allowing the forecast to dictate his feelings and attitude. 

His message was simple... it's beautiful because of his 'neighbors'. Us.  It was beautiful because he saw that today is a gift.  And, how happy he was to share that gift with us!

If I let my feelings and attitude be based on life's 'forecast', I think I'd only enjoy maybe 4 out of 7 days of the week. 

But, when I focus on the positive.  When I think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  When I take today as the gift that it is, I realize it is a beautiful day.  With or without the sun.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Calgon Take Me Away!

How I love baths!  They're so warm, relaxing, and peaceful. 
There's no agenda other than to unwind and get clean. 
The perfect ending to any day in my book. 
 
There is another Place that brings that same feeling. 
But, this one reaches inside me. 
It's a Bath like no other. 
I don't have to run the bath water. 
I don't have to grab my candles
and set the room just right to help calm my nerves. 
I don't have to pay for the water bill later. 
 
I simply come. 
 
Weary and ragged.  I don't have to try to get myself clean before I enter. 
(That's the whole point of the bath!) 
I come as I am. 
Dirty and exhausted and with no agenda other than to unwind and get clean.

http://youtu.be/uZHF1Y9Cfdw
 
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

whisper it to me

Being a teacher, I've learned a few tricks along the way that help me grab the attention of a noisy classroom.  Clapping in various rhythms, flashing the lights, or standing still in front of them with the "I'm waiting" look. 

Sometimes, though, the only thing that works is The Whisper. 

I lower my voice down so low that they notice it even more so than when I raise my voice over them.  It makes them stop.  Focus in.  Listen for where the sound is coming from. 

The power of a whisper.

My Teacher is familiar with this approach toward His students, too.  He knows that sometimes, the best way to get our attention, speak things to us, or answer our questions is not with a raised booming Voice, but with a gentle barely audible one. 

And, this might be the very opposite of what we expect.  We might be saying "SHOW ME A SIGN!" as we brace ourselves to hear from Him.  We're waiting for Him to say it loudly.  We might be waiting for something big. 

But, many times He speaks softly.  Like a Daddy, He brings us up on His lap, holds us close, and leans in.  And, in that precious moment of intimacy...  He whispers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ask Me Again

"How are you?"

"Good.  How are you?"

"Good."

pause.  look.

"So..... How Are You?"

****************************

It's probably the number one question asked everyday:  "How Are You?"  Our programmed greeting.  We say it to people we know and people we don't know.  Most of the time, we're not really asking how they are.  

Sometimes, it's good to ask again.  

Pause.  Take a moment.  Get real with the person and invite them to open their heart.  Though their first response was "Good", their real response might be something completely different. 

I know for myself that I'm not quick to be honest about my feelings unless I sense that the person genuinely cares.

But, when they do show genuine concern?  When I know they really want to hear my candid answer?

I want them to.  I want them to ask me again. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bubble Chasing

I have a distinct memory of my oldest daughter when she was about 2 years old.  We bought a bottle of bubbles and took her in the backyard to let her play with our new purchase. 

She was so excited about it.  Each bubble mesmerized her.  And, of course, she tried reaching for each one of them. 

But, the wind began to blow.

So, her reaching turned into chasing.

Before we knew it, she was running up and down the backyard.  My husband and I were laughing hysterically as we watched her ping-pong through the grass waving her arms wildly.  Most of the bubbles got away, but the few she was able to 'catch' disappeared immediately in her hands.  Without a thought, she looked around to find the next bubble to chase -- only to have the same end results. 


Bubble chasing. 

If we're not careful, we can find ourselves running after bubbles, too.  Things that look good, seem good, but leave us empty-handed.  Their beauty captivates us, tempts us, but offers mere temporary and fleeting enjoyment or satisfaction... like a bubble in our hand.   

  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Under Lock & Key

I remember it well.  My diary. 

Hard cover.  Latch attached and key provided.  Inside was the penned version of my heart.  Highly personal and top secret.

Today, I may not have a diary, but there are other things I have under lock and key.  Unseen things.  Places in my heart that no man has ever gone before!  It's cobwebbed over with signs on it that say "Do Not Enter", "No Trespassing!"  It's so top secret and hidden away, I hardly know what's in there myself.  And, to tell you honestly, I can't find the key either.  So, even when I try to access it, it's a struggle.  It only brings frustration and pain.  It makes for a nice excuse, though, to just leave it alone and deal with it another day (or never at all).

But, I found out today that my Best Friend happens to own the master key.

He's offering to unlock it and clean out the skeletons for me. 

I have mixed emotions.  Vulnerability will lead to Freedom.  But, self-protection seems the safer and less complicated route.

It's like a child standing on a ledge and her daddy says,

"Come on!  Jump!  I'll catch you!  I promise!"

Even in her reservation, the child jumps based on her relationship with her father.  She trusts him.

My decision to open up is based on that same foundation of Trust.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

There was once a gardener who grew a very large and beautiful garden.  The other gardeners envied him.  They wondered what his secret was.  They could never get theirs looking so lush! 

So early one morning, they decided to spy on him to find out his secret.  They peaked through the gate to see him watering his plants. They noticed that as he lavished them with water, he lavished them with song, too.  The gardener sang the most beautiful tune with the most encouraging lyrics! 

"How unusual." the other gardeners thought.  "He is singing over his plants!"

In the afternoon, the gardener came back out again.  This time, he visited each plant individually and began to speak wisdom to them as he pruned it and pulled the weeds away from it.

The spying gardeners were curious again.  "How interesting that he talks personally to each plant!"

When evening came, the gardener visited his garden yet again.  As he looked over the garden, he noticed that growth was taking place!  So, he began to praise his garden joyfully!

"How absurd!"  the envious gardeners said.  "He is shouting praises of encouragement over his garden!"

It was then that the gardener noticed his spying neighbors.  He called to them and invited them in.

"My fellow gardeners, do you not see? 
It is not just the water that nourishes.  It is the song of care over them as well. 
And, when it is time to prune, I do so with much wisdom and handle each plant individually.
And, how can I not shout my encouragement over them when I see new growth!? 

My garden is lush, dear gardeners, because it has been tended to...

 with Great Love."

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Banquet

*Tick-tock goes the clock on the Big Red Wall*

It is time!
                               Come and dine!

Enjoy the food
                                              and drink the wine!

****************************************************************************************
We did not buy the food.  
We did not set the table.
We need not leave a tip,
clean-up or clear the table.

                             ******
He's the Host with the Most
So Generous and Kind
His guests feel
welcomed,
relaxed
and
merry of mind.

                            ******
So, all of us come running!
Did someone say Free Food??
We take our seats and dig right in!
And, joyfully consume!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

PLAY STOP REWIND PLAY STOP REWIND PLAY

Imagine seeing someone walking around all day with a portable DVD player, watching only the worst moments of their life over and over again --recalling every bad memory from childhood to adult.  Every wrong did to them.  Every wrong they committed.  Every hurtful word, broken promise, moments of rejection and failures of all kinds.  How depressing!  If anyone were to notice, they would probably question why and recommend they change their choice of DVD, or just put it down altogether! 

It would be a ridiculous and sad sight, but that is exactly what some of us do everyday.  Not with a DVD, but with our minds.  We spend our day rewinding scenes in our head and playing them back over and over.  Things that have hurt us.  Moments we have let loved ones down.  Instances we wish we could change, but can't.  Our failures.  Our regrets.  We start our day with a cup of coffee and pressing the PLAY button.  We just can't let it go.

I'm familiar with this.

PLAY STOP REWIND PLAY STOP REWIND PLAY

I stop living in the present.  I stop experiencing the 'now'.  Though, my body is in the present, my mind can't let go of the past. 

There has to be a point where I put the DVD player down.  And, really just choose not to pick it up at all.  When I start my day, I need to remind myself that yesterday was yesterday.  Today is today.  I have the choice to either press PLAY, or take my DVD and give it to the One who is able to fill my mind with LIFE, release me from the past, and free me to experience the now!