Do something about it

When I was a kid and I was discouraged about something…or as a teen and battling anxiety and depression, my Pollyanna mom repeatedly gave me the same sound advice. “Get up and do something for someone else.” While self-care is vital, wallowing in pity is detrimental.

Our nation has undergone some serious changes lately, changes that have sent many reeling into bouts of national anxiety. Others have responded with anger and threats. And others are just speechless.

It’s time to pull ourselves up out of our pit and get active for others. If you’re mad, change something. If you’re depressed, help someone else. If you’re hopeful, spread it around. Regardless of your present emotional state, do something about it.

Here are some options. Each of these organizations has opportunities to help nationally and internationally. Put feet to your faith. Go and do.

http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve

http://www.ywca.org/site/c.cuIRJ7NTKrLaG/b.8481993/k.4AE9/Services_at_YWCA_Local_Associations.htm

http://www.allowthechildren.org/projects/

http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/international-services

http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/zones

https://donate.worldconcern.org/44cents-spiritfm?utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=fy17_spot_radio_44cc_spiritfm&utm_source=spiritfm#amount=44.00

http://www.bloodwater.org/about-us

IMG_5578

Be the change you want to see in the world.                                      ~Ghandi

Chains

FullSizeRender(6)

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed making paper chains at Christmas time. Maybe it was the challenge of how long it could grow when competing with school  friends. Maybe it was the monotony of rolling, stapling, rolling, stapling…a menial task with maximum benefit in the midst of holiday rush. Maybe it was the simplicity of the decoration…paper and staples could fill a lot of gaps on the tree when ornaments were scarce. Whatever the reason, I liked making paper chains.

As my Christmases have become more umm…involved over the years, I haven’t had the pleasure of sitting down with a pile of colored paper, scissors, and staples in a while. Until tonight. These post-Thanksgiving days have been uncharacteristically relaxed. The weather has been balmy and perfect for children to run their vacation energy off outside. Their ages make it easier to release them to an independent activity while I relax on the couch a bit. It has been eerily calm.

While my son was biking with friends this afternoon, I was working on cutting some paper for a church project tomorrow (first Sunday of Advent!). I had a pile of decorative FullSizeRender(1)paper spread out in front of me and some scissors, some loosey-goosey little paper scraps and a roll of tape. I asked my nearly-six year old daughter if she’d ever made a paper chain. She said she didn’t think so. As she is methodically minded like her mom, I figured she would enjoy this project. So I grabbed the stapler (I know that makes it more rewarding, more quickly) and showed her.

StarFullSizeRender(3)t with a circle of paper, stapled together. Slide a strip of paper through the circle and staple it to itself. She grasped the simple concept within a few loops and began to connect them herself, just asking that I do the stapling. ‘This is fun!’ she observed after about 8 loops. I knew she was hooked.

As I recalled the last time I made a paper chain, probably elementary school, I considered how much my life has changed. How the plans I had then didn’t exactly happen the way I expected. I had visions of a chain of life events, a certain color scheme, a certain length, but that wasn’t the order God had for my life.

Each little loop of the chain of life has a special meaning, a connection to the rest of the sequence. A preschool friend who has grown up with me, my first job FullSizeRender(5)where I overcame my shyness, my few athletic successes, the job I didn’t get, the guy who shattered my heart, the day I saw my future mate, the church who allows me space for my visions, the book that opened my eyes, the evenings of mommy failure…each momentous connection to others adds a loop to my chain.

Long before paper chains were invented, Seneca said ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’ (That wasn’t just a late ’90s Semisonic lyric…) More recently, though not much, the psalmist David recorded, ‘You have taken account of my wanderings. Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?’ Our days and weeks are full of new experiences, some we want to cherish, others have brought us tears. They begin, they end; new ones begin and become old and end. But God keeps an account of it all…he has a list of our life events, our chain of events. And through those events, he crafts colorful connections to other people, those who need us…and those we need.

We don’t know how long our chains will be, but we can appreciate the simple beauty of the fact that they exist. Each twist or turn, new or old, makes another link that forever joins us with those around us.

FullSizeRender(4)

Stormophobia: a dog’s life

We adopted a dog from our local animal shelter last week. I’ve been requesting a second dog for a while, but my husband is a ‘one dog man’. But when my son’s best neighborhood buddy moved away…well, he needed a young whippersnapping companion to take the boy’s place. (wink, wink) Our old family dog is more of a sleeping companion these days.

So, we brought home Dodger, a white boxer with the face of a grumpy grandpa, the snore of a motorcycle, and the flatulence of a Mexican restaurant. He’s a sweet, sweet fella, and he’s fit right into our family. Even our ol’ gal Mia, who has been with us for almost eleven years has accepted him as her brother.

This evening, we had a summer thunderstorm, not uncommon around these parts. Our family usually snuggles up together on the couch and listens to the thunder, the wind, and the rain. We might even open windows to smell the fresh air. Tonight’s storm rolled through just as the kids were dozing off to sleep, and they missed our snuggle time. But Dodger was totally aware of what was coming along.

From the first distant rumble, he was on guard. He began pacing through the house, looking for shelter. Up and down the hall, up and down the stairs, staring at me, locating my husband, and back again. Whimpering occasionally, he was in constant motion…trying to find his haven in his new home. Or maybe, he was just trying to get away from the storm altogether. He hopped on the couch with me (usually forbidden) and sat at attention, eyes darting from window to window, wherever the lightning flashed or rain sounded loudest. Then, he hopped down and returned to his pacing, pausing briefly to have an explosive blowout on my son’s floor (I hope that was just something he ate and not a storm-triggered behavior. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long, disgusting summer…)

As I was thinking about how to comfort Dodge and how to break this cycle of panic, I thought of his past. He came to us from a home where he was always kept outside, due to a family allergy. If the behavior I saw tonight was his response to being inside during a storm, I can only imagine how terrified he was being outside through each storm. I hope that the more storms he ‘weathers’ inside with us, the more settled he will become…and the pattern of panic will be broken.

This behavior caused me to think of people who are trying to live a new lifestyle and how hard it is to break out of the old response patterns. Breaking free is liberating, but first it’s terrifying. How do you know who to believe or trust? It’s like Dodger looking for his own solace…his own place of shelter because we humans couldn’t be trusted to make the storm go away. Starting over often means that you can only depend on you because others have failed so often and so deeply.

It takes courage to want a new response, to be tired enough of the old panic-and-poop to find a new way to respond. It takes strength to pull out of an unhealthy situation and pace around looking for a new, healthier way. Though fear may be a driving force, it still drives us on to seek something better.

I will be researching how to settle Dodger’s storm fears, but I won’t forget his first storm with us…or the impression it made on me. That utter panic of ‘This has got to change!!!! How can I make this stop?!?!!’ made me recall my own past panics and how infinitely thankful I am to have survived and thrived.

God is good. God is always with us in our storms. He sees us wandering and wondering how to make it all go away. And he reaches out to us to show us the way. He wants to wrap his arms around us, stop our shaking, and hold us until the worst is over. We just have to be willing to trust his love more than our own methods of comfort.

Psalm 147: 3

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 103:1-5

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

     IMG_5079[1]    IMG_5139[1]   IMG_5105[1]

Get to know George Mueller

If you don’t know who George Mueller was, you need to.

George Mueller was a rotten Christian…a Christian who made fun of other Christians. A questionable Christian who partied too hard, gambled too much, got arrested too often. He was invited to a Bible study by another Christian friend, and he went…to harass the attendees. Imagine Saul, the persecutor, without the threat of death. Never did rapscallion Mueller think that Bible study would change his life.

After a week of attending, he realized his actions needed to change. He asked God for forgiveness and began his life transformation. Mueller decided to focus his attention on helping poor people and orphans. With this decision, Mueller lost all financial funding from his parents. He truly felt this mission field was where God wanted him to serve, so he began studying Scripture, meditating on what he read, and praying.

Prayer became George Mueller’s bread of life…literally. He never asked people for contributions to his orphanages…he just prayed. Time after time, God supplied for the 300 orphans. Food would be left on the orphanage porch by anonymous donors. Neighbors who just felt ‘led’ to bake loaves and loaves of bread stopped by and donated their goods. Milk showed up for the children. Clothes were always provided. Volunteers were always available. George Mueller only talked to God about his needs…and God was the only one who needed to know.

From his book, Answers to Prayer:

‘Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us.’

‘Through reading of the word of God, and especially though meditation on the word of God, the believer becomes more and more acquainted with the nature and character of God, and thus sees more and more, besides His holiness and justice, what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful being He is…’

‘If we, indeed, desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and , therefore, through the trail, be strengthened.’

‘Because he delights in the prayers of his children, He had allowed us to pray so long; also to try our faith, and to make the answer so much the sweeter.’

‘May the Christian reader be encouraged by this, should his prayers not at once be answered; and, instead of ceasing to pray, wait upon God all the more earnestly and perseveringly, and expect answers to his petitions.’

Want to read more? Great! Go get his book Answers to Prayer…it will transform your faith and your prayer life.

For a quick biography, click here. And there’s always wikipedia, though I don’t always trust it, I did get Mueller’s loving little face photo from there. So here’s that link, too.

Be the one

IMG_4828

I don’t know how it happened…truly. I was startled when I saw it…so abnormal, so awkward, so wrong. A beautiful crepe myrtle tree uprooted and listing. Around it, a swamp of breath-taking lotuses (lotii???), floating serenely, simply, correctly. I stopped at the little park to take some pictures of the lotus flowers because I had never seen them before, but I was more impressed by the tree. I wondered how it had happened and what would become of the tree. Could a strong wind blow it back down? Could it still siphon enough water to survive? Would it, in all it’s growth and grandeur, die?

My daughter and I stayed at the park for a while, taking pictures, smelling things, resisting temptation to touch the endangered lotuses…but I was still a little fixated on the tree. Several other families came and went, commenting on the tree and the flowers. And then a couple drove up in their simple sedan and got out in their simple clothes and the man looked at the tree and simply said, ‘Well, that’s not right.’ Then, he went over to it, cautiously stepping on the tilting marshy soil and simply pushed it back down. Just. Like. That. 

IMG_4953

He was not Thor or Hercules or Superman. He was just a normal guy, observing an abnormal thing, and wanting to make it right. And. He. Did.

Abnormalities surround us. Things that make us say, ‘Well, that’s not right.’ Hunger, illiteracy, injustice, hate, poverty, anger. Do we believe that we can do something about them?

Helena, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, says of Hermia, ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce’. We are little in comparison to the world’s enormous afflictions, but we can be fiercely determined to right the wrong. And didn’t we learn that little song that says ‘we are weak, but he is strong’? Don’t we believe that  greater is he that is in us than the that is in the world?

A normal man, in normal clothes, in a normal park righted a wrong. Will you be the one to do the same?

“Don’t change me!!!!”

The spring breezes were too tempting for us to stay inside. The daffodils and crocuses were waving for us to come out and join them in their frolic. So, we had to gear up…a shirt for my Tarzan son, shoes for both kids, and …sniff, sniff… apparently a clean diaper for the wee one.
Oh, she fought it tooth and nail as we climbed the steps. “Wanna go outSIDE! Wanna go outSIDE!!!!! I want to go outSIIIIIIDE!!!!” she explained in no uncertain terms, just in case I had forgotten what was on the agenda for the rest of the afternoon.

I sat her on the changing table and picked up the necessities. I looked at her pink pouty face, sweaty bangs, and wet eyes and gave her my own pouty face. “Come on, honey…” I coaxed with mock pity. She looked squarely in my face and said, “Don’t change me.” No longer a plea, no longer a redirect, but a command. No wavering ‘mommmyyyy’ attached, nothing sweet anymore. Just a clear statement.

“Don’t change me.”

Hmmm…how often have I begged that of my Father? Don’t change me, God…change him. Don’t change me, change the situation. I want to do what I want to do, God. Please don’t change me. Sometimes pleadingly I say it. Sometimes defiantly.

Realization: God knows when I’m covered with filth. God can sense my stench and my need for a change. Better than I can. God knows that whatever lies on the other side of the change will be more enjoyable after the change.

We did go outside. We frolicked with the flowers and ran with the breezes…and we had both been changed.

IMG_1444

 

“Don’t change me!!!!!!”

The spring breezes were too tempting for us to stay inside. The daffodils and crocuses were waving for us to come out and join them in their frolic. So, we had to gear up…a shirt for my Tarzan son, shoes for both kids, and …sniff, sniff… apparently a clean diaper for the wee one.
Oh, she fought it tooth and nail as we climbed the steps. “Wanna go outSIDE! Wanna go outSIDE!!!!!  I want to go outSIIIIIIDE!!!!” she explained in no uncertain terms, just in case I had forgotten what was on the agenda for the rest of the afternoon.
I sat her on the changing table and picked up the necessities. I looked at her pink pouty face, sweaty bangs, and wet eyes and gave her my own pouty face. “Come on, honey…” I coaxed with mock pity. She looked squarely in my face and said, “Don’t change me.” No longer a plea, no longer a redirect, but a command. No wavering ‘mommmyyyy’ attached, nothing sweet anymore. Just a clear statement.
“Don’t change me.”
Hmmm…how often have I begged that of my Father? Don’t change me, God…change him. Don’t change me, change the situation. I want to do what I want to do, God. Please don’t change me. Sometimes pleadingly I say it. Sometimes defiantly.
Realization: God knows when I’m covered with filth. God can sense my stench and my need for a change. Better than I can. God knows that whatever lies on the other side of the change will be more enjoyable after the change.

We did go outside. We frolicked with the flowers and ran with the breezes…and we had both been changed.

IMG_1444