29 April 2009

The Intercessor's Intercessor

I have a confession to make – but it will come later.

I believe in the power of intercessory prayer. I believe there are people who are blessed with the ministry of praying for others. I, myself, have reaped the benefits of intercessory prayer on my behalf. Sometimes, I have been in the midst of the “valley of the shadow of death” (or so it seemed), and someone was interceding for me and I wasn’t even aware of their intercession until after my trial had past. I don’t get on a plane to fly anywhere without calling my godsister and asking her to pray for and with me. (Unfortunately for her, sometimes this means she gets awakened at 4:00a on a weekend morning when she could be sound asleep in her bed – but she never grumbles and she always prays). I remember my grandmother telling me once she woke up at 2:00a and just started praying for me – not knowing that, at that exact time, I was driving from Atlanta GA to Huntsville AL with friends and we were almost involved in a horrible car accident. So, yeah: I believe in the power of intercessory prayer.

And as my faith and relationship with God has grown, I have come to recognize that I am called to be an intercessor as well. I am often called upon by friends, family and coworkers to pray for and with them. And while most of the time, I don’t feel worthy to do it, I strive to be faithful and pray for others as they have requested. I even started and carry around a prayer journal to list the names of the people requesting prayers…(it’s not as complete as it needs to be, and just like me, it is a work in progress). I have come to recognize that this, along with the ministry of encouragement, are the spiritual gifts that God gave me and wants me to use for His glory.

So, here comes the confession: Sometimes I “resent” the burden of these two ministries. Bearing the burdens of others can weigh on your soul if you personalize and internalize it, which is very easy for me to do. Beat down and downtrodden by my own issues, it is sometimes hard to speak the encouraging word to someone else. And when I am feeling totally unworthy of God’s unmerited favor towards me, it is really difficult to get on my knees and petition the throne of grace on behalf of someone else. I don’t want to be anyone else’s “conscience” when I know (better than anyone else) the issues that I struggle with on a daily (minute by minute – second by second) basis. And let’s not even talk about the periods of self pity, self doubt and “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” when I wonder, “But what about me? Who is praying for me? Is anyone lifting my name before the Lord?”

I had one of these periods not too long ago and, compounded by some other stuff going on in my life, it was hard to get up in the morning, do my personal devotions and face the world with a glad heart and cheery spirit (if you get my drift). I am blessed to have a Christian co-worker and really good friend (Jacquie), who recognized that something was just not right with me when we joined one morning to pray for another friend who was facing a trial and had requested prayer. After we prayed for this mutual friend, Jacquie asked me if everything was ok with me and I confessed that I was just feeling a little overwhelmed and pressed upon and she told me that, while praying for others, we need to make sure others were praying for us – and she stopped and prayed with and for me. What a blessing she was to me that day (and continues to be every day). And then this morning, the pastor on our prayer call didn’t know he was praying specifically for me, but he was when he made a blanket prayer request to bless those who are feeling overwhelmed today, which seems to be where I am all the time lately. I know God will bring me through it, He always does, but sometimes we need someone else to lift our hands for us.

I wonder who lifts Jesus’ hands as He intercedes for us? Does He have special angels who pray for Him as He prays to His Father for us? Can we pray for His strength and power to go on as He prays the same for each of us? As I contemplated this today, it occurred to me that what strengthens me when I am discouraged is someone coming back to me with a praise report about an answered prayer or someone saying “thank you, it meant a lot what you did for / said to me in my time of distress / sickness / sorrow”. So, I think it encourages Jesus when we say “Thank you” to Him and acknowledge all that He does for us. I think when we praise Him for His goodness, love and mercy towards us, it lifts His spirits and moves His heart towards even more compassion for us. So, it is my determination to change the tone and tenor of my prayers – spend more time thanking Him for the blessings, instead of focusing on my hurts, sorrows and disappointments. And I know He will bless – He always does.

And for the record, I pray daily for everyone who might read this blog online, or this note on Facebook, or however you receive this message - so when I ask you to pray for me as I pray for you…I truly do mean it.

Be blessed.

28 April 2009

It's sandal season...

Hello. Let me introduce myself – I am a registered, certified, no doubt about it, shoe fanatic. I didn’t always used to be this way, but I come by it honestly. My mother is one as well and I think she rubbed off on me because this only happened to me in the last five years or so. But once I was bitten by the shoe loving bug, I took off with a vengeance. In the winter, it’s all about the boots – short ones, long ones, black ones, blue ones, I even have some burgundy ones. In the summer time, it’s all about the sandals. BUT THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME RULES!!!

I am sure that every woman has (at one time or another) received the “Summer Sandal Pledge” email that circulates annually right as the warm weather hits. Just some friendly reminders about what should and should not occur as the weather heats up and the shoes become barer and barer and barer. For the record, I’ll hit some of the top parts of the pledge. (And men, this goes for you too! Women look at your feet just like you look at theirs)

1. Buy the right size. For goodness sake, if your toes are scraping the ground in front and/or your heels are dragging along in the back – you bought the wrong size! It is NOT cute to cram your size 8s into a size 6 and walk out the store. No one knows what size you wear – if you have to go up half-a-size so that the shoe fits probably – do it! I, for one, will personally thank you for doing so. One of my favorite “shoe lines” from a movie is from STEEL MAGNOLIAS when Daryl Hannah’s character asks Dolly Parton’s character, “what size shoe do you wear?” and Dolly responds, “I wear a 6, but a 7 felt so good, I bought an 8 – what size are those?” “a 9” “Perfect!” A shoe diva has got to do what a shoe diva has got to do.

2. Lotion your feet. Ok, I know I am supposed to say, “Get a pedicure”, but in these economic times, that is not possible for everyone. And it takes a lot to go to the nail salon and put your feet in those tubs that you don’t know how clean they are, or when they were last sanitized (Ok, maybe that is just me…I do have a little bit of MONK in me). And all of us aren't going to do home pedicures, even if our mommas did buy us the massaging soak tubs with rollers and all that stuff (Ok, that’s me again – sorry). But everybody can put lotion on their feet before they walk out the door. Nobody wants to see ashy, crusty, nasty looking feet and heels. (And if you have to polish your toes, keep it conservative – please!)

3. Take the price tags off your shoes. I don’t care if you did get them for only $9.99 at Payless’ buy one, get one 50% off sale – that is just tacky. If you want to be reminded about the great deal you got on a pair of shoes, put the sticker on the shoe box (because, of course, you keep your shoes in a shoe box and don’t just throw them under the bed, right?) and you can be reminded what a great bargain shopper you are every time you pull the box off the shelf or out of the closet.

4. Maintain your shoes. When you hear them clip clopping as you walk, check the heels and see if you need new taps. Take them to the shoe repairs and get them fixed. No one wants to hear you coming from three blocks away. (And, if you maintain them, you can wear them next season and still get the exclamations of “Girl, those are some sharp shoes!”. I am sure people are convinced I have more pairs of shoes than I actually have (and I have a lot) solely because my mom has taught me to take care of the ones I have.

5. Donate your old shoes when you know you will no longer wear them. I have been victim of buying “cute shoes”, only to discover once I wear them that they don’t fit right, or they hurt my feet, or they click as I walk – any number of things that don’t make them a perfect fit for me. It only takes one or two wears of the shoes for me to know if a pair of shoes isn't working and then I’m done. To the consignment shop or Goodwill or our church, they go. Let someone else enjoy wearing them if they don’t work for you.

So, those are my rules for summer shoes. What are yours? (And yes, that is my foot in the very cute sandals that I am wearing today...)

Be blessed.

24 April 2009

Layers of friendship...

I met Terry (face to face) during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta. Our friendship started online and when he had to come to Atlanta to cover the events going on, we met for dinner one night (Sylvia’s – now gone the way of other closed restaurants) and became fast friends since then. Granted, distance, time and careers have often gotten in the way, but whenever we connect, it’s as if we are once again sitting in Sylvia’s, laughing, joking and having a good time. Terry is now one of my 400+ Facebook friends and he recently announced that he has surpassed his personal Facebook goal of 500 friends and hit the 2,000 friend mark. Go Terry! Of course, some of this HAS to be fan based. See, Terry is a sportswriter and radio personality in Detroit – so he has a little bit of celebrity going on and I am sure there is a bit of cache’ attached to being his “friend” – on and off of Facebook. But you know this got me to thinking, don’t you? How many of my Facebook friends are truly my friends? Are there different levels of friendship – not only online, but in real life? Hmm…

Like I said, I have a little more than 400 Facebook friends. And, if I hadn’t deleted some, I probably would have hit the 500 mark a long time ago. But I felt (and continue to feel) the need to limit who has what access I allow into my life. Since my FB (we Facebook addicts affectionately call Facebook) friends include co-workers, church members, classmates, family and real life friends, I am always conscious (on some level) about what I put on my page, what I write in my notes, what pictures I post of myself and my friends, what status updates are posted and how they are phrased. It is always amazing to me when a FB friend sees me in person and remarks on how they liked my pictures or they enjoyed a note I wrote or how they live their lives vicariously through my shared adventures. Really?! Wow. Especially when the person making the comment isn’t my “real” friend. Huh? What do you mean by that? Here is why I think there are “levels” of friendship.

There are FB friends who are my “real” friends – the inner circle – the first tier. They are the ones who know where I live, have been (or at least been invited) to my house. They are the ones who on my calendar because we have scheduled time to be together – whether to take in a movie or play or go see an exhibit or just go out to eat somewhere. They are the ones who call my mother “Mommy Rachel” and who know not to call me between 7:00-8:00a on Sunday because I'm on the phone talking to my grandmother. They are the ones who have my cell phone number programmed into their phones and use it for occasions other than emergencies. You know, the men and women who got my back and know that I have theirs as needed. That probably accounts for about 10-15% of my FB friends.

Then you have the 45-60% of friends who make up the secondary tier. They may have access to my cell phone number, but they never (or rarely) call me. They are the elementary, high school and college classmates that I have reconnected with online, but have yet to see face-to-face. Some of them are children that I babysat years ago who are now grown and living their own lives as adults. If they are my co-workers, we probably speak in the hallway, smile at each other, acknowledge each other’s birthdays (if we even notice it on the Portal at work or on FB) – we like each other, but probably have not spent any meaningful time together. They don’t know my family and I don’t know theirs. We’ve never been to each other’s homes and if asked, probably don’t know about hobbies, interests, or anything more than the superficial about each other’s lives. Doesn’t mean that these friendships are not as important or valuable – they are just not as intimate. (And these are usually the ones who surprise me the most when they say liked my pictures or my notes because I never thought they were that interested in what was going on in my life.)

The remaining 30% consists of my relatives (who shouldn’t be surprised by anything I say, do, or write since they have known me all my life – and yet, amazingly, I think I surprise them on a fairly consistent basis), and people that I have met on FB due to a common interest (like cooking or photography) or who became my friend because they are friends of my friends.

And sometimes, somehow, the three tiers overlap and intermingle and interconnect – making it all beautiful and wonderful and exciting. I have one FB friend who lives in London – we have never met face-to-face – but I feel like if I were to meet her today, it would be an instant connection and fast friendship based on the conversations we have had online. Regardless of the tier, every friendship and relationship adds value to my life – color to the rainbow of my existence – layers to the “onion” that makes me who I am. I thank each of you for your contribution to what makes my life so exciting and blessed.

Here’s the spiritual application: If Jesus had a Facebook page, I think all of us would be in His first tier of friends, and isn’t that a great feeling? It’s Friday. Have a blessed weekend and a great Sabbath rest.

Be blessed.

22 April 2009

Will you miss me?

There is a tragic story circulating on the news this week about a young 11 year old boy who, tired of the incessant bullying he endured every day at school, came home one afternoon, went upstairs to his bedroom and hung himself. That alone is enough to make this grown woman cry, but as details of his final day have become known, I am haunted by a question that he asked his best friends hours before he died: “Will you miss me when I am dead?”

Interviews with one of his young best friends reveal that, faced with this question, the young man didn’t know how to respond, but he stated, “I knew he was always sad, and I prayed for him.” While that is a great response for a young child to have, “I prayed for him…”, it almost makes the story even more tragic. What guilt is this young child going to have as he struggles with the knowledge that there was nothing he could do to relieve his friend’s hurt, pain, and anguish that so consumed him, he thought the only solution was to take his life.

So, two thoughts come to me from this story: 1) “Will you miss me when I'm dead”; and 2) what actions did I do, as a child, that may have profoundly affected someone else – in a negative way? First question: I think everyone ponders what impact they have on the lives of others. I am saddened to think that a child as young as 11 had to think those thoughts. I think I have mentioned before, anytime I go to a funeral or memorial service, I listen closely to what testimonies are given about the deceased – and wonder, what will people say about me when I have passed on? Will the memories be good ones or bad ones? Will memories of me bring a smile to the face or the thought of “good riddance to old rubbish”? Will someone stand up and say, “she was a really nice person” or when they open the floor for comments, will there be silence deep enough to hear the proverbial pin drop? I pray that I live my life in such a way that when I am laid to rest, and my life is over, the memories of me will be good ones that will last for a long, long time.

Second, what impact, as a child, did I have on the lives of my classmates? I know that I was not a bully – in the famous words of Michael Jackson, “I'm a lover, not a fighter.” (hahaha) But, in my quest for good grades and honor roll status, did I ignore a fellow classmate who just wanted to be my friend? Probably. In hanging out with my friends, did I snub the classmate who wasn’t (in my opinion) as pretty, as smart, as important, as my friends and I were. Maybe. I probably wasn’t “over the top” about it – I wasn’t maliciously cruel and evil – but I often was tarred with the “she’s so conceited” brush. Maybe disinterest was mislabeled as conceit – and, maybe (on some level) I was conceited. I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. I do know that I truly pray that I didn’t harm anyone through my childish behavior. I pray I didn’t wound anyone with a careless word or deed or an “I’ll call you” that never culminated in an actual phone conversation. I would hope that I am better about that now that I am an adult, but in all honesty: I know that there are times that I am less than I need to be when it comes to relationships. And for that, I offer a public and blanket apology.

My heart goes out to the family of the young man whose life is over way too early. I pray for his young friends who are dealing with the “why didn’t I know? What could I have done to stop this?” guilt. And most importantly, I pray for the children who, on a daily basis, thought it great fun to tease and bully and torment this young child. Whatever their reasons, I pray that this tragedy opens their eyes to the fact that our words and actions and deeds have consequences – and we need to be cognizant of that fact – even when we are just children.

Be blessed.

21 April 2009

Intersecting Lives

Call me nosey or curious or hyper-interested, but I have a built-in curiosity about other people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if you are my friend or a stranger on the street or someone that I have frequent, minimal contact with (like my fellow GRTA commuters each day). I guess that’s why I am a Facebook addict – all the glimpses into people’s private lives and thoughts and activities: just what an insanely curious person like me needs.

I mean, when I am driving down the road and I am stopped at a stop light, I often glance at the people in the cars next to me and wonder about their lives. Where are they headed or where did they come from? Why does she look angry and he looks bored? Are they happy with their lives or are they wondering if they have missed every good opportunity in life? Why is she crying? When I see people with their earbuds in as they walk, jog, commute along, I wonder, what are they listening to? What songs are on their playlists? Do they even have playlists or do they just randomly shuffle through their songs? Are they even listening to music? Maybe they are catching up on their “reading” and listening to an audiobook.

But, I tend to take it one step further. I actually try to engage people. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll smile, introduce myself and start a conversation. Some of these have actually turned into long relationships and friendships. Like my friend, Justina. Years ago, we found ourselves riding the MARTA train every morning at the same time. At first, it was a smile and a “Good morning” as we saw each other across the aisles. Then we started saving seats for each other so we could talk. I discovered that we were both Christians and that, even though we were of different faiths, we knew mutual people. We both share a love of travel, so we often compared travel stories and gave each other advice on where to go on vacation and where to avoid. She eventually met my mother and the friendship expanded. Neither of us rides MARTA anymore, but we still keep in touch with sporadic phone calls and emails and birthday cards. And it all started with a simple smile in the morning.

Yeah, I know. Craziness. But, what’s wrong with being interested in people and taking that first step towards a more meaningful relationship? We are all put here for a purpose and maybe if we just interacted a little more, connected on some basic human levels, we could stop all the fighting and wars and home invasions and child molestations and robberies and rapes. I mean, I am not going to harm you if I am personally invested in you – am I? I’d hope not. Just something to think about.

Be blessed.

20 April 2009

Gadget free

As if it were not bad enough that today is a MONDAY – I walked out of the house today (almost) gadget free. Oh, it wasn’t on purpose. I was just distracted by trying to get my lunch for today; some basil and cilantro care packages that I am sharing with some of my cooking friends at work; a couple of wicker baskets for a co-worker who wants to make a Mother’s Day basket for her mother-in-law; my morning commute cup of tea – and in gathering all that stuff, I walked out the house without my BlackBerry AND my iPod. (and a collective gasp is heard around the world!) I know. Of all the things to leave behind, how could I leave those two things? And how am I ever going to survive this day without them? As I boarded my commuter bus this morning, I realized that I’d left these gadgets at home and for half a second – ok, a little longer than that – I contemplated getting off the bus and going back home to get my lifelines.

My BlackBerry contains all my information: phone numbers, schedule, to-do lists, other notes of importance to myself – lost for a day because, even with the backup at work, there were things that I added this weekend that I know with my faulty memory, I am just going to forget. And me without music? Ok, that’s just sacrilege! But, I have left one of these gadgets at home before (just never BOTH of them) and managed to survive. I am sure I will survive again.

But you know this got me to thinking: what did we ever do before technology became so much a part of our culture and lives that even the thought of doing without it, sends us into an emotional meltdown? I mean, back in the dark ages, when I was in high school (and even most of my college years), there was no such thing as cell phones – and even when they first came out, they were not as much a part of our culture as they are now. Initially, (as with most things) only the rich, wealthy and celebrity had cell phones and laptops and iPods and … well, you get the picture. And yet, even without a “CrackBerry” back then, I managed to keep in touch with my friends, keep up with my schedule, remember what I where I was supposed to be and who I was supposed to meet with…of course, I was much younger then – maybe that has something to do with it. Nah! I think we, as a society, have been come too dependent on the gadgets that help us run our lives more smoothly.

But, are we as equally dependent on the God of Heaven Who gives us life in the first place? Do we pause and panic when we walk out the house without having our daily devotion time? Do we stop and pause and really contemplate going back home to get our Bibles when we leave them at home on our way to church each week? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Another lesson to be learned: slow down! I know my mother is saying that to me as she reads this. I am constantly telling her that if she would just slow down instead of rushing out of the house in the morning, she wouldn’t forget her glasses, her cell phone, her camera…whatever. Yeah, I should have heeded that warning myself this morning.

So, it’s Monday and I’m (almost) gadget-free. Should be an interesting day. I know I will survive it. I’m just wondering if I will survive it with my sanity intact. Pray for a sista, will ya?

Be blessed.

17 April 2009

Attitude adjustment needed...

This doesn’t happen very often, but I am really feeling depressed and down and unloved and unappreciated right now. Yeah, that is a difficult thing for “God’s Favorite Child” to admit but it happens…occasionally. It’s just been a bad week emotionally.

It started on Monday when my 89 year old grandmother told me that I “really ought to treat (her) better.” This coming from a woman that I wake up at 7:00 EVERY Sunday morning to call and speak with for no less than an hour. EVERY Sunday morning, y’all…and when you consider that I called her on Monday just to check on her (because she’d been feeling poorly the day before) – her statement left me hurt, dumbfounded and wounded. Then on Tuesday, our morning devotional call’s topic was all about “honoring” our parents – which is extended to aunts, uncles, grandparents – we are to “honor” our elders, even when they have been less than honorable to us. OUCH! That means, even when they hurt your feelings (intentionally or unintentionally), you still have to honor them. Ok, that was a hard and bitter pill to swallow. On Wednesday, the continued upheaval of my house due to a renovation/painting project of the kitchen and upstairs area sent me running to the safety of my room downstairs after a heated discussion with my long-suffering, patient, how’d she ever get saddled with me as a daughter, mother.

By Thursday, the stress of the week manifested itself with lower back pains, headaches and just general “I don’t feel good” symptoms, which made me a less than pleasurable co-worker and friend. It all culminated this morning (Friday) when some woman I don’t even know greeted me in the lobby of my building with a hyper “Good morning”. I guess my grunt of greeting wasn’t sufficient for her because she immediately went on the attack: “It’s Friday! You should be more cheerful than that!” Ok, maybe in her world of happiness, joy and blue skies, that is her reality – but, right now, I'm in a bit of a funk. Aren't I allowed to wallow in my misery for a minute? Geesh.

A dear friend of mine, who just happens to be a pastor’s wife and a minister herself, told me this morning (this was BEFORE the happy Friday greeting) that there are two types of trials that God allows to be sent our way: some trials are sent to assassinate our spirit. You know those trials where you succumb to an old vice (or old ex-boyfriend) and then you spend days/weeks/months telling yourself that you are no good and God will never forgive you for THAT. (Just a ploy of the enemy – the subject of another blog). The second type of trial is to build your character. And that is what I know this week has been about for me.

See, I have this thing, this issue, with patience...and control. I know this about myself. I struggle with it all the time. I'm not talking about the “waiting for God to move” kind of patience – although, that rears its ugly little head every once in a while. I'm talking about the “what do you mean you don’t see things my way?” kind of patience. My blowup with my grandmother: what do you mean I'm not nice enough to you? I bend over backwards trying to make sure you are happy – isn’t that enough for you? My irritation with the woman who said Hello this morning: why do I have to be happy it’s Friday just because you are? And who are you anyway? My frustration with the co-worker who felt it was her job to call me out for not attending a voluntary weekly secretaries meeting on yesterday: what about the many times you haven’t attended? Did I make a point to walk by your desk and say something to you about you not attending? No, I don't! Again, geesh.

I know that in the scheme of things – the rising unemployment figures, the slowly recovering economic state of the world, the earthquakes in Afghanistan reported this morning, child abductions, people dying from cancer, and hit-n-run accidents on the news every morning – none of the things that have upset, frustrated or bothered me this week are important. Ten years from now, I might not remember any of it (unless I'm reading through old blogs and come across this one). And maybe, just maybe, I will learn something from all this. Like, don’t sweat the small stuff. It ain't that deep that my grandmother is seeking more attention – as long as it doesn’t cause me harm, I should just give her more attention. When she is no longer living, there will be no regrets about what I shoulda or coulda done for her. Likewise, it ain't that deep that the renovations/painting are taking longer than expected – it’s getting done, my uncle is doing a fantastic job and the end results will be beautiful.

Patience, grasshopper, patience. I'm learning. Slowly.

Be blessed and have a fabulous, wonderful, peace-filled weekend.

16 April 2009

...where everybody knows your name...

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

Back in my childhood days, there was a television show called CHEERS that was THE show to watch on (I think it was) Thursday nights. The exploits of the hyper-sexual bartender Sam (played by Ted Danson) and the mean, loud mouthed Carla (played by Danny Devito’s wife, Rita Perlman) and their friends enthralled, amused and entertained thousands every week. But my favorite character was always Norm. Every time he walked into the bar, the entire bar erupted with the greeting, “NORM!!!” and I just thought that was the coolest thing. All Norm ever did was sit at the bar, drink beer, complain about his wife (who you NEVER saw), bicker with his best bud Herb, and occasionally, he’d get off his stool at the end of the bar and play pool. Yet, either by virtue of just being there all the time or because he was a really a good guy beneath the grumpiness, everyone knew him by name and greeted him with affection each time he entered the room. Wow.

My friend DJ is greeted like that when she visits her favorite sushi bar. My brother is greeted like that at certain eateries in his old NYC neighborhood. And every Sunday morning, when I go to my favorite Starbucks shop for my weekend cup of sustenance, if Aliyah or Michael are working the counter, I get the coveted “Kris!!!” as I walk through the door. (And they know my convoluted drink order without me even having to say it…now THAT will make anyone feel special!)

This past weekend, when I was at my freshman alma mater for homecoming, a classmate (and childhood friend) saw me across the vast auditorium floor and gave me a special “Kris!!” greeting. It literally sent tingles up my spine to know that someone was so excited to see me that it came out joyously, loudly and without concern of who might hear them greet me in such a way. Love it.

Two thoughts: First one: Have you ever expressed your joy at seeing someone in such a tangible, memory making kind of way? If someone is special to you, shouldn’t you let them know – even at the risk of embarrassing yourself? Why don’t you try it today and see what happens? It might brighten someone’s cloudy day…or bring a smile to their (and in return, your) face. Second thought: Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing ever if when you see Jesus for the first time, He gives you a “Norm!!!” type of greeting? Like He was really, really glad to see you and that being with you brought Him great joy? I think it would. Guess I need to live my life in such a way to ensure that it happens.

Be blessed.

15 April 2009

Looks can be deceiving...

As I write this, I'm sitting in our employee break room on the 40th floor, looking outside and enjoying the beautiful sunshine, and high puffy clouds, and green trees and watching traffic whiz by…and thinking, “Wow, today would have been a great day to take my lunch outside and eat in the park. It’s so beautiful out.” But the reality is, it’s not even 60 degrees outside and there is a brisk wind blowing those beautiful green trees, and in the park are birds and bugs and other things that would hamper the enjoyment I think I would have if I were to eat outside. How often do we look at something (or someone) and think one thing about them (or the situation) which may or may not be true.

There are a couple of clich├ęs and a scripture or two that come to mind: “The grass is always greener on the other side” and “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I am not, by nature, a jealous person. I don’t tend to envy others – what they have, who they are, what their status is in life – but I have to admit that there are times when I look at people and wonder what my life would be like if I could (if only for a moment) step into their shoes. How would my life be different if I was married, with children, or richer, or in a different profession, or more education, or a different education, or if I was a man, or…? Well, you get the picture. But, I also know that all that glitters ain’t always gold.

I mean: is it worth being married if your spouse is abusive or unfaithful? Is it worth it to have children if they are rude, disrespectful or an embarrassment? Why be rich or famous if you cannot know who is truly your friend and who hangs around just because of what they feel they can get from you or from being with you? How many public smiles are hiding private hurts?

I think about stuff like that when I see my friends who are acting as if everything is peachy keen fine when I know they are worried about their marital relationships, or their job situations, or how they are gonna pay the rent/mortgage this month. Friends who are smiling when they are worried about a loved one who is chronically ill or a child who is on drugs or where they are going to get their next meal or about a doctor’s report that just told them their life is about to change forever – and not for the best. Loved ones who are battling depression or stress or facing general “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” types of days/weeks/months. (Oh, that’s me…sorry!)

All I’m trying to say is we each need to learn to be content with our lives because you never know what dark secrets are lurking behind the smiles and glamour and ease you think someone else is experiencing.

Be blessed.

Guilty Pleasures...

WARNING: this is gonna be one of those blogs that will make my parents and grandmother go, "I never knew that about you." It always cracks me up when they say that - like, just because they gave birth to me and/or have known me all my life, they have instant knowledge to EVERYTHING that makes me who I am. Anyway, brace yourselves...

This morning, I indulged myself and walked from my office to the closest Chick-fil-A so I could get a chicken-n-cheese biscuit (with strawberry jam), hash browns and a small coffee (and all the Adventists reading this gasp in horror) with 4 hazelnut creamers (but no sugar which is almost a step in the right direction considering my diabetes). Fortunately, I don't eat like this every morning (my intention was to get a mushroom and spinach pandini from Starbucks this morning, but they were all out; hence the hike to Chick-fil-A), but every once in a while, you have to treat yourself.

But as I was chowing down, I started thinking about other "guilty pleasures" in my life - that I indulge in that don't really do any harm in the scheme of things (or do they?) that I don't really like admitting to others that I do. Like: reading romantic (and sometimes very erotic) novels; talking trash with exboyfriends and potential prospects; drinking coffee and wine more than my religious beliefs dictate and allow; watching soft porn on cable ('cause let's admit it, that is all Zane's show really is); and being a thief of raw sugar packets from wherever I can find them. Nothing that will cause the world to stop spinning on its axis or that will further impact the economic, social or moral downfall of this country - but, isn't there still a cost associated with each of these behaviours? I think there is.

The Bible tells us that we are to "guard the avenues of our souls." We've all heard the sermons - watch what you read, listen to, watch on TV, even who you associate with as friends and acquaintances - because all of these things impact you - some times in overt ways, other times - much more subtly. And, as they impact you - they affect those around you as well.

There's a poem that I heard a loooong time ago that stays with me to this day. Paraphasing it here, the question is asked, what would you do if Jesus came to visit you today? Would you have to change your favorite TV channel listings and remove your favorite books/magazines/CDs off the table? (Updating to modern times): Could Jesus listen to your iPod or MP3 player without you wiping it clean? Could He pull up your hard drive on your computer and look at all your files and saved images? Could He sit with you and your friends at lunchtime and join in on the conversation - or would your conversations have to change because He was present at the table? Just something to think about...I know there would be some things that I would not do if I was in the physical presence of the Lord every single minute of the day - but, the reality is: we are. Just because we cannot see Him doesn't mean He isn't there.

Something to think about as you go through the day.
Be blessed.

14 April 2009

Vanity before safety...

I just spent the weekend in Huntsville AL for a wonderful celebration of friendships, common beliefs and fellowship. But the weekend got off to a rocky start as tornados moved through the Tennessee Valley midday on Friday. This is actually the second weekend in a row when inclement weather threatened the Huntsville area. Two weekends ago, the sirens didn’t go off in time and people were not properly warned of the danger approaching. That definitely was NOT the case this past weekend.

My mother and I were at Walgreens picking up a few essential items that we thought we had, but didn’t when the sirens started going off. Ok, I live in a big metropolitan city – I’d never heard tornado sirens before…but I noticed people rushing out of the store and quickly getting in their cars and driving away from the parking lot. I tuned in WJOU radio and heard my best friend on the air, calmly informing people that the area was under a tornado warning and that everyone should take cover immediately. She was even kind enough to tell those of us who had NO IDEA what to do – get out of your cars, get out of any mobile homes, stay away from the windows, get into a central room of the house with no windows – stuff like that. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in the car, waiting for my mom to come out of the store with batteries and juice and other stuff. She eventually comes out and confirms that the sirens are for the tornado warning and that we needed to head to the hotel immediately.

So, I start the car and we start driving. Now, we were not far from our hotel, but it was still a little disconcerting to hear my friend “screaming” on the radio, ‘take shelter NOW’ (with the word “idiot” not spoken, but implied). So, you don’t want to drive recklessly when the winds are blowing and the rains are lashing and yes, the hail is pounding your rental car and you're thinking, ‘I sure hope they won't charge me if there is hail damage to this car’, but you want to get back to the hotel – QUICKLY!! I zoom under the hotel portico, let my mom off and drive quickly to park the car in the hotel’s underground garage.

Now, when I checked in, I requested a “high floor room”, so we’re on the 8th floor of a 10 story hotel. (The view of the storm was awesome, but there was no way I could take pictures…you know I thought about it!) We are there for about 5 minutes before the in-house hotel announcement system comes on to tell us that they are monitoring the track of the storm and that, while it seems like the tornados will not impact us directly, if we want to seek safety in the first floor ballrooms, the hotel has opened those rooms for guests seeking shelter. So, I turn to my mother, who has changed into ‘more comfortable’ clothing and has rolled up her hair in preparation for Friday night vespers, and ask does she want to go downstairs to the ballroom. With a look of total exasperation on her face, my mother tells me, “I just changed clothes and rolled my hair – I'm not going downstairs looking like this!” So vanity trumps safety when you are in the midst of a storm. [but stupid me, I stayed with her instead of seeking safety myself – what does that say about me – besides, I am the BEST daughter ever!]

Makes me think, though. How often do we ignore the warning sirens that God sets off in our lives because we are busy ‘shopping’ for things we think are essential? We hear the warnings (over TV, radio, Internet) and still ‘drive on’. How many times do we allow ‘vanity’ in our lives keep us in unsafe environments? I just thank God that He watches over us in our foolishness and gives us one more chance to get it right.

Be blessed.

01 April 2009

"...to friend or to defriend, that is the question..."

I hope Shakespeare will forgive how I butchered his famous quote, but since he's dead and don't know nothing no way (I know all those English major friends of mine are cringing in their seats - get over it!), I won't spend a lot of time worrying about his feelings.

So, the current "hot topic" on my favorite social network (Facebook, of course) is the controversy over "friending" and "de-friending" people. Do you have to "friend" everyone who sends you a friend request? And just because you know my friend, does that mean that I have to become your friend now? AND just because we have 5 gazillion mutual friends, does that mean that automatically you and I have to be friends? I...don't...think...so. I hate to admit this but, I have become more and more inclined to click IGNORE on a friend suggestion (that's when one of your friends "suggests" that you should be friends with one of their friends) and friend requests (that's when someone from your past (or present) finds you on Facebook and now wants to be your friend). Just as in real life, everybody doesn't need to be your "friend".

Now, I will admit that when I first joined Facebook - I accepted every friend request /suggestion / hint that came across my profile. It was exciting seeing my friend count go up and up and up...but then I realized something: a lot of those people were lonely and didn't have anything better to do than to comment on my life - every status was commented on - every picture generated some opinion - and not always positive either. I realized that everybody is NOT your "friend" and some people shouldn't be given "friend" status - so what to do?

First, I tried restricting access to my profile, but in some cases, even that did not work. So, I had to make the hard decision to "defriend" some folks. I pulled up my friend list (which was in the high 300 range), and literally went through the names one by one. Some people, who I had not communicated with in a while, were sent "Hey, I thought we were going to use FB to keep in touch.." messages - if they responded, they were spared the "defriend" button. If they didn't - guess what - we're not friends anymore. Other people who literally were just getting on my nerves were also defriended. And the funny thing is, right about this time, I started having conversations with other Facebook friends who were going through the same growing pains. "Do I have to accept this friend request?" "How can I delete this person without hurting their feelings?" seemed to be questions coming into my inbox on a more frequent basis.

And then, the media picked up on this "trend". In the last week, I have heard / read/ seen several stories about the "defriending" trend on Facebook. In one story, a daughter defriended her mother because her mother started asking too many questions about the pictures the daughter posted; in another, a husband defriended a wife because the wife was inquiring about all the female friends of the husband; and one lady called into a radio talk show to talk about how her husband would not "friend" her, but was friends with his ex-wife on Facebook (what is THAT all about?)

I don't know. I think you have the right to decide who you allow access to your life. Sometimes you are so excited about the prospect of (re)connecting with an old classmate or ex-boyfriend or you are just nosey about what someone you know is doing - but if that person oversteps the lines of the friendship you wish to have with them, you have the right to deny them access. Just my opinion, but then again, it is my life.

Here's one final thing (for my Facebook friends reading this): if you don't want someone to comment on something - don't post it on your profile, put it in your pictures, write it in your notes. Just by doing any of those things, you are giving implied consent to open up that area of your life for comment. So, be careful what you post and if you don't want the whole world to know what you are saying to your BFF or your relative - send it in a private email, don't post it on your wall. Just some advice.

Be blessed.