It’s Better to Give – A Simpledown Lesson

I know, I know – it’s scriptural to give instead of worrying about receiving.    It’s not that I’m obsessive or anything, but this goal of staying credit card free this year, and paying off debt, has taken on a life of its own.

First there was Ebay – what a disaster. It takes me a couple of days to prepare things – photograph, measure, weigh, estimate postage, write descriptions, etc. Items hanging everywhere, boxes stacked, it’s messy and time consuming.  Some you sell, some you don’t.  Some pay on time, some don’t.  Then they deduct the costs – cost to list, cost to sell (percentage of what you sold), cost to receive payment.  When I looked at the net gain for all the time and work expended, we’ve decided it’s not worth it. Won’t do that again.

Someone said try Craigslist –  That ad brought one person saying they wanted an item who didn’t show up, one person  gave a downpayment, then came to get the money back because they found something else later that night, and then I got tons of spam emails.  Won’t do that again.

Then I decided to see who I could bless with a few things rather than selling.  Three easy steps – Pray, follow the nudge – bless and get blessed.  The reward so much better!  Here’s just a few of the places I found: Missionaries that need things.  Family or friends whose kids are starting out that need things.  Local family has fire and needs everything.  Friends mentioning they enjoy authors whose books I just read… I set a huge book on quilting to go to Goodwill by my front door and one of the ladies at the Bible Study was oohing and aahing wondering whose is this wonderful thing.  She was very excited to find out it was now hers! Collections are being made for soldiers www.give2thetroops.org/items. There’s a shoe charity for people in need: www.soles4souls.org. Local department stores collect business clothing.  Area missions like Salvation Army, Purple Heart, Goodwill.  Burlington’s Cottage 14 for homeless veterans.  Shepherd’s home and other area ministries have lists of needs on their sites.  Church libraries appreciate additions of recent books that I would only read once…I even found a lady looking for recipes after I thinned out the cookbook collection!

That I will do again!

Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’  It’s not only better to give – it’s a lot less stressful!

Antidote for shopping

I got an invitation in the mail today.  I was invited to audition for a play at Racine’s Theater Guild. 

First thought:  how sweet of them to think of me…

Second thought – wait a minute – this is a play about a handful of 80 year old women!

Third – (rather desperate thought) – Someone must either have a great costume and makeup package or    think I have highly defined acting skills 🙂

Contributed thought: Maybe they just enjoy watching someone who enjoys laughing at herself. (Ok, ok, it was more like, maybe they need a good laugh…)

The play is kind of a humorous Arsenic and Old Lace.   My dear DIL thinks I would fit right in the part (she calls me when she sees ‘mature’ female detectives and says they reminded her of me) but she also wonders if I have time for the practices…   Maybe if I hadn’t agreed to write the parts between songs for the Memorial Day cantata and hadn’t already paid for dance lessons, or applied for that part-time job, or…

The play is a couple weeks in April and there is usually 6 weeks of practice every day before the play.  They do let you list at tryout any previous commitments, so….

Fourth (spontaneous and fun thought) Maybe it would be fun just to try out.  Cheaper than shopping!

Here I am Lord…

I first heard the song by this name half-a-dozen years ago in Michigan.  The first line in the chorus seemed based on the story of Samuel –Hannah’s child she had dedicated to the Lord’s service. (scripture below)

I’d located a recording of the song and have been singing it since, but the words just recently gained a deeper meaning, when I realized I’d been reading one important line in the chorus wrong.  What a difference I saw!  Here are the words: As you read them, note that God is speaking in the verses, and one of His children is answering in the chorus, which is bolded, to show what I overlooked.

Here I Am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have born my peoples pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them,
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

My mistake was rephrasing the first line of the chorus, thinking it was continuing the response:

I read:   Here I am Lord – It is I, Lord.

Most importantly, I inadvertently changed the punctuation.  Do you see how the meaning and the mood is changed with my error?

Whom shall I send, the Lord asked.

Here I am Lord.  (my response, yes, but…)  to add It is I Lord now makes no sense at all.  Of course the Lord knows it is me.

Last Saturday, I saw the words enlarged on the wall, huge in size and still I sang it wrong.  The elderly gentleman next to me whispered, “Is it I?” and for the first time I heard the question mark – I looked up at the words, and I saw the question mark…

Is it I Lord? Finally, I got it.

Here I am – a nobody cleansed and lifted up by God’s own son, able now to be known as “God’s child”.

Here I am – and God – the Almighty Elohim – the great I AM – is talking …to me!

And so I respond first by saying I am listening: Here I am, Lord.

Then I respond to His question, with a question  (how Jewish is that!)

Asking Him, eagerly…excited…could it be true, that You, Oh God, would choose me for this mission to love your people for you?

Is it I Lord?

then the conversation continues…

I have heard you

I will go Lord,

if you lead  (transitive verb- to urge or drive forward or on by or as if by the exertion of strong moral pressure : (felt impelled to …) to impart motion to : propel )

(I will not be afraid although I know for certain I am not capable of this on my own, but if I know that YOU are leading me (nudging me, guiding me) then…

I will go and

I will hold your people in my heart.

That little lesson encouraged me to review Samuel’s story which taught me at least four things:

1.     I need to be listening for the Lord’s voice as I read His Word

2.     I need to acknowledge to God that I am listening and then be quiet to hear what He has to say

3.     It’s not about me “accepting” God’s call, but about God’s choosing/accepting me!

4.     I need to remember that wherever God calls me to go, and whatever He calls me to do, He will be there, leading me.  What a comfort and what a load off my       shoulders!  I am once again reminded I am not the Messiah – I am just a messenger.  God still does the work, I just deliver His message.

 

Taught again by the example of a child – this time a boy named Samuel:

1Sam. 3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli.

1Sam. 3:3-4 … and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, that the LORD called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.”

1Sam. 3:8 So the LORD called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy.

1Sam. 3:9 And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Thy servant is listening.’”

God’s Still Workin on Me

Whew!  Made it through the first month of 2011 – using NO credit!  It was not easy.  Kind of like when the power goes out and you don’t realize how dependent you have become on outside sources… couldn’t heat up lunch, couldn’t open the garage door, couldn’t make hot tea, couldn’t see to read…

With the credit card, couldn’t order the usual things I’d done before – natural household goods, a tempting book, a class, a nice office chair I had to sit in when I went shopping with a friend, a bicycle trainer (set in the bike and train in the house during our fun blizzards), and well, you get the picture.  The thing is I didn’t get any of those things, and I’m still living (smile) and doing fine.

And – either a first time – or first time in a long while – I had a couple of bucks left when the month ended!  I think I’ll stash my one dollar bills in the bank and see if I can add to them next month.

So how did I entertain myself with all the time remaining from NOT shopping?

  • Got an E-book almost finished (a graphic artist friend is designing the cover and page illustrations).
  • Found two new magazine submission sites, got one article accepted at one and am working on another.
  • Read 8 books and reviewed two others.
  • Sent in 4 devotionals, an article and a column.
  • Posted read books on paperbackswap and sent out 4 of them
  • Prepared envelopes for pictures to send to family and friends (now for the note that goes with them…maybe YOU have been selected to receive…)
  • Cleaned out the kitchen cupboard of all those recipes I tear out of magazines and print from online, intending to use.  They are now being sorted into test, share and toss piles. Just found a request on RacineFreecycle for cookbooks.  Yea.  Think I’ll contact her and get rid of a few of those.
  • Researched at a medical library – it was so much fun it was almost like sneaking chocolate.  I love researching natural, alternative and integrative health topics.
  • Rearranged the living room.
  • Finished three Bible Study chapters
  • Fed my husband who can never see anything in the refrigerator (personally think it is a fake excuse to get me next to him in the kitchen)
  • Took a few dancing lessons, practiced what we learned
  • Shopped with two girlfriends and watched them spend their money.
  • Cleaned and rearranged four cupboards in the kitchen – hubby made extra shelf for one, so things are better organized
  • Got rid of four bags of clothing and household items
  • Finished David’s tract and got them printed
  • Tested several new recipes: Beets in orange sauce – delicious, Homemade Cracker Jacks – surprisingly close to the real thing, Greek Quesadillas – hubby is hooked on them – sauteed chicken in avocado oil and orange-mango juice – mmmm only very slight sweet tang with juicy tender chicken. Served over rice noodles and chicken sauce. Figured out how to make creamy raspberry vinegrette dressing

Three more months to pay off one bill, then the rest of the year to complete another.  That will be a celebration for sure.

Did you know 45% of those who made New Year’s resolutions have given up already?  Praise the Lord, I’ve made it this far.  God’s still workin’ on me and I appreciate your prayers and encouragement as I reach toward the goal of living without two big bills.  It WILL be worth it all. It will.

Phil. 3:14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. –  Translation from The Message of this familiar verse about the ultimate goal:

Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

Be Centered

Several years ago I “flunked” a class on “centering” which was supposed to make us more productive employees.

He who trusts in the Lord will mount up with wings like an eagle...,

I admit I was a rebel as we went around the room

supposedly breathing in deeply, and “feeling” the center of ourselves, “getting in touch” with ourselves, focusing on ourselves.  Prior to the class I’d discovered it was to my detriment to focus on myself, and had spent at least two decades retraining myself NOT to focus inwardly.  So while the time the teacher went around the room asking each of us if we’d got in touch with our best self and found our goal, I had to decide if I was going to get through the class or walk out. Reviewing the methodology of this centering, I felt it could relate to what I needed to be doing spiritually, and chose to focus on Christ, the new center of my life.

That class came to mind today when I attended the funeral of a decades-long friend.  Bev courageously and confidently lived every last day and hour focused on the privilege of serving the Lord and serving her family – including the last five years of a cancer journey.

Her husband shared how at the end the pain is so intense the medication is increased and delivered on need.  To ascertain when it is needed, and to not overdo, so the person is still able to communicate, they ask a series of questions.  The questions sounded to me a lot like the psychological questions doctors ask seniors to check for dementia…things like Do you know where you are?

One of the last times she was being cared for her answers to the questions were all over the map, and her husband began to wonder if she was having difficulty processing both his questions and the anticipated answers to his questions.  So he decided to let her ask and answer her own question.  He gave her a paper and pencil, as the tumors affected her breathing and speech.  Then he told her to forget his questions and just write how she was inside.

We all teared up as he told us the three words she wrote:

God

is

good.

That was Bev.  Always centered on Christ – focusing on the bigger question and not the “little things” in life.  Around the entire perimeter of the room where we greeted the family were evidences of her centering techniques.  Copies of Bible studies, thoughtful answers, notes and personal ways she intended to apply those teachings to her life.  Accountability assignments of who she would report to on her progress.

If we wondered how she kept such a centered focus on God and not on the challenges and busyness of her life as she raised a family, that evidence was there too.  Prayer lists….specific needs and lacks she felt she had.  Specific heart cries for her loved ones, friends, fellow-worshipers, community members and beyond.  Verse cards that she practiced until she knew them word perfect.

Bev lived her life intentionally centered on God.  Evidence of her growth and learning being shared unselfishly was in the photographs, the personal notes and cards from different life-events, from the individuals, couples and groups she and her husband Gerry built into.

The respect and love (and laughter) from their church members brought more evidence of a life unafraid to be open and publicly experiencing God during worship. Several spoke of her dedication, labor of love and humble practice of spiritual discipline.

One of those aspects that spoke to me was amid  Bev’s zest for life, she was always ready to listen to what God had next for her.  She is one person I don’t recall ever saying “Why me, Lord?” to a difficulty of life, but almost constantly noticed every beautiful thread of God’s glory woven through the tapestry of her life.  She saw things (as recorded in her many poems) without the walls and blinders that many in the world don’t see because they are too focused on themselves.

Oh, she knew alright what was going on in ‘her world’, as well as in the worlds of those she taught and cared for.  It wasn’t that she didn’t recognize or feel the pain, difficulty, or impossible challenges that life brings. She recognized the pain because she experienced it, but she recognized it as a catalyst of  re-centering that focus. She saw the challenges, not as for her to face alone and solve, but…as opportunities for the hand of God to work.

What a blessing to have such a friend in my legacy.  Her life was like a signpost with an arrow directing others to the place of her strength.  As Bev said when planning her funeral – “It’s not about me – it’s about Christ.”

1Kings 8:58 May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.

Abundances

I’ve actually never liked the word leftovers, and prefer to instead call food that is left over after a meal -an abundance.    Those abundances are being utilized or distributed even more carefully with my simple-down resolution.

A new recipe is a Mediterranean quesadilla.  What a yummy way to utilize the little of this and that remaining in the refrigerator.  Bits of meat and veggies are turning into salads, quiche, fritatta or soup and fruits are mixed into rich custard brulees, poured over nut tortes, or whipped into protein smoothies.

Abundances were sought recently via a call about a young family whose home was destroyed by fire. They have nothing, she said.  That happened to my niece years ago and I know how devastating that can be.  It was revealing as I looked around my home and imagined myself or my child being in such a situation, how many more things I saw that I could share.

Sharing improves one’s view of abundances, too, and brought to notice some I’ve been given that I don’t think about often enough.  My granddaughter made some suggestions for cleaning cabinets and rearranging the furniture as we hunted for things to share, and we spent the morning finding muscles long forgotten. That was greatly due to the abundance of scrapbooks we had to remove so we could lift a credenza.

Of course we began poking through some of the books which ranged from 5x5x1/2” to 14x16x6” thick!  Hundreds and hundreds of pages containing thousands of blessings of our family and friends.

As I put things into bags, I recalled where I got them, how they were provided for me to share, and was reminded again of the many blessings God has caused in my life in addition to adopting me!  Not just material things, mind you, but good memories, opportunities to share God’s love and the love of friends and family – people who know more about me than I wish they did, and love me anyway.

We plan to continue hunting for abundances – whether a shelf, a drawer, a bag or box a week, or a thought, a blessing, a joy – we’re hunting for abundances that would bless someone else.

My verses today reminds me of the words of Mordecai to Esther when he told her God brought her where she was with what she had for “such a time as this.”… Although it is natural to doubt that our small part could make such a huge difference as Esther’s life… both are God’s plan to show His love, and every bit of Him that I share has possible eternal results!

In John 10:10 Jesus said I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.

And 2Corinthians 8:14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want…

I am blessed to have His abundant life, and I am blessed to share it.

 

 

 

 

Pressure Reliever

I am an achiever.  I like to accomplish things and get frustrated if my list is not complete, or if a goal gets interrupted.  I have lists of lists to check off so each day I can see what I have completed.  Achieving is actually a strength, and I’ve been studying the personality strengths.

An ironic thing is that every strength needs a balance.  Sometimes the very strength that attracted us to someone becomes an irritation when we experience it 24/7 or when it is not in balance.  Over-achieving or more likely over-committing would be an example that could be a danger for me – and not the best way of utilizing a natural God-given strength.

Thinking about my strengths being a gift from God, and a ‘natural’ strength which I can build up, ignore, over-use, or under-nourish, gives me a perspective, and also a reminder that something that a natural strength is something I enjoy.  That is a gift in itself.   Discovering teaching and ways I can ‘work-out’ those strength muscles and develop my gifts to better communicate the gospel is always exciting to me.   There is always temptation for an achiever to feel like I missed the mark if my view of completion does not occur.  The realization that my achievements are MEANT to be incomplete – is another gift.

This prose  by Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero from Sydney, Australia  says it so well:

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant seeds that one day may grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

… It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.

1Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

It reminds me that my efforts are supposed to be incomplete, but a part of the bigger picture eternally. This is an awesome pressure reliever.

Before you buy the ticket, know the ultimate destination.

Doesn’t that just describe to a “T” the spontaneous,  emotional decisions that got so much of the world in debt or overweight!

I know I’ve been there.

A couple of days ago I thought man, I’m halfway through the first month of living without credit – how am I going to last a whole year.  But, we will.  Each day brings little decisions that have to be rethought from the former automatic, ‘get out the plastic’ reaction.

I loved the title quote – from a study in Proverbs and am determined to follow the suggestion and examine the ultimate destination before every financial decision.  Although finances are what Proverbs is talking in this instance, it is set in the middle of a discussion about purity and encourages us to stay in the Word so we won’t commit spiritual adultery.  Now there is a destination I’ve seldom thought about when making spontaneous decisions.  Asking how this purchase, this decision, could affect my relationship with the Lord and where the ultimate destination this decision would take me should surely slow down my reflexes to jump into things and regret it later.

As a couple we already have a plan to discuss any decision over a set amount, because without those parameters the ultimate destination is at the least a disagreement, at worst a long-term struggle to undo a hasty decision.   We’ve learned that the hard way, and so decided not to ‘jump into’ the out-of-our-budget dance lessons.

As often happens, God blessed that decision and our “revised ticket” came via email today – an announcement of local dance lessons that we could afford. and recommended by someone we trust. We’ve signed up and will start Feb. 2 – just enough time to recover from the other little ticket I shouldn’t have bought….

 

But that’s another story.

Luke 14:28  “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?

Let Him Lead…

This might be the closest I’ve come to learning to let Ken lead…and come to think of it, Ken was learning to let me let him – lead I mean.

He was only there – private dance lessons, due to a Christmas gift with a catch (required participation) but he was game and accepted the challenge.

Ken is such a gentleman that I always feel like a Cinderella when we go out.  This was no exception but the teacher (young and dark, with a fair Bandaras accent) spotted the challenge right away.  He greeted us with something like ‘Oh, good, I have the most fun teaching a couple when the woman has a strong personality.’

What?  I cannot imagine what gave him that impression.  Type A Sanguine – me?

Well, anyway, we loved our lessons and then found we hadn’t thought any further than the gift certificate.  I should have known we – or at least I – would want to continue dancing… and that we could not afford it.

The temptation was to let Ken please me and “find the money” by breaking our budget, but I just could not do that.  I compared other area private lessons (not much available) compared prices, and tortured the budget most of one night trying to tweak out enough.  It wasn’t happening.  But Ken still said he wanted to do it “because I know you really enjoyed it.”  I spent another hour pondering the lesson and benefits of letting him lead.

This lesson from the movie Take the Lead (starring Antonio Bandaras) Mr. Dulaine: The man proposes the step.It is the woman’s choice to accept by following. Now, to follow takes as much strength as to lead.

I’ve always said that no woman looks for a wimpy guy.  We want a man who will lead with confidence.  Yet we also want a man whose confidence submits to love.  I certainly have that and have struggled at times to make sure I don’t take advantage of that affection.  I am strong-willed.  I am fairly self-centered, especially when my emotions are involved, as they are with dance. Ken says he likes my strengths (good thing) and all things considered, he would say it probably takes MORE strength for me to allow him to lead. Still,  it was evident I knew what I had to do. I had to let the Lord lead, so I could let Ken lead.

Ken was pleasantly surprised the next morning when I told him I wanted more lessons, but agreed we should be able to pay for them before we signed up.

And oddly, I think, I feel good about not taking the lead in this decision.  We both felt sad when we left the dance studio, until Ken reminded me that he wanted the same thing I did – besides our budget goals, to enjoy this hobby together and to seek the higher road by either finding, earning and saving the money or by accepting that seemingly un-American phrase “we cannot afford it.”

Together we agreed to sell, search and save.  We canceled some things today that give us $25 a month to start toward the lessons.  I have two boxes of stuff I will put on Ebay tomorrow.  They are small starts, but with determination we can save enough and then get the lessons with no regrets.

Gained:  a new excitement for our weekly dance-at-home practice as we got a few more steps figured out.  Gained – a new determination – I am willing to wait for this purchase, to save for it.  The original 2011 goal, to stick to our budget, to pay off two large bills, and make it through the year using no credit, has not been compromised.

Anyone need a like-new waffle iron, a white fur coat, a black curly lamb jacket, some adorable miniature lamb figurines, a precious moment figurine….?

Restored!

I did something wacky when I was uploading pics from my SD card to the computer.  Panic ensued for a while.  No photos on the SD card and no photos on the computer!  Tried everything I knew (that didn’t take long ha ha), then tried the internet. Found the answer and it was a quick fix after all.  Got the SD card and photos restored.  Such a little thing and such a relief to figure out what I did (tried to delete photos from the SD card while it was in the computer instead of from the camera).

Some of my – uh – adventures – are bigger and I am unable to fix them on my own. Usually if I cannot figure out how to un-do my own destruction I am able to call in Mighty Man (Husband), Mighty Tech (Son), or Mighty Woman (Daughters or Daughter-in-law).  Think of it – my very own restoration team!

I’m so thankful that all I have to worry about are the little things – and that I have a Mighty God to handle the Big Deal – How to restore ME.  It’s so calming to know that God wants to and can restore all of me – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

1Peter 5:10 – And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Jeremiah 31:25 – I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls.

Deuteronomy 30:3 GOD, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.

Now there’s comfort for the long haul.

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