Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lord, we thank thee for our food

Growing up in my parents' home it was a habit to pray twice at every meal and to read scripture at the table.  As a child this practice seemed normal to me, but I didn't appreciate it.  For me, it was simply a time to keep quiet and listen.  I once asked my Mom why it was that we prayed twice--at the beginning and at the end of the meal.  She told me that we prayed at the beginning of the meal to ask God to bless our food and our time together and we prayed at the end of the meal to give thanks to God for giving us food.  During Bible reading at the table we were expected to sit and listen quietly, and I as the youngest child had to "say the last word" to prove that I was listening.  As I grew old enough to read, I was sometimes asked to read the little devotional magazine called "The Family Altar", or perhaps to read the prayer at the bottom of the page.  I must say my parents were very disciplined about this ritual.

Our family always seemed to deeply appreciate our meals and to be aware that each meal was a gift.  Somehow though for me, the practice of saying a blessing and giving thanks at meals became thoughtless habit.  With my own children we prayed once at the beginning of each meal.  I don't recall reading the Bible together, not even once.  And now that the kids are grown I rarely bow my head to pray before a meal.

I've noticed this pattern also goes along with general ungratefulness.  I watch people around me fixate on food and health.  We are told to eat less sugar, eat only raw sugar, to eat gluten-free, and to eat only organic fruits and vegetables and "free range" chicken, or grass-fed beef.  There is a lot of chatter about healthy eating and long life and eating "whole" foods and minimally processed food.  But these conversations never happened in my childhood.  My mother was a widow with four children to support.  We were grateful for whatever food there was on the table.  My Mom made things like "chili soup" which was chili made with one pound of hamburger and cups of extra water to make it "stretch".  We ate "spam sandwiches" and "radish sandwiches".  My Mom cut the mold off our white bread and had us eat the rest of the slice.  I remember eating freezer burned "frozen dessert" which kind of looked a little like ice cream.  But I at least, never knew that we were in danger of going hungry.  There was always food on the table, and we were taught over the years to be thankful for it.  We knew our food came from God, our creator, and from the generosity of our church family and neighbors.

I look around at the grocery store today and see the multitude of food choices and I am shocked at how rich we all have become.  The fact that we have the time and money to treat our diets like an order our whole lives around what we eat is astounding.  Does anyone else see ungratefulness in our fixation on food and fitness?

So starting now I'm going to resurrect the practice of saying a blessing over my food, if for no other reason than to remind myself of what a miracle it is that we are fed every. single. day.  We never go hungry, and in fact we are so fortunate that we can make costly choices in the purchase and preparation of our food.   Someday even when those choices are taken away, I hope to be able to find it in my heart to be truly grateful for each meal.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Never Getting it Right

I haven't posted in a long while.  I started a new Bible reading plan last October, and it has taken over my life.  I use Grant Horner's Bible Reading plan  .  Basically, you read 10 chapters of the Bible a day.  Each of the 10 chapters comes from a different section of the Bible.  When I first started the new plan I was overwhelmed, but over the course of the year it has become easier and even enjoyable.  I feel happy that I have finally managed reading the Bible every day for several years because in prior years I never did enough reading and I always felt guilty about that.  But now that Bible reading has become a habit, I find that my prayer life suffers.  Will I ever get it right?

So when I  pray these days my mind is unfocused and wandering.  I start out my prayer simply by saying, Dear God, ... and then I begin wondering about that.  Is that what I should call him.  I know I was taught to call God Father, or Abba father.  Sometimes I used to pray "Dear Jesus", but that seems wrong somehow.  Then I start thinking about the many sermons I heard on the Lord's prayer and the  proper way to  pray, and before I know it I am no longer praying, but instead obsessing.  If I manage to get past the beginning, I start thinking about all the people I know that have requested prayer.  I start naming people, one at a time, asking God to bless them and "be with them".  Sometimes I ask for healing for them or myself.  At this point my prayer turns into a big list.  Then there's a bit of guilt over everyone I forgot to pray for.

The question occurred to me:  Is this the kind of prayer that led Jesus to escape up into the mountain to pray?  Is this the kind of prayer for which Peter was willing to be crucified upside down, and for which Paul was willing to be beaten and imprisoned?  Is this the kind of prayer that John experienced while exiled on the island of Patmos?  When Moses went up the mountain to talk with God, is this what he experienced?  I don't think so.  I want to experience something different when I pray.  I want prayer to be the thing that guides me through torture, imprisonment, punishment, trials, and pain.

In the past I have been able to pray best when I'm playing the piano or walking.  Perhaps I need to find a new pattern or method, but I do know I need to discipline my mind to stay on track.  I need to turn my prayers from journeys into anxiety and worry into actual conversations with God.  So in addition to my habit of reading the Bible I'm going to start a prayer journal of sorts.  I'm not sure how to proceed, but in it I want to write about what I read in the Bible, what I pray, and in what way I see those prayers answered or not answered.

I wish I could find a place of satisfaction with my life with God.  I wish the relationship was deeper and that I made better choices.  Maybe someday I'll get it right.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I Can Change

Have you ever been just utterly disappointed with what you've become? 
Have you ever asked yourself, how oh how did I ever end up... this
Do you feel trapped and helpless to do anything to change your life and become more than you are?

We are rational beings.
The good news here is that we are rational beings.  We have the capacity to turn our thinking around and effect change in our world.  If you feel trapped, it's because you made yourself feel trapped.  You also have the ability to live in denial of the awesome power that reason and willpower put at your fingertips.


I have no money

There are 3 aspects to becoming wealthy that you need to understand.
  1. Honestly earned money is a sign of your worth to society.
  2. It is no more noble to volunteer your time than it is to work for an honest wage.
  3. No decision you make will not carry any risk.  Risk is your friend, you should learn to manage it.
  4. Failure is how we learn.
  5. Safety is not your only goal.  Risk and reward have to be balanced together.
  6. Fear is good.  But don't let it stop you from progressing in your life.

I can't go to school

School is a high expense, medium payoff way to better yourself.  Many people also use it to put off their real lives.  Some people also use the excuse of not being able to go to school to put off their own advancement in life.  But here's the deal.  If it were really important to go back to school, you'd tell the boss, you'd make the time, you'd tell your boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, etc. that this is what you need to do.
If it's really your priority, you'll make time.

I'm too old, young, fat, sick

If your goal is realistic (no, if you're a 6'5" 350 lb. high school dropout then you're not getting in the space program; if you're 5'1 you're not going to be a supermodel; if you never read you will not become a writer; if you're blind, deaf, or have CP, you're not going to be asked to join a professional football team), you should be able to achieve it.  But it's not like playing XBox.  You need to work hard and blast through the setbacks and keep your eyes on the ball.  You need to listen to the naysayers and laugh. 

Bottom line:  It's better to try your whole life without success than it is not to have tried at all. 

I am not the person that I wanted to be

When I was in high school I was an IDIOT.  I had no clue what life had to offer, and I had no clue what resource I had inside me.  It's OK to make trade-offs and adjustments as you walk the path.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Well This is New (Or is it Old?)

Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store for a few items.  My legs and back were hurting, and I had a headache from the pain.  I could have asked Bryan to do the shopping for me, but he would have made the whole shopping trip into a sacrifice and would have talked about how much work he missed.  Don't get me wrong.  Bryan is willing to do pretty much anything to help me if I will only ask. But when I do ask I am always taking him away from his own life and work.  I am interrupting him. I don't ask for help from people very often because I don't like the big sighs and the questions that always follow my request.  And then there are statements like this, "If you really NEED me to go with you, I'll go, but I have work to do."  Or, "You've always done that by yourself before.  Can't you do it this time?"  I dislike these conversations.  I dislike feeling beholden and needy.  So instead of asking for help, I choose to bear the pain and just do it myself.

I have Ross, I tell myself.  He will help me.  And Ross does help.  He never asks questions.  He never tells me he's too busy.  And he ALWAYS wants more than anything to be with me. He doesn't know that I NEED him.  He doesn't care that I need him.  He just wants to be by my side.  This is one of the things I appreciate about service dogs and Ross in particular.  He's always there, always happy to serve, and there is never a need for explanations or long, exhausting conversations.

I was struggling in the produce department.  I found it hard to balance while walking between the cart and the displays of produce.  I found myself working one-handed.  One hand grasped Ross' harness while the other had to grab and open plastic bags and load the fruit and vegetables.  I felt the curious stares of the other customers.  Some of them were repulsed.  I felt shame, something I have not noticed feeling since I was a third grader running in the 25 yard dash in the school track meet.  The produce manager sneaked up behind me and said, "My name is Eddie, and I'm the manager of this department.  Do you need help?" I felt more shame.  He and I both knew that he wasn't asking me that to be helpful.  He was questioning me wanting to survey the situation and find out if I truly needed a dog in the store.  I told him that my dog and I would work it out.  I remembered with longing the days when I walked into a grocery store without a dog, without a walker, without a cane.  I remembered how thoughtless and easy life used to be.  While I sorted through the oranges I was weeping inside for the life I once had, and will never have again.  I was remembering the days when the produce managers were talking with me because they were flirting.

In my shame, I felt spasms that suddenly threw my body forward or backward.  My cart, me, and my dog blocked whole aisles in the store.  We were a spectacle.  I felt like a freak in a circus sideshow.  Next time I'll just grovel and ask Bryan to do the shopping because I never want to feel that way again.  It just may be easier to spend 15 minutes explaining why I used to be able to go to the store, but now I can't.  I now have to choose between humiliations.

What I couldn't help but notice was Ross.  He wasn't feeling shame or embarrassment.  He was with the girl he loves.  He walked straight and tall, head slightly down, tail parallel with the floor.  He was working hard and with all his heart.  He was happy and proud to be with me.  He was proud of his harness and proud of his work.

I wish people were more like dogs.  I wish I felt pride in my work instead of stinging shame.  May God make me more like Ross.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Jepthah's Daughter

Judges, in my humble opinion is the strangest, yet most fun to read book in the Bible.  I'm particularly thinking today about the story of Jepthah's daughter.  Go and read it yourself right around Judges 11 and 12.  My first reaction to the fact that someone from Israel sacrificed his daughter to the Lord is the same as my husband's.  "AND GOD WAS OKAY WITH THAT???" Now there's a story that was left out of my Bible story book when I was a kid.  We never covered it in all 15 years of my Christian education.  And I've never heard it covered in any Sunday sermon either.  Jepthah was a man from the tribe of Gilead who God raised up to conquer the Ammonites who had been oppressing Israel for years.  Jepthah makes a vow to God that he will sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing to walk out of his house if God just gives him victory over the Ammonites.  I'm not sure what or whom he expected to walk out of his house, but it turned out to be his one and only precious daughter.  And after two months of mourning with the daughter's friends, the sacrifice is completed.  The daughter herself seems completely fine with the idea of herself being a live sacrifice.  What she mourns with her friends is that she will never marry.  WHAT?  So this is one of those scratch your head and wonder kind of stories in the Bible that if I think about too long, I think my head will explode.

What became very clear to me though was the fact that vows to God had better be kept.  I tried to think of any vows I might have made to God through the years.  I can only think of one, although I constantly bargain with God.  If you will only heal me I will...., or, if you allow me to marry Bryan I will.....I never considered those to be vows, but I suppose they were.  The biggest vow I ever made was to God and Bryan when I married him.  I promised to be faithful to him until our death.  We devalue vows in our culture.  We think nothing of getting married or divorcing.  We play around with the details of marriage and we debate about same-sex marriage.  But marriage as it stands today is a vow, and for some of us it is a vow before God.  When you make a vow to God it must not be broken.  Be careful what you promise God and what you vow to him. Both Jepthah and his daughter never give thought to breaking the vow.  They seem to instinctively value the keeping of the vow so much that they are both willing to lose/die in order to keep it.  Maybe that's why Jesus taught this in his famous sermon on the mount:

  1.   33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
I think I may understand why Jesus taught about breaking oaths.  Perhaps he was thinking of Jepthah's daughter.  My guess is that he never wanted to see that happen again.

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