This is my blog where I write about my daily walk and lessons learned as I change from a caged gerbil into a loved dog at the Master’s knee. Come back soon to read my latest lesson.
Gramacho is the last landfill that allows people in. Brazil is the leading nation in recycling due to its poverty. There are people there surviving from what they find in the garbage. Vik Muniz
I inherited my great-grandmother’s sewing machine. It’s one of those old models in a wrought iron case with wooden drawers. Inside the drawers are tiny pieces of fabric and elastic, rescued from faded threadbare articles long ago. Grandma Phillips lived through hard times and she knew how to save and scrape and scrap together. Today we call it recycling, and we do it on a grander scale.
Recycling is a great way to take something used and seemingly useless and make it new again. Check out these statistics:
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
- Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year, enough to fill Busch Stadium from top to bottom twice a day.
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on your iPod. Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for two whole weeks.
Recycling may seem like a fairly new idea to some of you. The first Earth Day, which stressed recycling and keeping our planet clean, was in 1970. But you might be surprised to find out that the first American aluminum can recycling plants opened in 1904 in Cleveland and Chicago. But we can trace recycling efforts all the way back to 1031 when Japan began the first ever recorded reuse of waste paper by repulping the paper and then selling it back to local stores.
Recycling is actually even older than that. It starts at the beginning of time. God had a plan for something wonderful, but the plan had to be scrapped. So he threw Adam and Eve out of the garden and started over with a new plan. And again, it had to be scrapped. So God had Noah build a boat and he started all over again. But the garbage kept piling up.
Time went by and every generation brought a new load of garbage, a new bundle of bungles and baggage. So God decided to make the recycling program more individualized. And he sent his son to be the Director of Emissions Control.
Jesus takes each person’s pack of used and useless paraphernalia and remakes it, recycles it, into something new and useful. He cleans the can, deodorizes, and puts in a new disposal. Our Director does something better than Grandma Phillips ever could have: He makes life new.
Not with little bits of this and little tatters of that, but with wholeness and perfection. He is the ultimate recycler.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV
A Christian reveals true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ, by being always ready to help others, by speaking kind words and performing unselfish acts, which elevate and ennoble the most sacred message that has come to our world. ~ Ellen G. White
Earth Day has come and gone, but the earth is still here. We shouldn’t need a holiday to take care of the home we have been given. There are many aspects that make up this special planet, but let’s just look at water for a minute. If you want more information you can find easy access here.
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing, and personal needs.
The average American uses about 100 gallons of water per day and more than 100,000 gallons of water per year.
Every square mile of the oceans contains more than 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.
About 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean each year.
The U.S. consumes 3.9 trillion gallons of water every month.
There are 5 trillion pieces of floating plastic in the world’s oceans.
Earth Day is a chance to stop and consider what we are doing to our world and how we can do better. Every last one of us is adding to the problem in some way, whether we waste food, litter, don’t recycle, or leave the lights on in an empty room.
Every day is also a chance to stop and consider what we are doing to the people in the world around us. Again, every last one of us is adding to the problem in some way, whether we ignore someone who needs a caring word, refuse to help a person in need financially or physically, or say something hurtful or unkind.
As Christians we have clean, pure water, living water, to refresh the world around us. Won’t you offer some to the person next to you? An ocean starts with a single drop.
“For we are His creation – created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
I bit into the crusty bread. The warm sauce oozed between my teeth and the fresh pepperoni gave my tongue a familiar kick. Instantly memories of Grandma and Pap’s house flooded my mind and my heart.
Di Carlo’s Pizza is a Wheeling, WV icon. The dough and chunky tomato sauce are baked together. Then, fresh from the oven, the pepperoni and cheese are placed on top. If you aren’t from the Ohio Valley, you probably won’t like it. My sister-in-law and I didn’t care for it at first, but it has grown on us. Our husbands and their families though, woo boy! If they are in Wheeling, you can bet your socks there’s gonna be a Di Carlo’s run.
But this particular day we were in Myrtle Beach, SC, 12 hours from Wheeling. We were enjoying our last day of a short two day retreat from the world when Matt saw a coupon for Di Carlo’s. It said “Ohio Valley Style,” so we knew it was the real thing and headed a half hour out of our way to get the delectable treat. I, yes, me the Di Carlo’s denigrator, ate four pieces!
It wasn’t that they made it any better in Myrtle Beach. No, it was that Di Carlo’s Pizza was a refreshing hint of home that I so badly needed. See, a friend’s son passed away a few days before, another friend is suffering mental illness, the taxes were due, the dental bills are adding up, and I had just finished the arduous process of publishing my first novel. Matt has been working three jobs and having health issues. Amos is trying to get into college, and on the list goes.
I needed Grandma’s house. I needed Christmas Eve traditions, cousins visiting and playing, safety and protection. I needed a reminder that all of the things eating away at me, taking the joy out of life, are not where I really belong.
In one bite of crunchy bread, chunky tomato, and fresh cheese and pepperoni I was transported to home, my real home.
Every Sunday that I am able, I gather with a group of people I love. We talk, we play, we share tears of joy and pain, and we eat together. Some people who aren’t used to our style of meal, well, they just don’t care for it. But for those of us who belong, that meal transports us to home, our real home. Home where celebrations occur, where families visit, where we are safe and protected.
And for those who stay long enough to become part of the family, that small bite of crusty bread and that little sip of wine become a longed for delicacy.
“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 ESV
My husband’s family was Methodist until he was about eight years old. One day his mother was collecting money in the neighborhood for the American Heart Association and she met Carol, a mother of two children the same ages as her own kids. They struck up a friendship and eventually a spiritual relationship.
Carol’s husband was the local minister at the Church of Christ, which just happened to be on the same block as my future in-law’s house. Soon the whole family was attending the church down the street.
Larry and Carol left the area several years later, but they didn’t leave my husband’s life. See, Larry and Carol are what doctor’s call “probiotics”; they’re good-for-you bugs. Larry and Carol served the homeless, the imprisoned, the hurting and helpless. They entered lives and stayed around to watch transformations occur. They encouraged the downtrodden, the immigrants, the sick. They celebrated marriages, births, and lives that passed on to reward.
And they stayed in touch. In fact, many years after they left my husband’s family they entered my life. Larry performed our wedding ceremony. We have stayed at their home on various occasions. They have offered us advice about being a “preacher’s family”. They send us Christmas cards with pictures of their grandchildren, who coincidentally are the same age as our own children.
If it weren’t for Larry and Carol, our children likely wouldn’t exist. My husband probably wouldn’t be my husband. My life would definitely be profoundly different.
Why? Because Matt has brought me closer to God. He has encouraged me to write, to speak, to serve, and to minister. His parents have helped to shape my marriage with the example they provide. His brother and sister-in-law are two of my best friends. Without Larry and Carol all of that would be different.
Today I spoke with my mother-in-law about our dear, dear friend Larry. He is in a hospital undergoing treatment for rapidly progressing mental illness: depression, paranoia, anxiety, and more. His wife went to get her oil changed at a local place yesterday and the mechanic, not a member of their church but only a community member, was tearing up to hear how Mr. Larry was suffering. It seems I am not the only one who has been so irrevocably changed because of the lives of these two saints, Larry and Carol.
There is a game in Hollywood called “Six degrees from Kevin Bacon” in which you connect actors and actresses to Kevin Bacon. I think a better game would be “Six Degrees to Larry Locke.”
So who out there has been touched by Larry? To start, if you are reading this post, YOU have. You are two degrees from Larry because of the way he has impacted my life. Please join me in praying for this sweet man who has served so diligently and faithfully. Pray for lucidity. Pray for clear-minded conversations. Pray for peace, and comfort, and the healing hand of the Father. I love you, Larry and Carol.
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:19-21 NIV
The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. ~ Thomas Paine
Friday was the beginning of the end. On Friday, Amos made the decision to attend WVU in the fall. On Saturday, he took the ACT for the final time, and he went to his Senior Prom.
He attended prom with two girl friends, not girlfriends. One girl’s mother is a photographer, so an hour before dinner we all met at a rustic, soon-to-be-remodeled building downtown and had a photo shoot. While the real photographer did her thing, I took pitiful little snapshots on my cell phone.
Then Matt and I left the kids to go get some dinner. While Matt drove to the restaurant, I flipped through the pictures. My heart climbed into my throat.
The little blonde peanut that giggled and played, that never saw anything but challenges to overcome, that snuggled and kissed his mama. . . had grown into a man.
I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was when he started driving. Perhaps it was when he got a job. Or maybe it was the day he began classes at the local community college. I don’t know, perhaps it was the day that he took responsibility for his actions.
I really don’t know when it happened, but I know how it happened. He spent years watching those around him make decisions, take responsibility, be active and confident. Then he tried it on his own, and failed. He asked around, got some advice, and tried again with better results. And one day, without anyone realizing it, he became a man.
He still has some watching and practicing to do, but he is well on his way to being a mature man.
I have a friend who recently became a Christian. She is frustrated by her lack of growth. She isn’t sure what to do or how to do it. I’m not sure what I can tell her. Just like I don’t know when Amos became a man, I don’t know when she will become the Christian that she wants to be. But I do know it will take watching, and practice, and time.
But one day, who knows when, God will look at his little peanut and his heart will climb into his throat, because he will see a grown Christian.
If you aren’t where you want to be in your growth with God, don’t give up. Keep on watching others. Keep on practicing your skills: praying, studying, sharing, forgiving. And give it time. It will happen before you know it.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 NIV
I’m a morning person. I sing, I work out, I cook breakfast, I read my Bible and other devotionals, and I do it all with gusto. I especially like mornings in the spring and summer. The songbirds greet me with a chorus of “Zippa-dee-do-dah”. The sun dances through the window, cheery and bright.
But autumn slowly seeps in with fog and dreary rain. Getting up is not as easy. I would rather snuggle down into the warm nest of my quilt and comforter and avoid what I know is coming.
The time changes, the air changes, the light and the happiness and the song of the birds all change. It is harder to get up, harder to embrace the outdoors for a walk or a drive to the gym. The window is shut tight against the cold wind and darkness that threaten to force their way in. And it is harder to open my Bible, to listen to others’ words about God, even to pray.
But I get up anyway. I go to the gym, I make some warm oatmeal, and I crack open the Good Book.
Sometimes, the bad weather, cold darkness, and bitter wind arrive in the middle of summer. A bad report from the doctor, from the financial department, from the auto shop. Sometimes it is even a bad report from church; someone has lost their way or tried to make someone else lose their’s. Occasionally a storm blows in that includes all of these at once, and I burrow into the bed like Punxsutawney Phil crying for more time, more warmth, more sleep.
But I get up anyway. I work out with the disciplines I learned during good weather. I breakfast at the table of the Lord. And I dig deeper into the Word instead of my covers.
And then, when I raise my eyes and look out the window, a light begins to dawn. The birds begin a slow chorus. And the clouds begin to scatter.
No matter the season, no matter the weather, I know I must continue to seek the One who brings light to a dark world. Don’t let the weather be your whether or not.
“. . . And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79 ESV
Belly dance is beautiful to watch. It is graceful, elegant, controlled, and sensual. My class is filled with people who have been taking lessons for years. That means I often feel left behind and inept.
I have had fun learning what it takes to be a belly dancer, but a lot of it is not so fun. Bending my knees until my thighs shake and tremble with the effort, stepping on the ball of my recently healed broken foot, holding my arms up until they ache. . . yeah, not so fun.
Mildly difficult is not even close. You watch belly dancers and think, Oh, they’re moving their spine and their hips, and then the teacher comes by and holds your back and hips still while you are instructed on which tiny muscle is actually controlling that movement. And though some of you may think you can move your hips and arms at the same time, I dare you to move your hips left to right and one arm frontward and the other backward. Pat your head and rub your belly has nothing on belly dance.
Last week we spent the entire lesson on moving sideways. Let’s just say I will need lessons for years to come before I figure this out. There is no “quick” way to learn.
Sunday is Easter. Some of you will head to church because you are Christians and Easter is a pretty big deal in Christianity. Besides Christmas, it is THE Christian event.
You may not have been to church in a few weeks, months maybe. You haven’t read the Bible in over a year. You’ve been to a handful of Bible studies, but you aren’t sure what they’re studying right now. If someone asked your neighbor if you are a Christian, they’d probably answer, “I don’t know. A nice person, yes.”
You, my friend, are a belly dancing Christian wanna-be. You think it looks good, sounds fun (who doesn’t think chocolate rabbits are fun?). You sway your hips, move your spine, but the Teacher comes by and grabs hold. Just move this part.
Yeah. Christianity is hard, and it takes time. And when people look at real disciples, the kind who go to dance class for years, they think, Looks easy. I can do that. And really they can, but not if they only dance on Easter and Christmas.
If you are really going to dance for Jesus, really be a dancing disciple, it’s going to take some work.
But when you start to learn, and you’re practicing while fixing your hair in the morning mirror, and your arm actually does what it is supposed to do, well, then . . . You’ll be having FUN!
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG
I didn’t know I was up for adoption until a little snuggle bug ended up in my lap one Sunday. After that I was taken. She is seven years old, a lover, and a cuddler. She wiggles around on my knees until she can get hold of Matt’s hand and then she is happy as a bug in a rug.
We project the words and music to songs, and though my little sweetheart can read some, she hasn’t quite mastered the skill. So her songs are similar to ours, but sometimes contain some creative takes on lyrics.
A couple weeks ago we were singing the old hymn, Living for Jesus by Thomas Chisholm. This is the refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
But swinging her legs in front of me and belting it out at the top of her innocent lungs, my baby girl sang:
I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throat.
I smiled sideways at Matt, at the sweet innocence of her love and devotion, and then I reflected.
God speaks. He speaks in his creation: spring rains and rainbows, baby calves and huge breaching whales, returning robins and gentle, warm breezes. He speaks through his word, the Bible, telling us what he desires for us. And he speaks through me. My heart is his throat.
Sometimes my heart tells me that I am headed down the wrong path. That is God telling me to turn around.
Other times my heart tells me to wait, be patient. That is God affirming that he is involved and working, relax.
And still other times my heart tells me to act. That is God saying this world is bigger than my own little problems and issues. I need to reach out for God and . . . speak.
She was right; My heart is his throat.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV
This little experiment has come to an end. I have spent a month daily telling people that I love and appreciate them. My family members, my friends, my church, people who serve me with their jobs, and people who wrongly assume that I only serve them have all been told that they are integral to my life. I would not be who I am without them to encourage me.
There has been no rhyme or reason to the order I posted these love letters, but I have been saving the love of my life for last. And then I had a dream last night.
I was going on a long trip, far away to somewhere like Europe. The evening before I was to leave people asked if I was packed and ready. “No, not yet.”
I watched a torrent of water rush past our house. The entire area was flooded. Matt watched me staring out at the water and said, “Don’t you go swimming in that. It’s dangerous.”
As the night wore on the water went down, but still, swift currents beckoned between two concrete walls. I walked to the water, judged the distance, and then plunged across as far as I could, swimming the last few yards.
When I climbed out of the water I knew it had been a foolish thing to do. I was lucky to be alive.
You’re confused, aren’t you? You thought this was a love letter. Yep.
I planned to write this last letter to God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Redeemer of the Lost, Savior of the World. And I do love him above all else. But . . .
I did not plan to write it to the God of Sinners, Lord of the Lawless, and Father of the Rebellious. But, I believe, that was my dream. You see I tend to be a rebel. Not that I ride around on a Harley, smoking weed and drinking with tattooed, bearded men. No. I am a boundary rebel. Tell me I can’t go past a point and I’ll say, “Just watch me.” I take it as a challenge.
God showed me last night that rebellion can be a dangerous form of selfishness. But he also showed me that he rescues me. And that is the God I love.
The God who said, “Don’t do that,” not as a punishment or a show of his own superiority, but as a protection against my own ignorance. And when I kept pushing the envelope, when everyone kept pushing and all the glue, adhesive, and sealant could no longer hold, God came in person to take me by the hand and lead me away from the flood.
Wet, chilled, trembling, but safe.
I love you, God. You have shown me what true love really is.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV
I have two sons. I love them enough to take a bullet for them. I would give them my kidneys, my bone marrow, and my liver. They wouldn’t want my eyes.
Some day I know I will have to give them over to those girls I have been praying for all of these years. In some ways, I want to say, “They’re all yours, girls! Good luck!” and other times I imagine yanking their pretty little ponytails and yelling, “Get lost! These are MY boys!”
The love of a mother for her son is special and strong. So when I tell you how much I love my mother-in-law, you have to first understand that I took away her firstborn son. I think she would have given even her eyes for her boys.
But she has never chosen her son over me. She has never tried to drive a wedge between us so that she could have her way. And she has never, in any form or fashion, been ugly to me.
I love having her come to visit. Not only does she do my ironing, help with the yard work, and take the kids shopping, she takes time to talk to me. She wants to know how I am, with all sincerity and love.
My mother-in-law and I talk on the phone and text several times a week. When she wants to tell someone how her mother is doing, she calls me. When I want to tell someone about my bellydance lesson, I call her. When she sees a movie that she thinks I would like, she calls. When my pile of laundry reaches Mt. Everest proportions, I ring her up.
Because her husband and her sons are so much alike, she gives me advice. It only makes sense; I mean, she’s been dealing with it twice as long as I have. (I’ll never tell you, Matt and Larry!)
She encourages my writing, and she is my biggest PR agent. No one has sold more copies of my book than she.
My mother-in-law has become one of my best friends. I know this will get some West Virginia comments, but I have to say, she isn’t just my husband’s mom, she’s my mom, too.
I love you, Connie. You’ve been the perfect example of a mother-in-law. I hope to be as good as you are some day.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:28-30 NIV