Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

It's the day after Christmas. ER is a place of strange scenes and sounds. As I sit with my dozing 92-year-old mother, a machine whirs and beeps out her vitals across its screen. A large lamp hangs over her head amid a tangle of wires and cords. Someone has ripped open the sleeve of her gown to reveal a bloody elbow. She's on oxygen. Nurses, aides, EMTS joke with each other at the desk across from her room. A grandmother weeps in the hall as a child screams in a couple of rooms down. It would be surreal if I hadn't already been here many times before.

Mother has fallen again and been rushed by ambulance to hospital emergency . She believes she can get up by herself, but when she tries she falls. This time she has a nasty bruise with some swelling on the back of her head and a scraped elbow. Her head hurts and her temperature is up a few degrees. They finally tell me she will be admitted overnight for observation. Their patient rooms are full. She will be moved to a room when one is open.

Though I'm sitting in a cold hospital emergency room away from visiting with my children and grandchildren on this holiday weekend, I'm not complaining. A friend of mine lost her mother, yesterday, on Christmas Day. As I watch my mother's dear face, I'm thankful.

Wouldn't it be great if Christmas could be a time out from suffering, death and tears? How wonderful it would be if the peace, joy and hope Christmas pictures could be a reality around the world on Christmas Day every year. No, it's not going to happen, but Christmas reminds us that time is sure to come.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Gift From God

Sometimes I decide to give a day to God. No, not always Sunday, it can be some other day--a day when I put aside my desires, concerns and personal pleasures and focus on God. I might not eat on that day. I might not watch television or play video games or check Facebook over and over to see what my friends are up to. I don't do laundry or clean house or cook. It's a day to worship, praise, meditate on him. This day is a gift to God.

Now, I have to admit most of the time I have ulterior motives. I'm needing inspiration for an article or a presentation or I need a solution to one of those concerns I'm supposed to have put aside. I'm a natural born worrier.

God is not fooled, of course. He knows my human nature, and, in spite of me, appreciates my attempts to give him a gift. Kind of like children when they bring a somewhat straggly, slightly wilted wild flower to you as a gift. You treat that flower like a treasure, put it in a vase and give your child a big hug. You might give your child a cookie too.

I think that human love response to a child comes from God. Every time I try to give God a day, it turns out he gives me a day instead. On that day with God, my concerns are turned to joys and my stresses are relieved. I'm rested, calmed, and the worrier is now rejoicing because God lets her know she is not totally responsible for solving either her problems or the cares of the world. He reminds her that he knows what's going on and he is still in control. Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No Ham, Please

Several years ago when I was volunteering on Monday mornings at the Home Hospice office, at lunch I would grab a sandwich at Subway. Subway has sandwich specials, and Monday is its turkey and ham day. I don't like ham, so every Monday I asked the young person working behind the see-through counter to give me the special but without the ham. They would not comply. In all that time, only once or maybe twice would they do as I asked. So, each time after I paid, on the way out I would unwrap the sandwich, remove the ham and toss it into their trash can.

Last Monday, I happened to be in town so I stopped by Subway. Again, I asked the young man behind the counter if he could leave off the ham on my turkey sandwich. Cheese, yes, ham, no. He shook his head. "I can put it on the side," he said. "OK," I replied. He slipped the ham into one of their envelope-type sacks, wrapped my sandwich and put both in a plastic bag. I paid him and dropped the ham into the trash can on my way out the door.

At Subway it seems rules are rules. When those kids behind the counter are told no alternatives, that's what administration means. When a customer wants something left off their specials, that's money in corporate pockets, I would think, but no. What a waste. I couldn't help thinking about how this affects their young employees. I hope they see through this type of illogic legalism. I hope it encourages them to think for themselves. I hope it's for the better.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Wanna-Be

Are you a wanna-be? I am. I wanna be fluent in Spanish. I wanna be a good golfer. I wanna be 10 pounds lighter. I wanna memorize scripture. I wanna be a better artist. I remember telling a Jewish professor I would like to learn biblical Hebrew. She answered: "A lot of people want to know Hebrew." I got the message.
Learning another language, losing weight, memorizing scripture, driving golf balls, painting in oils, all take time, discipline and hard work. The apostle Paul even described the Christian life as running a race, not just slowly jogging along but running to win. 1 Corinthians 9:24–10:1 (NIV). Salvation is a gift, but according to Paul, a Christian should live a disciplined life, led by the spirit, not the flesh. The Christian life is not a fearful life, but a life full of interesting challenges.
My problem is prioritizing my challenges. I have too many wannas. Do you have this problem? The writing on my tombstone could read, "She ran out of time." Some years ago now I wrote down everything I considered important to me. Just took out a piece of paper and started writing. Then I prioritized what I had listed according to importance and figured out how much time I spent on the top ten. It's an eye-opening process. I think it's time to do it again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Fall, Finally!

Softly falling raindrops outside. Cooler temperatures. Geese headed south. It's fall--finally! What a summer we've had, especially an August of no rain combined with weeks of 100 plus temperatures. But now a respite before winter sets in. Only subtle changes in the tree leaves but the grasses alongside the roads are seeded out and showing tinges of yellow.

I love the changing seasons. Walking around town in my shirt sleeves in the dead of winter was nice when I lived in Southern California, but I missed the seasons. In one place we lived, our gas fireplace, though real, was designed not to give out much heat. It was there only for its esthetic value. Not so here in Texas.

Life has its seasons as well. (I think there's a song about that.) If we gave each season 25 years, that would make spring ages 1 to 25 years, summer 25 to 50, fall 50 to 75 and winter 75 to 100. Like the annual seasons, there's a lot of variation in each of those seasons. For example, a 1-year-old's life is quite different from that of a 25-year-old, and so on.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say while the earth goes on year after year, season after season, our human life spans don't. If we're fortunate we have spring, summer, fall and winter. My dad didn't make it to fall and a son barely made it to summer. Yet my mother is in her winter years, blessed with a long and full life. My point--whatever season you're in, take time to stop and think about your life. Don't let life pass you by. Take time to enjoy and treasure each day God has blessed you with.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"He Only Visits Church"

I saw a sign in front of a country church: "Jesus lives in the community. He only visits church." I've been intrigued with that statement ever since. I think I agree. When I read about Jesus in Scripture, he was actively doing his Father's will everywhere he went. And, yes, he visited the synagogue and the temple, where he also did his Father's will. Maybe I'm over thinking the whole thing. Probably.

But if Jesus is working everywhere and only visits church, why church? If I asked that question of churchgoers, I would no doubt get a variety of answers. Jesus visiting there is good enough for me, actually. But I'm meandering away from the writer's original statement, which is, Jesus lives in the community. He's not just around one day a week, conveniently going his way right before Sunday afternoon football comes on.

At first I thought the writer was referring to the church as church services or church buildings, not the ecclesia, the body of Christ. The more I think about it, maybe not. "The body of Christ lives in the community. They only visit church." As followers of Jesus we are the body of Christ. We should visit church but more than that, we should be living in the community. That's where Jesus lives and works all week long. That's where we are the lights in the darkness and the salt of the earth.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Sister's Birthday

My sister's birthday was today. Our birth dates were only 18 months apart, so I don't remember a time when she wasn't around. Some might call my sister a bit of a character, because she didn't pretend to be anything but who she was. She did what she pleased and said what she thought. As one friend said about her: "If you don't like the apples, don't shake the tree."
My sister was smart, pretty, athletic and an artist. She was generous above her means.
My sister was a fighter. When rhematoid arthritis struck her down, she didn't stay down. It was a battle she couldn't win, but that didn't keep her from trying.
We had plans, my sister and me. We would grow old together. We would place our easels side by side and paint beautiful scenery. We would reminisce and tell stories on each other and laugh. I will always miss my sister.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Living in the Country

Living in the country is great, especially near a small town. I even enjoy Wal-Mart. Now, you can say what you will about the super store, you'll see even the pickiest shoppers there eventually. But it's not those shoppers I enjoy so much. Maybe it's just in rural Texas, but in how many places do you have total strangers begin a conversation with you as if they've known you for years.

Yesterday, an elderly couple approached a Wal-Mart employee working near me. The man had on a cowboy hat, red shirt and jeans held up by suspenders. He turned to me and explained that his wife had eaten something that had disagreed with her, he thought maybe chicken, and needed ... . About this time his white-haired wife began using hand signals to warn him to stop giving out so much information.

He laughed and said, "She's had papers on me for 53 years and I still ain't broke." You have to understand this is horse country. By not being "broke," he was referring to taming horses, not to anything monetary. He went on to tell me he had lived on the Red River all his life. The Red River separates Oklahoma and Texas. He said she was a city girl and he was country, and after they got married they moved to the Red River and still lived there.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you more. About this time his wife of 53 years walked off down the aisle--husband and shopping cart in tow.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rain, Beautiful Rain

Rain, beautiful rain. We're supposed to have rain for the rest of this week. After a long dry August, September rain is so welcome. The lakes and stock ponds are filling up and the pastures and gardens are being watered. Though we tend to take rain for granted, we shouldn't. Rain is a valuable commodity. Actually valuable is not adequate to describe this priceless blessing.

Psalm 65:9–13 (NRSV)

9    You visit the earth and water it,

you greatly enrich it;

the river of God is full of water;

you provide the people with grain,

for so you have prepared it.

10    You water its furrows abundantly,

settling its ridges,

softening it with showers,

and blessing its growth.

11    You crown the year with your bounty;

your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

12    The pastures of the wilderness overflow,

the hills gird themselves with joy,

13    the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,

the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy.




Tuesday, September 7, 2010

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The Risk Taker

My husband is a risk taker. Do you have a husband like that? I try to keep him out of trees and off tall ladders, but my efforts are usually useless. Last Sunday, driving 70 miles an hour down the Interstate on our way to church, we heard a loud noise. A piece of our luggage rack came loose and went sailing off down the highway. Mbh pulled over, turned on the emergency flashers, and deaf to my suggestion that it might be dangerous to run out in the midst of traffic, he took off.

I waited nervously, watching semis and cars whiz by as he estimated how much time he had to run across to rescue the piece of luggage rack. Then, seeing his chance, he dashed across, grabbed it and ran back across the Interstate. By this time, of course, the prize he had risked his life for had been run over at least once or twice, and was a piece of junk.

When I questioned his action, he said, no problem, he had been careful. "What if you had tripped?" I asked him. He was insulted. "I've played basketball for years. I'm not going to trip." Yes, he'd played for years, but how many years ago, I thought. I'm too old for this, and so is he. Pray for us!

Monday, September 6, 2010

In Perfect Harmony

Our little community has a chapel service for 30 minutes every Sunday. It's early enough so people can have breakfast afterward and attend their regular worship services (or play golf).

I belong to the choir. We wear blue robes with our chapel's initials in white. We have a great director who plays several instruments, sings and composes music as well. Most of us have some musical experience, so we're not totally lame. We actually sound pretty good. We practice only once a week and usually perform only once a month, and somehow or other he gets the best out of us.

But one thing bothers me. It's the way we march in. The front row is led by our church lady who does announcements. She marches in like a general leading her troops. The second row is supposed to start at the same time, but if it lags at all, our church lady's off.

The basses may march in the first or the second row, whichever they decide on the day. Sometimes we march down the middle of the aisle and at other times we separate and go on each side. You can imagine how ragged we look. One of the tenors is annoyed as well and occasionally tries to get order out of this group of independent thinkers, which helps a little--sometimes.

But our director doesn't seem concerned about how we get to the front. We never practice marching in. His concern is how we perform once there. It made me think about our Director. Christ draws us from all different directions. Some of us, as they say, march to a different drummer, but when we're all working together in him, using our various gifts, we're in perfect harmony.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Grand Design



I haven't read his latest book yet, The Grand Design, but the media keeps telling me Stephen Hawking writes we don't need God, that God wasn't needed to create the universe. Mr. Hawking is an extremely intelligent man. I've read an earlier popular book of his, A Brief History of Time. Though it was supposedly written at the layman level, I have to admit I sometimes got lost in his explanations.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that he's come to the conclusion that there is no need for God, other physicists have, at least in theory. (Hawking refers to it as the M-theory.) What does surprise me is his statement that something can come from nothing. I thought that was against some law of physics. According to what I've read, he gives the law of gravity a lot of credit for the spontaneous appearance of something out of nothing.

Whatever his reasoning, I need more than his word for that. Quantum physics or not, it seems to me quite a stretch to say something can spontaneously come out of nothing. I would have to have a lot more faith in Hawking and his pronouncements to wrap my mind around that conclusion, gravity or not.

Of course, God claims he made something out of nothing as well. It's a conundrum. Do I have faith in what Hawking says or in what God says? I think you know the answer.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Handling Mr. Guilt

This is my first entry in the SG inTouch blog. I'm asking myself, What do I say that would be helpful? Certainly, it should be Spirit led. That doesn't mean I'll be preachy, but if the Spirit speaks to you through this attempt, don't blame me.
My mother will be 92 in November. She wants to stay in her home and she does most of the time, but with a lot of help. Health aides come in to help her bathe, check her vitals, encourage her to exercise. With all this, I'm still her primary caretaker. She's become quite dependent on me.
If she feels bad, she calls. When I ask what her symptoms are, she can't describe anything in particular. "I just feel bad," she responds. This happens so often I've been driving back and forth from my house to hers several times a day.
I worry if she's eating enough or if she's taking her medications. Her short-term memory is shot. A friend told me I needed to get help before I become a burn-out case, but I've been dragging my feet.
Why? It's called Guilt. Ever heard of Guilt? Guilt is an ugly dark cloud that follows you around wherever you go. No matter how much you do, no matter how much sacrifice of time or money, Guilt doesn't go away. Another friend told me, it never will matter how much you do for your mother, Guilt will say you haven't done enough.
So I braced myself, admitted I wasn't a superwoman, pushed through the dark cloud of Guilt and hired Nellie. Nellie has had many years of experience in elder care. Mother liked her immediately. I still see about my mom every day, but now I have a few hours of breathing space. What about Mr. Guilt? Oh, I'm sure he's back there somewhere.