Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lost Ritual

I just finished doing our income taxes. Paul used to do them, and he would put off that dread task until he could delay no longer.

I can remember, more than one April 15th , having to drive the finally finished forms all the way in to the downtown Minneapolis Post Office. That was the only place I knew would be open until midnight. We needed these envelopes stamped, "April 15" in order not to pay a penalty, so off I went.

 There was always a long line of cars crawling, bumper to bumper, determined  to reach the block-long building. Out in front were uniformed postmen who would personally accept your forms. You just rolled down your car window and handed them to one of the many standing there as you inched forward in the "Procrastinator Parade." Actually, it was quite festive.

Now I do the taxes and usually have them done before the end of March, so we don't even know what the tradition is here in St Paul. Electronic submission has thinned the ranks of the paper procrastinator, so as far as I know there is no late night parade.

Sigh. Another great American tradition bites the dust.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Devil's Workshop

You may have heard the phrase, "Idleness is the devil's workshop." I am reading a book where the author interviews Satan, and Satan says that one of his best attacks against mankind is to get him to "drift".

I gave up video games for Lent this year and had no idea how hard that was going to be. I talked with a relative a week or so ago at a funeral of a family member, and he told me that he had given up Facebook for Lent and was finding it to be very difficult as well.

If Facebook and video games fall into the area of "drifting", where does that leave us?  Right where Satan wants us.

Scary thought.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grab Hold of Joy

We have been having unusually warm weather for March here in Minnesota. That is true for much of the rest of the country as well. I am amazed at the changes in my outlook these past two weeks. Sunshine matters. It is as though I am coming out of hibernation, warily, I admit. I have a feeling that this may be a case of bait and switch;  that winter might return with a vengeance just to mock my joy. The closer we draw to May the less that bothers me. Winter is drawing to a close, and I am grateful that it was a mild one.

Sometimes I approach God's blessings that way, as though they may be a trap; as though God might be tricking me into letting down my guard. If I dare to enjoy them, I reason, I will find an equally unpleasant time that balances out that goodness. Don't think you won't pay for this somewhere else, I tell myself.

As I look back on my life, though, I find that such belief is actually a tool of the devil to rob me of joy. Not only has my life had more good times than bad, good came out of the bad times anyway. Just think of all the hours you have spent worrying about things that never materialized, and you will get an idea of what I am talking about.

One of my daughters had a miscarriage in her first pregnancy. I can still picture that bruised young couple sitting on the couch in their living room as they sought to deal with this unexpected and life altering event. When that same daughter became pregnant again, someone asked her if she was nervous about the possibility of another miscarriage. I love her answer. She said she was going to enjoy the pregnancy to the fullest extent, assuming that all would be well. And, if something did go wrong, well, they had dealt with it once and survived, they knew they could do so again.

I have decided to claim the joy of the day. Today and tomorrow and as long as it lasts, I am going to rejoice in this fine weather. If winter returns, I'll deal. After all, I have survived many a cruel winter before, and I know I can do so again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interruptions or God's Gifts to Me?

We were talking in Bible study today about how people so often come into our lives wanting something while we are in the middle of something else. We looked at how Jesus dealt with interruptions. We found that He usually, but not always, stopped what He was doing to meet other peoples' needs. The study suggested that we try tabulating our interruptions during a typical day and evaluate them, even suggesting that these very interruptions might not be interruptions at all, but "God appointments" with the folks who people our world. So I did. I tracked the interruptions of my day.

Before we were even done examining this thought, I had to leave Bible study a half hour early to go back home to pick up  Paul so that we could go to the 11am Lenten services together. When we got done with church I got a call from work asking if I could work on Friday (I can). Then we talked with a member of our congregation whose husband is struggling with cancer and all the attendant health issues that can surround that struggle as well as the sad fact that they are losing their house because the medical bills overwhelmed  their ability to pay all their other bills (like the mortgage), and they don't know where they are going to live when the bank takes over their house which is already in foreclosure.

When we got home I made sure to call my daughter, Paula, to let her know that the new bedspread came and to send her a photo. While doing that I found a message asking me to call  another daughter, Sarah, about a granddaughter that had minor surgery today, and to make sure that I was planning to pick up my grandson, Bradley, from school.

After that call, daughter Paula called back and we talked until I had to leave to pick Bradley up from school, and when I dropped him off Sarah needed to talk about the surgery, so I stayed awhile to visit with her.

As I headed home I stopped for groceries, and when I got home I unpacked them and fixed supper for Paul, and then took a call from my friend, Barb, about a meeting I couldn't make tonight, and then talked with son, Marcus, for awhile on the phone, which has lead to this entry, because I am finally not being interrupted.

And then it occurred to me, those were not interruptions. This is my life. Under what circumstances could  my husband and my church friends, and my dear children possibly be labeled as interruptions? That would happen only when I pursue the self-centered life of an egotist who thinks that her needs and interests and pursuits are the only important things in the world.

Were these God appointments, or God's gifts to me? Whatever they were, they made my day a blessed one!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Vision Beyond My Own

I mentioned to my daughter, Paula, that I wanted to create a place in our bedroom where I could read. I pictured something like a chaise in the corner with a nice lamp beside it. One week later we shopped for and found the perfect chaise. Paula didn't like the color of the walls with that particular piece of furniture, so I spent the next three days painting the bedroom.

Of course it didn't look right without endtables on either side of the bed, so she found and we painted two bedstands white. They look very nice, except now the wall hanging looks weird on the new color, so we picked out something more modern for the wall, which made the bedspread and pillows look too dark and broody.

The new bedspreads should arrive either tomorrow or the next day, and the decorator pillows and side rugs she found should make a grand statement, except the lamp I am now using to read needs replacing, and we really should have matching lamps on the new bedstands.

She has a great idea for the window coverings (the current covering matches the soon to be replaced bedspread) and the dresser is now too big because of adding the chair in the room, and besides it is old and dark brown (we bought it when we were first married...pecan wood) so she is keeping an eye on Craig's list.

Did I mention I really like reading on my new chaise?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back Again

I've been doing some journaling and it occurred to me that since I was writing anyway  I could just as easily share my thoughts with the blogosphere, for whatever that is worth. You see, I am trying to get a deeper understanding of how to follow Jesus. I want to know what it means to be His hands, His eyes, His feet, His voice, etc. to those who people my world.

In order to do that I am going to study the Gospels because they are the written documentation of what Jesus did with His hands, His feet, His voice, etc. while He was here on earth. Right now I am especially interested in what He says, because I am in Matthew 5, and am reading the Sermon on the Mount. (I said I had already been busy journaling, so you will just have to jump in with me on Chapter 5.)

I'm on vs 11-12 today:   "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (NIV)

I read the verses and then asked myself, "What does this mean for me?"

God's Word is a living entity, and His words to me do not always speak the same message from one reading to the next, but today I discovered that I am blessed when I am reviled, persecuted and falsely accused --- but only when I do it for Jesus' sake, not my own. I do not seek persecution in order to prove my faithfulness. Instead, I bear it as He did, to honor the Father. When persecution does happen, though, I  now recognize what is going on, and instead of  fear, my emotional reaction will be one of gladness, knowing that I am following God's will for my life. I am living like the prophets who also served.

My action step is that I must move boldly through life, talking about my faith  freely without fear of rejection, but not looking for it, either.

And that is why I'm back.