Thanks for your prayers for my dad. He went home from the hospital today (actually, I guess it is so late that he went home yesterday). He is doing much better. I appreciated your prayers very much. I could not type in teh hospital, but made some notes about my thoughts and all that was going on. Here is how my week went from today on back.
October 25, 2007 Desires of my heart
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Psalm 145:16 (NIV)
Last night, I saw a video clip on another blogger’s post. Go here to see who http://vitaminsea.typepad.com/vitaminsea/. The clip http://www.maniacworld.com/Phone-Salesman-Amazes-Crowd.html is from a British television show called Briton has Talent. It shows a frumpy looking man in an ill fitting suit walking across a stage towards three judges, one of whom is Simon Cowell, of American Idol fame. The narrator says that he is a cell phone salesman named Paul Potts. When asked what he is there to do, he replies he came to sing opera. The judges roll their eyes, and Simon even ducks his head as though in pain. Taped music begins to play while this round faced man with terrible teeth stands awkwardly before the microphone. Then, he opens his mouth to sing and an amazing thing happens. His voice is breathtaking. The audience stills and along with the judges sit in rapt silence soaking in the beauty of the moment. When he hits a high note, strong and powerfully, the audience rises in a standing ovation. The female judge has tears in her eyes. Sitting in my house watching on my computer, light years away from the actual performance, I am also moved. I am witnessing a man’s dream coming true. What impresses me is that it is not the result of magic, but of hard work. Years of trying. Obstacles overcome. Scrimping and saving to pay for music lessons and opera workshops. Performing in amateur productions and benefits for free. When he stops singing, he becomes the shy retiring cell phone salesmen once more, yet the theater is full of applause. The judges are quick with their praise and through it all, Paul Potts appears stunned by what has just happened. He wins the competition. Today, I bought his CD. It is playing now as I type and though I do not understand a word of the Italian song that Paul Potts sings, he reminds me that my dreams can come true as well. But, only if I am willing to invest the time and effort. What does that have to do with the Bible verse above? Those words seem to be contradictory to Paul Potts’ story. Don’t I believe in miracles you ask? Yes, I do. I believe that God has promised to satisfy the desires of my heart. Sometimes, He grants them totally as a surprise, but others He expects me to do my part. My desire is to publish a novel. I held it in check for a long time afraid to try for fear that I would fail. This year, I finally sat down and wrote it. Now, I struggle with editing and proofreading. When that is done, there will be query letters and rejection notices. Along the way, I believe that God will intervene, open doors and give direction. I do not work alone. Like Paul Potts, I must walk out on that stage and take the risk of failing while trusting that God will work as well. Then, the miracle takes place.
October 24, 2007 Pride Goeth Before a Fall
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
I struggle with pride. Despite the fact that I know for sure that I am nothing without God’s grace and that everything I have and do comes from His Hand. I have a good education provided by God’s blessing and my parent’s wealth. I have a smart mind also given my God and good genes. Doors have opened for me that came from a life of privilege and God’s timing. I recognize God’s handiwork on all parts of my life, but I must remind myself of it continually, for it is hard not to get caught up in thinking it is all about me. Sometimes, no, scratch that, a lot of the time, I get unbalanced. It is hard in my line of work because I am in the public eye so much. A lot of what I do is praised and applauded. People tell me a lot what a good job I do. I speak to groups and they tell me how marvelous I am. I plan programs that are well received, and do research that makes a difference in our community. The problems come when I remember my intelligence, my gifts, and my hard work and forget that it comes from Him. I think about my career and all that I have accomplished in those years. I remember the letters, the awards, the successes and I get all puffed up. Unchecked, I turn into a showoff. That was my attitude when I commented on a fellow bloggers post about some Florida history elements. I wrote a paragraph about the different names that people have for the Civil War and about the maritime history of our state. I thought it was witty and insightful as well as knowledgeable and intelligent. I made fun of some southerner’s heritage and put down a way of life. Basically, I was acting like a know it all. Yet, I failed to proof read my comment before I submitted it. When posted on the Internet for all to see, it was full of errors including a reference to fisherman who have turned to crapping not crabbing as I intended to write. I made several readers snicker and post comments laughing at my mistake. It is out there for the whole world to see. Like a balloon riding high in the air, one good poke of the pin and I fell flat on my face. What can keep me humble? Only choosing to remember not my puny efforts, but the magnificent work of my Heavenly Father in my life. His handprints are all over everything that I do and that has been done for me. He gives me the words, the ideas, the resources. When I am tempted to blow my own horn, I need to boast on Him instead. Then, I never have to worry about falling for He lifts up those who seek to glorify Him. I don’t mind being flat on my face when I am in worship of the Almighty One.
October 23, 2007 Antibiotic
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Matthew 15:3-9 (NIV)
The doctors have finally figured out what is wrong with my dad. He overdosed himself on antibiotics and killed all the good bacteria in his stomach. He neglected to tell anyone that he put himself on a strong dose of an antibiotic as a preventative before and after dental work. When a very smart doctor recognized from my dad’s intake forms at the hospital that he had recently undergone a root canal and that probably meant a course of antibiotics she asked him about this medications and figured out what he had not told his other doctors. She said, “I think we know what is wrong with you now.” He took the medication for three weeks, and when he suffered from food poisoning, his intestinal tract had nothing to combat it with. After being sick for almost two weeks and not being able to eat any solid food for almost all that time, I think he has learned a lesson. So has his daughter. I guess I come from a long line of wanna be physicians. My dad was a medic in the navy at the tail end of the Korean War. Many times, he was the only medical expert on board his ship. He treated all kinds of illnesses, sewed up wounds and did minor surgery. My mom keeps the Merck Manual and The Pill Book handy to study symptoms and the side effects of medicines. After doctor’s visits, she goes straight to her books to decipher what the doctors have just told her. I am guilty of keeping my own antibiotic stash. Once a doctor told me that I should have gone to medical school when I properly diagnosed my child’s illness. I took it as a compliment, but looking back, I wonder if he wasn’t being sarcastic. Learning that Dad’s misuse of a normally good medicine made me think of this teaching by Jesus. Here, he is talking to the Pharisees and religious leaders who took God’s laws and distorted them. While they had been taught in the Ten Commandments to honor their mother and father, instead, they chose to take the money that would have been used to take care of their elderly parents and dedicate it to the temple. What sounds like a good thing was really a way to avoid responsibility for their family. Thought the money was dedicated for God’s Work, they could use it for their own benefit. In the meantime, their parents had no support. How many times am I guilty such convoluted thinking? I interpret scripture, make up “rules” about the Christian life or listen to false teaching just for my own convenience. I use them to judge others, to make myself seem a better Christian, or to avoid doing what I know is God’s will for my life. Yet, God looks at my heart, not at what I do or say. If I am not careful what on the surface looks very good, in reality, can be deadly.
October 22, 2007 What are you reading?
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11 (KJV)
I read that good writers are good readers. These days, I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I have beside my couch a basketful of books that await my attention. I usually read several books at a time. It is not that I have a short attention span, but my interests are wide. Sometimes, I find nonfiction needs to be read in bits and pieces so I have time to absorb the information while I get compulsive about a fiction book and cannot put it down until I have finished it or cheated and read the last chapter. That is the reason that I have allowed the last Harry Potter book to sit at the bottom of my basket for months now. I know as soon as I read the first sentence I will be trapped in my chair for days until I read the closing paragraph. Besides Harry Potter, my book basket holds a novel by Liz Curtis Higgs called Thorn in My Heart.. I studied its outline when I laid out the chapters in my own novel. I have several books on writing, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel, Getting Your Book Published for Dummies, Writing the Blockbuster Novel, and The Shortest Distance Between You and A Published Book. They are all marked up and highlighted. Inspiration as I slog through the business of getting my novel ready for publication. You can tell my other interests by looking in my book basket. My gardener side shows with Native Florida Plants and my love of traveling with Great American Motorcycle Tours and Ride Guide to America. I have three Bible Study books, Becoming a Woman of Influence, A Woman of Moderation and Six Basics of A Balanced Life. Not surprisingly, A Woman of Moderation is still untouched. I have two books on dating by Joshua Harris that a young friend asked me to read. Then, there is one of my favorite books, I Saw the Lord by Anne Graham Lotz in there as well. I quote from that book a lot, especially to friends who are experiencing turmoil in their lives. Finally, there is one I have yet to read by an author I heard speak earlier this year. It is by Carol Kent and called A New Kind of Normal. Its subtitle reads, “Hope Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down.” While all these books can instruct me in my hobbies and strengthen my passions, the book that I depend upon most is my Bible. Its pages are frayed, the binding is worn, and it is heavily underlined. In it is wisdom, comfort, inspiration and example. It may not make sense to some, but I find the more I read my Bible, the better writer that I am. Not only do I find direction for my writing, but God’s message to me and anyone else who wants to know Him better comes through in my writing when I spend time in His.
October 21, 2007 Cleaning Frenzy
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17 (NIV)
I spent my afternoon cleaning. I had not intended to use the day that way, but it just happened. I have been planning for months to redecorate our kitchen and breakfast room with horse stuff. I collected horse statues when I was a little girl and since I got a horse of my own five years ago have also accumulated more as well as horse pictures, sayings and wall hangings. This summer, I bought some artwork made of metal depicting two horses running. It is about three foot long and I planned on putting it above our big breakfast room window inside an arched shape window. My husband finally got around to building the shelf for it to rest on. It looks really cool inside the room with the sun behind it in the day, and at night, with the lights on, it is visible from the outside of the house. I also bought a horse towel rack which he hung as well as some shelves for my childhood collection of Breyer horses. I like the way everything turned out, but as I stepped back to admire it, I noticed the curtains looked faded. I went to the store and bought new valances. I had been looking for just the right style for months and then there it was, just waiting for me to buy. Of course, I had to have the table cloth and chair cushions that matched while I was at it. Before I could hang the valances, I had to clean the windows and window sills. That made the walls look dusty so I scrubbed them as well. Before I could put the chair cushions and table cloth out, I took the kitchen table and chairs outside and scrubbed them down. I think that there was some food ground into the chair back that had been there since my teenager was a baby. Yuck. As one clean area revealed dirt in the next, I worked my way around the room. By the time I was done, a task I have been ignoring because of the sheer enormity of it, was completed. I really like the changes and the fact that for at least one day, that room was clean. It made me think of how so often I avoid making changes in myself because it just seems to hard. I think about all the ways I could improve, then, get overwhelmed because I try to do too much, too fast. A better approach would be like my cleaning job today. Start out with one thing. Then, move onto the next. Unlike my kitchen project, don’t try to do a life makeover in one day. Pick one thing, focus upon that. With God’s help, get it under control. Then, move on to the next area that the Holy Spirit reveals to you. Before you know it, things will be brighter and shiner and much much cleaner! And you will accomplish it without the stress of a complete overhaul.
October 20, 2007 Shopping Trip
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)
I went shopping for a horse trailer and came home with a dining table. I’ve been preoccupied with buying a horse trailer lately. Since I bought my horse five years ago, I depend on others to take us places. My friend is most accommodating, but on occasion, she only goes because I want to and not because she does. I am especially nervous about not having a trailer in hurricane season. If a storm should come our way, how will I evacuate my horse? We can borrow one, but my husband always ends up servicing it before he thinks it is roadworthy. I have been saving and found a horse trailer on the Internet about an hour from our house that looked like it might suit. So, my husband agreed to go and take a look. It turned out to be a disappointment. While, I know I cannot afford something new and whatever we get will need some work, this was a rust bucket and very small. We knew immediately we wasted our time. As we drove home, I saw a store that some of my friends rave about. It is a combination furniture, home decorating and craft store. I thought I might find something to buy and donate to our church auction, so we decided to stop. We were not looking for furniture because we hardly ever buy furniture. The last piece we bought new was our kitchen table and that was fifteen years ago. Most everything we own came to us as hand me downs. My husband doesn’t see the need to invest in furniture and really, I don’t either. I spend my money on stuff like horses, books and rose bushes. Or college tuition and cars for children. When we walked into the store, about ten feet from the front door was a beautiful oak dining table. It was big enough to seat ten around it. My husband walked right over to it, sat in one of the chairs leaned back and said, “I like this table.” Surprise. Not only had he noticed a table, but he liked it as well. So did I. Our current dining table was purchased by my parents in 1967, and the chairs are starting to fall apart. I am always afraid one will give way and dump a guest on the floor. Then, he said, “I think we should buy it.” Had aliens taken over my husband? We talked about how we would pay for it. Of course, I had my trailer money burning a hole in my pocket. But, I did not want to spend all of it. He agreed to pay for half and that is how we came home with a dining table instead of a horse trailer. As Christians, we also need to be flexible. Sometimes, we think we are supposed to go one way, but God leads us another. God prefers obedience, but sometimes that means we have to change directions.
October 19, 2007 Eye Doctor
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? Matthew 7: 2-4 (NIV)
I took a day off work intending to spend some time with youngest son. October is such a beautiful month in Florida, and we longed to be outside. He had the day out of school and so, we planned to go for a bike ride in his favorite park. Instead, I took my mom to the eye doctor. With my dad ill, she was planning on driving herself to the eye doctor and then, waiting until her eyes were no longer dilated before coming home. She had not told me because she did not want me to feel obligated to help. I didn’t feel obligated, but I did want to help so I offered to take her. My child loves his grandma so he understood the need to delay our fun. As I sat in the waiting room while she had her exam, I watched all the people come in and out of the office. Some were there for new contacts. A teenage boy tried them on for the first time. He stared intently in the mirror. Perhaps it was the first time he clearly saw his face without glasses in a long time. Others came in for new glasses. I sympathized with a woman who was torn between economy and getting a prettier pair. Many came to get their glasses adjusted. One older gentleman who came in all bent over with a cane was surprised that the girl who fixed his crooked frames did not charge him for the service. He kept trying to pay her, but she refused. He left smiling at her kindness. Another woman received the same assistance, but she was grumpy. Nothing suited her. Despite her dissatisfaction, the same girl pleasantly tried to help. The woman left just as grouchy as she came in, but her glasses were straight upon her face at least. I admired the girl for being so patient in the face of such harassment. When my mom came out, she said she would have to come back in a month. The doctor is concerned about some bleeding behind her eyes. They took a picture of the inside of her eye to compare it to next month. Thinking of eyes reminded me of these verses. God does not need a machine or camera to see inside our eyes. He knows what is there and in our hearts as well. We all have faults. I could condemn the grumpy lady and say she should be more like the contented man. Yet, I do not know what hardship she had suffered that day. Perhaps she was in pain or sad. Perhaps she was worried about how she would pay for a new pair of glasses. Only God can look inside her heart to know what made her the way she was. God calls us to be like that clerk who despite the meanness thrust her way remained patient and willing to help. Each of us has our own faults. Who are we to judge another?
October 18, 2007 Manure Grader
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
The horses have three acres to graze and play, but for some reason, they have chosen to use the fence line that separates their pasture from our house as a toilet. They stand there and drop their manure right on the property line. They could not get closer to our house unless they came through the gate and walked right up to the porch. Because the garage, my husband’s favorite place to play is also right there, he smells the manure more than I do locked away inside the air conditioned house. It also attracts flies. So, he very kindly asked me to pick it up and dispose of it using my manure spreader. Now, I clean the stalls at least once a day, but if it is out in the pasture, I don’t bother to pick it up. I figure eventually the rain will wash it away. But, he is very patient about the horses, so when he asked, I agreed to clean up a bit more. I tried but my plastic manure fork broke as it tangled in the grass and vines when I scooped up the manure to put it in the cart. He complained again and I explained the difficulty. “Fine,” he snapped. “I’ll do it myself.” He went out and bought a metal manure rake and spent an hour cleaning up a small portion of what was there. The next thing I knew, he was back in the garage, construing a contraption made of chain link and car tires that he could pull behind the tractor to grade the ground and grind up the manure without having to pick it up and put it into the manure spreader. Ah, ha. Though I had not planned it, that is what I wanted in the first place! It is not a much simpler task and a lot less trouble. Besides, he won’t let me use the tractor, so now that is a chore he will have to do. I win all the way around. When it came down to it, I didn’t have to tell him how much work it was. He wouldn’t have listened. What it took was him trying to do it himself to know. Even with a metal manure fork, it was a lot of work and there was an easier way to do it. Sometimes, we judge other people and think that they should do things a certain way. But, once we try to live in their skin a little while, we realize why they act the way they do and we can empathize with them. We are a lot more helpful and kind when we understand what they really need instead of deciding what we think that they need. It takes my husband ten minutes with the tractor to do what it took me an hour to do with a rake. It just took him a little time at the end of a manure fork to understand how he could really help!