Monday, July 2, 2012

The Buck Stops Here

President Harry S. Truman was known for having a sign on his desk that said "The buck stops here". It was his way of saying that he would take responsibility for what came to him and not "pass the buck" to someone else. Maybe you've noticed it, too. There is a whole lot of "passing the buck" in today's culture. Every one has an excuse why "It's not my fault!".

I once heard a definition of an excuse as "A lie disguised as a reason". Sounds kind of harsh, but how often do we offer an excuse when we should just take responsibility?
We are often willing to forgive ourselves for something we wouldn't
let someone else off the hook for. Or we blame someone else for our own response to something that they did. It seems people are more motivated to get out of responsibility than to accept it.

There used to be an accepted standard for right and wrong and everyone knew that doing the right thing was the most important thing. If we examine ourselves we still know what is right and wrong. It's called a conscience and our Creator made us that way. We've learned to ignore that voice because sometimes doing the right thing can be really hard. So we pass the buck and make it someone or something else's fault that we don't do it or someone else's job to do it. We've all got excuses. I'm talking to myself as well!

We each have a tendency toward certain weaknesses, but we can never use that as an excuse for not doing what is right. It may be harder for some of us than others to do what is right in certain situations because of our natural bent, but the decision to do the right thing regardless of our natural bent is always up to us.
I'm through passing the buck. What about you? "The buck stops here"

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Remember the days when teachers took attendance expecting the student response, "Present!"? These days a teacher calling the attendance roll might be lucky enough to get a student who cheerfully answers, "Here!" Working in a school I have noticed students responding to their attendance name call in a variety of ways, many respectful, but often with a bored, matter-of-fact, let's-just-get-this-over-with attitude. How often do you and I approach life that way? Are we truly "present" as we interact with people? Do our families and loved ones really have our attention or are we projecting an attitude that says, "Let's just get this over with. I have something else I'd rather be doing"?

I'll be honest with you. I am pretty tired today and it's hard to be "present" even as I write this.  Yet, this day is just as sacred as any other. If I "check out" while in conversation with those around me, what will I miss and what will I be communicating to them about their value? I understand that we all need a little slack sometimes. Today is definitely one of those days for me! However, I don't want to use fatigue as an excuse to devalue those around me and brush off their concerns. They deserve the best I can give, even if I am not my best.

That's it, short and sweet. Be present. Each day is a gift and each person a unique and valuable creation of God. Is there any better reason to be "present"?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Transit Perspective

' "You see the bigger picture" when you look through the telescope at the heavens, he said. "You don't get so stressed out by living when you realize that we're just this little speck in space." ' That quote was taken from a USA Today article about the many people who took the time and effort to watch the recent Transit of Venus across the sun. The gentleman quoted was identified as a neurosurgeon. What a perspective to have when you are responsible for people's lives! What a perspective to offer them as they face whatever difficulties have brought them to a neurosurgeon.
Years ago I remember my two older children coming home from elementary school in the middle of an argument. Evidently, they had started arguing on the bus and the whole bus heard about it. Of course, I can't remember a thing about the argument now, and if I asked them they probably wouldn't remember it at all.  I was mortified at the time, so disappointed and embarrassed that they would have it out in a public place rather than keeping it quiet and talking, or fighting, about it at home.  I saw it as a reflection on my parenting and felt like a total failure. But as I thought it over and prayed as best as I could in the midst of my mortification, I had a mental picture of the whole earth and then the picture zoomed down until it was a picture of my kids on the bus. Suddenly, the whole thing didn't seem like such a big deal. We talked about it and then it was over.
So often as we face our daily difficulties, or even our larger, more profound difficulties,we get "stressed out". The issue that is troubling us can seem like the most important thing in the world at that moment. Maybe it would be good to keep a photo of the Transit of Venus somewhere to remind us of the larger perspective.
My recent difficulties have not been the kind that put one in "survival mode", although I have experienced those as well. Whether in "survival mode" or daily inconveniences, over the years I have learned to remember that in the larger picture of life these things are just a small speck in transit.  Whatever trial I am going through will come to an end, even the ones that have seemed to last for years. At the very end, when my life is over, my life will be that little speck in transit. Then the transit will be over and I will have a permanent Home elsewhere. Keeping that in mind helps me keep the difficulties of my life in transit perspective.

Dear One, whatever you are going through right now is a speck in transit. I don't mean to minimize your difficulty. A life-threatening illness or financial catastrophe caused by job loss or a fluctuating stock market are not small troubles, nor are the emotional difficulties of strained relationships or personal loss. What I mean to say is that when you and I keep a transit perspective on the larger and smaller difficulties of life it helps us to pass through them knowing that there will be an end and to keep that end in view rather than the trouble of the moment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cliff Hanging

I am a cliff hanger. I know that we usually think of cliffhangers as stories without resolution meant to draw you back for the next installment. No, I don't mean that kind of cliffhanger.

When it is time for me to embark on a new adventure, I tend to stand on the cliff looking over the edge and try to evaluate the situation. I am a thinker. I am not a " ready, shoot, aim" person. I want to look before I leap. I want to know where I'm going to land. The difficulty is that usually when you are standing on the cliff, there is a lot of mist at the bottom and you can't really evaluate what kind of landing you are going to make.

I recently made a jump I'd been trying to evaluate for....well, a long time. Maybe you have experienced a nagging feeling that there is something you are supposed to do. As a Christian, when I feel that way I try to determine if that nagging feeling is the still, small voice of God. Over time I became convinced that in this case it was. But in this situation, I basically tried to talk God out of it. Maybe you've done that, too. When the nagging feeling didn't go away, I determined that it really was God and He wasn't giving up. So, even though I don't really know where I am going to land, I made the jump and obeyed that still, small voice.

The thing about it is that once I went ahead and began the process, "made the jump", a lot of my waffling and attempts to make excuses for not doing it seemed to disappear. I am confident that I jumped off the right cliff, so to speak, and that wherever I land will be the right place at the right time.

Sometimes you just have to jump into new things. When you get right down to it, the reason that I wasn't willing to jump was lack of trust. A lack of trust in my ability to follow through in what God was asking me was not really the problem. At the core, my unwillingness to jump was a lack of trust in God Himself. If He is asking me to do something, to jump off the cliff, then He's got to have the landing all figured out even though I can't see it, right? When I land, I'll tell you more about the trip.

Are you hanging onto a cliff right now? If you are, what is your reason for not making the jump? I can tell you from experience that once you commit yourself and get airborne, the view is going to be awesome. So stop hanging onto the cliff and enjoy the ride!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Having What You Don't Want or Wanting What You Don't Have

"Having what you don't want or wanting what you don't have." I once heard this offered as a definition of suffering. Sound kind of trite? Does it mean more when I tell you that the woman offering the definition had, at that point in her life, outlived two husbands? The second she lost to cancer. The first had died with four others, a missionary to Ecuador murdered by the very tribe they had come to reach. Her name is Elisabeth Elliot. This was a woman who understood deep suffering and yet offered a definition that was intended to include every person listening. Why would she do that? Her intention was to offer an approach to suffering that every person listening could apply no matter what the degree of their suffering, and because she had lived it, what she had to say would grab the attention of her listeners. She definitely grabbed mine!

At the time, I definitely had what I didn't want and wanted what I didn't have. I was a young mom with two small children and I wanted my own home. Instead, I was living in my parents' downstairs family room, with only one car in our family, while my husband had gone back to school to finish a degree. I was spending long days alone with two small children in a situation that I had very little control over. By Elisabeth Elliot's definition I was suffering and I didn't like it! But, what I learned most through that experience was that the only thing I really have control over in situations of suffering is my response. Elisabeth Elliot's words helped me a great deal.

I remember very clearly listening to her message on cassette tape with a Walkman (remember those?) after my children had gone to bed. Within the first few moments she had shared her definition and she had my attention. I also remember very clearly the two aspects of response that she shared with a group of Christian women. Worship and offering. From a Christian perspective, what I understand that to mean is to first recognize that God is God and is somehow a part of whatever my situation of suffering entails and then giving the situation back to Him in trust that somehow He's going to use it for good, either for me or someone else, usually both. In that response is the acceptance of not being in control and then the willingness to relinquish the control to someone else.

Simple, but not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, as I began to apply that response to my situation I found myself less often unhappy and more able to enjoy life as it was. It has become my overall response to life.

Let's face it, we all often have what we don't want and want what we don't have. When that occurs, not if, the only thing you or I can really do is to admit that Someone else is in control and trust Him to make something good of it. Whatever your degree of suffering at the moment, Dear One, I wish you peace.

If you'd like to learn a bit more about Elisabeth Elliot you can click here to visit her website. She is currently 85 years old and suffering from the health issues that come with advanced age. From what her husband posts, since she is no longer able to do this for herself, it seems clear that she has continued to follow her own advice in her current suffering.

This link will take you to a transcript of Elisabeth's past radio program, Gateway to Joy, where she discussed suffering using this definition.  Defining Suffering

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Life, My Fortune and My Sacred Honor

FloydHow many people do you know who can say "We have a signer in the family"? By a "signer" I mean someone who actually signed the Declaration of Independence. Any signers in your family? No? A co-worker casually made this statement the other day. I was flabbergasted that she couldn't remember the name of the ancestor who had actually signed the document that made our country a reality. To her it's just a part of her family's history. I guess I can understand that.

Being somewhat interested in history, I was very interested in the name of her signer, and being that I work in a library I immediately found a book on our shelves that gives a biographical sketch of each signer. My friend recognized the name of her ancestor and our conversation moved on to other things. Since then I have been reading through the book about the signers of the Declaration.

What has impressed me most is that the historical movies I am most familiar with, those that have sparked my interest in and respect for the signers, do not accurately portray these brave, committed men. Historical accuracy has often been sacrificed for the sake of entertainment value. Conflicts seem to have been blown out of proportion, lampooned almost. As I read each brief sketch I am presented with a man who, in many cases, gave exactly what he pledged when he signed. The closing statement of the declaration says this: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

These men counted the cost and had decided ahead of time that they were willing to pay it if necessary. Many spent  their fortunes to fund the war effort. Several had their properties destroyed. Several died having lost everything as a result of their support for the Revolutionary cause. Several became so physically weakened because of their untiring efforts to secure an independent America that their health deteriorated to the point of death before, or shortly after, the successful completion of the war.  Several actually participated in the battles, leading others and suffering all the consequences of war. Few had the chance to fully enjoy the freedom that they had fought for and left to us. Few of us fully understand the cost of that freedom, though some of us say that we do.

If we truly understood the cost, then we would be willing to make the same pledge. How many people do you know that would be willing to make such a pledge for any cause? "Our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." And of those you know willing to make such a pledge, how many do you believe would actually carry it out if necessary? As I contemplate the sacrifice of the signers in order to secure the independence of my country, I am challenged. What cause am I truly passionate about? And if I am passionate, then am I demonstrating that passion by complete commitment? Am I willing to pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor?

You and I could probably think of a handful of people who have actually lived their lives with passion and commitment similar to those of the signers. Their lives serve as examples to inspire us that there are still causes worth pledging our lives to with a "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence".  Without that reliance no cause is worthy or will be successful.

Won't you consider joining me as I endeavor to make such a pledge? I have not yet made it, but I trust that as I count the cost, my reliance on God for strength will enable me to not only make a pledge, but to carry it out if necessary.  A pledge of my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.

Click here to read the Declaration of Independence and learn a little more about the signers by clicking on their names at the end.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MIlestones of a Miracle

It may sound strange, but almost since the first year of our marriage Tom and I have celebrated the anniversary of our engagement. Twenty six years ago on April 19, 1986 we got engaged. That is a miracle. And the fact that we have been happily married for 25 year is a miracle.Miracles need to be remembered and celebrated.
Interestingly enough, we celebrated another odd anniversary this week. It was 32 years ago this month that Tom and I played King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the musical Camelot. It was our senior year of high school. (Yes, we graduated from high school a loooong time ago!) This past weekend our high school alma mater did Camelot again for the first time in 32 years and Tom and I went to see it. We had to see it because Camelot is part of our miracle story.
At the time we did the play in high school our relationship was strained. Tom and I had known each other since elementary school, had been friends and had the potential for a deeper relationship even then. Thankfully, that didn't materialize at the time. We would have been stupid, to put it bluntly, and caused each other a great deal of pain. We were different people then and would have made very different choices. At the time of Camelot, we barely spoke to each other off stage while we portrayed a married couple on stage. That is what makes Camelot a part of our miracle story.
Even without speaking to each other offstage we were able to connect with the characters and their relationship as portrayed in the musical. Arthur and Guinevere came together through an arranged marriage but grew in affection and respect for each other. He dreamed of leading his kingdom well and changing things for the better while she encouraged him, helped him think things through and supported his efforts. If you know the story, then you know everything fell apart when Lancelot came on the scene, but even when Guinevere's passion turned to Lancelot, she never stopped caring for Arthur or believing in his dream. We connected so deeply with the characters that the end of the production was difficult. Tom pulled me aside to "say good-bye" at a cast party and in response, I wrote a letter from "Guinevere" to "Arthur" encouraging him to hold on to his dreams. He still has the letter.
I like to say that years later Tom and I "met again in church". Both our lives had changed dramatically as a result of our individual commitments to Christ. If we had come together before that time our story would have probably been similar to Arthur and Guinevere in that it would have ended in pain to us both. The miracle is that we came together at all and that because of our changed lives we have been able to succeed where Guinevere and Arthur failed.
So, we celebrate the milestones of our miracle, like our engagement anniversary or 25 years of marriage. We know who we were. Guinevere and Arthur remind us who we were and make us very grateful for who we have become.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Four Things I Learned From Tim Tebow

 I was excited to try out technology new to me. I was looking through digital books I could borrow from the library to read on my iPhone or Kindle when I happened upon Tim Tebow's autobiography, "Through My Eyes". So I thought, "Why not?" and borrowed it. As I read it and got to know this young NFL player a bit better, I think I understood why a kid who was not even 24 years old at the time of writing would even think about publishing a memoir. Interestingly, the book was written on the heels of his successful college career and drafting into the NFL before he came into the forefront at the end of the 2011 NFL season. I am sure it was meant to capitalize on that popularity, but was released into wider recognition. Providential? Perhaps.

Regardless of his intention, here are four things I learned from this kid, Tim Tebow.

1. Who says age makes a difference?!  At the young age of 23, recently out of college and starting a new job, Tim Tebow wrote a book about his life. Does it seem somewhat arrogant? Perhaps. Yet people were interested in him, his life and his college career. One thing I know from living in the South for a brief time, football is HUGE and college football is REALLY HUGE. Coming from the South and achieving notoriety as a college football player made Tebow a celebrity there. Why should he wait until he's older to write a book that his college football fans might be interested in? How often have I hesitated to do something because I thought I was too young or too old and lost the opportunity? Tebow decided his age didn't matter and wrote a book that became a best-seller. Who says age makes a difference?

2. Working hard never killed anyone. As Tebow described growing up on a family-run farm in Florida and then his days training for football I was shaking my head trying to understand someone who would endure so much physical discomfort and push himself so hard to be his best as a player. His farm days taught him to work hard, but in training he worked even harder. He seems to be driven in a way that most of us can't even fathom. Yet, that drive and discipline has paid off professionally and also translates into hard work in his other pursuits. How hard am I willing to work to pursue the things I dream about? Have I been willing to put aside personal comfort in order to achieve a goal? Maybe it's time for me to work harder and be more disciplined. Working hard never killed anyone.

3.I need to use whatever platform I have to help others. Even as a college football player, Tebow has continually used his platform of notoriety as a vehicle to raise money for charities and help those in need. Kids in hospitals, orphans in the Philippines, and prisoners are among those he has set out to visit or raise money for. As soon as he became an NFL player he started a foundation to continue to raise money for the causes he has been involved with. The stated mission of the Tim Tebow Foundation is "to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need." An ambitious mission to be sure. I am almost certain that the proceeds from his book are being used to fund the foundation rather than Tim Tebow. Why wait to write a book until his popularity wanes when he has a platform now to "create a brighter day"?  Am I using my much smaller platform to do the most good I can while I can? I think not. I need to use whatever platform I have to help others.

4. Let faith fuel my passion. In his book Tebow shares that his mom and dad chose homeschooling as the education vehicle for all their kids. Tim's mom assigned him a project on Eric Liddell, known to many of us from the movie, "Chariots of Fire". Tebow shares how he identified with Eric Liddell. Like Liddell, he felt that God had made him for ministry, but also for another purpose. Liddell eventually became a missionary to China, but Tebow quotes the scene in the movie where Liddell tells his sister "I believe God made me for a purpose. For China. But He also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure." Tebow feels that way about football and it is that faith that fuels his passion for the game. It is also that faith that fuels his passion for life and for helping others. Like Eric Liddell his faith can't be separated for his performance. It is the very root of everything he does, including football. I describe myself as a person of faith, a committed Christian like Tim Tebow. How does my faith translate to passion? Have I let that passion truly ignite in me? It's time to let faith fuel my passion.

I learned a lot from this kid. What about you?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

No coffee!

One of my favorite musical theater moments comes from one of my least favorite musicals, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". In the musical number "Coffee Break" an office full of workers express their despair and dismay that their is "No coffee! No coffee!". An entire musical number is dedicated to their plight. It is is one of the funniest moments in the play.

Good writers of comedy understand that people laugh when they see truth exaggerated. They laugh because they see themselves or someone they know in the comedic character, but most often they won't admit it! "Coffee Break" exaggerates our national coffee addiction. Many of us would recognize our own reaction to "No coffee!", albeit a hyperbolic one. Of course, it might not seem funny first thing in the morning!

So why do I bring this up? It's the week the Christian calendar refers to as Holy Week. The week leading up to Easter, the celebration of Christ's resurrection. The final week of Lent, a time of reflection meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter. It's a tradition to "give up" during Lent as a way to remind ourselves to be in reflection. This year I gave up coffee.

I have occasionally mentioned that to people and their reaction would fit right in "Coffee Break"! To them the thought of "No coffee!" seemed a monumental sacrifice. My sacrifice was so abysmally small compared to His. Even so, I did it because I don't want anything so insignificant to have a place of control in my life. I did it because I dreaded the thought of giving up coffee. That should not be! Do I love coffee more than Christ? How silly!

Have I missed coffee? Sometimes. But not as much as I thought I would. Will I enjoy having coffee on Sunday? Absolutely! But not for coffee's sake. I will enjoy it because I can live without it. I will enjoy it as a way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and to celebrate His place in my life. A place that I don't want to be overshadowed by something so insignificant as a beverage!

No coffee! No problem. Not now.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

If The Shoe Fits

It's a small thing. I needed new black shoes for an event. I had a general idea what I wanted, but was open to what I could find. How hard could that be?

But we live in America, the land of endless choices and expensive prices.
I went to one store where the price was reasonable, but the height of the heels were not! I won't go on about that. I found only one pair worth trying on and was quickly out of the store.

The next store offered more choice, but higher prices. I resigned myself to paying more than I wanted to and finally settled on a pair that was comfortable as well as dressy.

Because I always feel like I need to make sure I've explored every option, I took my selection and headed to the clearance racks just to make sure. There I found a pair more comfortable, with more pizazz and at half the price! The first selection went back on the shelf and I checked out happy. No, not happy. Satisfied.

Why was I satisfied? The truth about you and I is that every decision we make is an indicator of our priorities. I was satisfied because this small choice of a new pair of shoes, something insignificant, allowed me to meet my priorities. I could meet my need without being what to me would be extravagant. When I wear them I will continue to feel satisfied because I prefer to use money for more practical and worthy causes.

It is said that one of the best indicators of a person's priorities is their checkbook. I hope that if you were to take a look at mine you would not see me helping myself to a variety of useless purchases. I hope that you would see priorities that include meeting the needs of my family and helping others.

What does your checkbook say about your priorities? Does the "shoe fit"?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whatever Happens

Do you excuse your own bad behavior like I do? So many times I can excuse my own impatience or unkind comment by basically quoting the old playground excuse: "She (or he) started it!". As if someone else's bad behavior was responsible for mine! The one thing I always tell my kids is that the only thing we are really responsible for is ourself and our own reaction to things. So, why do I miss when I am shirking that responsibility?

I suppose it's easy to miss when you're close to the situation, but I've recently been challenged to be more vigilant in catching my own self-justification. The challenge came from a short phrase of Scripture that I had read many times before, but this time I took the time to really think about it.

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."(Philippians 1:27a) "Whatever happens". That "whatever" tells me that I have no excuses for poor behavior. As someone who professes to be, not just a Christian, but a committed follower of Jesus, how I react reflects not only on me, but on the gospel of Christ as well. I don't have room for excuses. Of course, I am human and will, at times, react poorly, but it is at those times that how I handle myself becomes even more important. It is then that I have to stand up and admit my wrong and ask for forgiveness from the person I have wronged.

Personally, I am much better at self-justification than apologies. I am actually so good at it that I can fully convince myself that I did nothing wrong. But in order to "conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" I'm going to have to get a whole lot better at being honest with myself as well as apologizing.

So, if you catch me at one of those moments when I need to be honest and apologize, recognize that I am still working on it. Then maybe you can gently remind me that I wrote this and you can say "Well, YOU started it!" and maybe you'll be able to see me conduct myself in a worthy manner. That is my hope and my goal.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new

Finding time to write this week has been a bit tricky as we have been doing a very slight redecoration of our family room. In order to accommodate my husband's new flat screen TV we had to purchase new furniture (all thanks to Christmas gift money). Since Christmas, the new TV has been sitting on top of the old entertainment center. You know, the kind with the square center for your old style TV to fit? Oh yeah, and the old TV was still sitting there, too. Very attractive! So we finally found furniture that would meet our need and our budget. This weekend it was out with the old and in with the new!

The "new" part is always exciting. I admit that I hate the idea of "put-together" furniture. Once I choose it I just want to move it in! But the process of moving in the new not only requires the building of the new, but also the moving out of the old. We found that the old piece was just too heavy to move and we actually had to destroy it just to get it out!

Change rarely happens effortlessly. I mean the kind of change that moves toward improvement. Whether it is changing a room, changing a law or changing a life great, concentrated effort is often required. Sometimes, the old might need to be totally destroyed in order to make room for the new.

The Lenten season is a good time for examining old life patterns and determining to make room for some new ones. Don't be afraid to use the spiritual sledge hammer if necessary!

Friday, February 24, 2012


This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC with eighth graders from our school. Although I have been to our nation's capital before, this was my first chaperone experience. The more experienced chaperones felt that the group on our bus, more than any other group they had taken to DC, just didn't get it.
What this group didn't seem to get was not just the historical significance of where we were, but also the concept of respect for those who've gone before and made sacrifices that we now benefit from. Whether it was our tour guide whose experience enabled us to travel easily through the city and learn a great deal about it and it's history, or those being memorialized by the various monuments, most of this group was unimpressed.
The teachers in charge were frustrated and did their best to try to make that connection for the students, but I know they felt like they had failed. I don't believe that they did.
As parents, or as adults responsible for training children, we feel successful when we are sure the children in our care have "got it". The truth is that many times they don't get it the first time or even the twentieth time. Does that mean that we give up? Of course not! We keep training and giving them the information they need until they begin to connect for themselves. The difficulty for these teachers was that they only had these students for a brief period if time. They didn't get a chance to see the connection, but they did fulfill their responsibility. They taught. They imparted information and they reiterated the need for respect. At some point in the future these kids will get it. They will understand. They will appreciate. The teachers who guided them through this trip won't get to see it, but their influence will be felt all the same.
I understand the frustration these teachers felt. I have often felt that way as a parent. It's difficult not to feel like I've failed when my kids don't seem to get what I've put effort into teaching. I've had to remind myself that training kids is a marathon. The results are still in the distance. Unlike these dedicated teachers, I will have the opportunity to see my kids "get it". That will be a glorious day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Circumstances beyond our control

Ever feel like life is just swirling around you? Events seem to cascade by before you can really process them. Things you never imagined could happen begin to happen. Before you realize it, life as you know it is completely changed. Sometimes those changes are for the better and other times...

My place of work is in a time of tremendous upheaval. Unanticipated changes are occurring and more are on the way. People's lives are being drastically changed and the ripples of their changes affect the whole community. The hard part for all involved, from those delivering the changes to those receiving them, to everyone affected by them, is that no one really feels like they have control.

It's really tempting to try to fix blame. I hear many people trying to blame someone for the challenges we are all facing. I've even caught myself trying to find someone to blame. It's easier for me to fix blame on a nameless, faceless "entity" than on a person or people, but really, in the end, what good does it do any of us to fix blame? It gives us a place to direct our anger because we feel like something wrong is happening, but does it really solve anything? I suppose by being able to direct anger it gives us some sense of control, but the truth is, we have none. That is, we have no control over the circumstances.

At the end of the day, however, there is one area each of us does have control over. We each have control over our own attitude and our own responses to these circumstances beyond our control. I, for one, don't want to allow these swirling circumstances to keep me afraid or angry. I want to face each new challenge with faith that in the end I can grow from whatever difficulty I personally face, and that somehow these circumstances can work for the good of each person affected. I want to be someone that others can lean on while we all face difficulties. I don't want anger or bitterness to keep others away from me or cause them additional pain.  I can be a source of continued anguish and reignited anger or I can be a source of help, comfort and healing.  My choice is made. That's what I have control over.

Scripture encourages us to "weep with those who weep", but also that God is "the god of all comfort" and with the comfort He gives we can comfort others. As I face these circumstances beyond my control, I want to find and give comfort and hope rather than spout anger and blame. You may be facing your own tornado of change right now, your own "circumstances beyond your control". I pray that you will find and give comfort, hope and healing in the midst of your trial.

Blessings, Friend.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Jessica Buchanan. Does that name ring a bell? No? What if I said she is an American woman who was rescued by Navy SEALS from her Somalian captors not long ago? Does that sound familiar? I would bet you remember hearing that in the news even if you didn't recognize her name. So, why do I bring her up and what does Jessica Buchanan have to do with me?

I heard of her capture months ago from a young friend of ours who had gone to college with her. That college is my connection with her. She attended Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Many people had never heard of it until Jessica's rescue. That is the college my son attends. Not only that, my husband serves on the Board of Trustees for VFCC. These connections made me very interested in Jessica and her story, her "fifteen minutes of fame", if you will.

For a few days Jessica was international news. The AP and BBC and CNN and every other news source carried, not only the story of her capture and rescue, but the story of how she got to Somalia in the first place. This made Valley Forge Christian College international news as well since it was through her experience at VFCC that she "fell in love with Africa" and decided to go there as a missionary. So Jessica's "fifteen minutes of fame" also included VFCC. Dr. Don Meyer, President of the college, was interviewed on ABC, CNN and several other TV news outlets. He was quoted in an AP news bulletin which was quoted in USA Today and BBC news articles among any others. For a few days there were news trucks at the college. And then everything was back to normal.

So, in her few moments of fame,what did people say about Jessica ? What was said about VFCC? What would I want to be my legacy if I had the same opportunity for "fifteen minutes of fame"?

There were just enough details shared about Jessica to depict her as a passionate young woman, in love with Africa, who sold everything she had to serve Africa's people, first as a teacher and most recently as education director for a Danish relief organization. When Dr. Meyer spoke to the media he came across as the genuine, caring man I have met. The focus of his comments were on Jessica and the many prayers the VFCC community had prayed for her as one of their own.

What does all this media exposure mean for the future of VFCC? Will their enrollment increase? Will financial support of the college increase... or will the college quietly continue the work it has always done that produces many people like Jessica Buchanan?  What does it mean for Jessica? Will she write a book or will there be a movie made about her experience... or will she just go back to Africa and continue doing what she loved before all of this happened? What will people remember after all the dust finally settles?

If it were you or I in the spotlight, what would people be saying about us? Before all this happened no considered Jessica Buchanan or Valley Forge Christian College newsworthy. Actions by others brought them to attention. Who's to say that someone else's actions might not bring your or I into the public eye? Could my life bear the scrutiny? Would my character inspire others? Would my life speak the way that Jessica's has to many? And after it was all over... would I miss the attention or would I just go on the way I always have and try to make some kind of difference in my small sphere of influence?

Things to think about. What do you think?

Here are a few links to articles about Jessica Buchanan. If you missed them I hope they inspire you as they have inspired me.

Jessica Buchanan Sold Her Belongings to become a Missionary

Jessica Buchanan, Dedicated Teacher, Lover of Africa

Friday, January 20, 2012


"Renew: to make like new, restore to freshness, vigor or perfection. Regenerate, revive, repeat, rebuild, replenish"
The definition of the word "renew" and some of its synonyms paints a picture of fresh life and restoration. Still I don't know that any of those words truly capture what our family felt as we gathered for a special celebration. In honor of twenty-five years of marriage my husband and I renewed our wedding vows in a small church ceremony.

For our children, who stood as our renewal wedding party, there was no sense of "repeat". They weren't there twenty-five years ago. Yet for them it was an opportunity to hear Tom and I restate the commitments we made so long ago. Hopefully for them it was a restatement of what they have seen us walk out throughout their lives.

For our parents there was a new sense of awareness of the passage of time as they remembered, not only our wedding, but our childhoods. Perhaps there was also a recognition that Tom and I have reached a milestone that they themselves have experienced and a new pride in us and our accomplishment. They know how hard it is to keep the marriage commitment. They have done it themselves.

For Tom and I there was joy and excitement. Joy in the celebration of our past journey with its trials and triumphs and excitement for where that journey may take us in the future.

Above all those emotions there was a deep sense of gratitude to God. When we said our vows the first time we believed our commitment was not only to each other, but to Him. There were times when keeping that commitment proved difficult, yet we both were aware that we weren't in this alone and His grace was going to be enough to help us through.

"Like new"? "Restore to freshness"?I don't think so. We have worked hard to keep our relationship fresh. For us I think our vow renewal is a celebration of victory for the past and recommitment for the future. As we have told young people we know: Happily ever after is possible. It takes a lot of hard work and an abundant supply of grace!

Friday, January 13, 2012


At this time of year everyone is thinking new. January means a new year, reflection on the year that's past and hope for the year to come. I've probably shared one of my favorite quotes before, but it bears repeating. It's from "Anne of Green Gables": Every day is fresh, with no mistakes in it." I love that! I expect that's why most of us love the New Year.

But with every new venture there is also an element of discomfort. We don't know what to expect. We may have to learn something that stretches us. We may feel foolish as we make mistakes. We may face unexpected challenges. We may face unwanted circumstances out of our control.

As exciting as new is, it helps to keep in mind that new also brings the unfamiliar. Yet, the unfamiliar ALWAYS brings growth. As I share this with you from my new smartphone, I realize how even a new piece of inanimate technology can widen my world and cause me to extend my reach. You will probably hear from me more consistently since I can blog on the go.

I look forward to sharing more time with you as I continue to stretch and grow. Why don't you come along, dear one?