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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Happily Camp with 3 Cats

 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.
                                                                                    1st John 4:18

My husband and I enjoy camping, and we always take our three cats. 

At first, I was very worried about those cats.  They are indoor cats and have very seldom been outside.  They mainly stay away from the doors at the house because we keep shoo-ing them away.  But what if one got out at a campground, ran away, and we never saw her again?  I would never forgive myself.

After some thought, I decided to use an old but useful apparatus called Mr. Behavior Modification.  It comes in a handy spray bottle filled with water. 

So off we went on our first trip with the cats. 

While we were getting organized after reaching the campsite, I placed Mr. Behavior Modification on the outside step.  Meanwhile, Gracie, Trudie and Satin were fascinated by this new location and sat at the screen door while sniffing the air and watching anything that moved.  

When I approached the door from the outside, I would say “Get back!” and spray a little water in their faces.  They absolutely loathed it and would run to the other end of the camper (which was only 24 feet away!).  It took about twice for each cat to learn to move away from that door when I said the magic words, “Get back!”

One more victory for Mr. Behavior Modification!

Basically, the cats were doing something I didn’t want them to do, so I used fear as a motivation for behavioral change.  Normally they’re not afraid of me, but they learned to be when I punished them.  They developed the fear of a face-full of water if they didn’t get away from that door.  Fear expects punishment. 

It’s the same way with the world.  We all live in fear of all kinds of punishments.  When we’ve said something in anger, we fear a broken relationship.  When we can’t pay the mortgage, we fear homelessness.  When we hear of layoffs, we fear losing our job.

How can love drive all of that away?  How can love help pay the mortgage or keep someone employed?

Because God is love.  So if you substituted God for love in that last paragraph, it would look like this:  How can God drive all of that away?  How can God help pay the mortgage or keep someone employed?

And now that we’ve seen it put that way, it’s a little clearer on how this love thing works.  God takes care of everything in one way or another.  Loving God through times of trouble makes the bond between us stronger. 

God’s love is perfect, but he doesn’t expect that from us.  He does expect us to do the best we can while leaning on His Son.  Keeping our eyes upon Jesus gets us through it.    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh, You Shouldn’t Have!

Don’t you just love to get a gift?  I always feel a little greedy as I frantically tear the wrapping off or jerk the tissue paper out of the gift bag.  I never was one to carefully pull the tape off, gingerly unwrap, and then smooth out and keep the wrapping paper.  No, gimme my gift!  Who cares about the paper?

But sometimes it’s hard to take a gift from someone.  If it’s not my birthday or Christmas, why would someone give me a gift?  When I was working at the Clerk’s Office, every once in a while one of my customers would bring me a little something, and it really made my day, week and year!  But I always protested, “Oh, you didn’t have to bring me anything!”  And the customer would be smiling broadly at me because the gift was working its magic of making me feel special.

That’s what we really want, isn’t it?  We want to feel special, we want to be special.  We want to know that someone somewhere is thinking about us, wanting to be with us, praying for us. 

And most of all, we want to be loved.  When we are given a gift just out of the blue, we feel loved.  It feels so good!

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are?  Do you know what your talents are?  Do you know which are spiritual gifts and which are talents?  As Christians, we can get all tangled up in these questions.  We love the Lord and we want to do things for Him out of the joy we have for Him.

There are plenty of books and studies on discovering your gifts and/or talents.  I know people who have taken more than one class on this subject and still are not satisfied that they know the answers.

I think we should forget the questions and just relax.  Why not take everything, gift or talent, and use it for God?  Just assume that whatever it is that you’re good at is from God (because it is) and then use it for God’s glory.

I have said this before and I will say it again and again:  As Christians, we have to be different.  Who cares if it’s a spiritual gift or a talent if it’s used for God?

Anybody can have a talent.  Anybody can do good works.  There are many fine people out there doing just that, but they are not Christians. 

Spiritual gifts come to Christians from the power of the Holy Spirit.  When you’ve done something that satisfies your soul, or something you know is beyond your capabilities, you have tapped into that power.  It’s a glorious thing, and we need to look at it and be aware that we have been used by God. 

Come, Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.          
                                                                       1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

And Behind Door Number 1…

And at the same time pray for us also, that God may open a door to us for the Word (the Gospel), to proclaim the mystery concerning Christ (the Messiah) on account of which I am in prison.         Colossians 4:3 (AMP)

I’ve heard the saying that goes “When God closes one door, he opens another one.”  Or “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

I didn’t realize that this imagery was in the Bible, but I came across it in this verse.

I can’t help but visualize a scene from the movie Monsters, Inc. where there were seemingly hundreds upon hundreds of doors, all different and all destined for a child’s room with monsters ready to spring from behind them.

One little girl, though, wasn’t afraid of the monsters at all.  Turns out they were afraid of her.  She didn’t mind the door opening.  To this toddler, it meant an adventure, something new to experience. 

All of this door talk is scary, no matter how you look at it.  A door closing can be a very traumatic thing.  I can get really attached to a door (and what it represents).  When a favored door starts creaking shut, I’ll fight to hold it open until the bitter end.  And at times, I am very bitter for a long while.

But then there are the doors that are slowing swinging open.  Oh, no!  I don’t want that, either!  It’s scary and dark in there.  I don’t recognize anything, and I’m sure I won’t be able to get a handle on it before others start their comments on my obvious discomfort. 

Why do I continue to go round and round in circles?  It seems as though I’m never content with the doors as they open and close.  Even when I feel relief as a problem door finally closes, I have a vague notion of defeat.  “You could have handled that better,” I hear whispered in my ear.  “It didn’t have to end.  Why did you let it?” 

The evil one really knows how to stretch it out, doesn’t he?  I was a court reporter for 7 years after going to school for 2 years, so I had 9 years wrapped up in it.  The whole thing, the whole 9 years, was a nightmare for me.  Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong in about seven different ways.  I begged God to deliver me from this horrible situation.

And He did!  That was 17 years ago.  I praise Him for it! I praise Him because He loves me and takes care of me.  But I also still feel a bit of regret.  I really should have done it better. 
To know that I was trying so hard that I ended up with stroke-level blood pressure that could have killed me doesn’t help.  To know that I really, really did my best doesn’t help.  To know that God has used that experience in countless ways for His glory doesn’t help.  The regret is still there.  I’m still listening to the whispers.

I really admire Paul.  In the verse above, he is praying for a door to open so that he can preach the Gospel, even though that’s precisely why he’s in prison.  He had had every single door in his life slammed shut as he collapsed under the power of Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus.  But, oh, what a door that was opened to him!

That I may proclaim it fully and make it clear [speak boldly and unfold that mystery], as is my duty.    Colossians 4:4 (AMP)

Can the rest of us do any less?




Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Chance

This was first posted on my blog
Miscellaneous Ramblings
 on May 8, 2012
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

"Oh, taste…" Well, I don't need anyone to tell me twice.  I'm right in there, tasting away. 

We have to eat, right?  If you have gained a few (or a lot) of pounds by eating too much, then you've got a whole nuther set of problems.

I had gastric-bypass surgery in 2004 and lost 90 pounds.  I can't eat the same things I used to eat.  I can't tolerate much sugar, so I'm constantly checking the labels to see how many sugar grams there are.  It's absolutely astounding how much sugar can be in one granola bar!  I don't know, maybe I was addicted to sugar before my surgery.  I couldn't eat very much of anything for months afterward, certainly not sugary stuff, so that forced abstinence may have broken the sugar addiction.  I'm just speculating here.

One thing that's kind of funny about it is that I don't crave sugar.  I don't miss it at all.  If something sugary looks good to me, I'm just hungry and a little food that I can tolerate will take care of that.  

When I eat, I have to pick and choose what I can eat.  If I don't choose wisely, I can end up very physically sick.  It's so bad, I'd have to feel better to die!  Sometimes pain is the best motivator we've got.

So I look over my options of what will work.  I try to eat slowly and chew every bite very well.  I have to remember that if things don't go down right, they will rebel at some point in my body. 

Because I have only so much space to fill, I reach for the stuff I like best first.  I'll see how things are going and then add something else if I feel I can handle it.  All this took years of practice and hit-or-miss methods of getting what my body needs to function.

So, yeah, I know something about tasting.  But how do you "taste" the Lord?  Our need for Him is even more basic than our need for food.  And yet we look all around Him for things to satisfy us in any way we can.

When we want to know what something tastes like, we take a small bite or spoonful to get a sample of the whole.  We can usually tell by the sample how good or bad the whole will be.

What if we "sampled" God's goodness by giving Him a chance to show us how good He is?  What if we took a sample of His goodness and meditated on it and thought about it.  I'm not particularly thinking of scripture here.  I'm talking about asking the Lord to give you a sample of His goodness and then watch what He does.  And then from His holy "sample," we will know how good the Whole really is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I have a cycle that I go through.  The better part of the cycle is when I have energy, I think of really great things to do, and I start projects.  I’m feeling good, sleeping well, no great aches or pains.  I’m eating healthier, might even be losing a pound or two.

And then there’s the other part of the cycle.  No energy, can’t think straight, everything looks like too much trouble.  Can’t imagine starting anything new.  My whole body hurts, I’m not sleeping well.  Eating too much, putting on weight.

These cycles have varying degrees.  Sometimes there’s not much of a spike or much of a dip.  Kinda in the middle of everything.  Sometimes the spike up is very noticeable, at least to me.  I have energy!  I am wide awake!  I have things to do, places to go, people to see! 

And then sometimes the dip is sitting in my beloved recliner, staring at the TV, my thoughts telling me that I’m stupid, inadequate, old, fat, that I’ll never finish any of my projects.

During these cycles, I basically remain the same person.  I have obligations that have to be addressed.  I have promised people I will be there to do it.  My calendar is filling up.  I have a ministry that needs my attention and that includes lots of study, reading and writing.  My husband and I like to go camping and there’s lots to do before and after each trip. 

The up and down of this cycle is not enough to warrant treatment.  I don’t make bad decisions because of it or do things I wouldn’t ordinarily do.  I would guess that most people who know me don’t even realize all this is going on.  I put on a good front.  Probably too good.

As a Christian, I want to point everything to Christ.  When I’m feeling good, it’s my joy to do it.  When I’m feeling bad, it gets a bit tough.

I’ve been a Christian my whole adult life.  I’ve been through many a crisis, just like everybody else.  I have learned, over and over, that God never changes and that He is continuously with me.  I know, no matter how I’m feeling, that God still loves me because Jesus died for my sins.  I know, no matter how I’m feeling, that Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit in His place to keep me connected to the Father.

I don’t have any particular scripture that I use to bring me comfort; I don’t have a life verse.  But as I am reading and studying, as I am listening in Sunday School and church, as I am talking with friends, the Lord gives me what I need to hear.  It is His presence more than His words.

Jesus promised me that He would be with me always.  Always.  So far, He’s never broken that promise.  I don’t look for it to happen anytime soon…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rockin' Along

Sometimes your life is just rockin’ along and everything seems fine.  You have a full life with family, church, work, clubs.  You like the majority of people that you come in contact with in your full rockin’ life. 

And then, just a wee bit at first, you begin to see cracks.  You vaguely notice that one of your co-workers is complaining a lot.  And as the days go by, because your attention has been called to it, you notice that your co-worker complains a whole lot.  Little things, really.  It’s too hot or it’s too cold.  The light in the bathroom isn’t working.  Foodland’s chicken fingers aren’t as good as they used to be. 

And then, to beat that, you start noticing other people complaining a lot.  Family members are pointing out various deficiencies you may or may not have, something dear to your heart at church is scorned by others, your meeting with your club is filled with venting by numerous people on copious topics.  Gripe, gripe, gripe.

And then, when you think you can’t stand it another minute, you notice that you are complaining the very most about the greatest number of things.  Wow!  What a downer.  What happened?  Life was going along just grand until all this started.

But the thing is that it didn’t just start when you began hearing it.  Oh, no.  It’s been around your whole life.  And, yes, you’ve been adding to it all that time.

The reason I know all this about you is because this is really about me.  I’m the co-worker who can find fault in anything; I’m the one who is pointing things out to family members; I’m the one who shares my compelling opinion at church, trashing someone else’s idea; I’m the one that goes from group to group venting my little heart out.

But even worse than that – no, I believe it’s sadder than that -- I agree with what most other folks are saying as they are complaining and venting and dissing.  Wow!  A double downer.

It brings to mind a bit of advice from the Apostle Paul:

Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.                                   Romans 14:10

Ouch!  Did that hurt you as much as it did me?  We’ve got some work to do, don’t we?

Again from Paul:  Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.  Romans 14:13

So instead of complaining, lets:  Welcome and receive to your hearts one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God.   Romans 15:7

Now, that makes for a full rockin’ life..

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


“Peri” in the medical world means “preparing to” or “transitioning” from one thing to the next.  For example, if your doctor says that you are in peri-menopause, that means your body is preparing to enter menopause.  Hot flashes begin; and because of the hot flashes, sleep problems begin; and mood changes ramp up. 

Here in the South, we don't have "peri."  Instead, we have "fixin' to."  If you’re peri-menopausal up North, you're fixin' to go into menopause in the South.

So if “peri” means fixin' to, and I'm fixin' to be elderly, then I can only conclude that I’m peri-elderly.  I'm fixin' to be a part of the social strata that can be helped across the street by a nice Boy Scout, go to the Depends aisle instead of the Kotex aisle, get a free iced tea (in a very small cup) at McDonald's, or buy a whole dinner for $5.99 on Wednesdays and Sundays at Capt. D's.  Yay for me.

Well, yay for the baby boomers, actually.  We've made it to peri-elderly or just flat out elderly (which, by definition, is always two years away, no matter how old I am).

I sometimes go into the city jail on Monday nights to talk to the female inmates about God's love for them.  I use stories and a little handout with a Bible verse and picture to help them remember my point.

The girls are so young.  The oldest I've seen was a woman in her 40's.  One girl, who looked much younger than she was, told me that she had a baby that was 6 months old.  Six months.  And his mother is in jail.  Her aunt is keeping the baby for her until she can "get straightened out."  She said she would be in our city jail for another 20 days, but another jail had a hold on her, meaning she would go to that jail and serve time for whatever law(s) she broke in that part of the county. 

I look at their faces; each one a child of God, each one troubled, missing loved ones, maybe regretting what put them there or at least regretting they got caught.  And I look at myself, and I see not a peri-elderly woman, but a little old lady from church, coming from a world they have probably never known.  That's who I am in their eyes. 

In order to speak to them, I have to find some common ground or they won't listen at all.  I remember years ago our church had a women's retreat at a nearby church camp.  We even had a guest speaker who taught Bible lessons throughout the weekend.  At some point, this woman (who I would have categorized as peri-elderly at the time) said that God had blessed her so powerfully that she had never been tempted by anything, such as alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.  Never?  Really?  I don't think I heard a word past that point.  How could I relate to someone like that?  I had been tempted and had tried lots of un-Christian type things, including all of the above.

So I try to find common ground.  At first I didn't think I would be able to.  What could I possibly have in common with young women who had such a different lifestyle from my own?  I prayed.  This is what I received:

I'm a mother – so are a lot of them.

I'm a wife – so are a lot of them.

I'm a woman – the most obvious common ground there is.

I've dealt with depression, anxiety, an extremely strong-willed child, a husband with a life-threatening condition, my father passed away last year, I've been betrayed by people I thought were either friends and/or trustworthy…

Well, you get the picture. All I need to do is pick something out of my life, tell them about it, and tell them how God was in it.  Thank you, Lord, for my stories.  It's how I connect.

So what if I'm peri-elderly and look every day of it? God loves all of us and I'm there to prove it.

And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You? And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it for Me.

                                                                   Matthew 25:39-40
My Best Side
Courtesy of 2-yr-old grandson

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Psalm 119:96 -- I have learned that everything has limits; but your commandment is perfect.

I’m not a perfectionist.  Really, I’m not.  And if you saw the state of my house, you would wholly agree. 

No, I’m more of a partial perfectionist.  That doesn’t mean that I want everything partially perfect; it means that I am a perfectionist with certain things.

Before I retired, I was a perfectionist at the office.  I wanted everything done well.  I wanted each thing done in the same way every time, making it easier to pick up a file and know immediately what stage it was in.  This was imperative due to the volume of files I handled each day.

For years I was a purse perfectionist.  Every purse had to have three zippered compartments, each compartment having certain things in it.  My billfold, checkbook, pens and paper were in the first one.  The second was for Tylenol, Kleenex and anti-acids.  That left the third one as miscellaneous, but I always knew I could find my stash of Splenda if I looked long enough.

I bought a new purse recently that does not have the three compartment set up.   I am trying to deal with the lost partial perfection, but apparently that’s going to be an on-going project.

Another place I need to work on is my writing.  I want it to be perfect every time I finish a piece.  I don’t want to see my glaring errors (I swear they weren’t there when I proofed it!) looking at me from my blog.  I work and work on every little thing until I don’t know right from wrong.  It’s me there on that page; I have to look my very best every single time.  So I quit posting and I very seldom wrote any piece to completion.

But I was recently reminded that in God’s eyes, through Jesus Christ, we are all perfect.  And since we don’t work for man, but work only for God, I guess I’m already sufficiently covered in everything I do. 

To put it another way, I’ll do my best and let God do the rest! 
Photo by Cindy West McGregor