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Monday, August 30, 2010

Tribute to a Man and His Ministry

Friday our church lost one of our treasured ministers. Bill had served 6+ years as our church's education minister and had just recently switched hats to become our minister of administration while still carrying the load of education until that position could be filled. At 60 years of age, we all thought he'd be around a lot longer. God had other plans.

I miss Bill already. I missed him last week even before he moved on to heaven. He was on vacation last week and so I didn't see him at church on Sunday and I missed his ready smile and gentle words. I also missed him on Wednesday when I poked my head into the office after teaching Bible study and needed to get his signature on a reimbursement form. I missed him Wednesday night when he wasn't at his usual place greeting folks as they showed up at the church for the various Bible study groups he helped coordinate. And I missed him Thursday when I dropped by the office again to check on something. Bill was the kind of guy whose absence you noticed and felt.

Bill will be sorely missed.

I've been through a lot of teacher training, Sunday school leadership workshops, church growth training, etc. But when I met Bill I knew this man could still teach this old dog a few tricks. And he did. I'd like to share with you a few of the things this godly servant personally taught me.
  • Ministry is all about people. Bill always had a new program in the wings, a new study to suggest and a new service opportunity to offer, but he also knew that when push came to shove all that could go out the window. Bill knew how to love people, how to listen to them, how to encourage them. He knew that if a program didn't reach people it was worthless; if a teacher didn't make a connection with a student he wasn't really a teacher; if a meeting didn't answer real questions posed by real people then it was a wash. Like your typical education minister, Bill had a dozen ideas percolating in his head at all times, but people had his heart.
  •  You're not a real leader if no one is following. And Bill didn't just propose that you have a dozen or so people waddling along blindly behind you. He was a strong advocate of mentoring. Bill encouraged me to train new leaders, equip new teachers, tap new people for new ministries, and invest in new Christians. Bill never advocated lone ranger type leadership. He was all about the buddy system. I like that. Bill changed the way I do things in women's ministry, in many regards, and he is largely to be credited with the beginning of our new MOPS ministry, the inclusion of new women on our leadership team, and my own personal choice to invest more in those who are wanting to try something new.
  • High standards are a good thing. So often in church we are guilty of lowering our standards for how we do things. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's because we're cheap, lazy, in a hurry, or just don't have great taste! (Those are all facetious excuses, but they might just hold some water all the same.) Bill always taught by example that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.We sometimes joked with him about his propensity to serve refreshments, give out door prizes, and pass out well-outlined agendas at any meeting he conducted, but truthfully we appreciated those nice touches. Those little things (and many others) told us that Bill valued our service, our time, and our commitment. They also told us that he believed in quality. I think it's quite obvious that God believes in quality. I haven't seen Him do a shoddy job yet. I'm pretty sure He's impressed with Bill's attention to detail and quality too. And Bill didn't just add quality with things like refreshments and door prizes. He also reminded us that ministry is worth praying about, that it's worth handpicking new leaders carefully and wisely, and that it's important to be well prepared to teach a class, host a small group or lead a meeting.
Bill taught me a lot about serving. I'll continue to reflect on those things for a long time. But most importantly Bill was a good friend. My husband and I have enjoyed serving with Bill and his darling wife Stephanie as much as we've enjoyed any other staff members we've had the privilege of ministering alongside. We've been blessed with some great staff members through the years, but Bill and Stephanie definitely make the top cut. They've always demonstrated servant hearts, true love, godly attitudes, deep loyalty, and genuine friendship.

Please join me in rejoicing with the angels over Bill's homecoming and praying for Stephanie and her family in their loss.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Which Housekeeper are You?

Today I have done all things domestic. I have cleaned the floors, washed linens, dusted the furniture, scrubbed the bathroom, and shopped for groceries. The only reason I'm posting this blog post is because I needed a few minutes for my hands to dry out from prune status.

I used to clean the house to music, but lately I find I clean sans musical accompaniment...talking to myself and God, sort of a three-way conversation if you will. Today between my prayers for my kids, my whining about a few things not worthy of mention, and God's redirecting statements, we talked about different types of housekeepers. Ok, I was whining about not having a maid like Carol Brady had, and that led me to thinking about other TV women and how they cleaned their houses.

This is, sadly, how my brain works.

So the question today is "What kind of TV housewife are you?"

  1. Mary Tyler Moore - You're single, sleep in a convertible sofa bed, and never have anything to clean because no one messes anything up except for the occasional bachelor who soils a single shot glass or ash tray.
  2. Shirley Partridge - You rarely have to clean the house because you're on the road all the time. And when you do need to clean the house you just ask your kids to help out and you have a family sing-along while you scrub-a-dub-dub.
  3. June Cleaver - You pretend to clean the house in heels and pearls, but really you don't need to do any cleaning either because you have two boys who pretty much live in their bedroom and take showers at the appropriate time each night and climb into their twin beds after donning their neatly pressed p.j.s. You didn't have to iron those either; you sent them out to the cleaners.
  4. Carol Brady - You are the envy of every other TV housewife because you have six perfect kids, a rich husband, and a live-in maid named Alice. We all want an Alice. I want an Alice. But only you get to have one. Alice grocery shops with you so you have someone to laugh at the other people in the check-out line with, she cooks your meals so you can eat them without being tired of them by the time you get them on the table, and she cleans your toilets, because no one likes to clean a toilet. She also solves most of your marriage problems, counsels your kids, and puts the pets out at night. You've got it maid, I mean made.
  5. Donna Reed - I suppose you clean sometimes, but most of the time you're attending bridge parties, hospital charity meetings, or school fundraisers. You're very busy concocting schemes and dreams so you really don't have time for scrubbing and dusting.
  6. Lucille Ball - You don a pretty little kerchief when you clean and scheme away while you're at it. You mostly start cleaning, then your best friend drops by and the two of you have coffee and come up with a new hair-brained idea, and you traipse off to do something really goofy together. When you get home from your escapades your house (or apartment) has been magically cleaned by the TV producers - including all the flour that was all over the kitchen, the feathers that were flying all over your bedroom, or the smoke that had filled your family room from the kitchen.
  7. Margaret Anderson - You're married to the father who knows best so life is a breeze. However, you actually do clean your own house and you even put on your scrubby clothes to do the dirty deed. You don't have perfect kids, but even when they're pretty cross they generally come around within 30 minutes or so. Still, you have to pick up after them a lot and they rarely finish the chores you assign them, so you end up doing them yourself.
Me? As much as I wish I had an Alice, I'm definitely a Margaret Anderson. I've always loved Father Knows Best and so average, typical, plain Margaret serves as my inspiration on many a domestic clean-up day. Perhaps some of you aren't so fond of Father Knows Best, but the truth is I grew up in a home where truly father knew best. I had a good and wise dad, a loving mom, and "Bud" named Jim. My mom, even though she worked as a teacher, kept a pretty clean house the old fashioned way - she cleaned it. Of course, she also enlisted our help. So by the time I left our home, I knew how to clean by starting with dusting, moving on to sweeping and vacuuming, followed closely by scrubbing bathrooms and mopping. I knew to go from top to bottom, dry to wet, little to big.

I still wish I had an Alice, but I'm glad that between a mom and dad who raised me well, a Father who Knew Best, and Margaret Anderson, I know how to clean a house. I don't do it nearly often enough, but I know how.

But I still want an Alice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Self Indulgent? Not Necessarily

Even before I saw Eat. Pray. Love. with Julia Roberts this past weekend, I knew I wouldn't agree with the premise of the movie.

Of course I didn't see the movie with Julia Roberts. The movie just included Julia Roberts as the main character.

But, being the ever fair and open-minded movie watcher that I am, I thought I'd give it a shot. I made that decision despite reading several reviews that touted the author of the book by the same title as being self-centered, self-indulgent, and selfish. I already knew something of Elizabeth Gilbert's year-long search for  her identity in the countries of Italy, India, and Indonesia. I had also already duly noted the fact that all three of Ms. Gilbert's chosen destinations begin with the letter "I," as in "I want to end our marriage; I don't want to be married any more; I want to travel the world; I want to leave behind my commitments and relationships; and I need to find out who I am."

If you're just looking for a good chick flick with some snazzy clothing, beautiful scenery, a love interest or two, and, well, Julia Roberts, then this is the movie for you. Unfortunately you'll have had about all you can handle of all the above halfway through the movie. That's right. The movie was somewhere around an two hours and twenty minutes long according to my watch. A little extensive for following one woman around the world while she eats pasta, prays to her guru, and pouts over men. I was ready to call it quits after our visit to India, but I knew we had a stop to make in Indonesia before I could dump my empty popcorn box and head to the ladies' room.

Still, there was something about Ms. Gilbert's quest for meaning and identity that resonated with me. Who among us hasn't awakened in the middle of the night wondering where we misplaced ourselves? Who hasn't felt that they lost at least a portion of their identity in the building of their marriage and the raising of their children? And who hasn't looked at their piles of laundry, their busy calendar, the same old food in the refrigerator, and their older model car and wondered if this was all there was to life?

Some may call Ms. Gilbert's pursuit of fulfillment as self-indulgent and selfish, but I consider it universal. While I normally value and even agree with many of the movie reviews I find on, say, Focus on the Family's Plugged In Online, I take a different viewpoint than many of my fellow conservative Christians on this one.

For instance, while Plugged In's reviewer says:

And I could never truly understand her {Ms. Gilbert's}
reason for feeling utterly despondent—apart 
from the fact that she was usually looking 
for her own personal fulfillment and no one else's. 

I can certainly understand why the movie's central character was miserable. She was running on empty, for pete's sake.

And while the same reviewer notes:

In this film, it seems that pursuing your 
own happiness and "completion" is tantamount 
to godliness. 

I think it's a little unrealistic and even unfair to hold a God-less woman (not god-less, mind you. she worshiped some god of her own making, but not the true God, by a long shot) to a biblical standard of godliness. I repeat: She's running on empty for pete's sake.

I believe with all my heart that God created us with a deep and eternal need to know our Maker, to have an intimate relationship with Him, to find our identity in Him, and to receive all the good stuff of life from Him. I believe the Bible indicates that it is that very soul hunger that drives us to Him. Without a hunger for Him, we would never fall down on our knees in desperation, cry out to Him in frustration, turn our backs on this world system in indignation, or thrill in Him with jubilation. It is the very same hunger and passionate desire for "something more" that Ms. Gilbert explored so thirstily that has driven many a Christian to find their God.

I also believe that our effectiveness in this world hinges, absolutely hinges, on our souls being satisfied, not the other way around. When I have found satisfaction for my hungry soul I have everything (and more) that I need to give to others, serve sacrificially, and love profusely. Until my soul is satisfied I will try to give, try to serve and try to love, only to find frustration and resentment blocking those channels and eventually shutting them, no me, down. And that is why people--Christians and non-Christians alike--end up chasing rainbows in places like Italy, India, Indonesia, Iowa and Indiana. They're running on empty, for pete's sake. Indeed they need to eat, pray, and love. Or something akin to that anyhow.

Unfortunately, while Ms. Gilbert did begin her search by crying out to God, she quickly turned to her own devices and the more socially acceptable religious rites of this world to proceed with her journey to self-actualization. What began as a natural, normal, and even God-ordained hunger for something more, soon turned into a silly, fruitless, and extensive journey to nowhere...well, not exactly nowhere...she did get to see the "I" countries. But you rarely, no never, despite Ms. Gilbert's assertion to the contrary, find God in "I". (The main character wraps up her journey by claiming that she found God within, shaped in the form of herself. This statement gives me indigestion and indignation.)

So my final take-away from this movie is "don't be afraid to go on a search for meaning and significance and joy and peace and fulfillment and all that other stuff that fits so nicely in the deepest recesses of our souls. Those are good things to look for and we're all created with a yearning for them. But know where to look. It's not in Italy or India or Indonesia, though you can certainly find what you're looking for in those places as well as in others. But make sure you turn to the One True God. Cry out to Him. And then, unlike Ms. Gilbert, give Him time to answer before you traipse off to a foreign country in search of some lousy substitute. 

Instead of eating pasta, eat the Bread of Life. Instead of praying to a guru, talk and listen to your Father in heaven. And instead of loving yet another man, fall head over heels in love with Jesus, the lover of your soul. Then you'll really have something worth writing a book about.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Are Your Soul Hungers Doing to You?

What happens with you when you get hungry and there's no food in sight? Do you shut down, withdraw or mellow out? Or maybe you have a hard time concentrating on the task at hand, like me. Then again, you might behave like this:

Funny how the folks who make and sell Snickers candy bars seem to have tapped into something beyond sugar lows and cravings for chocolate. They've hit a similar chord as I address in week one of my new Bible study, Satisfied...at Last! Our hungers drive us to act needy, to demand things from the people in our lives, and, as the commercial pointed out, to turn into completely different people than we truly are, often in the form of a diva or a drama queen.

But while our physical hungers may be satisfied with a chewy, chocolaty Snickers bar, we can't feed our souls with candy, though some of us have certainly tried. Our souls are hungry for deeper and bigger things. Things like significance, unconditional love, purpose, affirmation, forgiveness, and companionship.

Still, Jesus knows we get hungry. He acknowledges our soul hunger and longs to feed it with good, abundant, and healthy stuff, just like he insisted on feeding the multitudes who followed Him in John 6. And when we allow Him to feed us (instead of trying to quell our grumbling souls with Snickers or shopping or angry tirades or clingy relationships), He will satisfy us so that we can truly be ourselves again. Not only that, but we can be a better and improved version of ourselves. No more drama queens. No more high maintenance. No more leaches. Just healthy, joyful, and giving people ... who are a lot easier to get along with.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beginnings Make Me Nervous

Forget "not-so-wordy." I've got too many thoughts swimming in my head for that.

Today we launched our first Satisfied...at Last! Bible study! It was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. I don't think I've ever been so petrified to begin teaching a Bible study. Normally I'm cool as a cucumber when I begin a class, but not today.

It all had something to do with the fact that when our custodian told me he was about to go lower the video projector screens and I told him that wouldn't be necessary. There would be no video today. I was "it." I wouldn't just be facilitating discussion - something I can do blindfolded - but I'd be doing more of the "master teacher" sort of thing. And not only that, but I'd be teaching my own material.

Sure, I've taught or spoken on my own material before. But I've somehow convinced these ladies to commit seven weeks of their lives and $15 of their hard-earned money to my material this time. That's a little daunting to me.

Here's what I fear:
  • That they'll read my words and wonder what in the world I'm talking about. "What's she so hungry for? Is she really that needy? My oh, my!"
  • That they'll read my personal story and never want to have anything to do with me again. I don't share all my details, but, like most people, I've done my share of stupid. 
  • That I'll have written a Bible study for me and no one else. (I take comfort in the fact that I've heard Beth Moore voice the same fear before. Of course, that's Beth Moore and this is... well...not.)
But I garnered my fears and got my self to the church on time and greeted my ladies. They were a welcome sight to my petrified eyes. Tonight as I write this, I love them for being there and I love them even more for laughing at the appropriate times and nodding their sweet heads like I'd said something that made sense occasionally. They put my fears to rest and I got through hurdle number one. That is, we got through the first speaking session, but now they have to go home and do the homework. If they show back up next week, we've got a winner.  

Or I've got winner friends, one or the other. 

Plus, I have to go back and face class number 2 tonight. But with this morning's session under my belt, I feel a little more confident.

Not prideful, mind you. I know what pride goes before...

I created a FaceBook page for those who are doing the Bible study on their on as well as those who are in a class. So if you're doing the study or you'd like to see what my students are saying about it and you're on FB, take a look. It's the Satisfied at Last page and I'm assuming it's open to anyone...if I set it up right. Don't even get me started on my fears about that!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I've Been Up To...

I realize that a few folks may have dropped by here the last day or two and wondered where in the world I was.

A very few folks.

It's true that I haven't posted since Tuesday. And while I don't have any great excuses, I thought I'd just use today to catch you up on what I've been doing over the past few days. These impressive activities are in no particular order, but they begin with sometime Wednesday since that's when I disappeared from the blog radar. Once you see what I've been up to, you'll undoubtedly excuse my absence.

So here goes.

  • I prepared fajitas for my family Wednesday night. That takes two bags: one full of frozen fajita meat (Target brand) and one full of frozen peppers and onions. Sandra Lee has nothing on me. Forget Semi-Homemade. I've got Not-at-All-Homemade mastered.
  • I visited my daughter's teachers at Meet the Teacher night at her high school. For the first time in six years I talked one of my kids into going through their schedule with me so I wouldn't have to go alone. Abby accompanied me to her first five classes and each one of the teachers invited parents to come anytime they wanted to sit in on a class. One teacher even went on and on about how he's invited parents to come to class for years and no one ever has. Abby was appalled by these invitations. I told her that her English teacher obviously really wants a parent to come to class and I may just have to go to school with her one day since I received invitations from all of her teachers. She is very nervous right now.
  •  I picked up my husband from the airport last night. He had been in Indonesia for 10 days teaching at a seminary there. Of all things, he was teaching the Indonesians, via a translator, a course entitled "Cross-Cultural Evangelism." Do you see the humor in that? But he said it went really well. I didn't publicize my husband's trip on my blog because I flatter myself by thinking that someone might want to stalk me if they knew he was out of the country. Just go with me on this thing. I admit my weirdness. I own it.
  • I took a camera on my walk Wednesday morning as I had mentioned I would on Monday, but, as predicted, I did not see one animal. Not one. Not even one of the 257 bunny rabbits I normally see. This morning, however, sans camera I saw a huge jack rabbit and a road runner.
  •  I sang and danced along (sort of) with Demi Lovato while she performed on the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series this morning so I could see if it's really possible to dance like that and sing at the same time and not get noticeably winded. These are things I need to know. Never mind the fact that I'm about 30 years older than Miss Lovato, my scientific experiment convinced me that she has a coach that works with her on looking fresh even though she is obviously dying up there.
  •  I've accomplished a lot of work. I wrote two articles and sent them in to my editors, conducted a women's ministry leadership meeting, taught our MOPS discussion group leaders how to lead discussion groups, began preparing for my Bible study next week, and participated in a video web cast with Mary Kassian on biblical womanhood. I didn't, however, blog. When you have a splitting headache (due to allergies because we get a second blooming in Arizona at this time of year due to the monsoon), you can only spend so much time in front of the computer screen without exploding.
  • I've caught up on all my favorite TV shows - reruns of Without a Trace, The Middle, Jeopardy, and a variety of cooking shows - because, unlike when you're glaring at a computer screen, you can lie down when you watch the TV screen. 
Have a great weekend! I'll try to post a little more consistently next week. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Put Down Your Water Jar!

If you know anything of the Samaritan woman Jesus encountered at the well, you know she wasn't someone you would normally consider a trailblazer. If anything she had spent most of her life on the wrong path. But by the end of the story in John 4, she'd made a detour that led to abundance and salvation.

The Story in a Nutshell

Jesus and His disciples are on the road from Judea to Galilee and they have to pass through Samaria, a region disdained by most Jews. But they stop outside a city called Sychar near what was known as Jacob's well in order to rest for a spell. The disciples go into town to fetch something to eat while Jesus alone remains at the well.

There at the well, around the dinner hour when few people would normally be going to the well to get water, Jesus encounters a woman who has brought her water jar to draw water. Jesus asks the woman to give Him a drink.

The Samaritan woman is surprised that Jesus has spoken to her on several accounts. First of all, she is a woman. Second, she is a Samaritan. And third, she carries a secret shame that probably has caused her to be shunned by most everyone in her own town.

Jesus, seeing beyond her pain to the parched and hollow places in her life, tells the woman that if she understood the grace of God and knew who He was who was talking to her she would have asked Him for water and He would have given her living water.

Living water? What's living water, the woman wonders aloud. She responded that Jesus had nothing to draw water with and the well (Jacob's well) was deep. And besides, where would He possibly get this "living water?"

Jesus goes on to tell her a little more about this living water.  "Everyone who drinks of this water {well water} shall thirst again," said Jesus, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

At this point the Samaritan woman decides she wants this water. It sounds good. In fact, it sounds just like what she's been looking for. You see, Jesus is no longer talking with the woman about something to drink and I think she knows it. I think her lips may have been parched earlier and her mouth may have been dry, but now the nagging thirst that she's been experiencing in her soul for all these years has just been awakened.

But before Jesus will give her this living water that will quench the aching thirst of her soul, He gives her a condition, a prerequisite, an ultimatum.

"Go, call your husband, and come here."

Uh oh. The woman doesn't have a husband, but she's had five of them and is currently living with a man who isn't even her husband. And to top it all off, she doesn't disclose this information to Jesus. He discloses it to her. She's been found out.

The woman, undoubtedly feeling uncomfortable with the direction the conversation has now taken, detours off the route Jesus has established and remarks that Jesus must be a prophet, dickers with Him over religious mumbo jumbo, and asserts her own knowledge about all things spiritual in nature. (You might want to notice some similarities here between this woman's sudden interest in the religious and our normal reaction to gut piercing conviction...but then maybe you've never tried to talk circles around the Lord when He's poked you in your conscience like I have.)

In the long run, after she has exhausted her attempts to run from Jesus' supernatural gaze into her heart, the Samaritan woman leaves her waterpot at the well and runs back to her city declaring, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" But in her heart she knows He is.

The Lesson

This is the subject of my new Bible study Satisfied...at Last! The study's not just about how God can satisfy our soul hungers and thirsts, though He certainly can and does. But it's about how He created us with these aching soul desires so that they would drive us to Him. It's also about how most of us, dare I say all of us at some point or another, have missed the mark and attempted to have our soul hungers satisfied through some other means instead.

Just like the Samaritan woman at the well who had apparently gone from one unhealthy relationship to another with her parching desire to be loved, we turn to things, relationships, and experiences for that elusive something to satisfy our soul needs.  If we're not living with full tanks filled by God alone, our emptiness can drive us to great lengths.

  • An insatiable hunger for love can drive us into the arms of someone who offers us a dose of affection.
  • The desire for acceptance can drive us to compromise our own convictions in order to fit in.
  • The hunger for a sense of belonging might drive a lonely and ostracized teenager to link up with a gang that promises membership privileges.
  • Our desire for adventure can drive us to do risky things while throwing caution to the wind.
  • The need for security might cause a young woman who grew up fatherless to attach herself to someone who can provide for her physical needs even without the promise of love and tenderness.
  • And a longing for achievement can drive an individual right on up the proverbial ladder with no regard for stepping on others on the way up.
The search for soul-filling satisfaction may not have led you to sleep with six different men as it did the Samaritan woman (or it may have), but my bet is that those gnawing soul hungers have driven you somewhere unhealthy at some point in your life. If that statement brings to mind one or two relationships, substances, or experiences that now bring you shame, don't let your head hang low for long. Jesus didn't condemn the Samaritan woman at the well, and He doesn't condemn you today either.

Jesus told the woman to go get her husband because He simply wanted her to "deal with her stuff.." He wanted her to acknowledge where she'd been going to try to fill her soul so that she could stop those bad habits, put down those useless water buckets, and hold her thirsty soul out to Him instead. Him alone. If she wanted the living water He offered, the water that would spring up in her life a like a living well, then she'd have to agree to quit seeking satisfaction from other sources and start drinking from His well alone.

The woman chose, from what I can tell, to do just that. The Bible tells us that many Samaritans were saved because of this woman's testimony. I can only assume that she was included in that number.

But my bet is that she wasn't just saved from hell and damnation. I think this woman finally got it right. I think she was saved from her unhealthy patterns, her addictions, her co-dependency and her never-ending search for satisfaction. I think she got that well springing up in her and lived as a contented woman from that point on.

And so that's why I've chosen the woman at the well as our trailblazer for this Tuesday. She didn't just meet the Savior and sign on the dotted line with Him. She drank His water and she thirsted no more. She was satisfied...at last.

You and I can be too.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who Has Crossed Your Path?

I've only been on a couple of real hikes this summer. It's just too hot for my taste. I either have to hit the trails really early or start at a really high elevation if I'm going to hike at this time of year.

I hiked with some friends from my Sunday School class in June - Julie, Anita, and Laurinda

Kim and I hiked high up on Mt. Lemmon in July.

But while I haven't "hiked" much this summer, I've gone for a good long walk most every morning. And I still have the benefit of beautiful scenery even on my morning walks down the back roads of our local park and municipal center.

However, I don't have the benefit of taking my morning walks with such good buddies as I've hiked with. Instead I see strange people and even stranger creatures.

There are homeless people who live down in the woods near our parks and I generally pass one or two of these folks each day. Don't worry. I stay very aware of my surroundings and my surrounders. I detour to a different area if I need to. 

But more than being scared of these dejected and dirty looking individuals, I'm saddened for them. Their plight breaks my heart. I don't know why they're here, whether they are mentally ill, down on their luck, fighting addictions, plagued with memories of the battlefield, or simply checked out of life. But I am sad that they seem so lonely, so detached, so tired, and so broken.

On a lighter note, I also see a variety of animals on my walks. I love seeing the cotton-tailed bunny rabbits, but I could do without the coyotes I've seen a lot of lately. And I'm always on the lookout for javelins, though I've only seen them a couple of times in the past four years. The jack rabbits are fun to watch, but the hawk that occasionally circles above gives me the heebie jeebies.

But the most precious sight I think I've ever seen on my walks was the little family that crossed my path like they were out going to the market the other day. I kid you not, I saw the Partridge Family strolling across the road with the father partridge leading the way, the five little babies doing their best to keep up, and the mother partridge nudging the stragglers along from the rear. I would have given anything for a camera. 

I've decided to take my camera on my walk tomorrow, but I guarantee you I won't see a living creature.

So here's where I'm going with these rambling thoughts.

It occurred to me this morning as I encountered my two coyotes for the 3rd time in two days, "you just don't have the luxury of choosing who will cross your path." Sometimes you are delighted with the folks you encounter in life and other times you rue the day they entered your zone. But for some reason, perhaps even some divine reason, God allows certain folks to cross our paths at just the right (or wrong) time.

I've come across folks from Georgia just when I was the most homesick and desperately needed to hear a southern drawl. 

I've encountered people with a sense of humor just when I needed to laugh. 

I've met desperately needy people when I thought I had nothing to offer but quickly learned otherwise. 

I've met senior adult grandmas who were far away from their own grandchildren when me and my kids were far away from their grandmothers and we desperately needed some doting. 

I've shared a path with a Christian book publisher in the middle of the woods while backpacking the Appalachian Trail.

I've crossed paths with a little girl visiting Colorado from Russia who needed a little girl just my daughter's age to come and play for an afternoon, even though they couldn't speak the same language.

For the first time, I met the pastor and wife who minister at the church just down the road from us while we all attended a conference in California.

And I've had a surprise encounter with an old friend from high school while we both participated in the search for a missing girl four states away from our hometown - me as a minister's wife and him as a member of the reserve national guard.

I could go on with one ridiculous coincidental divine encounter after another, but I won't.

Instead I'll say what I came here to say and invite you to add your two cents.

I love divine appointments. Even when they are of the not so pleasant variety. Why? Because I know that God is directing my path and He orchestrates each encounter in order to either teach me, enlighten me, thrill me, comfort me, or challenge me. And I never know who I'll meet next, but I know there is a purpose behind each encounter. Not that each person I meet will play some huge role in my life, but that each person is valuable and worth considering and worthy of my attention. 

Some I will bless and some will bless me.

Sure, I especially love the people that I choose to walk beside through life - my family and friends. But I've learned to be open to the folks I cross paths with unexpectedly as well. Some may be as scary as the coyotes I've encountered on my morning walks and some may be as adorable as the partridge family, but they all have the potential of contributing something to my life.

So who have you encountered lately as you've walked through life? Have you made any new, unexpected friends this summer? Have you come across someone who knows someone who you know? Have you encountered someone some place different from where you normally see that person and it threw you for a loop? Or maybe you've been joined up with someone very different from you for some sort of partnership and the combination has proven more delightful than you ever imagined.

I'd love to hear about who has crossed your path.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hold Me Accountable or...Come for a Visit!

Yesterday I used the word "transparent" in my post, so today I've decided to be extremely "transparent." I said I like to keep it real around here, so I'm getting about as real as you can get today. Embarrassingly real.

The truth is I've developed an extreme dislike for housecleaning lately. I'm usually a very tidy, if not immaculate, housekeeper. But something like housekeeping fever has overcome me in recent months weeks that seems to incapacitate me in the area of cleaning my house. I've totally let things go!

Now I can't take full blame for this lack of general untidiness in my home. I do have three other adults or near adults who have certainly contributed to the mess. But, as the stay-at-home/work-from-home mom that I am, I suppose I am the one where the buck stops. It's time to get this house in order.

If you've been wondering why you haven't seen a Build My House post on recent Thursdays, you may have just found your answer... ahem.

So I'm baring it all today! I'm giving full disclosure of the state of my home to the entire bloggy world (or the three of you who occasionally read my blog anyhow). In hopes that my transparency and full confession will propel me to get it in gear and clean this mess up, I'm giving you a window, albeit a dirty window, into my chaos so that hopefully I'll blush enough to do something about my shame.

Here goes:

We'll start in my office where I have piled things up in a corner and my daughter has dumped a bag of clothes she no longer wants. I have just left the bag sitting on my floor for about three weeks now. Ridiculous.

In the entry way of my home you are greeted by a chair loaded with tote bags - Abby's from camp (she came home two weeks ago) and mine from nothing really. It just ended up there one day and I haven't moved it... Shameful!

The dining room table is not as messy as it sometimes has been, but nonetheless the Nintendo DS certainly doesn't belong there. It's been there for a week.

This is ridiculous. I've just left a Coke carton sitting on top of my kitchen trash can for the last two days. (The little things you see on the floor are not trash - they are doggy toys. The mess on the kitchen table is a bona fide mess, however.)

Here sit my sewing machine and fabric that I'm supposed to be sewing into a table skirt. Been here in the corner of my kitchen for weeks.

The ironing board seems to be out all the time lately. I do put it away when I'm through with it, but other family members keep getting it out and leaving it there. My vest on the chair, however, is purely my fault. It's been there since Tuesday I believe.

Things get really embarrassing at this point. This is where my husband left his Father's Day present back in, when would that have been, June?!?! Ugly, ugly, ugly... (I'm not blaming him solely for this. I take full responsibility for walking past this bag every day multiple times and not doing anything about it!)

And I'm pretty sure my daughter's yearbook has been sitting on our church pew since she brought it home from school in ... (oh my goodness!) May!!

Enough, enough, already! I could show you more, but have mercy!

Now here's where you come in.

Surely you knew I wasn't going to shoulder this mess on my own didn't you?

I need you to keep me accountable and make me clean this stuff up. I'm going to get to work on it today and hopefully I'll have new pictures to show you on Wednesday - for Not So Wordy Wednesday - that reveal a cleaner, more organized home.

Of course the thing that would help me most would be if someone would come to visit me! Having company always seems to do the trick for me like nothing else. So if you'd really like to help me get my house in order, come for a visit. I promise to have things spic'n span by the time you get here.

Accountability is a good things folks. Sometimes we shy away from making ourselves accountable to others because it's just an invitation for added pressure. But most of us accomplish more, stay on the right path better, and steer clear of danger with more consistency when we've invited someone else into our world and given them both a transparent view and permission to speak up. I've done that with my housekeeping dilemma today, but I've arranged for accountability in the past when I've tackled new eating plans, tried to exercise more consistently, attempted to improve my daily quiet times, battled a nasty habit, tried some new parenting techniques, or needed to apologize to my husband. Believe me, having someone else - someone loving and godly - breathing down your neck and watching for results is a good thing, as unpleasant as it may sound.

Do you need a little accountability in some area today? Hey, if I can post pictures of my disorderly house on the Internet, you can seek out a friendly soul to encourage you and keep you accountable too. If that's what it takes to get back on the right path, it's worth it.

Have a great weekend my friends. I'm going to be cleaning house!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome to the Hop!

I love to host parties around here, so today we're participating in a Blog Hop. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and perhaps make a few new BBFFs (Blogger Best Friend Forevers!). So click at the bottom of  the cute photo above (after you read my post, of course) and go meet some other hopping bloggers before you tackle the laundry or your kids' homework session or whatever job you are procrastinating about.

If you've hopped my way via the Blog Hop '10, introductions are in order. My name is Kay and I'm an Arizona transplant from Georgia by way of Texas. In other words, I'm a Peach Tree bearing fruit in the desert! No small feat, considering I'm still sporting my southern accent, a hankering for fried okra, and a love for Dogwood trees and Azaleas (of which there are none here).

But over the past five years I've gone from surviving to thriving in this beautiful high desert. My roots are going deeper and my heart is growing fonder of our 48th state. I've taken up hiking and backpacking as a result of having gorgeous mountains in my backyard. In fact my love for hitting the trails inspired the title of my blog, Off the Beaten Path.

At Off the Beaten Path I try to write something either encouraging, practical, or inspiring five days a week. Occasionally, if I've had enough coffee and the planets are lined up accordingly, I even write something witty. But you can always count on me for a little transparency. I like to keep it real and I like to point us all back to the One who anchors me every day - Jesus.

While I love relating to women in general, I have a real heart for women who are either walking with Jesus already or those who are seeking to know their God. If you are a woman who is walking off the beaten path of our culture and trying to stay on the narrow path blazed by Jesus, I invite you to meet me here occasionally throughout your week. I'm walking that path too, and I'd love to walk it with you.

Finally, you might also want to know that I'm a wife, mother of two teens, long-distance daughter and sister, friend to many, and minister to women. I'd love to get to know you better. Feel free to nose around my blog and please come back, ya'll!

Now, click here and go to the Hop!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Of Bombs and One-Day-Old Bread

Abby started her junior year of high school today with a bomb threat.

In light of the fact that schools have been receiving similar threats from immature, crazed or ill-supervised children (and adults, undoubtedly) for decades now, you might think we'd just brush off this tiresome prank and go about our business. But when it's your child that you're potentially sending into harm's way, even an idle threat is no laughing matter.

So last night we sat around the dinner table and tried to decide whether Abby should go to school today or not. Her nineteen-year-old brother said absolutely not.

I'm still trying to dissect the motives behind his emphatic command that she stay home.

I said I felt like it would be safe to go to school if the school officials said it was safe after having the bomb squad from the nearby army post check it out along with their bomb sniffing canines. Still, I wanted Abby to feel free to stay home if she had any fear at all. I saw no point in her being miserable at school all morning.

We reasoned through the ordeal - me and my two teenagers (my husband was out of town for the evening).

Then I drove off to choir practice and called a friend for another mom's perspective. She echoed my sentiments and added a few wise thoughts I hadn't come to on my own. I still hated that my daughter's school year would begin with such a ridiculous scare, but I was feeling calmer about sending her the next morning.

At choir practice I heard a few other takes on the situation. Some were laughing it off (they had no children to send to the school the next morning, however), others had the same perplexed and worried looks on their faces that I undoubtedly wore on mine, and others dismissed the news and went on talking about their plans for the upcoming weekend. A high school bomb threat was no worry to them. But it was to me.

Finally, on the way home from choir practice, I talked to God about this ordeal. Sure, I'd "prayed" about it at dinner. My desperate cry for wisdom and my child's safety was sandwiched in between "God bless these waffles we're about to eat" and "thank you for this lovely day." I'd thrown out an S.O.S. to God, but I hadn't bothered to tune in to Him at all to see if He had a response. I'd reasoned with myself and hashed it out with others, but I hadn't given God a chance to utter a word to this point.

As I drove home and prayed scripture over the situation, my perspective began to truly change. No longer was I just telling myself not to worry and hoping for the best and trusting the bomb squad to do a thorough job, but I began to "hear" God speak to me.

He reminded me that He loves my daughter and will take care of her when I cannot. He reminded me that even when Abraham begged Him to save Sodom and Gomorrah and He could not because there were not even ten righteous men living there, He did spare Lot, Abraham's nephew, and his family because God loved them. He spoke to my spirit and let me know that even if something did happen at the high school, He could save my daughter...if He chose to. He reminded me that the bomb squad knows what they are doing and are worthy of my respect, but He alone is worthy of my faith and trust. And He told me that while "some may trust in chariots and horses (or bomb squads and dogs)," I should trust in the name of my God, for He is sovereign, good, strong, and over all (see Psalm 20:7).

By the time I got home I knew what we should do. I talked with Abby (who had also spent some serious time in prayer by this time) and told her I thought she should go to school the next morning with no fear. I told her the things God had laid on my heart and she confirmed that He had spoken the same things to her. She was still a little nervous, but she would go to school and trust her God to stop her in her tracks if she wasn't supposed to walk in the door.

This morning I tried to focus on the usual first-day-of-school fanfare instead of the bomb threat. I fixed her breakfast (the one time I'll do that this year other than testing days), chatted with her about the day ahead, snapped her picture in her specially chosen first-day-of-school outfit, and walked with her to her little blue Tempo. I watched her drive off and prayed more for her safety on the road than her safety in the school. She called about ten minutes later to say she was there, everything looked normal, and there were no dead bodies on the ground. We laughed and she went on with her day.

I went on with mine too. I picked up my daily reading Bible and read yesterday's scripture because I'm one day behind:

This is what the Lord says:
Do not be afraid or discouraged
because of this vast multitude,
for the battle is not yours, but God's.
Tomorrow, go down against them...
You do not have to fight this battle.
Position yourselves, stand still, and 
see the salvation of the Lord.
He is with you...Do not be afraid
or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out
to face them, for the Lord is with you.
(2 Chronicles 20:15b-17)

In some ways I wish I'd read this passage yesterday morning when it was scheduled to be read. Maybe then I would have handled this whole ordeal a little better from the get-go. But then again, lessons learned in the morning sometimes fade by afternoon with me. I wish that weren't the case, but alas it often is. So I'm thankful that this morning I was able, by God's grace and through His sweet and tender proddings, to send my daughter off to a school that has been threatened with a bomb scare. And I'm grateful that this one-day-old Daily Bread has nourished my soul this morning for the day that lies ahead. I will not fear for her safety all day long or "be afraid or discouraged." Instead I will position myself under His mighty banner, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

It's a cruddy way to start a school year, but at least this little incident has driven me to my knees. I'd not prayed over this year to the extent that I usually do. That is changing.

Today I'm joining Dannah Gresh for her "30 Days of Prayer for Your Daughter" challenge. Dannah's ministry is actually directed toward moms with daughters who are younger than mine, but there's no age limit on praying for our daughters, so I'm in. If you're interested, check it out here. Today is day one in the challenge.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Abby Road

I am interrupting our normally scheduled Trailblazer Tuesday to take a different kind of trail. I'm hitting the road today with my 16-year-old daughter to celebrate her last day of summer. So, with little time for a thought-provoking exegesis of the scriptures about a biblical hero, I'm taking a literary shortcut and skipping on out the door.

I can't believe the summer is over (at least for school kids and those related to them in any way), but alas the school year begins tomorrow. Abby and I will catch a movie, grab a quick Chinese lunch (her favorite) and do a little last minute school shopping (don't worry Mom, we're just getting one pair of shoes for the little fashionista!) in mourning celebration of the new school year. But more importantly, we will have to shift gears.
  • no more sleeping in for her
  • school assignments and projects will load up
  • laundry routines will become more pressing
  • breakfast and dinner will need to be more nutritious
  • bedtime will definitely be earlier
  • stress, stress, stress
And so, without further ado, (because Abby is breathing over my shoulder and begging to hit the road), I'm off to say farewell to summer and hello to my daughter's junior year of high school.

Have a great day and gobble up the remaining crumbs of summer while you can!

Monday, August 2, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Good morning!

I have just spent the last 30 seconds trying to figure out if good morning is one word or two. Obviously it is Monday...

And to those of you who saw this post when the title read "And the Winers Are..." I offer my sincerest apologies. Again, it's Monday...

I have winners (not winers!) to announce this morning.

I am so thrilled that some of you want to get a copy of my new book Satisfied...at Last! and check it out for a possible Bible study group. I'm also glad that others of you are interested in a copy for your own personal use.

And I have good news! I'm giving a copy to each of you who lead groups and let me know that you're interested in perhaps teaching it to a small group in the future! I have enough complimentary copies to give one to all of you.

So I need addresses for:

Shelly@Life on the Wild Side
Mason Dixon Camp
Vernon Family

You will each receive a copy in hopes that you will look it over, go through the study if you wish, and maybe order more for a group study. Of course you're not committing to ordering more by receiving this copy. It's just my hope that you'll give the study a thorough look-through and consider using it in the future, or pass it on to someone who might.

More than anything I want women to use this study as an aid to help them see what God's Word says about satisfying our souls' every desire. For that purpose, I want to get the book in women's hands. I'm not concerned about making a big profit or receiving any accolades; I just want to share a very important message that God laid on my heart.

I wish I could give a copy of the book to everyone else who left a comment. Unfortunately, I just don't have the finances to do that. But I am giving one copy away to an interested student.

I randomly chose:


to receive a free copy of Satisfied...at Last!  Leah, I'll need your address as well.

So congratulations ladies, and get me those addresses. I won't have the books for another week or so, but I'll ship them to you as soon as I get them!

Blessings to you all and thanks so much for your interest in my new book. This isn't the last you'll hear about it, I'm sure!