Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I'm feeling the need for some real motivation.  I have tried to put on the swimsuit, make lists, think of the disappointment of my husband...all of it just makes me feel bad.  Not motivated to move.  

I have a love-hate relationship with my new leather reclining loveseat.  It is really comfortable, it's beautiful, and it fits my style as well as the space limitations in our living room.  It beckons me in the morning after my husband leaves for work to come wrap up in the electric blanket and sip my coffee in luxurious comfort.  I succumb.  Pulled out of my cocoon only by the need for another cup of coffee, this is where I have my quiet time, read the news online, and catch up on Facebook.  I turn on the news at 7, and begrudgingly take my dog for his walk no later than 8.  I always feel glad when I get back.  But then that beautifully soft leather begins its seduction again.  I wonder if it has time travel capabilities, as I often find I have lost hours while sitting in this loveseat.  It is not a good motivator.  Neither is it's side-kick, the electric blanket.  How cozy the two of you make me!

So now you see my problem.  I cannot get rid of my fabulous furniture.  Alas, what is to become of me if I continue to slob away in the seat of sloth?  I have an idea, and trust me, it's not pretty.  I am contemplating using the loveseat as some sort of reward, but as with anything, I need accountability.  No, you cannot help me here.  I will lie to you.  I will.  As frustrating as it is, I must increase my self-discipline with nothing more than...self discipline.  Ironic, I know.  And not very fair, I must say.  Surely my ability to make spreadsheets would help me here, or my gardening skills, or even my penchant for strange humor, but no.  It seems I am going to be forced to dig deep (gardening skills ARE helpful!), and make myself get off this loveseat.  At least before my husband gets home.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


 This is what we came home to after church today.  Seriously?  Seriously.  I just started to laugh.  Because if I don't I'll go crazy.  This year I have been trying to find ways to get through winter without getting my increasingly worse Winter Blues.  I have been taking vitamin D for a year now, I have a new job that has worked out pretty well for me so far, and I'm getting more involved in our church!  I have had such growing hope this winter!  And then this:
 Do you ever feel like when you are doing everything you can, it all falls in on you anyway?  You dig out and scoop it all clean, but then the roof clears and it all falls back in.

I won't pretend that my life is that hard.  I know many people have so much more on their plates than I do.  Actually, I have it incredibly easy.  Too easy, sometimes.  I know that I deal with some physiological things, the snow that falls, but not taking steps to combat it when I know it's coming would be like refusing to get a shovel; just hoping that it's not too deep to walk through.  This year, I have the shovel and boots, but it seems there is just more snow than ever.  It's harder.  But it's possible.

Just when I think I want to quit shoveling and just let the snow fall over me, God sends me a little bit of hope.  That Light that refuses to be completely submerged.  This week I was asked to coffee by two different people (on the same morning even!), and somehow God knew I really needed that feeling of being pursued.  That little bit of encouragement gave me the desire to pick up the shovel and keep going.
Spring will come.  It always does.  In the meantime, I hope I'm as willing to reach out to others and pass that Light on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy ~ Review

I just finished reading this trilogy, and I have to say, it was pretty powerful.  Marketed to "Young Adults" I had a fairly low expectation on literary merits.  I also expected a quick moving story with enough action to keep younger minds engaged.  I honestly got so engaged in the story that I never really paused to consider the literary quality of the books!  It's not Tolstoy, so it is very easy to read and thus very much at the level of a Jr. High reader.  The story moves pretty quickly, answering questions as the action flows, so again very level-appropriate.

It's the actual story that makes me feel that these books go far beyond the scope of "Young Adult."  In a very simple summary, we enter a world that is a post-apocalyptic North America run by a severely corrupt central government that keeps most of its citizens in a state of slavery for the benefit of the elite class.  As an annual punishment/reminder of a past rebellion, this government stages a televised event in which a pair of teenagers from each of the 12 districts, one boy and one girl, are drawn from a bowl to enter a fabricated but natural looking arena to fight to the death, named the Hunger Games.

I was appalled at the concept.  I was also fascinated at how the author could possibly pull this off.  The truth of the matter is that the idea is appalling.  That's the point.  And yet, the people of this nation are so beat down that they comply, sending their children off generation after generation.  The rebellion that is referenced was put out so completely, that the citizens are so afraid and their fear continues to keep them in bondage.  Somehow when the heroine of the story, Katniss Everdeen (named after a water plant) steps up to take the place of her sister in the games, her spark of bravery begins to spread courage to others.

Throughout the horrific mainline story, there is this coming-of-age of Katniss that is really fascinating.  She is forced to realize that her actions directly affect others, and how she presents herself is important.  This awareness of the implications of one's self is something that, I think, is universal in young adult years.  Obviously the setting would be different, but balancing who you think you are with what is expected of you is a tension that permeates most teens.  It did with me, at least!  Katniss's consequences are life or death, but I wonder how many in other parts of the world would relate.

Katniss also deals with the usual conflict of discovering feelings of "like!"  I very intentionally avoid the concept of love here, because I truly don't believe a 16-17 year old understands what love is.  She is compelled to show feelings of "being in love" for the games, but as the books unfold, the complexity of what this has started begins to unravel, and she is finally forced to realize the depth of what "love" really is. It goes far deeper than the fluttery feelings of attraction.  What was done as a facade also has consequences that she must face, and it doesn't feel good.  This path of discovery is worth discussing with a younger reader about to enter the world of dating.  Pressures to do what you think you have to, and the consequences that follow, are again universal.

Finally, what really got me about the story is the question of what depths you are willing to go to for survival.  What about the survival of the ones you love?  Is it worth keeping your character if it costs you your life or the lives of others?   These are the issues that plaque the characters in this story, and not everyone chooses the moral high ground.  As the books progress, these issues are the ones that come out as the characters have to decide if they are any better than their enemies, and examining that for which they are fighting.  Who do you want to be at the end?  This is another pivotal question that directs our young heroes.

In the end, I really enjoyed the books.  I am glad I gave in and bought them!  I recommend them for some thought-provoking reading that is entertaining, if not a bit disturbing.  For young adults with concerned parents, I would advise reading it with them and using these issues for some valuable discussions.  There are many issues not touched upon that could be great springboards for real conversations.  I will be excited to see the movie(s)!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Prayer Print

 God made us all so intricately and specifically different.  Our uniqueness is revealed in many ways from the physical to the nonphysical.  Our fingerprints have long been a way to identify ourselves from others.  I find it an amazing "quirk" that God decided to make us this way!  What a wonderful reminder to us as we lift our hands to our Maker, that each of those prints on our fingers were made uniquely to us, for Him.
 My husband and I often reflect on the very specific way we communicate with each other.  In a broad sense, we speak "Manese" or "Womanese," but even more specifically, we speak in our own dialects of "Pat-ese" and "Melissa-ese."  There are some broad communication suggestions that we use, but in the real world of our days, we have to take the time to refine the way we speak to each other.

Why with all the individuality and uniqueness of each one of us do we feel compelled to use formulas to pray?  Does God create us with such complexity and detail to only hear us if we include all the aspects of a respective acronym?  I don't believe so.

From the very beginning, Adam had normal conversations with God, as normal as could be expected anyway!  After the fall, this openness had certainly changed.  To try to sum it up, the Old Testament from Moses on, shows the unattainable perfection God required in order to approach him, however, it is also shown that His mercy and grace covered those who tried but ultimately failed.  Finally Jesus opens this line of communication so we can confidently approach the Throne of Grace with everything we are.

Jesus's ministry was so broad that I won't begin to dissect it completely, but one thing I want to point out is that He was very clear that the method was much less important, if important at all, in comparison to the heart.  He talked about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:10-14.  The Pharisee talks about all he does, but the tax collector simply begs God for mercy.  Jesus is clear about who is justified.

Those who are fans of formula like to point out the prayer Jesus gives when the disciples ask Him how to pray.  Without any kind of degree in theology, I'd like to offer my simple view of what Jesus was doing here.  One point could be stated that disciples of teachers often had specific, special prayers that their Rabbi would compose just for them.  This is why Jesus's disciples compare themselves to John the Baptist's disciples (Luke 11).  Jesus also knew the limits of our humanity, and how we often need guidelines to help us get started.

If you know me at all, you know that I thrive most in an environment of rules; of boxes to check.  In one way, I really love the idea of having specific prayer points to include.  It helps me to focus on the fact that I am speaking to the Lord of the Universe, not my pocket genie.  I do notice, however, that whenever I try to implement a formula to my prayers, it becomes fabricated and forced.  In time, the guideline becomes restrictive and all I really want to do is quit.  This is just me.  It may not be this way for others.

Just like our fingerprints and specific ways we communicate with each other, I believe we have the freedom to communicate just as individually with Jesus.  We have guidelines if we find ourselves without a way to start, but I believe God wants us to go beyond the formula, beyond the acronym.  He wants our hearts, sputtering and disjointed as they are.  He wants our moments where we have no idea what to say, but just bow to him in tears; He wants our moments where we beg and plead for the help we know only He can give.  He wants those moments where we all we can do is reach out and say a few words; He wants those moments where we sing our praises to Him.  He wants it all, every scripted and unscripted moment of our lives.

So if you feel unable, or just unsure of how to talk to God, just open your hands to Him.  Lift the cries of your heart, as unique as your fingerprints, up to Jesus.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Embracing Fat!

 We've come to know "fat" as a dirty word.  It hasn't always been that way.  In fact, in many past and present cultures, being fat is a sign of success and power.  Actually, things haven't changed much.

 In the same way that 15th century artists depicted beauty in the fullness of figures, I've found a new appreciation for the term, "fat."  Several years ago now, I heard a previous pastor of mine talk about the need to be F.A.T. in order to be a successful leader.  Faithful, Available, Teachable.  I've found that the same principles apply to life in general.  I've also discovered that these qualities are almost as difficult for me as maintaining good eating & exercise habits!

Being Faithful is so easy in concept.  The kicker on this one is that it is a "time will tell" principle (also taken from Pastor Williams).  Being faithful in something for a very short time is, well, not that impressive.  I've often said that I could do just about anything for a short period of time, and that's often as long as I last.  It's when we can be faithful for the long haul that matters.  Faithfulness is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and thus can only really be mastered by the Spirit-led person (as mastered as humanly possible!).  It is a difficult thing to be faithful in trying circumstances, but even David as he ran for his life encourages us to "Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD."  He was convinced, and rightfully so, that "The LORD preserves the faithful and fully recompenses the proud doer."  (Psalm 31:24, 23b)

Availability is a little easier for me right now, sort-of.  I like to plan my life to be easy-going.  This doesn't necessarily mean I want to use my free time in service.  In fact, just today I spent a fair amount of time making calls and arrangements for a firewood ministry my husband leads.  He is busy right now with work, but I am available.  I admit it isn't as fun to spend hours on the phone planning logistics, but I am glad I can help.  It is obedience.

Teachability is probably my hardest one to master.  When I enter a new field of interest, I cannot wait to consume all the information possible.  I love to become an expert on things that interest me.  Other things, not so much.  Just ask my husband.  Unfortunately, I am not good at feigning interest and consequently, my poor attitude often prohibits any information from sinking in.  I tend to give the blank look and angrily give up before the lesson is over.  That is not a quality of being teachable!  Just like being faithful throughout the difficult times, I believe being teachable is necessary in the less than desirable times.  

So here's to developing our FAT Qualities!  And eating better...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Grass is Greener Syndrome

 Having spent the last month in the bay area of California, I have remembered my love of the color green. I was sent rather short-notice and packed a bit too warm for the area.  It didn't take me long to soak in the green grass, blooming lavender and other flowers around my hotel.  It was a sweet consolation for an otherwise difficult job.
Upon my return to a very snowy home back in Alaska, I quickly began to wish for a change of "home."  Why did it have to snow more this year than ever?  (I don't know the exact numbers, but we have had a LOT of snow this winter... so far.)  This means that it will take even longer to see my own lawn this year.
Oh how I miss green grass!
As if God knew this would be in this brain of mine, he set it to my Pastor to quote someone, I forget who, saying, "If the grass is greener on the other side, then it's time to water your own lawn."

I could get all negative and literal, explaining the desire to water my lawn but it's covered in 5 feet of packed snow, but I'll take the figurative intention and realize that I have ways to make my life content.  Most of this "watering" is rooted (pun intended!) in spiritual discipline.  I must admit that I am lacking in this most important way.  When I stop feeding myself with the Word, I feel distracted, flighty, discontent, and ungrateful.  I look at others and pine for whatever they have that seems to be lacking in my life.

On CBS Sunday Morning, a show I must watch every week, they had a little segment discussing the falsity of the literal "greener grass" syndrome.  Let me explain.  When one looks over a fence or what-have-you at the lawn across the way, it often appears to be greener because of the angle of the view.  Grass blades are long and slender, giving the most green color viewing from the side.  When looking upon the same blades of grass from above, the view is more of the tips and edges, and often some dirt, giving a much less green appearance.

Basically it's perspective.  When I think my life is too lowly for me to participate in it, and I feel like changing lawns, what I really need is to get down and roll around; get my eyes to the level of the blades.  This may mean getting dirty, grass-stains and all, to really see what I have.  (There are so many puns & allegorical thoughts here, but I'll restrain myself - they could get very old!)   I have to engage more deeply in the life I have been given to nurture it.  Then maybe, just maybe, someone else will ask what I'm doing to have such a healthy, green life, and I can point them to the Maker and Sustainer of it all.