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Glad I Was Wrong!

In the summer of 2006, I was heading from Cleveland, Ohio, to Minneapolis to surprise my niece for her 30th birthday. Most of my family was going to be there, but the only family member who knew I was making the trip was my nephew, Randy. (That was only because he was my ride from the airport.) When I found my assigned seat, a dark-complected young man was sitting in the aisle seat next to mine. We exchanged brief greetings as he stood to let me past him to the window seat, but a few minutes later he got up and headed to the bathroom.

“Flight attendants, prepare for departure” came through the speakers as we began to pull away from the gate. But my seat companion hadn’t returned from the restroom. To me he looked of mid-eastern descent, so my paranoia went into high gear and a debate began in my head. What do I do? Do I tell the flight attendant? Do I ignore it and leave it be? Why am I being paranoid? If I tell the flight attendant, what will that say about me stereotyping a fellow passenger because of his skin color? Out of my paranoia, fear, and shyness, I did the only safe thing I knew to do: I prayed my heart out. Lord, please ground the plane…

I just kept thinking, “If this plane goes down in flames, no one will know I’m even on this plane.” I also tried reasoning with myself. ‘Cmon, girl, get a grip. This is a small plane. It’s not worth a terrorist’s time. So calm down already! But I kept praying anyway.

Not too long after we reached the runway, the pilot informed us that we were heading back to the gate. There was a light or something indicating a problem with the plane. Thank you, Jesus! Now ground this baby! Back at the gate, we waited while they checked out whatever issue was going on. And it checked out fine. Now it was back to the runway. Rats! Once again, I was praying as hard as I could.

Up in the air and cruising for an hour or so, my prayers and fears slacked off a bit. I relaxed some and began to enjoy the rare occasion of having an empty seat next to me. I had come to the conclusion that if anything was going to happen, it would have happened by then. The rest of the flight was uneventful, thankfully. We landed and in usual fashion it was a mass standing of people as soon as the seat belt lights went blank. I looked up and there he was in the row in front of me. The young man I thought had never returned from the bathroom. How I didn’t see him move to that seat, I’ll never know.

Relief and personal embarrassment flooded over me all at once. Relief that I had been wrong in my assumptions. Even though I hadn’t embarrassed myself by saying anything to the flight attendant, I was embarrassed with myself for stereotyping someone who most likely was a very nice man. I may still laugh at myself for my stupidity, but I will always remember the lesson I learned: Don’t allow your first impressions or perceptions make a fool out of you.

Daily Post “Think Again”

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What Does Independence Mean?

July 4th. Every country has it, but only one country – the United States – celebrates it as a holiday. It’s official name is Independence Day. As Americans we tend to just refer to the day as “The Fourth” which in some ways enables us to forget the reason why it’s even a holiday. It is a sad day if we ever get consumed with enjoying it without remembering why the 4th of July is so important and what it took to make it a reason to celebrate.

Last night I attended the “American past time” called a baseball game. As with all sports games in the U.S. the game didn’t officially start until the National Anthem was sung. Call me a sap, but I always cry at this song! Especially when I look to see where the incredible voice is coming from and discover it’s a boy who probably just finished the 3rd grade. Then throughout the evening they honored a few veterans who were in attendance. One served in Vietnam while another one served during World War II. Someone else was a Brigadier General who had been in the military for 26  years. And yet another one was a recipient of not one, but three purple hearts. The game paused while each one was thanked with a standing ovation that included a whole bunch of hooting and hollering.

It wasn’t until the grand finale with fireworks when I fully remembered what we were supposed to be celebrating. Our freedom! I realize we are not the only free country in the world, but we have a special kind of freedom. It’s the kind we don’t keep to ourselves. We first fought to have our freedom and independence from the tyranny of England. Then throughout the years, we have protected that freedom by helping other countries retain theirs, like the two world wars.

While he didn’t experience any combat due to the timing of the armistice being signed, my grandfather served in France during World War I. As he was preparing to return to the States, he received a booklet from the French government called, “To the Homeward-Bound Americans.” It was France’s way of saying thank you to the U.S. soldiers for helping them keep the Germans from taking over Europe. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

At the most critical moment of the struggle which had lasted for three years against German imperialism, you came as strong youths into a country where the young had perished. To the weeping you brought a smile, to those who had been despoiled your generosity restored hope, to the fatherless children you offered joy. The summing up of these recollections must remain an inspiration to you and to those who follow you, in all future efforts.

Not all war is about living free…some have been fought over boundaries or who’s going to be in charge. It doesn’t matter what your political views are or what your opinion is about war. The fact remains: without war, you wouldn’t have the freedom to publicly express those views. By fighting in both world wars, we kept our own freedom by giving freedom to Europe and other parts of the world. Freedom isn’t free, though. Millions of people have sacrificed for it. Some sacrificed their limbs, their relationships, their sight, and many with their very lives. Whether you agree with war and helping other countries fight for their freedom or not, those who have made sacrifices deserve our respect and thanks. Let’s not forget the cost of our freedom. I personally take pride in being an American as well as thankful I was born in this country.

So what does independence mean? It means freedom! Freedom from tyranny. Freedom to make our own decisions. Freedom from bondage. Freed to travel where we want. Freedom from suppression. Freedom to have our own opinions and to express them. Freedom from conformity. Freedom to be who we are no matter how different we are from others.

Let’s join together in the Braveheart cry: FREEDOM!!

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Lifelong Lessons from Mom

We’ve all heard the usual “momisms” from our moms. Sayings like: “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Or “Keep frowning like that and your face will freeze.” Or the ever popular, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” But there are some unique lessons that my own mom may or may not have intended to teach me. In honor of her recent 88th birthday, I wanted to share them with you. And who knows…maybe you’ve learned the same lessons from your mom.

A very close resemblance to our sink that missed out on every trip.

A very close resemblance to our sink that missed out on every trip.

When traveling, always pack everything except the kitchen sink
I wouldn’t even try to count the number of times I heard the following exchange from my parents. Dad yelling at my mom, “What’re you doing? Taking everything but the kitchen sink? ‘Cmon…let’s go!” To which mom replied, “Well if it were up to you, you’d take just the clothes on your back and wouldn’t have any clean underwear if I didn’t pack them!” Oh the days of traveling as a child. For this reason, I tend to pack lighter than most women. Most of the time, at least. There are those trips, however, when I don’t follow my own rule of packing light and then I hear Dad’s voice in my head.

Don’t talk to strangers
First of all, this isn’t really something you have to tell a child who is already naturally shy. But Mom continued to give me that warning every day as I left for school. I would usually give her some kind of attitude, because I could pretty much repeat the warning back to her by the time I was in the third grade. Besides, no stranger had ever offered me a ride so there was nothing to worry about. Then one day there was the sweet, little old lady who stopped and asked if I wanted a ride. Following my mom’s instructions that were imprinted into my head, I declined. After all, I was only a half block from our house!

Paddles with rubber balls attached are not toyspaddleball
One time I wanted one of those toys that was hanging in the store’s checkout lane for the sole purpose of enticing little ones like me. Mom kept telling me NO, but I wouldn’t have it. After a few minutes of begging, Mom finally gave in and said, “Okay, but if the ball breaks off the paddle, it’s mine.” In a moment of victory, I agreed. Never in my wildest dreams would I let her have it. But then it happened. In my carelessness, the rubber band got wrapped around the post of the swing set. Mom’s words haunted my young mind as panic and adrenaline coursed through my veins. I frantically began unwrapping the rubber band; because I knew if I wasn’t successful, that thin piece of wood one day would make contact with my backside. After all, I wasn’t all THAT perfect!

You’re never too old to be spanked
That’s right, folks! I discovered this lesson a few years ago. Even at 80+ years old, my mom threatened to put me over her knee and spank me. I am in my 40s! What could I ever do to deserve that kind of threat?! So in usual childlike fashion, I don’t remember what I did. However, a few minutes later I felt her hand forcefully smack my bottom as I was helping her turn the blankets down on her bed. When I turned and asked her what that was for she replied, “You were in just the right spot.” Apparently the saying is true, “No good deed goes unpunished!”

EggCartonWasteBaskets 030editNever throw away egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, or paper towel rolls
I can see the wrinkles forming between your eyebrows with the question “why” rolling around in your brain. According to my mom, “You never know when the church may need them for crafts during Vacation Bible School or Sunday School.” Um…okay. But somehow I doubt they would ever make 100 wastebaskets from egg cartons, 200 snakes out of toilet paper rolls, or 150 palm trees made with paper towel rolls. In case you’re wondering, this is NOT one of the lessons I follow.

Be generous when you share
This was a biggie. Whenever we would eat out at the only fast food place in town, Mom would never get fries. She didn’t need to when she could snitch off of everyone else. When we would ask her why she didn’t get her own fries, her response was, “I only wanted a few.” And yet half of our fries would disappear before we had a chance to eat a few ourselves. Candy bars were no exception either. “Can I have a bite?” Sure! What I learned quickly was that her “bite” looked more like a chunk that didn’t leave much for me. I suppose this was her way of teaching us to share, but I soon refused to give her a bite until I had eaten my own share. On the flip side, we had our own retribution and taught her the same lesson. She always had a Tupperware glass of either iced tea or water on the kitchen table. We turned it into a community glass. It was great satisfaction when we would hear, “Who drank my water?!” See, Mom, sharing goes both ways!

While these may not be “real” lessons my mom intended for us to learn, there are many others she has taught us by just being her and who she is. She’s a woman of few words these days, but her actions have always spoken louder than her words. Which is good since her words could get pretty loud when our full names were being called out from another room! There just isn’t enough space in a blog to share everything we learned from Mom, plus each one of us probably learned different things too. The moral of the lesson? Always listen to your mom!

 

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Obstacles of Life

As I was making the 10-minute drive to buy groceries, I ran into several hindrances that kept me from getting to the store and back home by using the usual route. In both directions, I re-routed myself since I didn’t have the patience for road construction; and on the alternate route back home, a delivery truck was parked in my lane. With a curve just beyond it, I had to be very cautious and observant for cars coming in my direction. Once I was able to stay mobile I started thinking about my travel difficulties. Our lives are the same way – full of obstacles and detours.

What kinds of obstacles am I talking about? Things that keep us from getting to where we want to go or doing what we want to do. It can be a variety of things: sickness, injury, depression, financial difficulties, a change in job, trips/vacation, and family or marriage issues. The list could easily go on for several paragraphs, so feel free to fill in your own blank: _________________.

This analogy can be applied to many aspects of our lives; but because this is my blog, I’m going to narrow it down to two different kinds of journeys: a healthy lifestyle and a spiritual journey.

A Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle
Having been on this journey myself for four years, I am all too familiar with obstacles and detours that have delayed my trip. (There’s a reason why it’s taken me four years!) Sometimes it can be as simple as the common cold that keeps me from an exercise schedule, which is just like stopping at a rest area. Other times it can be as complicated as a full schedule, which would be considered a detour since I would have to reschedule my plans. Unfortunately, there have been times when that wasn’t even possible.

The biggest obstacle I’ve encountered on this healthy journey is myself. No, I didn’t stutter – you read that correctly! I’ve said many times that I am my worst distraction, and it holds true in this case. Feelings of defeat. Thoughts of giving up. Questioning my sanity. All of these can get in the way (or at least slow us down) of reaching our goals.

So what have I done to stay on track, you ask? The answer is probably a little more complex than this, but I basically just pick up where I left off and kept pressing on toward my goal. I also find a way to combat the negative thoughts and feelings as soon as they hit by reminding myself of how far I’ve come. Now let’s move on to another (and more important) aspect of healthy living: our spiritual being.

A Spiritual Journey
Depending on your beliefs, a spiritual journey can mean different things. Because I’m a pastor, we’re going to focus on a relationship with Jesus. When you accept Jesus as your Savior and begin to live for Him, your life does not begin to travel on a smooth road. Anyone who tells you that has no clue what they’re talking about. Trust me! Your life is definitely BETTER, but not necessarily smoother. Detours, road blocks, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes will still come across your path in an attempt to derail your faith and destroy your relationship with Christ. They can come in many forms: earth-shaking news of deadly illness, a whirlwind of financial troubles that knocks us off our feet, or a big “road closed” sign blocks our plans. These types of things are inevitable; and unfortunately, many of them cannot be prevented.

We've all seen these at some point!

We’ve all seen these at some point!

How we handle these obstacles determine how strong our faith really is. And when dealt with in the right way, it strengthens our relationship with Christ. So how do we prepare ourselves for these roadblocks and detours? By spending time with Him. And what in the world does that look like, you wonder? It’s a very common question that I’ve even asked myself at times. I realize this will sound like your standard pat answer, but it’s still true. It looks like this: praying and reading the Bible. I know! It’s a very easy answer, but there’s nothing easy about it. It takes discipline. It is simple, though. All you have to do is talk with God throughout the day like you would a friend. And don’t forget to set aside a dedicated time when it’s just the two of you – sort of like a date night. But that’s not enough. The other part is reading the Bible and taking God’s promises to heart.

Even though I have only discussed two journeys, the most important one is life itself. Yes, life is a journey that never ends – until we die. Until then, we have to learn to navigate obstacles and detours that pop up along the way. Just like a road trip or running errands, you wouldn’t just stop or give up on getting to your destination. Frustrating? Yes! Aggravating? You bet! So what do we do when something gets in our way? If we’re in unfamiliar territory, we either pull out our GPS or map (depending on what era you’re from) or we take a side route that we know in the area. In other words, we find a new or different road to meet our goal. And sometimes we just have to press on or maneuver through the road construction (and have patience doing it). Either way, we will make it to our destination as long as we keep moving and never give up.

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The Gift of Indecisiveness

I was having a discussion with a friend one day about a situation that had some controversial aspects to it, and I stated that I could see the good and bad of both sides. I also added that I seem to be able to do this with other situations. His response? “That’s a gift. The problem, however, is knowing which side or solution to recommend.” I didn’t have the heart to disagree with him about it being a “gift.” It’s what I call the curse of indecisiveness. Anyone who has ever been to a restaurant with me has experienced this! Unless I look at the restaurant’s website in advance or it’s a place I frequent, it can take me up to ten minutes or more to figure out what I want. When the server finally gets to me in the line-up, I waver on what to order even though I already had my mind made up before they got there. What else can I do? There are just so many wonderful things to choose from!

This pretty much sums it up!

Yep, this pretty much sums it up!

I’ve always wondered why I have such a hard time making decisions. Even the really easy ones stump me, like do I hit a drive-thru or fix something at home? Or which drive-thru do I want to hit for lunch? Or which bottle of ketchup do I buy? Then one day, for whatever reason, I was thinking about how it seems like none of my sisters have the right traits for their birth order, including me. So I did a little research online. Dr. Kevin Leman says this about the youngest, “Babies of the family are social and outgoing, they are the most financially irresponsible of all birth orders. They just want to have a good time. Knowing that these kids love the limelight, it’s no surprise to discover that Billy Crystal, Goldie Hawn, Drew Carey, and Steve Martin are all lastborns.”

Allow me to get sidetracked right here. First of all, I hate the phrase “baby of the family!” It irritates the heck out of me when my sisters introduce me as their “baby sister” when I’m approaching 50. ‘Cmon, really? Maybe I should retaliate and refer to them as my “aging” sisters! Okay…now I’m really digressing. Second, this summary doesn’t describe me at all. While I enjoy hanging out and talking with friends, I am not outgoing. In fact, I am shy by nature. I don’t know why people don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s very true. I’ve just grown out of it quite a bit. But put me in a room or situation where I don’t know anyone, and I revert back to my shy, awkward self hanging out on the sidelines. I am also very (or at least mostly) financially responsible, and I hate being the center of attention. I’m more than happy to stay behind the scenes. So let’s get back on track and look at another brief description of the youngest born.

West Coast Wellness Group adds this: “Youngest children grow up having others make decisions for them and thus, as adults, have far less confidence about decision-making in early and mid-adult life.”

THAT explains it! Everyone else made decisions for me when I was growing up, so why bother? I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case, but I can only assume it to be true since they talked for me. After all, I didn’t start talking till I was 4 years old. (As you can imagine, there’s a whole other story right there!) There are very few decisions I can remember from my younger years that I was confident in making or knew I wanted. One was playing the clarinet (had to actually beg mom to take me to the school to sign up) and another was going to Bible College to study for ministry. Oh, and we can’t leave out my decision to follow Christ.

With this lack of decision-making skills, God knew what He was doing when He called me to ministry and not some other career that required making decisions on the spur of the moment. I have to weigh all the pros and cons plus get input from not one, but several people. And even then, I can change my mind once I make a decision. Here’s a perfect example of this: When I was just a couple of months away from my Bible College graduation, my ministry appointment was on the verge of falling through. What was I going to do now? All year I had plans to go to a certain place and then it had the possibility of not happening. Then another offer came through. Oh great…this is when I had to make a decision. After weighing the pros and cons of both places and talking it through with several friends, I made a decision. One of those friends made me write it on a piece of paper and place it on the floor next to my bed. He said to me, “Now when you wake up in the morning and want to change your mind, you can’t.” He knew me well. As soon as I woke up the next morning I began thinking, “Maybe I should go to _______.” Then I saw that piece of paper. Never mind!

While I’m still not quite sure if this indecisiveness is a gift, like my friend suggests, I do think it can become a gift if I’m able to develop it to the point where I’m able to recommend the better solution. Now here’s the real question: How do I gain the confidence in making decisions and develop the gift of recommending one side? Here’s my answer (whether it’s right or not, I don’t know): Practice, practice, practice!