Monday, January 30, 2006

Obedience is better than sacrifice

God has called all of us to a life of worship and service. Our purpose in this life is to "Fear God and keep his commandments." As humans we try to complicate this issue. In church we read from I Samuel 15. Saul was charged by God to wipe out EVERY living thing of the Amalekites. This include all people, animals and so on. Instead his army spared f the best of animals and Agag the king. When approached by Samuel, Saul defended his actions by saying the animals were for holy sacrifice.

Samuel tells Saul Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.

Human understanding would have considered it wasteful to pointlessly kill all the animals. They could have stimulated the economy and provided for the needs of his people. Sparing the king may be deemed an act of compassion and mercy.

Our human mind will identify an action that we deem as good and use it to excuse us from executing God's will. After the act is complete, we may openly recognize our rebellion. We apologize and are sorry. While God in hiinfinitete mercy often forgives us, it would have pleased him more had we obeyed in the first place. Sometimes these actions havlife-longet consequences.

I find myself justifying things that I know are wrong. Do I choose to forsake the assembling of believers so I can stay home and "have my quiet time with the Lord?" Do I avoid people who are in need because "I don't want to bnosyey" when I'm really just being selfish?

To the outside observer, I may appear completely innocent or justified. But God knows my heart. He doesn't want me to be sorry later buobedientnt today. I have found every time I've submitted my heart is filled with such a peace and blessing I feel foolish foevery timeme I don't. Yet the Lord loveth whom he chasten. I'm thankful he loves me. Without the Spirit's direction and his holy word I'd be completely lost.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Outward expressions of internal experiences

Poker face, I have an astounding poker face. You can tell the precise quality of my hand by my face. I've always desired the ability to conceal my emotions and not show my hand. Recognizing this was primarily a pride issue, I was increasingly convicted. I realized over the years I could conceal any emotion struggles from others and even deceive myself. Because emotion masking and internal retreat are almost instinctive responses I looked for undeniable, difficult to hide, outward manifestations of my turmoil.

I tend to compartmentalize my life. Currently I'm operating in a dichotomous environment. Emotional investments are typically equally invested in work and my personal life. I can experience great trauma in my personal life and maintain a reasonable about of sanity within my work. On the opposite end, work can be going horribly wrong and my personal life smooth sailing. Of course they bleed into one another on occasion but the separation is really tight.

I usually define the compartments relative to the geographic locations where they take place. Work life is in the office, on the airplane, at a conference center and personal life is basically everywhere else with the center of it being my apartment. You can tell my emotional state relative to these two compartments of my life by the cleanliness of the primary geographic space.

If you walk into my apartment to find dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, and my curling iron still plugged in the bathroom you can venture to guess I'm struggling personally. Whenever I resolve a personal issue I get a great urge to clean. It is if removing the cobwebs from my heart makes me notice them in the corners. Cleaning declares that I've been victorious.

If you walk into to my office and see piles of paper, partially use notebooks, and a warm open Diet Pepsi can you can assume that I'm overwhelmed or feeling a loss of direction relative to my work life.

It's not that any of these places become dirty gross with things involving mold etc...but they obviously need a touch up. So if you ever do walk into my office or apartment and see it in such a state...I don't probably need a reprimand or a sarcastic comment. I probably need a hug.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Learning to Pack Light

Any one who has traveled with me knows that packing light is not my strength. I've discovered that is not because I am unable to decide what to leave behind but my luggage has been too large. I have some very nice pieces of luggage that I've acquired over the years (how I've acquired them is for a later discussion). Many a guy has shaken his head and marked me a senseless girl as I struggle with these large bags on a car trip. More than one as given me the most evil stare as they cram the piece into a small Ford Escort of Dodge Neon.

As I pack my suitcase I equate empty space with me forgetting something. If I don't have to throw my entire body on top of the bag to shut it I have obviously forgotten something. Typically the large heavy bag comes back with 46% of the items unused. I fall into my chair after dragging the thing up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment.

To rectify this problem I have relegated my luggage to the closet only to be used on long business trips where I'm flying out. All short weekend jaunts are limited to my black tote and Press Ganey duffel bag. It was such a joy this weekend to make one easy trip up the stairs with my bags. I was even able to keep talking on my cell phone and get the mail in this single trip. I used majority of things in the bag, lacking nothing.

Maybe there is hope for my back yet.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Audio Learner

Each of us take in information through our different senses. Some experiences are retained better in our long-term memory influenced by the sense that was used for the intake. Many people say I'm a "visual learner" meaning seeing pictures or examples helps them retain information better than other methods. I discovered in college I'm certainly an audio learner.

Being the nerd I am, I was prone to reasonably large amounts of study time. Yet I found that my greatest study strategy was simply to attend class. I was able to absorb most of the information necessary for the exam or project by simply listening to the instructions.

When cold evening after my night class, I was discussing with myself the principles covered in class. Now I was the only one listening minus the occasional passerby who caught a tidbit of my conversation. It was during this intense personal discussion did I discover I was an audio learner. I said to myself "No wonder I talk to myself so much, I'm an audio learner."

My friends argue that I'm still responding to the little voices in my head but since I'm still only hearing my voice I'm fairly confident that isn't it. My internal conversations are not usually as stimulating as those with other individuals as the element of surprise is eliminated.

Phone conversations are very satisfying to me because of this inclination towards audio learning. The 900 hours of call time since May 2004 with my current cell phone supports this assertion. While I always prefer someone in the room, I compensate for my current status with the cell phone.

Talking to myself also provides some level of comfort. I just never want it to get in the way of personal relationships. Brett said he saw me on campus a while back but..."I was going to say hi but I didn't want to interrupt your conversation."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Busy-Making ourselves feel important

"How's work?"

This common exchange of pleasant statements has sparked my interest recently. When I ask anyone about their school or job, I expect at some point in the conversation for them to reply how busy it is. If they fail to make this statement, someone usually comments "enjoy it while it lasts" implying that it will be busy in the future. If a person is never "busy", they are often considered lazy or useless. that may be a little harsh but we feel something is wrong with them if they are getting enough sleep and enjoying time with those their lives. In reality, it may be the rest of us who have got it wrong.

I've heard the acronym BUSY-Buried Under Satan's Yoke. The idea that the mundane and pointless things of life consume our most limited and valuable asset, our time. Modern technology such as the microwave, automobiles, computers etc.... all could be utilized to minimize the amount of time it took to do certain tasks. Instead of reinvesting this time into our spiritual growth and edification, we have increased the number of pointless things we require of ourselves. As this is a societal mindset, the individual who tries to challenge does not receive much for social support. Schools, jobs, and so on are designed to train us to maximize our time for economic development. As if this economic growth is good in and of itself. If we are not contributing our full amount to the greater good, we are considered a leech on society. It is essential we convey our "busy-ness" to everyone so that we are viewed as an equal. If we are not busy, we fear we are missing something.

Now those who choose to not maximize their economic potential in exchange for a less busy life face daily pressures to conform to the mindest. No one says on their death bed "I wish I had completed that report" or "I spent too much time with our kids." Unfortunately our "business" interferes with the things we love the most. If we would slow down and think about it, maybe we wouldn't have to wait till were in the nursing home to relax.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Joys of aging

As I've commented before, Americans traditionally despise aging. It is considered something to avoid. "Young at Heart" and other such expressions only perpetuate the idea that getting old is a bad thing. The elderly are generally devalued by our society. Placed in facilities to await death, they are often the most neglected group of our entire society.

True with old age comes physical deterioration and bouts with senileity. Due to their declining health status, the average American is more forgiving of socially inappropriate actions committed by the elderly. Older Americans are allowed to say whatever they think, act like children, and return to a simpler life without social criticism. I'm not saying that the elderly have it easy...but I'd like to point out that era of life has some finer aspects.

My grandfather has been rather out spoken his entire life. Now that he is 84, he feels it is right to comment on every person he says. Now that is he almost deaf...he makes these comments quite loudly. Our poor musical director was subjected to comments about her size during the entire junior high Christmas program a few years back. Despite my parents and sibling vigilant efforts to quiet him, he continued to make comments. Never did another member of the audience ask him to shush nor did the musical director. All this is taken in stride to "humor the old geezer." Grandfather is also well known in our small time for securing his pallbearers. Ever the planner, he has had his pallbearers lined up for the past 6 years. He frequently forgets who he is already asked, so I'm counting on at least 15 when the day finally arrives.

Grandpa and Grandma now get to ride around the mall in their scooters. Never mind that they have run over the toes of at least 25 strangers and the walls in their house have mysterious holes in the shape of the handle bars. They are free to drive around these new toys wherever they can make them fit. As a 10 year old these would have been as cool as a dirt bike. The scooters of course are compliments of the Federal Government for reaching the age of 70+. Grandma and Grandpa are also enjoying themselves immensely with their lift-chair races.
Let's see who can get dumped out first.

Finally, being the patriarch and matriarch of the family allows them to dictate the day, time, meal, and schedule of events of family activities. We know that Thanksgiving is held on Thanksgiving Day, at lunch time, a traditional meal of turkey, corn casserole, dressing w/o sage, pistachio jello salad, rolls, and home made pumpkin pie w/Cool Whip will be served. Grandma calls to remind us of this usually at the end of October. Not that we mind doing the work as they aren't really capable. But it would be nice to try a ham for once.

Overall aging holds some promise. I just home my family loves me enough to put up with my shenanigans when I reach that age.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wishing for sunshine

The weather has been slightly confused in South Bend. The clouds and jet stream think it is late March. It is right around 40 degree and a deep dark grey. We've had approximately 7 hours of sun in the past 3 weeks. I wish I was exaggerating but it's the truth. I'm not a huge fan of really hot weather but I do love sunshine. I'll take the heat (with my central air of course) for a little sun.

Now I'm quite thankful for this little temperature mix-up. I'd be very content to for go some for warmer weather. It was my own foolishness that led me to have temporary amnesia regarding lake effect snow when I took my job in South Bend. It was April/May when I was interviewing for the position and in June I moved up here. Hence beautiful weather. The cold snow we received through most of November and December was not something I bargained for.

This warm spell has provided a bit of relief. I'm contemplating a quick visit to the tanning bad but then again do I really want to hasten the aging of my skin? Temporary warmth and happiness at the risk of skin cancer...I probably can't make myself do it.

I just need to find a hot vacation spot.

Monday, January 09, 2006

My New Year's Resolution-Not to make New Year's Resolutions

Evil, deceptive, pointless, and inconvenient all excellent descriptives of New Year's Resolutions. Now I know for some people New Year's resoluitons are very meaningful, important, and provide motivation to change something that probably needed changed a long time ago. I'm not opposed to personal growth and development, as long as it doesn't cause me great inconvenience.

Every January the Y where I work out member activity almost triples. All those poor souls determined that this year will be the year they lose weight come to crowd my gym. They flock to the gym for the first 2 weeks in January determined to make a change. This makes it very difficult for those of us who are regulars to maintain a normal routine. While a few make it and join our regular ranks, there are two distinct types of New Year's resolutioners who quickly fall off the wagon.

The first type is the "Going to the gym qualifies as working out" types. This group feels that simply showing up at the gym has to burn at least 300 calories. The may swim a lap around the pool then relax in the corner or they will walk on the treadmill at a pace that would even disgust a turtle. They take the elevator to the second floor to use the cardio room. Whatever the chosen activity, more calories are burned on their walk to and from the closest space in the parking lot than during their entire stay. After a few weeks, this group has not only failed to lose weight they have gained 3 pounds from their "reward" at McDonald's on the way home. The whole "exercising thing didn't work" and they quit coming.

The second type is the "I haven't done this in years so I need to catch up." Members of this team work out hard. So hard they borderline kills themselves. Instead of setting a reasonable pace for a 40 minute work out, they sprint for 10 minutes on the treadmill until their entire shirt appears as if they strategically stood under a active sprinkler system. Their breathing is so heavy people's eyebrows begin to raise and the YMCA staff are just praying the kneel over on their drive home versus somewhere on their property. This group hurts for a week and figures they have done enough to count for the entire year and hence returns to their normal activity.

I need to be patient and encouraging to all those who are striving to improve their health. The basic principles of healthy living haven't changed since the beginning of man. Eat right and move. I'm not saying this will turn you into a size 0 super model...but you'll feel better all around. I don't get too annoyed at these New Year's resolutioners. Since you have to sign up for a year membership at the Y, I just figure they subsidize my dues for the rest of the year.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Shopping Cart Growth

As I've matured through the years and watched the average American's waistline continue to grow, I have noted a direct relationship with waistline growth and our shopping cart size growth. During this same time period Americans have witnessed a decline in overall savings. While we may make McDonald's the villain in this story, I believe grocery stores are to blame.

As a single girl living alone, I do not need a lot of groceries. I traditionally look for a basket to do my shopping to avoid over filling my cart with things I don't need. Many American families head off the store and only stop filling their cart with purchases once the cart is full. Not everyone stops causing many items to come crashing down on the dirty linoleum, hence Heinz move the plastic bottles for their ketchup.

A few nights ago I headed to Kroger's, they basket holder was noticeably empty but there were an abundance of large carts. As a child, myself or my siblings were often placed in the grocery cart to do the weekly shopping. There was barely room for two children if you wanted to put any groceries in the cart. Now a days you could bring your 3 kids, dog, cat, and hamster and have plenty of room for the groceries. The idea is that you only bring 1.2 children and fill the rest with unhealthy high-mark up products. Later you come back to buy the more expensive "diet" products to try and repair the damage.

As I paraded through the store I had to discipline myself to only grab the items I had written out on my list. I only wanted about a basket's worth of groceries. I would not let my practically empty cart fool me that I was lacking anything. If we really want to promote better health in Americans, we need to reduce the shopping cart size. If people want to purchase as many goods, it will at least require an extra trip around the store.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My mom-Case example of adult attention deficit disorder

Disclaimer: Nothing said within the following post is meant to slander or erode the perception of character of the subject. The following is for humorous purposes only. Information should be considered partially ficticious and the ramblings of a loving daughter. The following in no way implies a lack of respect, love, or trust between the author and her mother. All claims/beliefs are held soley by the author and are not endorsed by Blogger, family, or Al Gore.

My mother is one of the hardest working people I know. She certainly has two full-time jobs. First is being the mother of our family. The second, one she is actually paid for, is a nurse supervisor in an outpatient surgery unit at our local hospital. She claims that she is only part-time but since I'm confident most weeks she is cutting into overtime...I don't think she really can do that.

Unfortunately my mother has not learned the art of efficiency. She is a self and family diagnosed victim of adult attention deficit disorder. No task is ever complete until 3 more have begun.

New Year's Eve day I sleepily awakened at 10:00 to the sound of clunking on the stairs in our house. It was my mother taking the vacuum cleaner up the stairs to vacuum the living room. Now the vacuum cleaner did make it up the stairs but I'm confident it sat there for the next 7 hours until 5:00 when mom finally decided to vacuum it.

As I entered the bathroom still blurry eyed, I was quickly awakened by the feeling of cold linoleum on my bare feet. The rugs had been removed from the bathroom, placed in the hallway, presumably to wash the bathroom floor, yet the floor was not washed until after lunch. It would only make sense to remove the rugs post filling the bucket with soap and water.

Upon arriving in mom and dad's bedroom I found a dust rag on the bed accompanied by some Christmas knick-nacks. Apparently part-way through dusting the furniture she was distracted. I went to the kitchen for breakfast. Mother was scurrying away making pies and yeast rolls. The pies were for the evening events but the yeast rolls were only her vain effort to bribe me into coming home more. Actually, it may be a very successful effort as they were rather tasty.

The sweet rolls turning out as well as they did is a sheer miracle. At two different points during their mixing Mom couldn't stay focused long enough to add the entire amount of an ingredient. She would answer the phone, sweep the floor, holler at my sister, or some other task that could wait until later.

While scalding milk, she decided that the fax machine needed fixed and to order pictures from Snapfish. Subsequently burning the milk, I'm not sure that pan will ever be quite right again.

Somehow all the tasks were accomplished, the house is in one piece and mom was about to sleep a little bit. I think she'd have more time to rest if she only tried to do one thing at a time.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

French Horn-Junior High Nerd's Defense Strategy

Mugging, armed robbery, battery, theft etc... are all things I hope never to be a victim of. Too many people in society feel that because they are big, strong or an illegal weapon carrier, it is there right to take from those of us who are none of those things. Preying on children makes these acts even more evil. Kids though haven't developed the brains yet to be very afraid.

Many children, especially junior high boy's, will fight back. Maybe they are more manly than your average 30-year old male who will willingly put his hands in the air and hand over whatever they want. I'll give the 30-year old credit for the brains and realize that giving his life for the $50 in his wallet is not worth it. A 12-year old boy doesn't reason through this all the way and figures "it's mine, heck no."

My friend Mike was one of these scrawny nerdy boys in junior high. He played the French Horn in the band. (I'll note he has dramatically improved since this time.) It isn't as girly as the flute, but it sure does not carry the same masculine image as the trombone, drum, or tuba. Mike was very proud of his French Horn carrying it faithfully between home and school every day to practice. He even had a bright red protective cover over the hard case that carried the instrument.

Living in South Bend, he was a huge Notre Dame fan (thankfully he realized the error of his ways during High School and chose to attend Purdue for college). Wearing his over-sized Notre Dame jacket and proudly carrying his French Horn, he was the picture of what makes us want to suppress the memories of junior high.

One day a much larger, stronger man approached Mike and demanded his jacket. Mike wittingly replied "No." As the man reached his hand to forcefully remove the jacket, Mike swung his right arm back and creamed the man's left side with his trusty French Horn. Utilizing the momentum from the first swing, he then took a pass at the man's right side. The man quickly turned and left prior to Mike taking a swing at the lower middle.

Mike straightens his jacket and readjusts his back-pack. Mike and his trusty French Horn proceeded on to school. Makes that French Horn not look so feminine...doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lost my keys

Growing up in rural Gridley, keys are something we always considered optional. You certainly never needed to lock anything. Car keys remained in the ignition, no locks on your lockers, the windows were frequently left open to the highschoo. If someone stole from you say a jacket, they couldn't possibly wear it around town as it would be immediately identified as belonging to someone else. Any one desiring to committ grand theft auto would be immediately recognized as not the owner of the vehicle. Now any local person would likely assume you were just borrowing it.

Hence, I don't usually lock my car in our front driveway and the keys are often in it. Bailey our dog would run off any person who came onto our property, so I want make sure the keys are available in case my brother needs to move/borrow/wash my car.

When at my apt in South Bend, my apt keys and my car keys are on the same ring. So when I get home, I can't get very far without properly removing them from the ignition and proceeding up the 3 flights of stairs where subsequently unlock my door. I then place the keys on the hook in my living room.

It is because of this almost daily ritual I know place my keys in my pocket upon exiting/locking the vehicle. At home in rural Gridley, the socail norms and hence car locking patterns are severely disrupted. So I placed my keys in the pocket of my jacket Sunday night, but didn't wear the coat on Monday (as it was a fabulous 60 degree day) so I didn't have my keys when I went out to my car.

A little mental back tracking I was able to remember where the keys were. One of these days I'm going to be stuck here in Gridley due to the misplaced keys. Not that is an all bad thing but I'm not sure how work would feel about it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blest be the tie the binds

As I celebrate the first of the year, I look back upon what 2005 brought into my life. This year is marked by the making of new friends and deepening relationships with people I've known for a long time. The year began with a small celebration of my closest friends. In May, I went to Jamaica. I met people who have forever changed my life. These friends truly are the iron the sharpeneth iron as we grow in Christ together. My closest friends are those who challenge me to dig deeper to into knowing Jesus.

After moving to South Bend where friends in large quanity are not as readily available (especailly compared to Purdue), the quality of my relationships has grown even more important. I'm not confortable keeping relationship surface level. Only those based on Christ truly last...and those last forever.

2006 will bring new experiences with these friends. One of my good friends Carissa is headed off to Mexico on the 4th. In Gridley we sang good-bye to her and another sister who is moving to Chicago. What a church we have that wishes a member God's grace and richest blessings! I truly feel "when we assunder part, it gives us inward pain. But we shall soon be joined in heart and hope to meet again." Other of my friends are getting married (I have 10 weddings I need to attend in 2006), some will have children, and there will be many tears, laughs etc... 2005 was an amazing year and it's all because of how Christ has shown is glory in my life.

I'm so thankful to count those closest to me not only as friends but brothers and sisters in Christ. My prayer is that all my friends will someday soon join the family.

Love and blessings to you all in 2006.