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Archive for July, 2008

Musical Melanie

I’ve been trying to post a little photographic day brightener, but have had problems with the pictures uploading/captions staying with the images, etc.¬† So, if you care to have your day brightened elsewhere, you’ll need to visit my other blogging spot at http://weblog.xanga.com/mavan

I’ll be absent from here for a few days…relaxing…refreshing…rejuventating…returning later. ūüôā

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Are there things you’d say/have said through your fingers at the keyboard putting words on the screen that you’d never say to someone’s dear face?

I just finished replying to an email that was a solicited critique of a brochure I’d put together for a ministry area at church. I could feel the “It’s mine!” (foot stomping here) “Give it to me!” (snatch!) of the me-centered response of a little child rise up in me as I shaped my counterwords in reply.¬† I believe I was able to be gracious, put that uprisng of spirit in its place, and grant (and follow through with) some of the changes suggested by my cohort, at the same time explaining a bit more why I felt some of the original bits should remain as they are.¬† Because I have a good working relationship with the person on the other end, I’m pretty sure we will end up with a fine brochure that reflects the best evaluation of two minds and two sets of eyes.

However, that little rebel within nags at me.¬† I admit there are times that I have¬†plunked! out! an¬†email! reply!¬†in anger! or self-defense! that–thankfully–I have held overnight,¬†only to delete entirely or mostly the next day to be replaced by cooler, more measured, less self-focused, less defensive sentiments.¬† In those moments, I have been thankful that¬†I’ve learned the power of words and have learned–in a few instances, the¬†hard way–that they should not be thrust as¬†daggers into hearts we care about, but rather laid¬†gently as petals or weighty jewels around those same hearts.¬†

I see the danger of only having that screen before me as my words go forth.¬† Maybe I should place the photo before me of the¬†one who will be on the receiving end of every word I type–or at least be sure that face is clearly in my mind’s eye as I picture the email opened.¬†

(And, then, there’s the deeper root matter of dealing with that little rebel¬†within…another post?)

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Evaluate.  Reflect.  Meditate.  At the risk of sounding like a question in the game of Tri-Bond, what do these three activities have in common?

They require time for a thoughtful look at something. 

Last night marked the end of a six week small group training series in which I’ve been participating.¬† Each of us 40+ participants in these sessions has been stretched and challenged to see through new eyes the places and the people among whom we’re planted in life.¬† God¬†created us for relationships and in the course of those relationships, we may have the opportunity to help people connect with the Greatest Relationship they will ever discover–knowing God through becoming a follower of His Son Jesus.¬† We’ve spent the last six weeks talking about and learning how to get better at all of that.

At the end of our gathering last evening, our leader had each of us take two sticky notes.¬† At the top of one we wrote “I’m leaving…” and, on the other, “I’m taking…” was written.¬† We were to complete those¬†statements with words to express what we were leaving behind as a result of¬†the past six weeks and what we were taking with us as we move forward from this experience.

It was pretty cool–moving, actually–to hear what each person shared as they came in front of the group and placed their “leaving” notes in a “trash can”¬†drawn on¬†a blank flip chart, while adding their “taking” notes to a blank slate.¬† (It just occurred to me that the fact that the “taking” poster was blank was symbolic–a fresh start.)¬†

I am very grateful to our leader, Pastor Bill, for building in those few moments of evaluation and reflection.  It came immediately to me what I was leaving and taking from the experience, but had I not been forced to stop and think about it, it may have taken me days or even weeks to realize it, to articulate it.

Somebody¬†has said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Philosopher Son-in-law, who was that?)¬† I wonder if I would be more tuned in to¬†the value of¬†everyday if I would stop and reflect and evaluate more intentionally and regularly?¬† And I like the idea of sorting out what I’m leaving behind from an experience (sometimes¬†“leaving behind” is letting go; I suppose it could also¬†have to do with “contribution” or “legacy”)¬†and what I’m taking away–those two actions add up to change, and change means growth, and growing is a good thing.

What will you leave behind from this day’s experiences?¬† What will you take with you?

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In general, I talk too much. 

“Too much” is a relative term.¬† Sometimes, it is too much in comparison with the amount others have a chance to contribute to a conversation.¬† Sometimes, it is too much about one subject or¬†happening.¬† Sometimes, it is too much relative to the amount of listening I do.

In the past twenty-four hours, I have made it a point to listen as well as talk, especially¬†to some little kids who live in my neighborhood.¬† By talking just a little bit and listening more, this is what I’ve heard:

Christian’s mom has cancer in her leg, which is why she stays in bed and watches Tom and Jerry.¬† (I wondered why I had seen the Cancer Services van unloading a bed there several months ago.¬† Why didn’t I go down there and risk being labeled a nosy neighbor by asking if anyone needed anything, since I’d noticed the van?)

Christian was sick in the night, which is why he didn’t come to 5-Day Club today (I guess he’s okay now, judging by the number of times he’s been seen around the block on his bike and at my side door this afternoon. ūüôā )

It’s a relief to the babysitter uncle for his two older charges, Elizabeth and Clarence,¬†to spend an hour of their mornings at 5-Day Club this week.¬† (That one was listening between the lines.¬† Do you think “That will give them something to do” might have another translation?)

Hmmm…I guess I didn’t hear as much as I thought I may have.¬† However, maybe that’s all I can handle right now.¬† Almost everytime I really listen, I will need to act.¬† I, and a bunch of other people I’ve been spending the last few Wednesday nights in company with at some training at my church, have been challenged to ask God to help us see what He sees and hear what He hears as we interact with people.¬† I’m pretty sure the answer to that prayer is¬†going to¬†ask for some kind of response from me.

God, help me not just to be a talker or a hearer or even a just a listener, but a doer–a lover in Jesus’ name. Yes, yes indeed.

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I’m supposed to be cooking brats (that is, bratwursts–not naughty children).

Before I do, I just want to recommend an Independence Day activity for anyone who has time left tonight before or after fireworks or that backyard/lakeside grilling of meat: read the Declaration.

We spent this day with my family at the farm in MI where I grew up and where my brother-in-law and nephew now make a living from a herd of about 140 dairy cows.  On the way there, as we drove up I-69, I read aloud to Michael the statement of our independence from the mother country, declared 232 years ago this week. 

I don’t do this every year, but I felt the need to this year of all years.¬† As we stand on the threshold of choosing yet another leader of our nation, we hear many versions of what this country stands for.¬† I wanted to hear it again from the roots up.

I’ve got to go cook those brats, but please–if you get the chance, read the Declaration.¬† If you can read it aloud without a lump coming into your throat when you get to the last few lines, then take time to look up the info on the signers of that document.¬†

God Bless America!

(The same booklet which contained the¬†Declaration also had in it Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.¬† That one’s not bad either, if you’re looking for stirring words.)

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Foreigners.  Expatriates.

An expatriate is one who is not living in his homeland.¬† According to the dictionary, fine shades of this word’s meaning allow for that status to be by choice or by forced exile.¬†

We are foreigners in that we are strangers in this place in which we live.¬† We don’t usually act like it.¬† We act like we are rooted and grounded and almost part of the soil–we even talk about it that way, about our “roots”.¬†

But really, this is not our true home, the home we were made for. 

We were made for Eden.

That’s the place where the first humans walked and talked with their Maker in perfect, intimate harmony.¬† In the fresh, new, nothing-yet-spoiled world, that was their daily agenda.¬†

Then came the day when all of that changed.¬† That perfectly harmonious, in-sync relationship became totally opposite.¬† By choosing to make up their own game rules¬†rather than following the “owner’s manual”, Adam and Eve lost their chance at Eden.¬† They were literally forced from that place of perfection, into a world that would never be quite the same–weeds, pain, frustrated desires.¬† That became the replacement daily agenda.

At one of those funerals I attended last week, I heard the pastor say, quoting from the Bible, “…our citizenship is in heaven.”¬† I wrote down in my funeral notes the word “expatriate”.¬†

We have never lived in our true home, the place God created us to live in–we call it heaven.¬† It is so because it is God’s home and He made us to be with Him.¬†

But sin–choosing to do life the opposite of God’s way, choosing to disregard the “owner’s manual” we have in God’s Word–separated the first man¬†from his home.¬† It still separates people from their true home with God.¬†

So here we are, expatriates of sorts, waiting the return to our true home. Jesus, the Son of the Creator, said he was the Way. 

I’m glad my friends who died had found that Way.¬†

Their status has changed.

Expatriates no more.

 

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