Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, New Start?

In our household, there are divergent views on the celebration of the new year. For my husband New Year's is "just another day." In some ways I would agree with him, but I lean toward the view that celebrations of many kinds are good for us humans struggling through the vagaries of life on this earth. A person who cannot make an excuse to celebrate goes through life with a dismal view of things. Gray days meld into gray weeks, months and years. I believe that celebrations make all of our sorrows and troubles easier. It reminds us to treasure those we love, to make note of special times, creates good memories and reminds us that bad times don't last forever. Perhaps we should celebrate each Tuesday, merely because it is Tuesday, meaning that we have made it through another Monday!

Plus I love new beginnings. What optimism there is in turning a new page, starting a new book, putting up a new calendar with all the possibilities the blank pages have for you. Celebrating New Year's is an optimistic way to say that we may have lost everything last year, but this new year holds endless possibilities.

For me, the new year is exactly that. New everything. New job, hopefully. It provides the hopeful expectancy of finishing one or more of my books. It provides the expectancy of opportunities for service.

Plus, I celebrate that Dad has made it through another year. That wasn't expected. However, I am changing my expectations in that regard. Although I remain realistic about the possibility of a heart attack, barring that, I think he's got a lot of time left. What is sad is that he lives such a purposeless existence which is really difficult for him.

When I come to this blog at the end of 2009 I plan to rejoice that I have finished at least 2 of my books, and am in the middle of more.

Also, I am hopeful that 2009 will see the release of the final book in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. Some complain about his timetable, but I enjoy the anticipation as much as I enjoy the fulfillment of it. Plus, how can he possibly top this series? Will anything he writes be as satisfying as this?

Also, I am hopeful that there will be something new from Cornelia Funke, Margaret Ball, and so many others.

I am hopeful that the new year may provide answers for the pain that has plagued me for the last 17 1/2 years. Otherwise, I wonder whether I will wind up on disability. I have fought that for so long and tried so hard to hide my physical difficulties. I would so hate to give in to it or to have this defeat me now.

On another up note: I ran into my friend John Malloy a few days ago. It was so wonderful to see this dear brother. I introduced him to my friend Evelyn and to my husband and had a brief chance to talk to him and to tell them what he meant to me during a sometimes very difficult period in my life. Let me close with a quotation from him, but first let me tell you the story. John is a Fedex delivery guy and we had grown friendly over time as he delivered packages to me. Upon first seeing my collection of rotation verses and hearing what music I might be playing, he realized that we were of the same religious persuasion and we would talk now and again as he ran in and out. Sometimes I would give him a verse that was really speaking to me, sometimes he would do the same. I would occasionally run into him outside the office and I shared with him the struggle I was having over leaving my church and needing to go elsewhere. Anyway at some point during this time, John walked in with his package and without any 'hello' or other pleasantry simply said:

I've been thinking. We are warriors and this is a battlefield. We are not meant for rest and comfort at this time
Then he left.

John, I've thought of that so often ever since. There are times that I am ready to give up because I think I need rest or comfort, but I've decided that you are right.

We are warriors and this is a battlefield. We are not meant for rest and comfort at this time

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It never works out like I thought it would...

You know that picture you get in your head about what it will be like when you...

Buy a car. I have two scenarious in my head. The first I never seem to recognize until it doesn't happen. I expect to walk into a car dealership and turn the corner when...oh, my...the perfect car is sitting there at the perfect price. No one has been looking at this little, low mileage baby because it is painted that incredible shade of purple (or yellow or green) that I had my heart set on. The second is that car dealerships are in the business of ripping me off. In fact, I'm fairly certain that after hours, car salesmen and their managers laugh their heads off about how they suckered me into buying a perfectly awful vehicle. "She didn't even notice that the engine block is cracked!" or "I wonder how long it will be before she loses the chewing gum I sealed the radiator with."

Somewhere in between is the truth. In between the good and bad, between the dealerships that ignore you when you are purchasing a lower priced vehicle and the one's without a decent car in my price range, "would you like a little rust with that car, ma'am?" are the places with reasonable deals shown by salesmen who understand that they aren't necessarily making the deal of a lifetime on this purchase, but are possibly making the start of a potentially long-term relationship with people who will likely purchase other cars in their lifetime and may know other people who will buy vehicles as well.

They don't pretend that something is what it isn't, nor do I pretend that I am some super-important client whose purchase will set their sales goal for the month. It is human beings dealing with human beings.

I am not indecisive, what I am is unprepared to buy something I don't want. There are red flags that pop up in the back of my mind that sometimes take me a half hour or so to figure out what they are about, but my biggest problem is that I feel like I am being rude or taking up someone's time unnecessarily if they don't have what I want. I feel for salespeople. It is a difficult way to make a living. Sure, it can be a fairly well-paying proposition, but it is also a risky one.

I had in my head that I would buy a Jeep. Or a Toyota or a Honda. I bought a GMC Yukon in all it's glory. Big enough for a comfortable road trip with the dogs, big enough to haul things needed for the house, or to haul things to the Goodwill, big enough to haul a load of firewood, and comfortable enough for me with my arthritis and other issues. This is a wonderful vehicle.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What shall we give?

I frequently find myself a bit depressed this time of year. Despite my best efforts I find my expectations for the season of joy and delight are above and beyond what my life actually produces. I hear about the busyness of the season and I think, what busyness? I do not have this social calendar brimming with dinners and parties which I must choose from. I do not puzzle over my wardrobe wondering if I can get one more wearing from that festive skirt before people begin to comment.

I love the idea of all of that, but I lead a fairly quiet, boring day-to-day existence. And now, I am being asked what I am going to give up this season, or what I am going to change. I honestly don't know. I struggle to give what I do now, and I am fairly good at not over-spending.

I am struggling, however, with the nature of God. This is not the deep struggle I have had in the past, more like a struggle against the discomfort of knowing that I do not understand and that my expectations of God are being tried. I have a friend whose baby is not forming properly in the womb and because of that is unlikely to be able to live outside the womb for even a breath. I cannot bear their sorrow. I cannot stand knowing their pain. I am wounded for them more deeply than I can even express and I am asking God, why? Why does one person's struggle to find work threaten their adoption? Why does one young friend struggle with a brain tumor? Why have I been struggling with physical pain for 17 years? Why does there seem to be no relief? Why does one friend struggle with a drug-addicted husband? Why are there starving people? Why is there evil? Why do we get old and some of us have such intense physical struggles and intense pain? Why is this young couple facing such a painful time as they know what they are expecting and must wait to see their baby die?

A young man I know told me that he has been reading through the old testament as I suggested and wondered, Doesn't God seem awfully bloodthirsty? I heard the hesitation in his voice as he asked the question. It is a question I know well. I've wondered many times, and gone round and round with the mystery of who is God? Who is this God of love and of vengeance? Who is this friend of sinners?

So that is my question, God. Who are you? Can you be known? What about this suffering? What about your unchanging nature that pardons and exacts vengeance? And...if you don't cause all of our sufferings, but you are in a position to prevent them, why do you withhold your goodness from us at times?

I ask these questions even as I am thinking on the meaning of the incarnation. I am thinking on the wonder that God became flesh and dwelt among us, making himself the sacrifice that sin required.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Since I was little I wanted to have the home that invited people. I wanted to have the party house, you know. I wanted to have a house full of people. Do you remember "Grandma's Feather Bed"? John Denver sang it years ago and that was what I wanted. I wanted a house filled with cousins and aunts and uncles, friends, brothers and sisters and people whose relationships are of the hard to trace kind. Are they a third cousin once removed or a fourth cousin? Is that Uncle Jason's third wife's son from a previous marriage or is that Danny, Aunt Ethel's son by Uncle Daniel who died in the war?

I don't know quite why, but I am too boring or sedate of something, not at all the person I wanted to be, because when I invite people over they rarely come. My kids back out of holidays, and even my parent's bail. That's pretty bad when your own parent's bail on you.

So...I have decided that perhaps I don't have true friends. Perhaps I do not have people that will show up. We don't get invited to join people very often and no one wants to join us. I don't know why.

That's not true. I do know why. We aren't fun. Well, that's going to change. I've spent too many years being overwhelmed by life circumstances. Too many years just this side of depressed. It's too easy for me to slip into that.

I thought my kids would want to come home to be with us no matter what we were doing. Oh well. Not true. Okay.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What's all this about a beaver?

I was talking to a good friend at lunch yesterday about the different ways we do things. She laughed when I told her I carefully measure my pictures, include the length to the hanger and then carefully and precisely hang them, ensuring the same amount of distance between them, but only after looking at them for several weeks laid out on the floor in front of the wall they are going on, changing the order until I am certain it is exactly as I want it. I told her that it drives me nuts when people move things after I have carefully arranged them (I didn't mention how it bothers me when other people hang things in my home without the same attention to detail.)

She said I am a beaver. Well I looked it up online and many of those characteristics apply to me, but many of the lion characteristics do too. I am decisive and stubborn, but I also like things very precise. I will have a picture in my mind of what I want and nothing else will do. I line up pictures with a level and measuring tape so that they are evenly spaced and level, looking at them sometimes for weeks prior to hanging them.

Apparently that type level of perfectionism (which does not advance to the level of OCD or mean that I actually complete things with any predefined level of perfectionism, but the attempt and drive to do so is what makes one a beaver.

Perhaps she simply meant my body type.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There's Something About Mary...

I have a friend who I will call Mary. Mary's life is a series of mostly good stories. Good times. Noodle salad. Her children have fairly good strong marriages, her grandchildren all seem to be doing well and are embracing the faith of their fathers, walking after God in a great way. Family comes for the holidays and they have grand celebrations with 15-20 family members cooking, talking, laughing, playing games and having a great time. I love her life. It reminds me of the Shire, before the Ringwraiths come. They work hard, save their money, spend time with friends and family, and are happy people. At a certain point, they retire and live a somewhat comfortable existence. All is as it should be.

Then there's folks like me. An uneventful, unremarkable life is not what I live. I can look back to certain choices that have added to the turmoil, but many things have been out of my control. The flood was out of my control. Often family members make decisions that affect you in ways you could not imagine. There are the calls, "My car was stolen." "About your son..." So many, many things that I had no control over, and things I did not instigate. "We decided to cancel your contract." So many things.

My friend calls me if we haven't seen each other for over a week just to find out what's new. In her life what's new is that she finished a blanket for the mission, she canned a carton of peaches, she had this family or that over for dinner, she cleaned out the garden beds, shampooed the carpet, etc. I love that about her. I love the normalcy of it all. I love that when I call they are out "trimming the bushes" and soon there will be neatly cut bundles of branches from the shrubs, tied neatly with twine. They attend ballgames of their grandkids, entertain others in their home, visit family and friends. They are terrific.

When she calls me the conversation goes something like this: "Did I tell you Steve came home?" "No, you didn't." "He just showed up early last Saturday morning. He got laid off and so he grabbed his stuff and drove all night." "How wonderful to have him here, but he doesn't have a job?" "He's supposed to have started one yesterday, but the plans aren't ready, so it will probably be next week. But, they did finally hook up the stove and we started on the dining room walls, finally." "Oh my. So much goes on in your life." Then I go on to tell her the rest of the story.

See the thing is, I know she does not long for the craziness of my life, but she loves me in the middle of it and wants to hear what's happening. Sometimes she may think that she is boring, but I don't see it that way at all. She works so hard to maintain a good home and to prepare good nourishing food and making the budget stretch so that their retirement allows them to enjoy some of the things they like to do. She is a wonderful hostess, in part because her life runs a bit like clockwork. Her home is peaceful and inviting.

Welcome to my home...or rather, I should say welcome to my construction zone. There is always something undone. Some project in some stage less than complete, and usually involving a mess. It drives me up a tree. In the middle of that craziness, I enjoy the respite of being in her home, in that peaceful spot in the middle of the Shire with good Shirefolk.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oz, the Great and Terrible

We all know what happened when the curtain was drawn back on the great and mighty Oz. He was revealed to be a sham. A great showman, but a sham. He gave everyone what they already had. I find so much of religious talk, secular motivators, psychology, etc. is to tell folks that they already have the answers inside themselves. I just read a quote about becoming aware of our true self that is one with God.

Scripture tells me there is only one way to become united with God, and yet none of these sham wizards are willing to tell the truth. You don't have the answers within yourself. You don't have the strength within yourself. Oh, you may have been shown some truth, you may know some of the answers, but you are not the source of truth. You know that you can lie to yourself. There are pills or lozenges that can alter your tastebuds 'til lemons taste like candy. Women convince themselves that their man will never do it again. Men convince themselves that those moments of bitchiness they see in their girlfriends are an anomaly that will go away after the wedding day.

We convince ourselves that lies are truth all the time. Even when confronted with truth, we often only accept a part of that truth. We like verses like Deuteronomy 7:9
"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping
his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and
keep his commands."

We make plaques out of it, put it on the calendar, and meditate on it. Nothing wrong with that. But we don't make plaques out of the next verse:
"But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not
be slow to repay to their face those who hate him."

We don't like to look at the fullness of God. He is both great and terrible. He is both gentle and wild, loving and just. Even as his mercy is adored, we don't like to face the fact of his wrath.

I don't like to look at it either. I don't understand the fullness of God. I'm still that little kid running into daddy's throne room with my hurts and fears, climbing into the lap of the Almighty, not understanding his glory or the weight of his majesty. When the curtain is pulled back on God, there is no sham pretense, making us believe he is doing things that we have done for ourselves. We will see glory and holiness that cannot help but throw us to our knees in worship.

If I hide myself from his glory and his greatness, chosing only to see the sweet, fuzzy, loveable grandfather or daddy that I want, I miss so much of who my daddy is. In that I also miss part of who he has made me to be. I fail to be grateful for him bringing such a sinfull soul into his presence; I fail to understand the wonder of what Jesus the Messiah did for me in making me acceptable in the sight of God and allowing me to come boldly to the throne as his child.

O God, make me more aware of the awfulness and terrible weight of your righteousness and holiness. Make me more aware of the price you paid for me and make me ever more grateful for the price you paid for me. Make me ever more aware of the fullness of yourself. Oh, let me know you more. You are a gracious and forgiving God to allow me to run in without a true understanding of your nature, of your glory and majesty. I am humbled and exalted in your presence. You have my heart and my worship. You deserve every bit and every moment. Forgive me for my whining when things don't go my way and when things get hard. Why should I long for a road that is so much easier than the one you have set for me?
A layoff is a scary thing. I wonder where my next job will come from. The news all looks so scary. The negative news stories are seeming more ominous than they probably are. I forget the fact that people are still being hired, that jobs are still being filled and that better than 93% of the people who want to work are working.

I am amazed when other people take my upcoming layoff so casually. Makes me wonder how many times I have casually dealt with devastating events in someone else's life. Knowing this has been coming does not really make it easier, although there is some consolation to not being handed a box and escorted out the door without finishing projects, putting everything in order and calmly collecting your effects.

I have seen people escorted from the building upon giving their notice. It was my first concrete indicator that the company I was working for at the time was not who they claimed to be. Their darling, (and truly one of the sweetest and most competent people on the project) who had moved around the country from project to project for them, had been offered a position where she could go home and not move around. Their reaction was instant removal from the premises. She was humiliated and left the office in tears in front of 200 or so of her co-workers, clients and sub-contractors. It was horrible.

Anyway, for some reason, this feels like a death to me. I want to close my door and bawl like a baby, even while I reach for and cling to hope. I KNOW that my redeemer lives. I know that I am not abandoned or forsaken. Yet I run to him as a frightened child. Outwardly I am calm, inwardly I am in turmoil. During these last few weeks I have gone from calm to upset, to peaceful, to sad, to sad and peaceful, to scared and weak and devastated.

I alternately dread and look forward to the future. Yet another adventure where I must run out and hope that I have remembered my kerchief and my pipe. Yet another road to travel where no one has provided a map. I get to a guidepost but none of the choices seem better than the other, no path looks clear.

I am seeking an open door through which I may walk. Sometimes my courage is real, based on who I know holds me, and sometimes it seems more like whistling in the dark to show a courage I have yet to find. The hope is in this--I need not worry. My God will never leave me. He has not abandoned me, nor does he stand back and ask me to let him know what I work out. He has already prepared the way before me, even though I cannot see. It has been wild and crazy so far, I wonder what he has next?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snow on the Peak

I watch as he gathers his wintry coat to him,
Gathering it as if from wisps of clouds and vapor and mist.
He weaves it about his head and shoulders left bare to summer suns.

In valleys and rifts he lays the framework,
The warp and weft of his fine coat lain
in the defiles and northern faces of his rugged form.

With a gentle hand he gathers from the stormy clouds of night
his dazzling cloak with which to keep his warmth.
His face will soon be covered by the thick white handiwork
of snow and ice he gathered in the days of fall and mist.

The winter snows will gather
the northwinds wildly blow
But til the spring he'll sit beneath
This cloud he deftly wove.

The mountain mocks my silliness
His silence more profound
than all the words my pen puts down
his majesty profound.

For in this winter dance I find a hint of heaven's face
The mountain shows me majesty that points me further still
It speaks of great and glorious things I cannot comprehend
As if in whispers lightly heard from far, far distant shores.

A picture is the mountain,
A picture in the snow,
A mere reflected glory
seeing heavenly things below.
I cannot see them clearly,
their wonder fully know,
Oh I would know that majesty
reflected in the snow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

God is still in business

I often think that we, and by we, I mean me, that we look at the Bible as stories--magical stories of things that happened in the past when the world was more adventurous, more dangerous, in a long-distant past. Paul, meeting the Lord in a blinding light; Philip disappearing from the Gaza desert road and the Ethopian eunich, to reappear twenty miles away; healings, casting out demons, prisons bursting open, the Red Sea opened; all these and more read more like a novel. Even though I believe these things actually happened, that an actual flood covered the entire face of the earth and that a remnant were rescued in an ark, even believing that, it seems to be part of a different reality than what I live in.

I am thinking this evening that my faith is too small. Nothing is unsurmountable. No trial, no struggle too big for God. No cancer is too far gone for God too heal, no marriage in too much trouble for his restoration, no sinner too far gone. And I am not too far gone, ever, for him to work in my life. He can still use me and he is still working. He is working in our country, in our church, in our home, in our family, in our neighborhood, in our city, in our world, in our ministries, in our missions. He still calls people. He still gives us instructions, both in his word and personally.

When I am afraid I must remember that God has not changed. He can still move mountains, and he can still change hearts. My own heart which can feel like a lump of granite at times can be melted and molded by him. He is still at work in his church and he has not withdrawn his commission to "go and make disciples". He still asks of us that we be available, that we be ready, that we be willing.

For my part, I need to remember that there is nothing insurmountable with God. Nothing is impossible with him. No circumstance is so dire that he cannot reign over it, change it, dismiss it or walk me through it. No financial situation, no family crisis, no work issue, no disappointment, no church situation, no illness, no anything is beyond his stepping in, showing himself in a remarkable, extraordinary, even a miraculous way. I tend to forget or dismiss his abilities.

He is God. The everlasting, unchanging, all-sufficient, miracle-working God. I can ask him for anything. If it is his will--watch out. Mountains will fall, rivers change course, lives will change, needs will be met, doors will open.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's all a country-western song...

I often find myself laughing at inappropriate times. I hear or receive bad news, particularly relating to me, or watch family drama around me and somewhere in the back of my mind I take a step backward. I hear twanging guitar and a fiddle as the lyrics of a bad country-western song are playing in my head. Lost my job today, honey, but it's okay tomorrow I'll be on my way. I hear they're hiring out Las Vegas way....

How about this one? Tired of you complaining 'bout no water in the kitchen. I'm sick of you complaining 'bout no stove. You've got the grill out on the deck and to make cooking simple, I moved the 'fridge outside the kitchen door. You ask how can you cook this way, and what 'bout when the snowfall comes. It seems to me like an improvement baby, 'cause no one likes your cookin' anyway. Or something like that.

I find that it helps to see your life as a series of episodes in sitcoms or a song straight off of Hee Haw. Of course, if you let the laugh track escape your head, you might get decked by a family member and then you'll have to explain your black eye at work.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Anybody game?

I seriously need an exercise partner. Really. I do. I need to get to the gym as the best way to ward off depression, also I need to build up my strength and endurance (gently) because the fibromyalgia is in a bit of a flare up stage lately. (I'm a member of 24 hour Fitness.) I'm weary of it all, but struggle to get myself out the door. I can be in my workout clothes, standing in the house, fully intending to go and yet I do not. Why wouldn't I go to do the thing that I know has such positive outcomes?

Why do I let the weariness keep me from it? Part of it is that I am tired of so much solitary activity. The more I think about it, the more I think that is the core of it. Hmmm. I'll have to think about that some more and figure it out.

Sometimes all it takes is to figure out what the block is keeping me from positive activity and then I can beat it. Still, the weariness is a huge thing. One of the things that gets me to push past the weariness and pain is the anticipation of seeing someone I know. That is such a positive thing it is worth the effort.

If you are me.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Best Laid Plans...

The plan for the weekend was to install the sink, get the stove hooked up and the refrigerator in off the deck. The sink is NOT in, the stove is NOT hooked up and the refrigerator? You guessed it. It is still sitting on the deck. Snow is in the forecast for this week.

What did get done? Well we discovered a pretty serious electrical problem and had to have the kitchen wiring redone, the electrical box replaced and the circuits redone to reduce an overload on them. The wiring and electrical is now safe.

I could cry. I don't usually allow myself to expect things to happen the way they are planned, but this time I was pretty sure it would work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The subject of humility or of being humbled has come up a lot over the past two days. There are many ways in which we face being humbled or have to lose some dignity or pride. For me, I am humbled every time we go through changes in the worship team (see previous posts) and am reminded that this is not a place where I can have ego and hurt feelings. I am humbled when I limp in the door. For some reason I feel shame and embarrassment when I have trouble walking. I was ready to push Alyssa out of her wheelchair the other day and use it to get to the car.

It is humbling for me to use my dark glasses when I sing. They make me look different than everyone else and draw attention to the fact that I am not like other people.

Being a woman brings a lot of times when your dignity is stripped away. (OB-GYN appts. of any kind, childbirth, buying the warehouse size box of super-plus Tampax from the cute checkout guy....) But men have these humbling times too. First they are too young to be respected, then for a moment they have the respect of their peers, but it passes as the grey hairs appear and more scalp appears, and suddenly they are perceived to be too old to know what they are talking about.

Suddenly we find ourselves faced with bosses who are a decade or more younger than us, doctors who are our children's age, and a body that does not keep up with the mind. My face has betrayed me in the mirror. That person is mature when I feel like a kid. If I get "ma'am"-ed one more time.....

But in all kinds of ways we are humbled. If we don't humble ourselves it will be done for us. I found myself thinking about a co-worker one day as I was heading down my back stairs. Boy is she stupid, falling down the stairs. No sooner were the thoughts in my mind than I fell headfirst, hurting my arm, twisting my ankle and being put in a sling for a couple of weeks.

But where people are bent on putting me in my place, I sometimes forget my REAL place. I am the child of the king of the universe, the author and creator, the great I AM. I am forgiven, I am chosen. If our worth is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for us, then I am amazed to discover that the Creator, the I AM gave all for me. For me. Although I have no intrinsic value of my own, being but dust, my creator made me something more and has made me his child. I get to run in and out of the throne room crying "Daddy!" I am assured that the Master of all Creation holds me, watches over me, loves me and has called me his friend.

Yet, should I get a swelled head as I am given this position, I can only look to the example of Christ, who humbled himself and suffered the insults of his own creation. He was wounded for MY transgressions. The punishment which enabled my position was upon him. If this God-man, the very transcendent Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, who called himself the "I AM" took insults and humiliation, why should I expect more, being his created being.

It is a great mystery to ponder. But the humiliations of this world do not change what God has done for me, nor make me any less his child. In that I can rest, and in those humbling moments I can run into the throne room of an awesome and holy God. What a blessed person I am.


I had a meltdown of sorts the past several days. I really struggle with losing my job, even though I know this is guided by and instituted by God. I also have been struggling with Steve being sent to Las Vegas to work, and feeling very alone.

The worship team has a new leader. He is terrific, but the transition is always difficult for me. Will I be obsolete? Am I too old? I know Miriam led worship when she was quite old (was she ninety something?) but the modern church does not want to use a woman in that capacity at any advanced age. At a certain point I will simply be eased out as being too ancient. Each time there is this transition I go through the same wondering. Each time as the schedule changes and I find myself being used only occasionally, I wonder if this isn't it.

Each time there is a struggle inside about whether God finds me of little use anymore. I like to lead, but I am always willing to follow, and to take whatever place is asked of me. If it is to sing backup, fine. What is not fine is to be shelved. Each time this happens I go through a time of sorting through with God that it is His right to determine when and where and how I am used. So I must not think too highly of myself, but remember that I am a tool in the hand of my God.

I am a tool in the hand of my God altogether. Whether in the worship team, in work, at home, or in any other area of life. I would love to say that I never fight his will for me, but sometimes his will is hard for me. I forget or have a hard time seeing his love and his good plan in the midst of some of the difficulties of life. When I see what seems likely to happen, I sometimes ask why or how am I supposed to do this? I do want God's will, but the adventure of living in his will, sometimes the adventure is a dirty, nasty uncomfortable thing. I want it to be exciting AND safe. It's a silly idea. Nothing truly exciting and good is safe. Nothing that is truly ennobling and worthwhile is easy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rock My World

Pastor Ron was speaking today about Paul's conversion and how the world was changed, not only for Paul and Ananias, but for the whole world with that amazing circumstance. Ron asked us to pray that God would rock our world and that we would be ready for what was coming and trust God to make a way.

I can't help but think that God has already been rocking my world for months or even years. I'm not sure I want to be rocked more.

What I would like is to be part of a grander plan and to see lives changed and souls saved. I would love to see and be part of 10's or 100's being saved. Even one would be exciting. I want to see marriages changed, divorces halted, people get off drugs, and people turn from chasing their dreams of dust and empty promises to truth and joy.

So I told God that while I wanted to be part of his grand plan, to live out that adventurous life winning souls and encouraging Christians in the faith, of seeing lives transformed, but that I was really hoping and longing not to be moving again. Even that I will do if he asks it of me, though it makes me very sad and depressed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Yesterday, Steve got a job. Yea! It meant he had to leave in the middle of the day to drive to Las Vegas. Boo! It also meant he had to take my truck. Boo! Hisss! So, I am sharing a vehicle with my parents, which I don't want to do. Waah. Throw me a pity party why don't you.

Seriously though, these are the times that test our mettle. I thought I knew how God was going to handle this. I didn't really think about it until he got this job. That's when I realized I really thought Steve was going to get a job here. After all, he has already worked away for a year.

I believe that God has the right to do what he wants, but I just don't really understand this. My understanding is not required.

Monday, October 20, 2008


On Saturday I attended a seminar at church "Who is God?" on the nature of God. To my dismay and continuing horror, I sat unmoved. I sat down later to write the following:

How can I sit here unmoved
By the God over all creation
The Glorious One.
Why does my heart beat calm in my chest
As we study your righteousness
Why does my soul not cause me to shout
or fall on my face and weep.

How can I hear of your glory
and sit and nod quietly
Surely the trees were clapping their hands
and the rocks cried of your majesty
Because I sat silently.

Turn my heart from this lukewarm mass
to flesh that's alive in you
Forgive me for my callousness
Oh Lord, please make me new.

Awake me to your presence God
Tear all the deadness away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Chill in the Air

30°F Partly Cloudy

Feels Like: 22°F Humidity: 80% Wind: N 9 mph

Driving to work today I was struck again by the glorious colors of fall. The trees are various shades of green, red, yellow, gold and grown, outshining the splendor of the gardens that are putting forth a great show just now. Lately snapdragons have been showy, the mums are in full bloom and my roses have gone into full bloom again amid the drying stocks of other earlier bloomers. My raspberry bushes are covered in unripe berries and the lavendar has put out a few late blooming stalks, high above the bushy silver-green leaves. All of this is out-shown by the rich colors of the trees.

I love fall. I love the nip in the air, the feeling that you should be pulling out your sweaters, and already I have lit the first log in the fireplace. Still, this year I am kind of sad because I feel like I missed the summer altogether. I was so busy and working so much that I didn't enjoy the garden in full bloom, never got the weeds taken care of, rarely sat out in the lawn chairs taking in the beauty of the day. I didn't sit beside a stream or lake or river even once during June, July or August. Even September slid by virtually unnoticed.

I need to make a concerted effort to enjoy being outside for as long as I can, before I feel trapped rather than cozy being inside on bitter winter days. While the nip is in the air and before snow comes, I'm going to go for a walk. Yes I will be in my heavy coat, and yes I have not one but two sweaters on today, but that should make it even more pleasant, don't you think?

A House Divided

Some may wonder why it is a big deal to live with a spouse who does not believe as you do, or isn't devoted to following after God and his commands in the way that you are. As I was reading Deut. 6: 4-9 I was struck by how hard it is to talk about God's commandments and his truths all throughout the day when the one you are with is a skeptic, a gnostic, or antagonistic. How easy it is to talk about the things of God with those who are like-minded. Does the conversation ever get stilted? Is your joy increased or diminished in such company? How empty and shallow the conversation must be when minds and hearts are not in tune.

I would ask those of you who do not know what it is like to walk a lonely road like this to imagine for a moment that your deepest thoughts, the deepest revelations of God into your soul are unwelcome, unwanted, misunderstood, or simply unappreciated. Imagine what a gulf--a divide--exists in this kind of marriage. What a loneliness there must be when you cannot share the thoughts that take up your days. Can you imagine? Even where there is no open hostility, it would be like talking all day to someone who doesn't even speak the same language.

I feel this way to a lesser extent when I get around people who love baseball. To me, baseball is like watching paint dry. I don't get the fascination. I don't understand the excitement. As far as I can tell, the only interesting positions are catcher, pitcher and the guy at bat. The batter seems to fail more than he succeeds, a "perfect" game is where nothing happens. The pitcher throws the ball, and inning after inning it lands in the catcher's mitt. Wake me when it's over.

I suspect this is what it's like to listen to the conversation of people who are excited about God, about what he's doing, and about what they are learning in scripture if you aren't a believer. Even if you are friendly toward those people, their excitement baffles you.

How then do we, in effect, show our team spirit and wear the jersey, put the pennant on the wall, plaster the car with bumper stickers, and carry on the never ending conversation about batting statistics, league scores, the injured list, etc., when the other person falls into a stupor within seconds of the start of conversation? The fact is, we don't. We mention the game. We smile broadly when there is a win. And we spend time with those who "get it".

At home, however, the conversation about this important area of life is minimal. The one we love does not love what we love, does not love who we love, is not interested in what interests us.

Oh, it can't help but show. After all, a girl in love with the Rockies is going to wind up with black and purple ribbons in her hair, or wearing the t-shirt to bed, and a woman or a man in love with Christ is going to have their Bible around, may have a special verse taped to the bathroom mirror, or may wear a shirt from their church or a Third Day concert, but a lot of what goes on in their heart and head will stay inside until they are with others who also believe.

So, if you have one of those marriages where you can talk about God as you walk, as you sit, as you work, and can share your deepest thoughts, rejoice, but don't be so quick to leave the church service where the guy or gal who shows up without their spouse seems to want to linger and talk. Don't shut them out. They need to share with like-minded folks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When we are faithless...

I have been on a roller coaster of sorts lately, sometimes filled with faith, sometimes with worry. At times the storm (layoffs, financial worries, wrecked car, health concerns) seems to be all I see. Other times, I am completely confident that God will take care of me. I've probably said this before, but it happens when I take my eyes of the Creator and start looking at the choppy seas that he created.

"When we are faithless he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." II Tim. 2:13

Isn't that a comfort? That God sees my weakness and that his care is not dependant on my faith, but that he is faithful because it is who he is. He is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deut. 4:39) I must take this to heart. I must grasp this. He IS God. He is God over the heavens and the earth. There is no one else that can take his place. There is no one else faithful. There is no one else that can be relied upon. There is no one who IS God.

So, faith without works is dead, since our faith is revealed by our works, but for me, at this point, faith is work. Faith is work. Faith is work. Faith means reminding myself of God's past faithfulness, of his character, of his utter dependability. Faith means dragging my eyes off of the waves and onto the Creator of the waves. Faith is asking God to increase that which is so small and weak in me.

How is your faith?

Walk it and talk it

I have been asked to expand on the things mentioned in my last blog, so I will try without revealing private confidences and someone else's story. First let me say that even though I don't believe that divorce is ever a good thing, I do understand that there are times when it is or seems almost inevitable. I don't believe that a person that has another lover is owed the comfort and protection of marriage, though I know healing and restoration happens at times. There are certain circumstances that put a whole family at risk, however and I understand that. Unrepentant drug and alcohol abuse, habitual affairs, physical abuse, spouse's homosexuality (although I would place that under the category of unfaithfulness), are all things that can break a marriage. I don't believe divorce is prescribed in those circumstances, but I certainly understand. It is the unrepentant part that sets things apart.

What stands out for me are those who see divorce as an option for extreme unhappiness. Unhappiness is a temporary condition, until we allow it to become a habitual one. I know what I'm talking about here. I was so unhappy at one point that I wasn't sure I could live through it. I considered divorce, but the fact is that it was not justified. "For better or worse" I had promised. What good is my promise if it only means as long as I'm happy. As long as I'm happy.

I was expecting my husband to be things for me that he can never be. I was expecting him to heal painful places in me that only God can heal, to be to me what God should be. I was so focused on my own misery that I wasn't taking care of my husband. I wasn't caring for him. I truly believe love is action that brings about emotion, not an emotion that brings action. The action must be loving even when the heart is not.

Thinking through I Corinthians 13, I am struck by the actions in the so-called Love chapter. What does love do? It bears, believes, it is patient, is kind, it protects, hopes, perseveres. Love keeps no record of wrongs, is not rude, is not easily angered, is not self-seeking, does not envy, is not proud. What does that mean? Is there one word about what love feels? We have it so wrong in our feeling driven society. I was raised on the whole fantasy of a Prince Charming who showed up, fell in love with me at first sight and then lived happily ever after. Stupid romance novels showed me men who anticipated wants and needs, brought flowers, made grand romantic gestures and swept a woman off her feet. What a load to put on a man! He is supposed to be strong, silent, except that when he speaks it is to say the right thing; he is supposed to romance me without ever messing up the budget, is supposed to have oddles of money to spend on get-aways and grand gestures while providing a fabulous house, wonderful car and an extravagent lifestyle, and yet isn't to be too involved in his career.

What happens when we find a good man who isn't very ambitious? We are impractical about what that will mean for our financial future. What about a man who is a great provider? We don't appreciate all his hard work and time away, but complain about that instead. We show so little mercy and forgiveness for the flaws and humanity of these men! We want a girlfriend with a six-figure income in a rugged handsome body. Truth be told, there was a time when I was embarrassed by my husband. I had it in my head that there was something disgraceful in the fact that he was in construction. I wanted a guy who put on a suit and had the respect of everyone he sees.

I'm ashamed of that today. I look at the men I admire, and many of them are godly men who work with their hands to provide for their families. They are hard-working, honorable men who should be respected by their community, but often their community looks at them as less-than. Some of the finest men of God I know aren't guys who sit in their studies all day searching the scriptures, but are men who study before heading off to swing a hammer or turn a wrench all day, striving to live out their faith in a world which despises what they stand for. They speak truth when their churches are ready to fall for the latest fad Christian philosophy of stupidity.

Some men that I respect have the respect of their families, and others, I'm not so sure. All I can say is that while some of us may think the man is in charge of the home, it is my belief that the woman sets the tone. If I have a bad attitude, I can set the whole household on its ear within minutes. If I am angry, I can bring about a fight. I can accept that my husband's idea of romance is to bring me a cup of coffee, or I can lament that he isn't a chocolates, flowers and nights spent dancing beneath the stars kind of guy.

What I choose is to put chocolate in my coffee, plant flowers in my garden and dance beneath the stars if I feel like it, and to appreciate the cup of coffee. This has not been easy, and my husband had to live through a lot of years where I acted like a petulant child.

I hate seeing my friends in pain, but I hate even more that someone is ready to call it quits because they are unhappy.

Anyway, that's part of the picture. The other part of the picture is that a friend was telling me about praying for God to show her what she needed to work on, to show her what area in her life he wants to concentrate on, to show her what lesson he wants to teach her. I won't say what she told me, that is her personal story, but I related to what God had revealed to her and how she had envisioned what God was doing in that area of her life. It is a beautiful thing when God takes our ugliness and washes it in the blood of Jesus and brings us through spotless. It isn't that we are without sin, but to begin to see our sins as he does and to be aware of the pain and suffering I cost him is humbling and makes me want to turn from my sin. It also makes me so grateful that he paid the price in his own body on the tree.

Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Starbucks moment

I met with a friend last night and had a really good time with her. Our hearts and our thinking are sympatico as some would call it. I am excited to hear about what God is doing in her life and heart. It's a special thing to be able to ask someone "what is God teaching you?" and know that person will not look at you like you just had a third eyeball pop out of your forehead or think you are some overly religious zealot.

I am distressed at what I am seeing in the church. Why are our hearts so hardened that we will consider divorce so easily? Why would someone be resistant to the suggestion that we ask God to show us how HE sees that man we are married to? If we are to be able to really love and respect that man it can only help to have a glimpse of the love and affection that God has for that person--for the mercy and compassion he has in his heart toward that man.

I love being able to discuss this with someone who understands that I am a totally flawed person who is only looking at what God showed me and wanting to use what God showed me to work in the hearts of hurting people. I love hearing how God is showing her things about himself. Sometimes it dovetails with things he has shown me and sometimes it is things that blow my mind and open me to new insight.

Created by Anu

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Ryan, our associate pastor, asked last night, "What breaks your heart?" I didn't have to think long about it. I had no less than three different women talk to me last night about how their marriages are falling apart. Two are already at the divorce stage, and the third is at the pain, discouragement and hopeless stage.

I found myself close to tears on the way to work this morning. The only thing that kept me from it is my fear that if I started I could not stop. I would be a crying wreck all day. This rips me up. Why is there divorce in the church? I'm not saying that I don't understand why these individuals are having problems, just that most of the time it is so preventable. If we can learn how to live out our faith in our own homes, and to display the sacrificial love of Christ with each other, there is no need for this. My compassion for these folks is huge, because I truly understand the depth of pain that a broken relationship causes, but I also understand the healing that can come through Christ.

Another thing that breaks my heart. In the news there is the story of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church which has had such intense altercations in the church that the police have been called. One source said the police had been there nine times!! I am sick about it. Sick! There have been both physical and verbal altercations.

It breaks my heart and makes me angry. How do we as the Christian community step in and help these people and this sick and broken church body to be restored? Someone tell me please.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

God's Gal

Some people have easy, fairly uncomplicated lives. Oh, they have a big problem now and then--the death of a loved one, they or someone they know have a bout of cancer or some other painful or difficult disease--but they recover from their one big thing and go on.

The thing about being "God's guy" is that he choses the path we walk. His guys in the Old Testament were to go through imprisonment, or told to marry a prostitute, sold into slavery, running from cave to cave while the king chased him, or had the queen out for his head. Moses was chosen and then got to walk back across the desert to Egypt and face down the angry Pharoah. God's guy. God's guy finally led his people out of Egypt in triumph, only to meet their bitter wailing again and again. During his 40 years of faithful service he disobeyed one time in anger, striking a rock instead of speaking the command and was barred from entering the promised land. God's guy.

What happens to us when we say "yes" to God? What are we signing up for? I struggle when the path he puts before me seems strewn with landmines. I lose sight sometimes of the ways he holds me close and says he loves me in the midst of the raging storms that surround me so often. I find myself asking "Why?" far too often. I know the answer is often a reminder that he does not have to check his decisions with me, and that what seems overwhelming are often temporary storms that will be over tomorrow or next week, next month, next year.

The only thing that seems worse than walking this path sometimes, is the idea that I not walk this path. Another path would mean to walk alone, and I don't think I have the strength to walk even an easy path alone. I don't have the wisdom to walk alone without totally screwing things up. I don't have the strength for even the most gentle stroll without his presence.

People hurt us, say mean things, we don't know the truth about what other people are doing, friends disappoint, family betray us, lie to us or about us, jobs are lost, finances strained, to say nothing of the foolish things we do to ourselves. In a life full of disappointments both large and small, how does anyone walk alone?

Once more, in the difficulties of this moment, I must chose to believe what God says about himself. He says he is faithful and utterly dependable. He says he will never leave us. When I look around and wonder where has he gone, I can rest in the surety that he has promised this and that even though I can be faithless that he cannot betray his promises to me. (2 Tim 2:13). For him to do so would be to be other than he is. Isn't that comforting? I might betray him and be faithless, but he will remain faithful. It is a humbling and glorious thought.

So while I am asking, "why this?" or "why now?" or "are you kidding me?" He is saying, you may not completely trust me in this, but you can. Haven't I proven myself to you over and over?

So what does this mean when I consider being God's guy or God's gal? Whether he has chosen the path in front of me, or has chosen to make good out of it is not always clear to me. What is true is that he is faithful and even if he has chosen a path of struggle, near constant trials, I will choose to trust. Over and over and over again, I will choose. And when my moments of questioning, struggle and doubt are staring me in the face, when discouragement and depression grab hold of me, when I beg God to let me out of my present circumstances, even then I will chose trust. I will remember what God has done for all of his guys and gals, what he has done for me and I will take him at his word.

So, Lord, I trust you in the midst of this flood that seems to be rising around me, the circumstances that threaten to sweep me off my feet. When the rains are so strong that I feel I can't breathe through the water that runs in my mouth, up my nose and beats on my face so that I can't see, then I will trust you to rescue me and to carry me through the flood waters.

I don't understand what you are doing Lord. I don't understand and I am frightened at the things you allow me to go through. I am frightened that you seem to choose such neverending difficulties for me. I don't want my life to be a non-stop action scene from Indiana Jones. I don't want this. But you didn't want the cross. You asked for there to be another way. Oh, you understand this. You understand that I want this to be another way. You understand that I am afraid. But this means that I will choose what you chose, to do the will of the Father and I will trust that my pain and confusion is not forgotten by you. Forgive me for the times that my faith grows thin, when my trust hangs by a thread. Forgive me when I forget that you are faithful and true. Forgive me when I forget that you love me.

So today, I have decided once again that I am glad to be God's Gal, no matter what that looks like. I wish I could believe that I have decided this once and for all. My repetitive doubts, fears and longing for my life to be different will probably resurface, and I will probably ask again, why? But I am assured that when I am faithless he will be faithful because he cannot go against his very nature. I'm happy to be the Gal of a God like that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I've been thinking...

About Heroes.

Blame it on Ron and Ryan, who have begun a series on biblical heroes. I am thinking about heroes. One of my new heroes is a friend of mine who has decided to follow the Spirit's prompting through the Word and doing something that is scary and seems foolish to most people. I am so proud of her.

I have decided that obedience based on my understanding of the command, the reasoning behind it and assenting mentally to the wisdom of that course of action is not obedience at all. I am still then relying on my own wisdom to determine what I am going to do. True obedience does not require understanding, it requires knowledge of and trust in the one who gives the command.

I also tried to compose an Ode to Garbage Men that goes something like this:

My heros are the men who came today
and hauled my rubbish away
Without them my house would reek
with the smells of food I didn't eat
Papers would gather, cans would collect
bags would bulge in stacks by the sink
Without these men the smells of
burning trash would fill the air
from the incinerators the acrid smoke would pour
As we reduce our trash to ash.

Their uniforms may not be NFL chic
Their trucks I may not envy
But I can live without the game
Without my trash men? Never.

Okay, so it's not great literature, but it amuses me.

What a wild and crazy summer it's been...

How do people who work demanding jobs keep up with their blogs? I must admit to being too exhausted to even turn on the computer much of the time. Between the job, the house being under re-construction, covering for a co-worker on extended leave, yard work, church work, the dogs, the yard....oh my.

Trying to get the house ready for my parents to move in didn't exactly work out the way I had planned. We had a month less time than I realized, so they were moving in and the rooms weren't even empty of our stuff. I have furniture in the family room that needs to get moved out and put into storage in the garage or elsewhere, but there is little room to maneuver it around.

One of the most difficult things about this summer has been that I have felt disabled. I have never really accepted any disability. I want to curse and stomp my feet and argue with God. I am really hurting and have so little stamina. It's so frustrating. And yet...God has allowed this for reasons of his own. I cannot know or understand why. What does this do? Why provide a job that I must do, that is clear. The job is a total answer to prayer and a clear mission from above, yet it takes almost all my strength, and sometimes there simply isn't enough strength for the job. I take the Lyrica but I don't see any improvement. I have cut back my activity, but don't see any improvement in strength.

We rely so heavily on our ability to pick up after ourselves, to keep our little universe clean, to clean out the truck, to do our own laundry, to carry clothes upstairs, to hang up the towels--to complete tasks we start. As it is, my deck is a mess, but every time I clean it up, someone comes along and does some work and leaves their mess. By the time I summon the energy to clean up an area, someone comes behind me and messes it up.

Get the dining room cleaned out and all the boxed up kitchen stuff neatly stored in the guest room? Then the construction material and tools for the kitchen show up there, or someone comes for a visit and leaves stuff on the dining room table. The molding is removed from the dining room and placed in the only orderly room in the house--the living room, making that room unusable.

I don't have the strength to keep up with it all and it truly just makes me want to cry.

I don't mean this to be complaining, just explaining what has been going on.

There are difficulties on the job that I can't even explain here, and I have some kind of stomach virus that the doctor says isn't leaving because of the stress. I am worn out, used up, over-stretched, overcome, and that seems to be right where God wants me.

I was told by another Christian in my work world who has been watching my situation that she could clearly see that I was under attack. "You did know that..." she stated in a way that made it sound more like a question. Although I instantly knew it was true, I hadn't recognized the attack as a spiritual one, as something coming straight from the Evil One. She said she had seen it and had been praying. She said I needed to gather my intercessors.

I have been wondering what she meant by "my intercessors". Are we talking a group or groups of people who gather to pray for me? Who would that be? I have some friends who pray as they remember, but this sounded like a more organized gathering.

I was puzzling over this, and feeling a bit discouraged as I tried to think who would be willing to do this when another friend of mine told me the story of a day when she was just overwhelmed by the thought that Jesus was interceeding on her behalf and was praying for her. Romans 8:34
says it is Christ who interceeds for us.

Can you imagine? If there is a prayer group getting together on my behalf, it is led by Christ himself! It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. I am choked up at the thought that Christ prays for me. The Spirit speaks to the Father on my behalf when I cannot utter a thing. How about that?

I am overwhelmed, feeling as if God has either abandoned or forgotten me, and instead the triune God has their head(s) together conversing about me and my situation. If that won't humble you and bring you to your knees, I can't imagine what it would take.

I sometimes feel as if God's love is a distant thing. As if God has difficulty bonding with his children, or has some kind of attachment disorder. Instead of that, He never forgets me, He never stops loving me, His affection and delight in me knows no bounds. How is that even possible? Even I know what a mess I am, how incredibly undeserving I am, how can He not know that? How can he love me anyway?

The weird thinking goes like this: I don't deserve His love, but I deserve better than this. Sounds like double-minded thinking to me.

Or maybe I know I don't really deserve to live pain-free, but I long for it anyway. I long to be energetic and healthy. I long to be able to clean up without being so tired I simply want to weep. I long to be able to travel without the fear of having to use a wheelchair in the airport. It makes me feel so vulnerable and weak that a broken wheel on my suitcase can destroy a trip. I feel very vulnerable that I cannot keep my own yard clean, weeded, mown, trimmed, and sometimes I can't even haul the trash to the curb on Friday--and the container is on wheels!

Oh FM, how I hate you. And Arthur Itis is no friend of mine. Sciatica is my enemy.

Ah well, with enemies like that, it's a good thing that my heavenly trio is having a prayer meeting for me. If God is for me, who can stand against me?

Friday, May 30, 2008

101 Details

I love projects. Projects with deadlines and some pressure to accomplish out-of-the-ordinary things are perhaps my favorite. What is fun about projects in small companies is that you are in charge of all the details, make all the arrangements, you are the main contact person for every issue and so you have a good idea of how everything is falling into place and know who to call when something happens. That is the fun part. You are the captain of the ship.

The problem is that it is a very small ship and you often have little or no resources or amenities while accomplishing your task.

When you have a project in a very large company, you are not the captain. You have to coordinate with multiple departments, many of whom make decisions without your input, or your knowledge. You probably don't know all the players or even what all the departments do, which may mean that you don't know who to talk to if, say, your phones get shut off 10 days prior to the office move. You may not have any idea who Matt is when someone mentions his name in passing, or even be aware that he has the ultimate say over the scheduling of things.
On the other hand, working for a large corporation means you have a lot of resources and amenities at your disposal. It means that you won't be up at 3 in the morning fixing the network, because you have an IT department who has people who take care of that. It means that you don't have to negotiate with the mover, the electrician, the phone company, the old landlord, the new landlord, etc.

I liken it to the difference between riding a skidoo and being captain of a cruise ship. If you see something in the water on your skidoo, you zip around it or stop on a dime. If you see something in the water from the cruise ship, you better see it from a long way off if you need to stop or go around it. It takes a ship 3/4 to 1 1/2 miles to stop. Changing course in a large company can work the same way. This is proper, because the separation of duties provides protection for the company as a whole and it's stockholders against theft, misappropriation of funds, information theft, etc., but it often means you can't change course quickly, and misinformation once spread can be very difficult to fix.

So part of managing a large corporate project is the ability to learn and keep track of who does what. And now I'm off to attend to detail #102.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Follow up to "What Not To Say in an Interview"

"Reformed Smoker" (see comments to previous post), had some good points to make. I do not instantly judge someone, but because I may be sending my interviewee on for further interviewers, I am constantly thinking not just about their skills and qualifications, but how they present themselves. I am aware that there are many offices where orange hair and multiple piercings, low cut blouses or ragged cuffs may be acceptable attire. The problem is that unless people present themselves in the best possible light, they eliminate themselves from consideration for many positions.

I assume that when folks come to me they are earnestly seeking a good position. I am not suggesting that we lie about who we are, but that we do not alienate people right off the bat. In many companies the person doing the hiring is not necessarily the person who is doing the interviewing, at least initially. As I am interviewing folks I am trying to get a picture of the kind of position and environment that I can see that person in. Sometimes I actually get a full-color mental picture of them walking about in a company I know and in a position they are qualified for and this helps me make suitable suggestions.

I thought about pulling the previous post after reading Reformed Smoker's remarks, but I thought about it a while. Yes, it is a bit on the sarcastic side, but I mean it in good humor. I once had an interview where I had one of those nasty, drippy, phlegm filled colds. I refused to shake their hands to spare them my germs and was certain after listening to my raspy voice that I would NOT get the job. I felt bedraggled. I could not tell if I had really pulled myself together. I worked there for 4 years.

I have two goals in interviewing: first, I want to find out a person's skills, experience, education AND personality, so that I can best determine suitable placements for that person; and second, I want to be kind and encouraging, while speaking the truth, as I find the process of job-hunting can be so discouraging. By the time some people get to my office they have had their self-esteem battered by interviewers and other staffing agencies. I firmly believe that anyone can find a job given enough determination, smarts and encouragement. The determination I cannot provide. Some of the wisdom about job searching I can provide, but what I can almost always provide is encouragement. But sometimes, the people who come through the door seem so ill-prepared that I wonder if they have a clue about what they are doing and how they come across.

So, if you have stumbled across my blog while trying to find something about job-hunting and interviewing, please be encouraged. Determination and hard-work, together with some savvy, (including the research you are already doing) will be what you need to find a suitable position.

Granted, in the current economy, things are getting more difficult, and historically there are times when even the finest people are not employed (the Great Depression, for instance) and it may take more time and more determination than ever.

A staffing service is one tool of many. I look at it as a way to expand your network, so that you have a few more eyes and ears out looking on your behalf. This may not be the path you choose, and more power to you. I am truly pleased for anyone who finds suitable employment in an upright and honorable way. I truly wish you all the best in this, one of life's most difficult endeavors.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What NOT to Say in a Job Interview

Question: What would you say your weaknesses are?

Answer: I talk too much. (What I hear is: I'm going to talk all day and never get anything done.)

Answer: I don't really have any. (Oh, really? And this is based on the 6 months of total job experience? On the limited software knowledge and experience evident on your resume? On the fact that you have somehow attained the perfection that the rest of the world is merely striving for? Oh, and you are looking for a job...why? Because if you are such an incredibly well-rounded and capable individual, you should be able to take the part-time position you are currently working and turn it into a Fortune 500 company in no time at all, right?)

Answer: I don't have any. (Oh, so you know everything there is to know in the field you specialize in and there is no room for improvement or further schooling in any aspect? You have experience and are considered an expert in every sub-specialty? Humble, too, aren't you?)

Of course, that is not what I say, although I do remind people that based on weakness I can see in their background, it might behoove them to recognize those weaknesses and to know what they have done and continue to do to overcome those weaknesses.

Things not to DO in an interview.....

1. Bring in an incomplete application. The application is test #1 of your ability to follow directions and be thorough and display the "attention to detail" you mentioned in your resume.

2. Ask for something NOT offered. If I offer you water, don't ask for a soda.

3. Don't show up more than 10-15 minutes early. Makes me uncomfortable trying to do my work knowing you are out there twiddling your thumbs. If you arrive that early, please find my office and then go hang out in the building lobby or in the car for a few moments if you must.

4. Don't just blow off the interview, assuming it won't matter and that you can simply reschedule later if your plans don't work. Call me. If you cannot find the number, do what one classy lady did and show up to explain in person why you won't be proceeding with the interview process.

5. Don't get defensive with me. Even if you feel some of my questions are trying to trip you up, there may be a reason I am asking. (Of course, I am NOT asking the forbidden questions.)

6. Don't offer me information I did not ask, especially information about your living situation, your sexual orientation, your child-care dilemma, or your breast-feeding difficulties. Save that for Oprah or your best friends. I cannot help but wonder how dependable you are going to be if you are extremely concerned about leaving exactly at 5 to get to day care, or if you cannot work before 9 because of dropping the kids off at school.

7. Do NOT come into my office with perfume or smelly hairspray or other chemical odors. You have no idea whether I am chemically sensitive, asthmatic, or simply hate the smell of your cologne.

8. A breath mint, please! Oh my. A speedy interview it will be if you smell in any way. I am human and don't want to subject others to the kind of odor I find offensive.

9. Women! Professional women do not show up at interviews with black, purple, sparkly, orange other wild colored nail polish. They do not show up in skin-tight attire with cleavage spilling over the top of their shirts.

10. Men! Don't sit too close, lean in too far or choose the "power chair". Beware of body odors. If you must have facial hair, it should be neatly groomed. Do not try to come across too high-powered with the interviewer.

11. Do not be rude or dismissive or abrupt with anyone. Ever. At the least, treat everyone in this office with respect in EVERY contact. People notice when you are rude to the waitress, to the telephone operator, to the janitor and to the parking attendant. Your rudeness speaks more loudly about who you are than your subsequent words ever can.

12. Do follow up after the interview with a polite thank you and express an interest in the job, but do NOT tell me how much you need the job, how you are the sole support of a disabled spouse, etc. That kind of emotional blackmail with likely backfire, even if you do not intend it that way. The more desperate you seem the more uncomfortable I am about your ability to handle the stress of the work environment, no matter how badly I feel about your personal situation.

13. I know you are concerned that your employer not be a jerk about you needing to care for a sick child, but if you ask me about that at the first interview, before there is a job offer, you have let me know that you are not as concerned about doing a good job as you are about your personal life. I need to know that you will not take advantage of my generous spirit or of the supervisor I place you with.

14. Don't bad-mouth ANYONE unless you are prepared to take a bullet for it. (Not literally, of course.) I had someone call and make disparaging remarks about someone I had worked with and considered not just a friend, but someone I respected and admired. I coolly informed the caller of that as she tried to extract her foot from her mouth. Also, you never know the context in which the person you are sitting across from may know that person. They may be a personal friend, a neighbor, someone who sits on a Board of a local charity, or even a relative. Even if they aren't related, or possibly share your dislike of the person, you will receive marks for your lack of discretion. Trust me. I have occasionally opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut, and listened while other people said things they should have kept to themselves.

15. Be prepared for the tough questions. Why did you lose that position? Why did you leave there? Why is your job history so spotty? What have you been doing for the past three years?
If your answers are emotional, practice responses that are true but not too revealing until you can say them comfortably and unemotionally. If you were fired, be upfront about the reasons, but be prepared to discuss what you learned from it (and you better have learned something from it, or you aren't ready to job-hunt.)

What Impresses Me As an Interviewer...

1. A professional appearance and relaxed confidence.
2. Respect for my time.
3. Listening when I speak, just as I will listen when YOU speak.
4. A neatly printed application, and other paperwork COMPLETELY filled out in advance.
5. Present me with a copy of your resume. Ask if I wish to see letters of recommendation and provide me with copies I can keep if I say yes.
6. Follow instructions. If I ask for "supervisory references", or the application requests "professional references", your Shao-Lin instructor does not count, nor does your Mother-In-Law, your best friend from college or your pastor, unless you were the church secretary or bookkeeper.
7. Someone who has done some research on my company (given that I send them a link to my company website when confirming the interview). Given that, it does not show much interest or initiative when you are unaware what kind of company we are.
8. Someone who knows who they are and expresses their abilities, education, experience and work style effectively. Truthfully letting me know who you are may mean that you don't get this specific position, but I may know of another position that would be ideal given all those factors, or I may refer you to another company where I think you would be a good fit. Also, you do not know what I am looking for. There may be something about the position you are unaware of, so you mentioning that you prefer a niche or routine, clearly-defined job may not be the killer you are afraid of. If you say you want an atmosphere where everyone really gets along like family, you better mean that that is a deal-make-or-break for you, as I may know that there is a challenging personality in the mix making you a bad fit. So be truthful, but don't overstate your wants as requirements.
9. A firm (not painful) handshake both on meeting and on concluding the interview. Please excuse yourself from handshakes if you may be contagious. I appreciate it when someone tries to spare me their colds/flu exposure.


1. Does it haf to be sed agin? Mispellins say "I dont car abuot ths job."
2. If you are going for an accounting position, don't go on an on about your pursuit of your degree in biology and your long-term goal of studying sperm whales in their natural environment. I know then that this is a stop-gap job. If this is part of your resume, please explain in a cover letter why you are looking for a particular position while you are attending four years of schooling in the local area.
3. Too much detail. The resume is the advertising teaser not your auto-biography.
4. Too little detail. Remember those ads for ING that were nothing but the letters? Who cared? Weren't we really just annoyed that someone was wasting our time saying something without really saying anything? A resume without any job details ends the process with the trash can.
5. An unrealistic salary expectation. Why are you listing a salary expectation anyway? The salary is something we discuss once there is an offer on the table, after you have peaked my interest and sold me on your stellar abilities and charm.
6. Personal detail. Don't need to know you are married, have four kids, your height and weight, or other such personal details.
7. Don't try to snow me by trying to make your previous job duties sound more impressive and extensive than they were. I know that someone seeking $12/hour did not run the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for instance.
8. Wild colors. Ick!
9. LOSE THE OBJECTIVE! Unless you are exceptionally good (and you aren't) and willing to tailor your objective to each job (and you won't, or you would be L-Y-I-N-G, at least to some). Just leave it. A Skills Summary or Summary of Relevant Experience is much more useful TO ME.
10. If you've done some weird or interesting project as part of a job, do list it. It might be the one thing that keeps your resume out of the trash. I, for instance, have gotten job interviews based on my "Bomb Squad Detail", which consisted of putting on safety gear and walking around a construction sight on two occasions looking for bombs following bomb threats.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In Sickness and In Health

It's a balmy 32º (feels like 24º) according to MSN Weather, which usually means it is several degrees cooler at my house. Snow is falling again and beginning to stick to rooftops. I woke up this morning You know the feeling when you wonder, am I sick? Am I getting sick? But, despite feeling bad, since you aren't puking, and don't have mucus escaping through facial orifices, you go to work anyway, hoping you are simply being paranoid and that if not, that no one will catch something from you. Never mind that the office has been a breeding ground of germs from other sick people coming in and out, yours would no doubt be the toxic ones.

Anyway, I got up (late) and dragged my dressed and groomed but unfed self into work. I was pretty sure I should eat something so I stopped at a drive-through and picked up a grease sandwich. Got to work and upon opening the bag and feeling a protest in my gut decided that I wasn't quite ready to eat. The boss had brought in some lovelty pumpkin bread, but even that was giving me that airsick, carsick, seasick feeling. Not a good sign.

When do you give up? When do you decide not to be a trooper? I've never had much admiration for those folks who work through the flu, nasty horrid colds, intestinal bugs, etc., displaying their mettle but undermining my health and that of the others in the office. If you think you might be contagious, isn't it the kind thing, the loving thing, not to pass it along? Or do we so value that type-A driven person that we strive to keep on plugging no matter what?

By 9:30 I was pretty sure I was sick, and by 10 I had passed on my interviews, cleared my desk and tended the fires that needed tending and was on my way home. And here I've been, asleep for the last 5 hours, a sure sign of something not being right.

Where do you fall when it comes to the sometimes opposing responsibilities toward your job and to the health of your co-workers?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Which dog am I?

Something about my new dog, Bear, has been gnawing at me lately. Over time it has become apparent that this dog, a yellow lab mix does not seem to be developing any real kind of attachment to me, not in the same way as Barney, who had to be euthanized last summer. Barney adored me. He wanted to be with me all the time—not because I did anything for him in particular, but simply because he wanted to be with me. He loved being in my presence.

Bear wants something from me almost every minute I am with him. I can almost hear his thoughts:
Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Throw the ball. Where’s my
ball? Ball. The Ball. Want the ball. Throw the ball.
BALL! BALL! BALL! Get my ball. Throw my ball.
Ball. Ball. Ball. THE BALL! I WANT THE BALL!

I think he would go off with anyone without a backward glance if only they had a ball.

This has been a grave disappointment to me. I miss the adoration and love I got from my Barney. Bear is a good dog. There’s nothing really wrong with him, he’s not nervous or mean, is not a biter, doesn’t beg, doesn’t tear things up…he just doesn’t display the kind of affection for me that I long for.

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve wondered if that isn’t how we are with God. He longs for a friendship, for the loving adoration of his people, but so often we just want something from him. We don’t want to spend time in his presence because we love and adore him, because we worship him, but because he has the ball, whatever that looks like for us. Do we weary him with our impatient, whining requests for the object of our longing? Or does he provide us good things anyway, but have a sadness in his heart, a longing, for our adoration?

I’ve just been thinking….

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Old Photos

I know, I know. You're probably one of those people who never have photos sitting in a camera that you haven't printed. You never have a disposable camera sitting around waiting to be developed and the last time you saw 35mm film no one even knew who Monica Lewinsky was...

Well, that's not me. I finally took in about 5 disposable cameras and rolls of film, wondering what was on them. Was one of them the missing roll from our Italy trip 4 years ago? Would one of them contain pictures of the kids when they were little?

The first set of pictures I opened had pictures of my dead dog, Barney. Oh, how I miss him. Another set had pictures of a friend who died a few years ago. There were pictures of construction projects I no longer remember, and pictures of Craig on one of his visits home, and pics of my beautiful wallpaper. In the pics you can't see the messed up seams, the bad cuts, the peeling. You only see the beauty.

Life is filled with these kind of moments. Memories of good times, good friends, good dogs, and times that bring both tears to your eyes and a smile to your face. Now I have to wonder where on earth that roll of Italy pics went to... There were some wonderful shots of the fountain near the main bus/train terminal in Rome. Oh, well. At least I still remember it. My memories include sights AND sounds and smells. It includes the feel of the spray on my face and the cooling night breeze on my skin. I'm pretty sure the pics don't include that. Wouldn't it be fun if they did?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

One Body Divided

I've been troubled about some things I see in the church. If we are all "the" church, as in one body, one bride of Christ, why does this group think they are better than the rest of the groups which gather in other places? I'm not being clear, so let me restate this.

In the tradition I grew up in, the "denomination" for lack of a better word, people often said that we met in "the New Testament way" and some were even overheard to say that they were glad they didn't go to those other churches where they didn't teach the truth. The pervasive attitude seemed to be that of pride that we have the corner on truth. What relief people felt that we had the proper interpretation of Scripture and what horror we felt at the thought that we might have wound up with one of those "other" churches where they didn't know the truth. The air of superiority that many displayed was nauseating. Of particular contempt were the charismatics and those churches that used contemporary music, guitars and electrical equipment and "didn't show proper respect", by which it was meant that they didn't dress up, that some women wore pants, some men jeans and that they didn't follow the rules for dress that they believed scripture ordained. The service, they felt, did not have appropriate formality and seriousness.

I now attend a church that uses contemporary music, guitars, keyboard, drums, electric guitars and bass, and makes every attempt to put biblical teaching in the language of today. While I love this church, I also love my old church and find that there is some of the same attitude here. There is a disdain for traditional churches and their members, for hymns and even old Christmas carols that disturbs me. In my old church there was a disdain for the young and for a passionate pursuit of God that wasn't always restrained and dignified (and where is that in scripture?) In this church, I hear (though not from the leadership) a contempt for traditional denominational churches and a lack of understanding and respect for the Christians of yesterday and the faith of our fathers.

The music that is so often disdained on both sides is the outpouring of hearts that love God. Why shouldn't we all rejoice in that? The sacrifice of the past generations should be respected by the current, and the passions of the young should bring joy to the hearts of their elders. There was a time when those hymns were considered as scandalous as the new music of today. There was a time when the church was horrified by musical instruments, by parts, by the joining of voice and instruments, by the voices of women. People whose hearts were filled with their love of Christ defied those standards, not out of rebellion, but out of love and passion. That same passion and love rules in the hearts of the young.

The young reject not just the restrictive forms of the traditional churches, but the members themselves, not recognizing the preservation of the gospel by those who have gone before, by their sacrificial giving that allowed missions to the furthest parts of the earth. They seem unaware of the hours of labor, the years of devotion and service their older brothers and sisters have given to the cause of Christ.

We spend so much time concerned with our own comfort and our own likes and dislikes that we aren't as concerned about the church as a whole as we should be. Whether we like it or not, the gray-haired wrinkled fuddy-duddy and the rainbow-haired, tattoed, pierced kids in black tees and jeans are brothers and sisters. We are one. One body, one bride, one church.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Missed Lesson

The preacher claimed financial abundance
was promised to all who believed
Ignoring the promise of trials
Jesus gave to those who are his.
He claims we all get health! and wealth!
Right here! Right now! For you and me.
But Jesus (who is our example)
had nowhere to lay his head.
No savings, no stocks, no bank account,
With heaven his only home.
His friends would turn and deny him,
His body abused and torn
But the preacher claims there is none of that
for those who rightly are his.
What about Stephen, the stoned one,
Or Paul who was beated and jailed,
Peter who died upside-down on a cross,
John the Baptist beheaded and scorned?
Can you tell me how Preacher misses that?
Is it deliberate blindness he grasps?
Does he willingly knowingly teach a lie?
If he does I can only wonder why? Why?

Listening to Others

I was thinking the other day...someone I know has offered advice which I am not taking and that makes them really irritated and they make some snippy comments. I sat for a while thinking about what would happen if I went along with them simply to appease them and lose their sneering. Imagining I had gone along with their advice I wrote the following:

I did what they wanted because to resist what they believed to be wise earned their contempt. In doing so I resisted my own wisdom and earned my own contempt. Of the two, mine is harsher.

This is how we resist the temptation to go along simply to get along. The contempt of others is rarely as hard to take as our own, but sometimes the pain of someone's critical remarks causes us to do something we believe is foolish or wrong unless we evaluate what is in our heart, our mind, our own conscience. Surely there is a time for striving to earn the high opinion of another, but never at the expense of our own self-respect.