Burdened By Too Many Commitments

When We Are Burdened By Too Many Commitments

Going on two years now, I have been knitting a Christmas stocking for my grandson, Henry. It truly is a labor of the deepest, giving-of-myself kind of love, for in doing this, I have made a painful discovery; knitting is not my forte. My hour of delving into this craft—I have been told that is all you should attempt at one sitting— goes something like this. Knit five. Tink twenty. Tink, which is knit spelled backwards, means to unknit or undo what you have just done. My knitting is more like a boat rocking back and forth caught in a sludge that allows very little headway. Instead of moving forward, it feels as if I’m in the Twilight Zone of the land of no progress.

It can be so disheartening. My dear, sweet friend, Joan, who is teaching me this fine art, has become my cheerleader. I don’t know quite why she puts up with me except that I must provide endearing comic relief. Encouraging my efforts, she often genuinely tells me, “You’ve got this now. You know what you’re doing. Look at you go.” And she’s right. For a minute. Until I walk out of her house and all by my lonesome stumble into my next mistake that I have no idea how to fix. Not even an inkling at all.

My real problem is not that knitting is so difficult, but that I have too many irons in the fire. It’s not that I don’t have the brainpower to succeed at this endeavor—which can be intricate and exacting, often resulting in beautiful sweaters, afghans, and yes, even Christmas stockings—it’s that there are too many commitments in other areas of life and far too many distractions. Like a kid in a candy store, there are so many fun, wonderful, and interesting things to try, to do, and to see. If I had a bucket list, it would be full to overflowing.

So what it comes down to is picking and choosing, deciding and making….

Choices. Continue reading

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When We Don’t Understand What God is Doing

When We Don't Understand What God is Doing

Jerry and I love to cook. We enjoy experimenting with recipes, adding ingredients that you normally wouldn’t, to what’s tried and true. For instance, a dash of cinnamon in just about anything, in my opinion—Jerry is not always on the same page with me on this one—brings about a wonderful flavor. Plop overripe apple chunks into a beef stew and—even though you might find this hard to believe—you will experience an aroma and taste that is superb!

Likewise, the smells of spices and herbs by themselves, are delightful. To pinch off a sprig of rosemary and rub it in your palms or pluck a leaf of basil and smell its pungent aroma, there are few things that are more refreshing. But when two or more opposing ingredients—that would normally cause us to raise our hand in protest—are mixed together, we sometimes are deliciously surprised. The outcome is far better than we could have ever imagined.

The same can hold true in our lives.

The television show, CBS Sunday Morning, featured a story a few years back about a man who decided to do an intriguing sociological study where he began to follow the lives of children, checking in with them to see where they were every seven years. One boy’s story really caught my attention. Continue reading

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When We Listen to Lies

I’m an early bird. Maybe that’s one reason why my nickname growing up was “Bird Baby.” (Only my older brother, Jim, is allowed to call me that, and that’s because it’s always been his name for me.) And though I like to get up at the crack of dawn, or even before, I like to do it…

s-l-o-w-l-y.

So, before anyone else wakes up, I’ll grab my cell phone and glasses, and quietly tiptoe down the stairs, wrapping up in my robe as I go, because even in summer Jerry has set the thermostat to generate snow as we sleep. Pouring a cup of Italian coffee, I settle down into my most comfortable chair and open up the app on my phone that leads me to one of my favorite devotionals.

I don’t remember the specifics of the one I was reading this particular morning, but my response to it, in the very least was disquieting and unnerving. For what it said, I knew could not possibly be for me.

The devotional was beautiful, really, talking about finding your worth in the Lord’s eyes; knowing that He loves us beyond anything we can imagine, or think, or desperately want. But worn out images and thoughts from my past railroaded what was before me, saying, “That can’t apply to you. The Lord rescued you once. Big Time. Set your feet on solid, solid ground. But what did you do but turn to another, the idol you thought would bring you fulfillment and happiness? You were faithless.”

Before, I would swing and hit at those mental pictures, those memories. I would do battle, from what I understood or or more accurately, misunderstood what the Bible means by, “Taking every thought captive.” (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.) Because the Lord tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (See 1 John 1:9.) I would quote that verse. And stand on it. And try to rally myself that it applied to me also. While that Scripture is true, for the Lord cannot lie, I couldn’t make it stick. Continue reading

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When Communication Falls Apart

When Communication Falls ApartI listened yesterday as my friend told me what happened. The hurt, confusion, heartache, and guilt of being misunderstood and of misunderstanding was written all over her face. As she recounted her side of the story, almost as the words were tumbling out of her mouth, she could see the mistakes she had made and those that were made toward her. She loves the one she hurt and was hurt by, and just wishes she could go back in time and make it all go away.

Miscommunication is never easy to go through, and it never happens to just one. It takes two for that tangle to occur. Even when you’re talking face-to-face and can hear both what someone is saying and see their expressions, misconceptions can occur. An intended joke is taken as a serious jab. A feeling of empathy is misconstrued as patronizing. Add in what happens when texting, tweeting, and Facebooking come into the picture and those subtle cues of voice inflection, a smile, or a gentle nudge on the shoulder are no longer there, conversation and connection is further compromised. Losing those signals that allow us to read between the lines, makes relating to one another so much more difficult. Without the benefit of sight, twinges of offense begin to take shape in our minds. Judgment is not far behind. Continue reading

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http://dashofstrange.com/2017/09/14/when-communication-falls-apart/

When Faith Seems Unimaginable

Yesterday, sitting in my optometrist’s office that plays a continual stream of movies, I was able to catch a glimpse of a most memorable scene from one of my all time favorites, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Indiana Jones, the main character in search of his missing father, who is an archeologist, finds himself—along the way with WW II Nazis, and others looking for eternal longevity—in pursuit of the chalice Jesus drank from at The Last Supper. In the last scenes of the movie, Indiana is clasping a series of clues woven with Scripture written in his father’s notebook, and he must use them in order to successfully find what he is looking for.

Among those many challenges, there is one that always mesmerizes me. An abyss of such unthinkable proportions, it looks impossible to cross. As Indiana reads from his father’s scribblings, Proverbs 3:6 always pops in my head. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. A pastor once told me that the literal translation of that verse is, when you put your foot out, the path will be there. When Indiana made the choice to step out into what looked a chasm of sickening heights—one in which he would surely die—his foot landed on a granite-like crossway bridging the gap. Hands down, it is the best picture imaginable of what it means to walk in faith. Every time I see that scene, I want to slap my leg in affirmation while jumping up exclaiming a resounding, “Yes!”

Now we may not have an actual physical canyon to cross, but I think we all face our own personal abysses everyday. Some, on the richter scale seem smaller than others. And then there are those that are gargantuan. Continue reading

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What We Must Do as the World Gets Darker

The solar eclipse of 2017 was stunning, even from our home that experienced only 99.8% of totality. Instead of joining the throngs in Nashville, Murfreesboro, or other surrounding areas, my son, John, his wife, Julie, and their four month old, Arthur, opted to photograph with me our landscape as we experienced the wonder of night in the middle of the day. None of us really knew what to expect, but armed with sandwiches, chips, cool drinks, and excitement, we waited. Keeping our cameras on the same settings and taking pictures in roughly twenty-minute increments—up until the end I was so excited I just couldn’t help but take pictures every other minute—we watched as the moon’s shadow blocked out the sun.

To the human eye, it didn’t get completely dark, even in the zone of totality, (as reported to me by my daughter who lives in that path). Here, as one sliver of the sun almost completely disappeared, another one immediately took its place. Outside of totality, there was no corona or diamond burst of light but only what looked to be a shadowy grey brown murkiness mixed with a little orange. The lamppost in the front yard turned on as did our white lights that line our porch’s bannister. As we looked out, the normally beautiful vista, which to the human eye appeared now to be somewhat out of focus, took on an eery distasteful feel. But later, looking at the photos we took, especially the ones when the sun was 99.8% blocked, we saw something quite different. Except for the almost imperceptible twinkle of lights, everything else was black. (I posted duplicates of those last two shots taken at 1:27PM and 1:28PM. One, to show the photo as is, which appears to show just darkness. The second is overexposed so you can see what was actually in the shot—closer to what our eyes saw—but is not visible without editing).

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Did the lens of the camera lie? Or did it just not pick up on the nuances that our eyes, constantly adjusting, allow us to see? I would say it is somewhere in between. But I couldn’t help but feel that the same trick our eyes played on us in the eclipse in making it seem not quite night, is analogous to what’s happening in our world today. The overshadowing of what is right with what is wrong, what is light and dark, accepting, even winking at what was unacceptable—what was considered uncouth, as my mama used to call it—is now more the norm than not. The lines drawn in the sand of what is allowed have seemed to fade, almost disappear, as the tide of popular opinion washes it beyond recognition. Continue reading

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How the Lord Brought Joy to My Mondays

How the Lord Brought Joy to My Mondays

I love Mondays. It’s the day I pop out of bed, to-do list in hand, and scurry around the house and office, putting away the weekend, organizing what’s ahead. It’s a beautiful thing really, even when the mountain of what-needs-to-be-done far outweighs what’s already been checked-off.

It’s not always been that way though. I used to not only dread the day-to-day of everyday, but especially the start of the week. Waking up to be greeted by what had to be done was sometimes overwhelming. Pulling the covers over my head was all I wanted to do. But it wasn’t just when there was work to be done. It trickled into even having fun. Taking time away from what I thought I had to do, countered by the crushing weight of guilt, of I what I thought I should do, topped off by if I don’t step in, who will, sometimes was just too much. No matter how burdensome those thoughts were, they stoked in me a flame of pride. At the same time, the slavery to them, created exhaustion. Having barely anything left to give, the good intentions of compassion and grace were lost. Continue reading

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Becoming a Pillar of Salt: A Lesson from Lot’s Wife

Recently, Jerry and I made a decision that caused me to come face-to-face with Lot’s wife, the woman from the infamous town of Sodom. Not a comfortable thought considering in the Bible, she is nameless. But more importantly, when fleeing the historic destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah she is the person who by looking back, disobeyed God and was changed into a pillar of salt. Not knowing her reasons why, but realizing that some of those same motives which might have caused her disobedience—not wanting to leave family and friends, wanting the security of the past by holding onto what is familiar—all of which are alive and well in me, was enough to give me pause. To stop and listen. To pay attention and trust God in what Jerry and I feel He is leading us to do. Continue reading

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The Loss of a Friend

The Loss of a Friend Dash of Strange

I received some news a few days ago. A dear friend of mine just passed away. We were not extremely close, but when we first met, there was an immediate bond between us. She was a friend of my heart. Smart. Sharp-witted. Loyal. Sweetest smile. One of those quiet ones, but when she did speak, people listened. I will miss her badly. Knowing she is not here, knowing I won’t see that grin or hear her mischievous chuckle again, brings heartache—and for her family and those who knew her well—one, that words cannot begin to comfort.

We’ve all been there. In one way or another. Friends. Family. Loved ones. One minute they’re here and the next, beyond our grasp. We see it. We know it. But, yet and still, we can hardly fathom it. And our hearts, whether we say it or not, always cry out, “Why?” and “Is it something I did or didn’t do? Is it something I forgot to pray? Did I not have enough faith?” Continue reading

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Tired of Trying to Fit In? Why It’s Time to Start Acting Like a Child

When my grandson, Arthur, was born, and because his older brother’s name is Henry, one of my very good friends when she heard the news, exclaimed, “How precious! Now you have two kings in your family, King Arthur and King Henry.” I hadn’t thought of that, but because I love the C.S. Lewis series, The Chronicles of Narnia, my brain went immediately to the first book where the most lovely and sweet proclamation was heralded over the main characters of the story as they were crowned kings and queens. “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” Thinking of my two grandsons, and my granddaughter, Lucy—also the name of the youngest girl in the story who becomes royalty—I asked my friend who made vinyl imprints items for fun if she could make t-shirts and a little dress with that quote from the book written on them.

When my daughter, the mother of Lucy, and my daughter-in-law, Henry and Arthur’s mom, got together recently, they did a photoshoot with their kiddos wearing their new duds. The results, so sweet—two pictures to be hung proudly on any wall—but it’s those other twenty-three proofs, those failed attempts to get all three looking at the camera at the same time, that are most dear to me. For it’s in these shots, the personalities of my grands are truly seen. And they are hilarious!

Tired of Trying to Fit In? Why It's Time to Start Acting Like a Child

Lucy, Arthur, Henry

As I sat chuckling, actually downright laughing over the antics of Lucy, Henry, and Arthur, it hit me how their craziness, goofiness, and silliness made them all the more endearing. How they were just themselves, nothing held back (as you can see from the pics). How they felt free—they didn’t know how to act any different—to be who God created them to be.

Truth be told, we all start that way. Somewhere along the line though, living in this upside-down fallen world, we become less and less our true selves, often imprisoned by the self-inflicted need to be accepted. Trying to please the world, we let go of innocence doing what we know we shouldn’t do, betraying the child within. No longer trusting we are loved for who we are, we try on different faces, hoping that one will be the one that wins approval. Continue reading

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