Monday, August 27, 2012

Dr Suess, Salt and light, not me...

Today has been, to borrow from Dr. Suess, a no-good-very-bad day.
So at 10:11pm, I am starting this quick blog, then going directly to bed.

Why, you ask, has it been a bad day? Because I let it be one. No - I made it be one.
And I am writing this because maybe others do the same. Maybe. Or maybe I am alone?

I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say before I was out of bed, I received a message that changed my plans in a major way. No one's fault really - just life.
I stayed in bed a bit longer...praying...putting on the happy face...turning it over to God.
Yeah, that didn't work.

Isn't it funny how EVERY single thing is bothersome when you start the day badly and let it go downhill? That's what I did. GRUMP GRUMP GRUMP. I did a few things that were not optional, but not joyfully.

Here is something else I do when I am choosing to have a bad day...I refuse to sing. No, I mean REFUSE. Because I know singing will eventually bring me out of it. And I didn't WANT OUT OF IT!!!

Please know that these days are very rare for me. Generally, if I run into a wall during the day I bounce back quickly, in a flash.
But today, I was tired and weary of some long-term stuff. There was hope this would be a day  that changed the "stuff"...there have been days before this one which held the same hope. All in vain. Again, no one's fault, just circumstances.

Have you been there?

Now, I am about to go to bed to stop the misery. 16 hours of little joy, perhaps one laugh. Determinedly squashing everything I knew might jolt me out of it.

I was as far from salt and light as it is possible to be. Maybe that is why I am exhausted and achy.

The purpose of my full disclosure is a distinct feeling that someone needed to hear this. If you've had a day like this recently, you aren't alone. Don't beat yourself up. Don't waste another day regretting this one.
Snuggle your dog. Sleep well. get back at it tomorrow.
That's what I am off to do.

We will talk again soon...
BP :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pray as you can...and other hard things

If you have been tracking with me, you know of my commitment to blogging about Father Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims for Christian Living.
For at least a week I have been alternately avoiding and plodding through the second item:
Pray as you can, not as you will.

One of my goals is to look at this list from a non-church-going view. From that perspective, these words make me scrunch my nose and shrug my shoulders.
Even as a "church' person who studies the Bible, I find the words to be vague.

Is he speaking to how often I pray? Is he referring to the content of my prayers? Does he mean requests for myself? Supplication for others? Both?  

Pray as you can, not as you will.
Okay then.

Prayer is hard sometimes, isn't it?

Hard to explain. We have quick answers when people ask what praying really means or how it is done. Just talk to God. It can be short or long. You can do it anywhere at any time. We even have an acronym for a prayer agenda: Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication. And there you have it. Simple...or not

Hard to do on occasion. Many of us are wired to talk talk TALK through difficulties. Some of us just want to be quiet. And although Jesus is first in my life, there are times when I just don't want to talk. I don't. To anyone. Not even to #1.

Oh, I will pray for your needs. I will do that at any moment and repeatedly as long as it is necessary.

But praying about - and releasing - my own stuff? Don't always feel like it.

Pray as you can, not as you will.

Some days I am hanging on an emotional cliff, and I know prayer will plunge me into a sea of tears. So I don't. I hold myself as stiff as I can. And I just don't.

Sometimes I am beaten down by this financial situation in my life dragging on for so long. I want the Creator of the entire universe, the One who loves me beyond what I can fathom, to just FIX IT NOW!
I don't want to talk. I want to stomp and fuss and pout. Not talk. Even to Him.

 Pray as you can, not as you will.

Note to folks who don't regularly attend church: sometimes this prayer thing is just as hard for those of us who attend regularly. We don't have an "in."

Pray as you can, not as you will.

I read it again and say WHATEVER, Father Hopko. WHAT.EV.ER.
Then I breathe.
Then sometimes I make my point of view very clear,in case God doesn't already know. this part might include my outside voice and/or tears.
Then I breathe.
Then then then...I listen.
Not because I joyfully will every time.
Because I finally get to the place where I albeit barely.

Pray as you can, not as you will.

Okay, I get it now. How about you?
I hope Maxim 3 doesn't pull my guts out like this one did. SHEESH!!

We will talk again soon.
BP :) 

Five Minute Friday: JOIN

I am participating in an exercise called FIVE MINUTE FRIDAYS. Here is how it works:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.. 

Here is today's exercise: JOIN

Did you know it is back To School time? Hard to miss, isn't it. New classes, new clothes, new supplies, new friends...C'mon kids - JOIN in!
It has been said that 20 years from now, you and I will regret what we did NOT do much more than we regret what we do.
Believe that. Tell the people you love to believe it. Because I know it to be true.
"JOIN" reminds me that I played the clarinet and saxophone from 4th-12th grade, but when tryouts for PSU Blue Band came to my high school, I did not JOIN in.
Fear told me I might not make it.
"JOIN" reminds me that I played baseball/softball my whole life. but when I was the last person cut from the PSU softball team as a freshman, FEAR told me never to JOIN in again. Not softball or basketball. Not chorus. Not writing groups. Not social groups.
FEAR told me I was not welcome to JOIN.
"JOIN" reminds me that Jesus said, Come, Knock, Open, Seek. All JOINing initiatives I must take. But FEAR is a killer.
This is especially difficult for someone who is wired to be outgoing and gregarious. FEAR has crippled my ability to JOIN in.
Can I get a witness?
"JOIN" reminds me that I want to - no I MUST -  use the tremendous gifts I have been given to write, to motivate, to help people find their passion and reach their potential. It is in me. And it is big.
But FEAR says, what if I JOIN the blogging/Facebook page revolution and no one reads it? What if I offer speaking and writing skills and no one bites? What if I want to JOIN, and get no response.
"Scared to death" is a very real emotion when it keeps one's dream at bay and makes JOINing so difficult.
Do you understand? I think you do.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Five Minute Friday: STRETCH

I have been participating in an exercise called Five Minute Friday. Each Friday we receive a prompt and follow these rules:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3.And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community...
Here is today's result.

Seriously, God? This is the word you gave Lisa-Jo today?
I can't do a sweet, polite Five Minute Friday if the word is STRETCH. You know that, God, so why are you pushing me?
You have been there as I set a goal to be more healthy, get to a suitable weight. You know I have been stuck on the same number for 2 weeks, tried everything to kick start it, all to no avail.
And You say, STRETCH?
You know I am doing my best to help loved ones with medical issues, and feeling like it isn't enough.
And You say, STRETCH?
You know I struggle with how to use the tremendous writing, speaking, creative arts gifts You have given me...wanting to honor You...wanting to help people...not knowing where or how to take the first steps...fighting with lifelong issues of goal setting and follow through...feeling like my dreams are slipping away.
And You say, STRETCH?
You know I am flailing, almost drowning, in a financial storm that was supposed to be cleared out months ago...listening to the phone ring all day...being without the means to help those I love who are in need...scared out of my mind.
And You say, STRETCH?
Seriously, God?
Oh, I know all the "believer" answers...I have repeated them to others many times.
STRETCH my hand for Yours.
STRETCH my heart in faith.
I do know those standard answers...
STRETCH...but, on this cloudy, rainy day, I don't know how...
And I am not alone in feeling that way.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Amy, Linda, Char, Class Reunion, and Bob Seger

I had a conversation recently with a young, newly married friend who told me she wished she could know everything God had in store for them.
I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

On the way home, my iPod shuffled to a song I forgot was loaded. Don't you love when that happens?
Makes you smile or takes a bit of your breath away.

A couple hours later the invitation to my 35th (WHAT????) high school reunion appeared on Facebook.  I picked up my iPod and listened again.

The familiar guitar/piano riff started...and I thought of my young friend.

It seems like yesterday. But it was long ago... 

Thirty-five years? It can't be true. My band sweater still fits. Okay, it is a bit tight. But you get what I mean.
I see my friends on Facebook and at the grocery store - and if I close my eyes, I can still see us in the cafeteria, on the basketball court, playing in the marching band...

Caught like a wildfire out of control, til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove

Crazy kids.
We thought life would only get better and easier.  And we thought we could control it all.

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...

I think of my friend Amy Horne. She recently marked her 20th wedding anniversary. "Celebration" is a bit strong, under the circumstances. What would she have done of God had told her in 1992 that four months shy of 20 years of marriage, her beloved Tommy would be called to live with Jesus? 

 Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...

I think of my friend Charlene Shaw. She would rather be celebrating 25 years of marriage than preparing for divorce court after enduring her husband's numerous affairs. Would she have made different choices in 1987 had she known it would come to this?

 Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...

I think of my friend Linda Kalafatis. She devoted her time, her energy, her heart to Ohio State Buckeyes Softball for 16 years. She won more games than any Buckeye softball coach ever has and probably ever will. She put life into the program, made it successful, groomed young women into students of life, as well as athletes. Then she was fired. Would she have made a different choice in 1996 had she known her loyalty would be rewarded this way?

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...

I think of my dear friend Nancy who is battling cancer for the second time, of my beloved sister Kelly who had her son ripped from this world at 19, of my financial situation that hasn't been resolved for 3 years. Every person from my class, every person I know over 40 could tell a story just like this.

How about you?
Who  or what comes to mind for you? What is on your "That isn't what I expected" list?
No, my young friend. You don't want to know what is ahead. God has a reason for only showing you a few steps at a time. You will know when you need to know.

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then...

Life gets easier?
Yea...that's a lie.
It never does. In fact, I think it gets harder.
But it does get better - maybe because we have better tools. Maybe because we learn.

Well those drifter's days are past me now, I've got so much more to think about 
Deadlines and commitments, What to leave in, what to leave out...

We do learn, don't we? Just not what we thought we would learn.
We learn that people die too soon or they get sick, people promise to stay then choose to leave, employers are unfair, money causes grief, blah blah blah...
But we also learn that God is good, that life is tough but family and steadfast friends help us be tougher, that we may lose speed and mobility and hair, but we don't have to lose heart.

Thirty-five year reunion? No big deal. I am happier, smarter, wiser, more confident, more ME than I was in 1977.
Not because life got easier.
Just because I learned the keep moving- and keep smiling- in the storm.

I'll bet you did too.

Against the wind 
I'm still runnin' against the wind 
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind 
Well I'm older now and still runnin'... 
Against the wind 
We will talk again soon!
BP :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five Minute Friday: CONNECT

Ironic word for Five Minute Friday, as I use a laptop that is on its final toe. Not leg. Toe.
"Cannot CONNECT" is a message I see often on my screen...
And in my life.
Events that do not CONNECT with my expectations.
Prayers that do not seem to CONNECT with the One who answers.
Bills that do not CONNECT with the balance in my account.
I reach out to people and the CONNECTion goes astray. Disappointing or the Father's Hand?
Am I CONNECTed enough to Him to even know?
So here is my new goal: CONNECT.
First to my Creator - every morning, a hundred times a day, again before I close my eyes.
And all other attempts to CONNECT will fall right into place.

my five minutes is up :)

Five Minute Friday is an exercise in which the writer is given a prompt and had Five Minutes to compose. No editing, no second guessing. Then, go back and encourage the writer before you!
Read more here

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Father Hopko, Golf, and Beth's thoughts

I have always liked inspirational sayings. Maybe it is the writer and motivational speaker in me. Maybe, at one time, it was because I was grasping for something to kick my butt into the gear I knew was possible.

Recently, I came across Fr. Thomas Hopko's "55 Maxims for Christian Living."  The list caught my eye not only because I am like inspirational thoughts and am a Christian, but because religion seems to be playing a sizable role in the current political landscape.

To me, each item on the list is succinct. Then I began to wonder what others might see in this list - people who profess a different religion, or no religion, or those who believe in Jesus but aren't church-goers? Would they see the actions of Christians they know on this list? Would they see my actions?

In the coming weeks, I will blog about each item on Fr Hopko's list. Not in a heavy-duty theological tone. Light and REAL and, hopefully, fun! Here we go...


Talk about starting off with a big task! Volumes have been written about this subject. "What does it mean to be in Christ?" returned 3.6 million results on Google. So I took notes, compared notes, puzzled and puzzled 'til my puzzler was sore. Finally, I went back to basics.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view...Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
More clear now?
BE ALWAYS IN CHRIST. Be the new creation He made...Which made me think about my golf lessons.
I started golfing at 26, after years of slow-pitch softball, backyard wiffle ball, basketball and tennis. Influenced by those sports, this was my golf routine: stand behind the ball and visualize a Tiger-like shot, address the ball (Hello ball! I am going to smack you), let the trouble begin. My "swing"was an inconsistent mess of arms, body manipulations, no torque. The results range from great to something a toddler could do, and everything in between. No control over the flight path or distance. Basically swat and pray.
Thus the lessons. I love the game too much and am too competitive to settle for mediocrity.  Thankfully, my instructor recognizes the analytical part of me and teaches to it - power in angles, in torque, in using the ground...the simplicity of two hip turns and an arm circle...the erasing of confusing terms such as keeping your eye on the ball, keeping your head down, lifting up - ideas that don't illustrate the golf club motion at all.
Last week, my instructor was trying to explain the downswing and follow through in a way that helped me stop "swinging" the club at the ball...hip rotation, uncoiling, staying in the proper plane. Then BAM!            My A-ha moment happened!
"Essentially, I need to get myself out of my own way, and let the club do its job??"
 Simple. Not easy.
Not unlike being in Christ.
If only the old was gone, just like that. POOF! If only I could watch my instructor's golf swing, watch Tiger's golf swing, and change my swing accordingly.
If only my entire being was new, consumed by LoveJoyPeacePatience.
But sometimes I am FearAngerUnrestIntolerance instead.  How about you?
The challenge with my golf swing is that during this reconstruction, I continue to play. The result is sometimes new, mostly an odd mixture, very occasionally all old.
Same challenge with life. We don't get to go somewhere until we embody that new creation. We must continue living while we evolve.
Each morning, before my feet hit the floor, I give my day to God. I give my will over to His will. I visualize truly being in Christ, living out that new creation. You might do the same.
Then I get out of bed.
My heart's desire is to be a living witness to the great Good News, an invitation to those who don't know the power of His saving grace and love.
The reality is often a mixture of old, new/old, new. Sometimes I am that invitation. Other times, even though His love is unconditional, I know He is glad I don't have a fish magnet and an I LOVE JESUS bumper sticker.  
How about you? Same same?
Think about what could happen if each of us who profess Christ made one vow each morning: to be witnesses to what Love has done for us, to show the Fruit of the Spirit so well that everyone lined up to get their own.
Each of us. Individually.
Not group efforts to abolish this sin or that sin. Not meetings and rallies to promote our political agendas.
Get out of my own way. Get out of Christ's way. Put myself in position and let HIM do the work.
Imagine what could happen...
Sole Deo Gloria!
We will talk again soon...
BP :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

HERE - Five Minute Friday

I recently subscribed to a blog by Lisa-Jo Baker. On Friday, she provides a prompt for an exercise called Five Minute Friday.

Here are the rules:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

This is my response to the prompt HERE. Enjoy!

"Here" is not a place I like much right now.
Even though the sun is shining brightly, "Here" seems very dark - relentlessly so.
"Here" is financial difficulty that was to be resolved six months ago.
"Here" is a dear friend taking chemo AGAIN.
"Here" is Mom having health issues.
"Here" is dreams that seem like they will never come true, even though they are my heart's desires.
"Here" is unanswered emails, phone calls, letters...prayers?
And yet...
"Here" is where God resides. I AM. Not I WAS or I WILL BE. Simply I AM.  
"Here" is where I find how much I believe that all things work together for His good.
ALL things...for God's Glory
"Here" seems too hard.
And yet, "Here" is dynamic, constantly changing, always moving toward a new "Here."
"Here" is where God wants me to dwell. Not back there...Not up there.
Right "Here."