Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Father-in-Law

My father-in-law is a gem of a man. This year he has witnessed his 91st Christmas. In March, he will turn 92. I was fortunate enough to get to have him over for Christmas Day dinner. I enjoyed the twinkle in his eyes as he still teased my dad! And the excitement he showed as he opened our Christmas gift of a new shirt. I watched him struggle to unsnap each of the buttons and rub his fingers against the soft material. He was determined to try it on right then and there and as Grandma Veda patiently helped him out of his old shirt and into the new, I witnessed an enduring love between the two of them. How tenderly she treated him...proving a love that had weathered sixty odd years of marriage. Four children had been born of this love and now many great grandchildren later...the love still endures. He no longer is the strong farmer/rancher I remember when I entered the family thirty-five years ago....the fraility of ninety years has taken it's toll. Hands shake and tears form easily in the corner of cloudy, distant eyes. Yet, I can still see the loving father...the providing husband....the patriotic World War II veteran...the bible believing Gideon....the proud cattle rancher....the faithful Sunday School teacher....He wore many hats in his 90 years, yet he very seldom ventured more than a hundred miles away from home.....he could toss a mean horseshoe in his day...could milk cows with fewer fingers than most (due to an accident), he was honest, a good neighbor, and would loan you the shirt off of his back. If he ever had need to borrow anything, he would return it better than he received it. His door was always open for a visiting evangelist or company on Sundays. In his day, he could work circles around men much younger than himself. He was proud of his Danish heritage and prouder still of his Lord and Savior. When Wednesdays and Sundays would roll around, you would find him in church. And that is where you would still find him if he were strong enough to attend. It is with the greatest honor and respect that I give homage to this wonderful man and patriarch. How fortunate I have been to get to know him. What a gift to us all. God bless you, Jimmie H. Raben. We love you!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Things I Love About Me!

Okay...this may be an interesting title for a blog. It may even sound a little conceited or boastful. But I can ensure you...it is far from that. Actually, I use to have a problem with liking myself...until I met Jesus, that is. I struggled with understanding unconditional love. Everyone places conditions on our love...right? I went to a church for a very long time that beat me up with the notion that if I didn't watch my p's and q's...or hold my mouth just right....God would be displeased and boot my sorry bottom out of His presence. I tried hard to please Him....tried "doing" all the right things...but it was never done with right motives...I could never "do" enough for a "perfect holy God". I intellectually "knew Jesus" for many years...but when I really got to know Him....and the grace that He came to bring us....well, then...I fell in love with Him!!! And I learned how much He loved me! And accepted me....warts and all! WOW! After awhile, I began to see what He saw in me! I was a pretty amazing creation of His! And so are YOU! When you get a hold of that information.....it will change your life....like it has mine!!! Oh, I am not perfect...far from it....and I still need to fix a few things....but amazingly....He finds me irresistable! So...I decided to list 10 things about myself that both He and I find uniquely appealing!

1. My sense of humor! He often laughs at some of the things I say and finds me witty, funny, and creative! I appreciate that one of my gifts is my humor! I love making people laugh! And it is uniquely my own...Thank you for my amazing humor!

2. Flexibility! I may seem stressed out sometimes...but I've discovered that I do my best work when I can "go with the flow". I do it well and I thank Him for flexibility as one of my unique "Cathy" gifts.

3. My compassionate heart! I may appear to be cold and uptight on the outside....but oh...what a beautiful heart God has put in me!! Thank you, Father.

4. My generous/giving spirit! I LOVE to give gifts to people! I would say I love to lavish gifts on my family! If I had more money.....wow....I just want to give things to people! Thank you God, that you poured so much of this spirit into me.

5. The Ability to Cry! I cry so easily....but it comes from such a sensitive heart. How cleansing and freeing to not be afraid to share your emotions with others and allow them to catch a glimpse of my heart! It makes me cry just thinking about it. lol.

6. My desire to right the wrong! I have a keen desire to protect the underdog....to fight for causes....to take a stand against evil! I love that about me!!

7. My Passion! I'm passionate about everything and have an opinion about everything! I love the color red! I hate alcohol! Everything is always black or white to me! I love that God gave me passion about things! I just need to learn how to redirect some of this passion and tame down the strong opionions.

8. I'm patriotic! Somehow, I picked up the importance of country....and freedom....and our great American roots! I love America and the National Anthem and the fact that we are still "One Nation Under God". I am in awe of our military who is willing to lay down their lives for me...and my right to have freedom!

9. I Love that I see potential in Everyone....and want to bring out the best in everyone! If I can contribute to someone becoming the best that they can be...then I have met my goal on earth! Everyone has something beautiful to offer to this world...and it makes me happy when I can draw that out of people! What a wonderful gift God has given me when I get an opportunity to make this happen.

But what I most love about me is this........10. That I accepted the best gift God has ever given me.....Jesus Christ! He loves me unconditionally....He made all these wonderful traits in me...it is just my job to fine tune them and hone those traits and skills to represent Him to others in a real and untarnished way! When I abide in Him...His life flows from me in a natural way....not me trying to "do" things on my own!

And you know what? As I began listing the 10 things I love about me.....I started thinking of more than ten. I've come a long way from not even liking myself very much....to loving myself!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cradled in His Arms

My heart has been crying this month. I want to share a very personal story with you. I've always been a pretty open person, so sharing something personal isn't that odd for me, however, I am sharing this in order to share what God is doing in my life. I am also a very emotional person, so this isn't shared without good reason. My blogs usually have some sort of spiritual message I am trying to relay, and this one is no different. In fact, it has several....I have just finished reading my daughter Gina's blog, so she has shared it, which means that I can tell my side of the story now, also, without revealing anything that she had wanted to keep to herself.
Three weeks ago, we went to visit my daughter and the family stopped to have ice cream at the Dairy Queen. She had an envelope full of pictures for me and as I was looking through them, one caught my eye in particular. It was an ultrasound picture of a tiny baby and I knew immediately that we were going to be grandparents again. Even though Gina has three wonderful daughters, a fourth child would be a welcomed addition to the family. I was excited! We hoped for a little grandson and we vocalized it to her...wouldn't it be nice to have a little boy??? We also joked with her about how "some" members of our family and even just friends and people in general were bound to make the comments about "don't you know what causes those." or "I can't believe you would want any more... to even "I hope THIS is the last one." Comments that are said without malice....however, can still hurt all the same. Fortunately, for once, I was not the voice of these comments. I was happy! I love grandchildren...and they are exceptional parents....so why should anyone care...(unfortunately....they seem to. none the less). Or at least they feel it is their right to instruct people on things that aren't really their business. Why do we do that, anyway? Why can't we make positive, encouraging comments, instead. Anyway...we had an ultrasound picture of a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat.
Friday, Gina had a regular doctor appointment and they could not detect a heartbeat....they sent her in for another ultrasound and discovered that the baby had stopped growing at 8 weeks and there was now no heartbeat. They gave her the option of a D and C or to wait out a miscarriage. She waited until she knew I would be home and called me. We cried together and wondered why?
Saturday, Gregg and I attended a healing conference in Rapid City, SD. We have been feeling that God is leading us into ministry in the area of healing (both spiritually and physically). It was an interesting conference and we both felt we had learned some valuable information. When I got home that night, I really felt that we needed to go the next day and pray over Gina and the baby. We felt we needed to pray "life" into this little one and knew that God is able to do all things so that is what we did. Our whole family were united in this decision and we prayed for a miracle, believing that God would do this. We had God's promises and scripture that confirmed this and our faith was strong. The whole week was dedicated to believing, praying and scripture. Our faith grew stronger each day. Even though we were praying for the impossible, we believed we would receive it. I learned so much during this time....as long as she hadn't miscarried....I believed there was hope...
The next Friday, she went in for her appointment and asked for another ultrasound believing that God had given her a miracle....he really had....but not in the way we were hoping for...there was no change....no growth.....no heartbeat.
I was a little irritated with God....where was MY miracle? Why wasn't He giving us what we were having faith for? And actually....He answered me!
Our faith should not be dependent upon the results....that's right...you heard me correctly. God REQUIRES us to BELIEVE and TRUST...regardless of the outcome! and not only that, the outcome has nothing to do with your faith! The outcome belongs to God and God alone. But YOU determine what YOU do in any given circumstance regardless of the results! Our faith should look like a straight and narrow road in the valleys and on the mountaintops. It should remain level, unfaltering, no dips and no rises.....circumstances should not dictate our reactions. IN CHRIST ALONE I PUT MY TRUST....God wanted me to believe for a miracle....that is what He asks of us. To trust and believe for miracles, always. But He doesn't always respond with a miracle.
If I am going to be immersed in a ministry of healing (wounded souls and broken bodies) I would need to understand this one key thing. There will not always be a healing. But it doesn't mean you don't ask for one...EVERY TIME.
I don't know why healing doesn't happen the way we want and every time we want. But I don't need to know. God knows....and I know God. That is enough for me. I will not falter every time He doesn't answer the way I think He should. I am to do what He asks...and He asks me to step out....that's it....step out and believe for the impossible! The results are HIS.
On Saturday, Gina miscarried. How could something so tiny have affected all of our lives so much? I grew such an appreciation for people trying to have children and unable. How could they go through this once, let alone five and six times? And how cruel people's comments can be. They really don't understand.
There WAS a miracle involved in my story! The miracle was Gina's faith. It rose up when she needed it most. And it got her through a very difficult time.
Now I can't end the story without sharing something with you all that you may not like.....but I have to.
That 8 week old ultrasound picture I saw was a baby with a beating heartbeat. It was not some fetus or lump of cells, or whatever else you may call it. My heart longs to hold this grandchild that is now being held by Jesus in heaven. But, someday....I will meet him/her when they greet me in heaven at the end of my life.
Choosing to end the life of the unborn as a convenience is sin....It happens thousands of times every day throughout our country. Tiny heartbeats are stopped on purpose. Tiny cries are stilled because of lack of understanding. But if you have had an abortion....turn to Jesus for forgiveness. He loves you....and longs to cradle you in His arms just as He is holding your tiny little baby.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our Real Enemy

Today has been a day of mixed emotions. It is hard to believe that ten years have past so quickly and yet the pictures of that day are hauntingly, ever present in my mind. I wanted to remember, so I went to you tube and watched some of the horrendous videos of that day forever etched in my memory. Two tall twin towers, one burning, literally melting, while the other was approached by a large jet heading straight into the tower. Then shortly after...an attack on our Pentagon. It was so shocking, I had never seen anything like it. So many lives lost, forever, in an instant. They were just going about their business in a normal way, never dreaming that it would be their last moments on earth. Their last breakfast....their last conversation with a loved one.
The feelings all came pouring back to me as I re-watched the footage. Shock, anger, sadness, fear, a flood of emotions. But the United States rose up in unity and patriotism that was unequaled. Our flag could be seen flying everywhere, declaring our unity against the unseen enemy that was attacking our homeland.
But, today, I also noticed other videos on you tube....videos that were calling 9/11 a hoax....a conspiracy....a lie. Everything from a rendition of the Bee Gees song "Staying Alive" to singing the tune with the word's changed to "9/11's a lie".
Conspiracy theories ranging from missile attacks by our own country, to alien attacks, to the plane that crashed into the trade center was a hologram!! I was shocked to say the least. But, why was I so shocked? There are many who still claim that the holocaust and the moon landing are hoaxes, frauds, fakes....and have never happened, either.
It sort of sounds like a lot of people I know...deny the obvious. Blame someone other than the real perpetrator....or worse yet, believe it doesn't involve you, so remain indifferent to it all.
Quite frankly, we all know who the real perpetrator was that day. It was Satan and his army of evil-doers, doing what he does best. Creating chaos, confusion, fear, and taking out as many humans as he could in the process.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12.
Although our battles play out in the physical realm, the war is really spiritual in nature. There IS a supernatural realm, and there is a real battle between good and evil....truth and lies......God and the devil.
In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."
And 1 Peter 5:8 adds, "Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Satan may have used human hands on earth to do his bidding....but he is our enemy. He sets traps and snares and lies in wait to pounce on us and capture us by his deceit.
It makes me sad that some people have no trouble believing in God or heaven, but are in denial of Satan and hell. He is very real....but even though it may look as though he is winning a few battles....he has already been defeated!!! Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent...his reign of terror has an end!
Today's remembering of the events of 9/11 are a reminder of this. Stay diligent and pray that God's hedge remains around us and around America....God longs to gather you under the protective shadow of His wings as a mother hen gathers her baby chicks. Don't get so independent that you don't think you have a need of God and you become the baby chick that wanders too far away that you can't make it back under the wings of your mother when danger approaches.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The "Too" Moments

It's 11:30 pm...I can't sleep....so I have decided to write. Ten minutes have passed and I've got nothing. I have a blank screen in front of me. It seems I also have a blank mind. I could write about how I miss the sounds of Jill's laughter echoing in my house, or Jordan begging me to play a game with him, or Gina bossing her siblings around and playing school with them. I could share how I especially miss the family meals around the table and taking my children to Sunday school and church. I still remember all of the words to the Sunday School songs I taught them, but I'm beginning to forget the sounds of their little voices singing them. I could write about how I miss arguing with them about what they can and can't wear to school. Why didn't I just let them have a little freedom? Why was everything a big deal? Why didn't I pause to look at them closer and take in every curl, dimple and smell of their childhood?
I remember saying....why don't you just grow up! Or...quit being a baby! So they did....
Every day, working at the school, I see parents so busy they don't see what is right there in front of them. They raise their children, not understanding that some day they will belong to someone else. Parents who frantically toss their children in front of television sets or video games so they can gain a few moments peace, but in the process, lose them to a world that robs them of their innocence and pushes them to grow up too fast. Parents who don't have time to teach values and manners to their children because it's just too hard and takes far too much time. Parents who love their children enough to buy them telephones and televisions in elementary school....but have no time to gather them on their laps and read a book to them. No time to teach them nursery rhymes, or take them to church.
Don't get me wrong...I'm not bashing the parents of today...they have soooo much on their plates. But I want to scream at them....SLOW DOWN! You're missing out! When your children are three....you think you'll have them with you forever...you think you'll have more time with them later....but you don't!
I remember telling them to hop down off of my lap because I was too hot and sweaty to hold them....how I wish I had those moments to do over.
You see, time has a way of subtly stealing the things that are most precious and dear away from you. And those special moments are gifts to us. But they only last two seconds. I like to call them the "too" moments, because TOO often, we miss them because we are TOO busy, TOO tired, or TOO grouchy!
We don't get "Do overs" with children. God loans them to us for a few years, and then we are left with an adult child, modeling the life he/her saw demonstrated to them in our lives.
Listen to me, parents. The best way you can love your child is to raise him to become adults that others will love and respect. Do you let them back talk you? Do you give them everything they want or let them do everything they want? Or do you help them to understand that there are consequences to their actions? Even though it may hurt you to discipline them... it will help them to become well loved and respected adults.
I've made lots of mistake raising my children...but the biggest error was not slowing down and loving them in the moments. I long for them to be little again so I can take back harsh, unloving words that I shouted at them, cutting through their little hearts. Rash words that flew out of my mouth before I could take them back. I'd give anything to take back my impatience...while their little hands tried to put on shoes quickly enough to suit me....or pick up toys just the way I demanded it. I long to kiss away little tears that I had caused because of my own selfishness. I long to walk into there bedrooms while they are sleeping and just gaze at them for an hour.
Yes, I could write about all the flowers I could have stopped and smelled...and how many picnics and stories I could have shared...about listening to the laughter and pausing for the smiles....and pondering at the wonder in their eyes....and kissing away the tears.....but....it makes me too sad.....and too lonely....and too bittersweet........................so, I won't.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

We moved our youngest daughter, Jill, and her husband, Vaughn, this weekend...80 miles south of us! It has definitely been an interesting weekend!!! To start with, when we arrived at the new apartment, that was supposed to be ready for them....well....it wasn't! Imagine our surprise when we walked in and the new carpet was not finished...all the appliances were not installed....the painting and dry-walling were not complete....all the doors in the house were needing rehung....and the plumber wasn't finished. The linoleum in the kitchen was only half laid, and the counters were not finished. No one had told us it wasn't finished....the landlord had said it would be done....the contractors had a different story. The carpet layers showed up at about nine and told us they would be finished around 1:00. It was more like 3:00...then they told us we couldn't put any of the appliances in for 72 hours until the linoleum set up or it would bubble and tear. None of the other contractors showed up at all...so we at least appreciated the carpet layers coming and finishing.
It will be very nice when it is completed, but we could only pile boxes and furniture into the bedrooms, and they will be without appliances until Monday or Tuesday. We could live with that so we left them with Vaughn's parents and came home.
It had been a long day so we went to bed early. At 11:00 pm, the phone rang and it was Jill asking us where Lori and Bill's 2 duffle bags were. The last we had seen them, they were laying outside in the grass by the back door. No problem, right? Wrong....someone had stolen them and it had their cell phones, ipods, overnight clothes and medicine in it. Yeah!!! Welcome to Scottsbluff, Jill and Vaughn! You have thieves in your neighborhood!
It's sad to think there are so many dishonest people out there. But back to the story!
Church was fantastic as always....God was very close. We did a little grocery shopping, got home and had a message on our answering machine. It was Jill's voice calmly explaining that they had been in a little fender bender and needed our insurance information (the car and insurance is still in our name). It hadn't done much damage to the other lady's car, but had bent the hood pretty badly on Jill's already crappy car. Vaughn had hit his head on the steering wheel and Jill hit her head also, but both are fine....the other driver is fine....so thank God, it could have been much worse. Again...Welcome to Scottsbluff, Jill and Vaughn!
The icing on the cake was when I called Gina. Jill couldn't take her cat, Meeko, with them so Gina said she would keep it for them. Generous, right! Anyway, he got out and ran away....so bye, bye, Meeko! Welcome to Scottsbluff, Jill and Vaughn!
There was an upside to the day, though! Thank God for stupid people! The kids who stole the duffle bags were caught because they were texting with the cell phones! Yeah! So they recovered the stolen things, but they can't have them back for a month or so because they are evidence! Ha Ha Ha!
Mama said there'd be days like this.....there'd be days like this my Mama said!
And then, I realized that though this looked like a crappy, irritating day....that was really all it was! A crappy, irritating day! We need to put perspective into play and see things for what they really are.... you see, this weekend....Gregg's cousin's son was hit by a train and killed! And we stopped in our tracks in shock and sadness and prayed to our heavenly Father for forgiveness! Perspective! Jesus...please forgive us for our lack of it! Help us to realize that our really crappy days are a wonderful gift from God to teach us perspective on the really important things in life! Life is so fragile....and we have no idea how something so precious can be taken from us in an instant. Open my eyes, Lord, to what real pain is. Give me compassion for others who are going through horrific circumstances and use me to provide comfort and healing in their lives! Help me to truly understand how to use our days wisely and to bring sunshine into the lives of those we come in contact with instead of complaining about such trivial, unimportant things!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Believe It, So It Must Be True!

Isn't it interesting that we all believe that whatever we believe is RIGHT? I have an opinion about everything from the color of a flower to which is the best way to put a roll of toilet paper on the holder...going over or going under. Obviously, over is the right way to do it! Ha...Gregg would disagree with me on that one. When he changes it....he always puts it under. Always having to be right is something I have struggled with my whole life. I'm finally dealing with this, although, it isn't easy. I have always been a hard core black/white, left/right, right/wrong, yes/no believer. Decisions are usually easy for me. I make the decision...and it's always the right one...even when it isn't! I know I have been wrong a couple of times....but I really can't remember when! (said tongue in cheek) I have a hard time understanding people who have no opinions (or at least keep their opinions to themselves). I am more than willing to share my opinion when asked...and more often then not, even if you don't ask! But, lately, I am becoming aware of the fact that just because I believe something...doesn't make it truth! Gasp! Is this Cathy talking? Yep! So mark my words...you may want to throw them back in my face someday!

This is especially true when dealing with the spiritual. I don't know how many times I have started a conversation with the words..."Well, I believe..." like I was stating an absolute truth! I'm still guilty of doing it....but I try to bite my tongue now and change that to say, "God's word says this."

I'm learning that it doesn't matter one iota what I THINK is true. It only matters what IS true. Proof in point, I used to believe in abortion...I was wrong! I used to believe in evolution.....I was wrong! I used to believe I was unlovable...I was wrong! I used to believe there are many ways to God....I was wrong! I used to believe a lot of lies...and waivered and hemmmhawed on what I believed! I was wrong!

Praise God, my beliefs, didn't affect the Truth!

Jesus says, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life! No one comes to the Father except through me." Was He lying? What do you believe? Better yet, what is the truth?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Beginnings

I have been in a physical slump lately...spiritually I've never been better....but physically it feels like I'm falling apart. At 53, I've lost my motivation! I've lost my passion....I've lost my ABILITY!! Ha! No, really. Physically, I've been feeling like a frumpy, overweight, middle-aged, exhausted,has been. Spiritually, I'm at an all time high, but my body is actually in rebellion to this inner strength and energy I've been having. My spirit cries out to be everything I was meant to be and my body falls asleep in my chair. My spirit tries to motivate me to new heights and my body drags me down to new lows. I have aches and pains in places I never even knew existed. I have pain on my pains and twinges on my hinges! The sad part is, my mental state (mind) tends to side with my body!
Gregg and I were talking on our way home from church and we decided besides the obvious reasons for our tiredness and lack of motivation (overweight, age, etc.), we tend to believe one of the reasons for our lack of motivation is no vision! Our last child left the nest in October, but is now moving to another city and starting her career. My babies are all on their own! I've done my job the best I knew how and hopefully it was good enough. There is nothing left to do on the parent scale. We are cut loose....free....on our own....back to two! And while we love each other dearly...we're finding we're kind of boring!! Seriously, I know it's hard to believe....but it's true! We decided that we need a life!!! So, there is a lot of serious talk being thrown around our house lately! We're mapping a plan....discussing our dreams.....redeveloping our vision.....checking our pulses for life (and, yay, we discovered our hearts our still beating). At 53, we are not ready to lie down and play dead...even though our bodies are trying to make us do that some days! We're throwing around some interesting possibilities but in the end....our spirit is going to WIN the battle! Look out body and mind! We're going to get you under control because THE SPIRIT has great things for us to do! Our vision is getting better!! Our hearing is being fine tuned!!! Our bodies are being revitilized! Our hope has been restored! Our dreams and passions are resurrected! God is offering us new beginnings..........and we are choosing to take them. Isaiah 40:31 says, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." And once we're soaring...we're going to help you soar, too!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hungry, I Come to You

I just finished watching a television preacher, Jentzen Franklin, explain how we must empty ourselves of everything to truly be able to be filled of God. I thought about how we are the vessels (jars of clay) that have been created to carry His very presence. But if that jar is already filled up with junk that I carry around with me all the time, then it is already full and He is unable to pour His presence into my container. If we are already "full of ourselves" then He will set us aside and look for empty containers that are able to hold His presence. Jesus continually seeks out empty vessels.
I came to the conclusion that part of our problem with being full has to do with our attitude toward church. You see....even though Sunday is really the first day of the week, we tend to look at it as the last day of the week. In other words, by the time we finally go to church on Sunday....it is like the end of our week, not the beginning. We come in filled to the brim with a long work week, exhauseted, full of emotions, squeezing in any spare time we have, IF we even go to church at all. We are so filled up with junk and crud from the past week that we have nothing left to give God. But maybe, if we looked at it differently, we would see Sunday as the first day of our week....a time to go to His house and dump ourselves out at the feet of Jesus, emptying our container for a fresh new week. That way, Christ could fill us up fresh again and send us back out into a hurting world, full of Him instead of our own "stuff".
I noticed that when we go to church empty and longing to be filled, worship will be a refreshing drink to our dry, thirsty souls. Christ poured himself out for us....maybe it's time we spilled ourselves out for Him.
A couple of worship songs help give us the idea of what true worship looks like: "Hungry, I come to you for I know You satisfy. I am empty, but I know Your love does not run dry."
And what about "Here, before Your altar I am letting go of all I've built. Of every motive, every burden, everything that's in myself...."
The key to having Jesus' presence fill you, is to empty yourself. Let go of all that you know, come hungry...pour yourself out so you can carry the very presence of the King.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

While You Were Sleeping

I try to stay away from controversial subjects that may be misconstrued by the reader or hurt someone I know and love. But there comes a time that if we don't take a stand on some things, then we are in big trouble. The headlines today are plastered all over about the state of New York legalizing gay marriages. I find it a very sad day in United States history. In fact, I discovered, it is actually the 6th state to legalize it. Seriously....what is happening to us as a people??? I have friends that live homosexual and lesbian lifestyles and I would never wish to hurt them. But, I can not be silent on this issue. I realize I will be called a lot of things for my beliefs and none of them will be pleasant, I'm sure. But I refuse to accept this as a good thing for our nation. Are we becoming so proud a nation and people that we believe we can continually spit in the face of God and have no fear of repercussions? God's Word means nothing to anyone anymore. Who do we think we are?
Casting Crowns, a contemporary Christian band, says a lot in it's song "While You Were Sleeping". The following words should haunt us. "United States of America, will we go down in history as a nation with no room for it's King." As great of a nation as the United States of America is....we have pushed God out of our lives and our country and embraced a philosophy of love for self, love of sexually immorality, and utter rebellion and insubordination to our King and creator of all things. Wake up, America. It is only going to get worse. As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the end times. There will be a day of reckoning. Pray that He doesn't find you sleeping in your indifference.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

I have always been a person controlled by fear. As a small child growing up, that is how my mom kept me in line. I knew every weird and unusual horror story there ever was. BABY CHOKES TO DEATH ON OWN SOCK!!! CHILD KIDNAPPED FROM OWN FRONT LAWN!!! COUPLE KILLED WHEN PLANE CRASHES INTO THEIR BEDROOM WHILE THEY WERE SLEEPING!!!
Fear has been no stranger to me. In fact, it was almost my friend. I never really had to set goals or desire much....fear kept any form of dreams in check. Go to college??? Too many scary uncertainties. Move away??? Not even a possibility. Travel?? Ha! Are you kidding?? Life for me was very limited...I needed to keep safe and alive....that was the goal. No risks! I was kept in the bondage of fear without any physical chains holding me in place. Only invisible chains of fear could anchor me to a spot indefinitely.
My sister dealt with it all a different way! I don't believe she was as paralyzed by fear as I was, but she was determined that NOTHING was standing in her way! If fear arose in her....she would do the exact thing she was afraid of just to prove she could! She was not about to allow fear to control her. She loves to travel and ride amusement park rides. She goes to scary places and does scary things. She looks fear in the eye and dares it to stop her! Fear shrinks when Jeanne looks it in the eye!
I have tried to face my fears a few times....I absolutely vowed I would walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge.....(until I got there). I could hardly make it to the first pillar and decided it wasn't worth the anxiety it caused me when I really didn't need to walk across it anyway. So I stayed put relaxing on the patio until my family walked across and back.
Why am I writing a blog on fear anyway? I think I want everyone to know that with Jesus Christ in your life...fear just sort of starts to go away and peace comes in it's place. I'm a perfect example of this. My baby steps toward freedom are becoming giant steps.
There have been a few turning points in the right direction for me, but when my friend's daughter died of cancer, I started to heal of my own cancer of fear. I began to see the fragility and briefness of life. And how sad it is to waste even a moment of this precious gift of life in fear. I began setting goals and making plans. I decided that I would step out and do one of the things I had wanted to do for a very long time....go to Branson, Missouri.
Now this may not seem like a very big goal to you....but for me it was pretty huge. There are a lot of fears and worries involved there. Fear of spending money, driving through big Kansas City on the interstate (which I hate), unknown places and planning, being away from home for too long... (sounds dreadfully fearful...doesn't it?) But for me, well it was! And guess what??? I survived quite nicely, I might add. In fact....I had a blast!! So much fun and good times!
Now let me tell you....I had to ride over bridges spanning high flooding water, ride on winding, curvy roads high in the Ozarks, drive at speeds on interstate that I don't like, cramped in the backseat of a car for 15 hours. I faced a gigantic boa constrictor two feet from me in a magician's show, floods and tornadoes. I spent time in a Walmart back hallway when two tornadoes were heading our way. We spent several hours surrounded by tornadoes in Kansas City that were churning their way around us like we were in the eye of a hurricane. And if that isn't enough....I was in a car with a hungry, dieting Jeanne for 17 hours solid (okay..sorry Jeanne).
I guess the point is this......I really wasn't all that afraid during any of it. God's peace is an amazing thing. "Perfect love casteth out fear" and God is love....so when God is your peace there is nothing to fear! The things I was afraid of were all still skulking around me trying to strike fear in my heart....they didn't go away, in fact, they grew worse. Satan is still like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. One of my greatest fears (tornadoes) was the thing he used to try to strike fear in my heart. But...greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world." God provides a peace that passes all understanding. I had viewed what an F5 tornado had just done in Joplin, Missouri...75 miles away....but God placed us in the eye of the storm, safe and sheltered. I think I began to realize that death is the only real thing Satan has to try and put fear in our hearts....but with the Lord as your shepherd....death has no sting! We, as Christians, have no need to fear even death itself...
I don't know that I will ever go sky diving or bungee jumping....but, hey, that Alaskan Cruise is looking better all the time.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Great May Basket Competition

Although the history of May Day is seeped in pagan rituals and tradition, growing up as a child, it had only one purpose....May baskets and kisses! What an interesting little tradition. Whoever thought up the whole premise was pretty creative.
Each year, as May 1st approached, every mother and child would sit down at the dining room table and begin to create these wonderful things. Usually, you would start with Dixie cups or butter tubs, or cupcake holders. Pipe cleaners would be poked through the upper rim of the cup to form a handle, and lace, ribbon, magic markers, and other fancy gee gaws would be used to decorate the basket. The size and elaborateness of each basket was determined by the recipient. If it happened to be that special someone in 3rd or 4th grade....well, you did your best to make it stand out among the rest. My mom usually made me make one for everyone in my class, which amounted to at least twenty little baskets. Popcorn and candy corn were used as fillers with tootsie rolls, m & m's, and other tasty delights. I personally hated it when someone threw in some boston baked beans (those wrinkly hard rust-colored candies that only grandmothers liked). A little name tag was added to make sure you delivered them to the right person. When May first arrived, you would come home right after school and your mom and dad would load you and the baskets up in the car to be delivered. The tricky part was to keep them all from tipping over and spilling their contents all over the place. Muffin tins were especially handy to keep the little boogers from tipping over and creating a domino effect.
Now the part I haven't told you is that you would take the may basket, place it on the porch next to the door and knock. Then you ran like crazy back to the car...the reason being was that if the recipient caught you....they were to give you a big juicy kiss!!! Remember....I said my mom made me deliver them to everyone in my grade...you know....there is just some people in your class that you're not to crazy about receiving a big sloppy kiss on the cheek from!!
The feelings of anxiety are returning even now as I'm writing this. Okay...Dad would stop the little blue falcon in front of my classmates house....I would carefully pick out the may basket inching my way out of the car wondering why in the world would anyone want to be doing this right now. Dad tried to park on the same side of the street so I wouldn't come darting out across traffic and get myself killed in the process. I'd creep up to their front doors dreading steps of any kind....they made for a harder getaway. All eyes were on you as you'd bend over to place the basket somewhere where it wouldn't get knocked over in the process of the recipient dashing out of their door sending it flying, or kicking it over in the hullabaloo. Most of the time, they were spying out of their windows and were well aware that you were approaching with goodies. The door would open and I would let out a terrified scream and drop the basket anyway...stumbling down the stairs or twisting my ankle in a hole in the lawn. I wish I had a picture of my face during one of those chases. Most of the time, the recipient wouldn't chase you very far, but would return to pick up the offering you had left. Those were the good times. At other times, they would pursue me clear to the car, and my dad, thinking it was funny, would lock the car doors and let them chase me around the car and catch me, planting a slobbery kiss on my cheek! I can still hear his laughter as I would scream, "Dad...open the door. Let me in!" And finally, it would open and on to the next house we would go. It wasn't anything to get back home and have ten or fifteen baskets on your porch waiting for you when you returned. Some creative mothers would have giant tootsie rolls wrapped in a colorful napkin with the corners drawn up and a curly ribbon attached...no chance of tipping those critters over!
Anyway...my story continues in an unusual way. This one particular year, I had delivered a may basket to my cousin, Debbie. Well, when her dad got home, he asked her where she got that may basket. Debbie told him from me. Well, he was a little snockered, so he said, "He'd be darned if we were going to show him up." So he sent Debbie to the store and had here get a bunch of 5 cent candy bars. (This is the equivalent to our $1.00 candy bars today.) He helped her fix up a huge may basket filled with those candy bars and delivered them to me. That is all it took......the competition was on!!! The next may day, my dad had my mom make a gigantic cookie (like a double batch of cookie dough that filled a whole cookie sheet and delivered it to Uncle Milton. Not to be out done, he retaliated with something bigger and better. The next year, my dad fixed a huge brown box the size of a coffee table, and filled it with popcorn, candy and beer. Uncle Milton responded with something bigger and better. (I can't remember everything, but this went on for several years until my mother said enough was enough! They couldn't afford to keep this up. They let Uncle Milton think he had won and the competition ended. Unfortunately, so did the may basket tradition. Either, that, or we just got too old to do it anymore. I'm not really sure. It could also, have been the terror it struck in our hearts to hear the sound of a screen door opening and the pitter patter of two feet chasing you down the stairs, and two big lips puckered up to lay one on you! But, more than likely, it had something to do with working mothers and the price of candy!!!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's in a Name?

I was doing some bible reading and wanted to share a verse that shouted out at me. It is found in Acts 3 just after Peter and John had spoken to the lame man saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." When the man jumped to his feet and started walking, jumping and praising God, the people were amazed at what had happened to him for they knew he was the same man who had begged at the temple gate. Peter's words to them were interesting. Starting in verse 12 Peter says to them. "Men of Israel, Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus." Now this is where the verse started to shout at me...."YOU handed him over to be killed, and YOU disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. YOU disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. YOU killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the NAME of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. IT IS JESUS' NAME and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." Later in Chapter 4 verse 10 it also states, "It is by the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed." And in verse 12: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
From the moment of His birth in a stable, HIS NAME, was different. Matthew 1:21 the angel tells Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the NAME that is above every NAME, that at the NAME of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
Even if you have never read the bible or know any of the verses above, it still seems like people recognize something different about that name. His name creates interesting responses in people.
Some find the need to use His name as a curse word. It spews from their mouths as a bad habit. We don't say your name as a curse word....but His name has become one.
People have no problem believing in God. After all...God can be any thing to anybody. If we say we believe in God....it can mean a big something in the cosmic universe, or we can all think we have something in common....Muslims believe in God, Buddhists have their gods...(So let's all embrace this universal god and sing Kumbayah).
But nothing stirs up debate and anger like the name Jesus Christ. A blood shedding God who died on a cross for sins that no one even believes that they have. A Jesus who is so brazen He claims to BE GOD. No, Jesus is a controversial God and people don't know how to respond to it. So we murdered him....just like Peter said.
The NAME of Jesus caused the crowd to shout, "Crucify Him. Release Barabbas to us. We have no King!"
We are free to talk religion with others....just don't bring up the NAME of JESUS. Jesus, Jesus....there is just something about that NAME.
Proverbs 22:1 says "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
If you claim to be a "Christian" you are carrying the name of Jesus with you everywhere you go. You married yourself to Him and have taken His NAME.
Don't think for once, that people will be impressed that you identify yourself with HIM. They despise HIS name.
2 Timothy 3: 12 states, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
Are you willing to have your name linked with HIS NAME????
Jesus himself says in Revelation 22: 12: "Behold! I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
So.....What's in a NAME???? If the NAME is JESUS......Everything!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Gregg

Today is my husband's 53rd birthday! It passed without any fanfare, celebration or good wishes. I gave him a card and wished him happy birthday the minute I woke up, but in the business of life....that's it...Later, after supper, I realized that none of the kids had called....I asked him if it bothered him and he said, "Life is too short to get worked up about something like that." But it bothered ME. Let me explain...
My husband has always had to share his birthday. Gregg was born on his dad's birthday. When he was little, it was probably a nice thing. Two birthday cakes, shared parties, happy times.
But, I guess, I've always thought birthdays should be a little special. You deserve one day a year to feel like a king. I always felt sorry for kids whose birthdays landed on holidays...Christmas, Thanksgiving, even Valentine's Day when everyone else got to celebrate, too. I was always really glad that I had my day to myself. I like being the center of attention. Gregg, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind. I guess it makes it easier to just pass through the day without giving some love, thought and attention to him. But it doesn't make it right.
Then in 1978, he married me....and guess what? My mom's birthday is on the day before his. Yeah! Now the attention is spent on her the day before, and again...no special day for Gregg! And because he doesn't seem to care, we always celebrate her birthday....with his as an afterthought.
Tonight, as I thought about the injustice of shared birthdays (okay, injustice sounds a bit harsh, however, any way you look at it, it still sucks) it made me really sad. I had made birthday cake last night, invited all the family over for supper, and celebrated mom's 72nd birthday. Jordan had also brought Gregg a tie, which he opened AFTER mom had opened her gifts....AND....not even on HIS birthday, but hers. I think he might have gotten one birthday card and a couple of, "Oh, yeah, happy birthday to you, too, Gregg's". And I thought....man, that really bites!
I know love isn't determined by whether or not someone remembers your birthday, but, maybe...just maybe....we all get a little lax about putting ourselves out a little bit and thinking of others a little more than ourselves. Gregg deserves a birthday of his own and at the very least a birthday call from his own children would have been nice. I shed a couple of tears for this invisible, selfless, giving man, who everyone takes for granted and nobody much notices. I didn't even make him a peanut butter pie.
I guess what I am really spouting about is that maybe we should try harder to appreciate and love the people in our lives that do so much for us. Maybe it didn't hurt him as much as it hurt me.....and thank God life is too short to get upset over forgotten phone calls and birthday wishes....
But, I want you to know, Gregg, that I love you and think you deserve to be treated like a king....Happy Birthday, Gregg! Next year will be different!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Child Shall Lead Them

Children make me laugh. I think far to often we are trying to teach them lessons on how to grow up to be good citizens, or are often annoyed at their little oddities that we don't take time to stop and really listen to them or pause to watch them. They are full of wonder. They explore. They create. They are uninhibited. At least until adulthood squelches all of the fun right out of them and they become bitter, grouchy, negative adults like the rest of us. Seriously, they have a lot to teach us.
Like today, for instance, I had a couple of little girls stand by my counter and say, "Mrs. Raben....watch what we can do..." They then proceeded to raise their arm in the air and lick their own armpit. I have to admit....it was a feat I myself had never thought to try. It made me laugh out loud.
"Why would you want to do that?" I asked. To which they shrugged and ran off to show some other poor teacher who more than likely told them to stop doing that and not to let them catch them doing it again. Squelch!!
If you really want to know how the world functions, just stop and ask a child. You will be amazed and in awe of the answers you receive. They are full of excitement and honesty. They will ask you how come your glasses are so thick or they'll show you the most creative valentine box you have ever seen. They will guess that a great white shark is as big as their grandpa and that "No, the kid that was in trouble yesterday and was sitting in the principal's office might have looked a lot like them but in actuality it was really their older brother (even though they only have a sister.) They pray prayers that God will please take a vacuum and suck all of the cancer away...or bury it in a hole in the backyard. There eyes light up and twinkle when they bring you a cupcake on their birthday that they helped make. They tell you they are worried about their friend who has a "friend" called Mr. Lefthand who sometimes hits himself. They are eager to please you and they want to go to school even when they are sick because they don't want to ruin their perfect attendance record. They talk and interrupt the classroom because it's reading time, and they struggle at reading. And why wouldn't they struggle when too often they are trying to read stories where the children have names like Portia or Marisol and they can't remember them, let alone pronounce them.
Children are curious and they ask lots of questions and want to tell lots of stories. It's hard for them to sit and listen when they really just want to show you how to lick their armpit or ask you why there is a piece of candy on the teacher's desk and can they have it. Do you realize how difficult it is to be at school all day long when you have a brand new puppy at home waiting for you?
I guess what I'm trying to say is, children are amazing! Talk to them. They have a lot to teach you. Mostly.....how to live......and how to love, ...and how to laugh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jesus Freak

I looked the word "freak" up in the dictionary. I used to think the term was derogatory, even insulting. If someone called me a freak....I definitely would have been perturbed. A "freak" was something "odd". Now I actually sort of see the word as something positive. Let me explain.
The dictionary definition says,"strikingly unusual person, animal, or plant that appears to be unique or occurs very rarely. Exhibits a strange deviation from nature...a person who has withdrawn from normal, rational behavior and activities to pursue one interest or obsession."
Yup! That describes me...or at least who I want to be now. I used to want to "fit" in. Become part of the crowd. Disappear into the scenery and not stick out like a sore thumb. I used to be satisfied with being called a "Christian" but you know what? That word just doesn't seem to work anymore. We are now asked to check on different forms whether we are Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, like it is a nationality or something. So, anyone not a Jew or Muslim would qualify to check the box, right?? Okay....so if everyone in the United States is a Christian, not by choice, but by a check box....well, guess I'm going to have to separate myself from "the boys" and become a "man". I want to identify myself with Jesus....not a christ. The word "Christ" could actually describe any sort of a savior...Buddha could be a type of christ...The new age "maitreya" is said to be "The Christ". Guess that means just about anyone could be identified as a "Christ-ian" and sadly...are.
No, I have decided to separate myself from that vague term of "Christian" and I choose to identify myself with Jesus, THE Christ! There is only one Savior...only one way to God, and that is Jesus of Nazareth....God incarnate!
Now, I know the drill... Isn't there many ways to God? Isn't it judgmental to believe Jesus is the only way? How conceited is that? I guess that is why I am a Jesus "Freak". I chose to "deviate" from the path of all inclusiveness and believe "The Holy Bible", God's own word....The TRUTH!
I was thinking how it isn't really all that hard to be a "Christ-ian" in this day and age. But it is really the name of Jesus that stirs up and causes all of the controversy. There is power in the name of Jesus...and believe me, if you start becoming a "Jesus Freak" you will probably begin to stir up a lot of heated discussions.
I'm starting to wish I was a pastor....and I'll tell you why. People know where you stand! They expect you to be all bibly (is that a word?), they are not shocked if you "talk the talk and walk the walk". After all, you should, right? They aren't quite as offended to hear the name Jesus in normal conversations...after all, that is your job as a pastor. But, here is my point....how can I not talk about the one thing that is my passion to everyone I come in contact with. If you love golf....you talk about it. If you love football...you talk about it. Well, guess what...world? I LOVE JESUS!! And I'm falling more and more in love with Him everyday! That's why I'm warning everyone....JESUS IS MY PASSION! I can't contain it any longer! I want to scream it from the rooftops.
So, I'm choosing to become a "Jesus Freak". Freaks are usually rejected, and I imagine I will be, too. But now, I won't consider it such a bad thing.
Let me challenge you. Freaks are radical! They withdraw from the normal and rational behavior and activities to pursue their obsession. Maybe, you should make Jesus the object of your obsession and join me...what would people do if they labeled you a Jesus Freak!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January--The Month of My Discontentment

January brings with it a cold, wintery attitude that I have always disliked. It makes you rethink and analyze. It makes you restless and discontent. It brings with it the ugly reality of fleeting time and impending taxes.
I have never cared for January. It is a long month of cold, icy moments. I'm not your typically depressed sort of person, although I do tend toward pessimism and negativity, however, January is the month where I battle my mind...I have to fight to keep upbeat and there are moments when I just lose it. All of the ugly tendencies I've buried resurface and make their appearance in January.
January is like a fickle, nagging woman. She exists to make your life miserable. And to challenge the perimeters of your sanity.
December for me is an exciting month. As you all know, I LOVE Christmas. You spend the time with your families...It's a good month for me. I know that isn't always the case for many, and December can be the bad month for a lot of people. But not for me. Then, in blows January, challenging you to quit eating, get healthy, save money, change your bad habits, etc....and I am presented, once again with the opportunity to fail! Laugh out loud! Okay...it should be seen as a time of new beginnings and new opportunities...which again makes me crazy. January asks too many questions and snoops into your private personal life. What AM I supposed to be doing with my life. Questions of wondering....Does my life count for anything important in the scheme of things?? Why do I replace my deep inner emotions with food? Why do I overspend? I want to make a difference, but too often, January reminds me of how very little I have changed in the last year, and laughs at me for being idealistic in my thinking. She taunts me and goads me like she's human. I want to slap January right across her unforgiving face and yell at her to leave me alone! Just when I think, I can't handle January anymore....I get a reprieve....and in rushes February.....the month of LOVE and embraces me in it's arms, promising me that spring will soon be arriving if I can endure a little bit longer.
Then I realize....that even though I dislike January so much, she is needed for my inner growth and OH, how I appreciate February so much more! And the cycle of the four seasons and the cycle of life has come full circle once again....as a reassurance of the faithfulness of the Creator who reminds us that although everything changes......everything also stays the same! Winter, spring, summer, and fall......the Lord God made them all. And even if January is a cold, frigid broad...she serves a purpose. I just don't happen to like her very much!!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't You Wish You Had the Answers??

It's early morning...a quiet time to meditate and ponder the complications of life. I have just received one of the biggest miracles in my life and within days have once again been dashed against the rocks and beat up with more bad news. And like always, I fall back in to shouting out the same question I shout every time I am in the same circumstance. WHY! My contemplations have lead me to no real conclusions or answers. It actually just leads to more questions..Life is a puzzle to which we can not begin to have all the pieces without the One who holds the last piece. Life is like a series of doors that can never be opened without the One who holds the keys to ALL doors. Life is a complicated series of problems that can never be solved without the One who holds all the solutions. Just when you think you have managed to figure out or control the things around you....chaos breaks out and once again you are filled with the question, WHY? As the song says...Life is a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead...sometimes you follow. I like that phrase. I sometimes wonder how people without God and without hope get by in this world. If everyday life slaps them up along side the head the way it does sometimes, how do they appreciate the wake up call?? So often, we are just sleepwalking through life. But as long as the waters are smooth sailing, we don't seem to mind that we are not really awake. Then when the sea gets bumpy and the bottom falls out, the storms swirl around us,....Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh MY! We always wake up with a splash of cold water in our face, believing that we, of all people did not deserve that! Where do we get the idea that life owes us? Life is not an ironed out, bump free, happily ever after, it's all about me, fairytale. Life is a gift we were entrusted with...it's our story that has been written out, a play on the stage of life....and it's not at all about the storyline....but it's about how we play it out. Life is precious and fragile. It is tough and harsh. It is mountains and valleys. It's an awful lot like bull riding.... an 8 second, exhilarating, gut wrenching, white knuckled, ride in the scheme of eternity.
But I've learned, mostly, that life is a test....and too often we fail it...because we never learn how to embrace it. To grab on to it's hairy main and hang on for all we are worth! And it's about embracing all of it. The good, bad and ugly. The hellos and the goodbyes. The heartache and tears, the joy and the wonder of it all. We struggle and get so caught up in the individual acts of the play that we lose sight of the underlining message. We are a part of a larger story. A play within a play! "The bigger picture". Our job is to embrace the lines we've been given, play the cards we've been dealt, ride the bull that we've drawn....and our heart attitudes, countenance, mind sets, and actions will determine whether or not we have passed the test! Are you failing your pop quizzes so that it will be impossible to pass the big test? I don't know why bad things happened to good people.....I don't have the answers to all of life's hard questions. But I know the One who does. And someday I'll ask Him. In the meantime, we don't really need to have all the pat answers to life's curve balls. We just need to crawl up on LIFE's back, hold onto our hat......and stay on for our 8 seconds!