Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Unique Word-- Cattywampus


I like words.  As a writer, I try to use simple, ordinary words that everyone can understand.  Sometimes I run across words that are very interesting and fun to use. During the next few blogs I want to share some unique words that may or may not be familiar. Cattywampus describes things that are askew or awry, and can be used for intersections that don’t meet in a straight line. There are a lot of intersections like that in Georgia.  No wonder we have so many streets named “Peachtree.”

Fall Clothes 
Spring has finally arrived in Georgia—warmer temperatures in the 70’s. For weeks, the weather has yo-yoed from warm to freezing making clothing choices a challenge. The weather has been cattywampus and not what we normally expect during April.  Every April and October, I transition my closet to the next season. I am so done with cold weather by April, the dark colored sweaters and corduroy pants beg to be put away for the next six months.  In October, I’m not quite so eager to put up the shorts and sandals.  But as soon as I make the closet transition in spring or fall, the hot or cold weather returns making me dig back through my storage boxes. Someone who knows me well laughs and tells me not to transition my clothes or the weather will rebel once again.

Watching the news is unsettling. Unsettling and cattywampus events dominate the headlines. International turmoil and the threat of war are served up daily.  The political news close to home is even more worrisome. Another election in November will determine the direction of the country for years to come.

Our natural inclination in dealing with turmoil is anxiety, which can be helped by looking at the Scriptures and applying its truth to our lives.  For example, it’s been over two weeks since Easter 2018 when we celebrated the greatest event in Christianity. I often wonder how Jesus’s disciples dealt with their anxiety in the days and weeks following the crucifixion and resurrection. They had responded to the call of Jesus to “follow me” only to discover everything they had signed on for was now cattywampus and upside down. Jesus didn’t overthrow Roman rule and become a Jewish king like David. Instead he instituted the kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of his followers. It would have been much easier for them to make plans for a government takeover than model lives of sacrificial love and forgiveness that Jesus required.  When Jesus appeared to them before ascending into heaven, he told them to wait for further instruction. 

Waiting is very hard for most of us when everything is cattywampus.  We want to fix our problems and change our circumstances. RIGHT NOW.  Waiting for God to work is very difficult if we are action-oriented people. Perhaps that why so many of us are told to wait and watch to see what the Lord is going to do.

Psalm 40:1 “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

It will be worth being patient when God acts and our waiting is over.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I Can Only Imagine

This past weekend we went with friends from church to see the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” The uplifting song with the same title—with 2.5 million copies sold—is the best-selling Christian single of all time. The inspiring words describe what the writer imagines it will be like when he goes to heaven and stands before God.  

Bart Millard wrote the lyrics in 1999 and his band MercyMe recorded it shortly after. The song has been described as a ‘rush of hope’ for people experiencing loss, illness, and other traumatic events. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many found solace in its lyrics.

Eighteen years later the story behind the song is now in movie theaters. Bart Millard’s story is deeply personal and painful. His abusive childhood destroyed his relationship with his earthly father. Many years later his father found the Lord as he was dying from cancer. The pain of losing his father after he had reconciled with him was Bart’s inspiration for the song. 

So much of life is like that. We live in a pain-filled world. All of us can identify with the need to forgive and the desire for reconciliation with a family member, friend, and with God. The recent school shootings, bombings, and personal tragedies leave us wondering about life and death. Does any of it make any sense? It only does if we can look beyond the pain to a better future.

As we approach Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, I am reminded of the great pain and sacrifice the Son of God made for our salvation. On the last night before Jesus’ crucifixion, he tried to prepare his disciples for the future.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

A recent online Fox News article reports on a speech from the Vatican in which the Pope spoke about the use of the crucifix as jewelry.

“Pope Francis said that the crucifix is a religious sign to be contemplated and understood, rather than merchandised. He said that the crucifix is a sacred sign not to be "abused" by being treated as an ornament or clothing accessory. The image of Jesus crucified reveals the mystery of the death of the Son as the supreme act of love, the source of life and salvation for humanity of all times." By Daniel Hammond and Ruth Gledhill, SWNS | Fox News

I can’t agree more. An empty Easter cross makes a much better piece of jewelry because it celebrates resurrection, new life, and hope. It makes it possible for me to sing along with Bart Millard and MercyMe. 

I Can Only Imagine

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rose Colored Glasses

It’s time to put on my rose-colored sunglasses. Last fall my new, burgundy-tinted shades revealed the changing autumn leaves in full Technicolor. The reds, oranges, and yellows were bright and vibrant.  When I removed my glasses, the leaves reverted to a more subdued shade of red or gold. Spring color is exploding in Georgia and I want to once again experience God’s creation on steroids. The daffodils will be a brighter yellow and flowering red buds almost purple through my rosy spectacles.

After a cold, rainy winter my aching bones are ready to experience spring. I will gladly throw the heavy coat, gloves, and boots into the back of the closet and choose more lightweight, carefree options. I know my friends in my birth state of New York have no pity for me as they are buried under almost two feet of heavy, wet snow. Whenever I am tempted to complain about our cold March temperatures, I think about them and stop whining.  

It’s also been a winter of discontent in our country. The discouraging daily news with shootings, political infighting, and natural disasters weighs as heavy as a soggy snowfall. The daily dose of realism on TV and online seems to rule the day leaving little room for peace of mind and a positive attitude. A verse in the Bible keeps me from feeling negative about life.

The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Philippi to filter their thinking through God’s rose-colored glasses. 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

He explained that right thinking was the key to experiencing the peace of God. He encouraged the believers in Philippi to focus on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. Paul implied that a change in thinking— seeing things with God’s perspective— can bring peace in the midst of difficult circumstances.

This verse tells me I can avoid anxiety by looking for something praiseworthy in every situation. Inner peace is contagious and other people will notice and want to know your secret. Then you can share with them how God’s rose-colored glasses can help them see life differently too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Well Done, Billy Graham

What a legacy. What a life. Billy Graham–the evangelist to presidents, kings, and ordinary people like me–died this morning after a long illness. At a time when our nation desperately needs spiritual leadership, his passing leaves a void.

I had the opportunity to attend and work in two of his crusades—Birmingham, AL in the 1960s and Atlanta, GA in the 1980s.  I trained to be a counselor to those who came forward and was able to pray with some.  Our church also followed up with those in our community who asked to receive Christ.

This past weekend I attended a writers’ conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.  The Asheville Christian Writers’ Conference was a wonderful opportunity for fellowship with other Christian writers. Together we learned better writing techniques from the best in the industry.  I came home refreshed and renewed from that special weekend. 

I took a break from classes to visit the Ruth Graham bookstore on the lower level of the conference center.  Displays of memorabilia from the Graham’s world travels lined the halls leading to the bookstore.  As I looked at the gifts from world leaders, I wondered if Billy Graham would live to see his 100 birthday.  It would have been a great birthday celebration next November, but nothing like the heavenly welcome he is experiencing today. Not only is he seeing Jesus face to face, but he is reunited with his beloved Ruth, his wife for 63 years.

Few of us will have the same opportunity to witness to millions, but God has a task for us right where we are.  May we be equally faithful to our calling.

This verse spoken by Jesus found in Matthew 25:23 sums up the life of Billy Graham.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (NIV)

Writing friends at the Cove

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

On Eagles' Wings

The trees that stood tall beside an Alaska river made great perches for all kinds of birds, especially eagles. The beady-eyed creatures watched all of us tourists to be sure we weren’t a threat. We were spellbound when an eagle spread its wings and took flight. What a beautiful sight to see our American symbol cast its shadow on the water below as it soared into the sky. I had hoped when we took our Alaska trip to see these magnificent birds, and I was not disappointed.

When the Philadelphia Eagles played against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, I decided to root for the underdog Eagles. Professional football is not what I enjoy watching on Sundays, but made an exception for this big game. I’ve been especially turned off by the lack of respect for the Flag and National Anthem and oversexualized half time shows. But when I read stories about the camaraderie among many of the Eagles’ team members because of their shared Christian beliefs, I decided to watch the game.

Once again I was not disappointed.  A hard-fought game handed the Eagles a long-sought victory. The personal testimonies of the coach, quarterback, and others after the win gave glory to God and Jesus Christ for their abilities and the cohesiveness of the team. What inspiring words for a worldwide football audience. 

During church last Sunday, our pastor, Jim Conrad, preached another inspiring message about eagles from the prophet Isaiah (40:28-31 NIV).

“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
 The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 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.”

The message he delivered said that when we hope in the Lord, he provides great benefits for every situation in life. When we are in a tough time, God will walk with us through it.  He will also help us run the race of everyday life, and at other times help our faith soar like an eagle. In other words—He will never disappoint.

This is Charles’ favorite verse in the Bible and his life’s inspiration.  We are using this verse on the first page of his memoir, Chasing the Whirlwind.  It sets the tone for his story of overcoming life’s challenges and making a difference in the aviation industry. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Time to Take Inventory

The Profit is a television shows Charles and I enjoy. Marcus Limonis is a wealthy investor who uses his money “to save small businesses and make money.” As small business owners ourselves, we like the premise of that reality show. Marcus visits struggling family-owned stores and factories and decides whether his investment can turn help turn the company into a money-making operation.  It’s not easy for him to convince the original owners to give him a percentage of the company, and to put in place a process to generate more revenue.  Inventory control is one of the pillars of that process.  Limonis insists on streamlining the inventory, having a fire sale of the excess, and stocking only products that are profitable.

How times have changed. In January 1992, I signed up to work for two days at a clothing store for $8 an hour to count inventory.  Bar codes and scanners were yet to be invented. I was assigned a section of the store and given a clipboard to record my findings. I counted the items on each rack and entered the numbers by size and style.  After several hours on my feet, I was dog tired, but the owner had the information needed for property tax purposes.

January is also a good time of year to conduct a personal inventory—to take stock of where you are and what you want to accomplish.  It is intimidating to look around the house and try to deal with all the stuff that takes up too much space and time.  In the spring and fall, I deal with clothes and what needs to go and what needs to be replaced.  My mission at the first of each year is to clean out files (computer and paper) and closets filled with accumulated junk. 

Using that same analogy, I need to take time to look within and reevaluate habits and attitudes that clutter my relationship with God and people. These two Bible verses call for all of us to examine ourselves and our ways.

Lamentations 3:40 — "Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord."
2 Corinthians 13:5 — "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"

As a creature of habit and convenience, it is hard for me to evaluate and make the necessary changes that will often push me out of my comfort zone. In other words, change is hard and often resisted. Think how much better we would all feel if we threw away judgmental attitudes toward people and negative thoughts about the situations we face.  Just like getting rid of the stuff in our closets frees up time and choices, an uncluttered spirit opens our minds to the still small voice of God, who desires to use us in ways we can only imagine. Take inventory and make way for that which is new and fresh. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

So Much Wasted Time

The Partridge Family aired on TV from 1970-1974 during the time I was raising my two young sons. It was a wholesome program for the whole family to watch.  David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) played the oldest son in the musical touring group.  Every teenage boy wanted to look, sing, and play guitar like him, and his good looks made him a heartthrob for every teenage girl.  In other words, he had it all. 

By the mid-1980s, he was broke and addicted to alcohol. His multiple marriages and relationships indicate he had a troubled life. A felony conviction from driving under the influence occurred in 2014. Soon after, he was diagnosed with Dementia and the effect of alcoholism was destroying his liver.

David Cassidy died on November 21, 2017. His daughter, Katie Cassidy, thanked those who loved and supported the family during their trying time, and added that her father’s last words were:
“So Much Wasted Time”

Those four words have haunted me ever since I heard them.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want those or similar words to be the last thing people remember about me.  Instead, I want to hear the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25:21:

“Well done my good and faithful servant.”

As we start a new year, it’s appropriate to think about all the time wasters that keep us from doing our best. Below are the top four that are a challenge for me and probably for you, too.

1.      Darkness — We have just experienced the Winter Solstice- the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  I love daylight and too much darkness makes me lethargic.  My energy level goes down and I have a harder time getting going in the mornings.  I want to eat too many carbs and not exercise. Overcoming inertia is a daily challenge. Spending too much time scrolling through Facebook and other Apps makes me sedentary and I am less productive.
Solution:  There's nothing I can do about the darkness, but I can get moving and throw away the sweets.

2.   Bad Habits — We all have them-things we do that could be replaced with more productive habits.  Scrolling the internet for sales and items to order—and often send back—is time consuming.  Shopping and deciding once I get it home to return it is another time thief. I could use that time and save money, too, by being less impulsive.
Solution:  Spending more time relating to other people and praying for needs is a much more productive habit to cultivate.

3.    Procrastination — It is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something.  Or as humorist Mark Twain said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”    I am not normally a procrastinator, but this past year I’ve found myself rushing around at the last minute trying to do something that should have been done the day before.  During the lead up to Christmas, I found myself waiting in long lines at stores and the post office. I should have mailed the package the  week before the Christmas crush. It’s a good lesson for me because I’ve not had much patience for others who procrastinate.  
Solution:  Work at tasks every day, so that they won’t pile up at the end. How do you eat an elephant?  “One bite at a time.”

4.   Clutter — Too much stuff in an unorganized condition makes life more difficult and robs us of time that could be more productive. We all have clutter, but too much can harm our productivity and emotional health. I waste too much time looking for car keys, glasses, gloves, and my cell phone, to name a few.  Sooner or later lost things show up, but if I’m trying to get out the door, I will often be late for that appointment. 
Solution:  Start the New Year right by finding a place for everything.  Give away the excess so that I can keep and enjoy the essential. Take time at night, instead of watching TV in my recliner, and put the house in order.

An American Founding Father wrote similar words to the quote by David Cassidy.

‘You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin