Monday, September 28, 2009

I Would Have Made a Good Pharisee -- Hope Chronicles 90

For some reason, my favorite Bible characters have been on my mind of late. They include Josiah and Peter and Esther to name just a few. I've found my self perusing those and other stories. But as I've been doing that, I've felt the this question tingle at the edges of my mind. I've kind of wanted to keep it at the edges, but as sometimes happens, God wanted me to look at it. What is the question?

Great characters of faith, but which person in the Bible are you most like?

Sigh. I'm not as brave like Esther. I don't know that my heart is as sensitive to God's word as Josiah's. Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore even after he failed Jesus. I would have cowered in the boat.

Yes, but who are you most like?

It took awhile and came with humbling conviction. The Pharisees. Sigh. I don't want to be like them.

In Jesus day there were several prominent groups. One was the Sadducees. (I differentiated them from the other groups by their name and belief. They didn't believe in heaven so that made them "Sad you see." I came up with that in high school, so cut me some slack.) Then there were the Pharisees. (They wanted everything "Fair you see.") They were the rule keepers.

Honestly, I think that initially the Pharisees started out okay. They didn't want to break any of God's commandments. They were very careful about it. They decided to define all the possible ways of breaking a commandment. They then added to the law. In essence, they put up a zillion fences, things to do and not do, so that you wouldn't come close to breaking the law.

Problem: In the frenzy of building those fences, they lost sight of God and his people.

I like rules more than I want to admit. I'd rather be carefree and easy going. I like rules. They make me feel safe. They help me know what to expect and not expect. They give me boundaries at times when life feels out of control.

But just like the Pharisees, I lose sight of God. Yes, I may have my quiet time. I may be able to check any number of spiritual things off the list. But if my quiet time was just about the list, did I really meet with God?

Just like the Pharisees, I lose sight of God's people. Sometimes in relationships I am more concerned about being right or more concerned about what is fair than I am about the person. Take, for instance, my job at BN. I do enjoy it. I work hard. However, my dandruff gets up if I think I'm doing more work than so and so. I want it all to be fair. Sometimes I get so focused on a task, I lose sight of the people around me.

But there is hope. Saul was a Pharisee. He even held the others' cloaks as they stoned Stephen, a leader in the early church. He sincerely believed it was the right thing. He was very good at following rules. He expected everyone else to follow them too. Until one day, he was walking a long and Jesus appeared to him. He was blinded for several days. Then Jesus sent someone to heal Saul's eyes. From then on, Saul became Paul and became a leader in the early church. Talk about a 180!

Was Paul still a rule guy? I think that he probably was. However, he was also someone who had completely experienced grace. This allowed him to give grace to others even when they didn't follow the rules.

Yes, I would have made a good Pharisee. But as God shows us through Paul, God is more than capable to knock down some fences to bring hope to a heart.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

15lbs and Counting!

I posted this exciting news on my Facebook page on Friday: I've lost 15lbs in 7 weeks. I had several people ask me how -- what am I eating or not eating or doing or not doing. There haven't been any miracle foods. It's really been a combination of things.

About 8 weeks ago, I started taking a lunch time class that meets once a week. It is called "Healthy Weight, Healthy You." My job is sponsoring it. It is put on by OSF St. Joe's Center for a Healthy Lifestyle. Erin Kennedy, exercise specialist, and Kim McClintic, dietitian swap weeks. They are both very positive and very up beat and totally encouraging. One thing I like is that there are no forbidden foods and nothing you have to completely give up. Granted, there are healthier choices but they also don't advocating feeling deprived. Also, even though the title says "Healthy Weight" I feel like it more about health than weight. Though, everyone in the class wants to lose some.

Each week they advocate making small choice that lead up to big changes. Here is some of what I've learned:

  • Set a reasonable short term goal. They suggested 10%
  • Look at how clothes fit and how you feel and not just about the number.
  • Watch portions. Americans are so use to SUPER SIZE that our portions are out of control.
  • Realistically, our stomach holds about 2 cups without stretching. When eating a meal, try for 2 cups of food.
  • Don't worry, because in a couple hours you get a snack! A snack is about 1 cup of food.
  • Granted, you should choose wisely. a cup of MM's is very different than a cup of grapes.
  • However, you cannot completely blow it in one meal or one day! A pound is 3500 calories. Even if you had a piece of cake (which I have had over the last 7 weeks), that does not equal 3500 calories. Isn't that good news!
  • Try to get in 3 different types of food at meals and a couple different foods at snacks. Why? Because your body breaks down different types of food at different rates. It does carbohydrates first, protein second, and fat last.
  • Exercise: 30 minutes most days for cardio. I've been walking Hadley about 45 minutes.
  • Tidbit: the first 3 minutes of cardio you are burning protein. Minutes 3-20 you are burning carbohydrates. Everything after 20 you are burning fat.
  • For best results figure your target heart rate. That is 220-age. Take 60% for the low end and 80% for the high end. You will burn the most calories in that range.
  • Change up your exercise routine every 3 weeks or so to avoid a plateau.
  • Do some strength training. A pound is a pound. However a pound of muscle burns a lot more calories than a pound of fat even when you are just sitting.
  • Lift things around the house -- can of green beans, a gallon of milk, or your 4 year old. Do lots of reps with a little weight. Try 4 sets of 15. Rest a minute in between.
  • Wait 48 hours in between working the same muscle group. One day you could upper body and arms. The next you could do legs and such.
  • Here's the exception. You can do abs everyday. Aren't you so excited to read that?
  • Try new foods. Kim has given us a new recipe each week. I've liked all of them .
  • Read food labels. We've learned how to evaluate the health claims. If you want, another night I will post that. . . . .
  • Keep a food log/activity log. It just makes you aware of what you are eating. You don't have to share it. We often overestimate the amount we exercise and underestimate the amount we eat or drink!
  • Of course there is more like info on eating out, but too much to put here tonight....
Most importantly: only weigh once a week and as Erin and Kim say, "DON'T LET WHAT HAPPENS BELOW THE NECK WRECK HAVOC ABOVE THE NECK!"

So, I had to take Hadley to the vet yesterday for a booster shot. Go figure, with all of our walking, she's lost 2lbs! The only catch is that she didn't need to lose any!

Thanks Erin and Kim! Wed is our last class and I am bummed! They are such a hoot!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Twisting the Golden Rule

Recently, I've been convicted over the golden rule. Interestingly, even people who aren't Christians at least know the gist of it. It can be found in Luke 6:31 -- "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (NIV) It's actually part of a list of uncommon ways we are suppose to treat others -- friends or enemies.

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who hate you
  • Bless when you are cursed
  • Pray for those who hurt you
  • Turn the other cheek
  • If someone takes your cloak, give them your tunic too
  • And do to others as you have them do to you
It's a strikingly uncommon way of relating to people in a world that focuses on revenge and blame and all of those kinds of things.

While I don't do it perfectly, in general, I would say I'm pretty good at following the golden rule. (Not perfect, of course.) I loan things freely. I try to say kind things. I'm more than willing to go out of my way for people. Yet, as I said above, I've been convicted about it.

When I was in college, I had never been in a discipleship relationship. Going into my junior year, I found myself in leadership of a Christian group on campus and there were people who needed some shepherding. Honestly, my approach was to provide what I wished someone had done for me. Amazingly, it worked. I found I learned as much as they did.

There have been other things as well where my mode of operation is based on "what I wish had happened for me." It can be taking an interest in the kids I know, going to sporting events even if I do not understand the rules. It can be following through with promises. It can be any number of things.

It has worked well, but here is the twist. Lately, I've noticed bitterness creep in. Though I still may do those things, I find that I can think, "I did this or that for so and so, why won't anyone do it for me?" The twist is that I somehow deserve something in return. Sadly, that means what I have given or done, has not been a gift. It comes with an expectation.

Yes, it would be nice on various things, but that is not the heart behind the golden rule or any of those other things listed above. The heart is considering others before me because that is what Christ did. The heart is giving up our rights because that is what Jesus did.

So, I need to ask God to change my heart to match my actions. Then, the gifts of time or interest or whatever will be freely given with no strings attached.

What about you? Do you ever attach strings to things?



I've had such a good weekend. Some friends who use to live here came for a visit. It was Elena's birthday. She just turned 9, but she thought visiting me for her birthday sounded great. So, she and her sister Grace and their parents came for a visit. We went out for lunch and then came home and played games and went to the park. And, of course, a birthday calls for cake and ice cream. And we played a lot with Hadley. Hadley loved all the extra attention!



Time for cake!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Moment's Glory and Isn't There More?

I saw a shooting star tonight. It so seriously impressed me that I'm writing about it right now. It shot through the dark in a blaze of glory that made me go "Oh!" and then thank God that no one was driving right behind me 'cause I almost completely stopped. I looked for more but I only saw the one.

For perspective, I this is the first shooting star this gal has seen. So, it did take my breath away. It made me stop in my tracks. It made me pause and look at God's handiwork. And then it made me ask, "Isn't there more?"

As stunning as it was, it did leave me thinking that there had to be more to it. Yes, it is all kinds of gases and light from a zillion light years away finally reaching my eye. But, for all the glory in that moment, it made me want something more substantial.

I am not immune to wanting moments of glory. I want to be noticed and appreciated and all that. I want to stand out in a positive way. But do I want just the moment's glory or do I want something more substantial?

What weighs more -- one moment of glory and splendor or a lifetime of ordinary moments that point to Him? Yes, that star pointed to Him, but it left me with the nagging question, "Isn't there more?"

If I could point to Him in just one moment -- a blazing glorious moment -- or I could point to Him for 80 years in a multitude of moments which would I choose? Both can reflect God, but the later has roots that answer the question in a more meaningful a way that "Yes, there is more. Let me tell you about Him."

Remind me of the value of a lifetime of moments, Lord, when my focus shifts and I desire a moment's glory. You are steady. Help me point steadily to you.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Birthday Promise

This summer I started getting to know a little neighbor boy, Alex. I enjoyed going on walks with him, his baby sister, and his mom. More than once, the subject of birthdays came up. He wanted to know if my puppy, Hadly had a birthday. I assured him that she did and said we would do something to celebrate.

Hadley's birthday is officially on Thursday. However, Alex won't be around then, so we opted to celebrate today. I took him on a trip to Petco to buy Hadley a toy. (She got two. An orange ball and a squeaky bone as well as a bag of treats that Alex picked.) Then I treated Alex to ice cream.

When we got back he enjoyed giving Hadley her treats and her toys. He even sang her "Happy Birthday."

It may all sound a bit silly to some of you. Hadley isn't really aware of her birthday. But I had promised Alex we would do something. Hadley was the reason, but more than anything, I wanted to keep my promise to Alex.

How do you do keeping promises -- especially to children? I think it is important. It teaches them to trust what you say. It makes you a safe, trustworthy person -- to adults or children. I try to be someone who does what they say -- even if "I promise" isn't spoken.

I think Alex and Hadley both had a good time. Alex and Hadley both enjoy each other and I enjoy both of them.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How To Make A Parent's Day

Hadley and I just got back from a nice long walk. As we were coming up the alley, a little curly headed girl of about 3 came running out of her garage. "A puppy!" she squealed.

Hadley can be a bit jumpy still, but I held her in a sit and invited the little girl to pet her. Then I asked her if she could follow directions.

She nodded.

I asked her if she wanted to give Hadley a treat. More squeals of delight. First, I told her she had to know how to do it. I showed her how to hold her hand flat with the treat on it so Hadley could just take it off. (Dogs can sometimes accidentally nip if you just use your fingers instead of your palm.)

She held out her hand and Hadley took the treat. Again, squeals of delight. "She likes me!"

I agreed that she did. Then I said, "You did such a great job following directions! That was super!"

She beamed. But I'm not sure whose smile was brighter -- hers or her father's.

Recognizing something a child does well to a parent seems to encourage them as much as the child. It sends the message to the parent, that in the tough world of parenting, they might be doing something right.

So, at Barnes and Noble when kids are behaving well, I tell them what a nice job they are doing and even give them a sticker.

When I'm in the grocery store, I might say something about what a good helper the little boy is doing.

When I see a child help another, I let the mom know.

I don't have kids, but I recognize that parenting has got to be stuff. A little praise might encourage a weary mom or dad that they are getting something right.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Taste Do You Leave Behind?

I have never been a fan of cherry -- even cherry lifesavers. Honestly, I think it comes down to the fact that so many childhood medicines were suppose to be flavored like wild cherry lifesavers. I never met one that truly lived up to this claim. Instead, after a hint of cherry it seemed that they all left some nasty, burning taste behind. Maybe it is just that from that point on, I just haven't trusted cherry.

I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe. Click here to finish reading this post.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The One Who Waits

It was one of the hardest aspects of the job. It had to be done, so I did it but I hated it. Every Wed. morning I would get to the office early, go in and grab a car seat, and head out to pick up a little 2 1/2 year old. He was always excited to see me. I would pick him up and transport him back to the office for a visit with his mom.

You see, I spent several years working in foster care. It's a high stress job with little pay. But most people do it because they believe that some of the most vulnerable in our society need protecting.

Supervising parent-child visits came with the territory. Hence, the early morning trek to pick up this little guy. On good days, we would arrive back at the office and I would watch him and his mom interact for two hours (awkward but necessary) and provide helpful direction (typically ill received) when needed.

But the bad days came more often than the good days. We would arrive back at the office and settle in the waiting room to wait for mom. More often than not, she didn't show. After 30 -40 minutes, I would help him back into his coat and return him -- sobbing -- back to the sitter. It always broke my heart. How could she not come? She only got 2 hours a week with her son.

The foster parents actually had to reroute to avoid driving by the office. As sure as he would see the building his hope of seeing his mom would rise and then plummet when they didn't stop. He would begin to wail.

I confronted the mom (and the many others like her) on missing the visits. She was flippant. He was little. What did he know? And then came the excuses: missed the bus, got up late, forgot, just couldn't make it and couldn't bother to call. With permission, I finally instituted a policy for her and other parents that routinely missed visits. If the visit was at 8:45 AM, she had to be there before I left to pick him up. It meant she spent half an hour waiting, but it spared that little boy the sheer disappointment he felt when she didn't appear.

I've been thinking a lot about those foster care days. When ever I have a recurring thought, I think it is God's way of reminding me of something. In this case, I am reminded of how eagerly God awaits our time with Him. He doesn't miss. There aren't any no shows on His end.

And when I miss, I think He has all the disappointment (maybe even more) of that little guy.

And I am convicted that though I know the importance of regular time with my heavenly Father, I take it too lightly. There is an errand to run or someone to call. I wake up late and have to rush to get out the door. I always promise -- tonight I'll make time. But then the evening comes . . . . It's so easy to over look it in the business of life.

Here is to a renewed commitment of daily time with Him. He's always waiting for me and you.

Recycled from March 2008 -- But I needed the reminder!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Are You Listening?

Today at the office, a very distraught woman came in. This is somewhat unusual in my office. Land records aren't typically all that distressing. Someone else was helping her, but I could tell that it was escalating. I went over to see if I could diffuse whatever was brewing. She explained that she needed to get her home in her name only. Her husband had passed away quite awhile ago. (Yes, this can be distressing. I'm not referring to that piece.) She had a letter telling her that her husband's estate needed to be probated or she needed a Quit Claim Deed from each of his children. She was insistent that it all had to happen right away and kept repeating that she only had several days.

"Mam, I'm not sure where you are getting that you only have several days or you will lose your house."

"Right here." She pointed out a sentence.

I read it. "I think there has been some confusion. The letter says getting the deed in you name can happen several ways, not several days."

I tried to walk through the other points in the letter with her. But she was having none of it. She continued to insist that she only had several days or she would lose her house. In a rage, she cussed my colleague and I and left.

The whole thing saddened me because by not listening carefully she is causing herself a heap of heart ache and fear. Who wouldn't be fearful if they felt they might lose their home in days?

It got me to thinking. Are there times when I don't listen carefully? Are there times when I am so wound up that I confuse ways and days?

I know that I have and probably still do. However, it reminded me of something I've tried in conflict situations. When I know going into a situation that I might get side tracked or not see something clearly I write the points I want to make out on note cards. Then, every few cards I insert another note card with various bits of wisdom on it:

  • Listen before speaking
  • Think before you speak
  • Ask questions
  • You do not have to be RIGHT
It's actually helped me a lot. But maybe I need to make a mental note of some of those same things for everyday situations when I let the emotions of the moment runaway with me. The biggest one should always be. ARE YOU LISTENING?