Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can You Wait?

I was reading my friend, Rebecca's blog (Passive Passion is an Oxymoron) this morning and had to read it a couple of extra times because my brain took off on a tangent right there in the middle of reading and I couldn't concentrate.

As she expressed a bit of frustration regarding the whole 'waiting' thing, I began considering Jesus' ministry.  He spent thirty-three years on this earth and three years in ministry.  I thought a little more about Bible characters and realized that Moses spent a good portion of his life doing nothing more than waiting - forty years at a time!  David had to wait to grow up, wait until Saul died ... he kept waiting for those few years when he would be effective in ministry. 

I look back on my own life and see periods of time where God had me wait to do anything at all and then I had times of explosive creativity and powerful experiences with Him.  I wasn't really good with the waiting, but oh my goodness those periods of time when I felt close to Him and used by Him were amazing ... and exhausting.  He wore me out!  So ... He would take me back to a point of waiting and restoration.

I can tell in Rebecca's life that God is gearing her up to move.  He's creating a desire for action and change in her that will propel her to the next level in their relationship.  She can't sit still any longer, she is ready to fully engage in whatever it is that He wants to give to her.  This is one of those incredible times in a person's life and it is what changes us from being pew potatoes to active Christians - it's what makes us want to be more than just a passive onlooker into someone that desires to be God's servant - wherever it is He wants to move.

Last winter I experienced that sense of motion as I heard God whispering to me.  And now, though ... I'm waiting again.  I feel like I should be doing something, so I attempt to do what I think will help me in the next stage.  What a fool I am.  God will help me in the next stage - I just have to be ready and open to His will.

I know that He is prepared for me to learn more, I can tell by the reaction I'm having to the books I'm (pre) reading for my courses.  I keep sensing a stirring in my mind. 

Where are you in your relationship?  Are you actively waiting, passively sitting or ready to go - right now?!?!  He will be with you in all of those places, but I can promise you He doesn't want you to just sit still and focus on yourself ... focus on Him and He will make His plans known to you!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Billy Graham at TED

I watched a TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) video yesterday afternoon. The speaker was Billy Graham.  In 1998, he was invited to speak and he took the message of salvation to a group of people that don't hear that message very often.

As he was warming up the crowd, before he had even got to the depth of his speech, he was telling short stories on himself and one of them struck me.

He told the story of how he was on an airplane.  There was a gentleman who was drunk and disturbing the other passengers with his behavior.  He was harassing the flight attendant, smacking her, pinching her and generally making a fool of himself.  Another man had finally had it and said to the drunk, "Do you know that Billy Graham is on this flight?"  The drunk turned around, saw Billy Graham and said, "Well, I'll be" as he stuck his hand out to shake Billy's hand.  It was his next comment that floored me, "Your sermons have really helped me."

The audience laughed and realized that Billy Graham was inviting them to laugh at himself as he connected with them just a little bit.  But, for as many people as that man has touched over the long years of his ministry, there are so many that are like that drunk.  They took in his words, allowed them to flow through, but didn't bother to live as if those words had any influence in his life.

The rest of the talk is about how technology can change a lot of things in this world, but it will never be able to remove evil, suffering and death from the world. Only Jesus Christ can do that.

This video is about 26 minutes long, but the message Billy Graham delivers is worth the time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What rules your day? Worry or Praise?

When I was growing up I had a couple of recurring nightmares.  In the first, I was deep in a forest.  There was a clearing filled with a lot of my family (cousins, aunts, uncles).  It was a funeral.  There was an immense grave dug at the front of the clearing.  I remember the walk ... that dreadfully long walk as we approached the clearing and then the freshly dug grave.  There was weeping and low murmurs of voices ...

Night after night that dream would come to me.  I never knew why, I didn't know where it had come from.

In the second dream I was trying to walk up a steep inclined street.  I knew that I would be able to make it, if only it weren't so icy.  Every time i would get to a certain point, I'd slip and slide back to the base of the hill, never making any ground.

I suppose that you could expend a great deal of effort to interpret those nightmares, but honestly, they were childhood fears - things that I couldn't imagine ever being able to overcome.  As I grew up and began to understand more about the world and how to deal with things, I quit having those night after night.

Isn't it interesting that I remember two very frightening nightmares some 35-40 years later, but I can't remember the dreams that I had last night.  Fear tends to have a great deal of impact on us, doesn't it?

Negative emotions also stick close to us in our memories.  We can remember arguments and fights, exact reasons we're no longer friends with someone (even as far back as elementary school!), the negative remarks made about us on an evaluation, harsh words spoken by employers/employees, co-workers.

These things eat at us!  When we are feeling blue for any reason, these are the things that come crashing into our memories to help us continue to feel badly about ourselves.  They add fuel to the fire that burns inside our hearts.

I learned as a child that twenty positive comments could easily be stricken from my memory by one single negative comment.  The same goes for anything negative that occurs to us!

I can still see the deep green of that forest scene in my mind's eye and I still see the cars along that steep incline of the street I couldn't climb.  I can hear the taunts of elementary school girls and see the negative comments on evaluations.  It is nearly impossible to wipe these things from my memory.

The thing is - being a Christian doesn't erase these things from my personality.  I have never been able to rid myself of negative emotions and feelings, wicked words flung at me from the outside and painful taunts and jeers will always make their way into my mind.

If you read the Psalms, you'll discover that David never got away from this.  It's not possible, it's one of the things we deal with while living our lives.  Job, Moses, Paul, John, even Jesus Himself dealt with the very lowest the world has to offer in their own lives.

The difference is focus.  As long as the focus is on myself, I will find myself mired in the quicksand of self-pity, worry and anger.

When David wrote the Psalms, they were songs of praise to a God that would deliver him ... from himself and from his enemies. 

Praise.  That's one of the greatest things that lifts us out of the sludge that we allow ourselves to dip into. 

David's words fill me as I read:
"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." (Psalm 71:14-15)

Worship.  Praise.  Removing the central focus from myself and placing it firmly where it belongs.  My life was created to worship God ... not my fears, not my anger, not my worry ... to worship God.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Road Rage?

This morning as I was stopped at the 42nd & Center intersection, I heard a car door slam.  I looked around and all of a sudden there was a guy screaming at the top of his lungs at another young man in a van stopped next to me.  Something about pulling out in front of him (he wasn't even driving - his girlfriend was, this guy had gotten out of the passenger side of the car behind me), yada, yada, yada.

The young man in the van was smart enough to not react, he didn't even roll down his window.  The car that was in front of him was trying to make a right hand turn so as to give him space if he needed to bolt, depending on whether the idiot in the street attempted violence.  All of us were shocked at this unexpected outburst of rage. I hadn't seen anything happen, but who knows ... I probably missed it.

That kind of public anger absolutely floors me.  I don't know what to do with it or how to handle it.

I saw road rage one other time in a parking lot when a car cut off a bicyclist so that the driver of the car could scream in the bicyclist's face about some sort of perceived error that had been made.  I was right there and so floored by the outburst I couldn't process quickly enough on what I could do that wouldn't further inflame the situation. 

The light changed, the crazy man got back in his girlfriend's car and everyone drove their separate ways today.  I drove away trying to dream up any type of response on my part that could have defused the situation and I was also trying to imagine what I would do if someone came at me with that kind of fury.  I have absolutely no idea.

As Christians we talk a lot about random acts of kindness in the world and trying our best to show the world what Christ is like.  I am disgusted when I see Christians act like jerks in restaurants and other public places, but the reality is, we live in an environment filled with sadness, sickness, and sometimes just plain evil.  We can't actually fix it.

You know what?  We don't have to.  It's not our job to fix the world. 

It is, however, our job to be the people that God calls us to be in the world.  I can't necessarily do anything about the young man who exploded with vitriol at 42nd and Center Street today, but I can ensure that my behavior in the world, among the rest of God's children brings Him honor and glory.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Loved High School Football

High School football has started again.  I've been watching the Des Moines Register's site as they rank the Iowa schools and talk about what is going to happen and I am thrust back to the days where I lived for Friday nights!

I played in the marching band so all of the home games were fun, hanging out in the band section with all my friends.  We whined a lot in early September because of our awful wool uniforms, but by the time mid-October rolled around we weren't rushing quite as quickly to change since we finally appreciated the additional warmth.  I do remember huddling under blankets with as many friends as possible watching the last half of the game after we'd gotten back into our street clothes.

My friends were out on the field, my friends were in the stands with me and those evenings were some of the greatest fun I had in high school.  Mom didn't miss too many of the games ... her kids were in the stands and on the field as well.  She and I drove to nearly every one of the away games just to be a part of the excitement of Sigourney High School football.  If the band went on a bus, she'd drive and I could choose to go home with her or my friends - she didn't care, she just wanted to be where her kids were so that she could cheer them on.

Home games meant a sock hop at the high school after the game - we were pretty spoiled, too.  Double Trouble - more friends from high school were a great cover band and we didn't have to put up with too many DJ/album nights, it was generally live music.  No one was ever ready to head home after the game, so the cafeteria was filled with friends and dancing.

Friday nights seemed to last forever ... from dressing in our uniforms, pre-game, playing in the stands for the first half, half-time, changing out and watching the end of the game and then finally the sock hop.  The evening was glorious fun.

Every fall as the weather turns cool, I go back to those nights in the bleachers at the high school with my friends.  I recall the excitement of the plays on the field, watching parents go from joy to pain and back to joy as they watched their kids play ball.  We saw our teachers and administration outside their normal environment, with their families and friends and realized that they were as normal as the rest of us.  We had something that we could all stand together for.  We were there to support a team, to support an idea, to have some fun.

It's High School football season ... and I hope that  kids today will also walk away with memories that last a lifetime. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who defines your self-image?

Who defines your self-image?

Now, if you spend every moment of every day without any self-doubt, self-recrimination or poor self-esteem, move on, I don't particularly want your commentary on this ... you won't fit in.

I am a relatively self-confident person.  I'm certain that much of that comes from the way I grew up, knowing that my parents believed in me, loved me, protected me, encouraged me, taught me and generally surrounded me with enough support and strength to kick me into the world on my own.

On the other hand, I can tear myself apart in a heartbeat and then find myself weeping and sobbing over my lack of self-worth.  It really doesn't take all that much to remind me of what a failure I am, how I've screwed up badly and how easy it would be for me to just fade away from the world without anyone paying too much attention.

Now, stop ... you don't have to try to fix me ... I know that isn't necessarily all true, so it's ok.  Just keep reading.  I'm only using myself as an example.

It is quite easy for us to swing back and forth on that pendulum of self-respect / self-recrimination. Even those of us who live our lives with a lot of confidence easily find ourselves questioning the very core of our personality. That's probably a good thing sometimes.  Because with every question we ask, we cause ourselves to redefine why we are the way that we are.  If we come out at the end assured that we're ok, fabulous.  If not, and we have to adjust, that's fabulous, too!

But, who is it that forces us to question ourselves and possibly redefine ourselves?  Is it someone that has our best interests at heart?  What are the motives behind the questions? Are they filled with love and grace or jealousy and their own agenda?

In my lifetime, I've given a lot of different people permission to define me.  I've had bosses that make me question my motives and the depth of my personality.  Boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, even sometimes complete strangers have received permission from me to make me question myself.

Sometimes that permission has been handled with grace and love, but not often, because we are all dealing with people that have their own agendas.  There are very few people in our lives that sacrificially love us, to the extent that they will help us question ourselves, allow us to fall apart and then turn around and help put us back together again.

Others simply force us to question ourselves, watch as our self-confidence erodes, then watch as we fade away.  Those people aren't trustworthy and we have to quickly discover that they will never do more than that for us.

The rest probably don't do much in our lives in the way of helping us define our relationship with the world.  They move in and out of our lives at a surface level, not expecting much, not offering much, but sometimes tossing out a question that forces us to step back and ask if we really are worth it.  Before we realize that they hit us with something tough, they're gone again and don't make any attempt to cushion the blow.  Not terribly trustworthy, but probably not close enough to us to even realize that they had an impact.

As you try to find your way through the world, who is it that you allow to help you redefine yourself; who have you given permission to question your motives whether they handle you with grace or not and what are you going to do about withdrawing that permission?

Who do you help and how do you help them?

What are our roles in the relationships that we have.  How do we hide from others and how do we expose ourselves to others?  Are you trustworthy or are you selfish?

All of these questions ... who are you in your relationships ... who are those other people in your relationships?

And for heaven's sake, where's the ice cream?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and Your 'No,' 'No.'

This morning, Seth Godin posted "Little Lies and Small Promises" about how companies that make an attempt to keep small promises have less trouble keeping the big ones.  You know what I'm talking about - those comments that a waitress drops, "I'll be back in just a moment" or a customer service phone message stating, "Your call is important to us, we'll be right with you" - knowing full well that neither of them is true.
I cringe when I hear those types of statements being made.  "Thank you for calling, I will be with you in a second."  A second?  A second?  I just counted three of those and you are no where near me.

When Carol, Mom and I were in training to open our business, this must have been something that drove our trainer crazy.  Over and over she emphasized to us how important it was to not make promises we couldn't keep.  At some point, people would quit believing us. 

We had a press maintenance guy who did that to us regularly and I don't know that I've ever been quite as frustrated as I was by that man.  We'd call him with a problem and he'd tell us that he would be right over.  It didn't take long to figure it out - his 'right over' meant 6 hours.  But, more often than not, he would give me a time that he could be there by and when that time came and went, two more hours passed and everyone was ready to go home for the day, he would call and promise to be there first thing the next morning.  Could I show up 1/2 hour early so that he could get into the shop?

By golly, he had the audacity to be upset if he had to wait for us to get there in the morning.  He never did any of this on purpose.  He had the best intentions, but the problem was that he could not get his world to line up with his good intentions, so he frustrated everyone including himself.

Small promises broken, no trust left.

This is one of those things that makes me nuts.  I think it made Jesus a bit crazy as well.  In Matthew 5:37, he teaches "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

If you promise to be somewhere at a certain time, be there.  If you promise to take care of something, do it.  If you organize a meeting, be prepared and ready to go on time.  If you promise to return a call, make the call.  If you promise to write a letter, get it done. 

Our trainer for the business told us again and again that it made customers happier to have a longer deadline and then be pleasantly surprised when completion came early than to have a short deadline that was never met on time.

Good intentions don't get things done, don't keep people happy.  Little promises made but never kept won't make people believe in you.

Let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no,' 'no.'

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Think I should focus? Nope ... want it all!!!

I figure that I am going to go up and down, back and forth and all over the place before I finish up this portion of my education.  It's going to be fabulous! 

This has always been my problem.  I can't choose one specific thing that I want to learn.  I've always envied those that are so concentrated on one discipline that they become celebrities in their field.  That will never be me.  I have this incredible desire to know everything ... at least enough about everything so that I can learn more.

As I study Greek, I realize how much more I want to know about that language.  Every time I wrap my head around a concept or focus on vocabulary, I feel a thrill.

Yesterday as I began to understand what 'textual criticism' is - digging into the Greek manuscripts to discern copy errors, transcription errors, scribal changes, comprehending the style of the author, etc., etc. - I got a little bit high as I realized that I could easily get lost in that discipline for the rest of my life and be extraordinarily happy.  So, I chased off down that bunny trail for a while, happy as a lark.

I read about how to comprehend and learn about the culture of the New Testament and find that I want to understand as much of that as possible, so that I can make sense of the concepts hidden in that understanding for teaching purposes.  Oh ... that's just exciting stuff right there!

As I look through the books which will help me dig deeply into the Gospel of Matthew this fall and recognize the general ideas behind this learning, I want to be able to process it all so that I can translate it for everyone, not just a few seminary students.  I could find myself digging into that forever.

Then there is the comprehension of seeing how cultures other than North American / Western / white upper/middle class people read their Bible and how they see things differently in the story.  Oh, I want everyone to understand that so that we aren't so self-centered as we read the Bible.

Every single course I take throughout these next few years is going to stir the desires of my heart regarding how to share this information and what I could possibly do with it for the rest of my life.  Maybe there will come a point when I can look at one discipline and say, 'Yes!  That's it!!' but I'm betting that doesn't happen.

If you read this blog and I begin to tell you how I think I've finally found my focus, just chuckle and know that within a few months (maybe only a few days), I'll have made a different decision.  I hope that by this point in my life, I get it about myself.  I really want to know it all ... I will never be a single-discipline type of person.

So, what am I going to do with this?  How in the world am I ever going to move on and build a career?  I have absolutely no idea.  Fortunately, I don't have to.  It's a good thing to know that God's in charge of this.  It really helps me not worry so much.  All I have to do is absorb what He puts in front of me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning about NT research. Wow.

The bad news is - there's a lot of freakin' reading coming up in my world.  Wow, every time I start a new book, I feel terribly overwhelmed by the amount that is yet ahead of me! 

The good news is - every time I open up one of these books, I learn a little bit more. 

I'm reading "Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation," edited by Joel B. Green right now.  I figured it was going to be pretty dry.  But, notice that I said it was 'edited' by, not 'written' by Joel Green.  That means that every chapter is written by a different author, so I have the potential for some dry reading and probably some interesting stuff as well.  It's an adventure, right?

I recognize that throughout my life, I've stuck pretty close to non-academic reading as I've learned and studied.  Which means that I have a lot of information to gather into my poor brain if I want to play in the world of academia!  And that's just fine.

So, today I began learning about how New Testament scholars approach the text.  My goodness, but if the only thing you ever read is your Bible, you don't have an inkling of the torment that scholars go through to bring you that book. 

There is nothing available that is older than the second century, which means that these are copies of copies and there are 5,360 Greek manuscripts available.  They don't actually all say the same exact thing.  Scribes made changes.  If they had a certain agenda to push, they might drop out or change a sentence that would end up proving their point. They were 'improving' the text.  And those 5360 manuscripts?  Some are fragments no bigger than your driver's license and others contain the entire New Testament.  They range in age from the second century to the sixteenth century.  No one has a good count on all of the differences in the manuscripts, but they number in the hundreds of thousands!

Scholars apply a lot of tests to the manuscripts in order to bring out the best and closest to the original possibilities.  They rely on so many different things.  THIS is why there are still so many different thoughts and interpretations of the text. 

Now this may scare some of you - to me I see an incredible puzzle with pieces that are out there ready to be drawn together.  It's actually really exciting to me to discover that there are still questions I might have a chance to answer or at least spend time researching.  No ... the basic orthodox doctrines of the church aren't going to change, but it's a fascinating look at what we read!

Oh yah ... you'll keep hearing from me as I learn!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Cynic? Not in everything.

You know, I love the knowledge and wisdom that comes with age, but sometimes I miss the simplicity of belief that only lives within the young. In many ways, my cynicism is difficult to live with.

This morning was Rally Sunday at church.  We blessed backpacks, prepared for Sunday School, blessed the acolytes, handed out third grade Bibles ... it was a full morning.  As Pastor Mark spoke about the Word of God, he gave a few details.  When he said that the Bible continues to be the top seller in all books, the seventh grade girl sitting in our pew, pumped her fists and said, "Yes!"

In ten or so more years, she will reach the stage we all are at ... old news, we already know that information.  But, right now as she takes in new information all the time, she will continue to be excited.  She will pump her fists at obvious 'wins' and say "Yes!" to things that are great. 

I don't do that so much anymore.  I've lost a lot of wonder at the world.  I've seen pain and joy, life and death, ups and downs, failures and successes.  I see that life cycles and if things aren't great today, they'll get better at some point.  I know that time erases the sharp edges of pain, but it also erases the sharp edges of joy.

The amazing thing is, though that as much as I've become a cynic about people, life, experiences, etc., I've never lost my wonder at the Word of God.  Every single time I open that book, I find myself engrossed in something, whether it's the language, the thoughts, the message, the way it's written. 

There is something incredible about a book that can entrance me even after I have read it over and over.  I always find something new, I always find something to make me search for more information, I always find something that makes me want more.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Computer issues ... blerg.

It's late.  I'm still awake.  But, this evening ... just as I was processing on what to write, our internet went down ... it went down hard!

Modem / router / cables / computers ... oh, for heaven's sake, what was it?  We called our local cable company - Cox ... they're great here.  I love talking to these guys.  It's always a good experience.  Since Max is a computer tech, this shouldn't have been a difficult issue, but something wasn't working at all between the router and the modem. 

We bought a new router this evening - that didn't fix the problem (the modem was working fine).  We called Cox back.  They could see a signal coming to the modem, but going no further.  Max ended up on the phone with a young man from India who worked for Netgear.  After 3 hours of being offline, all of a sudden, things were back to normal.  We're not really sure what happened, but something did.  And for that, I'm thankful.

I don't do well being offline and not knowing why.

Now, I'm tired and I haven't got a single interesting thought in my brain.  I need to fall asleep and have interesting thoughts occur to me tomorrow!

Leica and I stopped this afternoon for a quick break and saw THIS.  I didn't let her out of the car for awhile so we could just watch.  The picture isn't great, they were way back from where we were parked, but the doe and her fawns just watched us until they got spooked.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Were you born for today?

When I was young, I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House" books and desperately wanted to live in pioneer days.  About the same time, mom was writing a story about the three of us kids and set it in those days, using the cabin and surrounding area as the location.  She told stories that were true about this region, such as the stories regarding the grist mill on the Boone river, the church revivals that happened in our meadow (yup, they did), and so many others.

I remember saying to her over and over that I wish I would have been born back in that day, it would have been so much fun.  She didn't give me much room to dream about it, telling me that with the heart condition I had as a child, I would have been dead by the age of eight.  Now, that's a story squasher right there.  I quit dreaming about pioneer days because I knew that realistically I would never have lived.

As I grew, I began reading science fiction novels and began dreaming of space travel, utopian societies, amazing spaceships, aliens.  I knew that I'd live through that - if they had the medical technology to keep me alive in the 1960s, they would certainly have it in the far future.  I'd lay awake at night thinking about what I would do if aliens landed in my back yard, asking me to travel with them.  Oh, I'd go, alright ... without a question.  I didn't even think I needed to say goodbye to anyone, I'd just drop 'em a message once we were off-planet!  No one would stop me.

Paranormal fiction right now tends to offer long life.  All of the fun stuff I read (ok, trash, I know it), offers a human the chance to live forever with a perfectly healthy body - all they have to do is be prepared to give up their immediate family after a few years.  Because it will become obvious that they haven't aged, right?  Oh ... and any good vampire story ensures that the body becomes perfect - right about the age of 25, with excellent health, gorgeous hair, sparkling eyes, and of course a set of six pack abs.

Max always says that he should have grown up in the 40s and 50s.  He loves the music, the sports, the people of that era.

When I really think about it, I sometimes wish I'd been born about 20 years later than I was - I'm loving this technological age and I would have had a blast being a lot younger through much of it.

But, then I think about one of my favorite verses - taken from the Old Testament book of Esther.  Mordecai says to Esther when she was trying to figure out how to approach the king, "...And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"  (Esther 4:14b)

I can wish away my life wondering what would have happened if I'd been born at any other point in time.  I can dream about the possibilities, but that won't make time change for me.  What I can do is to make the most of the time that I am here.  In 1959  (yikes), God placed me in the arms of my parents.  That was the beginning of my time on earth.  That was the moment that my life started.

Here I am, right in the middle of my future.  The world is changing rapidly around me, life moves faster and faster every day.  There are spaceships out there - just not for me yet.  I am alive because medical technology in the 60s was exactly what I needed.

And as for being a pioneer girl - I'm moving across my own pioneer.  Because this is the time God gave me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

God knew me before I was born - and chuckled!

I wonder if, when God was creating me, He spent a lot of time chuckling.  Because I'm pretty sure I should have been a lot taller, and sometimes I really think I should have been a guy.

The other day I was driving down one of these country roads and an old farmer was pulled over to the side.  He was towing something behind his big ole pickup truck and the load had obviously shifted.  So, he was out there working on tightening up the tension on the load so that he could get where he was going without dumping it.  Now, my greatest desire at that moment was to help him.  But, 1) he wouldn't have let me because I'm a girl, 2) I wouldn't have stopped because I'm a girl and smarter than that, you just never know these days and 3) I would have been useless because I had no idea what he needed.  I can not tell you the number of times that I haven't stopped to help someone that could have used my help had I been male.  But, I'm not - and so I drive on past hoping that someone else will.  I really hate that I can't do what needs to be done. 

It is no fun to have to make a decision NOT to help someone these days because you fear for your own safety.  It's even less fun to have to make that decision because you're a female and would be useless in that situation.

Ok ... so there's one thing that I figure God chuckles about.

I bought some tab curtains for the cabin.  It's absolutely time to get rid of the stupid frilly cafe things that were here from a previous administration.  Egads - they don't match any type of Greenwood decorating.  Anyway ... (they're in the trash now) ... I had to get up and down on the beds to maneuver to the curtain rods.  Up and down, dealing with things that are WAY over my head.  Then, trying to even out the tabs on the curtain rod, I realized that one of them was tucked in on itself.  I tried using a pole to get it untucked.  I was just lazy enough to not want to jump up on the bed because it had managed to get that way.  All I need is 3-4 more inches ... but, no ... I'm short!

I've lived with being short ... well ... all my life.  Ok, fine, you'd think I'd be used to it by now.  I'm not.  I grouse about it all the time.  When I was in high school, I dated a guy that was a full foot taller than me.  I had to stand up on a step to be able to kiss him without a crick in my neck.  It was a perpetual crick. 

I can't reach anything on the top shelf without a step stool, I never see the top of the refrigerator, so I can guarantee that mine will always be dirty.  We had a friend in our younger lives that was nearly 7 foot tall.  When Delmar and his wife (who was shorter than me, by the way), Len came to the house, mom demanded that we get up on step stools to wipe the tops of the door frames and everything else that only he could see.  That was the one time in the year that the top of the fridge was spotless.

There are cupboards in my kitchen that have absolutely nothing in them.  There is no reason to use them, I'd forget what was there - I'll never see it.  In fact, I doubt that I could reach into them even WITH a step stool.

With my short legs, I've never been able to jump from the floor up to a stage level floor to sit.  When I was in high school, everyone else could just sort of leap up and land.  I had to go around, up the stage steps and then sit down beside them.  I HATE the high top stools in Old Chicago or Applebees or Panera.  Why in the world do these places torture me?  Everyone thinks it is a great idea to sit there?  There's a reason they're empty and available.  No one loves them.  My friends though derive great amounts of entertainment watching me try to land myself in one of those chairs.  It gets even more entertaining if I have to move. 

So.  I'm guessing there was a day long ago when God was putting my genetic plan together.  He started molding me and making me.  That twinkle and chuckle as He designed me was there, I'm just sure of it.  When I meet Him face to face - there will be guffaws as I try to reach up and hug Him and He has to reach down to pick me up so that I can actually reach His neck! 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Curly thoughts for an evening

Strange thoughts in my head tonight - some are so deep I can't get them all clarified on paper (on screen - whatever), while others go off the top they are so shallow.  Since I feel like a few minutes of entertainment, we're going with shallow.

Because, I just looked up over the top of my glasses and saw all these wild little curls hanging down over my forehead.  I'm going to get my hair cut next Tuesday - it's been getting pretty long.  I seem to obsess about this mop on the top of my head way too much.  I didn't always love my curls.  They just drove me crazy.  I always wanted long, thick, straight hair - you know that beautiful stuff that simply shines?  Yah ... never had it.  I can remember when Carol and I were very young.  We would drape towels over our heads and fling them like they were long hair.  Oh, both of us were desperate for it, but no ... both of our parents had curly hair, we were sunk.

For some reason or other, my hair flattened out last year - it got so dry with all of that terribly dry weather.  I was thrilled with the humidity and the fact that my curls popped again this year.  Carol was complaining about how out of control hers was and all I could do was be thankful for crazy curls again.  I actually have grown to love it.  It's so much more fun this way.

Looking back at my school pictures - mom obviously just cut my hair short to keep the curls from attacking.

I can't believe I don't have a photograph to show, but mom had done a sculpture of me in about fifth grade and my hair was pretty tame, just a few waves.

Something happened as I got older.  By the time I got to Sigourney in junior high, my hair had gotten much curlier and probably a little more out of control. 

Back then there was a Saturday morning cartoon show about the Hair Bear Bunch.  It didn't take long for me to get a nick name.  I was soon called "Hair Bear."  It stuck with me all through high school.  Well ... most of it stuck.  (I really don't ever remember that my hair was in an afro.  Oh well)  Pretty soon, people just called me "Bear."  Let me tell you, when I hear that name, I am thrust immediately back to school days.  Fortunately, there aren't too many of those friends that still remember to use that nickname.

I didn't know what to do with my hair for most of high school, so I choose ... the 'shag' haircut.  Oh yah ... I was styling.  What in the world is a girl with hair that curls supposed to do if she wants it long?  This is what she does:

Now, that's some good lookin' hair - right there.

Ok ...  here I am, curls and all.  I love them now - but then, I've had 'em for fifty years, I suppose I've grown accustomed to them. 

And now, it's time for me to dive back into the serious stuff.  Oh ... my poor brain.  It had fun with the curls!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A calendar - a schedule

The sun is shining and I hope that it stays that way for awhile.  My weather tells me that there will be fog tomorrow, but as long as there is no liquid dripping out of the sky, I'm fine with that.

Since classes start for me in three weeks, I've been doing my best to get my mind wrapped around the entire process.  They keep trying to frighten me by telling me that twelve hours of graduate courses equal over 20 hours of undergrad.  Oh, good heavens what have I chosen to do to myself?  The first thing I notice that is different is the intense amount of reading.  Textbooks were expensive when I was in college, but I usually paid an arm and a leg for a single book per class.  Now, I'm not paying quite as much per textbook, but whew, I'm buying quite a few for each course. 

I'm not going to complain about the cost of the books, I'm not really even going to complain about the number of books, but it's already started to overwhelm me, which means that I'm going to do my best to get a large percentage of the reading done before I even begin the class.  That way I can maneuver my way through the process and still enjoy myself.

And the reading is phenomenal! 

I've been reading (and reading and taking notes and reading) a wonderful book on different cultural subtexts of the period of time surrounding the New Testament.  The information seems obvious as I read it, but I feel as if my mind has opened up new pathways for new understanding.  I can hardly believe what is happening to me - and this is even before classes begin!

One of the courses is "Christian Foundations: Kingdom, Church and World."  I thought that it wasn't going to be that difficult - only six texts to read.  Then, I looked at the syllabus - all sorts of scripture to read along with a multitude of online reading, videos to process on AND the guy recommends that we get fourteen other books to read throughout the semester.  Errr ... what?  Sigh.  He's going to be interesting.  He and his wife were in Ghana from 1992 - 2001 as missionaries, focusing on water development and church planting.  I can see that he is going to be a fascinating man to get to know.

As I begin to browse through the online structure, I am seeing other students do the same thing as part of the Extended Learning campus.  This should also be fascinating as I see that there will be multinational students getting their seminary degrees.  Oh, the world I'll be exposed to through this program!

I spent time this afternoon getting everything from each syllabus for my course onto a master calendar.  It's hanging on the wall behind me now, scaring the pants off me every time I look at it.  I'm going to need a belt.  This is before I have final copies of each syllabus.  The only great thing is that it looks as if each professor has chosen a different day of the week for work to be submitted, so until the last day of classes in December, I should be able to go crazy for something different every day rather than have it all happen on the same day. 

I can't wait to meet fellow classmates and tell you all about them.  I still haven't gotten past the weird woman from my last class at University of Phoenix - the one who worked with the Cincinnati police department as their psychic counselor.  I'm pretty sure that I won't run into any that are quite that strange at Asbury, but I'm betting they will be interesting!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sixth Grade - That interesting age

Carol called me late this afternoon after her first day of school.  Wow, I think this is her fourth year teaching!  It's hard to believe that so much time has passed.  The first year she taught, I thought we were going to have to commit her at the end of the year.  A room full of sixth graders.

This year she has twenty-seven students in her room, eighteen of whom are girls.  Eighteen girls!!!  Can you begin to imagine the torment of hormonal emotions that have the possibility of erupting in that classroom?  And funny thing, Carol's more concerned with how she is going to tell the boys that they smell bad and need to work on their hygiene.  Because, halfway through every year, she has to have this conversation with most of them.  At least there's only nine for her to deal with.  Hopefully she'll start them on the path earlier and won't have to worry about it.  We'll see.

Do you remember those hideous years?

I remember my fifth and sixth grade years quite clearly.  I was still living in Morning Sun, so we were at the elementary school for fifth grade - lots of changes happened to me that year.  It was a struggle.  In sixth grade, they moved us to the high school.  We were in a separate wing, but it was the first time we got to experience traveling to different classrooms for different classes.  They were getting us ready for junior high.  I was absolutely terrified, but there was my music teacher.  She was there every day for music and became my anchor while I figured the entire process out.

Oh my goodness, I remember when the first girl in our class got (shh) breasts (there, I whispered).  Poor Linda.  The locker room after P.E. class was just awful for her. She was short, a little overweight (not much), her family didn't have much money, she wasn't terribly hygienic and then ... whoosh ... she was different from all the skinny little wretched twits in the class.  They laughed and mocked and made fun of her.  Little did they know that one day they would be envious!

It was an awful thing to be different from everyone else in those days.  We tried so hard to blend in and avoid scrutiny.  But, in a class that only had 23 kids, if you weren't a part of the popular clique, you were bound to stand out.

I don't think I was ever so glad to make a move as I was to get away from there.  You might think that moving to a new community between your 6th grade year and junior high would be traumatic, but it wasn't for me!  I was ready to find new friends.  Well, I was ready to just find friends.  The only kids in that group that weren't judgmental were the boys and I loved hanging out with them.  That simply brought a different onslaught of hell, since there were so few boys and the girls desperately wanted boyfriends - though no one really knew what to do with them.  I just wanted friends!  The boys didn't care ... so it worked out fine.

Junior High was a brand new experience for me.  A new school, a new town.  The Catholic school in town had just shut their doors, so there were a bunch of new kids in class with me - they had attended Catholic Elementary and didn't know many of the other classmates, so it worked out perfectly.  I wasn't the only new kid in the school! 

Hormones and boyfriends and girlfriends and locker rooms, P.E., competition, dances, football games, band, choir, classes.  Everything came together for me that year.  I discovered that I had a personality and it was my choice to either be liked or disliked.  Well, I discovered that sometimes I was just disliked because I existed, but I learned to live with that.

Every year when school starts for Carol, I think a lot about her kids and all that they are going to face during that year.  Sixth grade is tough.  Carol is a tough teacher.  She demands a lot out of these kids and she generally gets it.  She loves them like crazy and expects that they will do their best and behave in the best way possible every day.  She just doesn't let up on them ... ever.

That's the stability that these kids will need to get through this year.  Every day that they wake up, they have no idea what their body is going to hand them, what their psyche is going to come up with, what their friends are going to say and do, but they know that every day, Carol will be there.  Nothing will change in that.

I'm glad for (most of) the teachers that walked through my primary and secondary education with me.  For the most part, I had people that cared enough to ensure that I was in a safe environment, learning what I needed to progress.

I'm thankful for those of you who are my friends who are out there doing this job every day as well.  I watch you, I pay attention to what you are doing and I'm glad you have taken the challenge and risen above it to excel with your kids.  They're really counting on you!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Good news - lots of reading. Nerd news - I started early.

This is a good news / nerd news post.  I'd like to tell you that I'm bad news, but I am just a nerd.

I ordered my books for the four classes I will be taking this fall (beginning September 7) this last week and was absolutely thrilled with the fact that Amazon saved me a lot of money.  I love Amazon - you can't know how much!  Anyway ...

A few of the books came in before I left for the cabin on Wednesday and since Max was coming up on Friday, I asked him to bring the rest of the boxes. 

When I got here, I cracked one of the books open and began reading.  "Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes" by Justo L. Gonzalez.  Before I had read even a few pages, it hit me hard that I was finally doing what I have wanted to do my entire life.

During the years I worked through my Bachelor's Degree, I read text books because I needed to glean information to pass an exam.  I did all that I had to do, plus a little bit extra because I am a bit of an overachiever.  There wasn't a single book that drew me in and changed or transformed my thinking.  It was simply data that went in; some stuck, most didn't.

I began reading this book and I could almost feel the neurons in my brain firing as fast as possible.  This was more than simply information gathering, this was transformative!  The words flying off the page were challenging me to realign my thoughts regarding something I am passionate about.  Each chapter that I read stirred emotions and ideas.

The book isn't that long and if you want to look at your Christian faith with fresh eyes, it's a great book.  I have to write a critical book review of it for my class and I'll post it when I'm finished.  But, it's a book I'd recommend to anyone ... everyone!

I've begun reading the next book on the list "Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture" by David A. deSilva.  Halfway through the first chapter I realized once again that I was entranced with the ideas he put forth and had to finally stop reading because my brain was filling up too quickly. 

This is what I am meant to do, what I want to ... no, I need to ... learn.  All of those years of searching for a way to fill my mind with the things that I am passionate about and I'm finally here.

As to why I've started the reading 3 weeks prior to classes starting, if you could see the book lists for each of my courses, you'd understand.  Well, that and I'm a complete nerd.  If I can get a good solid grip on these texts before class begins, I can enter in to the conversations and do the work without panicking over the overwhelming amount of reading that needs to happen.  I read at a high rate of speed, and this scares me!  I want to enjoy the experience, so I'll start early and be the nerd that is ahead of everyone else ... for awhile.  I'm sure that it will all catch up to me much too quickly.

I love that I can share this journey with you ... I can't wait for all of this information to be fully internalized so that I can share the information as well!  It's exciting to me!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Are you bold with colors?

The other day I was in Staples and kind of got lost looking at the folders, binders, notebooks and other school supplies.  It happens every year and every year I walk away from them because I no longer have a need to purchase them.  I suppose I should just buy what I want and give them away, but ... sigh.

I started thinking about book covers and all of the creative art that we did on those simple pieces of paper, the crazy things we marked onto our folders and binders ... all to identify ourselves and our passions as we skipped, hopped, trudged, waded ... whatever it was we had to do to get through another year of school.

Now, when I was in school, the folders were a bit more psychedelic.  This was as close as I could get.  There are some fun things in the office supply stores.

I grew up with a mother who encouraged me to love color.  We lived in parsonages, so didn't have any options for painting the walls.  We always seemed to move into rooms with freshly painted, eggshell colored walls.  So, she told us to let loose with color.  We did!

That was my room.  Bright orange, dark blue on the inside of the shelves, and yellow as an accent.  Those were the colors I choose.  We painted all the furniture that way.  To top it off, I had that wonderful blue and red checked quilt on my bed.  I got that on a reservation in North Dakota during a youth group mission trip.  I saw it the first day and wanted it.  Mom wouldn't let me buy it, but I couldn't keep my eyes off it all week, so I finally wore her down.  I loved that thing.  When the batting finally gave out and the back of the quilt was worn to shreds, I put a blanket in it, a new back and tied the quilt so that it would hold together a few more years. 

This is Carol's room - wild green, hot pink and yellow accents. 

We loved those colors. 

Neither of us continues to decorate with all that craziness.  Carol has managed to become a great decorator in her home, using the family antiques and gorgeous deep colors.  I tend more towards the country/eclectic look.  If its usable, I'll use it.

Here at the cabin, I find that I'm incredibly comfortable with tons of colorful rugs, a mixture of textures and colors.  You would not call what we have going on up here - decorating.  Mom had decorated years and years ago and since she died, there has been reconstruction, deconstruction and many changes ... done by several different people at different times.  But, it makes me comfortable ... all of it!

Mom gave me a love for chaos in color.  I love the wildness of having my world be a bit off-kilter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Telling our Stories

There were stories that each of us kids heard about our childhood over and over as we were growing up.  We never tired of hearing those stories and somehow Mom and Dad never grew tired of telling them.  Some of them would bring the entire room to laughter, others were simply comforting.

If you land on my sister's Facebook page too often, you will see her regaling her friends with tales of her encounters with snakes and other vermin in her backyard as she tries to mow or sometimes, just walk to her car.  For her, everything makes a story.  Some of the stories are hilarious (most of hers are - because it's just the way she lives) and sometimes they're a bit more poignant.  But, anything that happens to any of us, can be re-told at a later date to make a point, or just to entertain a friend.

All three of us kids obviously had interesting sleeping habits.  I know that Jim and I both have stories of traipsing around in our sleep, I'm pretty certain Carol does, too ... but, she slept harder than any of us!

Mom and Dad had the only television in their bedroom.  We didn't watch a lot of television when we were growing up and the very last place Mom would allow a TV to be placed was in the living room. That would be much too crass.  During the last year of her life, when she could no longer easily move around the house, she finally relented and moved the television into the living room since that was where her bed was so that she could hang out with the family as much as possible.

Anyway ... since they had the television in their room and watched it well into the evening, long after the three of us kids had gone to bed, when we woke up, we were always drawn to the light.  You know that if kids wake up in the middle of the night, there is probably one major reason - they need to go to the bathroom.  One night, I showed up in their bedroom, bleary-eyed and in need of a bathroom.  Mom realized immediately that she needed to stop me in my tracks and get me turned around.

So, she told me to go to the bathroom and then go back to sleep.  Which, as you can tell by the photo below is exactly what I did.  She got up a bit later and discovered me curled up on the floor in the bathroom.

What are your family stories?  Do you tell them over and over?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Challenges? God's gift.

What or who reminds you about God's grace and love.

I just read a quick story (in one of my textbooks for this fall) of the author's dog who was more than a nuisance.  He threatened to take the dog back to the pound, but recognized the fact that the dog needed his family and that his family needed the dog, if only to recognize the profound gift that God gives each of us ... forgiveness and grace ... even when we are annoying, break things and generally cause a great deal of disorder in His world.

So, I thought about this and was reminded of a family I knew in one of our churches with a daughter who was born with Down Syndrome.  It's a story I hear over and over again from parents with disabled children, how they learned more about love from that child than they had ever known before.  The family I knew didn't have a lot of money, could barely cover their own healthcare, yet dealt with everything their daughter needed with great joy because of what she meant to them.  If they were resentful because they had been presented with what society termed a 'less than perfect' child, no one never knew that about them.  There was no public complaining and they ensured that she was exposed to as much as she could handle.

What in your life challenges you beyond your sensibilities, yet is there to remind you of God's grace?

Or do you find it easier to eliminate challenging and difficult people and things from your life?

Life is so much smoother if we get rid of those distractions.  It is also easier for us to focus on ourselves and all of the problems that we have if we're not distracted by the needs of someone else. 

What if we were to consider that those distractions, challenges, and difficulties are actually gifts from God to help us recognize our humanity, our absolute need for Him and are there to remind us to be humble before Him. 

I don't like thinking that a problem is a gift.  But, that's ok.  I never liked it when Dad told me that he disciplined me because he loved me, either.  That's a story for another time. 

The author of the text book is about to teach me about Greek grammar ... I think I'll keep reading.  So far, he has me thinking!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nature is in God's Hands

I've often said that Iowa is God's country and I'm beginning to believe He wants it back!

He told Noah that He would never destroy the earth again by flood, but wow, these last several years have made me wonder if He just wants Iowa all to Himself!  Incredible amounts of rain!!!

In all the time we've owned this property, we've never had more than one flood come up into the meadow.  Most years pass without any flooding at all.  So far this year, the meadow has been flooded five times.  I'm thankful that we have the land there for the river to flow into and through.  I'd love to think that maybe it was giving someone else a break, but I'm afraid that's not even true. 

As I drove north on Highway 17 this afternoon, I was shocked by the amount of water in the fields and in the ditches.  Before I left, the Iowa DOT site had said that the road was closed 3 miles south of Stanhope because of flooding.  I wasn't too worried, if I could get that close, I could dodge around county roads and make my way in.  By the time I drove through, the water had receded enough and the DOT was there clearing the mud off the road, it was easily passable.  The weirdest thing was that I would usually choose to travel around Des Moines and take I-35 north if there's trouble on state roads, but for heaven's sake that was closed between Ankeny and Ames.  Are you kidding me?

But, there were many, many places along the road where the ditches were completely filled and water was standing in the shoulders.  The thing about Iowa?  We don't have terribly shallow ditches.  This is a lot of water!!!  Yards and fields are now lakes ... I've been watching crops just wilt and fall apart in huge patches because ground saturation as I drive and I know that this part of the state is probably in better shape than many others!

We are never prepared to live in an environment that we don't control.  As Americans, we feel that this is one of our rights.  We control our destiny, we control our environment, we control our own lives.

As human beings on this earth, it is often startling to realize that we control very little.  The rains will fall, the earthquakes will shake, the tornadoes will destroy and we will hide in terror at the power before us.

I am so thankful that I know the Creator and that I can call myself His friend.  Because when push comes to shove, I'm not going to win against nature, but He will ... I'll just have to wait and see what it is He is going to do!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Technology in my Education!

I can't believe that I didn't post yesterday!  I fully intended to do so, but at some point while pre-studying for the one course that has me a little panicky (Greek), I engaged with the rules of grammar so deeply, I lost my mind. 

When you're as old as (or older than) I am and haven't been to school in lo, so many years, the idea of re-engaging in a learning environment that has completely changed with all of the transformations that the computer age has brought to us is a little overwhelming!

I graduated from college in 1981 with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education.  There were no computers in our homes, in our classrooms (unless you were studying computer science - and even then, you had to go to a computer lab), much less in our phones or anywhere else.  Photocopy machines were still pretty pricey - at Coe College, we had a very, very busy print and copy center.  More than likely, the cheapest way for a professor to get a syllabus handed to the class was to have it prepared several weeks prior to the beginning of classes and it sat in a queue at the copy center waiting to be printed on a press - not a photocopier. 

Yesterday, I downloaded a 'draft' copy of a syllabus for two of the classes I will take this fall.  They were put on the internet in July, but between that point and today, the University has fully changed and upgraded their Extended Learning Classroom software and I recognize that major information in the syllabus on how to access the class information is wrong.  There will be at least one more draft until the final is delivered to us electronically at the beginning of class.

Me ... I just wanted to get my hands on the book lists so that I could find the best deal for them. 

What a trip that was!  I had also gotten a message from Cokesbury (yes, the Methodist bookstore), which is also the bookstore for the University, offering me an account.  If I set up an account they would be able to offer me the student discount, which is 20%.  Well, I'm not terribly excited about setting up an account - what a pain in my butt.  Why will they not take my credit card?  What a backwards way to do things.  It got better!

For one course, I have five books to purchase. I priced them at Cokesbury - Retail price: $151.00.  The student discount price ended up being $134.00.  I priced them at Amazon.com - $89.97.  Guess I don't need that account after all, do I!!! 

I will never complain about using technology - it's the coolest thing ever.  I love my computers and my Kindle, my Blackberry.  I want a LiveScribe (but can't see a use for it ... yet), and I am thrilled beyond belief that I can attend classes from the comfort of my own space, participate with people around the world in learning and have access to professors that fill my mind with knowledge - all because of technology.

I threw myself into the world of computers with gusto not long after I graduated from college in 1981.  By 1985, I owned one of the early Macintosh computers and by 1987 I was online, chatting with people around the country.  As soon as the internet was driven to homes, I was there, waiting each day as more and more information came online.  This transformation is simply glorious to me and I cant wait to see where it will take us.

The other day, Bill Gates said that within 5 years, the best education would be available online.  I think education should be available and accessible to everyone, no matter their location or their means.  It's going to be fun watching this grow!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Ahhh ... lightbulb moments

This is my new image.  This is the way I love to learn. 

I remember some of my first 'lightbulb' moments.  I'm thankful to a few teachers for them.  Mr. Seip - high school chemistry.  Some days I walked in without any motivation to learn and halfway through class he would say something that triggered a flood of thoughts and ideas and all of a sudden I realized what it was that he was teaching me.

Then there was a rather embarrassing day in Mr. Baldus' Algebra I class.  We were working on matrices and I was plugging away at the exercises, trying to get that stupid puzzle to work in my head.  I sat in the second row (I always sit in the second row - close enough to the front so that I am paying attention, but not so that I'm sucking up) and all of a sudden, everything clicked.  I looked up and I'm certain that the shock of the lightbulb effect was all over my face.  He asked me if everything was ok, I assured him I was fine and began scribbling as quickly as possible through the exercises just to ensure that I really had broken through the problem and on to the solution.  I watched him chuckle as he went back to the work on his desk.  Afterwards he caught me as I left and said, "You got it - didn't you?"  Yes, I did!!!  And the moment was exciting.

I love those lightbulb moments.

When I woke up this morning, I had some extra time, so I picked up another of the multitude of Greek textbooks I have laying around.  I was moving through the initial information pretty quickly - for heaven's sake, I've been working on this for awhile now, I shouldn't have to re-learn everything when I pick up a new book, should I?

There have been a couple of stumbling blocks for me as I work through the grammar, things that I should probably just naturally understand, but haven't been sinking in.  I've been pounding pretty hard on grammatical information for the last couple of days and all of a sudden this morning and then again this afternoon, I have had moment after moment of insight and understanding.  I am (again) flooded with information as my mind begins to comprehend the structure of the language.  THIS is where I needed to get so that I would feel comfortable moving forward.

Now, the thing is, in my aged state, I no longer simply allow a look of shock to come over my face when I suddenly grasp a concept.  Oh no, my stupid body sends tears straight to my eyes and it's all I can do to continue reading.  This last time, I shut the book, went looking for a lightbulb image and wrote a blog.  Sheesh, I'm such an old lady!

When is the last time you were thrilled by something you learned and felt that lightbulb explode?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Patience? Me? Not so much.

When I was in high school, I prayed for patience ... a lot.  It seemed as if I was always presented with a situation that required me to exercise patience and I generally failed.  I've learned a lot over the years, some of those lessons have been beaten into me, others came naturally with age.  I believe, however, that patience will be one of those things that will continue to evade me until my dying day.  Can't you see me now (at age ... oh ... 118 or so) on my death bed wondering why in the world it is taking so long for me to take my final breath?  I'll just be annoyed at the whole thing.

It didn't take me long to learn that when watching movies, if I would just wait a few minutes, the plot or sub plot or raison d'etre for a character would be explained to me.  Sitting in a movie with someone that didn't grasp that concept was frustrating.  Just hush and wait.  I learned patience for that/

I have been anticipating this return to school since last January.  There were a lot of steps that I needed to take in those early months to get things going and I had every one of them handled immediately.  I just wanted to get going with all of it. 

Classes don't actually start until September 7, so I know that there is just about a month before I should fret too terribly much, but my patience ran out today and I finally emailed my academic adviser asking for information on how to get a syllabus for a class so I can look for textbooks, where I find the links to do these courses online, etc., etc., etc.  I will probably receive a very nice email from her on Monday telling me that they are planning a mass communication that very week. I should have just hushed and waited.  We'll see.

I am the girl that reads through my textbooks for the course as quickly as possible before things even begin. I want the roadmap so that I don't get lost in the first week.  This is one of the reasons I have been hitting Greek so hard this summer.  The idea of getting into a course that will challenge me as much as learning a new language, without some background scares me.  I don't like to be scared.  I fear, however, that all of this preparation still will not be enough.  That won't stop me.  I'm memorizing vocabulary (good heavens, a lot of this early stuff makes sense:  uper / hyper, udro / hydro (water), anthropos / anthropology (man, mankind, etc.), angellos / angel (messenger), kardia / cardio (heart). 

The words will come, the information will begin to settle into my mind, and before I know it, I will be tearing through textbooks as quickly as possible, learning as much as I can as fast as I can and I will probably be complaining all over the place about my brain being in terrible pain. 

But, I can hardly wait ... I'm trying to exercise patience and restraint.  I really have no option. 

Friday, August 06, 2010

Mom's article on being a minister's wife

Times may have changed and not all of these things still apply, but they're still hilarious and sometimes they are still quite true!  Enjoy!  - Diane

"My Second Skin"
by Margaret Greenwood
Originally published in Arise! Magazine, A Magazine for Christian Laity
March - April 1972

I have just finished reading a 1969 report entitled "An Insight Into the Role of a Minister's Wife" compiled from 23 questionnaires sent to various ministers' wives and also to a number of presidents of local Women's Missionary Societies of the Baptist Church in Southwest Iowa. I cringed, giggled and snorted through most of it, but I realized again the terrible gap between the parsonage family and the church people when one is allowed free expression without fear of identification.

It is quite obvious to me now that no one will ever offer my name for beatification. However, I shall have to live with this disappointment along with many others. The report was not a scientifically prepared job, but if the Methodists have the same viewpoint expressed in the report as the southwest Iowa Baptists, I am in deep trouble! One lady said: "A minister's wife because of his many callers should keep their home and herself presentable at all times because there is a reflection on the church if she does not." Now the grammar may not be quite up to snuff, but the thought literally explodes! Right there, I've failed! My house almost always looks like a gaggle of geese has been driven through it followed by my husband, three children, a dog and various numbers of gerbils at various times. I am one of those poor benighted souls who always snatches frantically at a nightgown on the wing chair (the dog is lonely when I am out of the house and always drags filmy stuff downstairs to her favorite chair to lie on), kicks the shoes under the sofa, stuffs socks in my pockets and throws magazines into the closet when the doorbell rings. As soon as my caller leaves, I clean the house in a frenzy of guilt. Before the next person arrives, those crazy geese have gone through again!

Another individual commented in the report, "Be clean. Be neat. Wear make-up in good taste so you'll look warm and alive and not like something the cat dragged in. A good thing to re-evaluate every now and then is your hair style...This also goes for shoe styles." Well, I am warm; touch me and I'll giggle. I am alive. See ... I'm breathing. However, I seldom wear shoes, a fact which all of my friends have accepted with good grace even though my mother hasn't. She insisted I soak my feet in Clorox for twenty minutes before I went to the hospital to deliver my first child. By the third baby, I barely had time to even find my shoes! As for hair styles, I can wear it only one way: short and curly! If I let it grow, I look like George Washington without the powder. When I am painting, walls or pictures, or throwing pots on my potter's wheel or even trying to cope with goose feathers, I look more like the wrath of God than a cat's plaything.

The questionnaire pointed one thing out to me in particular. The minister's wife is judged actually on the image one has already formed of a position, not of a person. She should be, but usually is not, the epitome of womanhood, an Eve gone straight! She should also do everything and be everything that the women of the church do not want to do or cannot do. My husband really lucked out! I can't play the piano and my typing is lousy, so no church organist job or choir directorship for me; I can't even be an unpaid secretary. I do direct a mean Christmas program, however!

Several weeks ago, I had a very special experience. I was at a friend's house having coffee when another woman dropped in, a stranger to me. Debbie, my hostess, introduced me:

"Sally, I'd like you to meet Margie Greenwood."

So what's special about that? Well, I was practically wriggling with joy! Sally stared at me, perplexed. Then recognition dawned upon her.

"Oh yes, you're the new minister's wife."

I stopped my happy squirming but for a precious moment I had been an individual in my own right, free of my tight second skin.

This second skin, like any girdle which is too small for its wearer, constricts only a part of one. The rest bulges out uncontrollably. So, too, with ministers' wives. Resentments, hostility, and anger spill over despite our determination to shove it back under the unforgiving garment. Have you ever seen a woman suffer when her girdle hurts? The metaphor is most appropriate!

The first half of the survey was devoted to ministers' wives' reactions, their joys and their frustrations. The Baptist girls sound remarkably like the Methodists with whom I have talked. In fact, they sound quite human. Most of them felt their greatest joy was in being a wife to their husband, and in this I heartily concur! Few of them had any desire to be "Mrs. Minister," although this slipped through with a couple of them. I'll never forget a Christmas card my husband and I received addressed to "Rev. Frank and Mrs. Pastor Greenwood." The greatest frustration of these gals was almost unanimous; it was the inability to make close friends within their congregations and to be held at a distance by them. What a congregation as a whole expects of its minister's wife is unbelievable! When they suddenly discover that her feet are clay (even when washed), occasionally they'll smack her right in the solar plexus. This is why we have so many gasping ministers' wives.

I discovered this fact early in my married life. There was a small group of self-appointed watchdogs in our first church who checked on me twice a week. They didn't even bother to knock on the door. After a year's residence, I installed locks. you should have seen me once when I was trying to iron my dress in the kitchen and I caught sight of one of the ladies as she stepped onto the front porch. I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled to the front door. I held it tightly against her as she tried to push it open, but my twenty years of strength more than matched her seventy odd years of determination. Knowing she would also try the back door, I snaked along the walls, still on my hands and knees, and held that door against her, too. My husband arrived a few minutes later and found me lying on the linoleum floor of the kitchen too weak with laughter to get up! Ah, the dignity of such encounters with the good ladies of the parish.

This kind of problem gave me food for thought, so I devised my own system to beat it. I hid. I hid behind my Eastern debutante background, my education, anything that would suffice. I hid behind my wonderful sister-in-law who lived nearby. Without her, I never would have survived. She took most of my problems, many of which I created myself, onto her own back. There was a period of three months when all three churches on the circuit owed us my husband's salary, $995. I finally went home to visit my parents and took the baby with me. My husband ate one good meal a day at his sister's house. When the churches finally paid up, I could return. However, one cannot hide forever. So, in our next church, I tried a different attack. I was so busy with three children, one of whom was always sick, that I don't think anyone even realized my husband was married. In our third parish I resolved, since I had been seen on moving day, that I would try to be myself, and it worked to my great surprise! In all the responses in the aforementioned questionnaire, only one dear soul, bless her forever, suggested that the greatest asset of a minister's wife's personality is "being herself." I'll say one thing for this approach; it's a whole lot easier on a person even if it is sometimes embarrassing.

In one small town where we lived, the church had built us a beautiful new parsonage. I loved it and everyone in town was proud of it. One day, true to the directions in the minister's wife handbook which I was rereading for the twentieth time, I decided to bake some bread for someone who was sick. I also decided to plant petunias around the foundation of the house. I left our baby inside asleep in her crib, feeling guilty because maybe the house would blow up or catch on fire or some other such dire calamity would happen, but I traipsed outside with my trowel and flowers anyway. Some time later I decided I'd better check on her. I opened the kitchen door and nearly fainted. The house was full of smoke! I grabbed the baby, took my older daughter by the hand and ran to my husband's study in the church shouting, "The house is on fire! The house is on fire!" (One has to shout at him, he only responds to frightening sounds!) He told me to call the fire department and he raced over to the house. A word of explanation is appropriate here. In small Iowa towns, the fire department is a voluntary deal. Any man who is in town responds to the fire whistle and usually everyone else does, too. this was no exception, and besides, the parsonage was the newest house in town. Those men went through the house with a fine-toothed comb. Finally, one gentleman lifted the lid on a pot on the stove and discovered the charred, burned potatoes for my bread! A friendly woman comforted me with the words: "Don't feel badly, Margie. Now we know you're human."

I do try not to take myself too seriously, and I am trying to be myself. I even allow my parents to be themselves although that was not always the case. A year after we were married, my mother visited us. She had snatched a quick cigarette while I stood sentinel at the window. I saw one of my dear watchdogs coming up the walk and I yelled at Mother to run upstairs and take her ashtray with her. Thus, when I opened the door I stood innocently alone, wreathed in a thick gray cloud of cigarette smoke!

It's difficult to find the Holy Spirit in such an atmosphere, but after nine years of searching, I finally found Him. I had seldom attended church before my marriage, and had no background on which to build. I only saw the marvelous faith of my husband and that of several of the fine people in our various churches. I wanted this assurance, but I didn't know how to go about finding it. I had been thrust into a wildly different life, from the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Boston to an Iowa town of 250 people which looked like a set for a bad John Wayne western. A "modern" house back East was one with unusual architectural characteristics. In rural southwest Iowa thirteen years ago, it was one with an indoor toilet! It was indeed a radically different way of life. I didn't understand the people and many of them never did figure me out. It was when I finally made the decision to be the human being that God had created originally, not a paper doll image raggedly drawn by a mythological congregation, that I really learned to love. when one's eyes are always checking on one's image, one can't see past one's nose.

I had to make some spiritual giant steps, after hundreds of baby steps and innumerable "Go back three paces" even to come within sight of my goal. An understanding, forgiving and patient husband and a loving group of friends in our church (I refuse to call them our "congregation." They are my friends and it is our church.) have supported and helped me tremendously in my spiritual growth. I had a dramatic encounter with God during an early morning prayer vigil which cemented my relationship with him. I don't have any astounding answers to life's problems, but together as loving children of God, we all can struggle, supported and helped by each other. It's a lot easier to climb a barbed wire fence with someone to hold the wires for you.

The role of the "Minister's Wife" exists in capital letters. I can't deny it and it would be foolish to try to do so. however, I can re-define it in human terms. For me it is the role of a searching woman attempting to discover joy of her own humanity and the love of God and trying to relate this love to her very existence. This makes me no better or worse than any of my friends. If my house is messy and my feet bare, I shall hope that my callers will be more interested in our relationship as children of God than they will be in that last goose disappearing around the corner. We haven't time to play around with non-essentials when there is such a desperate need for love, forgiveness and understanding in the Christian community and the world.

Please examine your image of your minister's wife. Let her be human and love her despite it. It's quite possible that as a child of God, she is having just as hard a struggle trying to love your human failings, too. God loves you, and I love you, too.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Infinitives, Participles and Subjunctives ... oh my!

Fair warning - I'm learning.

I woke up this morning at 4 am thinking about how we learn.  For some reason or other, my mind was off and racing about the processes of learning.  I don't remember learning what the name of that item is that cuts paper, but at some point in my early years, I could identify a pair of scissors.  I'm sure that Mom worked with me on my colors along with my letters, but there came the time when I put all of that information together and began reading the stories in coloring books.

We are all learning - sometimes we love it, sometimes we resist it - but we don't stop learning.

Then, I finally went back to sleep.

One of the most frustrating things to me as I approach the Greek language is my complete lack of understanding of intermediate and advanced English grammar skills that I can translate to Greek. A subject is a subject, a verb is a verb, an object is an object, an article is an article.  Right?  Sure.  Those I get.

Mom had found a series of small books when we were young that were a treasure trove of grammatical principles.  They were obviously published in the 60s, their covers were all sorts of crazy designs in hippie colors.  I relied on them all through junior high and high school to answer questions on how to write, design sentences, create a bibliography, spell tough words, etc.  When I got to college, all of a sudden they were gone!  I'm sure they got lost in a move somewhere, but to be honest with you, I've been devastated without them ever since.  I think about them a lot and as I try to get this information shoved back into my head, I am thinking about them even more!

After my "Greek in a Week" pressure cooker a couple of weeks ago, I realized what a pathetic background I had in English grammar.  I knew that I had a short period of time to get this stuff wrangled into my psyche before I ran into more trouble with courses that required I succeed to move on.  Most grammar sites online deal with quite simple information - I already have this, thank you. 

I thought that maybe I was going at it incorrectly, so for the last couple of days I've been searching for Greek grammar sites.  I believe that those poor Greek professors spend more time teaching their students about basic grammar rules than they do Greek principles. 

Today I finally found one that presented the information in a concise manner.  All of a sudden I was saying (yes, I was saying it out loud), "Oh!" and "Ah!" and "YES!"  as I began to fill in some of the blanks in my mind.  I've read through any number of different author's presentations on grammar and this guy was able to break through the morass and give me a clear understanding.

It feels good to be filling in puzzle pieces before I get to the table. 

Now, if I can learn to parse those verbs and decline those nouns, I'll be set!!!  (yup, trust me - you'll learn what that means as I progress - muahahaha)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Air Conditioning or Fresh Air - a choice

I have a love/hate relationship with air conditioning.  I'm not a fan at all of recycled air.  I don't like that it's processed through chemicals to keep it cool, I don't like that I have to keep the windows shut, I don't like that it seals out the world while cooling my living space.

Now, on the flip side, I LOVE that it brings the temperature to a beautiful place for me.  I sleep better when it's cool, I love that it draws the moisture out of the air so I'm not dripping every time I move and I love the feeling of relief when I move into an air conditioned space.

When we were growing up, we lived in parsonages owned by churches.  We didn't have central air in a home until they built the new parsonage in Sigourney - we moved into that house in 1977.  It wasn't until the late 60s that we even had a window air conditioner and of course Mom and Dad believed it should be in their bedroom.

In the first parsonage in Sigourney (1971-1977), there was a window unit on the main level and the one Dad put in the upper level was in a window back by their bedroom.  I remember many nights in the summertime, plastering myself against the screen in my bedroom trying to get any semblance of breeze that might be flowing so that I could sleep.  Mom wasn't terribly comfortable with that since my room faced the square, but oh well!!  If you remember seeing a girl's face pressed against the screen - that was me. 

And we all remember flipping our pillows to the cool side.  It was never a good sign when you flipped it so quickly that the pillow hadn't had a chance to cool down at all.

Our vehicles weren't air conditioned (Dad wasn't about to spend the extra $500).  When I bought my first car, the salesman told me that I had a choice between air conditioning and a nice stereo system.  Guess what this girl chose - oh yah ... the stereo.  It wasn't even that great.  Fortunately I was moving to northwest Iowa and hoped that the summers wouldn't simply kill me. 

Ok ... it did try to kill me, though.  One summer I ended up as a counselor for a summer camp at Okoboji.  The entire week it was over 100 degrees.  Every morning I would take a cold shower to bring myself to a state of alertness and every afternoon I'd be back in the shower trying to cool off.  One more before I went to bed and I'd do my best to sleep.  When they asked if I would do it the next year, I just laughed at them.  Nope, not that stupid.

There is something strange here at the cabin in the (close to the) woods.  I find that I am able to tolerate a much higher temperature.  The inside temps hover around 87 by early evening and I'm perfectly comfortable.  Were I in the city, surrounded by all that asphalt and all those buildings, I would be screaming crazy from the heat.

I love having fresh air moving around me; a couple of fans during the night and the early morning, a dehumidifier to draw the moisture out of the air when I close up the place and I'm in great shape.  It's amazing how little I need to have the place absolutely freezing. 

There are a lot of these things in our lives, aren't there!  Things we love because they make our lives more comfortable yet we wish we didn't need them.  And my goodness we freak out when they break down!  I can't tell you the number of summers that I had to spend waiting for an air conditioning unit to be repaired.  And a couple of years ago, when it was finally replaced, I thought I was going to lose my mind in the heat. So, I'll continue my love/hate relationship with my air conditioners and just be glad I have them to love and to hate.