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fear not…

Over the past week my husband and I have been in pretty much all of Florida, with the exception of the Jacksonville area. A week ago we were in the Tampa Bay area where we helped my sister pile up sand bags to keep water out of her first floor apartment, just because the heavy rainfall of the previous day was 1/2 inch from entering the sliding glass door into her living room. This was all before Hurricane Irma became a major threat. We traveled down the west coast of Florida, and then across Alligator Alley to Miami, where we visited my husband’s parents and three of his brothers and their wives. On Monday, we had lunch at a little restaurant on Biscayne Bay where we watched the boats go in and out while we sipped mojitos and munched on fresh grouper sandwiches. We canoed on a lake over the weekend, and my husband went golfing on Tuesday morning. But, by the time we left Miami late on Tuesday afternoon, it was apparent that our lovely family visit, had transformed us from vacationers into evacuees. We pleaded with David’s parents to leave, to get into the car and come with us north to our home. They refused. I asked my mother-in-law if she was now old enough for her children to tell her what to do, and she said, “No.” So, we reluctantly left without them.

The past week has been surreal. Never have we seen the traffic that we are now witnessing as millions of Floridians are leaving the state. It looks like something out of a disaster movie. In Miami, there were sheriff’s deputies in the grocery stores to maintain order. There have been lines at gas stations that I haven’t seen since I was a young teen during the energy crisis of the 1970s. The gas stations that don’t have lines now are the ones that don’t have gas.

After we left Miami, we crawled our way up the Florida Turnpike to Orlando. We had been there to witness the birth of our newborn grandson, Benjamin on Wednesday of last week. We stayed with our son and his wife, and now their two sons before we got back into the tide of evacuees the next day to make our way home. Again, we pleaded with our youngest child to bring his family north, but they decided to stay.

By the time we got home the grocery store shelves were empty of water, bread, cokes, and eerily absent of canned goods. There were no size D batteries to be found. And we weren’t even in the cone of uncertainty. All that has changed over the past two days. My sister in Tampa Bay is probably going to lose all the possessions in her apartment. I can’t see how they won’t be flooded in a hurricane of the size of Irma when they can’t stay dry when it simply rains. She will be at her job in a hospital, so I have less fear for her life.

I have never felt so helpless. I can’t go and get her or her two daughters who still live with her. I can no longer take her little dog to safety. It’s too late. And if I was even able to get into Pinellas County, I’d never be able to get out before the storm arrives.

And now, we too are in the middle of the track, and we too are in danger of the wrath of the biggest hurricane in history. We’ve done what we can, and it doesn’t seem enough. The weather is beautiful outside our north Florida home. The temperature is unseasonably cool. It’s cloudy, but the the sun shines brightly. The breeze is gentle and the atmosphere appears unusually quiet and calm. And yet, we know what’s coming. Denial is getting harder to accept, and so we wait. And, for the first time, fear becomes real. I have family in Miami. I have family in Tampa Bay. I have family in central Florida. I have family in Jacksonville. I have family in the north western peninsula of the state. And I live in the Big Bend of Florida, about 25 – 30 miles east of Tallahassee. And every single one of us is in danger.

Scripture tells me to fear not. Faith tells me that God is still in charge. Hope allows me to trust in the mercy of God. And Love connects all of this. So, I pray and I wait, and I stop trying to pretend to God that deep down I’m not scared, because for all our technology tells us about what is going to happen over the next two days, only God really knows.

It’s hard to believe that life goes on normally outside of the state of Florida. I imagine that the rest of the world is sick to death of hearing about hurricanes. And I bet that many simply don’t understand the appeal of life in this piece of land that literally sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico daring any tropical storm that develops to take it on. But it’s my home, and it’s home to millions of others who, for once are united against an opponent that is bigger than our legendary football rivalries.

Thank you to all who are praying for us. Thank you to all who will donate time and financial resources to all of us affected by this storm. I’ll let you know how we come out of this when we’re on the other side. We can’t go over, under or around this storm, so now we just have to go through it. God help us – please.

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An Introvert Is NOT…

Source: An Introvert Is NOT…

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what if we gave up our right to be offended?

What if we gave up our right to be angry? I heard this idea from a radio DJ several months ago and had to pull my car off the road to write down this idea, because it blew my mind.

I have spent a good deal of my life in a state of anger. Sometimes it’s more of a low-level irritation. Other times it manifests as resentment. And then there are the situations in which my response is a slow simmering rage. None of it is my right. None of it is justified. Not one minute of it is healthy. But, somewhere along the line I learned the idea that it was my right (probably as an American) to be angry about the times in life when I wasn’t treated the way that I perceived I should have been treated.

If you watch any television at all, you cannot escape the fact that an underlying anger has full-time employment in the media. We are literally addicted to being offended. Take an example from earlier this week. When I turned on my television Monday morning I was greeted with the news that a gunman had killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas the previous night. While I slept, almost 500 others were injured from the gunfire or the chaos that ensued. It didn’t take long for people to come out shouting for gun control. This offended people who said that the tragedy was being politicized.

Certainly this whole event was caused because someone decided to be offended. None of us know why Stephen Paddock made the horrendous decision to open fire on people he didn’t even know in a premeditated act of terror. The people who attended the concert were undoubtedly offended that he did what he did. Gun control activists were offended that he was able to amass the arsenal of weapons that he used to wreck carnage on those in his path. Compassionate souls who genuinely were moved to want to help those affected were offended by those who wanted to use the opportunity to reform legislation.

The Democrats are always offended at the Republicans. The Republicans simply cannot believe how low the Democrats have sunk in their liberalism and find this offensive.  Fox News is offended by the Left. MSNBC is offended by the Right. CNN is offended by everybody. I’m sure, by now, I’ve offended somebody.

Someone is asking, “But what about being offended by what is undeniably wrong? What about righteous anger?”

Where is it written in our constitution that we have an unalienable right to be angry? Where is it recorded in Scripture that says – Blessed are those who are pissed off for the right reasons? Nowhere.

We are called upon to love one another as Jesus loves us. If God loved us the way we love one another, I don’t think we’d be here any longer. He certainly would have given up on humans. But God does know what we are like. He created us, for Heaven’s sake! He created us for Heaven’s sake. He created ALL of us for Heaven’s sake.

What does Heaven look like if it allows all of those who offended one another and angered one another and hurt one another into one space – for ETERNITY?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being offended. I’m tired of being outraged. I’m tired of being pissed off. I’m tired of being offended. And I’m going to make it my life’s mission to stop it.

I just finished reading a book that has truly opened my eyes. I ordered 10 additional copies of it this week, because I want to hand it out to people. I have a feeling I’ll be ordering more. It’s called Unoffendable. It’s written by the disc jockey I mentioned at the beginning of this post. His name is Brant Hansen. I urge you to buy it. I urge you to read it. I implore you to live it.

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the healing power of paint…

Over the last few weeks our house has been turned upside down. We decided – or more accurately – I decided that the trim in our home needed touching up. The baseboards and window trim needed a bit of sprucing, and I was bored with the safe color we had chosen for the walls in our gathering room/kitchen. For years I have wanted to change the peaceful blue on the walls in our bedroom and bath to a slightly more aqua shade of the same value. Nothing drastic.

It’s true that I am a regular viewer of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. My husband and I watch Chip and Joanna Gaines transform their clients’ homes in the course of an hour while we eat lunch. It’s really easy to get caught up in the fervor of the home improvement projects of shows like this hit program, and I was well aware that witnessing the dramatic make-overs of other homes on an almost daily basis may have had something to do with my feelings, but there was more to it than that. It’s been 11 years since we finished building our house. Eleven years is enough time for the shine to fade on new things, and it’s long enough for tastes to change, so I felt justified in my desire to ask my husband’s opinion about wanting to go ahead and do what I’d been thinking about for quite a while.

Two things happened simultaneous to the changing of paint. The first occurred to me the evening before we finished the project. The second I realized somewhat going in, but its real meaning became more and more clear as the painting progressed.

As a woman I probably care more about things like home decorating and freshly painted trim. I know for a fact that David didn’t see the need to do the project in any way at all resembling the way that I did. Normally, my pattern would be to keep my desire for this cosmetic change to myself. I would tell myself that I couldn’t do something because I was the only one who wanted to do it. I would defer to my husband’s wishes, without ever expressing mine. And I would subconsciously add it to the mental list deep in the recesses of my brain where I kept a tally of all the things I had been denied without ever letting anyone know that I desired them. And this time, I acted differently. I shared my feelings. I opened myself up to the possibility of having my wishes dashed, and I asked for what I wanted. I wasn’t aware of how big a deal this was until I found myself telling my husband of the change in me the night before the painters finished their work.

The second consequence of this repainting is a little more complicated to explain. When we built our house, we hired a builder. We had done this three times. We thought we knew what we were doing. But we chose the wrong guy. The man who started building our house was not who we thought he was. Several months into the build, there was little progress. Building would occur in fits and starts until it just halted. We found out that the builder was using the money from our loan to finish other clients’ homes. He would then do just enough work on ours to make another draw from the bank. Ten months into the build we weren’t framed in. He was out of money. And he had no clients after us to pay for our materials or labor. The bank had already paid him the draws for framing, claiming they didn’t know there was a second story to our house, in spite of the fact that we were required to submit the complete plans of the house to obtain our loan. In other words, we had been royally taken advantage of. After the initial shock, we pulled ourselves together and took over the building of our house. I became the contractor, and for the next six months, I was at the building site supervising, hiring electricians and plumbers, roofers and carpenters, and cleaning up the massive mess of building a home. One of the things we hadn’t counted on doing ourselves was the painting. Painting virgin walls is a whole other animal than repainting a room. There is priming and caulking. Paint is literally sucked into new drywall and plaster, and it takes way more paint than a novice would know. So we painted and painted and painted. We painted trim and trim and more trim. And we did the best we could, but it always looked like an unprofessional job, because it was. Now, it looks the way it always should have. The wall color isn’t bleeding onto the baseboards or doorframes. The color is uniform and even. And the men who we hired to do the job, did the job. They painted our house, but they did more than spruce up the trim and give our walls a new color. They erased some really bad memories and gave our house the professional job that it and we always deserved. They finished our home, and I am enormously grateful and relieved.

On all the home improvement shows they do what is called the Big Reveal. In real life, there isn’t really a big reveal. I had a lot of vacuuming and dusting to accomplish after all the workmen left. We’ll show off the color changes to our friends at a dinner party sometime in the next few weeks or so, but the big reveal in this project is within my heart, and even if no one else realizes the dramatic change that has occurred, it is no less real or gratifying. It’s amazing how the application of a little paint can bring about psychic and spiritual healing. As a spiritual director, I’m always asking people where is God in all this. In this case, I have no trouble answering my own question.

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between a rock and a hard place

I’ve heard that pollsters for our upcoming presidential election have said that there are very few undecided voters left in America. Those who favor Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump have become more and more deeply entrenched in support of their candidate. On November 8th of this year, one of them will be chosen as our next President-Elect. I take very seriously my right and responsibility to vote, but for the life of me, I cannot see myself voting for either one of these choices. One is a misogynistic bully who has brought public debate to new levels of bigotry and displays of vulgarity. His business dealings are questionable in their legality, and his personal life is on the level of tabloid fodder in regards to his lack of self-control and ability to exhibit socially acceptable behavior. The other is a person with such utter disregard for the sanctity of human life that she could be called a criminal even before we look at her record as Secretary of State or at the manner in which her family’s foundation has been managed. People from both sides tell me with total assurance that they truly believe that if I vote for the candidate who is not the one for whom they will cast their ballot, then I will be personally at fault for the other candidate’s victory. I’ve always wanted to believe that my vote mattered. But how can I choose between two terrible choices?

I’ve thought about the appointment of Supreme Court Justices by our next Commander-in-Chief. I’ve thought about either of them being responsible for making military decisions. I’ve thought about their running mates and the attributes of the people who they say will be their advisors. I’ve thought about their experience to do the job, their personal character, and the ways in which they will represent the United States to the world. I’ve prayed for guidance. I’ve prayed for wisdom. I’ve prayed to wake up from this nightmare of an election. And lately I’ve begun to pray for absolution if, in the end, I am simply unable to make a choice.

Friends have suggested that I vote for the lesser of two evils. The problem is that I cannot even determine which of them is worse than the other. If anybody can help me decide, I’m open to listen, but I would much rather know why you are voting for one of these people more than why you are not voting for the other.

It’s the middle of October, and I am remain an Undecided.

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all i ask

Dear Jesus, you ask me to love as you love –

to love everyone around me as if they are all people that I even know,

or knowing them – that I even care.

You ask me to love the ones who’ve hurt me –

the ones who look me right in the eye and lie,

the ones who’ve cheated me,

and said things about me,

and promised to be there for me,

and weren’t, or didn’t, or couldn’t.

 

You ask me to love the ones who hate –

me, or anyone like me, or with me,

or simply anyone who is not like they see themselves.

You ask me to love those who don’t understand me –

and those who don’t even try to.

 

You ask me to love those who aren’t what I need them to be,

those who fail me,

those who let me down,

who forget,

or won’t forgive,

Those who screw up,

and all the ones who can’t be relied on.

 

Lord, you ask me to love all the ones who act as if they never learned to love –

or only learned to love themselves.

 

And hardest of all, you ask me to love the ones I love,

and to continue to love them when I’d rather not –

when they look exactly like the ones who would be easier not to love –

or to not even let myself see.

 

You ask this, Oh God,

and I want to say I can’t.

I want to tell you what you ask is impossible.

And then I ask you how you love me,

and I know it’s only and exactly what you’re asking me –

to do.

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listening…

Isn’t it so like us to automatically assume that our own experience mirrors what others think and feel in similar situations? How many times have we said to someone else, “I know exactly what you mean” or “I feel your pain,” when, in actuality we can never know what it’s like to be inside someone else’s brain or to share in the anguish of another’s suffering. We say these things to be empathetic. We say these things to build connection. We say these things in order to let them know that whatever they are going through that they don’t have to go through it alone. We mean well. But when we plow ahead with the certainty that because we’ve been in a similar situation that we know their experience, we run the risk of further isolating them by our efficiency in bolstering their spirits without taking the time to listen to their story.

Each person’s story is unique, and each one needs to tell it in his own way. When we hear with an ear that hones in on key words or phrases with which we are familiar, are we not really just trying to find our own story within the context of their tale? Are we not listening for how the words they say reflect upon our own lives more than receiving the gift of trust and respect that another gives us when he allows us to get a glimpse of what is behind his mask?

When is the last time we listened not to what someone else words meant to us but to what they meant to the one speaking them?