Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seeking Happiness

I love my last name. When David and I married on a glorious North Dakota summer day in July of 1991, I embraced it!

I've owned cherry t-shirts, cherry socks, cherry purses and cherry pajamas. Sometimes I wonder if God gave us two boys because he didn't want to subject a sweet little girl to all the cherry outfits we would have made her wear.

We have a colorful collection of cherry tea pots, cookie jars and plates decorating our kitchen. And when I saw this artwork at Garden Ridge, I had to have it! David hung it up that night in our half bath right off the kitchen. (What a great man!) The two giant cherries make me smile. It also has a little saying on it that has been fun to ponder. And what more perfect place for a little ponderin?

We Tend To Seek Happiness

When Happiness is Actually A Choice

I'll be honest, when I first sat and pondered, I interpreted it to say that we pursue happiness in an environment that is life-giving and hopeful, when we perceive happiness as an option for us. While I think that is most likely true, I decided yesterday that it is saying something entirely different. How could I have missed it? Most of you are probably saying...duh girlfriend! What it is saying to me now is, I'm sure, what the artist meant for it to say: that we spend time, we spend money, we spend energy reaching for an elusive place called "Happy" when all along the only thing we need to spend is our will. (Click to Tweet) Happiness is a choice!

Ha! That reminds me of a little song I learned in college...."Happy, Happy, Happiness is a choice and I chose to be Happy, Happy as I can be. I chose to Happy. I'm Happy. I'm free. I chose to be Happy so I can be me." Whoa that is a flash from the past! Thank you Cheryl Prewitt Salem for that lovely little tune.

So what do you think? Is happiness a choice of our will?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Lump in my Throat

My feelings were floating treacherously near the surface. And I was afraid to open my mouth lest they come spilling out in front of these people I hadn't even met yet. Awkward! I was attended a writing workshop with my dear friend and writing buddy Lexie. The speaker was Janice Hanna Thompson. She was wonderful, like the teacher you always wished you had. We got to the workshop just in time for a creative writing exercise which was torture for me! I wrote 2 paragraphs without really saying anything and then listened raptly as a few of the other attendees shared their exercise which in 5 minutes already contained characters with names, setting and plot. One, I'm sure, will go on to be the prologue of a future best seller! It was amazing.

But, why all this emotion? I grabbed a piece of scrap paper to help me sort it out:

  • Fear - Isn't there always at least a little bit of fear as we stand at the edge of something new? Sometimes there's a lot!
  • Rejection - Every time we put ourselves "out-there" we risk rejection. For writers it is part of the process. We joke that rejection letters will be progress because at least we can say we submitted something!
  • Work - Am I willing to do the work ahead? When will I find the time? Who will feed the hungry children?
  • Doubt - Is this direction I'm heading really the right one for me? Do I have what it takes?
  • Patience - How long will I wait? Can I wait gracefully?

With the idea of waiting comes anticipation and I know that too is contributing to the lump in my throat. It's a hopeful lump. As I sit in the class, I'm just so grateful to have Christ at the center of my life. All of those questions can be reigned in by TRUST. Trusting God's plan for my future, not mine. Trusting that I am completely accepted by Him, even though rejection will surely come. Knowing that the Holy Spirit empowers me. He is for me and He is so very patient!

Are you standing at the edge of a dream? I'd love to hear about the lump in your throat!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Princess and Her Pillows

So, I’m from North Dakota and pride myself in not being a foo foo kind of girl. The only jewelry I need is my wedding ring. Jeans and tennis shoes are my favorite outfit. I relish my no-make-up days. The princess in me comes out AT NIGHT.

Somehow over the course of my life I’ve become sleep-dependant on a pile of pillows. Every night I put my pillows in position, and the truth is I really can’t fall asleep without them.

The Basic Pillow – This one really shouldn’t even count. Everyone sleeps with a pillow under their head. Although not the fluffy feathered version we are accustom to, pillows have a long history and have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Who knew?

The Pregnancy Pillow – Regardless of the fact that I haven’t been pregnant since July of 2000 I can’t seem to break this habit. Picked it up in 1997 when I was expecting our first born. The idea is that a pillow between your knees helps keep your hips and spine aligned and any woman who has carried a child inside her body knows we need all the help we can get!

The Posture Pillow – Shout out to my dear Chiropractor, Dr Logan for introducing me to my third pillow, a satin covered cervical cylinder. My neck thanks you. My spine thanks you. My son thanks you because he now sleeps with a neck roll too. I am not content to keep my habit to myself. I’m a pillow pusher.

The Eye Pillow – This smallest of the pillow pile is the epitome of princessdom. My husband’s sister introduced me to my first eye pillow. It came in a boxed set with a coordinating candle and was filled with lavender scented flax seeds. I used it until it wore thin and the seeds started leaking out. The first time I saw one on the bed I screamed and thought it was a bug! I had to retire that pillow recently. (Rest in peace my friend.) My dear husband bought a replacement in spearmint eucalyptus, although he most likely regrets it. It seems like every night at bed time I am searching through the covers, the nightstand, and the floor for that dad-gum pillow! Now I’m resigned to just turn on the light to locate it, because I know sleep will come sooner with every pillow in its place.

It looks like I’ve pick up a pillow for each decade of my life.
What’s next?
What’s in your PILLOW PILE?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A New Earth...that's the plan!

I was going through my son's homework folder and came across a pretty bad grade. Ugh! There were not many questions on the page and he got 3 wrong which averaged out in the "re-do" category. Teachers allow him to correct and resubmit work for additional credit (don't you love grace?). As we were looking over it, I beamed at one of his wrong answers. Odd, right?

The question was "How would your life change if people used up fossil fuels, such as coal, gasoline, natural gas and heating oil?"

My son's answer: "Not any bad changes because God has a plan for me."

SMILE! It was so great to see his faith on paper! As much as I tried to persuade him that life without these fuels would be miserable, he stuck to it!

I asked, "What if we didn't have gas for our van and we had to walk or ride our bikes everywhere?"'

He answered "We'd all be healthier."

You gotta love his positive persistence!

The reality is that our Earth has limited resources, and our dear planet seems stuck in a process of slow deterioration. Actually, it's the Second Law of Thermodynamics in action, which can be generally summed up that things tend to move from a state of order to disorder, randomness, or chaos.

As a science major, I just love it when God's wisdom pre-dates our discoveries! Romans 8 says For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

I think of this verse whenever I hear about earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis. The Earth IS groaning. Things are not right. But I am encouraged by the faith of my child. I agree. Our God is a planner!

Easter changes everything for us. We have new life. We have new hope. Forgiveness and Freedom. Fellowship with the Father. But we still have a decaying planet and pervasive brokenness. Easter is the climax of His-Story but the final resolution is yet to come. Observing Lent this year seemed to stir up the longing for that resolution.

Listen to Peter's message from Acts 3 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

There is a time coming for God to restore everything! The groaning will cease. The Earth will be free from its bondage to decay. Imagine the new heaven and new earth prophesied in Isaiah 65. I'm so glad God has a plan and proud that my son is not afraid to say it even when the answer gets marked wrong.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I Sing - Toastmasters Project #2

6 am Sunday morning just a few months ago and the alarm clock is screaming…get up!

Maybe I was just having a grumpy day or maybe it was the Sunday morning chaos:
finding something to wear that doesn't need to be ironed, searching for the boy’s tennis shoes, only to discover them soaking wet on the back porch...yelling at the kids “get in the van, we gotta go, I'll buy you donuts from the cafe, again...”

I'm not sure what was going on with me that day but somewhere in the middle of my vocal warm up about the time I hit the 45 toll plaza I asked myself this question: why do I do this? Why do I get up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning so I can get to church an hour before everyone else? Why do I get home from work on Tuesdays, scramble to get homework done, find something decent to feed my hungry children and drive back into the city for rehearsal? Why?

Well, that’s a good question
I decided probably, as a member of the Shoreline Worship Team, I should have a good answer….so opened up a memo in my phone and started making a list of Why I Sing. I’m going to share a few reasons with you today.

At my very core, I just love music. It is hard for me to listen to the radio and not sing along. I've been singing all my life. My mom read those lovely sing-songy nursery rhymes to me and my daddy sang with me. We have ancient cassette tape recordings to prove it. My parents planted a song in my heart and then they bought me a record player when I was about 4 years old. I wore that thing out singing along with vinyl. I treasured my children's records. My parents had a few LPs I used to play too like Freddy Fender – I don’t know how his music made it all the way to ND?? and Lynn Anderson - I loved her because we had the same name …I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.... It was awesome when I graduated from my record player to a cassette player and cool new technology called song search where I could listen to my favorites over and over

Music became a big part of my life. My parents paid for years of piano lessons and voice lessons.... They were very generous and so encouraging along the way. All through Jr high and high school I sang with a small ensemble that traveled around the city sharing the vision of the fledgling Christian School I attended. Looking back, I was so confident then, it feels like there is so much more at stake at 41 then there was at 14. Honestly, I am thrilled that I’m still singing. I feel so privileged to be a part of the music team here, even on my grumpy days…

I love music and I love that it is a universal language. It transcends cultural, generational and language barriers. There are hundreds of people on our planet who can sing and I mean SANG! Just think about the recording artists in all the different genres out there right now, then think about all the people who've been making a living at this in years gone by. Add to that the thousands of people with beautiful voices who fill our choirs and stir our hearts. For those of you who only sing in the shower, you know you sound good in there!
Throw in all the brilliant musicians and it is easy to see that God very generously covered every corner of the earth with musical talent, and placed inside each individual an innate appreciation for that talent. Being the genius God He is you know there has to be divine purpose to it all. I believe there is a sacred connection between God's out-pouring of unique and varied musical gifts and our bent toward worship. Because that is universal as well, isn’t it?

We are all searching for something to worship, something that captivates our attention. We honor, adore, glorify, and idolize many things. Our souls were created to worship and music is the language of the soul.

Music is universal and it is so powerful! Isn’t it great how a song can take you back in an instant to another place and time? Or touch you deep inside, inspire and lift you up. Music stirs our emotions, but it is also very scientific. There is a great body of research on how music affects the brain. One of the most fascinating things I’ve heard involves an area of grey matter called Broca’s Region. Touch your left ear, move above and to the front…right about there is Broca’s Region. This part of our brain functions like a gatekeeper. It decides if any input that comes across our path is actually worth thinking about. One source I found called it the blah blah blah filter. It is easily bored with the predictable…Surprise is a great tactic for getting past Broca. Great story-tellers know this. Music has an amazing affect on Broca…That whole area of our brain lights up when listening to music. It has a measurable affect on learning. I see the combination of words and melody like a power punch. We might think it is a little odd to say… God, the creator of the universe, ya, he’s my friend. But we’ll sing I am a friend of God…and the more we sing it the more we believe it. After a while a thought that seemed implausible becomes a part of who we are. Music is a powerful tool to help us embrace truth.

So I keep getting up on Sunday morning, I memorize new lyrics, I practice and expend a lot of time and energy. Why do I do this? I love music. I love being a part of something universal and I believe in the power of music. I believe in what we do as a worship department at Shoreline and I know without a doubt that people’s lives are being changed as we sing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Tree of Life

We have a decorative cross collection in our master bedroom. I purchased a few of the crosses but most have been gifts from different people in our lives. We recently hung them up in the new house. I think it looks pretty good!
I was looking up at them this morning. Thinking about the cross, while songs from the Easter drama ran through my head. One in particular written by Shoreline's own Skip Downey...Oh how beautiful the cross. Beautiful. It is simply beautiful, isn't it? It has so much meaning to us. Loaded with love and hope and redemption.
The cross is a symbol of our redemption. And even as a symbol it has been redeemed. To be hung on a tree was to be cursed. I doubt there were any cross collections decorating homes in Jesus' day. It symbolized death, oppression and the shame and guilt of capital offense (see Deut 21).
One of the repeated phrases in our lenten readings is "You made the cross of tree of life" God redeeming, transforming this symbol just as He redeems and transforms our lives!
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God's life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.
1 Peter 2:21 This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.
Heb 12: 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
And today, I say with Paul:
Galatians 6:14 For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!