Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Love Christmas!

I love Christmas! I think what I enjoy most is that it's the one time of the year when the majority of humanity  (Christians and many non-Christians alike) seem to behave like we should.  We show generosity, forgiveness, atone, and display a happier attitude toward one another regardless of our differences. Maybe it's even a little glimpse of Heaven, too.

This year, I made a little atypical gesture of self-indulgence. My late husband's company gives away a coveted annual award in his name to the person who demonstrates his level of compassion and caring toward both clients and co-workers.

Last year, I ordered Harry London chocolates from QVC during their Christmas in July sale, which arrived in late November, so that I could take it to the luncheon where the award was presented. It was my thanks to this wonderful group of people who remember and honor my special husband, and continue to include me as part of their family. And yes, the gourmet chocolates were a big hit.

This year, I again placed an advanced order to bring to the event. In the meantime, another shopping channel offered Waggoner chocolates which had a little different assortment. Since this was the grandson of Harry London, I thought it might be good to choose that option this year to see what they liked best.

For months, I stewed about whether to cancel the Harry London chocolates, and then finally decided to let them ship to me and I would keep them - all 6 pounds of them! 

Even though I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I have shared them with friends and family. Surprisingly, there have been days when I haven't even eaten one piece. So, in reality, it isn't all self-indulgence.

I'll continue to share the remaining 4-5 pounds of goodies as a gesture of kinship with something special. So, I'm  really doing what I love most to do - sharing my blessings with others, even if it's only chocolate at the time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks(and)Giving is a Blessing!

I feel really good! It's not just because I've already finished most of my Christmas shopping, but because I've been blessed to share what I've been given. When God allows you to be an emissary of his benevolence, it's a gift. It especially makes me thrilled when I can do more because of the availability of a good bargain.

I want to share my experience, not because it exalts me in any way, but because I want to share how I was blessed. And I think when we can share how easy it is to make a difference, it encourages others to do the same. As most people know, I take Hebrews 10:24 very seriously: "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds." Example is often the best method.

Recently, a Kohl's cash and Yes2You reward certificate allowed me to add another toy to the stash I will donate to a women's shelter again this year. (I chose this charity because I know there will be women with children who arrive at the last moment with nothing for them. 

This past week, I also ordered on line to receive some great "Frozen" toys. Add that to some terrific "As Seen on TV" buys at my church's annual holiday bazaar on Saturday, and I'm ectastic! The latter buys are also due to a member of our church, who represents sales for those items, and then donates many of them for the sale.

Today, I also picked up another special 2 pound box of Russell Stover chocolates for $10 from Hy-Vee. I'll give that to my mail carrier again this year to take to the post office. It's for postal workers who never receive any appreciation such as the gift certificates I give in thanks to him and other service people who make my life easier.  

And then add to all of this, I found a great deal online for the gift item desired by the senior citizen I adopted this season - more proof God always finds a way to help us be generous with whatever we're given.

So this Thanksgiving I'll be particularly thankful that God has again allowed me to be generous with my family as well as to be part of His demonstration of love for us all.

Have a wonderful holiday and may you be blessed to find similar opportunities to mine, or to give by serving at community dinners or inviting those without families to share in your feast. Whatever you do, please comment on this blog and tell me and others how you've been blessed to give to others.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Different Kind of Spoiler

There are many things that can spoil our innocence, but there's nothing like knowledge to do it. But sometimes, it's good to have the right information.

As I may have mentioned previously, our interim pastor is a Biblical scholar. He has directly read the  gospels from the Greek words written. I've also joined a Bible study class that's called the New Testament challenge, and I make every effort to attend because I don't know what I'll miss.

Most recently, our pastor confided that he watches only about half of the Biblical movies before turning them off because of their inaccuracy. And now I find myself viewing those movies in a different light, too, because of some subtle differences between the gospels and being enlightened to some of the political aspects of Jesus' actions. 

Recently, I viewed the controversial "Noah" starring Russell Crowe. I should have listened to my neighbor who said the movie was awful. From a Biblical perspective, he said it "had a guy named Noah and an ark." That was pretty accurate. Even from a non-Biblical aspect, in my opinion, the movie still deserved his earlier rating.

To add dimension, it included a group of fallen angels whom Noah solicits to help him. The fact that they look like burned Transformer toys is another issue. It was pretty bad all around. I wasn't expecting much after hearing reviews from others, but in this case, they were unfortunately right. But still, just like seeking God, we must discover some things for ourselves.

So, this is what I've learned. Don't expect accuracy in cinema that is directed toward entertainment instead of portraying what the Bible says. But I must admit that "Passion of the Christ" was probably pretty close.

In any case, it is good to know the truth, even if that includes differences in the gospels. And sometimes, I think it's good to have our innocence spoiled if it makes us think and seek God's presence in our lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Doing What is Just and Good

I’m writing this before the results of the elections are known, and I hope everyone reading this blog took advantage of the privilege and responsibility to vote. Being able to do so is standing up for what one believes is right, and not letting 20% or less of eligible voters decide what will be just.

I think praying about and casting our vote is honoring an often mentioned directive in the Bible to do what is right and just.( Check out the following to see what I mean: Right and Just references). 

I also believe voting is just one way we can and should stand up for those who need our support and acceptance. Laws are made by those we place in office and those laws impact the ill, the disabled, and anyone else considered in some way to be a social outcast. I remember that Jesus offered acceptance and love to everyone, including tax collectors, Roman soldiers, gentiles, etc. (If they were hypocrites or rejected him, well that was a different matter).

So regardless of which candidates you or I vote for, we should expect them to be fair and just. But sometimes, it’s hard to believe that they will fulfill that directive given the campaign ads. It seems some are more interested in imparting how bad their competition is rather than taking the opportunity to express what positive things they have done or will do. It makes one think that they are trying to get votes by making us choose the lesser of two evils.And I can think of a lot of Biblical admonishments about false witness and saying negative things to hurt our fellowman.

My church often includes prayers for guidance for those elected to office. I think that’s a good thing to do. We all need prayers to keep us focused on what really matters in life and the one after.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Honors - Give Credit Where It is Due

It's nice to be recognized when one realizes with humility that it's a true honor. Such was my situation recently when I attended the Kansas Authors Club annual convention held this year in Hutchinson. Receiving the KAC Service Award plaque was such a surprise that I only heard half of what was said about me. Later, I jokingly stated to colleagues that I think I received this just so I'd continue forever as the club's financial secretary!

Some time ago, I realized that my name wasn't that important - it's what I do that counts. And what I do, I credit to divine intervention. Because inspiration is my forte, that's really the only reason to know my name. Name recognition is how others can find my work, and perhaps be encouraged to do something positive. (Hebrews 10:24, "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.")

Years ago, when someone would give credit to God for his/her accomplishments, I took it with a grain of salt. Now I get it. But, still, when someone or a group recognizes your service, it's appreciated. In my case, so much so, that I chose to include the award plaque in a photo which will accompany an article I wrote for my local paper, the Lawrence Journal World. It should appear this month and it may contain information that will surprise some of those who know me.

The article centers on my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) 18 years ago. Many who know me are unaware that I have this neurological malady because I've learned to live with it so well. They sometimes assume I've had knee surgery since my left leg doesn't function as well as it should. But it's simply a matter of respecting the disease, and not letting it keep me from living a fruitful and accomplished life. I, like most people with M.S., make adjustments for fatigue and other symptoms which are kept mostly to myself. Seeing me type, no one would guess the partial and permanent numbness in my right hand, the result of the exacerbation that initially sent me to a neurologist for the diagnosis.

But enough about challenges - we all have them, seen or unseen. What is important is how we respond to them, and I feel very blessed. My faith helps me to live each day with the understanding that there is something much greater than I, and a whole lot greater than my name.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Words, Words, Words!“

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” The individual who coined this phrase only got it partly right. While words only have power over us if we let them, connotations and the origin make a big difference.

Take for instance the word died. I never use that word when referring to my late husband. I believe that he passed on, as in transitioned to the next life. Died seems like such finality and passed away seems fleeting. My faith tells me that he still is, just on a different realm.

On the other hand, one of my sisters who lost her husband in March, won’t use the word widow. I’ve become very sensitive out of respect for her not to use this word in reference to her situation.

But these are truly minor when we think of words that destroy – words meant to inflict pain and abuse as well as idle gossip. The latter is something I choose not to pass on, if by some chance someone makes me hear it.  It just follows my conviction not to subject myself to shows and media that portray people in their worst behavior.

The origin is also important. I’ve known people who can say anything about anyone, but what they say really says more about them than the person they intend to defame. And then there are those whose words can cut to our very core. We respect or love them so much that whatever they say, we believe. And sometimes, we may not know that we, too, hold that power over others.

Matthew 12:37 states: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” If that doesn’t caution someone to be careful, I’m not sure what will. I always thought that Hell might include having to listen to all the bad things others said about you, and even worse, things you said about others that weren’t very nice and even discovering they weren’t even true.

But then we also note Proverbs 16:24: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” So it’s my job and everyone else’s to encourage others and reinforce good behavior.

You can bet that I’ll always try my best not to let idle and hurtful words slip from my tongue, but I’m not perfect. In fact, the ire that makes me most inclined to opine is when people are mean or don’t do what they should in regard to their fellowman. Then forgive me for what I say!

I take the responsibility to make this world a better place very seriously whether that means using words of encouragement or dismissing words that serve no beneficial purpose or are inadvertently insensitive. That is my expectation and my goal. I may not always achieve it, but like anything, if you don’t try, you won’t even have a chance of getting it right.  But ultimately, it’s good to remember “actions do speak louder than words.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Doing the Right Thing Shouldn't be Unexpected

If you know me or anything about me, you probably know that I have what some would consider an over-developed sense of right and wrong. That doesn't mean I don't see gray areas, too; it's just that I think some things are no-brainers.

Today, I visited Kohl's Department Store and had a nice conversation with the young man  checking out my purchase. Afterwards, I scooted on over to another store in the same complex. After I left that store, I looked at my receipt from Kohl's and noticed that there wasn't a charge for the hand towel, only the bath towel. I'm glad I noticed before going home so it didn't necessitate another trip.

I returned to Kohl's customer service and explained that an item was missed. The sweet young lady at the counter seemed a bit surprised and thanked me saying, "that's awful of nice of you" [to come back]. I simply told her that it was "only fair." I'd say something if I were over-charged, so it's a no-brainer to say something when I'm under-charged.

So why do people not expect others to do the right thing? (Just look at how it's news worthy when people find a large sum of money and turn it in - like it's an anomaly). And why don't some people see doing the right thing as important? Maybe some of that is human nature, but we don't make the world a better place by applying a double standard.

I think of Luke 16:10  "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."

At first I thought that passage should be reversed. If you can be trusted a lot, you can probably be trusted with little, but it is true that if you can't be trusted with the little things (like bringing it to someone's attention if you're under-charged), then you probably can't be trusted with something bigger.

Personally, I'd love for God to trust me with a little more wealth so that I could help my fellowman more, but most of us would like that, too. So maybe God knows that it’s best to just let me keep doing my own thing and make sure that it includes doing it right.