Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Aiming for Profundity

No, that title isn't from a Broadway show. I just really like the word "profundity."

I also like the concept. Being profound. Throughout my education, certain authors were referred to as profound. Kierkegaard. Camus. Milton. Swift. Emerson. Twain.

Please note that my name is not on that list.

Profundity requires deep thought and eloquent answers. I used to get profound and prolific mixed up. You can be prolific and never be profound. I'm afraid that's my destiny. My doom. To make a lot of noise and never actually say anything.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (I Corinthians 13:1)

OK, so he's not talking about blogging. He's talking about straight-up speaking in tongues. Actually, at the end of chapter 12 and the beginning of chapter 13, he's talking about all the gifts someone could have—and how none of them mean anything if you don't have love.

God is love. (I John 4:8)

I could be a very talented (insert whatever talent here), but if I don't have love—if I'm not doing it for the glory of God and with God's love in my heart—it's nothing.

I guess I shouldn't be hoping for my own profundity but admiring (and repeating) God's.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mrs. Cellophane

A couple of weekends ago, I had the absolute pleasure of helping my church distribute what we call "Baskets of Hope" to families in our township. Once a year, our church hands out Rubbermaid containers with a shopping list of Thanksgiving meal items. We buy the items, bring the tubs back, and then they go to various organizations around town. This year's exciting addition was our local school system. The church partnered with them to provide for families on the free and reduced lunch program who requested baskets.

My role in the handing-out process was as a check-in person. Outside. I asked not to do any heavy lifting, but I didn't know I'd be outside. I didn't even bring gloves!

Totally beside the point.

The cars would drive up, we'd ask for the postcard they received in the mail, and we'd send them along to the next "station" to get a grocery gift card and then on to their basket.

The "we" to which I refer is me and three other ladies I'd never met before. They seemed nice enough, but they didn't really talk to me; they just talked to each other unless I kind of jumped into the conversation. Otherwise they mostly ignored me and chatted with each other while I stood ten feet away reading and re-reading the names on my clipboard, waiting for the next car to come, and trying not to think about how cold I was.

That's odd, I thought to myself. Don't they know who I am?


Whoa! Hang onto that ego for just a minute. Don't they know who I am? Like I'm Donald Trump or something. Granted, a lot of people at church at least recognize me, since I'm up front doing drama and such with some frequency. But to assume I'm some big shot? That everyone just knows who I am and would therefore talk to me?

Out of line, Rach. Out of line.

Turns out those ladies don't attend our church. They don't know me from Eve. They work for the schools, and since we were handing the baskets out to school families, they were taking part in the distribution. I just assumed they were from my church because they were, well, at my church. Apart from my ego trip, the other thought that occurred to me was, "Wow, kind of unfriendly for church folk." But they weren't.

This raises two points:

1) I should have done a better job introducing myself or asking if they went to church there. I guess I didn't have a reason to think they didn't go to church there, but it's always worth asking. Who knows? Maybe they don't go to church anywhere and it would have opened up a dialogue. Think of the chance I missed because my ego was in the way. I was too busy being offended to just get in there and get to know them.

2) On both ends of this conversation, needs were being ignored. We stood out in the cold for five hours (in the middle of an empty parking lot, just the four of us), and they didn't make an effort to talk to me. Who in your life are you ignoring? Is there someone you could show kindness to that you don't? I've heard of lifelong friendships that have formed because of someone's willingness to just go over and talk to someone they wouldn't normally talk to.

Something to think about this week. If you see someone who appears to be on the outside, make an effort to say hello. Jesus didn't just talk to the cool kids. He sought out those who needed his love, not the ones who were already loved.

I'll also think about ways to be humble this week. An ongoing battle...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Someone Else's Story

A strange thought occurred to me yesterday: Am I in someone else's story?

I thought of all the stories I tell that involve other people. I tell my husband stories about my childhood friend, Laura (or Lou, as I call her), about my family's holidays, about people with whom I went to school. I think I'd just finished telling him about my fun Thanksgivings at my grandmother's house when I was growing up, and I wondered what stories people tell about me.

My pal Missy may tell stories involving musicals or show choir performances. Please, don't let her regale you about my infamous rendition of "Let It Snow" for the local teacher sorority Christmas party. It was—bad. And that's putting it gently. She does a killer Rachel impression on that one.

Crystal, whom I've blogged about before, may tell you about our freshman year of college. We danced to "Greased Lightning" for a res hall audience on more than one occasion and spent our weekends watching either Dirty Dancing or Pure Country while indulging in Papa John's cheese sticks. She may also divulge the secret of the disappearing Winnie-the-Pooh decals our other roommate used to defile our bathroom. In college, people! She could talk about being in my wedding (or me being in hers), or she could talk about the days we've taken turns calling to vent or cry or talk about our kids.

My friend Lou might tell people how we used to roller skate in her basement, or we'd make up choreography to everything from Mozart to New Kids on the Block. Actually, Lou could probably tell a ridiculous amount of embarrassing stories about the two of us (as we were pretty much inseparable for years), but she'd tell them with an air of nostalgia that wouldn't make them sound quite as silly. She's good like that.

But what other stories do people tell about me? Are they good? What kind of an impression have I made on the lives of others? It sounds kind of paranoid, but I suddenly realized that it matters. I mean, silly stories about roller skating may not matter in the grand scheme of things, but what if a story about me starts with, "One time this really mean girl..."? Or, "The most awful person I've ever met is this girl Rachel..." Maybe that's a little far-fetched, but who knows? Maybe they caught me on a bad day. Maybe that was the only encounter they've ever had with me and it was terrible.

What impression are you making on people? When they share stories involving you, are you the hero or the villain? And do any of the stories involve you sharing the Gospel with them?

I've been the villain my fair share, I'm sure, but there's always time to make a change.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tradition!

This is an article I wrote for our MOPS newsletter this month. Yes, I'm the editor and I write the articles. It's the only way I'm sure to get published, yo! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

What do you remember from your childhood? Trips to Grandma’s house? Yearly vacations? No yearly vacations? One of the great things about starting your own family is the ability to keep traditions you loved as a child or introduce new traditions you wish you’d experienced as a child. There are lots of ways to come up with new traditions, but here are some creative ways to start thinking of your family’s holiday activities.

Why are they important? The importance of family traditions should not be underestimated. While some may seem hokey (or your children may yet be too young to appreciate them), they go a long way in forming your “club.” That’s the best way to describe it—a family is a place where parents and children feel safe and accepted, and everyone feels like a part of something special. The traditions your family holds are equivalent to a secret handshake: your family has a shared experience that brings you closer together. If you have some traditions that involve extended family, it is still important that your smaller family unit has traditions unique to you. Your children will remember these activities as they get older. When asked, do you want your child to say, “No, we didn’t really do anything special for Christmas,” or, worse, “We didn’t really do anything as a family”?

Hand it down... The easiest way to incorporate new activities into our families is to remember what we enjoyed as children. Did you get new pajamas on Christmas Eve? How about breaking the wishbone with your siblings after Thanksgiving dinner? While they may seem like small things, they add up to a meaningful childhood. Between you and your spouse, you should be able to assemble a new set of family traditions.

...Or don’t. Sometimes our family traditions growing up weren’t great. They give us bad memories, and incorporating them into our families now would only cause stress and bad feelings. Don’t feel you have to keep those, but don’t deprive your family of new traditions.

If you didn’t have great traditions in your family, maybe your friends did. Sometimes we saw traditions in the families of our friends that always seemed appealing as we pressed our noses to the windows into their lives. Your family is your own now—try one of those activities you envied as a kid. It may be as fun as you’d hoped!

Honor your heritage. Some of us have families that are relatively new to the United States. Perhaps you’re the first generation of your family to live here! Even if you only have a vague understanding of your heritage, it’s never too late to learn. Whether your family is from Greece, Russia, France or China, each country has celebratory traditions you can incorporate into your family at any time. Do a little research and decide what sounds fun and sustainable for your family.

Do some research. If you don’t have any great ideas screaming to the front of your mind after rifling through your childhood, a quick Internet search will do the trick. It might seem silly and contrived, but you may stumble upon a tradition that appeals to you and your family.

Not just for holidays. While many of us look forward to the holidays, some of the best traditions are those that families can enjoy all year ‘round. Movie nights, special meals, or something as simple as a special place setting for birthdays (or other celebrations, like a good report card) can be as exciting as the holiday festivities. Anything your family looks forward to can be considered a tradition.

If at first you don’t succeed... Not all traditions are suited to all families. If you try something and it flops, you don’t have to hold onto it for the sake of tradition. Try again! Find something everyone loves and you may just change your family for good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Don't Dream It, Be It

Last night as we were getting ready for bed, my husband said, "You know what I like about you, Rachel? You're ambitious."

This was in response to my decision to cook a Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. For no particular reason. I just had all the stuff, so I made a turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, pink stuff (a family recipe), cranberry sauce, and rolls. I invited his parents over (because we certainly weren't going to eat all of that by ourselves), and it turned out pretty well. There were minor disasters (covering the kitchen with brine—twice—and spilling a half a gallon of cider all over the floor), but it turned out well.

I suppose that was ambitious. I did it all by myself, but it was actually a lot less work than I thought it would be. I even had time to loaf some of the day, and I still managed to get everything done. It probably helped that the stuffing was from a box and the cranberry sauce was from a can.

I asked my husband, "Apart from deciding to make a last minute, unnecessary Thanksgiving dinner, do you think I'm ambitious?" He said yes, that I have a lot of big ideas and a lot of big dreams.

Yes, well. Do I ever do anything with those big ideas and big dreams?

Not so much.

I've written a little about this before, but I can't recall being called ambitious ever before. A dreamer, maybe. Idealistic, sure. But ambitious?

To me, ambition means you don't just have the idea; you have the passion to put the rubber to the road and get things done. You make it happen. I don't feel like looking up the dictionary definition or anything, but it seems to me that there's a drive that comes with the concept of ambition. I'm not wanting for ideas, but I'm wanting for the drive to get them accomplished.

I think part of it is out of fear of failure. I always thought that was a silly concept, but lately I've discovered that's something I suffer from. I don't want to be a disappointment. To myself? To my family? To God? I don't  know the answer to that part. I'm trying to make myself believe that there's honor in trying despite the result.

Are you ambitious? Are you a do-er? What's your motivation? How do you get stuff done?

More importantly—can you teach me?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go, Go, Go, Joseph!

I love the story of Joseph. It may be my favorite Bible story. It helps that there's a musical of it. Have I mentioned I love Broadway? I'm still working my way through Genesis in my daily reading, but now that I'm at the story of Joseph, I even want to read extra each day because I love the story so much. Imagine that!

What is truly fascinating about the story of Joseph isn't all the bad stuff that happens to him. It's not all the good stuff that happens to him. It's the way he relates to God and the hindsight he has when it comes to his life as a whole. His brothers sold him as a slave to a foreign land. He got into a good place and then was thrown into prison for several years. Then he got into a good place again—always giving God the glory. When he encountered his baddie brothers again, he didn't say, "You jerkfaces! Go starve!" He said, "God put me here to save all these people. You didn't know what you were doing, but God did."

That's amazing. To look back over what happened to him and say, "God had a plan that whole time." I love that. I love to look back over my life and see the plans God had all along.

I've mentioned before that my mom died when I was young—I was three. My dad poured concrete and worked very long days, and the only preschool he could find that had hours that long was at a Christian church. When it was time for me to start grade school, the church opened a school with kindergarten through fourth grade. When I was about to outgrow that, the school expanded to eighth grade. I went there through sixth grade. I learned about God and gave my life to Jesus. I had wonderful, encouraging teachers (some of whom I've been able to reconnect with through the magic of Facebook!), and my education was outstanding in every way.

A few years after I left, I heard from some family friends that the school closed. I don't know why. It may or may not be open again—I have no idea. But looking back, it's almost as if God built that school just for me. I learned about him. I had teachers who gave me attention and encouragement I wasn't getting anywhere else. I wonder what my life would look like if I hadn't been introduced to God in that environment and if I hadn't had such attentive teachers.

Going back a little bit further, I wonder how my life would be different if my mom hadn't passed away. I think about her daily and wonder what she was like and what our relationship would have been like. But I'm sure my life would be entirely different had she been a part of it longer.

I see God in every moment of my life. Even the times that I wasn't paying attention to him, he was paying attention to me. The times that I felt so lonely, he was right there with me. Everything that's happened in my life has had God's hand on it, and it's brought me to the wonderful life I have now. The wonderful family and friends I have now.

It's become such a cliché to say, "God's got a plan." It sounds trite, and it sounds like a panacea of sorts. Sometimes it's hard to understand why things happen to us or how God plans to use those things until we're well on the other side of whatever it is. God's ultimate plan for us is eternity with him, but he's definitely working with us here and now. It was evident in Joseph's life. It's been evident in mine.

How has it been evident in yours?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Can't Do It Alone

I wonder if there's a blog post of mine I can't find Broadway lyrics to describe. Moving on...

People underestimate the importance of community. In everything. People need people and—man, I just thought of a better showtune title for this blog post.

I've heard people say, "I don't need to go to church. I can pray or be with God anywhere." Back in college when I said I was a Christian and didn't act like it, that's what I told my über-Christian roommates. Whom I referred to as the "Christian Coalition" behind their backs. Don't worry; I've apologized.

But, see? I clearly needed church.

The point of church isn't to pray and sing and read your Bible. It's true; we can do that stuff at home. And we should. The point of going to church is to get involved in a community of believers so you can all help each other live the Christian lifestyle. You're supposed to call other believers out (lovingly) on unrecognized sin in their lives while relying on each other to help eradicate the sin from your life. Sin keeps popping up no matter what we do, so it's a continual process.

Church is also a place where you can serve—and should serve. Did you know that something like 10% of a church body does 90% of the work? Those numbers may not be exact, but they're pretty close. I know people who are doing activities at our church every. single. night. And I'll bet there are others who never set foot in the church outside of Sunday morning. They're not part of a small group, not part of a ministry of any kind. They're not using their gifts and talents to serve God.

I attend a church of over 3,000 people, and sometimes we can't get enough volunteers. One of the perks of attending such a large church is all the ministry opportunities available. One of the downsides is the ability for Joe Schmo to hide in the back pew, never talk to anyone, and only show up on Sundays. The phrase my pastor likes to use is, "Don't go to church on Sunday and live like Hell on Monday." But that's what a lot of people do because they don't have anyone who's checking up on them and holding them accountable.

So if you're reading this and you don't have a church home—meaning a church that you go to every week—get one. And if you have a church home and you're not involved in any groups there, get involved. You don't have to pick the group with the highest commitment and go all gung-ho that way. It can be a fun group, like MOPS or a choir. I'm fortunate that my church has a drama ministry I can participate in. I love it! Find a group that suits your gifts and talents. Find one that aids in the pursuit of your calling. Most importantly, find a group that puts you with like-minded individuals in the hope of making a more godly you. "As iron sharpens iron," and all that.

Are you part of your church community? Where do you serve?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Odd Jobs

I'd be a lousy waitress. I tend to be forgetful, as in I remember useless trivia but not what I ate for breakfast or what happened yesterday. While I'm generally coordinated, I have a tendency to make messes. Ask my husband, who just this morning had to clean up two of my messes in as many minutes (I dropped the brown sugar canister on the floor and lost a pile of sugar out of it, then I spilled milk all over the water filter, all for the sake of having Cream of Wheat). I did work at McDonald's for six months before I got a job at a record store for the remainder of high school, but I think that should be the extent of my food service career.

Here are the jobs I would like to try:
  • makeup artist/aesthetician
  • historical interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg
  • baker/cake decorator
  • historical caterer (making period meals for special events and home dinner parties—Colonial, Civil War, etc.)
  • car salesperson
  • furniture salesperson
  • English teacher (just another crack at it to see if I could manage under not-awful circumstances)
  • barista (mostly because I want to take those madd skillz home)
  • NPR correspondent and/or panelist on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
  • history detective (à la the PBS show of the same name)
  • actor (stage or screen)
  • SNL cast member

There are probably more. There are jobs I see every day that make me think, "I'd like to try that!" Some of them I just want to try to see if I can do them—like a salesperson who works on commission. How hard is that job? It seems really hard. Would I be good at it? I generally dislike pushy salespeople, so that would automatically keep me from being one—right?

What I'm learning is that there are jobs and there are callings. A job is something you do; a calling is something you pursue. It's a goal placed deep into your heart by your creator. Some people are called to be evangelists, and maybe they go overseas to do that in the missionary field. Or they can stay right here and minister to the people they encounter every day at their job. Your job can be a means to pursue your calling, or your job can be a hindrance to your calling.

The key is not to confuse the two. You can be very unhappy in a job, but you're unlikely to be unhappy in your calling. If you're making every effort to do what God has asked you to do, you're likely to at least feel fulfillment in the doing, regardless of what you think your success rate is.

My career goal is to be a writer. I've thought that for a long time. I've got a list a mile long of book ideas and storylines and screenplays that have yet to be written. I could probably start a Web site where I sell all the unused ideas I've got. I really like to write and I've got a unique voice, so why shouldn't I be a writer?

It didn't become a calling until God asked me to write something specifically for him. This whole Lazy Christian thing was his idea. He's been paving the way for it for a couple of years now, and I've felt him tugging on my sleeve saying, "Rachel! C'mon! Get moving! Stop stalling!" In the meantime, I do silly things—like make a list of all the jobs I want to have that aren't what I've been called to do.

But now it's different. I've spent the last month being afraid of dying in surgery. The one thought that scared me more than anything was the thought that I could die and meet God, and instead of, "Well done, good and faithful servant," he'd say, "Why didn't you do what I asked you to do? The elevator's to the left."

Now, I know his grace is sufficient and all that, but have you ever read the parable of the talents? It's scary stuff. They were all believers, but one didn't make the most of what God gave him and got the boot.

So here I am—sitting in a coffee shop working on my book proposal after a months-too-long break. Some people go years and don't realize their calling. I've been sitting on mine like I've got eternity to make it happen—which I don't. None of us do. I've only got this life to be on my mettle, and I don't know when my time is going to be up.

What's your calling and what are you doing to make it happen?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not Today!

I would have been in surgery for half an hour already. I'd have been at the hospital for two and half hours by now. Instead, I got to wake up in my own sweet time (and hear my toddler son singing "Viva Las Vegas" over the baby monitor).

I feel calm. I feel relieved. I feel refreshed. And, most of all, I feel grateful that God listened to me. No, I wasn't asking for him to take this surgery away from me. I don't think I ever asked him for that. I asked him to give me peace and take the fear away. It's gone. I asked him to give my surgeon wisdom. He did.

God listens. God moves. I can't ask for more than that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Livin' on a Prayer

So I posted earlier today about how my impending back surgery (scheduled for Friday) had been cancelled by my surgeon. I'm still a little overwhelmed just thinking about it, honestly. I think my husband is, too. He said that when I called him at work to tell him about it, he was kind of in a haze for a while. Here, this thing that we'd been preparing for—making sure we had people bringing meals and helping me care for my son and praying for me—was suddenly gone. Or, at least, postponed for a while.

Then my husband said something that made me think: "All this time, we've been praying for God to give the surgeon wisdom, and then when he does it, we're surprised."

Hmm. I guess I hadn't thought of that. When we were praying for God to give the surgeon wisdom, I guess I was kind of thinking it would be during my surgery. Perhaps if I'd gone into surgery with this stupid, ailing pancreas of mine, something lousy would have happened. Only God knows why he led my surgeon to make this decision.

Why are we surprised when God answers prayers? I mean, that's why we pray. Right? He didn't answer this situation in the way I expected. Is that it? I know there are people praying for my complete healing without surgery. I'm sure I'd be even more surprised if he answered that one. But why? He's more than capable. Is it just because we don't think he does miracles like that anymore? Because he does.

I'm grateful he answers prayers. I'm grateful he's answered my prayers and the prayers of my friends. I'm grateful my doctor received the wisdom we prayed for so fervently. Who knows what else will come of this? Maybe someone in a lot of pain whose surgery was delayed got my time slot on Friday morning. Maybe a life will be changed because my surgery was cancelled.

And I won't be surprised if it's mine.

A Reprieve

This morning I had a mini breakdown. I took a shower and tried to pray and sing the tears away. Then a thought crossed my mind: I'm not having surgery Friday. I don't know why. I shook my head and said, "That's silly." I finished getting ready and went out to the living room, and then the phone rang.

It was my surgeon's office calling to cancel my surgery.

My family doctor gave me clearance, but my surgeon doesn't think I should go through with it while my pancreas is still acting up (if you haven't read before, I've had a mild case of pancreatitis for about a month now). Surgery has been tentatively rescheduled for December 6, but it will depend on the full recovery of my pancreas.

I don't know if I feel relieved or not just yet. It's postponing the inevitable. But I know God's got this covered, too. Nothing surprises God! Whether my surgery is Friday or a month from Friday, he knows just what's going to happen.

If nothing else, that's a relief.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Only the Good Die Young

I've always been afraid of dying young. My mom died young, so for some reason I always assumed I would, too. I'm almost positive my sister has thought about it (at least, I hope she has so I don't feel like I'm alone in this!). It's like I expected some sort of bomb or something to go off in my body as soon as I hit my 30s.

Now that I have this surgery coming up, I've been thinking about dying. A. Lot. Plenty of things can go wrong in surgery. Even though it's a surgery I've had before, I figure that the more times they open you up, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong.

At first, I thought maybe my fears about this surgery were warnings. Like God was trying to tell me not to have the surgery. But then I realized: Fear doesn't come from God. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will move us to an uneasiness that tells us to take a different path, but that's not what this is. This is out-and-out fear. That's not from God.

In talking to a friend today, I realized that fear is from Satan (which I'd already figured out, since it's clearly not from God), and that Satan has chosen my previously existing fear of dying young to play on. He knows it's something I fear. It's something I'm sure I've admitted before. He's using it to plant more fear in me—to shake my faith. To try to turn me away from God. He wants to scare me into doubting God.

I don't like that Satan can use things against me. I don't like that he's such a sore loser that he's willing to take it out on me in order to hurt God. God doesn't want to see me suffer. His heart aches when my heart aches. And he's the only one who can take away this fear and anxiety and replace it with his peace. In fact, I'm having a prayer party the night before my surgery. My friends are all coming over to pray with me and beat Satan to a pulp. Nothing says "get thee behind me" like a bunch of prayer warriors!

I'm sure God wouldn't mind me saying that Satan is a jerkface. What tactics does The Bad Guy use against you? How do you fend him off?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Bizarro Rachel

No, this isn't a post about Superman. Or Seinfeld. And if you understand how it could be about either of those things, you should be my best friend.

I've been saying the word "bizarre" a lot lately. Bizarre. Bizarre. Everything is bizarre. It looks really weird when you see it written, doesn't it? Bizarre. It's so—bizarre.

Have you ever caught yourself saying the same thing over and over? Perhaps your friends refer to it as your "catch phrase" (whether or not you know it). My college roommate's catch phrase was, "Like it's my job." As in, "I have to clean my room like it's my job," indicating the urgency and fervency with which she had to do said task. Sometimes she'd add, "Like I get paid by the hour." It was really funny. I use this one currently, and people think it's hilarious. Some people think it's my catch phrase, but I know where it came from. Most things people think are my catch phrases come from obscure sketches on Saturday Night Live. If they only knew!

I guess the thing that bugs me about saying the same things over and over again is that I become predictable. It can also become somewhat annoying to people who have to listen to me all the time (say, my husband for example). "That's the fourth time you've said 'bizarre' during dinner." The quality of conversation goes way down if he's just waiting to count my bizzares.

Sometimes repetition can dilute the meaning of the word, too. Maybe the first thing I pointed out was bizarre, but the next few things could have just been odd. Bizarre is kind of a strong word. Something has to be way out there to be bizarre, so I'm being hyperbolic in choosing bizarre over odd. But being hyperbolic makes me more like Jesus, so perhaps I should stick with it!

Dilution of meaning is one reason the name of God is so holy and shouldn't be taken in vain, I think. You say it a bunch of times in the wrong context and it loses its power. People throw around phrases like, "Oh my god!" all the time. I always cringe. But most exclamatory words like that have their origins in something religious. "Gosh" and "golly" are forms of "God." "Geez," and, my personal favorite, "jeepers" are most certainly a softening of "Jesus." I'm going to have to start making up phrases just to avoid accidental blasphemy. How about I steal Annie's "leapin' lizards!"?

That wasn't actually the point of today's post. I've kind of wandered. Sorry about that.

I was going to say that sometimes in our prayer life, we get repetitive. We say the same things over and over again, and they lose meaning. "Dear God, thank you for today." I say that every time I pray. What does that even mean? Do I mean that it was a good day, so thanks for that? Or just thank you for giving me a new day to live? Thank you for the breath in my lungs? Am I thanking him for day as opposed to thanking him for the night? According to Neil Diamond, I'm supposed to thank the Lord for the night time instead. And, you know, I do what Neil Diamond says.

When I was younger, I always asked God to forgive my sins. Just a blanket statement like that, "Forgive me for my sins." I didn't specify what my sins were. Is that repentant? Does that count? Just in case, I should probably go back and ask forgiveness for third grade as a whole.

Our prayers should have meaning. We should have conversations with God like we have conversations with anyone else. Lofty language and repetitive phrasing doesn't bring us any closer to him. He wants me to say, "I've had a really lousy day. This is why." Or, "I really messed up. This is how. Please help me!" I just need to be myself with God and connect to him in a truly meaningful way without pretense. Can you imagine if you had a list of phrases to use every time you had a conversation with your best friend? It would get old. And he/she might think you were crazy.

Try something new when you talk to God today. Really think about what you're saying and what meaning it has. And if you'd like to share what your repetitive prayer phrases are, I'd love to hear them. Lets me know I'm not bizarre!

Oh, wait...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

That's Entertainment!

I really enjoy entertainment. I love movies, television, music, video games. I love going to the movies or watching them at home. I've spent many an afternoon (while my son is napping) catching up on the previous night's shows I missed while spending time with my family. I have my iPod with me most of the time to listen to whatever music I've been in the mood for lately. I probably spend the least amount of time on video games, but I still enjoy them once in a while.

Sometimes I wonder what the point is. I mean, I enjoy these things, but are they really just sucking my time and life away? I'm sure there are more productive things I could be doing. Even now, I could be cleaning. I'm grateful that Reid enjoys music, but sometimes I feel doubly grateful that he's not interested in television. I'm sure I'd be shocked to see the numbers if someone added up all the time I've spent watching TV in my lifetime.

Why are these things interesting? Why are they compelling? At least, why are they interesting and compelling to me? My husband has very little interest in television and movies. He has no problem turning off a show or a movie right in the middle to go to bed. I feel like I have to watch the whole thing—get the whole story, see how it turns out. He has no interest. No entertainment is as compelling as sleeping.

The Bible doesn't mention any of those activities specifically (for obvious, non-time-travelling reasons), but it does mention a lot about wasting time. And how awful it is.

Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.  (Ephesians 5:15-17, The Message)

Jeepers. So what do you think? Are entertainment activities worthwhile or time-wasters?