May 31, 2010

Lest We Forget

So often we think Memorial Day was intended as a day to remember anyone who has died, and that's fine. We need to remember those who have made a difference in our lives, and thank God for them.

Sometimes we think Memorial Day is a day to remember those who currently serving in the armed forces, and that's fine. We need to keep those who are risking their lives for us, as well as their families, in the forefront of our minds.

But Memorial Day is the day we are supposed to remember those who died in service to our country...those who paid the ultimate price for us. Perhaps, as well, it's fair to remember those who survived the wars in which they served, only to die inside from all that they saw and endured.

Today, as you eat your hot dogs, or go to a movie, or take advantage of sales at the mall, take a minute to thank God for those who have given their lives for us. Thank God for their families, and pray for His continued grace and provision for those who have been left behind.

Today, I'll think of Milton, the uncle I never met, who gave his life in the invasion of Normandy. I'll remember the letters my dad wrote to my grandmother following his brother's death, and wonder how she ever got over the loss of her eldest child. I'll think of the widow Milton left behind, and wonder what it was like for Faye to lose her husband of only 5 years...and to live as a widow for the next 50.

I'll think of my cousin, Jackie, whose life was forever changed by injuries he sustained in Vietnam on another June day, a quarter of a century after Milton's death. I'll think of Jackie's parents and his brothers because their lives were also changed on the day that Jackie was shot.

I'll think of all the men and women who have so bravely answered the call of duty, and I'll thank God for each and every one of them.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. ~ Phillipians 1:3

May 28, 2010

Carrie? Really?

So I took the "Which Sex and the City Girl Are You?" quiz, and apparently I'm Carrie. I am mostly appalled. I know there was no show without Carrie, but gosh, 6 years of whining about Big... To tell you the truth I found Carrie pretty tiresome.

I always assumed I'd be Miranda in that test. I'm Dorothy in the Golden Girls quiz, and if such a thing as a Designing Women quiz exists, I'm sure I'd be Julia. I'm always the one who is ready to tell everybody how the cow ate the cabbage. Like all the other women, Miranda has admirable qualities, but I don't want to be the cynical Miranda.

There's not a chance I'd be Samantha. No point in even discussing that.

Just about everyone wants to be Charlotte. All the results I've seen posted are for Charlotte. If I had to be one of the 4, I suppose I'd rather be Charlotte, too, but I don't really want to be Charlotte either. She was about as needy as Carrie.

Despite the fact that I don't want to be any of these women, I was hooked on the show. I never saw it until it went into syndication. When TBS started running it, I swore I'd never watch it. The whole concept bothered me. Four single women who are obsessed with sex...good grief, who wants to watch that?

My sister told me to watch it "just for the shoes." After suffering through clunky, ugly shoes throughout the '90s and beyond, neither one of us can get enough of cute shoes. I insisted that I didn't care how cute the shoes were. I would not lower myself to watching Sex and the City.

But then, while I was watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond or some such (yes, I am that boring), I'd see the promos for the upcoming episode of...Sex and the City. And the promo would include a blurb that made me think, "Wow, I've had that conversation" or "I thought I was the only one who ever thought that."

So I started watching the show..and it wasn't long before I was totally hooked. The relationships between the women were as compelling as the relationships on every classic TV show I ever loved. The had the comic side of I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke, the life-changing side of M*A*S*H, the facing life as a single of Golden Girls, and the sharp writing of Frasier. And I got hooked on the storyline, too.

Would Carrie and Big ever get together? Then Aiden came along. I always loved John Corbett in Northern Exposure, and he was just as good on Sex and the City. The only problem with Aiden was that he was too nice for Carrie. Neither one of them recognized that, of course, but Aiden was way too nice for her. She treated him horribly. At that point I wanted her to get back together with Big, just so Aiden could get on with his life. (Although now that I've learned he has dated Bo Derick for the last 8 years, I'm starting to think John Corbett isn't as lovable as his characters. Why couldn't he date someone average, you know, like me? Not me of course, because I have that secret celebrity crush on Alec Baldwin, but a regular person...this is all I'm saying.)

Then there was the very brief interlude with Berger who broke up with Carrie on a Post-It note. He was a writer, for crying out loud, and he couldn't come up with more words than he could get onto a Post-It. What single gal past 50 couldn't relate?

And finally there was the ballerina artist. Mikhail Baryshnikov's character made the last season insufferable. (The good part about seeing it in syndication was that they ran 2 episodes each night, so a season was like, I don't know, 2 weeks. I can take 2 weeks of insufferable.) Alexander's arrogance made Big seem positively warm and fuzzy, making the series finale everything viewers could have hoped for.

Of course the first movie was generally well-received, too. Just like the show, it had that whole tedious period where you wondered if she and Big were ever going to get together. I suppose Sex and the City 2 will have us wondering if she and Big are going to stay together.

Tedious or not, I plan to see it. Maybe not this weekend but soon.

Damn those cute shoes.

Have a great weekend!

May 26, 2010

A Day in the Life

I drive a reasonably fuel-efficient car, and I plan my errands so that I don't have to do any extra driving. I can usually go 2 weeks on a tank of gas...sometimes more. I keep my thermostat set low in the winter and high in the summer. I drink tap water most of the time instead of bottled water. When I hear how much oil Americans consume, I know I'm not responsible for the problem.

This morning I turned over in bed to turn off the alarm clock and then reached up to turn on the bedside lamp and noticed the shade needed to be vacuumed. I adjusted my pillow and picked up the remote to catch some early morning news on TV. I drank a few sips of water from the reusable plastic bottle on my bedside table and then put some Chapstick on my lips. I put a second coat of nail polish on my toes since I didn't have time for more than one coat last night.

After a while I got up and turned off the fan by my bed as I slipped into a pair of flip flops to go downstairs and fix breakfast. I dropped a CD into the player and listened to a little music as I pulled the cat food out of the refrigerator, removing the plastic cover.  Then I reached back in for a half-gallon container of 1% milk for my cereal. I took out another container of chocolate milk to drink with my vitamins, which I keep in a days-of-the-week pillbox. I turned the wand to open the window blinds as I put my dishes in the sink and ran a sponge and dishwashing liquid over them.

I took a bag of trash out and while I was outside, I looked up at my chimney which was repaired over the weekend. I was pleased to see that it was painted yesterday. As I looked at the roof, I marveled again that the recent tornado in my area did not damage any of the shingles. I went back in the house, grateful for the air conditioning because it's already hot, even early in the morning.

Then I went upstairs to clean the litter box and take a shower. I pulled the shower liner back and got in, moving a bottle of shampoo to reach my razor. I ran conditioner through my hair and remembered that I need to pick up some hair color to touch up my roots, not that I dye my hair or anything.

I dried off and applied some deodorant. Then I put on my robe and ran a comb through my hair, and grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste to brush my teeth. Then I put some anti-frizz gel in my hair and turned the hair dryer on. Once my hair was dry, I put rollers in and started to put my makeup on. Once that was done, I put on my clothes and a pair of leather sandals with comfy soles. I took my hair down and brushed it before taking the cap off of the hairspray and applying the finishing touches to my hair. I put my earrings on before putting some lotion on my hands.

I pulled my cell phone off the charger and threw it in my purse. I put my glasses on and pulled back the draperies to raise the shades in my bedroom and then went back down to the kitchen. I pulled some containers of leftovers out of the refrigerator and transferred them to smaller containers to put in my reusable lunch bag before heading out the door. I briefly considered grabbing the umbrella by the front door, but decided with only a 30% chance of rain I probably wouldn't need it.

As I walked out to the car, I clicked the remote to unlock it. I set my purse down next to the console and made a mental note of the time on the clock on the dashboard as I pulled out, wondering when the resurfacing of my parking lot will begin. I switched to my sunglasses as I pulled out onto the street. As I drove past the corner convenience store, I saw that the numbers on the sign indicated that the price of gasoline had dropped another couple of cents. I pulled up to the ATM at the bank and pulled out my debit card to get some cash.

At the last traffic light before my office, I pulled a tube of lipstick out of my purse for a touch-up. I parallel parked in the parking lot, and when I got out of the car, I noticed one of the tires was a little bit on the (ridiculously low) curb, but decided to let it go. I walked to my office where I picked up a note that was in my chair as I sat down in front of my keyboard to begin my day. I saw the flash drive that I keep meaning to take home still sitting in my computer.

It was just after 9:00 a.m. and I had already used well over 50 products that are connected to petroleum. And it's not just the few dozen things I used this morning. There are thousands of products made from petroleum.

We need to start looking for new sources of energy to meet our transportation needs, but there's also room for innovation in lots of other areas. I realize there are green options for some of these items, but not for all of them. It's easier to avoid using items imported from China (no small task itself) than it is to avoid using items made from petroleum. Even things that are not petroleum-based are made in factories using machines that require energy to work, and those machines may also contain parts that come from the petroleum industry. That means my cotton towels and leather purse might have an oil connection, too.

You see, it's not as simple as conservation, or stopping off-shore drilling. We need to encourage creativity along with conservation to meet the needs of the future. Seriously, the time that we're going to have to deal with this, might not be that far off.

I'm blind as a bat, which makes me partial to lightweight eyeglasses. We need to start figuring out what we'll replace those plastic lenses with so people like me don't have a constant headache from wearing heavy glasses. (Contact lenses are also derived from petroleum.) Artificial limbs need to be lightweight to be are we going to replace them? And what about disposable diapers? I know some parents who are green in every other way, but can't stomach the old fashioned diaper route, even with a diaper service.

And there are thousands of other products that are going to require some ingenuity.

With the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it's easy to place all the blame on the oil companies, but they're only doing what all companies do. They're in the business of selling a product to consumers, and we consume far more of what they sell than most of us have ever considered. It's not all about transportation. Not by a longshot.

According to a government website, "about 72% of the 7.14 billion barrels of petroleum that we used in 2008 were gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel." That leaves nearly 30% of oil going into other products that we all use every day.

The problem isn't just about Big Oil and greed. We have all contributed to the mess in the Gulf.

All. of. us.

There is no one righteous, not even one. ~ Romans 3:10

May 25, 2010

Bless, Bess, What a Mess!

A few posts back, I made a brief comment about flying from Dallas to LA on the same flight as Victoria Principal. It was during the heyday of the show, Dallas. On that flight, I was seated next to a couple who had flown from New York, and since they had never seen the city of Dallas other than on the show, they had planned to have a long enough layover to rent a car and do some sightseeing. As it turned out, their flight from JFK was late, so instead of renting a car, they had just enough time to run into the gift shop at DFW and pick up some postcards.

As we took off, the wife pulled the postcards out her bag. Her husband and I were seated on either side of her, and I glanced at the postcards as they both pored over them, occasionally asking me questions. She pulled out one postcard that showed a train, and I noticed her studying it intently. Finally she turned to me and asked, "Where do the people ride?" I asked her to repeat the question, not because I hadn't heard her clearly, but because I was baffled by the question.

"Where do the people ride?"

"It's a freight train," I replied.  "People don't ride them. They're for cargo."

She looked at me as though I had just landed from Mars. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "People ride trains?"

I'm kidding. I knew people ride trains, but it doesn't happen much in this part of the world. We're not big on mass transit. We don't even like to carpool. Come on, I might want to leave before you, and I need to have my own car.

All of this to explain that I am of two minds on this whole BP business. I think we should be looking for alternative sources of energy. I think we should be green. No matter what anyone thinks of Al Gore, I think we should be conserving energy for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with climate change.

But those alternative sources of energy are still largely Plan B, and we don't have a Plan B in place. We talk about wind, but the financing for that has dried up, along with a lot of other things. We talk about natural gas as an energy source for cars, but we're long way from making that practical.

As for oil, we are where we are.

I'm from a part of the world where many people I know are connected to the oil industry, from independent producers to those who provide equipment for off-shore drilling. Several members of my extended family are employed in various facets of the petroleum industry. It's not just about gasoline and motor oil.

Products from petroleum are diverse, including plastics, textiles, contact lenses, and artificial limbs. Vitamin capsules, tape, shampoo, and house paint are also derived from petroleum. As one Facebook friend has continually reminded another in a series of arguments threads on this topic, the computer you are reading this on is encased in plastic that came from oil. The list of items derived from petroleum is overwhelming.

We are where we are.

Much of our way of life is directly connected to oil. So while I have never been a fan of off-shore drilling, I've never been fully opposed to it either (although I have always been opposed to drilling in ANWR.) The "Drill, baby, drill" mantra appalled me, as those who were pushing it seemed to think it was a joke. While I don't agree with their attitude, I have seen off-shore drilling as something we need to do, mostly because we don't have a Plan B.

So when President Obama announced an expansion of off-shore drilling at the end of March, I thought it made sense. Has that changed since the BP rig explosion? I don't know. I don't see a simple solution.

We are where we are.

Those two Facebook friends who have spent the last few weeks engaged in a passionate dispute over the topic haven't answered any questions for me. One is ultra-conservative, and the other is ultra-liberal. One has worked in the oil industry, the other has worked in education. I have to tell you, while I tend to be left of center on many topics, and right of center on a few others, I don't think either one of them has any answers. I think they are both right about some things, and I think they are both wrong about others.

That's the problem with so many things right now. Everyone wants to solve problems with knee-jerk reactions, and hardly anyone wants to meet in the middle with a practical solution.

What is happening in the Gulf is unacceptable. That BP would ask the public for ideas on how to stop the leak is so absurd, no one could make it up. That for the last few years industry executives and politicians have continually told us that off-shore drilling is safe ("Drill, baby, drill!) because there hadn't been a major spill from off-shore drilling off the US coast since 1969 is infuriating. That after a month of not being able to stop the oil from leaking into the Gulf, the same politicians who were pushing "Drill, baby, drill!" are now blaming the government for the problem is insulting.

But we are where we are.

I understand the frustration with the government over this, but I'm not sure what the government is supposed to do to stop a leak once it has started. (And excuse me, but aren't these the same people who want the government out of everything in favor of the free marker?) Sure, the Army Corps of Engineers should surely be able to help figure out what to do, but I'm not sure the government has the equipment needed to fix it. I don't recall any of the politicians arguing for off-shore drilling ever saying anything about the government's role in cleaning up any spills that might occur. These same people who argued that we should allow drilling in ANWR never told us anything but how safe it is.

It seems to me that the role of government should be to demand that safety precautions be in place to prevent accidents like this in the first place. Do other countries require things that we don't? Were there things we  could have done before this accident occurred that we didn't do?

In the midst of the mess, I hear arguments from both sides bring God into it. One side refers to Genesis and says, "The earth is here to provide for our needs, and the oil is there for a reason." The other side refers to Genesis and says we are charged with taking care of the earth.

I agree with both. We need to take care of the earth, but the oil is there for a reason. Even so, I have to wonder, why is it so hard to reach? Is it because God wants us to recognize that we need to be getting serious about Plan B? Is it a heads up that we need to conserve as much as we can?

I don't think it's a coincidence that this happened just as President Obama announced the expansion of off-shore drilling. I don't agree with those who say it's a warning to stop off-shore drilling altogether, but I do think it's a warning to proceed with extreme caution.

I believe it's a heads up to get on with finding alternative sources of energy. We are where we are, but oil is not an unlimited resource, and we have to stop behaving as though it is. We need to start thinking about what changes we need to make as a nation to be ready for whatever comes next. We need to be investing in research and putting the best minds we have to work on this issue.

We have to demand that more safeguards be put in place to keep this from happening again. If politicians tried to tell us off-shore drilling was safe because there hadn't been an accident in 40 years, then we need to go at least 100 years without an accident before anyone tries to bring up the idea of drilling in ANWR again.

We have to quit behaving as though we own the earth and remember that we're just leasing. We owe that much to future generations. We might even have to consider carpooling. =)

May 22, 2010

Always and Everywhere

"Let us remember that we are always and everywhere in the holy presence of God."

I used to work a second job that had the same alarm system as my day job. One Saturday I went into the part-time job and as soon as I opened the door and heard the alarm pad start to beep, I went blank.

I could remember the code for my day job, but I absolutely could not remember the code for the second job. Oops.

I knew it was written on a calendar in my boss's office...but I couldn't remember which calendar. Was it 1994? 1995? I ran to his office and threw my key in the lock and went straight to the shelf where the calendars were kept and started rummaging through them. The keypad was beeping faster...time was running out.

The alarm went off.

I ran back into the reception area and grabbed the phone. My boss was out of the country, so I called his son. I remembered the last 2 digits of the code that would identify me, so if I could just get the first 4 digits from him, I could shut the alarm off. "Come on, come on, answer!" He picked up the phone and somehow managed to hear me as the sirens were blaring and he gave me the first 4 numbers of the code. I disarmed the alarm and then called the alarm company to have them stop the police from coming.

I explained that I had forgotten the code. "Yes, I know. I could hear you," the dispatcher replied. I had forgotten that the alarm system included audio so the dispatcher could hear anyone who broke in.

I nearly melted in embarrassment as I realize that meant that she had also heard me say "sh*t" 47 times.

I often think of that when I hear a prayer begin with "Let us remember that we are always and everywhere in the holy presence of God." If the dispatcher from the alarm company could hear everything, how much more does God hear and see?

Always and everywhere in His presence...kind of a challenging thought, isn't it? It's so much easier to put God in a box and take Him out on an as-needed basis. But no, we are always and everywhere in His presence.

Always and everywhere.

He's with me when I say sh*t 47 times because I can't remember the alarm code.

He's with me when I get mad in traffic.

He's with me when a Facebook friend posts something on their status that makes me think less of them for just a second...or two.

He's with me when I refuse to speak to someone with whom I disagree.

He's with me when I refuse to help someone in need.

He's with me when I fail to do the right thing.

He's with me when I fail Him.

He's with me when I trust Him...and when I don't.

He's with me when I don't deserve Him.

Despite my failings, He is always everywhere that I am. He continues to forgive me, and He continues to love me. He continues to be there when I need Him.

Always and everywhere. Wow.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)

May 21, 2010

The Big Bang Theory & Relationship Updates

It's time to end the week on a light note. I'm always amused by people who feel like they have to give constant relationship updates on Facebook. It strikes me as a shade needy, as the guys on The Big Bang Theory discussed during the show's second season. As it turns out, there's an interesting twist to the debate.

Enjoy the clip!

 CBS / The Big Bang Theory, Season 2, Episode 9
The White Asparagus Triangulation

May 19, 2010

It's a Touchy Subject

Rant Alert: It has been a long time since I had PMS, but I feel like I've had a bad case all day. One of my favorite bloggers did a post on Being Lazy for the Lord. I love Jonathan's blog. Absolutely love it. Most days he pokes fun at things Christians do, say, and believe, and he manages to be hysterical and convicting at the same time. On Wednesdays, his posts are always serious.

Today Jon talked about people who want change in their lives, but aren't willing to do anything to help make that happen. It's not unlike the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about those open doors that God provides in our lives. He went into much more detail, though. He made some excellent points. I really liked what he had to say about Nehemiah.

For the  most part, the post was well received. Most of the negative comments - heck, maybe all of the negative comments - came from single women. I was one of them.

What did he say that was so offensive? Nothing I haven't heard before. That's why it offended me. And it wasn't just what he was that I felt that it reinforced stereotypes about singles that are not helpful.

He was talking about singles who want to get married without putting any effort into meeting people. Yes, I know such people exist, but I also think they are the minority, and do not represent the rest of us. Some singles want to marry, some don't, and others of us have honestly reached a point where we have given this to God and said - and we mean it - "Not my will, but Thine." We manage to remain emotionally healthy despite our singleness - some might even say because of our singleness. We get out and are involved in our communities. We are not living in our parents' basements. Really, you would think Christians would understand this concept, but no, Christians can be the worst when it comes to accepting another's singleness.

Jon's comments reminded me of an Ann Landers answer to singleness - you know, "Get out and join a singles group at your church." That's not exactly the way Jon put it, but that's how I read it. And I know that's not what he intended. But the comments in his defense only served to validate why it bothered me.

I have run into this for years decades. "Decades?" you ask. Yes, decades. Everyone has advice that they want to offer to those of us who are single. Rarely is the advice solicited. Joining a singles group at church is typical of the advice that is given.

First of all, as I said in my comment to Jonathan's post, single people go to church for the same reasons married people do. They are looking for fellowship with other followers of Christ. They are looking for a deeper knowledge of the Bible. They are looking for a stronger relationship with Christ. They are looking for the same things that married people look for in a church group.

Yes, there will always be some who are at church looking for a mate, but  - particularly in groups over the age of 30 - they are the minority. (Which works out nicely because after 30, the ratio of men to women typically drops each and every year.) So could we please stop perpetuating the myth that singles go to church to get married?

Secondly, the responses directed to those of us who were offended echoed too much of the advice I've received over the years.

"You'll find someone when you quit looking." I don't even remember when I quit looking, but sometimes God's answer is just, "No." Sometimes it's "Not now." I don't need people who don't know me to tell me what God's plan is for my life. For that matter, I don't need people who do know me to tell me what God's plan is for me.

"I met my husband on eHarmony." That's nice. I'm thinking I could make money selling a t-shirt that says "I joined eHarmony and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and a boatload of gun-toting redneck matches." WE KNOW ABOUT eHARMONY. (Sorry, I didn't mean to shout.) I know a lot of people seem to think singles are living on another planet, but really, we have heard all about online dating.

"Get out and meet people." Excuse me, but most of us are not single because we're in hibernation. Again, it's assigning a stereotype to people that doesn't fit most of us. We are a "living, breathing, vital part of society," thank you very much.

And then there were a few suggestions that weren't posted, but ran through my head when I read the comments:

"You know, at this point in life, you just can't be picky." You're right. Set me up with that guy who you wouldn't set your own sister up with (for obvious reasons) because I can't be picky. I'm sorry, but when it comes to marriage, I think a little more discernment is in order, not less.

"You're not listening to God." This came from a married guy who was offering to "help me out" and the man wasn't offering to fix my faucet. He gave me the story about the guy sitting on his roof in a flood who turned away a life preserver, a boat, and a helicopter, saying he was trusting God to save him. Then the guy drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God why he let him drown, and God replied, "I sent you a dingy, a lifeguard, and a helicopter and you refused them. What else could I do?"

Trust me. I know God's voice. And in this case, God told me to tell that guy to take a hike.

"God doesn't have a 'right person' for you. You just have to find 'someone' and make it work." The implication here is that just anyone will do...and yet we wonder why the divorce rate is so high. Again, I have to go back to that discernment thing. I understand that there is no perfect person but at the same time, you can't just find anybody and expect to make a marriage work. I once heard a pastor of a church I visited preach a sermon about how you just have to find someone and make the best of it. I later learned that he was cheating on his wife. Interesting how much of the bad advice seems to come from people who aren't happy in their own marriages.

There has been other bad advice over the "something" with your hair, wear contacts, pretend to be someone you're not, you spend too much time with singles (?)....the list goes on.

Really, I love Jon's "Serious Wednesday" posts, but marriage advice for singles is a bit of a touchy subject.

May 18, 2010

My Favorite YouTube Video

In honor of YouTube's fifth anniversary, I'll share my personal favorite video,which is Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed a Dream during her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent. Now they won't let you embed that particular video, so if you want to watch it again, you'll have to click here.

Despite nearly 100 million hits, Susan's video didn't make the Top 10 YouTube videos of all time. (Somehow Lady Gaga managed to get two videos on that list.) But I still love Susan's the most. There's something about the audience's change of heart in response to this frumpy-looking woman once she starts to sing that just gets me every stinking time. As her voice soars, the image is so full of hope, that the words from Les Misérables are easily ignored. We forget that the dream has died.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

The lyrics aren't exactly inspiring, are they? And yet, they seem to fit Susan Boyle just as much as the music itself fits her voice...a beautiful melody to go with words that seem a bit out of place.

There are times when I've wondered if Susan herself isn't a little bitter despite her joking with Simon and the other judges, as well as during a number of interviews over the past year. I hope I'm wrong about that. So many people seem to have written her off throughout her life. Even I winced a little when I read her biography on Wikipedia and got to the line "Boyle never married..." Excuse me? Never? I know I have trouble keeping up with which celebrities are dead and which ones are alive, but I feel sure that Susan Boyle is still alive. "Never" makes it sound as though the possibility of marriage is so remote, it's not worth considering. Give me a break. I'll admit, her options may have been limited before Britain's Got Talent, but I'm thinking the odds of marriage for Susan have improved considerably since then.

When she was briefly hospitalized after the Britain's Got Talent finale, I worried that she wouldn't be able to pull off success. But Susan seems to have done alright. She has performed all over the world, and is starting to work on her second album. And Lady Gaga has reportedly expressed an interest in working with Susan, so maybe Susan will get a top 10 YouTube video yet.

Life doesn't seem to be killing Susan's dream at all. ;-)

Most of all, I think I like Susan's story so much because it fits my favorite passage of scripture, from the book of Jeremiah. I feel sure that she must have sought God with all of her heart.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity." You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  ~ Jeremiah 29:11-14a

May 17, 2010

Vote for San Miguel!

An eighth grade class at Tulsa's San Miguel school is in the running for the Today show's Harry Potter Contest. The winning class will go to the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. The winner will be announced Thursday morning, May 20th, on the Today show.

San Miguel is one of 4 finalists. This is the video they submitted. You'll fall in love with these kids.

San Miguel is making a difference in the lives of the students. It is helping to break the cycle of poverty, teaching students to make wise choices and to become leaders in their community.

Please help these extraordinary kids make it to Orlando. Click here to vote.

Edited May 20, 2010 to include the outcome of the contest: The first grade class from San Antonio received the most votes, but Universal Studios is graciously sending all four of the classes that were finalists to the opening of the Harry Potter attraction this June. What a happy ending, as they are all extraordinary!

May 16, 2010

This Our Joyful Hymn of Praise

Over the last 15 years or so, a lot of churches have given up traditional worship altogether in favor of praise bands and praise teams singing praise choruses, which I think is a shame. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against all that praise, but I really love a choir...which I find to be every bit as praise-worthy.

In those churches that still have a traditional worship option, it is often assumed single adults are only interested in contemporary worship, so singles classes are scheduled during the traditional service. I suppose that, regardless of the ages of the singles in those churches, whoever makes those decisions thinks all singles are 22-years-old. I could never attend one of those churches.

I know, I really shouldn't be that snarky about it. Worship isn't for our benefit. Worship is something we give to God, out of love. But I don't believe there's anything wrong with having a preference for one style over another. I'm also not convinced that worship-preference is a generational thing.

I know lots of people my age really do prefer contemporary worship, but I know just as many others who go to the contemporary service at my church just because they prefer the time...not the worship style. Our contemporary service is early, at 8:30 a.m., while the traditional service is still at the "traditional" worship time, 11:00 a.m. Classes are sandwiched in between, so fortunately, everyone gets to choose the worship service they prefer, whether it's the time or the style that drives the preference.

We had a bit of the usual fuss when the contemporary service began in the mid-'90s, although it seems silly now as so many churches offer contemporary worship. Most of us saw the addition of a contemporary service as a positive development and an exciting step in the life of our church. There is no doubt that it allowed for growth.

I think it's wonderful that we offer a choice, but I have to admit that I have also laughed at some of the terms that people used to describe the contemporary service. One friend, who attended the contemporary service, referred to it as Disco Mass. Someone else, who preferred the traditional service, referred to the contemporary music as "camp ditties". I still think that's pretty funny...and often spot on. Many of the contemporary songs (no, certainly not all of them) do have a Kumbaya quality to them, especially when they're repeated over and over and over and over again. I don't mind singing the same song 3 times, but after that, puleeze. Get out the marshmallows 'cause there had better be s'mores involved.

Over the years, both services have become more and more blended, which I love. It's the best of both styles with occasional hymns in the contemporary service, and praise choruses mixed into the traditional. True, we don't generally get to hear the fabulous praise band at 11:00, but then those who attend the contemporary service don't get to hear the fabulous choir.

I truly believe missing the choir is the greater loss. I hate that a generation has grown up in church without learning to appreciate the beauty of a choral anthem. So for those who don't know what they're missing, as well as for those who just love the sound of a choir, here's one of my favorites, "For the Beauty of the Earth", arranged by John Rutter, and performed by the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir.

Have a great week!

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5: 19-20

May 14, 2010

OK, So It Might Have Been A Tornado After All

It wasn't a big tornado. To tell you the truth, I was in a downburst about 25 years ago that was much more frightening. In the downburst, my windows rattled to the point that I was afraid they were going to shatter. I remember picturing something of an explosion.

This, whatever it was? Not so much.

In my last post I told you about waking up Thursday morning to discover the power had just gone off. I gradually began to realize that we were in the midst of a thunderstorm, complete with ferocious winds. I listened to the wind, and knew it would be awhile before the power came back on. It was still dark so I didn't know if it was 2:00 a.m. or 6:00. a.m. so I thought about getting up to find my cell phone to see what time it was.

That's when the sirens went off. The sirens that, just yesterday, we were told that officials had sounded due to high winds. By yesterday afternoon, it was determined that a town to the southwest had been hit by an EF2 tornado. (On a scale of 0-5, and EF2 can cause "considerable" damage, ripping roofs off of houses.) They have not yet released a report on the path of that tornado, but it appears it may have been responsible for the roof that was ripped off of a shopping center 2 blocks from my house. Did I mention that I was sound asleep on the 2nd floor of my condo moments before the roof of that one-story building was ripped off? The National Weather Service now believes that there were 3 separate tornadoes in our area.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I didn't experience 2 tell-tale signs of a tornado. I didn't hear anything that sounded like a freight train and I didn't have a headache or earache that would indicate a sudden change in the barometric pressure.

I didn't tell you that I did hear popping, along with the sounds of thunder and wind, while I was laying in bed, right before the sirens went off. Since my power had gone off, I thought it might be the sound of transformers blowing and wondered, briefly, if I should be concerned about that. I convinced myself it was probably something else. Later, when I saw huge tree limbs that had broken off, I thought maybe the popping had been the sound of those limbs cracking. I still don't know for sure, but if a tornado went right over me, then the popping could well have been transformers blowing as the result of power flashes caused by a tornado.

So, back to the moment when the sirens went off. To be fair, the danger had already passed me at that point, and the wind was dying down, but I still didn't know we had anything other than a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm with high winds. We get those a lot. The 10:00 p.m. weather reports had specifically noted there was little chance of tornadoes, just thunderstorms to come around daybreak.

The sound of the siren brought me fully awake, but it didn't scare me. I have lived in cities that have occasional tornadoes all of my life. When I was in elementary school, my family moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Despite that city's place on a  list of the top 10 tornado-prone cities in the United States, my school was built around 2 courtyards, each with glass on all 4 sides. That left only 2 short hallways that were free of windows in which students could gather during tornado drills. There were also a couple of pre-fab buildings, one of which held my classroom. We didn't rate a spot in one of those hallways. We were relegated to the boys' bathroom, which was located on an exterior wall. (For those who don't know, you always want to be in an interior area in a tornado, and preferably a small one, which is why those of us without basements or storm shelters go into lower level closets or bathrooms.) Even in the 4th grade, I knew we were in an area that was likely to have tornadoes and wondered who the genius was who had designed that school, and how the plan ever received approval for construction. You see, we learn about the risk of tornadoes and what to do and what not to do early in life.

Despite the high temperatures in advance of the cold front that came through early Thursday morning, meteorologists had told us there was little threat for a tornado. The only reason that I put clothes out to have ready to run downstairs in the middle of the night was because my mind kept telling me that Wednesday night "felt like" tornado weather.

So as I grabbed my purse and my clothes to go downstairs to the sound of blaring sirens, I was not in a panic. I was being cautious, because when you have spent your whole life in Tornado Alley, you know it's always better to err on the side of caution.

Which brings me to meteorologists. Once upon a time, anyone with a decent personality could do the weather on TV. Do you remember Robert Reed from The Brady Bunch? His first job in front the camera was as a TV weatherman. My sister had a friend who was a model in Dallas, and also did the weekend weather for one of the Dallas stations. Robert Reed and my sister's friend didn't know anything about meteorology. They didn't have to. Back then, there were 2 rules for those doing the weather: a) Women had to look good and b) Men had to have a shtick. (They were like Willard Scott. We had one who used to do the weather with a puppet.) The truth is, those "personalities" did as good a job of telling us when to get in the closet as the experts we have now, they didn't spend hours at a time telling us about storms that were not headed in our direction. I am on the side of those who believe that if we are desensitized to tornado watches and warnings around here, it is because that we are on Meteorological Overload. What does a Tornado Warning within 100 miles mean to locals? It means that all we're going to see on local stations for a couple of hours of Prime Time will be radar images, with the occasional feed from a weather spotter who is watching clouds through a wet windshield. For crying out loud, I wish they would use the commercial breaks, use the crawl at the bottom of the screen, and break in when a tornado is headed towards a community. Instead, they send us into a hypnotic state for hours on end and then act surprised when they discover that we have become desensitized.

I understand why they feel the need to preempt programming. They are all trained weather experts. They live and breathe the weather. They have radar that is so sensitive, it can pick up rotation...although they can't always tell what the rotation means.. They have computers that can often accurately predict the risk of tornadoes days in advance. They can save lives with this information. Provided, of course, we aren't looking at the TV through glazed eyes.

On May 4, the National Weather Service in Norman accurately predicted there would be a tornado outbreak in the Oklahoma City area during rush hour on May 10. They got it right. Without that accurate prediction, there would surely have been more than 2 deaths from what turned out to be a major outbreak of tornadoes. What's more, it began precisely when they said it would, during the afternoon rush hour. But even knowing that tornadoes could form at a given time on a specific day, we still have to go to work and to school. We still have to go out and live our lives.

There was an article on yesterday lamenting that people were told 6 days in advance that there was a likelihood of tornadoes in the area but streets and expressways were still packed at 5:00 on Monday, shortly before the tornadoes formed. Of course they were. What people who don't live in this part of the world fail to understand is that meteorologists can get the forecast right, and it still doesn't change how we live. Unless they could tell those in the affected area that an EF4 would touch down at the truck stop at I-40 and Choctaw Rd. at 5:30 p.m. on May 10, what were people supposed to do with the information? Was Oklahoma City and every surrounding suburb supposed to shut down at noon so everyone could go home and hide in their (mostly) non-existent basements? I have no doubt that with the bad weather coming in, many in Oklahoma City left work early on Monday. I would have done the same. But we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people trying to get home, and I'm sure every street and highway in the area was congested.

People were on the highways, first and foremost, because there was not an actual tornado warning in place when most of them headed home. The sirens had not yet sounded. A tornado warning is when people take cover because a tornado warning means that an actual tornado has been spotted. Sirens are not activated for watches; they are activated for warnings. Even when the sirens did sound, I don't know know how easy it would have been for people in traffic, particularly on expressways, to hear them. I'm sure they all understood that a tornado could suddenly drop down from the sky, but I imagine that few driving on I-40 expected their path to intersect with that of a tornado.

Oklahoma City covers an area of over 600 square miles. There are over half a million residents, and well over a million in the greater metropolitan area. Oklahoma City encompasses a sizable area. Even for the locals, it's not the easiest city to navigate because of the way it is laid out. I once knew a couple who joked that they almost got divorced when they got off the highway in Oklahoma City to eat and then couldn't find their way back on. (Ahem, someone didn't want to ask for directions.)

People outside of Tornado Alley don't understand that tornado watches are generally issued for multiple counties, and can affect thousands of square miles. A watch only means that conditions are right for tornadoes to form. It does not mean there is an actual tornado. It is not even a certainty that tornadoes will form, but it does indicate a strong likelihood. Oklahoma City was under a tornado watch Monday afternoon, until the first tornado was spotted, at which time a tornado warning would have been issued. That's why people were on the highways and not hiding in closets. We take warnings seriously, but most of us check to see where the tornado was spotted, and the direction it's going. The immediate threat generally passes in a matter of minutes. The warning will be issued for an entire county, but the whole county is not in the path of the tornado, and even within the tornado's path, it may only touch down for a single block. A tornado can wipe out one house and leave the houses on either side untouched. They can jump over 2-story buildings where people are sleeping soundly at 5:00 a.m. and only to come down and take the roof off of a shopping center 2 blocks away. We don't live our lives fearing the next tornado because we can't live that way, any more than Californians can live their lives fearing the next earthquake.

James, in Norman, wrote a post for his blog as he witnessed a tornado that went through Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma and just south of Oklahoma City. I found it interesting, well, partly because he was fully awake for his tornado, and partly because it shows what it's like to live in this part of the country aware of the risk for tornadoes, and knowing what to do. As he points out, sometimes shelters are hard to come by, particularly for apartment dwellers. James hasn't been in Oklahoma very long, but he had seen a few tornadoes even before his move to Norman. Last Monday evening was the first time he had ever seen so many drop within the same hour so close to each other.

That brings up another point. While it's not unheard of to have more than one tornado to come through an area, it's not like it's common for them to come in the dozens. Good grief, that almost never happens!  And while tornadoes such as the recent monster tornado that went through Mississippi stick in people's minds, most tornadoes aren't anywhere close to that size, and most don't stay on the ground that long.

We understand tornadoes in Tornado Alley. We understand the harm they can do without warning, just as people all along the west coasts of North and South America know that an earthquake can come without any warning, causing much more destruction and loss of life than tornadoes. We know that tornadoes can wipe out neighborhoods where we live, just as people who live along rivers know that spring floods can do the same. We also know that no matter how advanced technology is, meteorology is not a perfect science. It's true that meteorologists accurately predicted the May 10 tornadoes 6 days in advance. And at the same time, it's true that meteorologists failed to predict - as little as seven hours in advance - the May 13 tornado outbreak that hit my area. Even after 3 tornadoes touched down, they didn't recognize they were tornadoes until after they surveyed the damage those 3 tornadoes had caused.

Those of us who live in Tornado Alley know that regardless of powerful radars, computers, and trained meteorologists, we still have to trust our instincts. We know that we must have a plan if the worst should happen. We know what to do to protect ourselves and our families. We also understand that, like earthquakes, we can only control so much. Maybe that's the reason why Tornado Alley and the Bible Belt overlap. Tornadoes have taught many of us that, in the end, God is in control.We know that we have to trust Him, more than we trust ourselves.

That is why we don't live in fear of spring, and why many of us still love thunderstorms, even though those thunderstorms can hide something we would just as soon live without. God is in control. It turned out to be a blessing that the tornadoes came through at 5:00 a.m., while most of us were asleep. But if they had come through at 5:00 p.m., when most of us would have been on the roads, God would not be in less good, or any less in control. We understand that our lives aren't about this world, or what we can see and touch. There is more than this life. Much more.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

May 13, 2010

Stormy Weather

I told you a couple of days ago that those of us who live in the vicinity of Tornado Alley take tornado watches in stride, and only start to pay attention if it's a tornado warning AND we have reason to believe we are in the actual path of a tornado. Still, this time of year, we are somewhat on alert whenever we have storms come through, particularly when it has been warm and a cool front is the cause of those storms.

So last night when it was still 81 degrees at 8:00, and I saw dark clouds coming in, I knew we could be in for a rough night. I'd been home about an hour when the first storm rolled through, but it was over in a matter of minutes.

The weather forecast at 10:00 didn't predict anything more than severe thunderstorms to come around sunrise, but I did the tornado weather bedtime ritual anyway, making sure I had clothes out that I could grab on the way downstairs, should sirens go off.

At some point during the night, I woke up, and noticed the ceiling fan was running but the fan I keep pointed in my direction all night had stopped. I turned to look at the clock and it had gone off, and that's about the time I realized the ceiling fan wasn't really was just winding down. The power had just gone off.

I could hear thunder, and then I realized that it was also windy. Really windy. I lay in bed for several minutes listening to the ferocious wind and trying to decide if I should get up to find my cell phone to find out what time it was.

Then the sirens went off.

There's nothing worse than the sirens going off in the middle of the night when you have no power, because then you have no idea why they're going off. The assumption is always that there must be a tornado.

I got out of bed and grabbed my clothes, my purse, and the emergency flashlight/nighlight and made my way downstairs to the bathroom. My cats followed me downstairs, but they were not remotely interested in going into the half-bath with me. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and discovered it was just after 5:00 a.m. I got dressed, wishing I had grabbed comfortable mom jeans instead of the cute jeans, but decided it probably wasn't worth going back upstairs since for all I knew, a tornado was headed my way.

I have an emergency radio in that bathroom, but the only station I could pick up had no news. The song it was playing was "Lean on Me". Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

After about 15 minutes of hanging out in the bathroom, unable to coax more than one cat at a time to join me, I decided it had been quiet long enough that I could venture out of the bathroom. At no point had I heard anything that sounded like a freight train, one of the tell-tale signs of a tornado. Another sign that the barometric pressure has suddenly changed is a severe headache or earache. I had neither. I was fairly certain a tornado had not passed over me. I called my mom, who lives a little over a mile to my south, knowing she would be awake since the sirens had sounded.

I woke her up. She had fallen asleep with the TV on and slept through the sirens. Her power was on, and in her groggy state, she said that they weren't talking about storms on TV. I asked what she was watching. "CNN," she replied.

CNN wasn't covering our thunderstorm? Go figure.

I suggested she change to a local station, where she discovered the roof had been torn off of a shopping center a couple of blocks from me. The damage appeared to be from straight-line winds, up to 90 miles per hour, and not a tornado. She said there were reports of many trees and power lines down to my east. They said the sirens had been sounded because the winds were so strong, and not because a tornado had been sighted. (Later I heard the suggestion that there is a different sound for the wind warning, but when sirens sound at 5:00 a.m., that distinction is going to be totally lost on me. The flood warning sound I know - it's like a British police siren - but this is the first I've ever heard of a different sound for wind. I don't remember them ever going off for wind before at all.)

Since there was nothing else to do, I went on and got dressed, and left the house as soon as it was light, so I would be able to clearly see any hazards. It was a little difficult getting everything together in the dark because everything I put down was soon swallowed up in the glasses, keys, everything I needed to make an escape. Finally, I had everything together and ventured out into dawn's early light.

There were two things I noticed when I walked to my car.

1) My row of condos was the only one in the complex without power.
2) Some leaves had been stripped off of the trees, but that was about it.

Then as I turned to pull out of the complex, I discovered there was a little more damage than I thought. A tree blocked my path.

OK, I didn't wait until it was totally light, but it wasn't totally dark either. And see the light on the lamp post? Something about that irritated me.

I tried the next drive, but it was also blocked, so I drove around to the north side of the complex, where more trees were down.

These people still had power, which is lucky for them. They're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Finally I made my way out of the complex. I had to turn to the west to make my way to work as the police had the street blocked to my east. (I would show you a picture of that, but all you can see is my windshield. I didn't think the officers would be amused if I got out of my car to take their picture.)

The drive to work was uneventful, except for a number of traffic lights that were out. When I came to the first one I couldn't understand what people were waiting for until I realized the light was out and it was my turn to go. Fortunately there's not a lot of traffic at 6:20 a.m.

The Panera by work was open, so I decided to treat myself.

Now, as I listen to the radio, there's some speculation that there might have been a small tornado or a gustnado a mile or two east of me, but they're still leaning towards the straight-line wind theory. I still haven't seen much in the way of pictures yet, but a number of homes and business were damaged. But so far there are no reports of serious injuries.

God is good.

May 11, 2010

Tornado Alley

If you watch the national news this time of year, you would think that those of us who live in or near Tornado Alley must spend weeks at a time cowering in fear. These programs all seem to feature weather maps showing areas highlighted with the direst of warnings for everyone in the affected area to take cover because tornadoes will be coming!

Believe it or not, we actually go on with our lives throughout the spring. Which works out nicely, because yesterday the Today show showed my part of the country right in the middle of the bulls-eye. Sure enough, late yesterday afternoon, storms began to pop up to our west. My mom called me at work shortly after 5:00 p.m. to make sure I knew there were storms headed in our direction. I asked her how close they were. "About 100 miles away," she said.

Even with the construction between work and home that I complained about last week, it doesn't take me that long to get home. I assured her that I would leave work in plenty of time to get home before the big storm hit. After all, we live in a state where we joke that the tornado sirens are the signal that it's time to go out and watch the tornado.

Throughout the spring, tornado watches are a dime a dozen, and we barely notice them. A tornado watch means conditions are right for tornadoes to form. It doesn't mean they will. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted. We're not sure what to make of those now. With the advancement of radars, sometimes the tornado has been spotted in the radar - even then, it can be aloft and never come down to cause damage. The only thing a tornado warning means for sure is that there will be no broadcast TV on the network affiliates. Instead of our favorite shows, we'll see hours of meteorologists showing us radar images and footage of storm spotters watching the wind blow.

To say that we have become jaded would be an understatement. When my grandmother was 77, a tornado was headed towards her apartment. Not wanting to miss the only tornado she had ever been that close to, she walked out the front door just in time to see it jump over her, and come down a few blocks later, taking out an ice cream store. Nonetheless, most of us do have a healthy respect for the damage that tornadoes can do, and we find a closet or a bathtub to hide in, once we're convinced there's a valid reason to hide.

After my mom's call, I kept an eye on the clock, leaving in plenty of time to get home before things could get bad. The first thing I noticed when I walked outside was that it didn't really feel like tornado weather when I walked out to my car. "Tornado weather" usually feels oppressive. All the same, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry. When I got home, I moved the cat carrier into my downstairs bathroom, as though there would be a possibility of getting my two cats into the carrier if the sirens were to go off. (There's virtually no chance they would want to come near me at that point, must less allow me to stuff the two of them into a carrier.) I changed into comfortable clothes and settled in for the evening, surfing between local stations to check for watches and warnings, and cable stations for, well, entertainment. To be fair, the video on the never-ending weather report was pretty impressive, with multiple vortices (there's a word I never expected to use in a sentence) surrounding some of the funnels.

There wasn't much to see where I live. The wind blew for awhile, and there was the briefest of downpours, as the storms mostly just went around my hometown.

There was a family in Norman that, like most of us, took the tornado warning lightly. The warning areas are always much broader than the path covered by a tornado, so they went about preparing their dinner, with an eye on the TV. When they noticed the tornado seemed headed for their house, they made a beeline for the storm shelter, which believe it or not, most of us don't have. If you didn't catch their story this morning, here's the link to their interview on the Today show. It pretty well sums up how all of us approach the possibility of a tornado.

Despite the fact nothing happened at all in my city, there was a stark reminder of why the TV weather guys hold us hostage every time the wind blows. Five people were killed and dozens were injured elsewhere in the storms that went around us. They say tomorrow night could be another rough one.

That's OK. The cat carrier's still in my downstairs bathroom.

May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

The older I get, the more painfully aware I am of friends who have lost their mothers. While I may not be a mother myself, I am blessed enough to still have my mom, who will be the focus of Mother's Day for me. 

I could tell you how old my mom is, but then I'd have to kill you, so I'll leave that part out. That's actually one of the things that makes Mom so special. It's not that she minds her age, but she knows that we all have preconceived notions about age that we impose on others. She's not about to let anyone do that to her. When she turned 40, she had an idea in her head of what 40 looked like, and she made up her mind then that she was going to defy that image. She's been doing it ever since.

She's been Nana for the last 36 years, and now that she has become a great-grandmother, she'll still be Nana. No Grandma or heaven-forbid, Great-Grandma business for my mom. My 30-something nephews tell people about the movies they've seen with her and no one can believe anyone has such a cool Nana.

While most of Mom's peers show their age in their fashion choices, Mom's still wearing shoes that would make Carrie Bradshaw drool with envy. (When she cleans out her closet, my sister, my niece, and I line up to try on the shoes destined for the resale shop as though we were Cinderella trying on the glass slipper. "Oh, they're so cute, please let them fit!") While many women she knows need their husbands to drive them to the mall, my mom recently organized a road trip on which she drove 3 friends to Branson.

Mom was married for most of her adult life, but she has also been single for significant periods. She was single for 13 years following her divorce from my dad, and she has been widowed for the last 8 years. At no point has Mom ever been needy, or acted as though she needed another person to make her feel whole. No one could have been a better role model for my sister and me.

There were tremendous challenges following the divorce, not the least was losing everything in a fire...with no insurance. She dealt with that, just as she has dealt with every other challenge in her life, with faith.

Only a month after my stepfather died, she had a hip replacement and recovered with a speed that astonished even the doctor. It didn't surprise her children though, because we have seen Mom's faith and determination all of our lives. It's that faith and determination, along with the defiance of stereotypes about age, that have been Mom's greatest gifts to her children and grandchildren.

Thank you, Mom, and Happy Mother's Day!

May 6, 2010

An Open Door

I once had a pastor who liked to say that God opens doors, but sometimes you have to push on the door in order to know that it's open. I know it sounds corny enough to go on a church marquee, but I think there's truth in it. Even if God opens a door, there's some effort required on our part.

We don't have to build the door, we don't have to paint the door, and we don't even have to figure out where the door goes. All that's required of us is the obedience to get up and push on the door, and walk through it.

Sometimes we assume that if God is leading, we won't need to lift a finger, or make any kind of sacrifice. We assume it will be easy. But that's not always the case. Just because God has opened the door doesn't mean the other side will lack trials. It just means that the impossible will become possible, as His strength will become ours.

For nothing is impossible with God. ~ Luke 1:37

May 4, 2010

Under Construction

I drive to work on a highway that was built 2 years before I was born. It used to be referred to as a "bypass" because when it was built, it was out in the country, allowing interstate travelers to bypass the city. Now it's a four-lane highway smack dab in the center of town and it is far too small for the amount of traffic it carries each day.

This heavily used portion of interstate has concrete barriers separating the eastbound lanes from the westbound lanes and not only does it not have any inside shoulders, it barely has any outside shoulders. Three years ago, one of our highway commissioners said this about the section I drive: "You're like a pinball if you make a mistake on this stretch of highway."

No kidding. It cracked me up when I read that quote, because it's the honest're a pinball doing 60 in the midst of hundreds of other pinballs doing 60...or more. New drivers cringe when they drive along it but it has been 35 years since I was a new driver, so it doesn't faze me anymore.

You know what does faze me? 
  • Highway construction
  • Orange barrels
  • Road closure signs.
  • Highway speed limits of 45 mph
Yeah, improving that stretch of highway fazes the heck out of me. Damn progress.

Alright, I'm kidding...but only partly. I want the highway to be widened. I long to drive on a 6-lane stretch highway that doesn't have the concrete divider down the middle of it, but the 2-3 years it will take us to get there makes me crazy.

And it's not just the highway itself, but the construction required on the 2 major arterial streets to the north and south of the highway, too. That means that when I get off of the highway each morning, I'm still in the midst of construction regardless of which way I turn. Drivers are impatient with one another to the point of the absurd. If someone 2 cars ahead pulls up 4 inches, God help you if everyone else doesn't follow suit because the horns are gonna start blowin'. It's not even hot yet and tempers are flaring.

I can forget about taking the highway home because It's worse going the other direction. I keep reminding myself that this project has taken decades just to get started. What's another couple of years?

Some 20+ years ago, a former Governor who had pushed for the project was asked when he thought this section of highway would be widened. His response? "It won't happen in our lifetimes." I had begun to think he was right, and I didn't entirely mind. Yeah, the highway is far too narrow and it can be a stressful drive, but I was used to it. Yes, I know it's going to be better when it's done, but getting there is such a painful process.

And such is life. God wants to take us from here to there, and sometimes that requires a painful process, too. Sometimes it just means letting go of the narrow highways that we find comfort in and allowing Him to do His work.

"...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:6