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Velveeta Really?

In the past few months, I have become interested in baking.  Primarily, because our family wished to reconstruct our mother’s recipes.  She was an excellent cook.  One of her sure fire hits was mac and cheese.  Well you know that mac and cheese is just about a cult happening in its self.  So, I  did some research during the holidays into good mac and cheese recipes,  Several of them used Velveeta. As the holidays unfolded, and I attended family gatherings, mac and cheese was almost never omitted from the bill of faire.

At one particular gathering, the conversation turned to mac and cheese and the fact that many restaurants were including it, even making a mac and cheese hamburger! As we dug into the dish provided at this event everyone weighed in about how great it was and discussed the possible combinations of cheeses and spices used. Well, true novice as I was, I asked if anyone used Velveeta. Two of my family members looked at me in sheer disdain, and pronounced that they used a combination of real cheeses.  I felt like a defendant in the court of Judge Judy with Martha Stewart as the the bailiff.

Many days after this encounter, I was searching the “fridge” and came across a box of Velveeta.  My mind went back to the mac and cheese episode. Upon examining the ingredients, it was clear why these ladies dismissed my question about Veleetta.  Velveeta is not real cheese.  Now, I have to say, the recipes for mac and cheese using Velveeta are much easier than the ones using  real cheese combinations, and the preparation time is more shorter. Is the taste that different?  Can the ordinary person really tell the difference? Does it really matter that much?

Of course, my mind took me to the question of the real deal in my christian life. My answer may  lie in this analogy. A genuine christian life requires time in preparation, study, meditation, and sacrifice.  Or, we can take some short cuts and create some very convincing looking christian lives. But upon close examination, do we stand up? Does it matter that much? Can anyone really tell the difference?

God can.

Velveeta, Really?

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Personal!

How many times have you heard that statement?  It seems that just when someone has said something that affects you most personally, he or she, quickly adds, ” It’s not personal.”  Really?

The iconic movie, The Godfather, is probably the identifier, especially for men,  with this statement.  The godfather lets his people know that there are just some actions you take for the sake of business.  It has nothing to do with personalities or feelings.  It’s business.  It’s Not Personal.  Likewise,  a later version of this attitude is displayed in the movie, You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character, nails my personal feelings about the phrase, “It’s Not Personal, when she says that an action taken by someone who harms you or disappoints you  just might be easier to take if it were personal.  At least it would show that you had some degree of feeling or empathy for what you have done or said.  Exactly!

So,why am I going on about this.? Well, very recently, I was in a church meeting.  One member was very adamant about what he perceived as a gross violation of procedure, and  he created an uncomfortable atmosphere for many of the people in the room.  After his comments and his reasons for them, he added in an attempt to put things in perspective, “It’s not Personal.” Really? Remember, I said that this  was a meeting of people in church. We were dealing with affairs of the church.  What could possibly be more personal? All that we do should be personal.  When we decide to give our hearts to Jesus and follow him everything becomes personal.

Personal relationships can create the foundation for love, protection, and trust because everything matters.  When decisions are made on the basis of personal outcomes, we are more careful about our choices.  We are less self-centered and more other-directed.  Thankfully,  God has given us a model of personal responsibility. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Sure, we will have disagreements and differences of opinions. However, if we approach our differences from a point of personal outcome and concern for the other persons involved, our differences will not harm us.  If we consider the power of the tongue, we will create a nurturing environment that heals us. In the book of James, we are reminded to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  When things are personal, it matters what others have to say.  We can hear a little of what  is in someone’s heart when we really listen.

At the heart of the matter, we are made for relationships. Loving relationships help us to behave as loving people.  It is all personal!

So, Oprah is 60?

Last week the world cheered, awed, and some even moaned  in surprise.  Oprah Winfrey joined the millions of us who are sixty and beyond.  It is funny ( funny strange not funny ha ha) how the sixty set is viewed  by the rest of the world.  Just after the big announcement about Oprah’s milestone, I received my copy of one of my favorite magazines. On the cover was the caption “reinventing yourself at 30, 40, 50, and 60”.  Wow! so this is it. The last chance to reinvent myself. I briefly spinned into a bit of a panic.  So for most of us in the sixty set the die is most definitely cast. If we have not found the  right place for ourselves in history, we have missed the mark.  Indeed is there really , I mean real life after sixty? Even Oprah shared that she was observing her birthday, quietly! Quietly, Oprah, really?

Of course we have been celebrating the vast number of baby boomers who are vital, fit, and living life fully by the phrase,  50 is the new 40. So is 60 the new 50? And exactly what does that mean?   If 50 is our mile marker for the home stretch, is it all down hill from here? How are we sixty-something’s embracing this part of our journey?   Are we filled with the wealth of wisdom that the years have poured into us?  Is anyone listening to these pearls of wisdom? Does anyone really know we are in possession of this much-needed wealth? My husband laughed at himself recently when he finished a conversation with a longlong friend. He said they spent the majority of their time talking about how they were preparing their breakfast oatmeal and the various medications they had in common. It has soberingly come to my attention that it takes me a very long time to get started in the morning.  By the time I do the essential preparations for the day, the day is half spent. Let’s not mention the toll physical activity takes on the sixty system.  After my yoga tape, I could use a nap.

Well here is my challenge to all my sixty sisters and brothers.  Wake up! Get out into the world.  We are needed.  Our journeys  have some more turns and bends to maneuver.  What is more exciting is that we have something to sow into the spirits and souls of others.  Not necessarily, just the younger set.  But also those just like us, who need to know that full life is not reserved for the young ; nor are pain, loneliness, and despair  the description for older people. If you have a job, keep working. Your place of employment probably needs an encourager. If you are retired, volunteer. Social agencies have suffered from lost of funding and would welcome your help. Share some victories.  Encourage everyone.  Look outside your own circle for opportunities to enlarge your territory. Spend a day in a nursing home.  Your gratitude meter will go through the roof.

Let’s get going. Post your activities on Facebook. Upload a picture of yourself hugging a new friend on Instagram. Tweet an encouraging word to the universe. Take the power of God’s grace  to a powerless world.  If there is one thing we know, it is how to turn things around.  We have lived through national tragedies, divisive wars, space exploration, and cultural revolutions…..And through it all, we have learned to trust in Jesus; we have learned to trust in God.  Share that trust. Share your story. Risk a little, and receive a lot. Sixty and beyond is another opportunity for personal involvement and growth .  Everything we have learned through education, experience, and observation is the right mixture for world-changing and contagious service.

I have decided that instead of a bucket list, I will have a balloon list.  I intend to live each day as though I am prepared to fly away. Soaring! Giving it my all! Taking each day a little higher!   Let’s soar in our sixties.  After all, the sky is the limit!

Synced in Purpose

Recently, I have been reminded of the importance of purpose. It seems that throughout the media we are reminded of purpose. Purpose headlines magazine articles, motivational books, and even advertisements.  We are urged to find purpose in living… purpose in learning… and  even purpose in praise and worship!

Technology devices and programs offer sharing of information through syncronization. This process puts all our information, plans, and processes in agreement.  We are told that being in sync makes out world easier to manuever.  This leads me to ask if my plans are in sync with God’s purpose for my life?  What has God designed me for?  What is his perfect plan for my life? Scripture teaches us that God knows the plans He has for us …  plans to give us hope and a future.

Discovering God’s purpose has to be the most vital part of our search for meaning in our lives. The special gifts and talents invested in us by the creator God are precious resources for maximum success.  I think that we do our children a disservice when we tell them they can be anything they want to be.  Through the years, I have come to believe that each of us is uniquely gifted for a particular path of service and living. When we seek God’s guidance through payer and preparation, we find the source of our strength.  Many years ago, I read a book entitled, “Do what you want and the money will follow.”  The message of the book is that when we follow are passion we are so motivated that success is a given.

Could it be that when we live out our purpose as designed by God we touch that part of ourseleves that wraps passion with purpose, and life is made meaningful through our desire to please Him?

Do you know your true purpose?

Holding

It is the beginning of the new year, and I like many of you take time to examine what I hold as important and worthy of holding on to or carrying into the new year.
Looking back on 2011 I admit that I learned that many things I felt were important and that occupied much of my energy and resources proved to be a waste. Experiencing loss of dear friends and loved ones showed me that I had wasted precious time and gifts on meaningless pursuits. Perhaps if I had listened to Solomon and used his experience, I could have redeemed my time more wisely.
But I believe that we can learn from our mistakes. Forgiveness and redemption are precious tools for new mercies.
Holding on to habits, traditions, and beliefs that do not build up and make better are useless.
Even though I crafted a life full of events, people, tasks, and well-doing, as Solomon warns, it’s chasing after the wind.
What then should I seek and hold close to in the new and precious days ahead? Does it require a shift of thinking and attitude? Can this old dog really learn new tricks?
Holding on to the comfortable in my life was a centering factor for me. I enjoy doing what I do. It defines and verifies my existence. But dare I ask the question that looms like the 400 pound elephant in the room. Just because I have become comfortable with the narrow world view created by my self necessity does not mean that it is worth holding on to.
Holding on is the great opposer of letting go. In letting go we relinquish our need for control. Letting go leaves room for God to direct our paths and plans. Even though we may have spent our lives chasing after the wind. We do not have to continue. Letting go is not comfortable. Change of mind and direction require that we hold on the hope of Christ and His design for us. We were created to bring glory to God through our service. Letting go is holding on to the only thing worthwhile.
Hold on to love, charity, hope, and the redeeming power of grace.
What are you holding on to? What do you need to let go?

Survivors

This month. October,  is observed by millions as breast cancer awareness month. During the past two weeks I have been inspired by the many stories of courage and faith that women and men have shown during their individual and family trials of cancer.  The images that stand out in my mind more than any are those of smiling faces. Survivors seem to know something so internal and deep within them that sends a message that nothing will stop me from living, loving, and laughing.

Survivors of cruel news, invasive chemicals, financial ruin, and  loss of precious time  seem to know what it really important.  They stand firm in the middle of overwhelming circumstances to say that, we are yet alive and embrace the blessings of this moment in time.  Thank God for the survivors.  They are the rallying cry for prevention, research, support, and awareness. They are the living reminders that life’s challenges are not fair.  Challenges and trials are simply  a part of the ever changing fabric of our existence.

I remember a friend telling me that when she learned she had cancer, nothing she had been concerned about before that day mattered.  Everything changed within those seconds the awful words surrounded her.  She thought of everyone she loved and what this would mean to them. She thought of how she could share the news with her family and how they would deal with even the rest of the day.

Isn’t this what survivors bring to us. The fact that all we have is what is before us…this day.  So much of the unimportant robs us of the things that matter until the lines are no blurry we cannot recognize that we have crossed over into meaninglessness.  Ecclesiastes teaches us this lesson so well in chapter 12:13 “Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”  Jesus went on to teach us that all the commandments are summed up in love. The important item at the top of the “To Do” list is be an example of love today.  Respond to every situation in an attitude of love. Someone needs to know that God loves them.  Someone needs to have a touch of love’s awesome power to survive.

As we look forward to the following days of October and marvel at the beauty of the season, please remember the beauty of the spirit of survivors who remind us that each day is a gift.  Live to the fullest, and show love in everything you do just as God has commanded us.

A Matter of Heart

This past week we have been asked to focus on the condition of our hearts. Heart health has been at the center of our attention. we have been urged to  keep recommended check-ups, tests, and to heed warning signs. This national campaign has been invaluable in bringing our awareness in line with the threat of death from heart disease. Even Barbara Walters sounded the alarm and many responded by making changes in diet, exercise, and medical attention. The heart is the most vital organ of our bodies. It demands our attention.

Preparing for worship makes me think about my heart. Is worship a heart matter for me?  The Bible teaches that from the wellsprings of wisdom is as a flowing brook. Taking care of ones heart is wise. It certainly is the right thing to do if we want to live a healthy and long life.  However, how I place my heart in worship determines the health of my soul.  Afterall, what good is a long life with no true eternal rewards? Worship is at the heart of my surrender to God. It is not just an act of tradition for Sunday. It is the center of my faith. In worship I am able to come before His presence.

But have I truly put my heart in my preparation… is my all laid at His feet? Mary had no problems with this as she washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Jesus had given her a new heart, and she gave all her heart back to Him.

“When I come into His presence, I humble myself
Lift up holy hands and worship Him
I worship Him for all He’s done for me
Redeemed and set me ,
Because, just because, He’s God”  (paraphrased from He’s God by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

God desires our worship. We are transformed when we surrender to Him. Can we truly surrender without making it a matter of heart?