Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

What a waste! Those three little words can mean so much depending on what you’re talking about.

For some, it can refer to the wastefulness of our society where we throw food away while our neighbors go hungry. For others it can be a comment about a life not well lived, a life that somehow didn’t live up to its potential and was wasted regardless of the reasons.

The reality is that no matter how hard we follow after God, most of us have not lived our lives well. A trail of waste is left by broken dreams, broken relationships and broken potential.

But waste is a funny thing, because as the saying goes ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

In my little corner of the world the wine grape crush is coming, and the vineyards are gearing up for the fast and furious harvest that will ultimately result in a variety of different wines.

The other day, I was talking to a vineyard owner about the crush, and he made the offhand comment that at his vineyard they don’t just throw the grape skins, seeds and stems away when they start the wine making process, they turn that sludge into compost that feeds other aspects of their agricultural world.

And I’m not talking about just a few little grape skins, a couple of seeds and one or two stems, there are tons of this stuff that need to be dealt with that would naturally be considered waste, but this particular vineyard/winery finds a use for. Even though it doesn’t add anything useful to the wine making process, it’s used for something else. Nothing is considered a waste because a good use is found for it elsewhere.

Think about that, there is no waste.

And, isn’t that just what God does with us and the waste that we create in our own lives? We look at our pile of sludge as useless trash that we should lament and mourn because of the squander of precious time that it cost us. We don’t see anything useful in it at all. Simply put, it is worthless.

But it is not worthless to God, He uses it for His own purposes, for His own glory the minute we repent and turn to Him.

In God’s world there is no waste.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

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“When you’ve lost it all, that’s when you finally realize that life is beautiful” is a quote from someone you might not think you’d see mentioned in this kind of blog. It’s from Nikki Sixx, otherwise known as the mastermind behind Motley Crue.

It’s an amazing thing to me that so many times when we look at the stories of people’s lives, there is that point where they lost everything. They were completely stripped raw and bare, yet they didn’t let that kill them, they somehow managed to still see the beauty in what was around them. Then there are those who allow those times to kill them, and their lives from that point on are tainted with the stain of what happened to them.

Whenever I think about someone who held on to the tatters of his life, to the ragged strips of his dream, I think of Joseph. His story, his life story, continually amazes me no matter how many times I read it.

He was a dreamer no doubt about it, and possibly an arrogant one at that. Yet, his dreams came to him. He did not sit around and think about how he would like to gain power and prominence in a position that would allow him to be the giver of life for his family.

No, he went to bed, went to sleep and his dreams came to him. And it wasn’t just one dream about the sheaves of grain with his standing taller than the rest. He had a second dream in which the sun, the moon and the stars bowed down to him.

At this point most of us would think, out of our very modern perspective, that the dreams came out of his subconscious and were manifestations of his own ego.

Sounds like a good argument, except he seemed to believe that they would somehow come true, that they actually meant something and so did his brothers.

Usually when you encounter someone who’s willing to step out and say something like, ‘I dreamt this or that’ it’s because they’ve had experiences with their dreams that have led them to know, not just believe but know, that some of their dreams have credence beyond what’s going on in their subconscious.

They’ve seen aspects of their dreams come true, they’ve been able to work out issues in their dreams that overflow into the waking world with success, in short, they’ve learned that sometimes a dream isn’t a dream.

Without this background, no one in their right mind is going to step out, wave their hands in the air and proclaim that they’re a freaky dreamer. Because back then, just like now, when you step out like that, a whole lot of people are going to think you’re a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.

But Joseph knew, and his brothers knew too, that the dreams meant something more than just your average every night dream. So, he was willing to step out and tell them what he dreamt about. Foolhardy? Yes. Arrogant? Yes. Crazy? No.

So what did his brothers do to make sure that his dreams wouldn’t come true? They threw him in a pit, casually ate lunch nearby (you can only imagine his pleading cries) and sold him into slavery to a group of traders who were going into Egypt. When you look at the culture of the time, they sold him into an all but certain death.

And essentially that’s what happened to Joseph, he died. Forget the dreams, forget the fact that he was a favored son, forget everything. He was stripped of all he had ever known or had, and to make matters worse, he didn’t even own himself anymore.

Yet, this is where his life gets really interesting. He still holds on to the dreams. He still holds on to what he knew. Even though he had absolutely nothing, he still held on to what he knew was beautiful, his God. And he knew his God so well that He knew His God would follow through on the dreams that He gave him and make them a reality.

There are times, for some of us, in which God either takes away everything we have or allows it all to be taken away. Either way, it’s how we respond that matters. If we have nothing would we still say, ‘Blessed be the name of the LORD, life is beautiful’?

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:21 NIV

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The other day I wanted to ask my almost 12-year old son a question.

Instead of just doing the thing that the experts tell you that you should do, which would be to try to find him and look at him full in the face in order to communicate with him more effectively, I did what most parents do. I yelled my question from where I was in the office to wherever he was in the house thinking he would hear me.

“Here I am,” yelled my son from the other room after I’d called him for the umpteenth millionth time. In exasperation after there was no response to my question, I needed to know if he was even within earshot. I needed to know if he was there. So, I said, very loudly mind you, “Where are you?”

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that we live in a large house where it is easy to not hear someone. No, my son and I live in a two bedroom, two bath home that is very small. In fact, I often refer to it affectionately as my little shoebox. So, the fact that I had to find out where he was in it was somewhat comical considering I usually know where my cat is at all times.

But my son, he’s a different story altogether. He’s always moving around, seemingly never in the same place for more than a second or two. In my mind, he never seems close by at all, but whenever he yells back “Here I am”(this little scenario happens more frequently than I would like to admit) inevitably he is much closer than I ever expect. Usually just around the corner.

Isn’t this usually how it feels with God? He always seems like He’s moving around, and fast too, like we just can’t get a grip on where He is only to find that He’s been right in the mix, next to us the whole time saying “Here I Am”.

“Therefore My people will know My name; therefore they will know on that day that I am He who says: Here I am.”     Isaiah 52:6

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Legacy building. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all like to think we’re leaving a little bit of ourselves behind, so when we’re gone we won’t truly be forgotten.

In the western world and culture, the legacy we often think of leaving behind is one of success which translates into wealth handed down to the next generation. Any of us who are parents would probably agree that we would like to hand down something to our children, some form of wealth to remember us by and to make their lives a little bit easier.

We strive to be successful, getting good educations so we can make good money, so we can buy houses and cars and more stuff. And, at the end of the day we often leave our children with the daunting job of plowing through our stuff with most of it ending up at the local thrift store so someone else can buy it and add to their pile of stuff.

But, is a legacy of stuff what we really want to leave with our children?

Just the other day I was talking with a friend of mine, we were discussing how a wonderful teacher at our children’s school was going to be moving out of the area and wouldn’t be back at the school in the coming year.

Now, I only know this teacher in a very cursory way, she didn’t teach my son, but she has always impressed me with her God centered attitude and her calm and gentle spirit. That being said, I never really thought much more about her than that.

That was until the conversation with my friend took a turn and we began talking about how important it is for our children to remember that they are God’s children and to act accordingly. It as then that my friend said something that caught my ear.

A few years ago at a Mother’s Day chapel at my son’s school a young man gave a talk about his mother and what she said to him whenever he left the house.

“Remember whose child you are,” she would say which I’m sure was sometimes followed by a roll of his eyes, or maybe just an indulgent smile that hid a ‘yeah, right mom’. But, despite the typical teenager or young adult reactions, what his mother said to him stuck, it was so powerful that as an adult he chose to talk about it to a group of school children.

And it was so powerful, it was something I never forgot too. I say the very same thing to my own son when he leaves the house to go to a friend’s house or his father’s for the weekend. Turns out my friend remembered it as well and says it to her own children.

What I didn’t know until my friend told me, was the speaker’s mother was the same teacher who is leaving the school. The one I don’t know very well, but whose influence has changed the way I relate to my own son.

Sometimes God uses us to build a legacy when we don’t even know we’re doing it. In the little things that convey who He is and what He is about that have very little to do with the legacy of success and wealth this world tells us is so important.

Sometimes in following Him, He folds us into the common place and uses the very things that seem mundane and inconsequential to build His legacy, which is the most important work we could ever be a part of.

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

1 Corinthians 1:28 (The Message)

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We’ve all seen them, the signs, the little magnets, the mugs that read, “You know you’re …..”. You can fill in the blank, “a mom” “a dad”, “married” “single” or “getting old”.

It’s the “getting old when” that hit me as I went into the local newspaper office as a fill in reporter this week. I’d been called in as a pinch hitter until they found someone who wanted to cover every government story no matter where its was, how long it took to wind down, when it took place or how much like watching paint dry it turned out to be.

In fairness not all of the meetings are like watching paint dry. I actually like a good number of them, but that may say something more about me than it does about the meetings.

One of the nice things about being a pinch hitter is the reality that because you’re helping out, and well, they’re in a pinch, you get to choose your assignment. So, because of time restraints and an overwhelming interest in water (in California otherwise known as liquid gold) I raised my hand to cover the water districts, until such time as a young eager reporter type is found.

So off I trooped to the local newspaper office to write my news stories about the most interesting topic in local government with my lunch in tow and my cardigan.


Now, that is a hold the presses statement, me with a cardigan in tow just in case the air conditioning got too cold and I needed something to put over my shoulders.

Something to put over my shoulders?

These are all statement that should cause anyone hearing them to think of only one thing, that deep, long toll of the bell that indicates that time is marching on.

In other words, if these things were written on a mug they’d read, “You know you’re getting old when ….”, fill in the blank.

Then something happened that cemented that I have arrived on that precipice of getting old. Believe it or not something beyond the cardigan just in case I got cold. A friend once told me only people over 40 are allowed to bring cardigan’s with them anywhere, even in 100 degree heat, because they’ve earned the right to prepare.

What I found myself having done goes beyond preparation.

I had become my grandmother, but worse.

Coming from English stock and raised in America, I have long had the internal conflict, tea? or, coffee? When I was younger there was no doubt that it was coffee all the time (trying to find a decent cup in the UK was an interesting endeavor to be written about in another blog). But, as I have gotten older, coffee has taken its rightful place in the morning and sometimes in the evening too, but tea has settled firmly into the afternoon pick-me-up spot.

There I was, at about 3 o’clock in the freezing cold office with my old lady cream-colored cardigan on when I decided I wanted a cup of tea.

What did I do? I took the mug and teabag out of my purse where I had put it that morning, planning for such an eventuality (thinking ahead, what a concept!) and headed for the break room.

As I passed a friend who is a little older than me with my mug, I realized what I had in my hands and what I had done.

“It’s amazing what you do when you get old,” I leaned over and told her laughing.

“You have no idea,” she said before she started to laugh too.

As I walked to the break room mug in hand, that God must have been smiling too. Because no matter how old we get, or young we are, He still takes great delight in His children.

“There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven;”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Holman)

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Memories are amazing things, and even more amazing are the seemingly innocuous little situations that stir them up in all their multicolored grandeur.

Like seeing the color pink. For me a flood of images from an evening carnival excursion comes to mind, complete with the all consuming sweet smell of cotton candy and the taste of it melting on the tongue. Or, my first time at a baseball game where I could buy bags of the stuff that made my hands sticky and tacky in the heat as I watched pitch after pitch, and run after run trying to make sure my hair didn’t stick to my fingers or my face or the glob of gossamer pink when the wind blew my way

Some memories aren’t so sweet. Recently, my son and I took a drive up a mountain highway so I could take photos for a story I’m doing about off the track swimming holes. You know the kind, those that you stumble on when you’re out walking in the woods or driving on an out of the way road and see a sign that says Elephant Rock Lake. When you go there you find an amazingly refreshing oasis surrounded by granite boulders among the trees.

We sat eating lunch near a stream at one of these wonderful out of the way locations. The stream rustled softly and the sun spread warmly on my back as I started to think about the last time I had driven this highway through the Sierra’s with my heart’s love, who is now gone but not forgotten.

Most of us have had this type of love in our lives. You know that one love, the one you can’t conceive of ever breaking, but if it does break, it breaks your heart into a million pieces making you wonder what fool coined the phrase ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. Because to never have loved at all means your heart isn’t riddled with scars and missing bits after it’s been put back together.

It was when these thoughts were running around my head, that I saw the fish. A dark grey spot struggling feverishly as it tried to get upstream to its spawning ground. Because of the snow melt, the run off was quick and ruthless as it pushed the fish back, but time and time again the fish pushed forward sometimes fighting so hard it splashed up out of the water before it settled back underneath the surface to continue its struggle.

The struggle made me think of my heart’s love and how many times it felt like I was swimming up stream just to make it work. But, there is no rhyme nor reason to love and sometimes we fight for things we really were never meant to have, only to find after the experience nearly kills us that we still look at it through the fractured lens’ of the rose colored glasses our hearts still wear.

It’s when some of our memories lie on the other side of those broken tinted glasses and the truth lay somewhere else that we need to rely on God’s sight so we can see the truth of the matter.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

English Standard Version

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Image from troutdudesdiscipleblog.blogspot.com

Summer is coming up fast, just around the corner, and along with it all the thought and talk about vacations to get away from the everyday, the ordinary.

I’m always fascinated by the way that people take their vacations. Some go on cruises or to far off lands seeing the exotic and unfamiliar, while others prefer to stay closer to home, heading off to the mountains or the beach to get away from it all.

Camping is one of those close to home, but not anything like home, vacation experiences. Most people head to the forests where the rustle of trees and birds gives them a sense of relaxation and peace, but they can just as easily take a tent out to the beach and experience the sound of the waves on the seashore and the taste of salt on their lips.

Either way, camping is camping and for most purists the only way to camp is to do so in a tent. Not the most amazing experience for a newbie to the whole camping experience – think fish out of water in a huge way – but after some getting used to it, people don’t mind the tentness of it all and come to think of their tent as a home away from home.

And so it is. After you’ve wrestled with the pounding the pegs in the ground and securely attached the tent to its final resting spot, it does take on the characteristics of home. You cook there, sleep there, play there, relax there, and enjoy time with your family and friends there.

It becomes a place where you get to know other people in a more relaxed, less hassled environment. No phones, no computers, no television to distract you, just you and the people you like sitting around the campfire, and in the process, getting to know each other better.

But when Moses led the people out of Egypt, those tents were both their traveling homes, and for 40-years, a reminder of what they had given up, a land of their own that was promised to them by God.

Only two men were able to trade their tents for a permanent home in the Promised Land, and of those two only one led the people over the Jordan. That man? Joshua.

The funny thing about Joshua was that he and Moses were the only ones who entered the Tent of Meeting which was set up outside the gathering of the other tents. This Tent of Meeting was where Moses spoke to God and from the looks of things when everyone else was afraid to approach the Tent of Meeting and Moses came and went, Joshua would not leave the tent. The assumption is that he actually lived there.

Joshua lived in the presence of God. No wonder he made it to the Promised Land.

“Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the LORD would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and [the LORD] would speak with Moses.  As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent. The LORD  spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.”

Exodus 33:7-34:8 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

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