The voices

I know I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s that time of month again so I’m talking about it again. The timing is kind of interesting because Monday night a group of us were meeting and I brought up the subject of needing to know God’s promises and being disciplined about turning to Him in our need and the example I used was that time of the month when the voices start up in my head. It has taken me years to even recognize why it’s happening, much less show any kind of active defense to defuse them, identify the things the voices say as lies, and seek God’s assurance.

This morning started at 3:00 am when my pager went off. For various reasons (3 am being the primary one) I didn’t easily solve the technical issue for work. I finally decided to wait for more skilled folks to get online to do the real fix. By time I started getting ready for the real work day my mind was convinced that my failure to quickly and easily handle the problem this morning (which is something I only have to know how to do every 6 weeks when I’m on pager duty) was a reflection of how I do all my work. I started pounding back on that with the things I do very well in my job on a daily basis.

Then all of a sudden I realized I was rehashing a problem I had 12 years ago at a job I had in New York! Sheesh, if I wouldn’t give in to the voices’ accusations about my job today, the mind was willing to go all the way back there to find something to beat me with. I fought back and the day got better.

I thought about this some more today because I went to a funeral. Dad’s widow lost her sister Friday. She leaned on her sister a lot these past 14 months since Dad died and now she’s lost her rock. She’s hurt and angry and grieving. She’ll need to fight the despair and anger over the months and find a way to continue to seek God’s face. She’s well grounded so it will come, but she’ll need a lot of love along the way.

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All five boroughs!

We’ve registered for our first bike ride of 2010. (That could be misleading, we may actually participate in a bike ride earlier in the year, but this is the first one that we’ve registered for this year.)

Last year I read an article about riding in the Five Boro Bike Tour and it sounded like a lot of fun. I signed up to be alerted when the 2010 ride registration was open and the email came yesterday. After a quick exchange, we agreed to do it! We will be riding in the Bike New York TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour on May 2nd. It is 42 miles long, mostly flat except for the bridges, and it goes through all five boroughs. The best part, for me, is that there are no cars on the route! But there will be around 30,000 cyclists. That can get crowded.

We’ve lived in Brooklyn, worked in Manhattan, had friends in the Bronx and Queens, and currently have friends in Staten Island. The only plans to make now are where to stay. We do still have friends up there we may stay with, or there is a cool hostel with a neat deal for the bike ride.

Other possible rides for 2010:

Collier Lilly Ride4Life – June?

Lake Norman Excursion – July?

Tour de Tots – September?

MS 150 Breakaway to the Beach – Sept 25-26 – Anthony already signed up

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Review: The King and Dr. Nick

The King and Dr. Nick: What Really Happened to Elvis and Me by Dr. George Nichopoulos is my latest BookSneeze pick.

This book is written by the man who was the main personal physician for Elvis the last 10 years of his life. He provides  details of the day Elvis died, describes what daily life was like for Elvis as he performed, and the publicity and legal issues that came up after his death.He does this with very little bashing, and a lot of respect for most of the people he interacted with. He also has a love of Elvis.

I may be too young for this book. I was 8 years old when Elvis died. My father shared his love of the man and his music, which I still have to this day. But there was never really discussion of any of the rumors or recurring publicity around his death and the possible use of drugs. That means the main premise of this book, to defend the legacy of Elvis, was not necessary for me. It is an interesting view of how hard Elvis worked, how seriously he took his performances, and some of the physical struggles he had.

It also provides a look at the frustrating machinations of the media and the side-affects of political maneuvering. None of that has changed for the better.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Danger of Creating our own gods

While reading The Poisonwood Bible, I kept thinking of this post at Pyromaniacs, this is the part that stuck with me.

“You don’t struggle with the problem of whether to save the whole world or save your family. You choose your family – because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

The alleged moral dilemma in Superman is no dilemma at all – it’s a ruse. As much as we might enjoy watching Clark do all that stuff, … the truth is that we know what the right thing to do is. And we don’t need a big red “S” to do it: we just need to love.

And this is where the father in The Poisonwood Bible failed. Here is my review of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

One of the worst things we can do is to make a god in the image of our fears and doubts and then force him on everyone else. But it is very difficult to accept a God of grace and mercy who says all your works of righteousness cannot buy you what He is willing to give you. So, we create our box, shove our god in there, and then judge everyone else who doesn’t live up to our standards. As a nation, the United States has often done the same thing. We have cornered the market on democracy and we think everyone should have it, and it should look exactly like ours.

The Poisonwood Bible is the story of a man who survived WWII, when everyone else in his company didn’t. He, and his government, decided his actions had been cowardly and he swore to never show cowardice again. He created his own image of God who was constantly watching him for the slightest sign of weakness. And he defined his own brand of bravery and weakness. The strength it takes to love and provide for and protect a family, a wife and 4 daughters, was not in his vocabulary. To him, bravery had to be something bigger and bolder. He dragged them all to the Congo in 1959 to spend a year enlightening the poor heathens living such primitive lives in Africa.

Being brave meant he could not reveal that he did not know everything. He never asked questions or listened to advice. He would force the facts, and the environment, and the words of the foreign languages to meet his expectations. He demanded perfection but expected failure from the weaker vessels in his life, never appreciating their strength or accomplishments, only seeing where they did not live up to his demands.

His story is paralleled by that of the United States watching the Congolese push for independence from a Belgium that had oppressed and robbed them for so long. The US and much of the rest of the world insisted they do it the “right” way and elect. But then, the Congolese elected a man the US didn’t like or trust, because he wouldn’t obey them in all things. The US proceeded to step in and redo things to make them “right”.

The story is actually told from the perspective of the wife and 4 daughters, passing from one voice to another with each chapter. We see their thoughts and actions based on their love and faith in the father, or, later, their lack of love and faith in him. We see 5 lives irrevocably changed by his behavior, by his lack of grace and mercy. They each respond to the inevitable change in their own way, while watching their father refuse to admit change occurs. We also see a glimpse of a continent with a physical and spiritual environment that cannot support the exact same methods used in the US, no matter how hard we try to force our ways on it.

I struggled some with this book, but it was worth the reading. I struggled for the cruel, pitiless, and misguided religion of the father, and the resistance to become familiar with another culture before passing judgment on it (and finding it lacking).

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Resolutions?

It is January after all. Shouldn’t we have resolutions? Or should we talk about the fact that this is just an arbitrary date and Jan 1 is no better or worse a day to make resolutions.

Actually – all of the above is still a reason to have resolutions. Just that we shouldn’t wait until Jan 1 to make them and we should think about them longer than the first few weeks of the year.

The discussion came up at a birthday party a week ago. Some had the usual healthy living/working out resolutions. Some had the good intention to be in the Word more regularly. I am working on those habits, but haven’t actually named them resolutions. Not sure I can explain the difference. I would say something like they are more time-management and priority issues or even that they are more self-centered. But that might imply that spending time in the Word is not as all-encompassing and pervasive as it is.

But. what are my resolutions.

1. I want to be a better friend. I brought this up at the birthday dinner and a few laughed at me, because I am a very good friend to them. But I struggle with other friendships. I don’t make phone calls easily. I have a strong sense of the impropriety of being nosy and interfering with other people. I also let my self-image convince me that I am not someone people would really want to spend time with and that means I require (constant) affirmation that I am wanted. But I take all of that too far and easily let people alone so much they don’t realize I’m their friend (because I’m not, I’m just an acquaintance). I don’t want to invade the lives of everyone I know, but I want to select a few people I think I could be a friend to, where we have things in common, where some overture has been made by them. I want to make quantity and quality time a priority, so that we can become friends and know we can turn to each other.

This also translates to family.

2. To not be offended so easily. This one probably sound strange at first. It is the result of a lot of things. First this quote I found in Not Knowing Where by Oswald Chambers

“We have the perfect right not to insist on our rights, for it is the privilege of a Christian to waive his rights; but we do not always recognize that we must insist on those associated with us getting their rights.”

Also watching friends and people I know and love getting offended and walking away from relationships. Some of that comes from the reading of Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns. I don’t want to go so far as therapeutic forgiveness, whire I refuse to ever hold on to anything. But so much of what offends me is just a complaint that I didn’t get my way or that I was not appreciated. That’s why I wrote out this quote:

Pride is any way of putting self into central focus. If I complain about myself I am still prideful.

In the chapter that he talks about deciding when to let something go, rather than express a need for repentance before reconciliation can occur, I studied and studied to see what he was saying. He says we must start by examining self and look to see if we’re sure we are right. Not just that I am right, but that my way is the only right way and the other person couldn’t possibly be right too. Then ask how important this is. This is dependent on the person, obviously. I’ve seen people get offended by something I didn’t think was very important at all. Then see if the person displays a pattern of this behavior. Not do they routinely go against me getting my way or hurting my pride, but are they sinning consistently.

Since I was a child, I would easily get my feelings hurt. I had a disagreement during my EMBA because the leadership teacher tried to tell me that it isn’t my responsibility if someone else gets their feelings hurt. I know what she was trying to say. Using a condescending tone of voice and a mean choice of words is intentionally looking to hurt someone. But telling the truth or explaining a situation shouldn’t be avoided because the other person might get their feelings hurt. In the past year I’ve decided I agree with her more than I realized. A number of times I’ve wanted to tell people to grow up. And that is what my hope is with this resolution, that I will grow up some more.

At first I worded it to not be offended so much, but I changed it to easily. If I were to change how I live my life, it could be that I would become someone who would draw a particular kind of offense more.

3. To count it all joy. I think I have a big-issue faith. I trust God with the big issues, don’t let the magnitude of the problem overwhelm me, and trust him. But in the small and day-to-day type stuff I don’t always keep the faith. Some quotes from Believing God by RC Sproul, Jr come to mind.

“Whether it is a great burden or a small irritant, our frustration betrays that our hearts don’t remember what our minds know.” p. 99

This is what I wrote last year as I read this book. “I should wake up every morning with the sole desire to be made more like Jesus.  I should count it all joy. I should rest easy at night knowing that the Sovereign God has brought me closer to Him through whatever happened that day.”

We don’t believe that we are at peace with Him. We tend to believe our struggles show either that God doesn’t love us or that God is powerless to help us.

“When we fear, when we grumble, when we complain, we show forth what is in our hearts. We expose our sin.” p. 111

This was another conclusion I came to: “complaining about the situation I’m in is the same as complaining about the person who brought about the situation”. I don’t want to complain. That doesn’t mean it will all be sweet and light, as the world defines good. But it does mean I can stop letting my temper get the best of me, getting frustrated because I don’t get my way immediately. Wow, I sound like a spoiled toddler when I put it that way.

To accomplish this I believe I must be in the Word (there’s where that one comes in) and in prayer and even in study. But I must also apply – I should prepare verses and things to say when I’m on the verge – to remind myself Who I belong to and how I should act.

In past years, my resolution has been to fix my tone of voice, especially when I’m frustrated. But, if I work on resolution #3, the tone of voice should be fixed.

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What have you been up to?

We are already 10 days into the new year. And most of those days have been very cold. Here are some things we’ve been doing.

I have been reading Pilgrim’s Progress for our book club at the end of the month. I find the book easy to read, but plenty in each chapter to stop and meditate on.

I also read a book called The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. It’s a novel about the near future when there is a cure for autism. The main character is a man who had a lot of developmental help but was born a little too early for the complete cure. Now there is research that could cure adult autists. The decision for him is if he wants the treatment. The book is really good – we get to see the world through his eyes and see how he thinks, reacts to things, is affected by different situations. And we see a number of other characters who interact with him. Some prove that “normal” is pretty loosely applied and some are more broken than an autist when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Others show a wonderful acceptance and learning of how to be friends with him. I highly recommend this book.

After finishing the book, I came across this blog post with a fascinating video of a young man born with physical handicaps.

I have been trying to get my husband to do some sort of physical exercise for awhile, and he finally said he was interested in doing P90X from BeachBody, with Tony Horton. I hadn’t planned to do it, but I thought if we did it together maybe he’d be more likely to stick with it and do it every day. He built a platform for our home theater so we have a hardwood floor to stand on, and we started last Monday. It has been a great and painful week as we have worked all kinds of muscles. Only 12 more weeks to go!

In addition to reading, and working out, and just plain work, we have also been working on relationships. We have had or scheduled a few dinners, and started the process of scheduling others. We’ve seen family in Raleigh twice and local family a few times. It is quality and quantity and we’re trying to work on both. Each relationship is different and some things are harder or easier with each person. But it is worth it with every single one of them.

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The White Horse King (review)

White Horse King coverThe White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merckle is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

I really enjoyed this book. The format is very easy to read and comfortable to hold. There are side notes where a little more history or clarification of a term is helpful. I found this more interesting than just footnotes at the bottom of a page. The story is well told and clear, in spite of describing a time and culture very different and new to me.

The story is a good one. The history of Christianity in England, the invasions of the Vikings, and the efforts of the people to fight the Vikings is one I am vaguely aware of. This book provided very good detail about the events and the people. The efforts of King Alfred the Great to implement defenses for his country, literacy in the vernacular for his people, and a love of learning and the virtues of nobility in the country are worth studying.

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The Sweet By and By (review)

SweetbyandbycoverThe Sweet By and By by Sara Evans is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

A great story, the first but hopefully not the last from Sara Evans, collaborating with Rachel Hauck. The story was well written and well told. It weaves the present day and memories of the past showing how our actions and words can haunt us, and how hard it is to accept forgiveness. The story provides an interesting study in lifestyle choices and the effects they have on others.

I enjoyed the story as it told of a young woman facing unexpected consequences of poor choices made as she was growing up (and seeking love and stability) and her relationship with her mother whose own lifestyle led to that need for love and stability.

Recommended.

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This is good

Still in keeping with the theme this week of truly loving the people around us, in particular the people we go to church with based on my blog post, I found another blog entry that hits the nail right on the head.

Head over to Pyromaniacs for 5 Ideas for 2010.

I agree with all 5 of these points. The one that will get many people, I think, is praying for the elders. Many expect very quick responses from God right along the lines of what they pray. But if they are truly praying in something even remotely like an attitude of submission to God, then they will be open to see His answers even when they don’t look like the “right” plan, and especially when it involves changing the one doing the praying more than the elder being prayed for.

Go check out the post, as usual, they have good things to say.

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Review: Saved by Grace by Sonya Buchanan

Title: Saved By Grace
Author: Sonya M. Buchanan
Format: paperback
Characters: SunnyFaith
Setting: US
Genre: Christian fiction
Publication: 2009, Xulon press
Source: review copy from author

This is a short book that tells the story of a much-loved young woman who leaves home for college and then a career and struggles to make decisions on her own. It is an interesting story showing how complete acceptance of others with no discernment is dangerous and choices made for others can lead one far from home.

The book is set in short chapters, with sidebars that highlight relevant Scriptures and precepts from the Bible that apply to the story, then 3 discussion questions at the end of each chapter. The text is double spaced, which I found a little distracting, but the placement of the sidebars is well done and there are no glaring typos so it is an easy read from that standpoint.

The story seems intended to convey the issues without going into specifics that may allow people to say it isn’t like their story. Yet, the lack of details, for me, made the story a bit superficial. The names and transitions are a bit preachy as well. But the story is a very important one and I think the sidebars are very well written and bring out very good points. It is worth reading the book just to meditate on the sidebars.

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