Thursday, July 16, 2009

Something New

I need to find something new to do. I just realized it's been two months since I blogged... and that's not indicative of laziness. It's because I have nothing to say. And that's sad. Just sad.

I've been watching the blogs and FB posts of my friends lately and notice this: everyone is doing something except me. Shannon moved to Massachusetts. Jim's a NASA Fellow. Jeff's moving to Dubai. Kef got a promotion. Donald and his wife had a baby. Mike's the new head coach at Frisco Centennial. Leesa's starting her own business. Kristen's going to the Ukraine.

I could go on, but I won't. It's depressing. It's not that I'm not happy for them all... but it just magnifies the fact that my life is not significantly different now than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

I need a new thing. Suggestions?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Legacy

Every time I sit through a funeral I find myself wondering what my own will be like. (Yes, I know, that's incredibly selfish... selfishness is the cross I bear.) I sometimes think about what it would be like for me to live to an old age and die. I'll be alone. There will be no family to come to my funeral - no children or grandchildren, no nieces or nephews. My friends will be old too - if they're even around anymore. And so I have to wonder... how sad would that be? To live your whole life and have nothing to show for it?

I guess the thing we consider to be a person's legacy most often is their family. What's my legacy? You could say it's your work, but that is an awfully dull thing to be known for. It could be how you treated people, but what if you outlive everyone who knows and loves you?

And on the practical side of things... if you die alone - with no family - then who buries you or cremates you? Who buys your gravestone? Who scatters your ashes? Do you just go away? Fade away from earth without a trace?

And if you don't have a family, then who keeps your genealogy? Who do you pass your prized possessions to? Who takes home my great-great-grandfather's travel trunk and my mother's bedroom suit and my grandmothers quilts?

I guess the answer is no one. I've never felt more depressed about not having a family of my own... and yet, I never really wanted kids! Is it odd that I don't have the "biological" need to procreate, but rather the genealogical compulsion to?

All in all, I think it would be far better for me to die young. That way someone will still know me. There will be butts in the pews at my funeral. Someone will be sad. There will be a sense of lost potential... but at least the loss of potential won't be realized in the way of unfulfilled potential at the end of a long life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remembering Floyd

My boss's father passed away on Sunday. For most people, that would just be an event of note because it's your boss and you should care. In this case, however, we all knew him. Floyd followed Ken in his ministry. Literally. He moved here when Ken did, following his son from church to church since Floyd himself was retired.

The first time I met Floyd, he told me how wonderful his son was. He said Ken was a great preacher - perhaps the best he'd ever heard. Floyd told me, though, that I'd need to work on Ken to get him to come up with sermon titles.

Little did I know at that point that Floyd would become my biggest fan. Until he fell ill, Floyd came into my office at least once a week and heaped enough praise on me to make up for any frustration a job might entail. He complimented me incessantly. I could do the most simple of things, and he would rave.

To be quite honest, I'm having a very hard time not being selfish about Floyd's passing. I know that he meant so much to his family and to all who encountered him... but what about ME? Who's going to give me compliments now? Who's going to practically frame the printed version of E-News? Who's going to reassure me that I'm a miracle worker?

Well, I guess no one is. And I suppose that's okay... since no one did before I knew Floyd (at least not as regularly as he did). But I just have to say that I'm really going to miss his encouragement and compliments and adoration. Selfish, maybe. But true.

Floyd L. Diehm Obituary

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Criticism: Constructive or Destructive?

I have a friend who always criticizes me. Over the time that we've known each other she's labeled me in three ways in particular that bug me: 1) I'm a negative person; 2) I'm impatient; and 3) I'm intolerant. The first time this happened it was the negative thing. That was in NO WAY how I saw myself. I have some negative friends and I never would have put myself in that category. But I decided to take that into consideration and try to be more aware of the times when I might be negative.

But more recently - the impatient and intolerant thing - totally shocked me. On both counts, I'm just not seeing it. I'm hardly ever in a hurry. I always hear people out. I don't see things as black and white - but shades of gray. I'm just not coming up with proof that these characteristics describe me.

So I asked someone who knows me REALLY well, and she agreed that I was not the most patient person. Ummm... oookay. I asked for examples. She couldn't come up with any.

After mulling over all of this, I'm trying to find a perspective on criticism that will be helpful for me in dealing with this uber-critical friend. On the one hand, I can see that criticism can be constructive and helpful for self-improvement. However, I do think it can also be used by a person to tear those around them down... maybe for building themselves up? Maybe because they want everyone to be just like them? Maybe it's a control issue? I'm not sure what.

All I DO know for sure is that I don't feel good about myself when I'm around this friend. I don't like that feeling. It makes me want to abandon the friendship... because I have lots of other friends who DO make me feel good about myself. Friends who love me for who I am and appreciate the ways in which we are different.

BUT I don't want to abandon friends. I think that being friends with a variety of different people - no matter how odd you may think they are - is part of what makes life enjoyable. I am vastly different than critical-girl, but I like that. She offers a perspective that I don't get from anyone else. I'm just not sure I like her perspective on ME.

I still haven't answered the question in my mind regarding how to learn from this criticism. Maybe it will help me be more aware of how others see me. But, as my favorite quote says, "I stopped caring about what people think of me when I realized how seldom people think of anyone but themselves." It doesn't really matter what one person thinks of me if I'm being the best me I can be.

My personality may be different than yours. I may like different foods or listen to different music or spend my free time differently. But different isn't bad. And a lot of people like me, darnit!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hearing God

Someone made a comment the other day that gave me pause: "People rarely 'hear' God. So if they want to know what He has to say they should go to scripture." That's a rough translation, but you get the basic idea. It was stated as fact, but I'm not so sure I agree. Or maybe I agree with a few extra words thrown in there. Like I might agree with this statement: "People rarely try to hear God. So if they want to hear from Him, they usually go to scripture."

I don't know about anyone else... but I hear God every time I try to. With very few exceptions. I can think of only a couple of times in my life when God was completely silent when I tried to hear from Him. So I asked God this morning if I'm just an exceptionally rare bird, or what. He can sometimes be really circuitous and vague, but his response was, "Everyone is different." Gee thanks. Not to be rude, but that's really not a helpful answer. Well not helpful for people who want to hear God and don't know how to. So... if you don't hear God, I'm sorry. I wish I could help you. But so far God hasn't told me how to explain it very well... yet.

So on to the second half of that: "If you want to know what God has to say, go to scripture." That statement just brings up a lot of questions for me regarding scripture and my beliefs about it. Do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? Since errant people wrote it, errant people translated it, and errant people edited it... I'd have to say no to that question.

Is scripture any more God's word than the words He speaks to me? I almost said, "Hell, no." But I guess that would be kind of inappropriate... so: "No." I believe that when God speaks to me, it is His "Word" and that he means what he says. Otherwise it wouldn't be him speaking to me. BUT generally the words God speaks to me are FOR me... regarding things that are private and personal and quite frankly none of your business.

So how about this: what if the things that are pertinent to everyone and useful for everyone are recorded (however roughly) in scripture. And the things that are just for me (or you) are imparted straight from God. Does that make as much sense to you as it does to me?

The question still remains: what do I believe about the Bible? I've struggled with this question over time. I suppose my thoughts at this point are still vague. I do believe God inspired people to write down the story that is held in the Bible. It's the story of mankind, and anyone who loves history knows how important it is to actually write these things down. I believe that there are principles in the Bible that are important and useful to our daily lives. The accounts of Jesus' life, for example, are vital insight for us regarding the best way to live.

In the end, though, I think it's foolish for us to assume that we can get all we need from God and about God from scripture. It's like saying I could find out all there is to know about the world from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, there's a lot in there. But there's a difference between reading about lilacs and smelling them. There's a difference between seeing a picture of the ocean and standing on its shores with the salt air in your lungs. I believe that God created us to know him and be known by him. That includes reading about other people's experiences with him, but reading is nothing compared to experiencing God in an intimate and personal way.

You may be asking, "HOW??" Like I said earlier, God has not yet imparted to me the best way to explain this. But I can tell you how it happens for me... how I hear God. Usually I close my eyes because, although I'm not ADD, sometimes I do get distracted by shiny objects. Then I say (in my head), "Hey, G, what's up?" or something like that. He laughs along with us and then starts talking. In my head. I hear the conversation in my mind. I ask questions, he answers. He says, "Hey, M, what's up with you?" And sometimes I'm honest and sometimes I'm not. But he knows and I know he knows and we agree to discuss it later when I'm ready. Sometimes he's brutally honest with me about how deplorable my behavior has been. Sometimes he just loves on me.

Okay, so now you think I'm schizophrenic and I hear voices in my head that are actually alternate personalities battling for control of my mind. But please trust me... it's not that way at all. Most of the things that God says to me are not things I would ever come up with on my own. Sure, his responses are colored somewhat by my own personality, sense of humor, etc. But as God said earlier, "Everyone is different." He comes to me in a way that works for me. Maybe it's different for you. But, why don't you try it? Close your eyes, say hello to God, then just listen (inside your head - not to what's going on around you).

If that doesn't work for you, find another way. What's important is that you find a way to connect with God. Some way that's personal, not just relying on the written experiences of others.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good Intentions Meet Laziness

For the second weekend in a row, I've intended to do dishes, laundry and paint the bedrooms. And for the second weekend in a row, I find myself on Sunday afternoon with a sink full of dirty dishes, baskets full of dirty laundry, and no paint purchased.

However, I have gotten some stuff done today. I trimmed some branches off of trees and shrubs that were growing in the wrong place last season. I transplanted the black beans and broccoli seedlings into a trough for them to keep growing. I watered all the shrubs and trees. I murdered some fire ants. I started gathering stuff for a compost pile. I watered the foundation of the house. I loved on Mable and Meg. All that before 2:00 PM. Wonder what more I could have accomplished if I hadn't stayed in bed till 11:00 AM? In all fairness, I wasn't just sleeping... I was finishing up a book. I'll have to comment on that later.

By day's end, I'm afraid we'll be having a moment of silence while we flush Mikey. He got sick while I was on vacation and hasn't been the same since. I thought he was dead this morning, but he did respond to a tap on his bowl. Still hasn't eaten in at least a week though, so I imagine he's not much longer for this world. I don't know that I'll be replacing him. I don't really have an affinity for keeping fish alive. Wonder how I manage to keep the dogs alive?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Do You People Want???

I just read yet another headline about stocks falling. On CNN:
Stocks tumbled Wednesday morning as a weaker-than-expected January housing report and ongoing worries about the recession ate into the previous session's rally.
So my question is: What the heck is it going to take to get people to stop selling off stock? You'd think the fact that the more they sell, the more money they lose would be a motivation. Hmm. I just don't get it.

But I'm no accountant that's for sure!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Gist of It

I'm listening to Obama's speech and what it boils down to is this: He's asking for a little ingenuity. He's asking Americans to stop being lazy and passive and resting on the accomplishments of our forefathers. He's asking for the engineers and inventors and geniuses among us to step up and give us some new technologies that will propel us into the future. And what he's offering in return is the funding to pursue these innovations.

Just listening to this, it becomes clear that part of our problem is our passivity. We let someone else do the hard work. It's a generational issue. And it seems that the newer generations are going to have to become like the older generations: become hard workers who are willing to sacrifice to secure the future.

I like this quote: "Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself; it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American." That should be posted in the hallways and classrooms of every school in this country. "By 2020, America will once again have the highest percentage of college graduates of any country in the world. If you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood, give back to your community or serve in the military, we will make sure you can afford to go to college."

"In the end there is no policy that can substitute for the parent." Isn't that the truth!! Much of the reason I was so glad when my parents retired from the education system was due to the apathy and sense of entitlement of the parents.

Moving on to the government budget, what Obama is proposing is no different than what we've had to do at the church. That is: cut out all unnecessary spending from the budget. Our program staff sat at a table together and went "line by line through the budget" before the beginning of this year and made absolutely certain that we were being responsible with the money that people have given. That's exactly what Obama has said they are doing with the government's budget. Good call. And no hiding billions of dollars of expenses (i.e. war or in the church's case - debt). No different.

"Living our values doesn't make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger." "The United States of America does not torture." Yes!

"A new era of engagement has begun...." That whole section is golden.

And on and on... so good. Genuine. I just wish that the people who "can't stand him" can get over themselves and actually listen to what he's saying. Because you can't argue with his logic. You can't argue with his acknowledgement that we're all - conservative, liberal, or neither - just after the success and prosperity of this country.

All Over the Map

My thoughts are just bouncing from one random thing to another this afternoon. I'm putting a "Thank You" note in E-News from a man whose wife just died. I'm not dealing with anything near that dramatic/traumatic, and yet I complain at any opportunity.

Random thought - I cut a guy off in traffic this morning just to teach him a lesson about speeding and "crossing the double white line" when you're not supposed to. I'm sure he noted said lesson and will never do that again.

Back to what I was saying... After a conversation with Armando, I find myself playing the cynic. He comes to me about trying to draw out the spiritual aspects of our activities in some way. After some conversation, I realize that this sounds strangely familiar. Like it was the "Communications Goal for 2009" that I submitted to Ken a couple of months ago. How quickly I get lost in the STUFF (nice word) that has to be done and lose all desire to pursue that goal. Armando asks if I don't ever consider the spiritual aspects of the things I'm putting out there to the congregation. I say I don't have time. I have to get the facts out there. And then when I get home I don't want to think about it at all. This is why work is not spiritual for me. This is why I have to get my spirituality elsewhere. Of course it's probably also why I'm burned out on all this STUFF.... which in theory is all great. But in practice just makes me weary and leaves me wondering where God is in all this. Remember that question I asked a few months ago? What does this have to do with God? Well I can answer it in a roundabout way. But the practical, uber-busy side of me never has the time to. Reflecting on the spiritual aspects of the 200 ministries that are fighting - LITERALLY FIGHTING - for attention around here... that's just not something I have time to do. I would hope that most people can see the correlation between the two all on their own. Otherwise they'd just go to some other non-religious entity to do their volunteering.

Ugh. I just don't want to think anymore.

I also don't want to go to Curves this afternoon, even though I promised myself that this was going to be the week I'd get back into the routine. At the moment, though, I have a killer headache, feel kinda feverish and just want to go home and lay on the couch and listen to MY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA tell me that working together we can all get it done. And there IS hope. Sidenote: I'm really tired of being surrounded by conservatives. If you're even remotely middle-of-the-road or liberal-leaning... please be my friend!!

I bow and thank you for your time. Wrist-wrist-beauty-queen-wave... and I'm back to work.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vacation

I've been off work for a week... today back in the office. It was nice to be away - wonderful, in fact. I've decided I'd make a really good retired person. Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about why I don't want to be at work anymore. It's not the job. It's not really the people either (although some are more annoying than others). I think the issue is this: I used to think that my job equaled my purpose in life. As much as I enjoy it, though, it's not a reason to live. It's not ENOUGH for me.

So, realizing that, I am faced with the daunting task of figuring out what my life IS about. I would say it's about relationships... but I'd venture to say that most people I know would be just fine without me. Which begs the question: Are my relationships what they should be? Probably not. What do I do about that? I have no idea.

It could also be about "serving God" - but that's so trite and vague I won't even dignify it with a response.

So then I wonder if my sister is right: Life is about being happy and having fun. Hmm. That doesn't seem quite right to me either. Because that means if you're not happy and having fun then you shouldn't exist.

There's the perspective I read about a couple of months ago: life is about showing people what God's kingdom is really all about - i.e. mercy, love, grace, etc. Ooookay. Easier said than done.

I guess the bottom line is that I want to know my purpose in life. And I want it to be easy. Ha.