Category Archives: My 2 Cents

Surrender

Surrender is not a term we think of favorably. We think of giving up, handing over, losing. Surrendering is an act of trust and faith – we have to trust that the one we are surrendering too will accept our offer and that they will treat us well or at least with dignity. It doesn’t always work out that way, but when we surrender to God, we are always the winner.

I am in the middle of a trilogy of books written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The first book was on Brokenness – until we are truly broken and we stop relying on ourselves, we don’t have room for God. We need to let go of pride, or myths about ourselves and of secrets so that God can fill us and use us for the life he has planned for us.

The second book and the one that has led me to write today is Surrender. I just finished the fifth chapter and Ms. Demoss’s insights hit home. I want to share some of them with you here. If you would like to get the book for yourself, there is a link below. There is a lot of great information here and if you are looking to grow closer to God and to fulfilling his plan for your life, this is a great place to start.

In this chapter, she talks about Abraham/Abram and how he continued to trust in God and follow his commands. He surrendered his will to God many times – he left his home, he gave the best land to his nephew, and ultimately he offered his only, long-awaited son as a sacrifice. This particular surrender of Abraham’s has always amazed me and I have prayed that God would never ask me to make such a sacrifice. I cannot even imagine starting the journey to the mountain top that Abraham made with Isaac – much less completing it.

But God, knowing Abraham’s heart, stayed his hand and provided a sacrifice to go in Isaac’s stead. Much like he did for us when he became flesh and died on the cross. He wants our love. He wants a relationship with us and he wants us to surrender.

We are afraid of surrendering though. We are afraid of what we will be asked to do. We worry about whether God will really provide for us (and part of this comes from confusing our wants with needs). We are afraid that we won’t be able to have fun anymore. We are afraid for our safety if we step out as Christians. We are afraid of being asked to leave family, friends, comfort and of being asked to sacrifice personal relationships to follow God.  Ms. DeMoss points out that the things we seek to hold on to can actually become tyrannical masters if we are not careful. Check these out below – all of this comes from her book.

  1. Provision:  If we are unwilling to trust God in the matter of provision, we may be tyrannized by greed, stealing, cheating, lack of generosity, lying, worrying, coveting or centering our lives around money.
  2. Pleasure: If we are unwilling to trust God with our happiness and well-being, and we insist on the temporal pleasures, we may become dominated by overeating, getting drunk or using drugs, sexual promiscuity, adultery, pornography, obsession with television or films or novels, being irresponsible, or living beyond our means.
  3. Protection:  If we do not entrust our safety to God, but demand human assurance of protection and security, we may be overwhelmed by fearfulness, worry, mistrust of people, obsession with weapons, unwillingness to be vulnerable, fear of intimacy, tendencies toward violence, hatred, prejudice, conspiracy theories, or paranoid-type thoughts.
  4. Personal Relationships: If we do not value Him as our primary relationship, we will live in fear of losing human relationships and will set ourselves up to be tyrannized by such things as possessiveness, giving or taking abuse, adultery, promiscuity, gossip, obsessive or controlling relationships, lust, dissatisfaction, unforgiveness, bitterness, manipulation, dishonesty or jealousy.

Wow, the downside of not surrendering to God is pretty intense!   Surrender means eternal life, joy in all circumstances, fulfillment, a constant companion, and being part of the greatest story ever written. So, why do we persist in holding back? In holding on to our petty pleasures and things?  We are afraid. We also live in a culture where control of one’s life is paramount.

I see some of these unhappy consequences in my own life. I see them in friends and family that I care about. It is not enough to surrender some, we must surrender all – this isn’t easy, but our God is patient and always waiting. I want to let go of the things I still hold on to. I want to help the people I love to do the same. And I want to help those I don’t know move into God’s plan for their lives. Where do I start? First with prayer. Second with reading – the bible, Third with community-in some ways I believe this may be the most important. God made us to bolster one another up. It is important and necessary for us to have other Christians for a face to face sounding board. People who know us, who see us and who will gently point out when we are holding on instead of letting go. If you don’t have a close group, make it your New Year’s Resolution to find or create one.

 

10 Reasons to Smile

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”  Phyllis Diller

Phyllis knew what so many of us forget – smiling makes the world a brighter place. She was an American stand-up comedienne, actress, singer, dancer, and voice artist, best known for her eccentric stage persona, her self-deprecating humor, her wild hair and clothes, and her exaggerated, cackling laugh. I remember her crazy hair!

Phyllis Diller

You couldn’t help but smile when you looked at her…and when she started talking or laughing – your smile grew bigger until you were laughing right along with  her. Smiling does make everything okay – it is virtually impossible to stay angry if you put a smile on your face.  Here are some of my favorite reasons to smile.

 

1. Smile at a stranger…it makes them feel connected with the world and may end up being the beginning of a friendship.

2. Smiling uses less muscles than frowning (and this leads to fewer wrinkles).

3. Smiling is contagious. If you smile in a meeting or a store or on a bus…you can watch as smiles start appearing on the faces around you – even when they don’t know what they are smiling about. And sometimes it can lead to contagious laughter like in this video.

4. Smiling brightens up your face – go look at yourself in the mirror – try smiling, frowning and neither. There is a huge increase in your attractiveness factor when you are smiling.

5. We learn as babes that no one can resist a smile – this carries through as an adult. If you are at a party and one person you are interested in meeting is smiling and another one you are interested in meeting is neutral or frowning – who are you going to go meet.

6. Smiling can make people wonder what you know that they don’t.

7. Smiling can make people wonder what you are up to and be a great conversation starter.

8. Smiling can often lead to laughter which is a great way to exercise your insides and fill your body up with happy endorphins!

9. Smiling reaches across all kinds of distances – anger, unhappiness, frustration – you never know but your smile could help someone else out of a deep, dark pit.

10. Smiling makes you feel good.

One of my all time favorite songs – it is sure to make you smile!

Speak Up and Be Heard!

“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte. Portarit of Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821 at the battle. Detail of a painting by Joseph Chabord 1786-1848. Museo Napoleonico, Rome Italy

Napoleon Bonaparte. Portarit of Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821 at the battle. Detail of a painting by Joseph Chabord 1786-1848. Museo Napoleonico, Rome Italy

 

Napoleon was a brilliant man, but the quote above is simply common sense if taken at face value. What captured my thoughts about the quote was what I notice so often in my own life – those who speak up are heard.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease…stand up and be counted…these are other ways of saying the same thing. I have had this work for me and against me. I speak up, but not always loudly enough or at the right times.

As a youngster, I was often called ‘teacher’s pet.’ This was mainly because I couldn’t stand an unanswered question. Our teacher would be standing at the front of the room and ask a question. The students would often stare at her/him as though they were speaking a foreign language. I got to the point of where I would wait to raise my hand to make sure others had an opportunity to do so, but if no one did and I knew the answer, my hand went up. Much like musicians can’t stand to hear a song cut off in mid-note, I couldn’t stand to have a question hanging in the air…unanswered.

As an adult, this habit in me has continued. I don’t want to come off like a know it all, but it strikes me as disrespectful to leave a teacher hanging while everyone stares at them or off into space or studiously at their papers and books in front of them. Times that I have been in the teaching position, and have had that occur to me have left me feeling frustrated – do the students know the answer? Did I teach it correctly?  Won’t someone speak to me!?  So, I wait and see if someone else will volunteer, then my hand goes up…much like a person who has offered their hand for a ‘five’ only to watch the person walk away – I can’t stand to leave the teacher hanging.

However, this can bite one in the butt. Sometimes, the person doesn’t really want a response – I have found this to be true in business meetings. Or perhaps the person leading the meeting wants the response, but the others in the room don’t – either because they are afraid that what you say will upset the person in charge or they want the meeting to just be over with and if people speak, this leads to conversation and takes time.

At one of my previous jobs, the head of the company was coming for a meet and greet – basically a chance for him to hear from those in the trenches as to what was working and what wasn’t. Supposedly a time for the front line to speak up while the generals stayed quiet. However, prior to the meeting, the generals were busy sounding out the troops and trying to guide them as to what might be okay to say and what might be better left unsaid. This was all done in the guise of the issue that the commander-in-chief was a numbers guy and if you said something you better be able to back it up with numbers. So the generals were looking out for you and would provide you with said numbers or encourage you to let it slide until more research was done because the commander-in-chief had been known to get a bit fussy at times. Sounded like hogwash to me and like generals trying to cover their backsides.

So, I went to said meeting determined just to keep my thoughts to myself. I didn’t want to rock the boat any more than the next guy. Plus, surely there were plenty of others who would speak up. HA!  I got there and it was just like being back in school again – a question would be asked and all of my co-workers stared off into space with smiles plastered on to their faces. Obviously they were just as concerned about speaking up as I was. So, since the commander-in-chief had come a long way to see us, I felt like he needed something. I tentatively spoke up about something that I knew our customers really liked. I mean, you can’t go wrong with positive feedback, right?

Right! He was thrilled – turned out what I brought up was something he was kind of keen on as well. This continued as he asked questions and received few responses. I would wait, then I would jump in. Afterwards, I was congratulated by others for talking and he thanked me for my input. Phew…I felt like I had traversed the proverbial mine field without getting blown up!  Well, at least until I stopped by to see my General, but that is another story…

At any rate, it is very true that only those that speak up are heard. Take the plunge – speak up and make a difference! And show respect to the head of the classroom or meeting by being an active participant! I promise, they will appreciate your courage and input.

The Confederate Flag

The recent flurry of news regarding the Confederate Flag has left me shaking my head. What I have always thought of as the Confederate Flag was the one I saw on the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazard. I also occasionally saw this flag on vehicles and homes in my area, but I never really thought about it or what it stood for.

I knew it was a symbol of the Confederate States of America, but I never saw it as something that implied racism or the ad vocation of slavery. If anything, I saw it as a symbol of Southern Pride – a feeling those of us in the south feel about our neck of the woods – that we are hard workers, stand up for what we believe in, will help our fellow neighbor – you know ‘good old boys, never meaning no harm.’

Before I go further, I need to take a moment to let you know that I had a professor who once accused me of wearing rose-colored glasses. I do always look for the best in situations and people and I tend to overlook the ugliness. So, if you feel like my interpretation is naive – you may be right. But it is my interpretation. Having said that – since all of this uproar about the flag questions have been raised in my mind. Bear with me – I wrote this as I researched it – you may be surprised by what I find!

Q. What did the flag that we think of as the Confederate Flag symbolize?

A. The number of stars reflected the states that had seceded from the Union. The blue cross is called a ‘saltire‘ – it was a symbol of the cross that Saint Andrew was said to have been martyred on. Andrew was one of the original disciples and apparently asked to be crucified from this cross instead of a standard Roman cross because he felt he was unworthy to be crucified on the same cross as Jesus. So we have a flag that symbolizes folks who believe in martyring themselves for a cause they believed in – States Rights. The fact that slavery was one of the issues they felt that states had the right to decide on was a part of the issue, but not the main issue in spite of modern history books. I was unable to find anything about the colors, but I assume that they chose the colors that were already part of the United States Flag.

Q. Who designed this flag?

A. William Porcher Miles, the chairman of the Flag and Seal committee.

Q. When was this flag adopted as the flag for the CSA?

A. It wasn’t! (Say What?)

Q. Then who flew this flag?

A. It was instead adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. In Virginia, it was flown as a square flag instead of a rectangle. It was adopted in Tennessee as a battle flag and that is where it flew in the rectangular form. A version was also flown as the Second Confederate Navy Jack, from 1863–1865.

Q. What is the flag that represented the CSA?

A. There were actually 3 flags which you can see below. The first flag was adopted the 1st, 4th, and 5th years. The flag in the middle is a huge white field surrounding a square with the Saltire – much like the star section in the U.S. flag.  Guess they couldn’t make up their minds which design they liked best.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/da/Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_%281861-1863%29.svg/800px-Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_%281861-1863%29.svg.png

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/24/Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_%281863-1865%29.svg/1440px-Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_%281863-1865%29.svg.png

Third flag of the Confederate States of America

 

Q. How did this particular flag (the Rebel Flag) come to be the symbol of the south?

A. It wasn’t until the 1880s that this flag came to represent the south as a whole when it started appearing in Confederate cemeteries. It then became used as a symbol of resistance to the civil rights movement in the late 1940s when it was used as a symbol for the short-lived Dixiecrat Party – which formed to fight segregation and the national effort to repeal Jim Crow laws. It was after that it began to be used by segregationist groups and as a symbol against the civil rights movement.

Whoa…I read that last little tidbit, and I sat back in my chair to digest that information for a while. This battle flag started being used as a symbol to remember dead Confederate soldiers – probably by someone who liked this pattern better than others, but later that symbolism was twisted by people who didn’t want the freed slaves and their descendants to be able to have equal rights in our country.

This is what the media needs to be sharing – I have no doubt that there are people out there who believe in white supremacy, but I am not one of them. And I believe there are many other southerners who own this flag and fly this flag who are just as ignorant as I was about how this flag was twisted into a symbol of hatred.

In a related thought, the Swastika is something that we all see as a symbol of racial hatred…unless we are Hindus, Buddhists, or Jainists. For them, it is a sacred and auspicious symbol.

All of this seems like a Solomon question to me. I know that I am horrified if I see the Swastika flying in a news story. And now that I have educated myself on the Rebel Flag – I can definitely see where it would be a symbol that would horrify folks. But like all symbols – different people may have different responses/interpretations.

As soon as this controversy became full blown after the horrible murders in Charleston – my thoughts were: “that flag shouldn’t be flying over government buildings, but the individual should have the right to fly the flag if they want to.” As more news exploded – I was tempted to go out and buy a flag and attach it to my truck to make a statement even though I had never desired to own this flag before. Now, I personally think the best thing for the South to do is find a new symbol to honor those who died in the war fighting for what they believed in – probably one of the flags that was actually adopted to represent the Confederacy.

We cannot and should not rewrite or forget our past. One of the great foundations of this nation is the Freedom of Speech. But just like it isn’t okay to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, it is also not okay to uplift symbols that hurt others.

Reversing Heart Disease by Julian Whitaker, M.D.

I have rediscovered my love of reading. When I was growing up, I always had a book with me. I read as I brushed my teeth, dried my hair, ate my breakfast, walked to the bus stop, on the way to school and whenever I had a break during the day. My senior year of highschool, I read over 100 books. My favorites at the time were gothic romance, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul. My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Boswell, told me it was fine to read the fun stuff, but to be sure to spend time in the classics as well. I took her advice to heart and developed a love for Hardy, Steinbeck, Dickens and Vonnegut (to name a few). Well, now my challenge to myself is to read nonfiction books as well as fiction.
You can check on my Shelfari account in the sidebar of my blog to see what all I have been reading this year. I read from my Kindle while I exercise and then from the stack of books that I have collected over the last 10 years, but hadn’t gotten around to reading. The book I finished today was Reversing Heart Disease. It is a book that my hubby bought a few years ago, but then never read. When my dear friend, Carole, called me to tell me her hubby had had a heart attack, Daniel remembered the book and told her about it. I thought to myself…this is a book I should read, so onto my shelf it went. And I got a copy of Reversing Diabetes by Dr. Whitaker to read on my Kindle. I have a history of Diabetes in my family. I am overweight, sedentary and love to eat sweets. Last August, after my yearly physical, my doctor sent me my blood test results and a prescription for a cholesterol medication.

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Dad’s Words of Wisdom

I love my Dad and have long realized that he is one of the smartest people I know. Over the years, he has come up with many great ideas, some of which have come to pass. For instance, my dad thought of inventing the artifical tree with light bulbs already on the branches long before it ever came to be.
Tonight as we were chatting, he shared with me another great idea and I am going to share it here just in case the power’s that be are listening!
My father has worked hard all of his life. When I was growing up, he worked a 9-5 job, then he built houses on the side. Later, he switched to just building houses and even today, with my 64 year old father, often puts in 12 hour or more days. It frustrates him that the government takes part of his hard earned money to pay for people who won’t get a job. Now, don’t get on your high horse…neither he nor I are talking about the people who have lost job during this current economic situation. But here’s Dad’s idea.
He periodically has to take a drug test where he works. Many company’s do this now as standard procedure. So, if he has to take a drug test to keep his job, why don’t welfare recipients have to take a drug test to receive their assistance. If drug use is evident, then no assistance is given.
I wonder if someone in Washington will read this and give this idea a whirl? Or if it would be too politically incorrect because the reason these people are on drugs is because they are down-trodden by society?
I say ‘bah’ to that possibility! If anyone has an excuse to take drugs to escape, it would be the hard working individuals who keep this country together. They get up 5 days a week and spend most of their day working in one capacity or another and putting up with all of the stresses that entails. Then they come home and sit around the kitchen table with their checkbook in hand and wonder how they are going to pay all of the bills this month because the expenses keep going up and the checks keep shrinking. So if there is someone who has a ‘reasonable’ excuse to use drugs, it is the hard working middle class, not the ones sitting at home watching television all day after they pick up their government assistance.

Time for True Change in America

I did not vote for President Obama. I did not think he had the experience needed to hold the highest office in the land. He is smart, but his smarts are book smarts. And book smarts are not enough. He makes a pretty speech. He looks good on camera, though like many other presidents before him, the grey in his hair has grown exponentially since he took office a year ago. He is naive. Or at least he was when he took the office of President. He thought he could bring about change just by saying it. He thought that being the first black President of the U.S. would mean change was inevitable. But instead of getting people to work together, he and the Democratic Party have been ramming their agenda down the throats of the rest of the people in the country. And last week, the country fought back with the vote in Massachussetts.
While I did not vote for Obama, I was hoping that the years with him as leader would help to bring our country closer together. I hoped he really could get in there and make a difference.The divide in this country between the conservatives and liberals has grown larger than the Grand Canyon. The urbanites, who lean to the liberal side view the rural inhabitants as stupid, bigoted, and backward. The rurals, who tend to lean towards the conservative end of the spectrum are outraged at the liberals who they see as lazy people who don’t know the meaning of hard work and who are trying to undermine the basic principles of our country.
Guess what…it’s not black and white and both sides are wrong. We all need one another. Much like the North and South back in the 1800s, we are two sides that make part of a whole. Each side has strengths and weaknesses and if we would stop letting lobbyists and politicians divide us, we could come together and become the better nation for it. Instead we are fighting amongst ourselves like children and we are letting the media drive a wedge between us.
It has become a game of tit for tat. The Republicans mistreated the Democrats when they were in control. When the Democrats came to office, they did the same and said, ‘well they did it first.’ Come on…are you children or grown men and women?
Someone is going to have to be brave, step up, roll up their sleeves and say ‘let’s work together’.
And then someone else is going to have to make a stand and say…”Yep! We are here at the request of the public. They voted for us. They pay our salary. We need to find out what it is they want, then we need to figure out how to please the most people. We need to stop making this a peacock show where we all strut around trying to outshine the other. We need to get down to the business of building a government that the people want.”
My kids and I have been studying some about the American Revolution lately. I hope that our country doesn’t have to resort to another revolution to bring us all together, but things need to change. America stands on the beliefs of the rights of the people. America led the way by creating a government that was formed by the people and was supposed to work for the people. And America led the way by creating a Bill of Rights that said what the government could not to do the people. Yet, instead of continuing to be a beacon of light and leading the way in this world, we have become a country of bickering children who can only see things one way – theirs. I know those who will vote along party lines regardless of the candidates. The politicians and media have done their job well. And we have become lazy. Why try to figure out what the politician stands for? Why try to determine who will make the better leader? Why use our brains at all? Just ask the question…who is from which party, then pick the party that you have become brainwashed to follow.
WAKE UP! We need fresh blood. We need a new strong 3rd party. We need to stop business as usual in Washington! We need people who believe in America. We need people who will listen to their constituents. We need people who spend their time in office concentrating on making our country a better place instead of spending their time if office thinking about how they can position themselves to win the next election. Our country desparately needs term limits! 6 years for the President with no chance at re-election. Then he can spend all of his time working on his job, not worrying about getting re-elected. The same thing for senators and representatives. Think of the money our country would save because these servants, and that is what they are supposed to be, would be spending their time in office actually working, not seeking photo ops and impressive interviews.
I started writing this post with the thought in mind that I am sorry that President Obama’s desire for change has hit a brick wall. He, along with others in the past, came into Washington hoping to change things, yet here we are…business as usual. So my post evolved into my rambling thoughts of the changes we need to make if our country is to go forward. Or we can continue to sit and spin our wheels, changing leaders every few years, and having more and more hard feelings rise up among Americans… And while we are bickering among ourselves, other countries will grow and surpass us. And some countries, or the terrorists hiding in them, will take advantage of our division and our business as usual attitude and weaken us even more.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery and Our Personal Mirro

I have often heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We see this when people imitate celebrity hairstyles and fashions. We see this when our children latch onto an older friend or a popular child and begin to imitate them. It is their way of being accepted, being part of the pack, fitting in. And it is their way of telling the person they are looking up to that ‘Hey, I think your style rocks.’
I have also said ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ when my children get on one another’s nerves. You know…the big brother sits around copying everything the little sister is saying… or vice versa? Or a child is copying a teenager’s words or actions and it is driving the teenager crazy. This statement is a two-edged sword in this case. If it is the older one ‘mocking’ the younger one or trying to annoy them by copying what they say, they shut up pretty quickly…after all, they aren’t actually trying to flatter the younger child. Not at all, they are trying to annoy the younger child! In the case of the younger imitating the teen, it helps the teen take a deep breath and think…’okay, this little kid thinks I am cool…guess I can live with it.’
But there is another side of imitation that we tend to not think about. That is our child imitating us. How many times have you heard your child say a scathing remark to someone, only to realize they heard it from you? Much like Ralphie in A Christmas Story the child knows where they heard the scathing remark (or bad word or saw the bad habit), but if asked, they might not want to tell.
However to the honest parent, we know. We are looking at the mirror of ourselves. Sometimes that image is flattering and sometimes….well sometimes, it is enough to make us want to hang our heads in shame.
What got me thinking about this is that I often underestimate how my own energy and inclinations can affect others in the house. If I am upbeat, it tends to ripple through the family. If I am snarly, well, guess what, snarly comes back to me. Last week, I was all a bustle. I was up on time, took time for my devotions, exercised, got lots of stuff done here at home…was a whirlwind of activity. And what I saw was my children exercising, reading their bibles, and getting their school work done in a timely manner.
This week…well, this week has been much less energetic and as rats followed the Pied Piper out of town, my children have followed me into my ‘not getting much done’ mode.
So, when we see our children behaving in ways we wish they wouldn’t, it is best to look at ourselves, because in all likelihood, they are just being our living mirror. On the bright side, when they do something that makes us want to beam from ear to ear, we should pat ourselves on the back…because we probably did it first.

“I Pledge”

If you haven’t seen the “I Pledge” Video, take a few moments and watch it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait….




I found out about this video when my husband forwarded me an article that expressed concern over the references to ‘serving’ President Obama and over “Obama worship”.
I watched this video and I didn’t see it the same way as the author of the article. While I am bothered very much by the fact that these people seem to be pledging their allegiance to a person instead of to their country (remember how that worked out for Germany?), I tend to look at the positive side of things.
I wish that more people had pledged to stand behind President Bush instead of attacking him from Day One, but if people are ready to stand up now and take responsibility and reach out to their fellow human being, I say we should not beat a dead horse, but we should look at this as a great leap forward for a better tomorrow.
Many in this nation have become so wrapped up in their own self-importance, that they forget to look out for their neighbors, their friends, people on the street and even for family. Yet, we see when tragedy strikes (be it a tornado, a flood, or a terrorist attack), these same people pull out all the stops to help those affected. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we didn’t wait for the disaster to strike, but if instead, we each made it a priority each and every day to do something positive in the life of another human being? Can you even begin to imagine the possiblities!