Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Reflections

The turning of the seasons is upon us! There has been so much rain in the last week! Even when it isn't raining, the sky is gray and the colors of fall fade in the lower light quality. I'm in need of a dry day-cool crisp air and the vibrant colors of autumn.

This is also the beginning of my season of reflection. There is something about the fall that encourages me to slow down. If not in deeds-there is always so much to do once the leaves start falling-but in the way I savor events.

Summer grilling gives way to tail-gate parties and homemade soup. Meals are more apt to be lingered over- comfort foods and comfortable company.

Fall events tend to be group oriented. For instance football games-both American and what we call soccer. Friday nights are spent at the local high school surrounded by neighbors, all of us cheering on our young men. It's hard not to be drawn into the crowd. We, the supporters, are all there for the same reason, we share a goal of encouragement. We bond over each loss of yard and each touchdown! Likewise, Sat mornings are spent at the soccer fields. Often with the same friends and neighbors as the night before. Bonds are formed with the parents of a child's teammates. These bonds hold throughout the months of the sport, dissolving naturally at the end of the season, waiting for the year to turn and the teams to reassemble.

Another gift of the season, is the earlier nights. When darkness descends, my family comes together. There is not the rush to go here or there. We draw the drapes and close the front door. We choose books to read- exploring new finds and returning to family favorites. We linger in the down time-work is done, homework finished for the night and set aside- kitchen cleaned and hours stretch long before bedtime. Our first book this year is a family favorite- The Hobbit. There is something about cool fall nights that call out to dragons and adventures!

Sheep M 10/16/09

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I've been taking time to nurture myself lately. After raising children for 19 years, it's finally dawning on me that the airlines have it right-take care of yourself first and once you're safe, you have what it takes to help others.


Like a bolt of lightening that visual (anyone who's flown anywhere in the last 50 years knows the pre-take off routine. In case of emergency the oxygen masks will fall. Parents are told to put their own mask on and then help their children) hit me full in the face. OK, more like in the heart. My head's been telling me for years to take care of others first. Is that a mom/woman thing?

One of the things I do for me is read. I like all types of books. Usually I have at least 4 going at any one time. Currently I am reading an adventure book with my son and a mystery/coming of age with my youngest daughter. I am also going through my own personal library to reread books that impacted my life. Having survived (and triumphed) a divorce, navigated the choppy waters of my son's cancer and stroke, and held it together when my eldest asserted herself, I know that I am not the same person who first read those books. I've been tried and stretched. The 'fluff' of me has been burned away and what is left is more of the essence of who I was created to be.

So this past weekend I started rereading Curtis and Eldredge's The Sacred Romance . Progress is slow. I'm still on page 3. I've stopped to ponder the phrase, '-a life without heart is not worth living'

Heart- the well spring of emotions. That organ that pumps the blood necessary for life. The invisible aspect of me that is capable of being broken and mended, stretched, enlarged. The thing we tend to hide from others, yet long to have seen and accepted.

As the swirl of thoughts settle, I will share what I am learning from this.

Sheep M 9/30/09

Can you tell where I do most of my personal reading?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm not using a drawing or a picture with this post. I can't bring myself to draw right now and all the pictures (on line photos) I looked at just don't have the right 'feel'.
On Sept 11, my last remaining grandparent passed away. It was sudden, or as sudden as it can be once you reach the age of 88. My grandmother had been ill for a week, but once she was checked into a local hospital, she seemed to be doing better. Scans revealed a mass in her intestines and a surgery was scheduled. She gave the surgeon what for just prior to going under. Seems he'd mentioned starting surgery at 4p and he didn't show up til after 5. Grandma told him that she didn't appreciate being kept waiting.
The surgery uncovered, along with the mass, a perforation in the small intestine and the doctor told us that he'd removed that section and clean the cavity, but that the nurses would watch for any signs of infection. Grandma was fine that night when my mother and I left the hospital. She'd even made me promise to make my mother go on the trip we'd planned to take the following day.
Fast forward to the following morning-we got a call at 7a, my grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and was not responsive. God in his loving mercy, gave us the time to go to the hospital and say our farewells. Grandma wasn't really there, but her body held on just long enough. As hard as it was on all of us, I am deeply thankful for the chance to say my good bye and to share one last prayer with her as my family gathered.
All that was difficult, but not nearly as wrenching as watching my mother's grief. She is now an orphan. Odd to think of that term applied to a woman in her 60's, but that is how she feels. Her ties to her childhood are gone. There is no mother she can turn to and pour out her thoughts and feelings. No one that loves her in the way only your mother can.
As I struggled to help my mother process all the information being thrown her way, fielding questions, and doing whatever I could to ease her burdens, I was struck with the idea that I'm one step closer to being in that same position.
I've moved into an inner circle. (My father tells me I've become my mother.) It's one we must all enter and it's one we all dread. I am becoming the caregiver to my own parents. Thankfully both are in good health. They are actively enjoying their retirement. Yet now there is this hovering weight. They will decline, either slowly or quickly. They will need me to be involved in their lives, not as a daughter who looks up to her parents and seeks their help and advice, but as one who can help them navigate the new waters they will face as the aging process impacts their daily lives. What this will entail is still just a speculation, but it will happen, and it is closer than I want it to be.

Death comes to each of us. We can put if off as long as possible, do what we can to prevent it, but it will come. What remains then is how we live each day. My grandmother had a full life. She and Grandpa fell in love while she was in high school. Her parents that he was too old for her, but allowed them to correspond. When he enlisted they became pen-pals while he was in Europe during WWII. They even had their own code so she would know where he was. It apparently was good enough to pass through the government censors. They were married 63 years before Grandpa passed and she spent her 69th with him in heaven. They raised 4 children together and when she was crippled with arthritis, Grandpa packed up the family and moved them to Arizona. Grandma visited my family as she could at the various military bases where we lived. She and Grandpa even came to England when we were over there. Oh the stories we still tell about that visit! Six years ago, following the death of Grandpa, she moved here to be with her daughter, my mother. My sister and I loved having her so close. Our children, her great-grandchildren, got to know her and hear she stories. She passed on her love of God to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As a child, I was blessed to have her teach me how to make real lemonade with the lemons she grew and how to make a good pie crust just by feel. Oh I'm sure at one time there was a recipe, but by the time Grandma taught me to make a pie, she'd perfected the technique so that all she had to do was run her hand through the floor to know how much fat and water to add. She was full of life and spunk! I miss her and feel the loss of her in my life.

I know that who I am is a measure of who she was. Her parenting molded my mother who in turn shaped me. Her influence has been quiet and will be long lasting. The lessons I learned at her side are lessons I've passed on to my own children. I watched her through a child's eyes and loved her. In my adulthood, I learned to see my mother as a woman through her stories. As I age, her example will guide me as I too become a grandmother. (To my children-I won't be ready for at least another 10 years!)

Sheep M 9/29/09

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tea Time

Faithful are the words of a friend

Yesterday I spent the day with my best friend. She and I have known each other forever, it seems. In fact it's only been about 16 years, but we just 'click' in the way true friends do.

It doesn't happen as often as we'd like, but when our schedules mesh and we have time, we plan a marathon tea party. We've been known to start in the morning and talk our way through to supper time or beyond. We've learned over the years to clear our day and just relax in the warmth of our friendship. We just slow down and unwind in each other's presence.

There is no topic that is off limits. We don't judge each other or try to fix the other's problems. We listen and share and when the cups are empty and the pot's run dry (if we don't rush to make more) we both leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on the mantel of our lives again.

Yesterday, my friend asked me what I'm doing for me. Such a simple question. Or so it seemed. I think I answered with a simplistic answer and the tide of conversation flowed on. Writing in my journal that night, I revisited the question and realized how deep that question went.

As women, we rarely DO for ourselves. We DO for children, family, parents, spouse, friends, organizations, churches, but for ourselves? I don't know about you, but my day is full of children, work, housework, and then bed. To get up the next day and start again. My tea party with my friend is one of the few times I put away all the 'shoulds' and 'havetos' and just relax, knowing that this time is special.

I began this year with a resolution to do more for myself. To count myself as worthy as every other project and person in my life that I do for. Yet here it is Sept and I've let that resolution slip by. Well, thankfully, I have a friend who cares enough to remind me that I'm important. Not just in our tea time together, but every day.

So I begin again- to work into each day, some activity that is just for me. Whether it's blogging or drawing or writing or reading or sewing-I have a lot of interests so it shouldn't be that difficult. Making the time to do it, well that's another issues all together.
Sheep M 9/6/09

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sheep M's hoof biting

I'm sure my last post had you all thinking that I live the sentiment of the poem-whatever is, is best. Don't I wish it were that easy! After living and walking through the wilderness the past three years, ( previous posts will explain somewhat) you would think that when I get such an encouraging poem, I'd stop and check myself to see if it might be more than just an encouraging poem.

Blind sheep that I am, I simply thought the poem was worth sharing. After all, it meant a lot to me and wonderful things ought to be shared.

WHAM! Right out of left field-a test! Not just some little something that even in the midst of it you know that it will be OK. Nope! This was a gut wrenching episode in which fear, anger, angst, 'what if's', and all the rest of the peace stealers played their part.

There is no way to save myself from this- so the silver lining is that this situation is what it is. I can't change any part of it, except how I receive it.

Hence the lesson of the poem. Whatever is-is best. I can't see that right now. I'm biting my hooves reminding myself that I can't fix this and that God allowed this in my life for a reason. (I can't come up with anything that remotely makes sense to me, but that's why I'm the blind sheep and not the Shepherd)

The God graciously led me to this passage as I prayed about my situation.

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." Matt 6:31-34

I wept when I read this familiar passage. God loves me! How simple that sounds, but how deep an impact! This trouble being visited on me isn't a surprise to Him. He prepared my heart before my ears ever heard about it. Reminding me that He is my today and He is enough! Tomorrow is His too, and He will be there waiting on me to bless me then with what I need.

I can't promise to never fear or fret, bite my hooves, or borrow trouble with 'what if'- but I am at peace knowing who holds tomorrow and that He is fully able to care for me!
Sheep M 8/31/09

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Better Eyesight

Whatever is-is Best

I know, as my life grows older,
and mine eyes have clearer sight,
that under each rank wrong somewhere
there lies the root of Right;
that each sorrow has its purpose,
by the sorrowing oft unguessed;
but as sure as the sun brings morning,
whatever is-is best.

I know that each sinful action,
as sure as the night brings shade,
is somewhere, sometime punished,
tho' the hour be long delayed.
I know that the soul is aided
sometimes by the heart's unrest,
and to grow means often to suffer-
but whatever is-is best.

I know there are no errors,
in the great Eternal plan,
and all things work together
for the final good of man.
And I know when my soul speeds onward,
in its grand Eternal quest,
I shall say as I look back earthward,
whatever is-is best.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I came across this poem at just the right time. I've been reading through the book of Habakkuk-a book that never fails to refocus me on what is truly important. I may not understand the circumstances or situations I face in this life, but all is well. Whatever is-is best!
Sheep M- 8/22/09

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finding what you're looking for

Viva Las Vegas!

My Dad used to tell a story about two brothers leaving home. One was an optimist and the other a pessimist. They left by different paths and arrived at different times at the same gate leading into the same city. Outside the gate sat an old man who greeted each new comer and tried to help him find his way. When the first of the brothers arrived, the old man called out a greeting. The brother came closer and asked about the city beyond the gate. "What are you looking for?" the old man asked.
"A quite place with friendly people," responded the brother.
"You're in luck," said the old man. "This city is the friendliest place around. And for a large city, there are many neighborhoods that are peaceful."
The brother offered his thanks and went his way. Upon entering the city, he found exactly what the old man told him he would find.

Later that day, the other brother came to the same gate and was hailed by the same old man. When asked what he was looking for, the brother responded, "Well, I expect this city is like all others. Lots of crime and people just looking to get one over on me."
"Sadly young man, you have the right of it. This city is like all others. Be careful and watch your back." The brother entered the city and sadly found his prediction to be true. He was robbed within the first few hours.

My Dad usually told this story before we had to pack up and move to yet another state. This story helped me to develop a sense of adventure. Each new place offered a chance to meet new people, see new things! I developed a love of traveling.

This summer, with my sister, I started traveling again. In the past, we've talked and planned, but something always came up. This year, we were determined to do something just for us. When an invitation came to visit a friend in Vegas, we jumped at it.

For all I'd heard of Sin City-I loved it! Each day was too short to pack in all we wanted to see and do. Thankfully we had a guide who made sure we saw the best there was to see in the city and took us to other locations like a chocolate factory, Hoover Dam, and the Atomic Test Site Museum.

I'm full of awe and gratitude for the blessing of an open heart and the best of all Guides!
Sheep M 8/15/09

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Guilty Weight

I can't believe how long it's been since I sat at my computer to write! This is supposedly a passion with me (writing), yet it seems to be the first thing that I let slide when the world closes in and the 'busies' take over. Eventually my life slows down and then there is another force that prevents me from just picking back up and writing.

The guilty weight. Ever feel that? It's self imposed, well... mainly. There can be those who use this tool to 'encourage', but the feeling is still the same. That there is something 'lacking', some essential characteristic missing. If I just had that, whatever it is, I wouldn't be in this spot, I wouldn't have allowed myself to get behind or allowed anything to slip passed me.

Every time I thought about posting another blog, I'd remember how long it had been since my last. WHAM! Hit with guilty weight, I'd question if I had anything worth saying, especially after so long a silence.

This morning, scribbling in my journal, it hit me. NOW is the time. This moment-stop putting it off, go get on the computer and just write. Live, move, breathe, and write in this moment.

Writer's block-gone! Guilty weight-gone!

Sheep M 8/12/09

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sheep C: Faith Temper Tantrum

I’ve suffered more than a few “slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune” lately—again. (And thank you, Shakespeare, for such an apt turn of phrase). I know I’m whining, but life just does not seem to let up with the slams recently.

I try to console myself by comparing my lot in life with others who, admittedly, have it worse than me. I think the hardest thing may be that I am just not used to being trashed by life, having led a charmed one for decades until it all caved two years ago. (Whew! Even I recognize the heights of whining here). Really, all the comparison game has done for me recently is to cause me to actually look more closely at others’ pain, add it on to mine, and just wail to God, “Why, on earth, did you set things up this way?” I mean, honestly, would you allow all this meanness in the world if you were in charge? I'm just sayin'...
So, this causes a little crisis of faith with me. I start by thinking about how hard my little life seems to me (which is “very” right now) and then thinking about how hard someone in, oh, say, Rwanda, must think theirs is. It is enough to make me question everything. If God is love, then what is all this about, anyway?
I’m really honest with God, about this. I don’t even try to put these feelings in that room in my spirit where I don’t let Him see—He knows about this, so I’m not talking behind His back. I may as well tell you about it, too.

God actually appears to be quite fine with my stomping around, questioning Him and all. He just continues do his “higher ways” thing, just like He’s, well, GOD or something.
But I must admit that troubles cause me to ponder things I never allowed myself to ponder.

I move from just thinking God isn’t paying attention to thinking that He has made some mistake about all things turning to good for us. And then I move right along to the ultimate: Is there even really anyone “up there?” Are we just making all this up as we go along? It sure does not make sense that God would create something only to have it in such a fine mess—so, maybe “he” didn’t—maybe this whole universe is just creaking along on its own and we’re all duped into some cheery afterlife fantasy by our need to cope or, worse yet, by some conspiracy (who, though?) using religion as control of the masses—you know, Sheep Herding…keeping us acting better because of some carrot of heaven balanced by the stick of hell.
But, then, I snap back, really secure in my knowing God, so I don’t stay an atheist very long. And that leads me back full circle, pondering God but this time with a tinge of “uh-oh.” Is He upset at my faith wanderings/wonderings? Nope, I don’t think so, and I thank Him that he gave us some stories in His book just to allay these fears:

  • There's Elijah, who mightily out-maneuvered the priests of Baal and single-handedly burned up that soaking wet wood (well God actaully did) then slaying all the Baal priests as they stood in astonishment. He was so mighty in his faith in God. But what happened when Jezebel showed a little chagrin? Elijah, who had been so mighty in the Lord, ran and hid! From one woman! I love it that God not only did not smite him, He came and just said, “What are you doing here?!” and fed him and provided water. He knew how weak Elijah was. (Look at 1 Kings 18 and 19 for this story).

  • John the Baptist was such a strong figure: “Make way for the Lord!!” Standing up to everyone, including Herod (taking him on for shenanigans with his brother’s wife). But, then John went to jail. And what did he do? He sent one of his guys to Jesus to ask if he could have made a mistake (and I paraphrase rather loosely here): “I’m down here in jail because of you…please tell me I haven’t made the biggest mistake of my life, because this jail is not so good, and my future doesn’t look so good, and I need to really know…” Again, Jesus patiently instructed the runner to return and tell John, and, again I paraphrase loosely, “It’s okay, John, just think about all these miracles and calm down…” (To see the real words of Jesus, read Matthew 11).

  • And, then, there was that whole Peter fiasco in the 22nd chapter of Luke. You know, the Rock on which the church was to built? The one who denied even known the Lord at the first stumble?

So, I have good company in my wonderings, and I’m really not afraid of offending God, given the examples He chose to leave in His Word for me.

But it feels good to be open about it with you, and the writing about it causes me to analyze and examine. That little exercise of remembering how frail the mighty men of God in the Bible were has reminded me of His presence in my life and helped my attitude already.
Thanks! Sheep C

Friday, June 26, 2009

C: The Cote Meeting and Rest

Last weekend was a busy weekend. First, there was the flurry of trying to get my house in order enough to host our Three Blind Sheep dinner Saturday night. M and S are good friends and totally non-judgmental about my messiness (or seem to be, anyway), but it sure does bother me to have folks into my usual disarray. Throwing things out of sight took a little time and effort! They arrived mid-afternoon and I was as ready as I was ever going to be, just giving up on what remained.

We sat and talked and talked and talked as only the three of us can. We talked about our lives, we talked about a recent church conference, we talked about God and plans and food supply v. population and nanotechnology (about which NONE of us has a clue, but we loved talking about it), and on and on—you can see that our conversation covered lots of ground. We had not been able to be together like this in a very long time, and few other people are wacky enough to tolerate these random wonderings and soundings. Really, we need each other for this.

I don’t think we moved from the table all evening except for short bathroom trips and when I got up to throw steaks on and heat the rest of the easy-fix dinner. It was fun, it was restful, and it was restorative.

M stayed the night and, after we talked til noon, I went out a couple of hours to ride first on the tractor, bush hogging, and then the lawn mower around the large yard to the side of my house. On those implements I do lots of thinking, and I thought a lot about the evening with my friends and how restful it all was in spite of my frantic cleaning frenzy.

In fact, I found myself thinking how restful my tractor and lawn mower were! It was hot (90’s), but the humming of the mowing, the smell of the grass and the visible strips of progress as the grass became shorter were all mesmerizingly relaxing! Such a paradox! Activity—even hot activity— can be restful, which led my ADD mind to consider the meaning of rest. I think that for me “rest” equates with “peace.”

Of course, the first Bible verse that comes to my mind when I think of rest is Jesus’ saying:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is
light. -- Matthew 11:28-30

I pretty-much know for a fact that Jesus did not mean exclusively the lying-on-the-couch kind of rest, here (although that can, obviously, be rest, too). He meant, rather something He calls “rest for your souls.” Again, for me, this equals “peace.”

I had considered just lying around all afternoon after M left, watching old movies and eating junk food rather than working in the hot sun. That actually sounded more like rest at first. I had earned this—it was easily justified after my stressful week with not enough time (besides, I have a lazy streak a MILE wide…). But, you know, that grass beckoned to me. It isn’t so much that I was stressed out about the state of my lawn and surroundings. It was more like the grass mowing was calling me in an alluring way, as something pleasant awaiting me.

So, off I went, because lying on the couch, while restful to my body, would not have been restful to my soul. It was the right choice. It gave me time to think about that nanotechnology thingy S was talking about last night. It was restful, and it was peaceful.

One of the paradoxes of the spirit! I loved being with my friends--even the work to prepare for them was restful...pure peace! - C

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Divergent Path

A new season is upon me!  One that has been slowly making it's appearance and yet has now suddenly burst forth.  Like spring after a harsh winter, the signs appear long before the warmth.
If only the signs were easier to see and interpret in my emotional landscape as they are in the physical.

Motherhood is one of the scariest things I've ever attempted! It has also been filled with the most blessings.  I tell myself that I've done a good job seeing each of my children as individuals, not as extensions of myself or chances for me to 'get it right' this time around. Each has their own ideas of what works and what doesn't. It's taken me years to figure out how to facilitate these differences. It's been my privilege to tutor and make safe their paths up to a point. 

Having said that, I am discovering that there resides in me the idea that these children I've nurtured will behave in ways that are fairly predictable and follow along a path similar to my own.  That having laid a foundation, they will build upon it.

Not so! Or so it appears right now- My oldest is striking out on her own! The signs have been there for nearly two years. She's celebrated her 18th birthday, graduated from high school, entered the 'real' world of work, registered to vote; all those grown up activities that seem so fresh and appealing when we are first inducted into adulthood.

And she's done a good job. I'm proud of the young lady she's become/becoming. 

Enter the divergent path.  She's not chosen to do anything illegal or even morally questionable. She has simply chosen to pursue an idea/way of life that is foreign to me. Foreign to the way I raised her.  I have no way of knowing this path, of clearing it of dangers, of preparing her to walk this unknown landscape.

                                  " For we walk by faith, not by sight" 2 cor 5:7   

Exactly what a blind sheep should be doing. Only I forget! Especially in areas I still think I have control over-like my children! HA! The season of letting go is upon me.  I've known for years it would come. I've seen the signs. Now my heart is being opened, stretched as I am learning to step back and trust that I've prepared this child for life. Life apart from me. 

Just as I am blindly following and trusting my good shepherd, this child of mine (no longer a child) must take up her own journey of faith and blindness. She must learn to hear and walk accordingly.  

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sheep M  6/25/09 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sheep M's sunflowers

The sunflowers are in bloom in my garden! They were lovingly planted 3 years ago by a dear friend when I was staying in the hospital with my son.  I've let that patch to go wild-more like am overwhelmed with all that tasks that fall to my lot now to micromanage this one spot of beauty.
The sunflower has long been one of my favorite flowers. It's beautiful and useful, but perhaps the most wonderful thing about it is the reminder to always follow the light. 
Each of us have and will continue to experience dark days. Days that make no sense in any rational way. Days that must be walked through with hope and faith.  The sunflower, despite the circumstances, follows the track of the sun throughout the day. 

A recent sermon sparked an inner discussion. The sermon was about opening a can of worms (wonderful lesson!) In the sermon, the preacher alluded to the myth of Pandora and her box.  The details he shared are fairly common-curious female given box by the gods and told not to open. Well, she did exactly as expected and opened the box.  Now there is a bit of discussion as to what the box contained. One version has it that she released on the world all the current woes. Another that she released all the good things that make life worthwhile, thus leaving mortals with all the woes without all the blessings. 
In either version, she manages to hold onto only one thing-HOPE.  Hope that there is more. More of whatever it is that makes each of us take that next step, take the risk, endure the present trouble.  
So, my inner discussion? What is hope? 
I suppose there are many answers to this question, each based on individual experiences. Oh the stories we could tell! 
What it comes down to for me: hope is an uncontrollable element, unlike the other things released from Pandora's box. I can't produce it or manipulate it.  Hope is a gift from God, given to me to lighten the dark moments of my days. Giving evidence that what I can see isn't all there is. In my loneliness, I am not alone.  There is always light, expressed in a multitude of ways and through many means. 
And so we return to sunflowers- a beautiful gift from a generous heart. 
Sheep M 6/19/09

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sheep C: Lost in the Flock?

Being single again can be real drag. I have wonderful friends and family, but they have their own stuff going on, so sometimes I’m just left to be a big girl and handle things on my own. I can really stick my bottom lip out about that, feeling sorry for myself. It was kind of that way this past week. I spent more than a little time saying “poor me.”

To me, my situation is huge. I have been betrayed. I have been abandoned. I have been wronged. I have been dealt hardships. I am lonely. I am alone in my worries. (Can you hear the “whine” in these words?) Should I go on and on? I can, believe me; I proved that to myself again just this week. And then I saw, of all things, a bumper sticker that just put everything in perspective. It said:

It’s only
one-six-billionth about you.

Probably because I needed to hear it so badly, this message was almost jarring to me. Wow! You mean to tell me that it’s not all about me? A picture flashed through my mind. Here is what I saw:

Now, when I have been down in the past, I have tried the comparison thing to help me count my blessings. It is my profession to deal with people in my same marital boat. In terms of objective factors, my situation is so much better than that of many of my clients. I have said many times (maybe even in this blog) that Sheep M’s situation humbles me when I compare it to mine. Still, as Sheep M graciously pointed out to me, knowing that others are having a harder time really doesn’t help all that much. You can only feel your own situation.

But this bumper-sticker thought got to me in a way that my own comparison game did not. I thought about all that God sees. The Scripture that came to my mind was Psalm 50:10, where the Lord says that the cattle (sheep?) on a thousand hills are His.

Oh, dear! He sees it all, and then, way down here in the American south is little Sheep C, bleating about being a little lonely (a good part of that being by her own self-imposed isolation so she can pout). It made me feel humble and small, indeed. And, for some reason, it made my troubles seem smaller (thank you, Lord!). Yes, it brought relief! I think I’m going to put that bumper sticker on my office wall so I can keep it fully in mind.

I pondered this six-billion-sheep thing while I was on the lawn mower Sunday afternoon. Does that mean that I don’t count; that my troubles are too small for God to worry about? Maybe heaven’s switchboard lady-angel (think Lily Tomlin) is saying, “Sorry, He’s very busy right now with that starvation thing in Africa and that war deal in Iraq. You know, honey, your problems are way down the line for Him, just wait your turn.

No, I don’t feel that way at all. Knowing that God has the sheep on a thousand hills to tend only helps me sharpen my perspective. For some reason it does not make me feel neglected or small in his eyes. And I thought about that, too. Why is that? If He really has six billion sheep, who am I to even think He knows my name, let alone about my troubles. I mean, if I were God, I wouldn’t give my situation so much as a second thought. I’d be saying things like, “She’s got a roof and plenty (oh, yeah, plenty) of food, yadayadayada. I’ll deal with her later—maybe—because in the broad scheme she’s perking along pretty fine on her own.”

But that’s not true, either. And God is not me (again, thank you, Lord!). His priorities are different than ours…I believe that we are all and each His number one priority. It’s a God thing—only He can do this, but parents who have multiple children must see a glimpse of this, loving each child the same AND the most.

I am reminding of another saying that buoyed me one time. I think it would make a good bumper sticker, too:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of
us. --St. Augustine.

So, hope you can take heart, too, that you are one of His six-billion-plus-strong flock and that you—yes you!—are the most important!--Sheep C.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sheep C: Sheep Lessons from a Toad

Since I started writing on a couple of blogs, I’ve been much more interested in my camera. So many blogs have gorgeous photography, of which I am envious. I don’t aspire to that, but I do think that pictures liven stories up, so I’ve started actually packing my camera most of the time. One never knows when one might want to snap a picture to spread across the worldwide web!

I got inspired this past weekend to work on my rock/flower garden in the front of the house and had my trusty camera hanging from my belt loop. This is not my strong suit, gardening of any type. I love to see flowers; I just don’t like working at them. But, I am finding that gardening is a good way to think and to hear God. And it can make my place look better (that is if I ever actually finish a project).

Part of my task was to move some large, flat stones that we had used to outline some little individual areas. I was watching closely, worrying that I might run across a snake under one of them. My neighbor has reported several already this year. I encountered a few grub worms, many earthworms (some very large!) and a couple of scurrying bugs, but nothing to make me shriek.

I set aside one rock to discover a toad. How do they do that—fit under something that should squash them flat? In fact, I know for a fact that it did squash him flat; I know enough physics to figure that one out. But the amazing thing is that he doesn’t stay squashed.

The toad gave a momentary flinch as I moved the rock and then just sat still as stone. I sat back to look at him and, as I did my change in posture must have made my dog Scout (ever the helper) believe I would now give her the attention she so richly deserved. She hopped over the pile of stones and plopped right down next to the toad. I had a flash of concern as she did, thinking the toad might hop away and Scout might pounce on him. Still, he did not move. He just sat there. Can you spot him in the picture below? He's just to your right of Scout's foot; I've put a little circle around him.

"Instinct," I thought. "He knows he's almost hidden by staying still. If he moves, he'll have to deal with that dog or with me, so he's just staying put...counting on not being noticed"

Then something said, "He's being still, listening to God."

I had a flash of Scripture:

Be still and know that I am God... Psalm 46:10

"Nah!" said my brain, "He's not listening to God; he's being still because of instinct--you were right the first time."
But the more I thought about it, I have decided that a toad's instinct and listening to God may just be the same thing.

I thought about how my Sheep's brain analyzes everything, how that brain and its logic can cause me to plot and plan myself right into trouble. Rush, rush, rush; my brain tries to figure it out, take charge and run myself right into trouble, just because I did not stop and talk to God about something and listen to Him.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but
its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

And then there's fear. Being in fear almost never causes me to "be still," like the toad. It can cause me to stampede headlong, never stopping to listen to God and understand that He is in control, taking care of things whether I know it or not.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
So the toad taught me what? 1) be still, and maybe your enemy will not notice....2) be still and listen to and trust that voice of God, just like the toad did. You can't hear Him well when you're still.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, let me say that when I excitedly explained the toad's lesson to my son, his reply was, "Mom, he's cold-blooded. He couldn't move. You'd just pulled a cool rock off of him, and he did not have enough umpf to move, that's all." So, it may not have been instinct or the voice of God at all...maybe that toad just was too darned cold to move....but I like my version better... And then maybe, just maybe, that regardless of the reason the toad was still, I heard the message God was speaking to me. So, there!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Basket Full

My children are older now and I am finding a new pleasure in holiday traditions. There is the nostalgia of past holidays and the wistfulness of knowing that it won’t be long and the children will be gone. Life is full of seasons, each to be lived and enjoyed while it lasts.

This year as I was assembling Easter baskets, the phrase, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ filtered through my mind. It’s a phrase we’ve all grown up with and probably adhere to without even realizing it. My mind wandered, as it’s prone to do, along a path that only a blind sheep could find.

You have to be a risk taker to place all your hopes in one thing. To believe that one person is worth all your effort. To leave no alternative plan in place, ‘just in case’. I don’t know that I could ever live like that. I mean, what if I did and it didn’t work out?
Then it hit me. God did just that! He placed all His plans in the form of His Son. His only Son. There was no Plan B (or any other letter for that matter) God’s plan of redemption rested completely on His Son. God placed all His hopes and dreams for humanity in a single person.

In turn, Jesus placed all of himself in His Father’s hands. He emptied himself to walk in obedience (blindness to his own will), willingly taking on the role Lamb. What an example to this blind sheep!

Happy Easter!

Sheep M 4/12/09

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fiery trails and other hot spots

Well, for those of you who follow this rambling blog, it's been awhile since we've managed to post anything.  That usually means we are, collectively or individually,  walking through a hot spot. Not the first, and unfortunately not the last one for any of us. I can't speak for the other blind sheep, but it seems that once I decided to live my life in the 'blind' lane, choosing to listen to the voice of my shepherd and not the voice of the world- things have gotten a bit...warm!

I'm at the point of envying those Biblical friends who were in the furnace. They at least knew the size of their container and that the only options were going up in flames (rather quickly from the description of what happened to the guards) or being rescued. 

I seem to be on a path, surrounded by flames. Blindness keeps me from knowing how long this fiery path extends or the actual size and shape of the flames. I may be blind but I can feel the warmth, smell the singed wool, and know that unless I listen carefully to the voice leading me forward, I don't stand a chance! 

Trying to figure out an escape route or how to put out the flames isn't an option any longer. Trust is the only way.  My blindness is actually my saving grace!  Because I can't see, I can't make the situation worse or better. I can't control, can't pretend to be my own savior.  I must remain weak and trusting. 

My Shepherd holds my future in His loving hands. He knows the trials I must face, not to punish me, but to make me stronger. Not physically, but spiritually.  Every fiery trial is a time of refining.  More of the ego is burned away. The dross is brought to the surface and cleared away. 

I'm not ready to throw a party or anything, but I am learning, in the midst of the flames, to 'Count it all joy."  

Sheep M  3/31/09

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

I am usually not much of a whiner, but a few weeks back, I entered into a season that was bleak.  I truly felt like Chicken Little, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
Everyday seemed to bring more bad news. I was being held accountable, not for my own mistakes, but for others' misdeeds.  Friends were dumping on me- painful accounts from their own lives. Filling my head with their own pain and frustrations.  My son's health came into question- doctors feared a relapse of his leukemia.  
All I wanted to do was retreat.  Find a cave, crawl in it, and pray that the mountain would crumble around me, sealing me in. Talk about a pity party!
The thing about pity parties-once you've rehashed all the stuff happening at the moment, you tend to bring up all the other stuff that was bad, wrong, hurt your feelings, etc.  just so you can drag the party out as long as possible. At this point, you begin to feel justified in your emotions and it isn't long before the bitterness and blame set in. 
You begin playing the game, "If only.."  Ever play that?  Well you can't win! Not ever.  It just spirals on and on, a whirlpool of depression, that breeds pity parties!
What's a poor blind sheep to do?

I didn't get so much mad, as I got sick and tired of feeling like the mountains were crumbling and targeting me.  I wanted to know, what in the Sam-hill God thought he was doing! I'd already been through more than my fair share of pain, and it was just piling up!

Know what?  God showed me a beautiful picture of His mercy.  He never promised the mountains wouldn't crumble. He never promised a life without pain.  He never promised His love would protect me from all the junk this world throws my way.

He did promise to be there. To be with me in the midst of it all. And the picture- that although the sky is falling, He only allows one piece at a time to hit me. He's caught the falling sky, and holds it back dribbling one bit at a time through His loving hands.  He knew all the stuff that was coming into my life, all the incidents that would mold and shape me, and He in His mercy did not allow me to be overwhelmed. 
Indeed, His mercies are new each morning. Nothing comes to me, but through Him. I can rest in the peace that My Good Shepherd has the lay of the land and has declared all things good!
Sheep M   2/24/09

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sheep C: Light in the Sea

Recently I went on a cruise, courtesy of my wonderful mother-in-law. We had a great time, she, my sisters-in-law, and I. All three of these women are Christians who make God an integral part of their lives. I went expecting to hear from God, expecting that I would spend time in the Word because these women with whom I was traveling are the kind who will encourage that. I was looking forward to it.

Well, that just did not happen. I did not have the expected time in the morning when I would pray and read my Bible. In fact, our trip did not seem to center on the Lord at all in the way that I had anticipated. Instead, it centered on rest and relationship. There was a time on the trip that I commented on this to my roommate/sister-in-law. It wasn’t that I was disappointed or felt badly about it. It’s just that it seemed odd. She felt the same way. In retrospect, I think God just wanted us to be together and enjoy one another, resting as we all needed to do so much. It was just right to have that kind of low-key downtime.

Other than that conversation, I confess that I did not think much about my lack of meditation or other spiritual exercise, so imagine my surprise when I clearly heard from God! (He surprises me that way.) I was standing on our balcony one night near the end of our cruise. In the faint light from the ship I could see the water kick up into little waves as the ship cut through it. The water was pitch black. There was really nothing to see out on the ocean; no lights, no forms.

As I stood mindlessly looking over the edge, I began to see lights coming from the deep. Little specks of glowing light, just small pricks here and there in groups. I knew some about the existence of bioluminescent marine life, being a veteran of National Geographic Magazine and Discovery channel. It was intriguing to watch in person.

As I watched these little lights in the sea, the strong message came over me that I should be mindful to watch for light in unexpected places. I wanted badly to make that message “watch for light in dark places,” after all the sea was dark, and I had been in a dark place the last two years. But that is not what was said. Rather, it was, “Watch for light in unexpected places.” (Although I can’t resist the last word on this: that dark places are unexpected places for the light!).

Standing on the ship I thought about all the unexpected ways God communicated with His people in the Bible stories: through a donkey, handwriting on the wall, a burning bush. Yes, there was definitely precedent for the God speaking in odd ways to people, although I guess for some any direct communication from God would be odd.

This ship experience came back to me this morning—a Sunday, nearly a month later. Early this morning I found an e mail awaiting me from an old friend. She inquired after me, and I replied to her, saying that I was “…taking it day-by-day,” adding that I have come to believe that the day we are in is all any of us have—not what happened in the past, not the future, just the present.

I was amazed to hear the sermon later in the morning on this very thing: living in the “now.” We must let go of the past and avoid worrying about the future. It was good to hear this on the heels of my own e-mail statement of that philosophy just earlier that morning. And it made me think of the message of the light in the seas once again, understanding that God had used e-mail (of all things) to reinforce to me something I needed this morning. The repetition of the theme caused me to pay attention and to reflect, as I needed to do. It was light from Him in an unexpected place.

So, what is the value to me of these little pinpricks of light coming from unexpected places? It isn’t that I have only now learned that we must let go of the past and not worry about the future. I have long known that intellectually—don’t always do that, but I know it. The point is not that the message was particularly profound, but rather that the message is being sent at all. I do, as a matter of fact, need to be reminded to let go of the past. But the really important point is that God speaks, and He does so in unexpected ways. The light comes from unexpected places. Sheep C, 2/3/09

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Paradox Zone!

Today... I come to you from the depths of despair. I do not know why... but it is not something that I have become trapped in quickly. I feel like a blind sheep that has been walking down a path... all alone... trying to find the flock... trying to re-find joy and purpose and belonging and relationship.

The path appeared to become muddy but it's hard to tell when you cannot see. My feet felt heavy and each step took more and more energy until it became impossible to put one foot in front of the other.

The muddy path has turned into a mire of quicksand. The more I struggle or purpose to move ahead the deeper I sink. Choices, simple choices, are so difficult to make, or more accurately to follow through with.

The gravity of the paradox I am experiencing is distressing. I awake with NO energy each morning knowing in my head and desiring in my heart to pop out of bed and hit the floor running. That used to be such an effortless feat.

Get on the treadmill, workout, eat right, things that could help me feel better I cannot choose to do. I hate those words, cannot choose to do. It sounds utterly ridiculous in my head. I have more time right now to do the things than I have had in 5 years... writing, reading, working out, volunteering, visiting those in need... and yet I am stuck... somehow entrapped in this muddy heavy thing I cannot see.

I feel like a loser, like a whiner, like I need to tell myself to just get over it. What I am writing is incredulous to me. What a wimp! My house has become a refuge, can any other sheep identify with that, and yet staying here does not revive me. Whether it’s for a day, a weekend or Christmas break... there is no renewal, no revival, no rested feeling, and no new energy.

I am ready for my life to be reignited... at least I think I am. I know I am ready for something. The choices thing is confusing at the moment because I don't feel like I've got the oomph to choose anything. The following quote about choosing joy over despair... doesn't seem to be working.

“You have many choices. You can choose forgiveness over revenge, joy over despair. You can choose action over apathy....”
—Stephanie Marston; family therapist, author

Choosing action over apathy... gosh anyone can do that... you would think... and yet it aint working. My choosing never makes it out of my head. The action fails to materialize and I sink ever deeper into the mire.

I guess my ability... or strength to choose is really zero. I suppose it was always zero but I didn't like to think of myself that way. I can do this and I can do that and I was apparently quite deceived. I can choose joy and action as easily as you guys can choose to forgive the spouse who betrayed you, the pervert who abused your daughter or the drunk driver who took your son's life.

I know a sheep who has forgiven her ex-husband’s betrayal and yet, it wasn’t so much that she chose to do it as it was that it was done for her. I am now mumbling words that may have no substance but it seemed that the pain and heaviness of not forgiving him (the anger, bitterness, hurt, anguish and worse) became more than she could bear... so it was let go from her. I would say, "She chose" but I don't think she did or could... for a while she didn't even want too.

You may be a sheep that is experiencing rejection, betrayal, aloneness or loss of a loved one. You may feel that you are unable to choose to forgive. Is that a bad place to be? I can tell you it's a miserable place to be.

What I do know is that I don't seem to be able to choose. I feel I am at the end of my rope and there is no knot to hang on to. Not only is there no knot but some sheep… or shepherd has coated the whole thing with Vaseline! I can't hold on any longer!

Is this where you are? If so... you are in a good place. Why, because you've given up on your own strength. You have realized that you are not in charge... you are not in control... you have indeed entered the twilight zone... the outer limits... or better yet... because it's way beyond that... the Paradox Zone!

That strange place where those who are bankrupt, empty and at the end of their slipery rope receive the Kingdom. A place where those who mourn are comforted and those who are sick receive the Physician. Where those who claim they see are in fact blind and those who are blind find that they can see.

It's a really wierd place this Paradox Zone. Those who are weak find they are strong and the meek... well... they inherit the earth. The Twilight Zone never acheived this level of twisted reality! If you hunger and thirst in this realm... you are satisfied... how wierd is that.

And how do you find this Paradox Zone? You don't... it finds you. As we reach the place of not being able to live life our way, in our strength, with our agenda we finally just wear out and give in. We cry 'uncle'! I can't do it anymore. I can't pull it off anymore! I am woreout, I am tired, I am depleated of my ideas and my strength and I can't go on.

Suddenly the sets of our lives, not our TV sets, get squiggly lines in them and everything seems to change. We are no longer in control... and we hear from somewhere deep within... "Do not adjust your dial, do not try to take control of your life."

And then the invitation comes... quietly yet firmly it rises from deep within... "Come all who are weary, woreout, tired and heavy laden... Come and I will give you rest... I will give you Life!" But that makes no sense... exactly! You are no longer in Kansas miss Dorothy... you are no longer in the world of your vain imaginations... you are now in the Paradox Zone!

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”
—G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936); writer, critic

Does that sound like a Paradox to you? My inner feeling is that I am anchored in a yucky heavy muddy mire of hopelessness. My hope is that in the midst of this hopelessness... HOPE will come and rescue me! I hope that the recognition of my inability to choose... it's always been that way whether I believed it or not... will release HOPE to rise up within me and place me back on the firm path.

Without hopelessness there's no need for HOPE, without devastating wounds, betrayal and trauma there is no need for forgiveness and without blindness there is no need for eye salve to see.

I am very needy... I am very blind and I am very weak... I am a sheep who is ready to be found and taken over in the Paradox Zone!

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest

When I am weak… then I am strong

He who says he sees… is blind, He who is blind… sees

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are the meek, the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the outcast and the needy... for they receive the Kingdom... they receive the King!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New ears on an old sheep

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
                                                                                                                                                                -Shel Silverstein

This new path I’m walking, or maybe not so new as just newly recognized, calls for a new way of living. Living by listening. Not just hearing, as that is a rather passive thing. Listening requires more than ears, it requires my whole being.

I am turning inward, seeking attunement with the still small voice of my guide, my shepherd. I can’t see the path ahead of me-blindness does that to one. I’ve surrendered the idea of control of what comes next and am residing in that hoof-biting place of releasing control and then attempting to take it back. I am after all a sheep!

I am learning, ever so slowly, that I can trust completely in my shepherd. He’s already determined the safe path, the fresh grass, the pure water- and then he’s led me there. I don’t wander alone, for he is always with me.
Sheep M 1/29/09

(The picture is supposed to show the sheep resting-not dead. Although sometimes I can’t tell the difference!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Life

As I begin to take my first faltering steps down this path of self-discovery, my first task is to examine the labels I carry with me. Mine are plenty and each of us could easily come up with half a dozen or so that we wearily bear. Labels that not only define us, but limit our own vision of ourselves.

We are born with a label-our gender. Not so much nowadays, but that was once a powerful determiner in what dreams were available. Then our birth order label was handed over. Consider high school, or rank, ACT/SAT score, college… This list of academic achievements or lack thereof piles on the labels. School itself is a means of self-labeling as we attempt to define our very self by what degree we achieve or profession we enter. Marriage state-happy, unfulfilled, single, divorced, co-habitating. Add to this children, stay at home ness or professional life, size of income and the things that can add to the growing list. Our relationships label us. Are we the kind of friend one can call in the middle of the night with any assurance of help? Are we a giver or receiver?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t think much of labels. Oh I knew I carried some around and had grown comfortable with their weight. There was a measure of safety in them. At any given time I knew what was expected of me because of those very labels. They were my ‘Rules for a Happy Life’. As long as I behaved within the confines of those labels and didn’t stray too far afield, I felt confident in my ability to have, if not the life I’d dreamed of, a life worth being proud of.

The first crack of any consequence came in the form of a change. A good change as it turned out. My family went from being active members of one church to being part of another. Gone almost immediately was my label of Sunday School teacher. As the new year started, I wasn’t asked to serve my new church. Others before me had taught and would be asked to live within that label. I served on no committee and the distance from the church made it difficult to be as involved as I had been with my old church. I went through a mild time of crisis as I sought to find a definition for myself in this new place.

The second crack was the most personally devastating. My marriage ended. It was a slow and painful death. I spent much time in denial and trying to convince myself that there was still something I could do to fix it. When my attempts weren’t enough, I became busy. Busy as a way to push away the pain, to conceal the dismay at one of my labels failing me. I was a wife. I had defined and limited myself to that label. I had done my part and the label was supposed to do its. For a few short weeks, I was adrift trying to identify and define the new label I bore-single again.

The last crack tore my carefully crafted world apart. My son, my only son, was stricken with ALL, an acute form of leukemia. All my striving to be a good mom, couldn’t keep my children healthy! In the days after the diagnosis, my mind awhirl, all my labels were rendered null and void. It no longer mattered what I was, what I’d done, what had been done to me.

My son’s journey toward wellness became my journey as well. All the old concepts were thrown out. I examined everything! Yes, I still had titles, but where once they had defined me, now I was in a place to make my own definitions.

I am still in that place. Defining myself without limiting the possibilities of me. Seeking who I am, not what I am. I am discovering anew, the joy of a childlike faith in myself. I am not limited by labels-I have survived their betrayal and like a phoenix, am arising from the flames. I am…..

As a reread this before posting, I realized this is not the article I had thought I would write, but one that I needed to release. I am still in process. The journey has begun, but I am a long way from completing it.

Sheep M 1/17/09

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Are You Smiling At?

A moment ago, just before typing these letters I yawned. No big deal, we all yawn at one time or another. But a minute or two before that I had read the word ‘yawn’, a coincidence? I don’t think so.

There are things in this world that are highly contagious and infectious. A yawn is one of them. A smile is another. Try it sometime! When you find yourself in a group of people start yawning and see what happens or start smiling and see what happens. Our actions and even our facial expressions have an impact on those around us.

If you keep smiling eventually an epidemic will break out and the whole airport, school or Café will enter in. Why am I telling you this… because you have something that is contagious. You have something that has the potential to multiply and explode.

What is it you ask? It’s a germ, a highly contagious unstoppable force that breeds and spreads like wild fire. When World War I came to an end the good news spread throughout Europe in a matter of hours. They didn’t have cell phones or laptops and most lines of communication had been destroyed by the fighting. How did it spread? How did it cover thousands and thousands of miles so quickly? It spread by word of mouth.

You have a contagion, a virus, a smile or a yawn that will generate excitement and change. The world is looking for an answer… you have an answer for them. The answer is so simple that many of us have been afraid to share it. The answer is good news… the good news that we are loved, accepted, forgiven and needed. God has prepared the way… the war has already been won! God needs us… not to do something for Him... but to join Him in the celebration… because we are a part of Him.

So what should you do? It’s really pretty simple… open your mouth! You cannot share your smile, your yawn or your life unless you open your mouth. Some of you started with your friends and family and someone frowned at you. Maybe they even sneered and the corner of their mouth curled slightly. Did you immediately clam up or did you go right on smiling, yawning and sharing what you had found.

Even if Aunt Gertrude gave you the most awful scowl known to man you still have a choice. Give up and quit or keep smiling. Eventually if you keep going, keep smiling, keep yawning, keep sharing in a positive way even Aunt Gertrude is going to smile. She may not smile at you… but she will smile at Uncle Clarence cause he just won’t quit and his smile is hilarious with those teeth missing!

There is something about smiles and good news that we don’t understand. When we smile somewhere between one-third and one-half of those around us are effected and end up smiling as well. As they continue on their journey smiling they in turn effect one-third to one-half of the people they come in contact with. Before long we have an epidemic.

Many think it happens over night, it doesn’t. The epidemic proportions appear over night but the incubation period was set in motion long before. In math this is called a geometric progression… what most of us would call exponential growth. How does it work? Consider the following example.

Take a large piece of paper and fold it in half and then in half again. Do this 25 more times until you have folded it a total of 50 times. How tall will the piece of paper be? I actually tried this a minute ago. I got to 7 times and then it was too difficult to fold. I measured it and found it to be about one-half an inch.

Using a calculator I doubled it 43 more times. The result… about 4 and a half trillion inches or 366 billion feet or nearly 70 million miles! Our linear finite minds cannot get wrapped around this type of progression… and yet there it is in black and white... we would need a telesccope to see that it reaches most of the way to the sun!

We are a part of something that has only been folded a few times. Right now, it still looks small and it’s hard to imagine what it can become. For those of us who know we are loved, who know we are accepted, who know that God is Love and that He is good and He always wins and always redeems… there is an unstoppable contagion in us that is going to spread and grow and multiply no matter what.

So what should we do? Me, I plan to keep on smiling! There’s nothing worse than a bunch of smiling sheep to get things stirred up. Everyone will want to know what you’re up to, what’s going on, why is everybody smiling? Who knows… maybe they’ll even ask for the reason for the HOPE within you?

Why am I smiling? Why do I have hope? I have hope because I know it’s not up to me. I know I can’t pull it off. I know I’m not in charge and I’m not in control. It’s Christ in me, the Hope of glory. I am in Him, He is in me and we are one. We are connected, interconnected and pumping God’s DNA through every part of our bodies, we were created in His image you know?!

Why am I smiling? I’m smiling because I have received “GOOD NEWS”… GOD LOVES ME! Whether I know it, believe it or not doesn’t change the facts. He loves me and wants me and needs me. Are you smiling? If not, why not? He loves you every bit as much as He loves me. Truth is… He loves everyone! The GOOD NEWS is for everyone!

Some become angry when they hear that God loves everyone. Some want an exclusive club, they want to make sure they get there fair share of love, like God might not have enough for all of us.

Others get angry because they can’t believe God would forgive such horrible people. They can’t understand that each and every one of us belongs to Him. They can’t fathom an unconditional love that is so deep, so real and so pure that it pursues us until it has us.

I want to continue... but it’s already too long.

Until next time… KEEP SMILING!