Monday, March 19, 2012

Seeking Jesus' Version of Rich, Blessed, and Generous?

One of my great finds this year has been an English Standard Version online Bible.  It has a wonderful feature where this gentleman reads the passage of scripture aloud to me - and he is an excellent reader.  Oftentimes, I am rather put off by the read-aloud style of others.  As a Mom who has always loved reading aloud to my children, I truly appreciate the skill it takes to do this job well. When God speaks in scripture, this fellow brings a proper inflection and weight to His voice; villains such as Satan or Pharaoh aren't overdone, but you get a definitive waft of evil intent.  This online bible also has a generous side bar for my note-taking, and offers a variety of ways I can mark up this online bible with various colors of highlighting, underlining, emboldening, or italicizing, etc.

Among this morning's scripture readings was James 5.  Sipping on my rich and creamy cup of coffee, I listened as my gentleman friend read verses one through six.  I paused the sound and read it to myself, sitting with it for a few moments.  I had him read it to me again as I considered the words. These are hard words for me.  My notes:

As I read this, I glance over it for myself.  I move on to easy targets, like -----, and wonder if he were to read this how would it strike him?  My mind flits back to myself; after all, I am always telling the children how rich we are by comparison to much of the rest of the world.  We do live in luxury.  We are rather self-indulgent.  
But as I read through this, it doesn't sound like me, like us.  Does it?  Search my heart, oh God, and reveal to me any wickedness to which I am blind.
This area of wealth, personal responsibility, being my brother's keeper, not having a Savior complex while understanding that I am His servant - this is just one area in which I long for resolution while at the same time feeling I might never truly arrive in this lifetime.  I continue with my readings, jotting notes, praying.  This issue links strongly with yesterday's calling-out sermon Pastor Howard breathed over us.  Showering, the mulling continues.  I'd prefer to abandon this and escape to comfort, but I can't; inwardly, I know I shouldn't.

Hours later, in dealing with other more immediate responsibilities, I go looking through old emails for notes I've gotten regarding standardized testing options.  As often happens, you put in a word like "testing" and among the mail which hits the particular nail on the head of what you are looking for, there are a number of others that for some reason or other happen to have a different sort of connection to your word choice.  So it was that I opened a particular email that I'd passed on reading last month.  Money-Saving-Mom had done a book review on this book:
      7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Bam! Right between the eyes.  7: an experimental mutiny against excess.  I've got to get this book. I'm assured it's non-judgmental, humorous, honest, and challenging, sounds like a lot of hand-holding as we walk in the right direction. I asked the Lord to touch my blindness. Looks like He went straight to the spit-mud paste application.

My heart is beating fast at what I will see.

Shared with Titus 2sday, Works For Me Wednesday, and Simple Lives Thursday

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wool Soap

In my quest for simplicity, I've found one of the basic tenets is 'let nothing be wasted.'  This aim lends itself to a more thoughtful approach and wise use of not only our worldly goods, but our experiences as well, most especially the difficult ones.  In fact, the hardest times often leave the deepest impact upon us, wouldn't you agree?  (If not, you're simply not old enough yet.) ;-)

Although my thoughts are of a philosophical turn today, my intention when I signed on was only to share input on how I've enjoyed my birthday present from last year, so we'll stay with that today.  I love birthdays for the opportunity they are to celebrate life thus far and look forward to the year to come.  This has got to be among those things that define one as an optimist.  A birthday is a day of JOY.

Most years I have five regular requests in my heart for my special day: no fighting or bickering; I hear from each of my children in some form or fashion, wherever they are; I have no cooking to do for the day; if the weather is nice I love to go for a family walk; and although I don't look for much in the way of gifts, I do like to get some one special something.  My summarization of my birthday ideals are reflective of my goals for simplicity: what began as as list of three grew to five.  Ah well, I was being thorough.

Last year, this was my little gift to myself.  It's soap wrapped in wool.  Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."  It was so pretty, so elegant, not quite perfect in shape but special; rather like how the earth looks from space.  I just kept it next to my tub to look at for months, afraid that it would dissolve away once I began using it.  Eventually, I took it out of its package and gave it the initial soaking as described.  I love it.  It has plenty of sudsy lather and a soft scent.  The texture is gently exfoliating, not too soft and not at all rough.

I found an online youtube source providing instructions on making your own via Crunchy Parent.  Although I have a feeling that this little beauty will last me a good long time (I only use it for my evening baths,) I might have to try making our own wool soaps with my girls this summer.  Practical and pleasing, two of my favorite things.

Shared at Works for Me Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Two Words, Twice a Day

"I'm sorry."

Part of raising children is teaching them to make a sincere apology.  There are two parts to this lesson.  The first is getting them to say it, the second is getting them to mean it.  The first part is usually the easier of the two, because of simple immaturity.  I remember many instances where my parents required me to make confession and express repentance for my offense towards my brother or sister.  No doubt their hope was that I would grow towards a deep and personal desire to do all I could to make amends for my wrongs.  I was far more deviant than they realized.

To this day I find apologizes, well... difficult.

(Aside:  As a happily married woman who enjoys a close and loving relationship with my husband, I maintain a continual mental consciousness of his listening in to my every word, whether he is actually present or not.  He is currently laughing his head off at my previous understatement.)

So I haven't yet arrived at a place where admissions come smoothly to my lips.  (Now the kids are joining in on the chuckling.  I cast them a glance meant to wither.)

Ok, I'm just plain bad at it.  As I've matured, the two parts have flipped so that I find more often I have a desire to apologize, but the harder part is in saying it.  I suppose holiness is experiencing both aspects fully and completely.

BUT it is my goal.  Not because I enjoy it, clearly, but because I am called to it. Forgiveness is the fulcrum whereby guilt and blame can be lifted and flow downward to reparations and restitution.

The world works against our success in this area.  Mistakes happen in life, and an apology goes a long way towards smoothing things over and getting us back on our way to where we mean to be, but eventually we all learn the game of jaded thinking that dominates the field out there.  And we often learn to play it.

You would think that in the public arena of service the benefit of honest acknowledgments might be understood.  However, I have noticed that more often than not, in public transactions a representative seems almost set against saying those two little words.  Recently, our microwave door needed to be replaced.  I won't go into the long drawn-out story, but the short end of it was that an entire month went by and the responsible party not only did not respond to any of our calls, but never even ordered the part.  We eventually got our door, but we never heard a word of apology from them.

Flipping through my insurance police, I see that I am advised not to say it in the event of any altercation.  Any expressions of regret or sorrow at a time of accident could be misused as an admission of guilt and responsibility.  How awful that we must be so on our guard.  I know this sounds Polly-Anna-ish of me, and far from my own personal side-steps away from honest appraisal.  But it all rings so brassy.  We live in a world not of integrity, but of chess.  Always be looking, thinking, and acting two steps before the other guy.

Around the beginning of the year I read a wonderful book titled Margin.  I'd really like to read this book at the beginning of every year from now on.  There is so much wisdom to be gathered from it, I will need to revisit the ideas and suggestions here over and over again.  One of the recommendations made was to seek to apologize twice a day.  This blows my mind.  I concede, this is up there in the farthest, thinnest, airy reaches of the stratosphere for me.  It's difficult to even conceptualize what this would look like, nevermind feel like for me.  BUT, ah, what a vision to contemplate.

My Savior embodies Forgiveness; inasmuch as I am His, let it begin with me between myself and my brother or sister.  May my prayer be 'Twice a day and more'; and may my children find comfort and encouragement in knowing that their mama is still working on the difficult but important lessons I am teaching.

Shared with Titus 2sday, Works For Me Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday