Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Four-Letter "F" Word

Oh yeah.  We're going there.  The four-letter "f" word grates on my nerves every time I hear it and I want to scream when people use it in any form.  When will adults develop a vocabulary that doesn't include that word?  I mean, it has it's place in society, I suppose, but it also can be a negative driving force.  So much of how we live revolves around that four letter word.  It's the cause of great stress in a stressed-out society.  We teach it to our children and they carelessly throw it around.  It's time to stop the madness and become civilized.  Civilized people and societies don't act out of know the word.

Fear.  There, I said it.  That four-letter "f" word that can help us understand not to touch a stove because the burner may be turned on, hot, and will burn is the same word that will keep us from speaking up and singing out because someone else may not like what they hear.  Fear can keep good ideas squelched because the one with those ideas doesn't want to be laughed at.  Fear keeps us from moving forward because "forward" is equated with "future" and we don't know what the future holds so we'll hold on to the present...and yet as much as we may fear the future, we also fear the present.  Maybe that's why so many people try to hold on to the's over and done with and no matter what the past was, we no longer fear it because it's over and we can now glorify it.  I've been in enough church meetings over the years, at various levels, and at various churches to know that "fear" is a four-letter "f" word that's holding the church back in many ways.

All through the Bible, God, angels, and Jesus have a way of popping up in the strangest ways and saying "Do not fear" at times when the unsuspecting person should definitely be fearful!  Ask Abraham, Moses, Mary, shepherds, and the disciples, to name a few.  Get a concordance and look up "afraid" and "fear."  Human nature says "fear and fear big."  God's nature says, "don't be afraid of what I tell you to do but have my peace."  Of all organisms on the face of the earth, why can't the Church see things God's way, take his word for it, and step out in peace without fear?

Fear shows up in many ways.  It shows up in the person who won't sing with the rest of the congregation (I'm not talking about singing a solo!) because they've been told they're tone deaf and they're afraid of offending people or of getting their feelings hurt if they sing.  So the God who gave them their voice and who wants to hear their voice, won't.  

It shows up in the congregation when people won't move beyond the doors into the community because the community no longer looks like them and they become afraid of who God might draw to them, or draw them to.  They become afraid of how they might change if they change.  Fear can sound sensible even if it's not.

It shows up in the committee, any committee, that pinches the penny to take care of the building and membership thinking that the building and membership are the church and thinking that that church will last if they pinch those pennies to take care of it all.  Fear puts forth a false definition of "church" and those pinched pennies are misspent because they aren't spent on the "church" at all.

Fear shows up when people forget who they are and who others are and Who the Christ is that they claim to represent and believe in.  Fear can goad Christians into not talking or acting Christian at all, even toward fellow church members, and fear blinds them into not being able to recognize their behavior.  Fear leads people into believing they must control everything and no one else has a say.  Fear is behind many a split church.  Fear is having a grand time in church and we're paying for the party.

Fear destroys.  Fear blinds.  Fear deafens.  Fear is defeatist.  Fear has no place in the church of all places.

So why is it the topic of "Attitude of Gratitude"?  Because I'm grateful for the space and opportunity to expose it.  To be a voice against it and to point out its existence, deviousness, divisiveness, and downright evilness.  

Once we recognize and speak against fear and recognize it for what it is, we can take steps to combat it.  We recognize where it comes from and then we have an educated choice to make: do we listen to God or are we ruled by fear?  If "fear" isn't from God, do we recognize where it comes from and who we are actually bowing to when we live by fear?  It isn't God!

God tells us "Do not be afraid" and "My peace I give you."

And I am grateful.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

We got up at 4: 45 am, and were on the road by 5: 30.  Headed to Durham.  Duke Morris Cancer Clinic to be exact because I had a checkup.  Now isn't that a romantic way to spend Valentine's Day?

Actually, yes, it is.  That's the kind of stuff love is made of.  Not the "love" you often find in movies and songs, but it's the kind found in real life.  Real Life vs Reality TV.  Again, there's a major difference, but that's another soapbox for another day.

I'm grateful for these trips to Duke.  Yeah, it's nice to get good reports.   I've got a great doctor and I love his nurse with lots of initials after her name...always good to see Karen.  All the staff are the most compassionate, helpful people you'll find anywhere, no matter what their job.  And let's not forget the volunteers!

In case you've never been, Duke Morris Cancer Clinic is a pretty big place with several levels, various clinics that deal with and treat various cancers and that means you'll see patients from all walks of life and all ages. You'll see people dealing with various stages of their disease and you'll witness various attitudes.  But mostly you'll see a "can-do" spirit, not self-pity.

Today, as usual, I saw children with their parents.  You can usually tell which one is sick.  Wheelchairs, IV poles, and bald heads are give-aways.  Sometimes it's a parent; sometimes it's a child.  It should never be a child or teen, but you'll always see at least one in each age group.

And determination shows up.  Determination to be just like every other child and do "it" themselves, whatever "it" is.  However they have to do "it."  Determination on the part of the parent to make sure their baby does, indeed, do it just like they want.  And the determination to dare anybody to get in baby's way.

Determination walks with a mission, talks with authority, laughs with full knowledge that laughter is the best medicine, cuddles with held back tears, kneels on the floor with prayers and touches, breathes with precision, looks with compassion, and breaks with the dark.  Determination can look tired and be confused with "resignation" but never think someone's "resigned" to anything.  Determination finds great strength in numbers but can function well alone if need be.  Determination is a driving force for all concerned--patient and doctor alike.  Determination is necessary to beat a determined disease.

"Determination" has many definitions, but it cannot be adequately defined apart from a cancer clinic with young people accompanied by parents.  Love is determined and love will find a way and love will spend Valentine's Day and any other day in clinics across the world if that's where a loved one has to be.

We live almost 2 1/2 hours from Durham, but if we were a lot closer, I'd be one of those volunteers there.  I'm lucky right now.  I'm not taking chemo or any treatment.  I show up twice a year for blood work and once a year for x-rays and my doctor tells me all's well and I can go home.  No wheelchair, no IVs, no wig or scarf.  I'm determined to keep it that way.

To all who were at Morris Cancer Clinic, or any cancer clinic, for Valentine's Day, I pray you've had a blessed day.  Thank you for your witness of love, determination, and strength.  You make the world a better place...

And I am grateful.
 Note: My story is at:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grateful for Gratitude

It's such a small thing.  Telling someone "Thank you."  It's one of the first things we're taught.  How often as children were we told, "What do you say now?"  And we knew, even if we didn't want to say it, we knew the other person was waiting to hear, "Thank you." And then Mama & Papa Bear could smile self-satisfiedly because they had done their job and their little progeny had made them proud...and relieved.  Manners minded.  Check.

As we age, a "thank you" is still music to our mannered ears and we'll silently judge other people's parenting skills by whether or not their children are quick to say those magical words or if they have to be dragged out or if their non-utterance is ignored.  We know who has been taught well and who hasn't based on "please," "thank you," "sir," and "ma'am."  We know.

I received an email today from a total stranger; but she's a well-mannered, wonderfully raised total stranger!  She thanked me for some info I have posted on our church website.  Thanked me for sharing it and making it available on the Internet.  Now, wasn't that sweet of her?

I'm not tooting my horn for going over and above my pastoral duty and putting the info online.  Nope!  I'm tooting her horn for taking the time to say "thank you" and making my day.  She could have grinned to herself over her find, kept going, and I never would have been any the wiser.  But she stopped and dashed off a quick email thank you note.  Didn't cost her a penny.  Didn't take much time.

She did her Mama & Daddy proud. 

And I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Move Over David Letterman

Top Ten Things I'm Grateful For Yet Take For Granted

10)  Email.  It's fast.  It's direct.  And it reminds me, on an hourly basis, just how dearly loved I am by online stores and spam-lovers.  Spam belongs in a can.

9)  Greg Fishel.  He's the WRAL meteorologist that keeps me informed as to the weather I can expect today and for the next seven days.  It's got to be tough trying to keep everybody happy. 

8)  Glasses.  Bi-focals to be exact.  Yeah, my granddaughter thinks they're a toy and she needs to pull them off to play with; they can get scratched and need cleaning every day; and I can't do anything without them except sleep.  BUT, without them I can't do anything except sleep! 

7)  Dust.  If we are "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" then somebody's living large scattered all over my house.  Dust reminds me I'm human so I keep plenty of it around.

6)  Grain-free dog food.  My indoor Black Lab-German Shepherd mix, Buddy, is allergic to the grainy kinds.  "Nuff said.

5)  The price of gas.  It's something we all complain about.  BUT, if I didn't have a car and places to go, I probably wouldn't care.  There are some things worth paying for because there are people worth seeing and places worth going.  Plus, the price of gas is a poignant reminder that I have a car and can get about.

4) Laundry and dishes (a tie).  My family has clothes to wear. And we have dishes to wash because we have food to eat.  But what is it about dirty clothes and dirty dishes that they multiply so fast?  One minute there are two cups by the sink and the next time I look there are ten.

3) Memory.  I don't know what my future holds, but right now I've got a good memory and memories.  There are people who don't.  The last memory I have of my great-grandmother is going, as a child, to see her in the nursing home.  She was in her bed, cuddling and talking to a doll, totally oblivious to the fact that she had company.  Even if she had realized we were there, she wouldn't have known who we were.  I was there with her granddaughter, my Mama.

2)  Hubby.  I admit it.  I take the person closest to me for granted.  I take for granted that he's always going to be here...or maybe I take for granted that I'm always going to be here.  I take for granted that he's always going to be healthy and I take for granted that we're going to always be pretty much like we are now.  Apparently I also take for granted that I live in an ideal world and that life will turn out like that because that's how I want it to be.

1) God.  Not too bad for Hubby to take second place to God!  Even though I'm a pastor and love God dearly and do my best to follow Christ, I take God and His blessings for granted.  I take for granted that He's got control over my life even when I merrily roll along my way.  When I mess up, I take for granted that He's going to work things out. 

I take much more than these people and things for granted.  Everything is a blessing in its own way.  Even bills.  They remind me what I have.  Even trash, for it too, reminds me of what I have.  Sickness reminds me of health; war reminds me of peace.  Death reminds me of life.

Blessings abound.

And I am grateful.