Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pop Quiz Tuesday!

"One plus one plus one equals one."

Richard L. Strauss
Three in One: The Joy of
Knowing God

Question: How can it be?

(Photo by Jason Abbott. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday’s Stream of Consciousness…

How do white socks escape the laundry room and where do they go?

Why do they call it “help desk”? Has anyone ever been helped?

Are there any “gentlemen” at a gentleman’s club?

Why aren’t there seat belts on school buses?

Can a wise person be foolish?

Can a foolish person be wise?

What’s with kids and tomato sauce?

Is it ever cruel to be kind?

Is it ever kind to be cruel?

My little meter says 922 people have viewed this blog in the past month. How come you are so quiet? Do you visit just once, or do you come back? (I guess some of you have to come back to answer that...)

What was Keith Richards doing in a tree?

OK! Trinitarianism paper due tomorrow… I’m off! Have a great weekend everyone!

(Photo by fo.ol. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Going Deep Within

Socrates said "the unexamined life is not worth living." Within the university, students and professors scrutinize every possible aspect of our universe--from the billions of galaxies to subatomic particles, electrons, quarks--but they assiduously avoid examining their own lives.

In the wider world, we keep hectically busy and fill every free moment of our day with some form of diversion--work, computers, television, movies, radio, magazines, newspapers, sports, alcohol, drugs, parties. Perhaps we distract ourselves because looking at our lives confronts us with our lack of meaning, our unhappiness, and our loneliness--and with the difficulty, the fragility, and the unbelievable brevity of life.

Pascal may have been right when he observed that "if our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it... the sole cause of our unhappiness is that we do not know how to sit quietly in our room."

Perhaps the reason we find it difficult to sit quietly and examine our lives is because doing so makes us anxious. But until we examine our lives, we can do little to make them less unhappy and more fulfilling.

Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. from The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (Simon & Schuster)

Question: Have you done a "heart check" lately to find where God is looking?

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

1 Samuel 16:7

(On the Road Again photo. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ever Felt Like Doing This?

The "help desk" must have had the owner of this system on hold about three hours too long...

Funny! Photo courtesy of my friend whose friend got mad and threw her computer in the pool!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Author Sarah Bragg on Contentment

If we have not yet found contentment in Christ, we tend to search and search for someone to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s as if we walk up to every person we see or meet and ask that person to fill our cup to the top with compliments. “Please tell me I am pretty.” “Please tell me I am worth something.” “Please tell me that you will love me.”

Instead of looking to other persons to fill our cup, we need to present our cup to God. Psalm 143:8 (NIV) says, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (NIV). When we seek God’s “unfailing love” on a daily basis, we no longer feel the need to seek love and attention from others. God will fill our cup with His unfailing love, and then whatever we receive from others will just be an overflow.

To find freedom, we must first get to the heart of the matter—we must get to what’s inside. We can try to cover up our hurt on the outside, but we will never be healed until we heal from the inside out. A quick-fix bandage on the outside will only last for a short time, but the results of internal healing will last forever. Freedom and healing come from God’s truth, and that truth will set you free. This process takes time. It cannot be rushed.

Ask God to give you a new perspective. The true secret of contentment is learning to see yourself through God’s eyes. Contentment is something we must practice. Contentment is gaining the right perspective. God’s Word promises that you can learn to be content and, like Paul, you can say “whatever you want, Lord.” I am finally able to say with Paul that I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I have gained the right perspective on my body.

Sarah Bragg
Author, Body. Beauty. Boys

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Looking for Worth In All The Wrong Places

I've had the priviledge of providing input for a conference being planned by the men at my church for women. Kind of a "we care about you" event focusing on a variety of health-related issues affecting women. One of the topics we've discussed is "eating disorders" and the umbrella issue of "body image" as it relates to girls and women of all ages. Eating disorders are epidemic on college campuses today. And the ugly seed of thought that sparks this viscious disorder begins long before a young woman hits campus. I know of 10-year-olds who are starving to be thin.

Todd heard someone on Christian radio a while back talking about the differences between boys and girls as it relates to what motivates them. The man being interviewed said this:

"Girls want to be pretty. Boys want to feel they have what it takes."

Beginning at a very early age, girls in our society covet beauty above all other attributes. And boys are competitively comparing themselves to others.

It doesn't take much imagination to look down the road and see the problem. A society of women who are riveted on their appearance (and never satisfied). A society of men who are driven to compete (and never satisfied).

The Bible warns us about vanity and tells us beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). And we are not to compare ourselves to one another (Galatians 6:4). So as we and our children go about life, we are surrounded by cultural influences that fly in the face of how Scripture tells us to live (without vanity and competitiveness).

What does a beautiful woman do when she is no longer beautiful? How does a woman who is not beautiful feel about her worth? And how does this affect the choices she makes in terms of dating, marriage, career, friendships, etc.? How does a man who is overly competitive handle failure? How does a man who is not competitive find his worth? What are the earthly crutches and defaults people sink into when they can't be what the world screams they need to be?

There's a cold and sad reality around the world's response to these types of questions. Addictions. Crime. Suicide. Divorce. Prejudice. Hatred. I could fill up a page.

As Christians, we should know better. We have a Bible that tells us what we should be focusing on (Christ) and how to live our lives (morally pure). In this equation, there's not room for vanity and competitiveness.

Yet, we all go there.

What's the solution? Can we turn things around before we lose another generation of children to hollow lives of discontent and pain?

Coming Monday: Sarah Bragg, author of Body. Beauty. Boys., responds to this post.

(Sports photo by maddog. Woman and cosmetics by demetri just thinking out loud. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Power of Unpositive Thinking

It all started with my Trinitarianism exam. The one I think I flunked. It’s not that I didn’t study for it. I studied hard. I just studied wrong. (How could I go from A’s to an F? This is strange!)

Next day, I opened my mailbox to a letter from a former doctor. “Ms. Onderdonk, you had an advanced tumor at a young age and you are now overdue for a vital screening!” (No! That doctor is mistaken! They said we caught it early! Why am I getting a letter like this?)

Next day, I wake up feeling kind of sick to my stomach (Whoa. I haven’t felt like this since… they diagnosed the cancer two years ago! Has it come back?)

Two days later, I’m feeling even more sick to my stomach and there’s a fundraising letter in my mailbox from the hospice (Oh, no! God is getting me ready! I better get in to see my doctor ASAP!)

Now I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Monday morning. On the way to school to drop off the kids, my oldest son points out the window and says, “Hey, Mommy! What’s THAT building?” (Gasp! “That’s a… f-f-funeral home!” We have passed that building every school morning for five-and-a-half years and my son is just now asking me what it is? Of course! That’s where I’m headed!! God’s giving me an advanced tour!)

So I am now at the doctor’s office. Traffic was light and I'm early. Good thing I packed my Trinitarianism notes so I can study! (Where are my notes? I lost them! They’re gone! Of course! God knows I don’t need to bone up on the Trinity because I’m going to be meeting Them shortly!)

By this time, I am a full-fledged head case. Sure I am a mere month away from a morphine drip and life support.

When the doctor said, “Good check-up!” I was certain my ears had deceived me.

“Huh?” I said.

“I said good check-up!” said the doctor.

“Are you sure about that?”

It took a while for the reality of the good news to sink in. I was over-prepared for bad news.

What to make of this?

Somewhere between “New Christian Explores Faith” and “Old Christian Finds Joy in Suffering” there’s a place where many of us look for signs from God in everything. And in everything we sometimes think He's "speaking" to us. While it’s important to be tuned into God’s leading and steerage, we have to be very careful to discern as best we humanly can what is from God and what is not.

I lost a week of my life to a state of fear… thinking I was "hearing" God in all sorts of grim news and developments… when, in fact, it might have been someone else I was listening to.

We need to be good detectives. A good detective doesn’t solve the case then look for pieces of evidence to support his conclusion! A good detective looks at all the evidence before buttoning up the case. As Christians, the most reliable and important investigative tool we possess is the Bible (not our feelings which can be totally deceptive). This is the most powerful and trustworthy source of revelation we have.

Have you come to a conclusion of some sort in your life? And are you going around gathering evidence to build your case? Last week, I chose to filter out the good and focus on the weird. But amidst the hospice mailer and the nausea, there were positive things happening. The e-mail from my seminary friend who helped me make some sense out of my bad grade and motivated me toward a future direction. The invitation to speak at a distant event. God's glory and bounty and grace evident all over the place. Good stuf I could have just as easily focused on. But I didn’t. Like the single-minded detective, I was building a case that I was dying and seizing every indicator that this was happening.

Big mistake! Lousy week!

Are you building a case of some sort? I would urge you to think about God... about what He has revealed to us in Scripture. Does He want you to worry (1 John 4:18)? Does He want you to be distracted and upset (Phillipians 4: 6-7)? Does He want you wasting your time planning for bad events that aren't going to happen when you could be serving Him instead (Phillipians 4: 8)? Does He want you to doubt yourself and stall out when you could shine for Him (Phillipians 4: 13)? Does He want you to doubt His love for you (Romans 8:37-39)?

Does any of that... sound like God? Or does it sound more like someone else?

Today I ask: Who are you listening to?

(Photo by Rob Lee. See flickr.com for restrictions on use.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

This Week's Favorites!

Some "finds" that are too good not to share!

Movie: The Lake House (Critics panned, but I loved it! A dreamy and romantic movie without excessive profanity and sex. Oh. Maybe that's why the critics didn't like it...)

Inspirational Message: Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) online chapel: Check out www.dts.edu and follow "chapel" link for some incredible messages by leading contemporary theologians. Cruise around "archive" podcasts for a wide range of topical interests for men and women.

Peanut Butter: Naturally More (w/Flax seed. WalMart sells it. It's yummy and good for you!)

Pizza: Uno's (Check at Albertson's in deli section.)

Popcorn: Smart Balance Smart Movie-Style (No trans fat & tastes great!)

Restorative Balance: Arbonne Phyto Prolief at arbonne.com. (nice cosmetics, too!)

Great uplifting music: You by Oceans Deep (Not available in stores... yet! Check out my oceansdeep.com link for sample and ordering info. This group should be all over the radio! Let's help get them there!)

Shade-grown or fair trade coffee: Available in some stores. It just tastes better! Also might want to try Starbuck's "organic" blends. They taste better, too!

Flour: Having trouble getting the kids to convert to whole wheat? Transition with unbleached "White Wheat" flour.

Cosmetics: For you "cool" or "neutral" types... check out L'oreal's Color of Hope collection at your favorite drug store. Beautiful subtly sparkly pinks and roses and a portion of proceeds benefit ovarian cancer research.

(Photo by joseph.steufer. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's You He Loves

It’s you I like. It’s not the things you wear. It’s not the way you do your hair. It’s you I like. The way you are right now. The way deep down inside you. Not the things that hide you. Not your diplomas. They’re just beside you. It’s you I like. Every part of you.

Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”)
Boston University Baccalaureate 1992

A question for you today:

What would it be like if you cut out all the “junk” people ever said about you… and focused instead on how your Father feels about you?

Source: Rev. Kevin Butcher, Pastor of Hope Community Church. Speaking at Dallas Seminary Chapel.

(Photo by christyscherrer. See flickr.com for restrictions.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

All You Need Is Love...

Amy... I found another chapter from the parenting book for you. This is one of my favorite pictures of John and Colin, taken in Colorado Springs in 2000.

All You Need Is Love

My first born will no doubt be a great leader some day. That’s the little mantra I would mutter under my breath every time the “king” would do his mad little medieval monarch routine. It’s now 1997 and my little darling is 20-months old. I remember being in the grocery store frozen foods one day when my little leader did a Houdini and wrangled himself out of his shopping cart straps, threw himself onto the ground, and kicked and screamed as if someone were poking him with a hot-tipped cow iron. You see, I had just vetoed a second cookie. That’s all it took to incite a revolt.

So in my most calm and deliberative parental tone, I told him it was time to get a grip and get back in the cart. Well, that really got him going. Now, he was a one-man AC/DC concert. While I continued to look down at the flailing leader, I had this sense that heads were popping around corner to sneak a peek. At one point, the meat department manager snaked by. I was so embarrassed I could feel my cheeks burn to match the sirloin stains on his smock. Realizing that my words were getting us nowhere, I grabbed Linda Blair by the arm and proceeded to drag him back toward the cart. Of course, he made himself dead weight and, out of concern that I might dislocate something, I relinquished my grip and let him continue to do that loud, spastic thing as a few disgusted ice cream shoppers piously filed past.

He won.

We had days like this. Lots of days. At a particular low point, I remember talking to my dear friend, Nancy, the mother of a grown daughter, and sharing my frustrations about parenting a toddler. I’d never been a mother before. The leader didn’t come with a manual. Though I felt like I was pouring my soul into raising this child, there were days the investment didn't seem to be paying off. What was I doing wrong? Should I be playing more Mozart? Flashing more flash cards? Muh-muh-mouthing more phonics? I had a reading basket piled three-feet high with issues and back-issues of parenting magazines and books and videos and unsolicited advice playing like a stuck record in my head. It was all so mysterious and I drowning in anxiety every time the leader failed to act like a Gap baby.

“Nancy, what am I not getting about this parenting thing?” I asked my friend.

To which she replied, “All in the world a young child needs is love.”

All in the world a young child needs is love…

Those words wrapped around my soul like a fuzzy blanket, because, in spite of what the magazines and the books and the researchers would lead you to believe, I felt, deep down, that my friend had stripped through the tangled underbrush to expose a clear and sensible path forward. Maybe I, like so many mothers I knew, was simply overcomplicating things. Maybe I was fretting too much. Maybe by stepping back and getting in touch with the fundamentals, it would be possible to move forward with more confidence and less guilt. Maybe it was time to accept that fact that there would be inevitable tension around raising kids. Some days you get it right. Some days you flat-out don't. But with the fundamentals in place, there's much hope it will all work out.

What is this love that Nancy was talking about? Love can be gentle and nurturing. It must also involve setting clear boundaries and sticking to them. Celebrating the good choices and having consequences for the bad ones. Saying "yes" with a cheerful heart, and "no" when this is the most loving (though unpopular) option.

Some of the most grounded people I know come from large families where parents couldn't afford to trail each child with a fresh deck of flash cards and a can of Lysol. In these kinds of homes, there isn't the luxury of making an environment perfect and kids learn early what sharing and cooperation is all about. And love in these homes isn't fancy. It isn't based upon the latest gadget or the newest parenting technique. It's a pretty simple equation of respect, cooperation and valuing one another above self.

We've become pretty good at complicating things, haven't we. Why not put the flash cards to the side for a while. Put off the errands and rushing about. Just hang out with your child. Unplug the phone. Stay in your pajamas. Have breakfast for lunch. Forget your "to-do" list. Make memories! Love doesn't have to involve a checkbook or a commute. It happens at home for free!

Postscript: It's been nine years since I wrote that chapter. The "leader" is now in 4th grade. We're still cruising the aisles at the grocery store. No more violence in frozen foods, I'm pleased to report. It's all working out quite beautifully. And, yes, he's still a leader. In a nice non-medieval kind of way.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Housework... in Perspective

In 2000, I put some notes together for a book on parenting. I just ran across a draft of a chapter that may encourage some beleagured mom's of youngsters out there.

Dirty Floors and Happy Faces

We moved to Texas from Virginia when I was eight-months pregnant with our third child. The day after our plane landed, we hit the ground in search of a new home. We loved and bought the first house we saw and scrambled like eggs to get moved in and partially settled before the baby came. We didn’t know a soul.

Shortly after our son was born, an interior designer named Brenda rang the doorbell. I knew we couldn’t keep black trash bags and towels on our windows forever, so I invited her in. I liked her immediately and was grateful to have some help with the windows. I was even more grateful to have a friend in Texas.

With a new baby and two very active toddlers running about, our once spotless new home was soon lathered in crud. There were enough crumbs on the kitchen floor to get Hansel and Gretal to the moon. On particularly sunny days, the dust would light up the air like ticker tape.

One day Brenda showed up with some shade samples. We went into the kitchen to get a better look under natural light. The sun shone brightly on the shades and my kitchen table, which was littered with souring sippy cups from the night before. There was an occasional “crunch, crunch” under our feet as we traipsed over who-knows-what. I could feel myself blush with embarrassment. I apologized to Brenda for the look of things just as two giggly little munchkins came speeding by smelling like a zoo.

Brenda, a loving mother of four, simply said, “My dear, you have the rest of your life to clean.”

With those words, I flashed to the year 2036. I am still rocking in my trusty old nursing rocker. I’m not nursing anyone at this point, of course. I’m just old, prone to sitting, and reflective. The kids are long gone. My husband’s on the golf course. In this quiet, solitary sunset, I’m looking back on my life and the things that truly mattered. And I’m not thinking, “What a life! I had the cleanest oven in town!”

What I’m thinking is, “Thank You, God, for giving me the good sense to appreciate what needed to be done in the early years to prepare my children to live without me and thrive on their own.”

Though the early years can seem never-ending, it’s a blink of time in which to have an impact. So, I vowed to stop getting out of bed every morning bemoaning the fact my two-year-old smooshed banana on Aunt Milly’s afghan. I do the best that I can to keep my environment livable. But, I forgive myself the grubby little handprints on the oven door and an occasional ring around the tub. My focus, frankly, is somewhere else; some place infinitely more important.

(Photo by Vinn, see flickr.com for restrictions.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's Wrong with This Picture?

The controversy swirling around the movie, Facing the Giants, reminded me of something that happened last year on a car trip. My oldest son was reading a neat little book called "The World Almanac for Kids: 2005." He was plying us with cool factoids. Then he hit the "Federal Holiday" page. Below is how this information appears in a book which boasts "More than 3 Million Copies in Print!":

New Year's Day: The U.S. and most other countries celebrate the beginning of the new year on January 1.

Martin Luther King Jr., Day: Observed on the third Monday in January, this holiday marks the birth (January 15, 1929) of the African-American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2005, it will be celebrated on January 17.

Presidents' Day: On the third Monday in February (February 21, 2005), most states celebrate the births of both George Washington (born February 22, 1732) and Abraham Lincoln (born February 12, 1809).

Memorial Day or Decoration Day: Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May (May 30, 2005) is set aside to remember men and women who died serving in the military.

Fourth of July or Independence Day: July 4 is the anniversary of the day in 1776 when the American colonies signed the Declaration of Independence. Kids and grownups celebrate with bands and parades, picnics, barbecues, and fireworks.

Labor Day: Labor Day, the first Monday in September, honors the workers of America. It was first celebrated in 1882. It falls on September 6 in 2004 and September 5 in 2005.

Columbus Day: Celebrated on the second Monday in October, Columbus Day is the anniversary of October 12, 1492, the day Christopher Columbus was traditionally thought to have arrived in the Americas (on the island of San Salvador). It falls on October 11 in 2004 and October 10 in 2005.

Veterans Day: Veterans Day, November 11, honors veterans of wars. First called Armistice Day, it marked the armistice (agreement) that ended World War I. This was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving was first observed by the Pilgrims in 1621 as a harvest festival and a day for thanks and feasting. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition. It comes on the fourth Thursday in November--November 25 in 2004 and November 24 in 2005.

Christmas: Christmas is both a religious holiday and a legal holiday. It is celebrated on December 25th.

(Photo by eshm... see flickr.com for restrictions.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Must See Movie!

Go to the movies and see "Facing the Giants!" You will laugh... and cry... and cheer... and be totally affirmed in your faith. I don't even like football and I have to say it was a very nice movie. It's rated PG (sensors thought it was "too Christian"... also has some scenes/dialogue about pregnancy/infertility). Zero profanity. A very wholesome movie.

This movie is not a blockbuster... no famous actors... small budget (the first few minutes require an "adjustment"... but do hang with it!)... but good entertainment and strong, positive message... it really needs a grassroots effort to stay viable in theaters. Go see it then tell your friends about it!


p.s. This slam just in from our local movie reviewer: "The religious proselytizing in this football movie is about as subtle as a blindside hit by a 300-pound defensive end." To which I would argue, "What's wrong with that?" I get to see Hollywood "proselytize" the degradation of human decency. I can see the spectrum of worldviews about religion every time I turn on cable. So what's wrong with a movie that promotes Christian values? Am I sensing some, uh, discrimination here?

(Photo by adobemac, see flickr.com for restrictions.)