Clean Out Your Ears!

Conventional (mechanical) sphygmomanometer wit...

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“Okay.  Let’s get your weight.”  The nurse smiled.

“I hate this part.”  I grumble—or I used to grumble, until I lost almost 34 lbs.

The nurse nodded.  She’s heard those complaints every day for eight hours or more.

The scale tipped.  She adjusted the weights and bars until it settled on the exact weight—to my delight.  It matched my Wii.  She handed me a gown—very fashionable—and I scurry to undress.  In my head, I imagine if I don’t hurry to get into the gown someone will accidentally walk into my room.

They checked my blood pressure, knocked an instrument against my knee caps, and shined a light into my ear cavity and remarked, “You need to clean out your ears.”  They do other things, too, and as we women know, it’s degrading and uncomfortable, but necessary.  Oh, the horrors!

In thinking about that doctor visit, I am reminded of a quote in “A Christian Dark Age?” by Kristine McGuire, “The current North American church is filled to the brim with spiritual infants who have absolutely no desire to learn beyond what’s pleasant or comfortable by their own estimation or feeling, only seeking out teachers and pastors who fulfill that goal. Basically, we have a large portion of the church body which is filled with a lot of fluff and very little substance. The Christian faith makes no impact on how they live or interact in the world.”

Women checkups are necessary, not comfortable.  Having a doctor probe your body strips away all dignity.  It’s even…humiliating.  No poster on the ceiling is enough to distract you from the visit.

You must face what you fear in order to grow and learn.  There’s a lot of unpleasantness in the world.  You can’t avoid it.  Part of what makes a great story is in the overcoming of the conflict in the story.  Without the conflict, you have no story—just fluff.  And fluff won’t help you through the difficult and scary times in your life.  Only by “Committing to reading, listening, studying, and knowing what the scripture says. Testing what is being taught by others and comparing it to what scripture says. Not growing so accustomed to “spiritual milk” that we never graduate to the “meat” scripture. Applying the lessons of scripture and actually living it out daily by loving God and people; discipling others in Biblical truth with graciousness and love not simply by our words but by our actions. Making a stand for truth without condemnation when necessary,” says Kristine.

Let’s follow our doctor’s advice and “clean out our ears.”  It’s not just the doctor’s advice, but it’s the Bible’s advice, too.

Read Kristine’s Article

BLACK Friday

Best Buy #281 - The Night Before 'Black Friday'

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“It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.” –John Adams

Black Friday marks the day when my husband and I tear into the Christmas boxes; not so for others who line up at 3 a.m. for the latest deals.  On Fox & Friends, it was reported that a man got trampled on Black Friday.  People stepped on him, walked over him, and in the video you can see the torn expressions on the crowd—save the man or be first for the deal?  All of them chose the deal over the life of a man.  If it wasn’t for the store employees, that man would not have survived.

“I won’t EVER shop on Black Friday again.”  His lower lip trembled while his face struggled to contain his emotions.

Halloween appeared on store shelves as early as September.  Christmas items were stocked in stores as early as October.  Where was Thanksgiving?  I have a theory.

On Halloween, you get dressed up in costume and receive free candy.  Christmas becomes all about Santa and presents and is heavily commercialized.  In each of these two big holidays, a person receives a lot of things.

The only free gift available on Thanksgiving was gratitude.  Gratitude doesn’t come in brightly wrapped packages.  You can’t physically hand it out.  In America, our people are programmed to feel as if everyone owes them something.  Gratitude has become a hard sell.  It’s not something we think about when we are shopping.  Our kids might think we’re bad parents when they wake up and only find a couple of presents and not a truck load of presents under the tree.  We’re trained to expect a lot of gifts.

Black Friday marks what is wrong with our country when slashed prices and deals mean more to people than life or quality in craftsmanship.  I used to fear as a child that few presents would await me on Christmas morning.  It wasn’t Christmas unless the floor of the living room was covered in packages.  My parents didn’t do anything wrong with working hard to make each Christmas prosperous; it means no one has yet broken the cycle.  This is an opportunity to reverse the cycle.  Rather than attempting to make this Christmas better than last year’s gifts, why not re-imagine Christmas?  I wonder what would happen if there were fewer presents, and instead more quality family time together?  Instead of lining up at the store at 3 a.m., why not sleep in?  Why not take out the Christmas decorations with your children?  Why not have an outing together or tell some of the family stories over eggnog and cookies?  In a year, the toy that you waited several hours in line to buy will not be in vogue.  Your child will have thrown it aside in favor of the next “in” toy.  The technology will have advanced by the following Christmas.  It begs another question:  Why do old-fashioned Christmas cards and movies appeal to us?  Could it be that we long for those days when Christmases were less complicated and gratitude was abundant?  Is the ideal Christmas so far out of our reach that we think it’s impossible?

Anger

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My life’s mission is to rid my soul of anger’s tentacles. It makes people stupid. The decisions that come from anger knock down the domino that becomes the catalyst for other bad decisions. Yet, in reading C.S. Lewis Reflections of the Psalms, he writes:

“In the same way we cannot be certain that the comparative absence of vindictiveness in the Pagans, though certainly a good thing in itself, is a good symptom. This was borne in upon me during night journey taken early in the Second War in a compartment full of young soldiers. Their conversation made it clear that they totally disbelieved all that they had read in the papers about wholesale cruelties of the Nazi regime. They took it for granted, without argument, that this was all lies, all propaganda put out by our own government to “pep up” our troops. And the shattering thing was, that, believing this, they expressed not the slightest anger. That our rulers should falsely attribute the worst of crimes to some of their fellow-men in order to induce others of their fellow-men to shed their blood seemed to them a matter of course. They weren’t even particularly interested. They saw nothing wrong in it. Now it seemed to me that the most violent of Psalmists—or, for that matter any child wailing out “But it’s not fair”—was in a more hopeful condition than these young men. If they had perceived, and felt as a man should feel, the diabolical wickedness which they believed our rulers to be committing, and then forgiven them, they would have been saints. But not to perceive it at all—not even to be tempted to resentment—to accept it as the most ordinary thing in the world—argues a terrifyingly insensibility. Clearly these young men had (on that subject anyway) no conception of good and evil whatsoever. Thus, the absence of anger, especially that sort of anger which we call indignation, can, in my opinion, be a most alarming symptom.”

The absence of anger is apathy. I wondered at the apathy in the 2008 elections. I wondered at the apathy of people when wrong is happening and they choose instead to keep their face averted. The absence of anger towards the lack of justice and accountability in our world is deeply disturbing, and it’s tearing a part the fabric of our country. Consequences are important. It’s likened to the spanking or punishment our parents gave us that helped to teach us what we were doing was wrong. Without consequences and with enabling, the person notes subconsciously the absence of anger as the absence of love. They continue to make those same mistakes because his prior mistakes went unpunished. Spare the rod; spoil the child in Proverbs comes to mind. “Clearly,” C.S. Lewis reminds us. “These young men had (on that subject anyway) no conception of good and evil whatsoever.”

Not all anger is good. Some anger is cruel. The anger that leads a person to either physically or verbally abuse someone else is the kind of anger I do not wish in my life. The anger born of disappointment should vacate my life. If I get angry, it’s okay if that anger is over injustice. But in the same token, C.S. Lewis writes, “For the Supernatural, entering a human soul, opens to it new possibilities both of good and evil. From that point the road branches: one way to sanctity, love, humility, the other to spiritual pride, self-righteousness, persecuting zeal.”

Is our anger just? Or is it out of control and unreasonable? Do we have control over our emotions or do our emotions control us? And what does the Bible say about it?

Begin to Take it Seriously

Mr. Mac Cake (Apple Computer)

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Social media gives the shy guy a chance to hang out with the cool girls.  He becomes anyone with a random photo from someone else’s site, a little creative writing, and suddenly he has 500 to 1,000 friends.  He knows three of them.  Or you have 100-300 photos of you in many poses.  You experiment with your femininity or masculinity.  Your friend list grows, but you only know 50 of them.  100 of them are acquaintances from school or the social scene.  The remaining people are strangers who sought your following or spammers who want a large following.

No profile is guaranteed true.  Until you spend time with them, you don’t know them.  They can’t hide that spastic tick they inherited from their parents if you see them every day.  Their photo shopped images better match their real life images.  Their likes and dislikes must match their personality.   It is easy to lie online with millions of images available through Google to claim as your own and non-traceable accounts with bogus email addresses readily available.  Self-love is addictive.

Christians have it difficult with online social networking.  How do you shine the light of Christ through Facebook, Myspace, and the many other social networking sites?  Do you do this by posting pictures of drinking binges?  Do you do this by getting mad at a relative and posting something derogatory on your status?  Regular people are still working to take it seriously even though much of the business world has taken advantage of its capabilities.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says this about social networking, “I honestly don’t understand all the fuss about social media. It’s just one more way to communicate. Do you have a “phone policy”? An “email policy”? A “fax policy”? Technology is neither good nor bad. It’s what people do with it that is the issue.  In my opinion, you want to encourage your people to engage in social media. Doing so puts a human face on your brand. It meets customers where they are congregating. It makes everyone an ambassador for your organization.”

The online world is a dangerous mine with dead ends, weak supports, and dark holes that go nowhere.  Do you wish to become the light people gravitate towards?  Do you wish to show an example of leadership to the online world?  Do you wish to become a prayer warrior supporting lonely and hurting people?  Or are you one of the dead ends, weak supports and dark holes?  Social networking has become a must for branding, for business, and for ministry.  It’s required in the writing world.  It becomes your résumé.  Jobs will or will not hire you based on your social networking profile.  The key to social networking is balance.  Without balance you fade into the dark and miss the key components to friendship:  touch, effort, joy, respect and love.  Don’t lose your capacity to relate to real people.

Border Crossing: The Eight-Legged Conspiracy

Spider Web Gravity Well

Spiders and I have a deal.  It’s a peace treaty.  They stay outside the house building their webs and catching bugs.  It’s an act of war if they venture inside.  Occasionally, their nation and the Hahn nation clash.  I run into their webs.  They rebuild them again.

For the past two months, the spiders have signed an alliance with other breeds of spiders.  They’ve brought in some strange black ones with florescent orange tops and engaged in talks with some monstrous overfed garden variety spiders.  I think those spiders are radical extreme spiders.

One of those big ones ventured into the house in the early hours preceding dawn.  He snickered at me as he hugged the wall near the base board.  He knew when to attack.  He’s a solitary suicide bomber getting into the house beneath the radar and he knows I am afraid of him.  Would he jump on me?  Would he capture me in his web?  My husband had left for work hours ago.  It was up to me.  I had no reinforcements.  It was time for the nuclear weapons.

First, I kept the cat and dog at a safe distance.  The cat would have attempted to eat it at his peril.  Then, I sprayed the spider.  It twisted, ran, stumbled and finally curled its legs inward over its belly.  Poison dripped from the wooden bench onto the kitchen floor.  Nuclear clean up was imperative.  The vacuum removed the body.  Soap and water cleaned the poison.  Finally, I towel dried the floor and bench.

The animals crept out of their safe places.  My screaming must have scared them witless.  I shivered at the close call.  I’m going to have to declare war on the spiders outside.  As I left for work, a spy spider sat quietly on the outside door jamb.  He watched the border.  I gave him the evil eye and carefully closed the screen.  Word will have gotten out by the time I return to the bands of radical spiders in the outer regions that one of their own failed in his mission.  I expect more to attack unless we take that first initial step and drop the bomb on them.  No diplomacy or economic sanctions will work in this case.  They are getting out of hand.

Open

OPEN

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Downtown Prescott comes alive when the sun disappears behind the mountains.  The engines get louder.  The traffic thickens.  The lights from Whiskey Row flood the sidewalk.  Ice cream and restaurants have lines.  People are holding hands and walking around the Courthouse Plaza.

We park downtown on Union Street and walk around the square.  We talk like in times past.  Eventually, our feet head in the direction of Starbucks.  It’s a ten-minute walk.  Under the black sky, tall trees and wrapped in the coolness of fall we enjoy the intimacy of being together.  Six-minutes later we pause in front of the abandoned dealership on Montezuma and Sheldon Streets.  From the former dealership office lights spill out over the asphalt.  Cars drive into the lot and park.  Someone has converted the glassed-in building into a coffee shop; a band plays rock n’ roll on a make-shift stage; and the coffee bar and tables make the old lot into something new.  I gape as boys in Mohawks are mixing with the clean-cut.  A simple sign blinks on the glass walls:  Open.

They are playing Christian music.  Tony and I smile.  We almost walk in, but it’s so crowded.  Was this a church gathering?  A coffee shop?  Open blinks on and off and on again.  Eventually, a customer at my job would explain it to me.  He goes to that church.

His church rents the lot.  It’s a leaky building, he explains.  They are hoping to get a better place so when it rains water won’t puddle on the floor during their Bible studies.  Once a week volunteers run the coffee shop for the youth.  He agreed with me when I mentioned how Tony and I were attracted to the Open sign.  It’s simple.  It’s welcoming.  Eventually, the owners of the lot mowed down the dealership.  In its stead is a giant bank building.  People fought it because the original height would have dwarfed the other historic buildings in Prescott.  No one wanted a Phoenix in the mountains.  Tony and I will never forget that church coffee shop.  Every Friday night we walked past it and saw the youth from different backgrounds enter and the band play.

Does our home say open?  Does our church say open?  Do our hearts wear an open sign?  Or do our hearts say, ‘open only for____________?’  Open is a perfect sign for a church youth group, coffee shop, or a ministry.  Christ’s arms are open.  His Spirit dwells in our leaky, imperfect shell.  I recall this passage of scripture when I think of that Open sign:

“To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  – Mark 12:33

Strange People

criminal_minds

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My strange experiences at the library mounted.  I reserved a computer and sat down to login.

“Hello!”  A red head smiled broadly at me.  She looked me in the eye as if she knew me.

“Um, hello.”  I wore a half smile.  Who was she?  Do I know you?  She apparently seems to know me.

She kept staring at me with her chin resting in her hands and her elbows propped on the table.

“Um, do I know you?”  I tried to soften my words with a smile.  I didn’t want to seem rude, but she kept staring.

“I’m Betsy.”  She grinned.

“Oh, hi.”  I nodded and pretended sudden busyness. Great.  A loud, chatty person.  I just want to social network quietly and breathe in the silence of the library and the scent of musty books.

Eventually, she returned to her computer.  The problem with an online presence and networking with total strangers is trying to place a face in public to a face of your favorite blogger or twitter person.  In this case, Betsy was no one I followed, but it could have been someone.  I have several Arizona contacts that I have never met in person.  One lives in my town.  We’re neighbors.  One of these days we’ll meet in the grocery store.

Another woman reserved the computer next to me.

Chirp.  Snap.  Mumble.  Crinkle.  Squeak.  Snap.  Chirp.

She went to get her copies again and I peeked at her screen.  Why was she taking photos with her phone of the computer screen?  My mouth parted in an ‘oh.’ Professional shots of one woman in many seductive poses wearing skimpy clothing covered the screen.  The prints next to her computer were one of the same.  I’m not up on the hip-hop or celebrities, but the pictures looked like a cross between two stars from various movies.

Chirp.  Snap.  Mumble.  Crinkle.  Squeak. Snap.  Chirp.  Sigh.

People glanced up when her phone chirped.  She had the volume too high.  She looked between 18 and 20-years old, and completely unaware of her surroundings.

Chirp.  Snap.  Sigh.  Crinkle.  Squeak.  Snap.  Chirp.  Mumble.

The chair squeaked back again.  The copies crinkled as she took them and logged out of the computer.  I smiled, then.  What a distraction!

Squeak.  Tap-tap.

A man slid into the seat beside me.  He wore a hood over his face.  His hands were large.  I thought this man would play the part of a serial killer nicely.  He wore a hood indoors.  He slid into the seat by chance and logged into the reserved computer.  He never removed his hood.  He said nothing.  He didn’t blend in with the rest of the crowd.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of ‘Criminal Minds.’