Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Attacking Our Joy

August 21, 2008
I woke up this morning feeling restless and irritable. For a while, I tried to think about it logically. Why was I feeling this way? Had something happened to propel me to stress or anger? No.

My feelings manifested into actions. I got angry with John. I became angrier with Noah. I told Scooby to stay clear of me. When it was time for me to sit outside in the beautiful sunshine, beneath a baby blue sky peppered with gorgeous white clouds and have my quiet time, I put it off. I didn’t want to hang out with God.

Do you ever feel this way? Sometimes it’s physical, absolutely. Sometimes it’s emotional, brought on by circumstances. But as I finally gave in to prayer and sitting at God’s feet, it became clear to me I was under a spiritual attack.

John’s going on a WAAG this weekend. WAAG stands for Weekend Almost Alone with God. It’s a very cool activity that my brother Phil’s ministry Caleb’s Heart does. John is going with 6 to 8 guys up into the Rocky Mountains. The spiritual leader, Robb, will take each man to their own spot in the forest (secluded) and leave them there. For hours. Alone.

The point is to facilitate a time where each man can just be alone with God. No retreat speaker. No manly activity. Just God. For hours. Alone. They get together for meals (I hear the food is phenomenal) and to talk about what they are hearing, but most of the weekend it is just each man alone with God.

This ministry has had a life-changing effect on many men. John warned me on Monday that this week may be a difficult one. The enemy doesn’t want John to go. The enemy doesn’t want John to have a good time. The enemy doesn’t want John to hear God’s love.

Satan has been working on John. Poor guy has had a heck of a week at work. Things have broken, tempers have flared and John has had to stay late several nights. Talk about stress. But John has persevered and comes home at night, still proclaiming God is the One. He doesn’t actually walk into the house and yell, “God is the One!” or do anything churchy or super-spiritual. But in his prayers before dinner and at bedtime, I hear his sacrifice of praise. I hear his faith. I see it when he doesn’t come home angry or nervous, ready to be shnappy with me or Noah.

So, what does the enemy do? He attacks John’s wife. It would’ve been soooo easy to skip my quiet time this morning. So easy. I wasn’t in the mood at all. It would’ve been sooo easy just to stay put in the restlessness and irritability. But for me and my house, we are praising the Lord.

Barbara Johnson who wrote Stick a Geranium in your Hat and be Happy said, “We all have seen dreams turn to ashes – ugly things, hopeless experiences – but beauty for ashes is God’s exchange. Offer yourself to God and ask for a spirit of praise so your whole being will be restored.”

I say, “God is the One!” in faith. I don’t feel much better. Restlessness is still lurking. But the feelings will change and God will restore my joy. I know He will. That’s His job.

John is going to have a wonderful time at WAAG. If not, why would Satan be on our backs?

PS - So my blog's date is broken! Anyone know how I can fix it?

Is there anything else on?

“It’s two weeks every four years. Quit your whining.”

This is what my beloved husband says to me every time I have inquired about channel surfing the past week.

Is it un-American not to enjoy the Olympics? Am I a Commie?

If being American means valuing materialism then I am red, white and blue! I want another TV! A while back, John and I made a decision that we only needed one TV in the house. Having more TVs breaks up the family and there are only three of us.

I agreed. Silly me.

Now I am stuck watching every kind of rowing or skulling or whatever it is, sword-fighting, (I know it is called something else) diving and volleyball. Whenever I suggest to John that he doesn’t like or ever, ever, ever watch these sports in real life, he looks at me, scowls and says, “It’s two weeks every four years. Quit your whining.”

Now I will admit to loving two sports. Women’s gymnastics. Go Shawn Johnson! And swimming. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t recognize the name Michael Phelps. I let Noah stay up late the other night to watch the 8th gold medal race. We couldn’t help but cheer and give each other high fives.

Noah just finished a summer of swim team. He loved it. And sure enough, the other night he looked at John and me, quite soberly, and asked, “In 2016 I will be 17. Is that old enough to try out for the Olympics?”

After we said yes, he added. “I think I can beat Michael Phelps’ record.”

I love the Olympics and Michael Phelps for that. Inspiring 9-year-olds to dream and work for their dreams, well, that is worth the two weeks.

Yesterday evening I noticed John was watching Star Trek. I felt somehow vindicated that I had caught him being real and not some fake fanatical sports freak who has to watch every minute of those games in order to be American.

“Aha!” I said. “You are tired of it all, aren’t you?”

I smiled in victory.

He looked at me, scowled and pointed the remote to the TV. He flipped it to NBC and I saw that the local news was on.

I looked back at my beloved.

He said, “It’s two weeks every four years. Quit your whining.”

Rambling Writing is Good for the Soul

“Ramblin’, Ramblin’, Rambling,
Keep those doggies rambling,
I write!”

My introduction to the tune of Rawhide may give you an indication of my mood. I am all over the place today. Silly, sad, energetic and downright pooped.

Let me ramble a bit to take the edge off. For me, this is better than strong drink.

My friend Kay suggested I try Indian food. I have never been one to try new foods. Just not interested in that kind of cultural experience. I ate some Russian cuisine when I traveled there in the early 90’s. Besides that, I stay away from the grilled snake and the Thai curry and the Japanese sushi. But Kay’s powers of persuasion got me to thinking that I should go for it. So on Tuesday I went to an Indian restaurant and had a little of everything on their buffet. I liked it. I enjoy a good sizzle.

But then…my body communicated to me all day long that although I may enjoy Indian food, Indian food does not enjoy my body. Enough said, right?

Oh well.

Last Friday night I went to my buddy Michal’s house and watched a new Anita Renfro DVD she’d bought called, “It’s Probably my Thyroid.” Anita is a Christian comedienne who is absolutely fun-nay! Her take on life gets you giggling and I especially enjoyed her routine about the thyroid gland and its peculiarities, because I, like so many other woman, have a bum thyroid.

My troubles with the dear gland started in 1985 when I gained 40 pounds in 3 months. I had no idea what was happening to me. Since then, I have taken a pill every day. Gets old, but so do I.

Well, a few months ago, I started gaining weight and feeling real tired. Went to the doctor and sure enough, my thyroid needed more oomph through medication. The last four or five months I have gone to the lab once a month, seen the doctor once a month and made changes to my medication. I have gone from dangerously low to significantly low to just a bit abnormally low.

Yesterday I went in to see the doctor and guess what? I am too high. Yep, that’s right. And because of that, I have had a type of insomnia for about a month.

I am fit to be tied. That’s a cool expression by the way. I am angry as a hornet’s nest. Another good cliché.

Now I must lower the dosage, come back in another month and see how it’s all going.

Oh well.

Why is it that doctors and nurses now-a-days use computers and not a big ole file of your history? Maybe that’s just my doctor’s office but instead of asking you questions and writing down the answers, they put all the info into a little laptop. I hate it because they spend most of your appointment looking at the screen and not you. Makes me wonder if they aren’t finishing up a game of Spider Solitaire while I recite my aches and woes.

The big folder comforted me. When my doctor walked into the examination room with it, I felt he carried my history in his hands and therefore a little connection to all that is Robbie.

Now I just watch him play Doctor Pac Man. I shoot him my info and he uses it like ammunition to kill whatever monster is on the screen.

Oh well.

And one more thing while I am rambling down rose lane into your hearts. Not long after I started this blog, I signed up for a thing that counts the number of people who visit my blog. It also tells when they visited and where they are from. Well, shortly after I installed this site meter counter, I noticed that one person was visiting me quite often. In fact, the person from Clarksville, Tennessee visited almost every day and sometimes many times a day.

At first, I was flattered. Then I started wondering just who this might be. Finally, I decided that Clarksville was my blog stalker. Concern came. I began going into my past and assigning names to Clarksville based on the people I have offended. I settled on one. My thoughts about this person grew from curiosity to resentment. Why didn’t she just leave me alone? Should I address her? No, she will lose interest. But after a couple of more months, Clarksville’s visitation was as consistent as always.

Finally, I spoke my concerns to my friend Loretta. What should I do? She had no suggestions, but something occurred to her.

“You know, Robbie, I, too, have someone from Clarksville, Tennessee that frequents my blog.”

“She must have gotten the link to your blog from mine.”

“Let’s try something, Robbie. Go to my blog right now.”

I did.

“Robbie, when you visited my blog, I got a visitor from Clarksville, Tennessee."

"Wow. What a coincidence that she visited you at the exact same time as I did."

Loretta gave me a look. "Robbie. One plus one equals?"

It hit me.

"The device I'm using to hook up to the internet must be from Clarksville."

Mystery solved! I felt foolish. Even a little sad. It was exciting for a while to have a fan so dedicated. But alas, no. No stalker. Just me. :0)

Oh well.

On the positive side of life, and there is always one if you think about it, I am enjoying writing, my family is all healthy and happy, my sister comes to see me in 3 weeks :0) and I am blessed to serve a God who puts up with my rambling writing and who loves me completely!

Go ahead...Make your own list!

I am thankful today. It’s not the fourth Thursday in November. No near death experiences that have made me grateful to be alive. I am just thankful.

So today, on the old blog, I am going to make a gratitude list. Hopefully you will get nudged in your heart and make your own. It opens up sunshine in dark skies and gives perspective when you can’t see farther than your own nose.

Here goes:

John’s peace – My husband’s temperament and trust in God come together to form this wonderful rock for me to lean on when my emotional mind twirls in circles.

Noah’s joy – His laughter is the best sound. The best.

Scooby’s loyalty – He likes me, he really likes me! :0)

Summer – the warmth, the sun, the chance to have the windows open all day.

Phil, Lory and Hunter – I get to live near some family. I am blessed.

Perry and fam and Karen and fam – my other sibs are just a call away.

Sarah, my stepdaughter – just cause she is who she is.

JoJo and Nanny – the most consistent givers I have ever met!

My writing friends who guide me, cheer for me and encourage me to write for an
Audience of One.

New friends – Denver friends!

Old friends – San Diego friends.

Lory and the Monday night Beth Moore Bible study – I have learned so much the last 10 weeks or so on how to guard my heart and keep it healthy for God.

Jubilee Fellowship Church and Pastor John Leech – I am so blessed to go to a church that serves up a banquet of spiritual food every week.

Moments of total joy this summer while hanging out with Noah.

Moments that taught me patience and perseverance this summer while
hanging out with Noah.

Good health. YES!

A car that runs.

A big wonderful bathtub.

My laptop.

Creativity and writing.

An agent who is pulling for me!

The joy of just being me.

And of course, not to sound too Sunday School-ish – Jesus! I cannot imagine a life without my Best Friend, my Lord, my Savior, the One who guides, my Rock, my Deliverer, my Redeemer, God of all Grace!

So there you have it! I am thankful.

Did you feel a nudge?

Go ahead and jot down a list and watch your heart grow two sizes bigger.

You Draw Us After You (My 100th Post!)

My nephew Justin is a book lover and when we get together, our conversations always include what we have been reading. He recommended to me Dave Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I just recommended to him Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It is delightful to have book friends. Last time we got together, he gave me the book Women, Men and Spiritual Power by John W. Coakley. It is a study of women, most considered saints, from 1100 to 1400 who wrote powerful messages describing and teaching the revelations God had given them. During that time, women were second class and divine insights from their gender proved suspicious. So, the church often assigned men to interpret and sometimes rewrite the essays of the women saints.

This book is filled with the writings of nine of those women and the nine men who were paired with them. I have just started it but can already sense that it will be full of golden nuggets of wisdom for my writing and me.

Gilbert of Gemblox wrote the first quote in the introduction to Hildegard of Bingenin 1175. His words moved me, a twenty-first century woman writer.

“When you come out from the cells of contemplation where the eternal king has so often brought you as his bride, your fruitfulness for us is something better than wine of the fragrance of the finest perfumes. For it is then that, through your writings, you make us partakers of the visions of holy things that you saw with unveiled face when you were in the embrace of your bridegroom. Running along quickly amid the fragrance of your perfumes, you draw us after you.”

I love this. When I read those words, it’s as if the Spirit spoke to my soul in inexpressible groanings (Romans 8:26), challenging me and encouraging me. The fruitfulness, the fragrance of Hildegard’s words were birthed in the cells of contemplation. Because she spent time alone with her groom, the God of all wonder, her words bore His fragrance. And the smell of God and His mercy is one that we all walk toward, whether we admit it or not.

Hildegard drew others after her because of Him.

My heart is filled with the longing to draw others after me to Him. What a joy, a privilege, an honor, and a delight it is to be able to communicate the love of God through words. But first, first I must spend time with Him. I must sit in His lap and feel His arms of unconditional love. First, I must sit at His feet and listen. Listen. Just shut up and listen. First, I must take the time to contemplate, ponder and meditate on His Scriptures.

Then and only then can I walk to my computer as His bride, ready to tell of the Lord’s joy in my life.

A word to my writer friends. Let us take time, each of us, to be with God and fall in love with Him. Let us take more time in listening to His words than coming up with our own. Let us run after Christ and then watch in humility and awe as others follow.

Ode to Scooby

One year ago, you came into our home,

A manic, hefty puggle of one,

Noah picked you out, love at first sight,

He saw you and knew you would be fun.

But not I, oh no, I saw trouble with fur,

You’re my little boy’s pup, not mine.

I’ll clean up your piles and buy the dog food,

But no affection, that’s where I draw the line.

You proved very quickly a startling trait,

Your colon blew often and everywhere,

I almost wrenched your puggle neck trying to teach you “Outside!”

But finally poopage occurred in the outside air.

You chewed my furniture with your little underbite,

Like it was your right, your duty to do,

Again, I thought we should throw you back,

Get a poodle or a mutt, just not you.

But then…

You started sitting on my toes every day when I’d write,

You’d look at me with tender big eyes,

You nursed me when I was sick with your sweet little fur,

And I loved watching you wrestle with my guys.

You started to chase bunnies and inspired me to chase mine,

You began cuddling with me at night,

I tried to resist becoming attached to a dog,

But your paws inched their way into my life.

And now…

You’re my baby, my Scooby, my precious little dog,

I wouldn’t trade you in for the world,

You follow me around and sit on my lap,

Hefty puggle wrapped up into a sweet little curl.

Noah and you still wrestle and John and you watch TV,

You still chase bunnies and love the dog park,

Your colon still blows, no a lot hasn’t changed,

Except you Scooby Doo are now in my heart.

Oh Well

I have made a discovery that is going to change your life! That’s right. I would like to share with you, my blog reader, two words that will make your existence on Planet Earth so much more peaceful than you could ever imagine.

Are you hooked? I am not going to sell you Snake Oil or some other kind of miracle drug. I am just going to present you will two simple words that, if used properly, can make every day’s worries fly away like a feather in the wind. (Picture the end of Forrest Gump.)

So here they are: “Oh well.” That’s it. “Oh, well.” You can use the comma and pause between oh and well or not. Punctuation, emotional tone and emphasis are strictly user driven. But let me explain the uses and benefits of “Oh, well.”

If you happen to be in a heat wave, as many of us in the US of A are, and you don’t have air conditioning in your house, you may be tempted to complain and even rant through the sweat-induced fog covering your eyes. And say that last night your bedroom’s fan, (an enormous monstrosity of a fan because your bedroom is the hottest place in the house – imagine an Indian sweat lodge within a condo,) broke at 4 a.m. and your husband and you had to sleep in your living room with all the windows open. You may be tempted to have a bit of an attitude. But you don’t need to get all riled up and make it worse. Oh no. Just say the following: “I don’t have air conditioning and it is 101 degrees outside. I don’t have air conditioning and my high powered fan broke. Oh, well.”

Did you see that? Such power. Those words can turn your entire world around. Acceptance floods your soul and somehow your sweat dries up. Well, sorta.

What if your car’s radiator happens to blow up? I mean, completely blow up. You could find yourself uttering words your mama told you never to utter. You could find yourself blaming the person who sold you the car years ago. OR, you could use the two words that have power to change attitudes. “My car’s radiator just blew up. Oh well.” (No comma or pause there.)

Hey, how about if you happen to have a nine-year-old who has been with you all summer for almost 24 hours a day non-stop? Say you love the precious boy with all your heart but his face is not as welcome into your happy soul as it used to be. Like when he was in school part of the day. And say that wonderful little son of your heart grows a little attitude of familiarity with you and starts to treat you like a friend and not a mom. Say, you start having visions of putting a lock on the outside of his bedroom door. Another day dream is the one where he goes to visit a friend and the friend’s mom calls and says, “We love your son so much. Can he just stay here until the end of the summer?”

You don’t have to battle your guilt as you start putting X’s on the calendar counting down to the first day of school as if it was your last day of prison. You don’t have to.
Just look at the boy and sum up those two words, “Oh well.”

Not that these are my problems. Oh no. Well, actually. I have deleted names to protect the innocent…or guilty.

“Oh well” is not only an attempt to accept the things you can’t change, it is also a prayer. Maybe God is doing something within me that needs to be done. And the only way for Him to do it is through a massive heat wave with a huge fan breakdown, a dark explosion of radiator gas, and a sweaty, goofy little boy who has made button-pushing his favorite summer sport.

What can I say to the Creator of the Universe’s schemes to make me what He wants?

Oh well.

Grace Has Its Own Tiara

The last couple of weeks I have read Angela Hunt’s Uncharted and Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Uncharted is a work of fiction and Egger’s book, though autobiographical, reads like a novel. Both good books. But variety makes life juicier not just more spicy, so I chose as my next book a nonfiction work my friend Kay recommended to me.

I am now reading, or should I say eating up, Brendon Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I am only in chapter three and I can tell this is one of those books that can change me from the inside out.

It’s all about grace, a theme in my life for the past couple of years.

See, in my past, I desperately wanted to be Super Christian. This was the aim of my life as if I were going for a pageant title, complete with Super Christian sash and tiara. Try as I might, I never felt close to winning. The days that I did sense I was close to becoming the Queen of all things spiritual were also days that I walked around hiding the real me. That part of me that is just icky. I am selfish and prideful, impatient and gluttonous.

Not exactly pageant material.

But life happened and God started to explain to me gently, okay sometimes not so gently, that seeking to be Super Christian was the equivalent to wanting to be a Pharisee. Yep. Like those guys in the Bible that Jesus called snakes. Yikes.

But God, I just want to be good. I mean spiritual. I mean, a good spiritual Christian. Isn’t that what You want?

My Christian bubble exploded. The balloon that held all my Christian hot air deflated.

Robbie, I just want you. Just as you are.

Brendon Manning completely summed up my mindset when he wrote, “Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, ‘I think I can fix this.’”

That’s me. Before I truly opened my heart to God’s freedom, I needed to fix up myself and make sure I looked all “perty” and beauty queen-like.

Didn’t work.

Another quote from The Ragamuffin Gospel:

“God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”

Ahhh. It feels good to let go. I love not being in the Super Christian pageant circuit anymore. I am who I am. Instead of being the Queen of all things Spiritual, I am just a regular old Popeye.

Sometimes I eat too much. God cherishes me.

I don’t read my Bible every day. God adores me.

I can be a real jerk to people who annoy me. God wants to dance with me everyday.

I am NOT A GOOD CHRISTIAN! (Is there such a thing?) God delights in the dorky, fun, overweight, impatient, loving, greedy, kind and simpleton that I am.

His Grace is Enough!

If you are getting ready for the Super Christian pageant, I urge you to put the duck tape and Vaseline down and just be yourself. Take a nap. Walk around at night and thank God for the stars. Watch a movie and laugh out loud.

He loves you without a sash and tiara. Just as you are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Easy Access to Joy

I love dancing. The book that I am writing deals with dancing and the overwhelming freedom I have in a life of dancing with Jesus. I ran across the following video on Megan DiMaria's blog and just adored it. The guy is Matt Harding and he traveled the world making this video, first just for fun and then because a sponsor paid for it. One of his favorite moments was in Rawanda when a bunch of kids joined him in dancing. He said he could sense the "access to joy."
That's it. Dancing is an access to joy.

Watch this video and I bet you will feel yourself accessing the joy that movement and music can so easily give.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just a little more...contentment?

A couple of months ago, a little boy came over to play with Noah. Nice kid, nice family. The two new friends had a good time in our condo.

As the little boy left to go back to his house, he said to Noah, “You gotta come over to our house and play. The trampoline in our backyard is as big as your whole house.”

Noah responded, “Mom, can I go over right now?”

He didn’t know to be insulted. Good for him. I, on the other hand, immediately bought some apps and had a pity party.

My home is not a huge place to live. It is, however, a nice, comfy home with lots of love. But the Enemy loves to sneak up on me and whisper thoughts of discontentment. It happens often.

When we lived in California, we lived in a series of small rented homes or apartments. Every month we would have dinner with two other couples who owned huge homes. Our standard self-defacing joke became, “We rent, but we’re good people.”

So when we moved to Denver and were able to buy our own condo, I felt so grateful. I own walls! That door is mine! This closet belongs to me. It was quite a feeling of joy. Victory, even.

So now, here I am, fighting the contentment war. Again. Why can’t I just be content with what I have? Why do I have that little cringing feeling when I go to a friend’s house who has a living room AND a den. When I visit a fellow writer who happens to have an actual office for a writing space, I have that moment where I must immediately choose my reaction. Do I choose honest joy for her and gratitude for what I DO have? Or do I open the little door that releases the floodgate of resentment, first with drops of jealousy and then a deluge of discontentment?

Yesterday I received absolutely wonderful news. A wonderful literary agency offered me to represent me. Talk about excited. You’d think that kind of joy in my life would give me such a thankful heart that nothing could diminish the thrill of today.

And yet…this morning Noah and I were invited to go to a fellow writer’s house. Her home is absolutely gorgeous. I was fine with that. But before we visited them, we made a plan for her son to come back with us after a couple of hours to our home to play with Noah. Uh-oh. Once again, I had that moment of decision. God is so gracious and kind and helped me to choose gratitude. I looked around at our condo and I thanked Him for our big bathtub, (I lived with just a shower for years) the washer and dryer, (we used to budget a roll of quarters for laundry every week) and our living room with the amazing windows (I love the light we get.)

Because of God’s strength, I was able to make a choice to take pleasure in her house and enjoy my home and the chance to offer hospitality to her family.

Contentment is a choice. One that reaps a peaceful heart and a grateful spirit. I wish this came naturally for me. It doesn’t.

When Noah and her son were talking about swimming at our condo’s pool, Noah told him, “Well we don’t have a pool in our backyard. We live in apartments.”

My first reaction?

Noah, it’s a condo, not an apartment!

Lord, help me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What are you prepared to do?

I talked to my sister Karen recently about our goals and she quoted a line from “The Untouchables.” In her best (which I’m sorry, sis, is not great) Sean Connery accent she told me, “Robbie, what are you prepared to do?”

(This is what Sean Connery as a beat cop, asked Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness.)

I keep thinking of that line. What am I prepared to do? God has given me a dream, a vision of my life and what I can be. But He has made it clear that the dream will not be handed to me on a platter. I am not going to win any lottery. I am not going to be a best selling author overnight. I will not wake up tomorrow miraculously in shape and thinner. So therefore, what am I prepared to do? Do, as in actions. Not dreaming or making lists or talking about how great it will be. But doing!

Last week, I visited the Shrine of Democracy. This is the nickname for Mount Rushmore. Quite a thrill to gaze up and see the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln keeping watch over the country. I can be cynical when it comes to patriotism, but standing below these forefathers of our country my cynicism vanished. Go USA!

We rented the audio tour and passed it around as we walked the half mile President’s walk, a little hike that gives different views of Mount Rushmore as well as provides little stops where you can listen to the audio commentary and learn all sorts of facts.

For example:

• Borglum, the man who sculpted the model and took charge of the project, chose the place and the four presidents.

• It took 400 men and 12 years to complete.

• Theodore Roosevelt was the most controversial choice, but Borglum insisted that Roosevelt, his friend, deserved the honor for his development efforts with the Panama Canal and his major work in conservation.

• The Black Hills, though granite, are seen as black because of the black trees gracing their slopes, not because of the rock.

What stood out to me the most were 1) the process and 2) the reasons behind the choices for the four presidents.

The process consisted of the following:

• Borglum’s vision and sculpting a model

• A brilliant mind doing the math

• A “pointer” going on the mountain and marking it using the math

• Many men drilling holes using the marks

• Many men putting dynamite in holes and blasting away

• More men using jack hammers and chisels to carve the likenesses

• Finally, men polishing it all up


What were they prepared to do? Every time any man went up on the mountain, they trusted their life to 1920s cables and other men. They risked their lives to carve faces into a mountain.

They were prepared to do the work, the difficult time-consuming work for the sake of Borglum’s vision.

No instant gratification. No short term results. Just hard work based on vision.

The four presidents were chosen based on four principles each man represented in building our country.

George Washington – The Birth of our nation

Thomas Jefferson – The Growth of our nation

Theodore Roosevelt – The Conservation of our nation

Abraham Lincoln – The Preservation of our nation

What were they prepared to do? WHATEVER IT TOOK.

God can use anything to teach us and propel us to become more of what He wants us to be. He used Mount Rushmore and my sister to give me perspective and a much needed kick in the pants.

See, He has given me a vision of my own mountain. My life, my dream. An art work that He, the ultimate artist/sculptor has already fashioned for me. The model for my dream is finished. But it is up to me to do the work for His vision to become reality in my life. I must do the math and drill and explode for Christ. It is up to me to work through the birth of ideas, the growth of my writing, the conservation of my talent and the preservation of my faith.

What am I prepared to do? Am I prepared to have no instant gratification? To risk my security? To work long hard hours with no short term results?

I hope I am. I want to be.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Perseverance. Am I prepared to persevere?

What about you? What is the vision God has given you? What are you prepared to do?


Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Fireworks of an Independent Husband

Shimmering blue and flaming red fireflies splashed across the black expanse. Gold dust flickered everywhere. Long strands of silver diamonds danced in rows as if they were forming a glowing conga line. Spectacular explosions lit up the sky.

Friday night I went to the Rockies Fourth of July baseball game. My nephew and his wife are visiting from Albuquerque so it was a family night with the three Iobsts, my brother and his family and our visitors from New Mexico. I am blessed by my extended family. We love hanging out and laughing and Friday was no exception.

The game provided a roller coaster ride for us. After the first inning, the Marlins were beating the Rockies 5 to 1. Didn’t look good. But in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Rockies pulled ahead and won the game 18-17. Talk about exciting.

And then, the sky exploded. From our seats, the fireworks were almost directly above
us - right there. I mean, right there. Very loud but incredibly spectacular.

As I sat and enjoyed the display, gratitude filled me. What a country! What a blessing it is for me to able to afford to go to a Rockies game, eat a hot dog and see flaming beauty in performance.

Thank you, God.

But as I watched, I also started to feel my heart swell with love. Have you ever felt your heart swell? It feels like you breathed in too much air and you have to blow it out before you explode. A couple of times I fought back tears as I exhaled. Love for my husband came out in its own little fireworks display in my heart. Let me explain.

Earlier in the day, I wished John a happy Fourth of July.

His response: “Some 232 years ago a group of wild-eyed rebels decided to declare war on the most powerful nation on earth. They felt they were overtaxed and underrepresented. I just love this country.”

His comment, coupled with the essence of the man he is, moved me as I watched the fireworks.

See, John Iobst is changing before my eyes. It’s not a physical change and he hasn’t metamorphosed into someone I don’t know. And I don’t think he is going through a midlife crisis. It’s just that he, like the fireworks and those wild-eyed men, has exploded. He has had enough. The title of a book he read a while back sums it up: No More Mr. Christian Nice Guy.

When I married my man, he was wonderful and funny and loving. Still is. But when I married him, he was also passive and one who avoided confrontation. Not anymore. John is on this journey in which he is basically saying enough is enough. I will not be overtaxed and underrepresented anymore.

I have watched him tell others his opinion in no uncertain terms a few times the past year. It is wonderful and a bit, well, scary. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but change is never easy. And God has changed him. God’s love has seeped into my man’s soul. The result? A security and strong sense of self that has lit up my sky with some dazzling colors. Watching him go from a man who ignored or buried conflict to a man who stands up to it and gives a direct and sometimes unpopular opinion is an explosion of personality. I like it.

This wild-eyed rebel is also declaring his independence from fear and conformity by embracing a love that he left back a while ago: motorcycles. John has loved these two-wheeled rockets since he was very young. 30 years ago, he took a trip across the United States on one and created a lifetime of memories.

But time and circumstances and the defeat of dreams all worked together to take away his motorcycle hobby. A year or so ago, with security rising and his eyes getting wilder by the day, he said to me, “I would like to start riding again.” The revolution was beginning.

This Thursday, John, my brother Phil and two other men will go on a ten day motorcycle trip. The four wild-eyed men have declared their independence from fear and a society that yells “Be Safe,” at every turn.

I support John and I am excited for his adventure. I will not utter “Be careful,” as he rides off. Those men some 232 years ago didn’t need anyone telling them to be careful. They were at war. Risk was required. Can you imagine the minute men creeping through forests with their loaded muskets reminding themselves to be careful? No. Their directive was courage.

John is at war, too, in a way. The Enemy of his soul wants him to be a nice man who avoids danger and makes sure that everyone around him is pleased with his behavior. As his wife, to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t mind a nice man who avoids danger and makes sure that society is pleased with him. But deep down, I know that is not who God made my husband to be.

So I sit back and enjoy the fireworks in my husband’s life. Last night, the fireflies and gold dust and silver strands of diamonds were met with oohs and aahs. I looked up, my heart swelling, and I whispered, “Go God.”

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why I am not Feeling the Blog Thing ...Part 1

It is difficult to put energy into blogging while I am working on my book.

Garrison Keillor said, "It's like a major illness having a book in the works...You try to keep a life going, raise a child, try to be a spouse, have friendships. People aske you, 'How is the book coming?' You say, 'It's coming great.' What else are you going to say?"

I was talking to fellow writer Loretta who is working on this fabulous historical novel (I've read excerpts) and she completely agreed.

In fact, for Part 2 of this thought, visit Loretta's blog at www.lorettaoakes.blogspot.com or click on Complimentary Thoughts on my blog roll on right.

Of course, Loretta will post when she gets time and energy to do this, which may not be right now which completely makes my point!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Review of William Young's The Shack

I finished reading William Young’s The Shack on Sunday. Wow. Very good book, but not for the reasons I usually call a book good.

First of all, it is not an easy read but it is not a literary work of genius either. It is a story filled with insights about God. Some of these thoughts are absolutely wonderful and fresh, but are at times difficult to ingest. Maybe it’s the size of my brain or my theological background, but I just didn’t get it all. Kind of the way I still don’t totally understand C.S. Lewis. It is not a great literary work because of the lack of action. Most of the book is dialogue. But it is a good book because of the fresh insights.

Second, it is a good book because it takes that little box we all put God into and fills up the box with dynamite and explodes it. I love this. I find myself trying to “get” God and “define” God all the time. I think it is only natural. Like when I see Jesus in my mind, the picture somewhat resembles this guy who is in the Matthew DVDs we bought a while back. William Young paints a picture of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that will blow away any portrait image you may have of the Trinity.

Third, it is thought provoking. I found myself asking questions about the way I see life and the mysteries of life after reading certain chapters. Any book that gets you to do that is good.

However, I do have two cautions about the book.

First, it deals with a tragedy concerning a child. Hard to read. Period.

Second, this is a book. A work of fiction with a lot of truth in it. But still a book. What I mean is that it is not the Bible, although Young and his editors paint a beautiful picture of The Great I Am. But it is not the definitive picture. God is even bigger and more mysterious and far reaching and weird and indefinable than what this book portrays.

So, in summary, good book, well worth reading. A book that God can use in your life to stretch your outlook and explode any box you may be keeping Him inside. But it is still a book, and therefore, not the ultimate last word on God. I don’t think Young was aiming at that anyway. I believe He wanted to use the book to propel readers on to a relationship with God that has no limits. But because we, as readers, often use images from books to create truths in our minds, a danger exists that we will read The Shack and use its images to define God. Thus, exchanging our little box of what God is for another box.

I hope you pick it up and I would love to hear what you thought. Happy Reading!