Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Catching Up and Dancing

As of today I have been sick for three weeks. I have been to the doctor twice and now understand that I have bronchitis. Thank you Jesus for good drugs. Today I woke up feeling good. Not 100%, but good.

So allow me to ramble about what’s going on and end with my Dancing with the Stars spiel!

When you are sick, everything is grayer and muddier. This is my excuse. Lately, I have returned very few emails or phone calls. The couch and my blanket have been my closest friends. And of course, the best dog in the world – Scooby Doo Iobst!

Crack Cocaine Cable continues to be both my newest joy and the source of my greatest angst. We discovered our VCR was useless with digital cable. So we ordered DVR. The sneaky corporate cable czars win again. But what else could I do? Heroes, John’s favorite show, is on at the same time as Dancing with the Stars. TV schedulers do vex me!

And by the way, I have now reduced the time it takes to turn on the TV from five to two minutes. What is the deal with AUX, TV, CABLE, POWER and ALL ON BUTTONS?
What am I, a TV engineer?

The stock market and proposed bailout seemed like a world away to me, but then Washington Mutual, our bank, fell and was bought by J P Morgan Chase. When I heard the news I went to the bank expecting to see Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) telling Jimmy Stewart she only needed $14 to hang on. (That’s a scene about a bank run from It’s a Wonderful Life) But everything was calm and fine. My dear husband John offers sanity when I start to panic.

And speaking of panic, did you see all the TV news channels yesterday and how they kept broadcasting fear and doom and fear and doom? Once again, I called John, explaining to him that the sky was falling. He calmly asked me to look down by my feet. He was correct. Just like Chicken Little, it was only an acorn.

Saturday I felt good so I went to my son’s soccer game (his team is undefeated!) and then my nephew’s football game (he seems so big in a football uniform) and then over to some friend’s house for chili. It was the hottest chili I have ever eaten in my life. Ever. I am from Texas. This was hotter than anything I have even taste-tested. But it was SOOO good. Thank you Aaron! My pancreas, unfortunately, is still charred.

Yesterday after my doctor’s appointment I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to spend a gift card I received for my birthday. Thanks Joani! Wow. Have you been to this store? They have everything. I was a little overwhelmed but very happy.

And now to my take on Dancing with the Stars last night. Each couple danced either the Rumba, a romantic slow dance full of passion or the Paso Doble, an aggressive intense dance, full of drama.

My favorites were Warren Sapp and Susan Lucci. He is this big ole football player who is incredibly light on his feet. His Paso Doble was fantastic. Susan Lucci danced a beautiful Rumba, very graceful and light.

I love watching dancing. Movement and music is an ethereal mix that crushes negative energy. It just does. Part of my get healthier scheme is dancing. I bought a Dancing with the Stars DVD. Pros from the show teach you how to do different dances. Max taught me how to do the Paso Doble, of at least sort of. It sure feels good to pretend I am a bull fighter and a graceful one at that. Of course, after I learned it I thought I should show my skills to John and Noah.

“Hold on, you guys. Watch this.”

I put some music on and danced for my beloved husband and son.

Their reactions? Well, I guess you could say it was somewhere between shock and confusion.

Oh well. :0)

As for tonight’s results show, I predict Rocco or Kim will go home. Although my favorite Cloris was at the bottom of the scores again, I still voted for her several times. She wasn’t at her best last night, but we need to give her more chances. She is so entertaining!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Decades of my Gap, Glory and All!

I saw this on Kay's blog and just had to have a laugh at myself, too. You can yearbook yourself at www.yearbookyourself.com.

This is me in 1952.

This is me in 1954. I am a dead ringer for a picture I've seen of my aunt Carol Jo.

In 1960 I was quite a looker.

In 1966 I was actually four years old.

This is 1980 - I actually had this hairstyle sometime in the 80s.

And finally, this is 1996, the year I was married. How could John resist?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dancing with the Stars

The first results show of Dancing with the Stars held good news and bad news.

Bad news: Poor Ted McGinley got booted off the island. He worked very hard to learn the dances and to me, looked handsome and elegant. He just doesn’t have the fan base to remain. But at least he didn’t kill the show, right?

Have you heard of the term “Jumping the Shark?” It refers to the scene in Happy Days in which Fonzie strapped on a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. This was one of the last episodes of Happy Days and the Fonzie stunt has come to symbolize the ending of a show. The time when series seem to be on their way out and attempt some crazy things to try to keep the show alive. Remember Robbie on The Brady Bunch? Classic jumping the shark. Anytime you hear the words “Tune in for a special episode
of...” start looking for a shark.

Well, Ted McGinley has been on a few series (Happy Days is one of them) toward the end of its run. So much so, he kind of signifies jumping the shark. In fact, when ABC announced that Ted McGinley would be part of Dancing with the Stars 7th season, some wondered if this meant the end of the show. Time will tell, but I don’t think so. Ted added class. No sharks in sight.

Good news: Cloris Leachman lives to dance another week! Yay!! I got an email from a Texas friend of mine (Hi Linda) who told me her 82-year-old mother loves Dancing, and in fact used to be a dancer. To her, Cloris Leachman is an inspiration, a hoot and a breath of fresh aired hope. Her mom doesn’t dance anymore, but sits on the edge of her nursing home bed and watches Dancing, cheering for Cloris. Linda thanked me for voting for Cloris. I did it because I love to watch this woman in action, but will keep doing it for the wonderful folks like Linda’s mom who are inspired by seeing someone their age give the young un’s a taste of real entertainment!

Who knows what Cloris will do next week? I for one, will tune it and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dancing with the Stars!

You know if you look for it, you can see the glory of God, the joy of God’s creation and the exquisite complexity of God in most any art form. I see His humor and His inspiration when I watch Dancing with the Stars.

Last night, I saw the beauty of God in her.

She is wild, she is funny and she is 82 years old. She’s Cloris Leachman!

Christians, don't get all legalistic on me. I'm not saying she is a Christian or not. I have no idea. What I'm saying is that God the creator of all and the Master Dance Teacher made Cloris Leachman and gave her an incredible gift to entertain. When she exercises her gift from God, how can I not see Him? And last night, well she used her gift.

Last night on Dancing with the Stars this incredible woman did a mambo like no other. It was kind of a cross between Carmen Miranda swaying with a fruit basket on her head and Lucille Ball in the smashing grapes skit on “I Love Lucy.” I laughed out loud!

But she got the lowest score. Why? Well, she doesn’t have a body that can wiggle as fast as the mambo should go. Her osteoporosis doesn’t allow for a lot of hip shaking and chest shimmying.

You know what I say? So what! Ms. Leachman was by far the most entertaining of any of the 12 couples. (Jeffrey Ross got eliminated. I saw that one coming, poor guy.) Cloris knows how to connect with an audience and her sense of confidence and humor are absolutely delightful.

She is a true performer. Leachman has one 8 Emmys, 2 Golden Globes and 1 Oscar. She knows what makes an audience pay attention. I went to see the movie “The Women” with my sister a couple of weeks ago. It was okay. But she stood out as a housekeeper with a background supporting role. Every scene she was in, she stole.

So why not let her steal the show again and again this season on “Dancing with the Stars?” I say keep this unbelievable role model for women and let the youngest kid go. Of course he has all those Hannah Montana fans and they know how to text votes. And fast!

I voted for Cloris Leachman and my fingers were tired from hitting redial after only 3 times. But hey, Cloris, I tried.

We’ll find out the results tomorrow. I hope she gets to stay another week. Her charisma lights up the dance floor and the show.

I am 46 as of a couple weeks ago. Watching her gives me hope that age is not the ultimate dictator of what a person can or can’t do. In the pre-dance interview Cloris’s professional partner Corky (not the guy from “Waiting for Guffman” :0)) told her the Mambo originated in Cuba in the 40’s.

Cloris’s response, “So I am older than this dance?”

Maybe in years, Cloris. But in attitude, your mambo moves are all young. And fabulous! Go Cloris!

And thanks God.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dancing with the Stars!

Last night. I couldn’t help but giggle when 82 year-old Cloris Leachman hoisted her leg up on the desk to show off while Bruno, a judge described her dancing as floating on the Battleship Geriatric.

I felt so bad for Susan Lucci, aka Erica Kane of All My Children, when she danced like a stiff robot, obviously terrified – not Erica-ish at all.

What was I watching?

Dancing with the Stars, the 7th season, debuted last night!

For those of you who might be high-minded and have those silly standards against reality TV...well you just click away right now and go read some Jane Eyre. Or have some Earl Grey tea...and learn some new fancy words.

For the rest of you, here's my dishing on the whole shebang last night!

First of all, I love the attitude of the show. It’s just fun! I didn't know everyone, including Cody somebody from Hannah Montana, and Maurice, a track star or Kim Kardashian, apparently a reality TV star on some cable show. But the ones I did recognize I really enjoyed watching. I just love the show!
Maybe it’s the romantic fantasy of dancing like Cinderella at the ball. All eyes on you as you captivate the Prince’s heart.

Maybe it’s because I get to watch people who don’t know how to dance go through the process of learning. If they can do it, maybe I can?

It’s probably because of the inherent joy in dancing. A quality of energy and hopeful expectancy exists with movement to music.

As I watched last night, it occurred to me that the two stars who did the best displayed a quality lacking in the others. Lance Bass of InSync fame and Warren Bass, a professional football player both walked onto the dance floor with an attitude of “going for it.” They hid their fear and truly seemed to enjoy every step.

The other stars, each to a certain extent, began this journey with obvious fear. The steps of the Cha-Cha or the Fox Trot were exacted with a seriousness and compulsive need for perfection. No room for just fun.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the parallels to our dance with God. I know I find myself at times thinking I have to be perfect. I have to get the steps right. I need to take this Christian walk of mine seriously, seriously, seriously.

But you know what? When that happens, I seem to squish out the joy! I worry so much about being Miss Perfect Christian that doing the Cha-Cha with my Savior becomes an exercise in getting my footwork right and standing up straight. Is that the point of the dance? No.

The point of the dance is to connect with joy to God and to the music. That is the point of my Christian walk. Or is it?

As we go through our own Dancing with the Morning Star, are we in it for a disco ball award? Or are we in it for the joy of the moment, the relationship with our ultimate Dance Teacher.

Last night, the best dances were the ones that we watched with joy because the dancers were joyful.

Is my dance with God joyful? Is yours? Or are we so busy looking at our footwork, are we missing seeing His eyes?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why not try this?

In the past few months, my plans for getting away by myself to just hang out with Jesus have been thwarted 3 times. Last Thursday I said to John, “I have to go! If it’s okay with you, I am going to go on Saturday no matter what.”

John wholeheartedly supported me, so Saturday morning I got in the car and drove to Benet Pines Retreat Center, a wonderful place run by nuns. The only cabin available for me was a four bedroom home, spacious, comfortable but huge. Last time I stayed there I got freaked out at night. It is located by itself in the middle of a forest. When you go outside at night, it is dead black. No lights. Nothing. I’ve seen too many horror movies. So this time, I asked a few people to pray for me at night. God helped me have no fear this time.

In a nut shell, it was wonderful. Being alone and not talking for 24 hours is fabulous, but strange. This was my fourth time to do this, so it was easier than before. No phones, no internet, no TV, no Digital Cable. Just silence. Except for birds and wind and occasional music I played on my boom box.

Someone asked me what in the world I did, so I thought I would give you the highlights and encourage you to try this. It is a vital practice to my sanity and spiritual growth, especially because I am on a journey that involves a lot of risk and rejection.

I always start by taking a nap. A long restful nap. So many times when you travel, getting there is exhausting. The retreat center I go to is only forty-five minutes from my home, but the planning and packing and going takes energy, mostly mental. So I make sure to take a wonderful nap first and foremost.

If I feel sleepy at anytime, I rest. Freedom is vital. I don’t get away so I can complete some sort of religious checklist. I go to hang out with God and get restored in a way that solitude can accomplish better than most anything else.

Some of the other things I do or have done:

• Walk around and pray.

• Read. I try to take at least one book with me that will challenge my spirituality or encourage me to growth with God. I have taken Joyce Meyer’s Battle of the Mind, St John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul and Lost in Wonder by Esther De Waal to name three.

• I journal and write. Of course, I do this. I love to talk to God through writing.

• I sit and listen. Some of the best moments I have are when I just sit and listen to the sounds of nature. If I get antsy, I have discovered that deep breathing and reading poetry help me to settle down again. Then I just sit and listen again.

• I sit and stare at the stars. Every time I go, I bundle up and sit outside and look up at the beautiful dark wonder of God, sprinkled with shining diamonds. I used to do this a lot as a kid, so this practice always relaxes me and makes me happy.

• I sing. No one minds because I am alone. :0)

• I dance. There is something absolutely sacred about dancing for the Lord in the midst of a candle lit room. Alone. Uninhibited.

• I meditate on Scriptures. My brother Phil, who is my teacher and inspiration in getting away on these retreats, (His ministry Caleb’s Heart encourages these kind of retreats called WAAWGs-Weekends almost alone with God) taught me the practice of lectivo divina, a Benedictine ritual of just reading Scripture and taking time to let it really soak in.

• I fix myself good food.

• I drink hot tea.

• I do what I feel I need. My sister in law Lory gave me a Dean Martin CD for my birthday. I love, love, love Dean Martin’s voice. So on my 24 hour retreat, I took a very long bubble bath while listening to my favorite crooner.

The most important thing is to just connect with God and let Him love me. He wants to. He wants to love you, too. He loves me and you through our busy schedules. But I believe He yearns to have dates with us, be them short or long. But taking 24 hours to just be with Him has become something of a need for me. It’s like when you discover a great hair dresser who makes you feel good and look good, too. You naturally want to go back and experience that joy again. God is better than the best hairdresser. :0)

If you stumble onto this blog, or you are a regular reader, I know that it is not a coincidence that you are reading this. Take a minute and think about trying to get away by yourself for 24 hours. Away from family, friends, media. Many books are in your library that will help you figure out what to do during the time. Retreat centers are located near you. You just have to purpose yourself to do this. If you want my help or prayer email me robbieiobst at hotmail.com and it would be my HONOR to answer questions or pray for you as you go.

My 24 hours away didn’t change my life. I am not on some spiritual high or feel I need to go to the mall and preach in the food court. In fact, after 10 days of feeling poorly, I am still sick with a cold, hacking away.

But you know what? My soul is at peace. I am content. I am rested. And I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God loves me right now, just as I am.

I know because I gave Him a chance to tell me over and over. And over.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


It has been brought to my attention that I, yes me, a writer trying desperately to learn the craft, may overuse exclamation points!!!

Are you kidding me?!!!

I don’t agree with this at all!

Yes I am screaming!

Well, maybe I will stop using exclamation points!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

When is it Time for Change?

Have you ever been walking along a path, happy with the scenery, humming to yourself and truly enjoying the moment? It’s nice, isn’t it?

But then, you happen upon a fork in the road. You’ve been here before. No surprise. You always go to the right. The trail is scenic with wild daisies and marigolds lining your way as if cheering you on in a parade. Rose bushes are only about a fourth of a mile down and at this time of year they promise fullness of joy peaking out and greeting you.

So you know if you go right, you will be glad. Comfortable. Easy.

But this day, the left path looks inviting.


Is it time for change?

When is it time for change?

Anyone got an opinion?

I’m truly curious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Will Not Lose Heart

“Therefore, since through God's mercy
we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
2 Corinthians 4:1

Yesterday I received a rejection that really hurt. My soul seemed to explode and I laid down on my bed and began bawling. Now to put it in perspective, I am sick and therefore my emotions have easy access – no waiting – right this way – on ramps- to my tear ducks. But you know what? The rejection just hurt. Really hurt.

Everyone of us experiences pain. Joint pain and muscle pain. Relationship pain. The other day I ran my toe into a corner wall by our kitchen and it just about killed me. Well, for a moment anyway. Then I was fine. Okie-dokie. Ready for another step and possible crash.

I guess that is the cool thing about pain. Most of the time pain passes. It comes and goes like a storm, raining down on me one moment, but leaving the next. I can count on the fact that I will not feel this way forever. I won’t go around bawling constantly.

At least, I hope not.

Pain is also an effective teacher. God knew this when He decided to let each of us deal with the consequences of our actions. How many times have I blown it and reaped the fruits of my actions. But many times I learned. Like a baby who doesn’t touch a hot stove more than once. I adjusted.

My philosophy-ing doesn’t take the edge off the emotions. My heart still hurts. I ache with this little tinge of hopelessness. The sting of rejection is a stab of hurt at first, then just a wicked throbbing.

I hurt.

Ruth Bell Graham had a great life. But she hurt. Sometimes she hurt badly. She wrote a poem that I love. It’s the only poem I’ve ever memorized. (I like that it’s short. :0) )

It fits today.

Spare not the pain, Lord,
Spare not the pain.

Though the way I take be lonely and dark,
Though the whole soul ache.
For the flesh must die,
Though the heart may break.

Spare not the pain, Lord,
Oh, spare not the pain.

The pain is good for me. And I must not forget perspective. My family is healthy. I do not write for income, thank God. I am not grieving the loss of anyone I love or wondering how I will ever rebuild the house the hurricane took.

When I sit at a laptop, I rarely feel pain. I feel freedom and joy and creativity. But when I submit my writing, pain comes often.

So why do it? Am I a masochist? Here editor, tell me how much this will not sell.

No. I do it because I believe.

I believe that God has called me to write.

I believe in the gift God has given me.

I believe in hope.

I believe in the possibility that God may expand my borders and use my writing to help someone else.

I believe. Because of this, I can’t lose heart.

So today I may cry. I may cuss. I may drink a little bit to take the edge off.

But today I will not quit believing.

And I will not quit writing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's coming...and I am excited.

Okay, I will admit it. Here I go.

My name is Robbie and I am a Dancing with the Stars addict.

(Hi Robbie)

It's been a few months since the last season's show. But next Monday, the thrill ride starts again. Why do I love this show you ask? Why, Robbie, why?

I'll tell you.

1) The Elegance - I love watching the sweeping movements of the Waltz and the pretty precision of the Quick Step.

2) The Competition - It is fun to guess what score the judges will give the stars.

3) The Bonding - The star list is not necessarily A list stars, so I find myself getting to know (in a fan watching TV way, not a stalker way) celebrities I didn't know before. Last season, Marissa Janet Winokur, danced her way to the final four. She is a big girl and showed that dancing doesn't only belong to the slender. I bonded with her! (Once again, not in a stalker kind of way)

4) The Pros - Watching someone who really knows the skill of dancing is a pleasure for me, an artist/writer. I love seeing the gifts of God celebrated. Even if God isn't given credit. I know who the Master Dancer is.

5) The Stars - This season Susan Lucci (Erica of All My Children) is dancing. That will be a hoot to watch. Also Cloris Leachman who is 82 years old is giving it a shot. I admire these women and their courage to do this. They are sending a wonderful message that aging doesn't need to stop the joy of gliding over the dance floor.

So there it is. A true confession. Monday night will be a night of joy dancing in my house!

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Sickness and Health

I haven't blogged the last couple of days because I am sick. Two weeks ago Noah caught an infection. The doctor said it was an adenoidal virul infection. He missed 3 days of school which is unheard of for him. Then John came down with it and had to work from home every day last week.

I possessed a glimmer of hope that it would pass me by. I wondered if there was any kind of faux lamb's blood that I could possibly smear on my forehead in order to be passed over. (That's a reference to a Bible story and an attempt at humor - remember I'm sick.)

I was in a movie theatre Friday morning when I felt sort of achy. As my sister and I walked out, I said, "Oh no, Karen. I don't feel good."


Within a couple of hours, I felt miserable. Karen left last night. I pray God truly chooses to pass over her house.

So I am miserable and achy and coughing and using lots of kleenex.

A good thing (and there is ALWAYS a good thing if you look for it) is that this sickness again affirms what a blessed and God-given gift my marriage is to me. When John was sick, the parameters were clear to me. Ask him occasionally if he needs something. Otherwise, leave him alone. He likes to be left by himself, cave-like, when he is sick. I know this. I followed the rules. He finally got better.

Now it's my turn. John, dear wonderful John, knows my parameters. I do not like to be left alone. I will not go into a cave. Instead, I want to be pampered, babied, listened to, served and coddled. If we had extra money for a home nurse I would ask for one. John knows this. He has already followed the rules. I will get better.

Thank you Jesus for a marriage that knows the rules, in sickness and health.

If you read this, pray that I will get better quickly. I've already had to cancel three things I was really looking forward to. But it is no big deal. I look at the TV and see those folks in the Gulf Coast and everything is put into perspective.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Let's Pray

Sometimes all you can do is pray and get some kind of covering!

Funny picture, but serious request - Let's all pray for those in the path of Hurricane Ike. I can't imagine the fear some people are going through today.

Father, cover them with Your strength, Your grace and mercy. May Your name be lifted up in this scary time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Closer my Lord to Thee...and 50

Thank you for the many birthday greetings I received through comments on my blog,emails and phone calls. I am blessed!

It was a great birthday, despite the fact that my husband John caught what Noah had last week and has been quite sick. Since carrying a tissue box and walking like a zombie is not party material, he stayed home with Noah last night and I went out with the girls.

Before I went I stopped by the bank. I was just happy. Silly happy, probably walking around with a goofy look on my face. At the bank I met a new teller, a blond girl who seemed very sweet. As she processed my transaction, a song came over the sound system. Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know?"

"Oh, man." I said. "This brings back such a good memory."

I was instantly transported. Big hair in Texas. Just out of college. Dancing around my apartment. Hoping and praying that a certain young man would love me. But "How Will I Know" I sang aloud.

"This is a great song." The teller agreed.

I was still locked in nostalgia.

"It was 1985. I remember it so well." I couldn't help but grin.

"1985?" The blond teller asked. "Oh, I wasn't alive yet."

Grin vanished.

Then it came back with a giggle.

"Thanks so much." I laughed. "Today is my birthday!"

As I drove to meet my sister, sis-in-law and another friend, the thought occured that I am closer to 50 than 40.


Oh well. I still can dance. I don't have to wonder "how will I know." I know.

Maybe I will find a new bank.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Birthday Joy!

Today is my birthday! Today I say that with joy and gratitude, not with reluctance. I don't expect gifts, except from my immediate family here in Denver. Yet sometimes I feel if I tell people it's my birthday they will feel obligated to do something for me. No need.

But I like my birthday. Good memories despite the fact that my parents weren't into celebrating with big parties. Maybe that's why I seem to overdo it a bit now. I am thankful to be alive and 46. I am so blessed with my life. I have a terrific family, lovely friends and a fulfilling relationship with my Creator.

I won a devotional contest at my writing group a couple of weeks ago. I thought that maybe some of you would be encouraged by it. It's called "I Like Pie."

I like pie. The creamy ones with tall fluffy meringue that reach up to the sky as if offering a bite to God. The rest of my family prefers fruit pies. So I don’t make pie often. In order to satisfy the tastes of everyone, I would need to make two. I don’t like pie that much.

But when we go to a restaurant like Marie Calendars, we order our individual pieces and everyone is happy with their portions. Contentment reigns as I dig into my banana cream and the guys eat up their razzleberry.

God deals in yummy portions, too.

Psalm 16: 5-6 says, “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

As if He was a master baker of life-pie, the Father slices out a portion and puts it on my plate. He has given me just enough love, laughter, pain and purpose to fill me up.

Trouble comes when I start looking at other people’s plates. I see their pie and decide that it looks better than mine. Discontentment seeps in and I am hungry and miserable. But if I make the choice to enjoy my meringue and the creamy fruit beneath it and if I decide to be grateful, contentment wins. I am satisfied and full of God’s pleasure.

Nothing tastes better than a life of contentment. God’s portions are just right.

Today, on my birthday, my portion is more than enough. My plate runneth over!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Garden of THE GOD!

I drove yesterday from Albuquerque to Denver with my wonderful sister Karen. Along the way we stopped in Santa Fe and ate brunch and walked around the plaza. Later in Colorado Springs I asked her if she wanted to make another stop.

"Do you want to see the Garden of the Gods?"

"I would love to. It's a bunch of statues, right?"

"Well, no. You'll see."

As we drove around the beautiful formations of red rock, Karen's reaction delighted me. She oohed and aahed and giggled. Like a child, she looked at everything in wonder and kept saying, "Rob, this is incredible." She made me stop the car every few minutes so she could take pictures.

Afterwards at dinner, she prayed, "God, thank you for showing me some of your incredible works today."

Wow. I envied her wonder and excitement. How blessed God must have been to hear Karen's praise as we drove around His art gallery.

It made me think of those first few moments when we get to heaven. Can you imagine all the oohing and aahing?

And yet, there is so much of His handiwork right here. Thank you Lord for your wonders. You are the Master Artist.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Faith or Desperation?

Yesterday I had the honor of listening to my big brother Perry preach. His church is called Joshua’s Vineyard and it’s located in Albuquerque. Perry is the teaching pastor.

He talked about faith. A broad topic. A popular topic. A topic I’ve heard about all my life.

But when you ask, God always shows you something new. And He did.

Remember how Jesus healed so many people in the Bible? Often he told them, “Your faith has healed you.”

So did they have huge faith? Or did they have little faith?

Perry’s premise is that it didn’t matter the size of their faith. What they had was desperation. Jesus could’ve said to them, “Your desperation has healed you.”

I really like this concept. Desperation is such a precious commodity for us, isn’t it? In the darkest times of my life, my desperation led me to the feet of Jesus. It’s like desperation is a shortcut to access to God.

Trouble with me is that I am seldom desperate. Instead I am complacent, safe, fine, happy, blah-blah-blah. Nothing wrong with enjoying my life. But choosing to remember that my life only has meaning and purpose and joy because of God sparks a little of that desperate faith. The truth of grace in everyday living.

I don’t wish for hard times. No way. But if my faith is to contain that essence of desperation for Jesus, I must choose to seek Him every day.

Seek. An action word. A word that implies I don’t know it all, despite all my religious training.

Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.”

Without faith... Without desperation...

May we each be desperate for Jesus today.

Thanks big brother!

Friday, September 05, 2008

A New Treasure!

A few months ago, I was walking around a bookstore just looking to see what was new, reading first pages and trying to decide what I should pick up.

And then...Bam! I saw Jan Karon's new book about Father Tim. It's a new series, not the Mitford series. In this book Father Tim goes back to his hometown and rediscovers his roots.

I was so excited. I didn't know it was going to be out so soon.

Do you ever experience that feeling? Maybe when you find something in a store on sale? Joy rises, the simple kind that makes you feel like you just dug up a treasure.

Well, I feel like that right now. I have discovered a website/blog and writer that I love. I have found someone who makes me laugh...at Christians!

We Christians take ourselves way too seriously if you ask me. I think of myself as an "irreverent Christian" and this blog can be incredibly irreverent. I love it!

So check out the treasure I have found in the blog called Stuff Christians Like. The author, Jon is so funny!

Here's the link: http://stuffchristianslike.blogspot.com

Like my date, my link thing isn't working. I've gotta get it fixed!

Stand Up to Cancer!

I am not a telethon watcher. Back in the day, I used to resent Jerry and the gang taking up all the TV stations on Labor Day weekend. PBS has good telethons, but I lose interest after about 10 minutes.

Compassionate? Guess not?

Or maybe I am. I was moved to tears last night watching Stand Up To Cancer, the one hour long telethon hosted by all three major networks. I called. I gave.

My mother died of lung cancer. My sister is a breast cancer survivor. I have known many people who have fought and died in the cancer war.

I am not a telethon watcher. But I found myself praying to our Father in heaven to use that hour long TV show to give cancer research a boost. Wouldn’t it be a day of victory, like none other, if doctors and scientists announced they’d found a cure?

A lovely thought. A worthwhile prayer. A well spent donation.

I miss my mom. She never met John or saw Noah. Before she died, she knew I wrote a lot for fun and contemplation, but that’s all. She has never read anything I have written since beginning my journey of serious writing.

Cancer took her. I don’t want it to take someone else I love. The thought brings tears and prayers. It even brought me to get my wallet.

Want to donate? Go to www.standuptocancer.org

Scientists say we are closer than you might think to a cure. Wow. That will be a good day.

Sweet Innocence

Remember Chris Farley, the corpulent Saturday Night Live comic? One of the skits he was in always cracked me up. He would interview famous stars and ask the same basic question over and over. For example, his interview with Paul McCartney went something like this:

Chris: Do you remember Hey Jude?

Paul: Well, yes I do.

Christ: That was great.

Paul: Thank you.


Chris: Do you remember the time you did that album and on the cover you were walking across Abbey Road and you were barefoot?

Paul: (tentatively) Yes.

Chris: Remember how people thought you were dead?

Paul: Yes.

Chris: That was awesome!

Chris Farley portrayed this kind of innocence that was touching and funny at the same time. The kind of wide eyed wonder we see in children. I see it in Noah all the time.

Today marks day three of Noah’s sinus infection. It’s actually called an adenoidal viral infection. He seems better but not totally well. In our time together, we have just kind of lazed around like sleepy cats. Mostly reading, watching TV and DVDs.

I’ve had plenty of time to watch this sandy haired, lanky limbed, chocolate brown-eyed boy of mine. He is a wonder. After nine years, I am still in awe of this intricate, complex and wild little gift of mine. God’s lessons through the boy are consistent, sometimes cutting through me like a knife, sometimes massaging my heart ‘til it hurts.

I am ready for him to be well. I want him to feel better and I want him to go back to school. Summer is done!

But since he has to be at home, I am thankful for the moments I get to share with him. The Chris Farley ones, where his heart shows his age and his goofiness makes me laugh.

Like yesterday. We were watching Family Feud. Noah likes this show. The question was “If women could choose one body part to be perfect, what body part would it be?”

Noah piped up, competitive as always.

“I know the answer to this one.”

“What is it?”

“Lungs, of course. So you can breathe.”

I chuckled to myself.

When the answers came up like breasts and bottom, he looked at me, tilting his head like a confused puppy dog.

The number one answer was stomach.

When he looked at me again with a quizzical expression I said, “Noah, women are vain. They care about how they look more than anything.”

He thought for a moment.

“More than breathing?”

Thank you God for sweet innocence.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How Big is God?

How big is God? When I was little, I used to see God as this big puff of light. I couldn’t see what He looked like, but I saw Jesus as that guy in all the pictures in Sunday school. I never even imagined the Spirit.

With time, the Trinity has grown for me. I still don’t have a face for God, but now I know He is bigger than anything my heart or mind can imagine. Just huge! Jesus and the Spirit have grown for me, too. That picture in Sunday school is not as I see the Son of God anymore. Now he is like a superhero, beyond anything a photograph can capture. If I do imagine Jesus, the one aspect of Him I see is His smile. He laughs a lot. The Spirit is not someone I try to pigeonhole either, but instead is more an unconquerable, always moving force.

I’ll see in heaven. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”

I love thinking of that moment when I get to see God face to face. He’ll run. I’ll run. It will be the embrace of my existence. Perfect love.

Psalm 103: 11-12 gives us a glimpse of his size:
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

So He is pretty big. Higher than the heavens, longer than the east from the west. Huge. Psalm 18 describes God has “soaring on the wings of the wind.” That’s a sweet picture. It also says that He can make the earths tremble and storms thunder and lightning.

He’s big.

But yet He is too small for many of our problems, isn’t He?

My sister is coming to visit next week. Her first stop is Albuquerque. I am going to drive there and pick her up this weekend and then bring her back to Denver. Can’t wait to be with her. She is one of my best friends on the planet.

But first, I must drive the eight hours to Albuquerque. By myself. When I was younger, this would be no big deal. But since I haven’t done anything like this in years, I feel anxious. The “what ifs” are haunting me.

Now where does the big ole God come into play in this? It would be so easy to say nowhere. But I would be wrong and I would be missing the chance to tap into the power that is beyond anything I can ever imagine.

God wants to go to Albuquerque with me. He is for me. He wants me to have a lovely drive and sweet time with Him on the way. He is big enough to take care of me and to watch over every aspect of the trip.

So why do I put the God of all, the God who can soar on wings of the wind, the God whose love for me is higher than the heavens on the backburner of my heart?

How can I ignore such a HUGE GOD?

Once again, I have to make a choice. A choice to squish that cardboard box labeled “How big God is.” I have no idea of His power and ability and love.

It is a mistake to try and figure Him out and give His opinions like “Well, God is too busy to go with me to Albuquerque” or “God is too holy to hang out with me while I watch reality TV” or "God loves Republicans more than Democrats" or "God is more pleased with liars than He is homosexuals."

I need to quit putting Him in that box.

I pray for myself and for you who might be reading this. Let’s allow God to be God in all His majesty and wonder and awe. Let’s squish the boxes!

In Awe of Imperfection

For weeks, I have wanted to get away for twenty four hours alone with God. Twice things have come up. No big deal, I thought, I will do it in the future. In fact, how about early September? After Noah goes to school?

Perfect. A perfect plan.

I made the arrangements to go to a retreat center today out in a secluded forest and stay there in a little cabin overnight. I’ve been there before and I was very excited. All the plans were in place. I borrowed a couple of books from my brother and John was set to pick up Noah and take him to school tomorrow. I finished the laundry and cleaned up the house. I was ready for my perfect time with God. I had planned a date with Jesus and couldn’t wait.

But then…

The boy’s throat started to hurt. His nose started to run. Uh-oh.

This morning, my perfect plans fell apart. Now I sit here writing while Noah is on the couch covered with a blanket and a tissue box nearby. We see the doctor in a couple of hours.

At first, disappointment leaned against my heart and smashed it. Again? I have to cancel this again? John’s compassion helped. I fought back a few tears. I had been so excited.

Then I did what all of us have to do when life happens this way. I looked at Plan B.
Plan B involved a day at home, resting, reading, a little bit of writing and still hanging out with My Creator. In between looking after sweet Noah.

These are the kind of moments that either strengthen our faith or weaken it. The simple moments of disappointment can be such a wonderful tool for shaping our character. Those moments can also be used as a weapon to destroy joy. Our belief in the fact that God has it all under control can be dripped upon and eroded.

The outcome lies in a simple choice. Do I choose acceptance? Can I just accept Plan B, say Oh well, and still search for the gifts that lie within a simple day at home with a sick nine-year-old?

Or…do I choose the battle? The battle of fighting circumstances with my emotions. I embrace the anger of not getting my own way and I dwell within that place, somehow believing that my anger will change the path of life today. I throw a pity party and stomp around in passive aggressive angst, somehow believing that since I didn’t get what I deserved today, I will fight for my right to be happy through childish displays of self-centeredness.

I chose acceptance. When God wants me out in the forest, alone with Him, He will pave the way. “Perfect” plans just don’t exist. Only a Perfect Planner.

He knows. I don’t. Can I live with that?

I can. At least I will try to today. The feelings of disappointment haven’t disappeared, but they are not ruling the day. Perfection shmerfection!

I ran across the following poem by a Benedictine monk, Friar Killian McDonnell. He says it all:

“I have had it with perfection
I have packed my bags
I am out of here
Perfection straineth out
The quality of mercy,
Withers rapture at its
Hints I could have taken-
Even the perfect chiseled form of
Michelangelo’s David
The Venus de Milo
Has no arms
The Liberty Bell is cracked.”

Here’s hoping your day is full of God’s grace,
And empty of the chase of perfection.

New Glasses

My brother Phil left this quote on the comments yesterday. Bears repeating:

"Hurry means that we gather impressions, but have no experiences...
that we collect acquaintances but make no friends...
that we attend meetings but experience no encounter.
We must recover eternity if we are to find time,
and eternity is what Jesus came to restore." D.T. Niles

It was my turn for car pool this morning. Today is also my Words for the Journey Writers Meeting.

So when I woke up, the first thought? Hurry!

Hurry and make lunches. Hurry and make breakfast. Hurry and feed the dog. Hurry and get through your quiet time. Hurry and get dressed. Hurry and don’t be late for school!


I did. Guess what? We were late anyway. It wasn’t just my lack of organization. I truly believe it was because I hurried. When I hurry, I miss things. I missed seeing the time. I missed enjoying my boy.

So after all the rush and before I went to my writers meeting, I sat and stopped. Really stopped. And I read the D.T. Niles quote above. And I prayed.

God brought to my attention that line that says, “We attend meetings but experience no encounter.” Okay God, I said. Go with me to my writers meeting and give me new eyes. Slow me down.

You know what? I experienced encounters. With my new glasses on, I looked around at the wonderful fifteen women writers.

I noticed differences. 5 blonds, 7 brunettes, and 3 crowns of gray and white. I witnessed the diverse ages and stations in life. Kids and no kids. Grown kids and teenagers. Elementary age and one sweet mom who brought her four-year-old girl and two-year-old son. It is amazing how although each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made, we are each created completely individually.

That’s reason for awe. If you take the time to look. With my new glasses, I noticed.

I encountered friendship. How lovely is that moment when you see someone who smiles at your presence, and greets you in sweet excitement to see you. This is reason for awe. As I received hugs and greetings, my new glasses saw friendship in a new light.

Lastly, my wonderful God showed me a clear picture of purpose. What a delight it is to gather with like-minded souls who want to write for God and who want to write excellently. It’s like we’re all on the same purpose cruise, complete with chocolate and warm waves and life vests to hand each other in case of rejection.
I am in awe of a God who loves to dole out His purpose for us, if we but ask.

I am in awe of my Creator today. Don't need to hurry. Just slow down. And put on my new glasses.

From Fear to Awe

I am going to blog every day in September. This first week, I will be talking about awe.

Have we lost our sense of wonder? Of the awe of God’s creation?

Yep. As for me and myself, the answer is yes. I am much more enthralled with a new gadget than I am captivated by a sunset. The words I read in People magazine keep my attention more than the sweet conversation between two three-year olds over ice cream.

Is there hope for someone like me? Can I recapture the sense of curiosity I possessed when I used to stare at the West Texas stars for hours in my backyard? And more importantly, can I begin to recognize and remember that my God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe is present in that puzzled look my dog gets sometimes? He is inherent in the wind blowing through the trees outside my window.

But you know what? I don’t know the name of any of the trees around here. I need to find out.

Brennan Manning, in the Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote:

“Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter…in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a woman’s windblown hair. God intended for us to discover His loving presence in the world around us.”

Okay, Brennan. I am up for this.

So with awe on my mind, I set out today on a road trip with the fam.

Our destination? Wherever my husband decided to drive. He loves exploring the Rockies on his motorcycle and became our tour guide of the day. We traveled up past Idaho Springs and took the exit to go up to Loveland Pass. We drove down from there to Breckenridge and ate sandwiches and walked around an open air art festival. Then we drove on to more passes and more incredible views. Our last stop was South Park, the beautiful valley that lies ensconced within the protection of the Rocky Mountains.

When I was a kid, my mother used to get frightened whenever we would drive on mountain passes where the edge of the road resembled a drop-off cliff. I inherited this fear and have worked to get rid of it the past couple of years. But no matter what verse I memorize or song I sing or praise song I blast, whenever I drive up to the mountains I am scared. Plain and simple.

Today, I took another tack. I prayed as I have many times. But this time I simply asked, “God, turn my fear into awe.”

He did. Somewhere in our day, I began to see the greens of the grass and remember that God knew the number of blades. Wow.

I looked at trees slowly, trying to imagine the moment that God created that one single pine. Not the whole forest. Just one long, lovely tree after another.

As John soared around each curve, (He would say he was going slowly) instead of jerking my head toward the left and announcing his speed, I laid my head back and imagined that I was on the back of the wings of the wind, safe in God’s hands.

It worked.

At least a little. I don’t have the kind of wonder I wish I did. My awe of creation has much to be desired. I’m like a kindergartener in Creation Appreciation class.

But today I noticed.

I noticed His presence in the mountains. When I looked over the edges of the highways and peered down into the endless slopes of carefully chiseled rock and sculptured trees and painted grass, a little of that old fear left. Awe slipped in, unannounced.

It was a start. A good one.