Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Can't Stop Dancing

I love this picture. Doesn't have a lot to do with my blog today, except that I know that John, my beloved, is safely in God's hands. So am I. And Noah. And you...

My husband John was in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. If you know John and I haven't told you, I am sorry. Please email me and I will send you updates if you want. Right now he is the hospital on a ventilator with a severe head injury. He had a brain hemmorrage which disappeared (Thank you Jesus) and he has no broken bones (Thank you Jesus!) The next step for him is waking up calmly enough (He is very agitated when he opens his eyes) for them to take out the ventilator and then they can assess his brain function. We are praying against any frontal lobe brain damage.

So it's been a heck of a week so far. People asked what I needed and I told them blatantly 1) Pray and 2) Encourage me with an email. Wow. I have gotten such incredible emails. I am going to print them all out someday and show John and keep them as a precious reminder of how the family of God can strengthen each other during battles.

This blog is called Joy Dance. I started it a year and a half ago. I believe in joy deeply. My life has been full of joy. People often call me joyful. And now? What about now as I go each day watching my best friend with tubes everywhere and not knowing where he is? Let me tell you the honest to God truth. YES. More than ever, I have joy now.

See, joy is not a feeling of happiness. Joy is this deep faith that God is in control and I don't have to run around angry or stressed. Joy is the essence of my dance with God. I've danced with Him through those great moments of this year - watching Noah grow and laugh and learn. Being published and getting an agent and sitting at the laptop. Experiencing life with John and watching him live his life to the fullest. (By the way, if he wants to get back on a motorcycle after all this, I will say you go for it, buddy. Live your life!)

I also dance with God during the not so great moments. Like now.

My friend Ralph in Ohio sent me an email with some song lyrics. Like many of the emails, it made me cry because it touched that part of me that needs just a little bit of encouragement to keep going with my head held high, trusting God.

The lyrics are from those fabulous Poet Laureats of the 70s Captain and Tenille. Their words are a bit corny, (but hey, how can you not listen to people who opened up the world of Muskrat Love) but they tell my story the past few days. Music is the feeling of happiness. Joy is the dance.

Can't stop dancing
Just because the music's gone
You can't stop dancing, no
Just because the band has
Packed up and gone home

You know you can't stop dancing
Just because the musics gone
Cause if you keep on dancing
If you keep on dancing If you keep on dancing
You're gonna turn The music back on

Amen. And Amen. Happy New Year everyone! If God asks you to dance, take his hand.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sign up to Receive Free Joy-Votionals!

This is my only blog for this week because of Christmas.

Beginning in January, I will be sending out a free Joy-votion each Wednesday.
Joy-votions are short devotionals pointing out the joy each of us can experience while following Jesus.

If you would like to receive a weekly Joy-votion, you need to be on my mailing list. To sign up, just email me. My email is on the sidebar of this blog. The Joy-votion will be completely separate from my blog. I will still blog each Tuesday and Thursday.

Here is my first Joy-votion. Have a wonderful Christmas. May our Lord bless your socks off, then leave you a new pair under the tree!

Joy-votion #1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1,2 and 14

I am a talker. Some would call me an extrovert, although as I’ve gotten older I am more introverted. I don’t know if that means:

a) I am a deeper and more mature person, or

b) I sometimes know when to shut up.

Uh…well…the answer is b.

But I still enjoy words. I like to read them, write them, listen to them and especially bring them up through the vocal chords and share them. I am a talker.

John pointed out something to me the other night that I am contemplating, but still not completely understanding. Don’t know if I ever will.

Here’s the thing.

Jesus, who is called The Word of Life, gave up His right to words when He came to earth. Have you ever thought of that?

He was born as a baby in a manger. For the first couple years of His life, communication would be crying and cooing. That’s it. No words. No conversations. No meaningful talks about deep spiritual truths with Mary or Joseph over diaper changes.

The sacrifice Jesus made for us is unending. He came so that our sins could be forgiven and we could live abundant, joyful lives with the Father. He was persecuted and crucified. He experienced a moment of separation from God. Why? For me. For you.

But He also gave up the glory of Heaven and the immediate presence of God. And He, The Word, gave up words. For a while. Can you imagine giving up who you are, your essence, for two years just so a bunch of knuckleheaded sinners can know your Dad?

Join me in thanking Jesus for coming so that each of us can live in hope and joy! We thank you Christ for demonstrating through the sacrifice of Your life (and even Your Words) that each of us is loved beyond anything we will ever, ever, ever comprehend!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's His Birthday, isn't it?

The baby in the manger.

A little bundle of crying and cooing and joyful humanity. And yet fully God.

He came to dwell among us. He came to provide a link back to right standing with the Father. He came to live abundantly and die terribly. He came to be the miracle of resurrection.

He came to save me. And you.

I love Christmas. I love the tree, the lights, the movies. I love the decorations and the parties. I love the exchange of presents. I love the music.

But I hurt for that baby. It’s His birthday and he gets ignored so much.

Last night we went to Noah’s Holiday choir concert at school. He was wonderful. The best, in my opinion.

But it hurt, too. They sang songs about Santa, about winter weather, even about Hanukkah. In the program there was a poem about Kwanzaa. But not about Jesus. They used the word Christmas as in We wish you a Merry Christmas and that line during Silver Bells “It’s Christmas time in the city.” But no Christ. No mention of that baby. Nothing.

I’ve heard all the hullabaloo about taking Christ out of Christmas. When I hear someone say to me “Happy Holidays” I respond with “Merry Christmas.” Just to keep the King of all in on His party.

But last night, it really hit home. It tore me up that my boy couldn’t sing about that baby. Yes, I will write a letter and I am going to talk to the principal and the choir teacher. But I have to tell you, I don’t know that it will change much. And maybe I should be angry and all up in arms and storm into that public school and give them a piece of my mind.

But I’m not angry. Just incredibly sad. Not just for Noah. He knows whose birthday it is. We teach him and he knows. He knows that the school has certain policies that make no sense. He knows that people, so many people, are frightened of the power of the name of Christ, because it is a name that in itself is POWER.

So I’m not sad for him.

I’m sad for that baby. The one who loves us all, no matter what we celebrate or how we celebrate. He is so Big and so Loving, He loves us even if we forget it’s HIS BIRTHDAY!

Happy Birthday Jesus. I’m sorry about last night. I’m sorry about all the times that I do the same thing, in different ways. I am going to sing an extra song every day just for that baby this season. A tiny gesture, but it's from the heart.

Let's all remember whose birthday it is instead of having our own "Holiday concert" and forgetting to sing to Him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Robbie vs Roberta!

Every once in a while we all revert back to our child-like selfishness. (Some more than others.) I was an especially self-centered little girl who turned into a self-centered teenager and then blossomed into a self-centered adult. For the past decade, I have consciously tried to “grow up” and put those childish ways behind me.

But every once in a while, SHE comes back. My family has called HER Roberta. When Roberta appears, it is usually unexpected. Like on Saturday.

Last year I took a job as a substitute lunch lady to make a few extra dollars to help fund a writing conference. This year I have decided to try to get a job as a census taker. It is a part-time flexible hours position. The first step to employment is a basic skills test.

Saturday morning I arrived at the library on time and ready to go. I entered a small room quickly filling up with an assortment of people. I filled out my forms and listened to the instructions for the test. No big deal. I felt completely at peace.

But then…

The teacher, a young African American woman with a bright smile and eager eyes, said, “You will have 30 minutes for the test. Please do not open it until I tell you.”

Roberta arrived full force.

The following is our conversation. Yes, it was all in my mind. I’m not that crazy. Well…

But I bet every single one of you have a Roberta, too.

Roberta: “I need to be the best. I will finish first. I will ace this test. Everyone here will be jealous of my intellect. Failure is not an option. I will be victorious!!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a big deal. 28 questions are on this test and I only need to get 10 correct. This is a job to write down address numbers of homes, not to get accepted at Yale. Go away Roberta!”

The lady told us to begin and I opened my packet.

Roberta glanced around and canvassed her competition. Two older men in their sixties. A few women in their 40s dotted the room. Several younger folks sat here and there. One couple, obviously together and perky about life, sat in the back smiling.

Roberta: “Yes, I can take them. I can take all of them. Especially that young girl sitting in the front. She’s probably only 19 or 20. I bet she wore all that jewelry and make up to make up for her lack of brains.”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a competition. Go away! Just do your best, Robbie.”

I started the test, answering as accurately as I could, but trying to go quickly, too. I wanted to finish.

After I answered number 28, Roberta returned and looked around.

Roberta: “I am the first finished!! Now how do I announce this? Should I yell ‘DONE’ like elementary kids? That would show them!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta, stop it!”

Roberta: “How about just slamming down my pencil so they know I am the fastest in the west?”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Just lay the pencil down and be quiet. Roberta, go away!”

I sat quietly for the next four minutes until time was up.

The nice lady told us she could grade our tests and tell us our scores individually, or we could leave and then call an 800 number and find out in a few days.

Roberta: “What? Who would want to leave now and NOT KNOW that I was the best?”

Several of my fellow testers got up to leave, including the smiley, happy couple.

Roberta: “Idiots! Poor schmucks know that I beat them. Of course they need to leave. Why stay and be humiliated!”

Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Maybe they have a lunch to go to. Or maybe they’re going to feed the poor or give blood to the indigent!”

Roberta: “Yeah, right.”

The nice lady began scoring the tests. When she finished the first one, she called the name of one of the men I sat near. He walked up and she discreetly showed him the score. He smiled, nodded and left.

Roberta: “What? Are you kidding me? You’re not going to announce it out loud! How will everyone know I won?”

Robbie: “She is doing the right thing. Go away Roberta!”

Roberta: “When she calls me, I will go up and ‘accidentally’ read the number out loud!!”

Robbie: “Go away, Roberta!”

The nice lady called everyone up one by one. As it turned out, I was the last one. No one around could hear my score.

Roberta: “You’ve got to be kidding me!!”

I walked up and the kind lady showed me my score. I received 27 out of 28.

Robbie: “Thank you.” I turned to leave.

Roberta: “Are you out of your living mind, Robbie? Ask her which one! Ask her which one! She is wrong! Argue the answer. She is wrong!!”

Robbie: “I am now going. It doesn’t matter which one.”

Roberta: “Of course it does!!! You are crazy, Robbie! Crazy!”

As soon as I left the library, Roberta disappeared.

Before you use the words schizophrenic, nuts, insane or whacked about me, look at the mirror. You have a Roberta, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life!

I was not a rebellious kid. More of a goody-two-shoes with an edge. Well, that’s how I saw myself. But I did engage in one act of pure disobedience. It made me feel naughty and deliciously sneaky.

Drugs? Sex? Rock and Roll?

Nope. I got out of bed, snuck into the living room and watched old movies. I know, I was a wild child.

Once, when I was 12 years old, I turned on the TV at midnight and began watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the first time. I was hooked. It’s been my favorite movie ever since. So many wonderful lines. Remember at the very first when the Head Angel is giving Clarence his assignment? Clarence is told that he needs to help George Bailey.

“Is he sick?” Clarence asks.

“No, it’s worse.” replies the Head Angel, “He’s discouraged.”

My 12-year-old heart filled up that night and of course, I cried at the end, just as I have every time I’ve seen it since.

Out of that experience I fell in love with Jimmy Stewart. I even met him once. My sister Karen was visiting me in San Diego and we drove to Beverly Hills and used a Star Map to see celebrity’s homes. In front of his house, Jimmy was walking his golden retrievers. After hyper-ventilating and almost passing out, I opened the window of the car and yelled, “Can we take a picture of you, Mr. Stewart?” He said yes and we took one and told him how much we loved him. As we drove off, he called to us, “Have a wonderful night.” Yes, he almost said wonderful life!

In our haste, we took a picture that was a bit blurry, but Karen and I could totally recognize Jimmy. When we showed the picture to our two brothers, they were in unison.

“This is fake. You guys got some old man to pose with a couple of dogs. Kind of shameful.”

Brothers. Whatever.

Last night, my church held a women’s dessert extravaganza. The special speaker was Karolyn Grimes, who played ZuZu Bailey, George’s youngest. What a wonderful evening of celebrating a movie that has touched so many people. What an incredible treat to hear one of the actors tell us some of the behind the scenes scoop. And what a touching moment when she used the movie to point each of us to dependence on God!

If for some reason unknown to mankind you have NOT seen this movie, take time and watch it. It is more relevant now than ever, due to the economic woes of nowadays.

Michal, my friend from my Mothers in Touch group took some pictures from last night:

I got a little wound up with giddiness when we got there. I love the movie and I was maybe a bit too excited!

Michal took my picture with Karolyn Grimes (ZuZu.) When I get overly nervous, my face gets red and I say stupid things. Right before Michal took the picture, I said “I am an “It’s A Wonderful Life Stalker.” Karolyn and the women around us laughed, but right after this picture, she gave me an “Okay, you can go now” look.

On the tables, we each received a bell with the note “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

Karolyn spoke of the movie, Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart, and her life. The behind the scenes trivia was fascinating to me! A couple of examples:

This movie was the first to use silent snow not painted cornflakes that crackled when stepped on. But they used Ivory Soap flakes so when it melted it looked like soap bubbles. Watch the movie and you can see soap suds on cars.

When the bank run happens, George looks at his dad’s picture. Below it a sign that read, “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” Then George proceeds to go into the Bailey Building and Loan and give away his honeymoon money.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was Jim Henson’s (creator of the Muppets) favorite movie.He named the Muppets Bert and Ernie after the cop and taxi driver in this movie.

Karolyn Grimes also played Debbie in "The Bishop's Wife." If you want to read more about her or order some really cool movie memorabilia go to her site at www.zuzu.net

Karolyn's favorite scene in the movie is when George Bailey is at the bridge desperately wanting his life back. He says, “Please Clarence! I want to live again.” And then he puts his head in his hands and says, “Oh God help me.” The moment he says God, snow falls and his old, wonderful life is given back to him.

Isn't that cool? In a subtle way, this movie points out a powerful truth. God is the way to a restored life!

Now, go get the movie and watch it!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Perfection of Christmas!

Last night, the three of us (plus dog) sat in our living room all snuggled under blankets. Snow was falling lightly outside glistening in the moonlight. Inside, our fire blazed, the Christmas tree lights twinkled. We were watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A perfect winter wonderland moment.

“Noah, this show was made in 1965. I was only three-years-old.”

“This show is THAT old, Mom?”

Okay, it was almost a perfect moment.

I started thinking about that concept of “perfection” that so many of us strive for this time of year. It would be so sweet to have the perfect party, the perfect calendar, the perfect holiday.

Doesn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen. It won’t happen.

I have declared my independence from having a Martha Stewart Christmas! (See my post on Saturday, November 15th) But that desire for perfection still lurks around my house. Like a fruitcake from an aunt, I can’t digest it and I can’t seem to throw it away.

We hosted a Christmas party on Sunday night with John’s BOB (Band of Brothers) and their families. Wonderful evening. But not perfect. My polka dot carpet (thanks to dear Scooby) made perfection impossible. My attitude? “So what?”

I have purposely and consciously slashed expectations left and right this Christmas in order to have joy and peace reign in my heart. Not greed and or an insane need to attend every social function. I remember a time in my life where I would look at my December calendar and measure my worth and my joy in who I was solely based on how many events I attended. Even when I was able to flip my blond hair back and say casually, oh so casually, “I am so busy. So many parties,” my heart did not experience satisfaction. Only longing that maybe one more party would make my Christmas perfect.

Despite my resolve I still hear that old Robbie whispering, “Look - you don’t have anything going on December 17th!! Call somebody! Fill it up!”

Nope. Not gonna. It won’t make the season perfect. Just make me tired.

So what can make the perfect holiday? In a word, nothing.

I remember clearly the carnage of early Christmas mornings back in Van Horn, Texas. I would tear apart each package and experience a mixture of surprise (presents that Santa had brought the night before) and anti-climatic semi-joy (presents I’d already unwrapped and rewrapped after sneaking peaks in Mama and Daddy's closet. They were not clever hiders.) And then, I’d utter that phrase. A phrase I’m sure ripped a little piece of my mother’s heart out.

“That’s all?”

Yep, Robbie. That’s all.

Now, at age 46 and counting, I understand a little bit more than that bratty girl. God doesn’t want me to be satisfied with Christmas. He doesn’t want me to look at this holiday as THE season that will bring joy like nothing else. If I do then I will start worshipping Christmas. I will put all my eggs into this basket. (Isn’t that a horribly mixed metaphor? :0) )

A wonderful pastor once said, “Enjoy all that God has given you. But get your satisfaction from nothing else but Him.”

Amen, Mike Burns!

So last night, as we turned off the TV and prayed, I thanked God for a wonderful evening in which we could enjoy an old TV show (not THAT old, Noah!) and in which we could enjoy our family and the warmth of our home.

Wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t meant to satisfy me. Christmas isn’t meant to satisfy me.

Perfection will enter my soul ONLY when I see my Creator and Lord face to face.

For now, the satisfaction you and I can experience comes from making God our priority. Invite Him in to sit with you on a cold night and watch Charlie Brown. Invite Him to every party and every shopping trip. Invite Him to clear your calendar and teach you the truth about Christmas.

He will show up. Perfectly.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Silly Christmas Video!

WARNING: The following video could change your life!

I hesitated posting this because

a) The camera adds 25-100 pounds - this is scientific fact, people!

b) I sang this at my Words for the Journey Christian Writers party - so many of you writers have already seen this.

c) I am not a singer. Does the internet world really need another sad reject of American Idol?

I post this because

a) My silliness is cause for a laugh. And since I won't be watching you watch this, I will not be able to hear if it is a real laugh or a pathetic "what was she thinking" laugh.

b) I have a secret longing to be Kareoke Champion of the World!

c) If you can't laugh at yourself and invite people to join you, ulcers come. I don't want any ulcers.

So enjoy :0)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hug a Stranger? Yeah, right...

I don’t mind hugging.

I like to hug and be hugged. My hugs, like my hair-dos and shoe styles, have evolved.

Kid hugs meant hugging with no inhibition. I took hold and hung on to my Mama or Daddy’s neck, knowing that in their arms I found the safest place possible.

Teenage hugs meant either obligation, friendship or possibility. Obligation hugs were half-hearted attempts to appease any relative’s wish to give me some good ‘ole family loving. Yep, I grew up in Texas. Friendship hugs were soft embraces between my two best girlfriends and me. Those hugs said, “Don’t worry, he might ask you,” “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” or “Yay! He asked you!” Possibility hugs were tentative with a great deal of emotion attached. These hugs were explorations of what might be and rehearsals for what never came.

Adult hugs are even more complex and varied. When I hug my husband, it is love, friendship and Oh baby! all mixed in one. When I hug my boy, it is all tenderness and even captivity. I know that hugging him will evolve too. So while he enters my arms freely, I enjoy every moment, remembering the feel of his back with my hands and the smell of his hair and neck.

I love hugging my woman friends, showing them that I NEED them in my life. The older I get, the more I know that connecting to other people is vital, like, well…air.

The side hug entered my life as a teacher. Hugging students can be dangerous in this world of evil and deceit. It’s just how it is. So, the side hug. It is also part of church life. I don’t full on hug men; no need unless I am related to them or they are husbands of my best friends. But side hugging is a way to say “Hey I like you,” with nothing else whispered.

So all this to say, I don’t mind hugging. I am all for it.

But at Thanksgiving, my dear brother Phil suggested I do something I have rarely done. Hug a stranger.

We, nine of us, sat around the Thanksgiving table and ate our turkey and told funny stories. Phil likes to do things to give holidays special meanings. Last year, we all were given verses to read and then we toasted our thanks. This year, we answered questions like “I am thankful for my parents because…” After everyone had answered, we all toasted our parents. Pretty cool. At times, very moving.

When we finished going around the table several times, he added, “And I have one more suggestion for you. In the next 24 hours, hug a stranger.”

He told us that we each need human contact. We need hugs. Too many people go without.

I registered my objections, the biggest being: What if the stranger happens to be a serial killer who is waiting to kill the next stranger who asks for a hug? You get my point.

Phil said, “This is just a suggestion. There will be no hugging police following you.”

I tried to dismiss it. Silly brother. Hugs are for family.

But I couldn’t. That sillier Holy Spirit kept bringing it to mind. When I went to a movie theater later that day, I looked around and thought I might go for a teenage girl who was about to clean our theater. I didn’t. The crowd around me made that impossible. Yep, that sounds good enough. Outside the movie theater I saw an old woman with her husband. But it was cold. Yep, too cold. That’s the ticket.

The next day John, Noah and I went to Fuddruckers to eat lunch before doing some shopping. We were eating burgers and chatting and John noticed that a man next to us was wearing a firearm. (This is legal in Colorado.) I immediately dismissed the armed man from possible hugging for obvious reasons. Remember my objection?

But God kept turning my head to a table near the corner of the restaurant. Two women, probably in their fifties, were enjoying a wonderful visit and lunch. They ate and laughed. Then laughed and ate. One of them was in a wheelchair and couldn’t feed herself for some reason. The other woman obliged and fed her friend a bite and then herself. Then of course, they’d talk and giggle.

It moved me. I sensed no obligation to serve. I sensed no resentment or self pity. Just two girlfriends, having a good time. Okay, God, I said. But which one?

When one friend got up to go get a carry out container, I excused myself and went to the counter, too. When she got her styrofoam dish, I fumbled out words.

“I couldn’t help but notice how you are serving your friend. It is really moving to me.”

“Well, thank you. We’ve been friends for thirty-five years.” Her smile filled up her face.

“Can I give you a hug? I appreciate seeing service in action like that.” My eyes were filling, despite myself.

“I would love a hug!” She said.

We embraced. A simple gesture. She thanked me and we said our good-byes. I went back to my table and John and Noah were standing ready to go. As we walked out, I looked back to the women. They were staring at me, both smiling, and my "huggee" waved
at me.

I like hugging. And maybe like my hair-dos and my shoe styles, my hugs will continue to evolve. See, I received a greater gift from that woman than she did me. I got the chance to obey a little tug of the Spirit. A chance to take some action, where normally I would dismiss the idea of it as silly and a bit inane.

I still avoid strangers with guns on their hips. A girl has got to have standards. But the next time that silly Spirit moves me, hopefully I will remember the tears that filled my eyes and the smiles that filled their faces.

So now, I spread the challenge. I dare you. Hug a stranger in the next 24 hours. Listen to that silly Spirit.

But avoid men with guns.