Faith, rollercoasters, and boats.

Life is at a crazy peak again.

Between kid and family drama, finals week with highly weighted comprehensive tests, and financial crunches threatening to cancel my next semester… I’m really feeling it. In the pit of my stomach, in tight muscles, in energy level, in short fuses.

And as much as they seem like normal responses to stress, I feel like I’m not supposed to be. I’m supposed to have this all surrendered and have it all wash right off without shaking me.

I feel like I’m supposed to be able to just pray more and try and pretend that it doesn’t bug me in the name of having faith because I know it all works out in the end in God’s plan, and that’s supposed to work and I’m supposed to be the unstressed victorious one walking around in a furnace and not even sweaty.

I’m supposed to have learned this lesson over and over and over recently, and not be bugged by it anymore when issues start appearing on the horizon.

Well, no surprise to anyone around here, but I’m not. It’s just not where I am, and trying to pretend otherwise just gives something extra to stress over.

———

But the picture came to me of a roller coaster.

Actually, a specific one I rode once, and very nearly vomited right in front of a friend and the big group of his close friends that we were with. While trying to pretend I was ok rather than admitting I have a weak stomach when it comes to motion. Not exactly a memory I tend to visit much.

But you know what? I had faith that I would be ok at the end of the ride. Even if lunch revisited, it might not be comfortable, but I would be ok.

I got on that coaster knowing that it was safe.

If I’d had any doubts about it, I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to get on it anyway, or would have been absolutely terrified if I felt my life was possibly in danger.

I knew the safety records were good… I saw many many people coming safely off the coaster while none were getting off injured… I had faith in the roller coaster and that the ride would be ok in the end.

And ya know what?

Not a bit of that faith mattered to my tummy.

At all.

My faith in walking off the coaster safely at the end did nothing at all to stop the adrenaline rush when suddenly gravity went all crazy on me and I was shooting what seemed like straight down at a very high rate of speed from what seemed like miles above the park.

Nor did it make my knuckles any less sore from how tightly I was clenching the safety bar.

If confidence in safety and a positive outcome were enough to resolve the scary feelings and physical reactions to the ride, who in the world would ride one?

What would be the point? Even the little bitty roller coasters for kids that only go 4 foot off the ground rely on the sensation from the feeling of dropping to have any effect at all.

Feeling the feelings… the rush… and coming through safely is what creates the experience and the thrill.

And so, I’m not so sure that life is all that different.

Yes, I have faith in walking off safely at the end of the journey, and maybe even that I’ll consider it to have been a positive experience.

But that doesn’t make my stomach tightening make any less sense or be any less of a normal reaction when I see a potential big drop rapidly approaching.

And I’m not so sure that it’s supposed to.

Yes, it takes the edge of terror off… by removing the “sting” of death. This isn’t a coaster that’s going to end with a fall into the pit of fire anymore.

But it’s still a ride. It still has drops and twists and flips.

Granted, the feelings that come from these are coming from natural flesh reactions.

But does that dismiss them entirely in the name of walking in the spirit not the flesh?

I think it’s fair to say that if Jesus was sweating blood knowing what was coming shortly before he was betrayed, that he’s clearly been very stressed… and to the point that he’s had physical reactions to it to an extent that I seriously doubt any of us will ever see.

If he can sweat blood approaching the final big drops of his roller coaster of human flesh experience, is it ok for me to have a pit in my stomach over much much smaller bumps in mine?

One of the stories that sort of annoys me sometimes at how easily it gets tossed out there as a token “get over it” is the story of the boat in the storm.

Jesus is napping, disciples are terrified for their lives… he reminds them who is in charge, stops the storm….

And somehow this means that since I know I’ll survive the boat ride, I should just be going on with life as usual and ignoring the fact that my storm isn’t stopping and that everything flying around the room on my boat doesn’t make it more difficult to, say, make a cup of tea.

Yes, I realize that I’m not going to die from the storms I face. Thus probably why I’m not terrified in fear like they were. It’s more a frustrated and seasick thing.

Yes, we aren’t supposed to live in terror when storms hit… even if they keep pounding even as we keep trying to pray them over.

But are we really supposed to just feel like everything is fine right now just because eventually we will be on dry and stable land?

Maybe it’s just my way of coming up with excuses for my moodiness right now… but I’m just not all that convinced that having more faith is always the pat answer for discomfort and disappointment and other such gloominess in spells of less than happy times.

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Cheese guard

Once every month or so, a local store will have the basic bags of shredded cheese on sale 4 for $5. The going rate around here is usually at least $1.75 each if they are on sale at one of the other stores, but more usually $2.25 each.

So I buy quite a few bags during the cheap weeks to last until the next cheap week… but so does everyone else who shops at that store, so sometimes it can be limited on what options are on the pegs at the time. Nobody has ever really complained about any of the types except the low-fat, so as long as it is some sort of cheddar variation, I just grab what they’ve got and don’t worry much about it.

And so we end up with situations like today where I went to set out some cheddar cheese for tacos, and found that we had 5 different bags that were each less than 1/4 full, and each one was some different variety of cheddar.

And so, rather than put all 5 bags out with the other fixings, or worse open a new full bag, I took the five, and while I was finishing the meat, I began combining them… with the goal of a single bag.

My daughter walked into the kitchen about the time that I was pouring a “colby jack” blend into a bag of “taco” blend. And gave me a horrified look as she gasped “That one isn’t the taco cheese!!!”

I tried to logic with her that they were both cheddar… and point out that she liked both of them, and used both of them on her tacos.

She responded by grabbing the rest of the bags from the counter, acting like I had been trying to poison her, and telling me that they aren’t supposed to go together.

And she sat in there, at the table, the rest of the time that I was cooking to make sure that the bags of cheese didn’t get dumped together.

But then, when she was making her plate, she proceeded to add some cheese from each and every bag. I pointed out to her that they were mixed on her food just the same as if they had been mixed in the bag… and she insisted that they didn’t mix, they were layered.

And every time she went back over to the counter, she counted the bags to make sure they were all still present. When one was missing, because we had finished it, she got annoyed with me, and even went as far as to go ask grandma to make sure that grandma had used some from that bag to back up my story of it being empty.

And when the leftovers had all been put away, she actually checked in the fridge drawer to make sure that the three remaining remnants of bags had all been put back, no matter how little they all had in them.

I guess I need to start watching which version of cheddar I grab… or at least making sure they look close enough that she can’t tell if I combine them (more carefully) next time!

Jars

In the cave of my heart, there are jars.

Leaky, cracked, easily broken jars.

They don’t hold much water, and a lot of what is stored in them gradually seeps away.

But they hold enough. Enough to support life, even if not comfortably. Enough to prevent death, but not dehydration. Enough to quench thirst only briefly.

Sometimes, when love flows heavy in my life, they stay full… not because they are fixed, but because they are getting freshly filled to overflowing…. in those wonderful times when the flow is strong enough to drink directly from the flow of life.

And even after the flow has slowed to a trickle… for a while there is plenty. Enough to keep thirst away completely for a time.

But not for very long. Soon the supply has again dwindled, and again rationing rules over need.

Water is used, and water leaks, and water evaporates from the heat of life.

But still, enough remains in the jars to survive. I’m sometimes really surprised at how long into the future I can drink from a jar and live now from the overflow of way back when.

Sometimes I decide to sip of a jar filled long ago, and realize that the water it once held has now turned bitter. And too many times, I think it was probably bitter to start with. I just didn’t notice at the time because I was too consumed with excitement that there was a flow of water period.

Honestly… it’s a really ineffective and awful system. It works, but it doesn’t work well by any means.

Did I mention there’s also a spigot?

Oh yes, there’s a spigot of fresh water.

It’s supposed to supply ample water… enough to forever overflow… enough to fill not only my cave, but for me to be able to fill sturdy buckets to carry to those who have the same issues with their jar system.

I’m not even sure where the buckets are anymore.

And it’s just as well, because a good amount of time, I have trouble even getting the water running.

Sometimes it does, and it runs in a wonderful stream that drenches the place. The jars filled in this time are amazing, and seem at the time as if they’ll never leak.

And yet somehow, they always do. And somehow, the flow subsides.

I know the slow trickle is not a malfunction of the spigot… it has all the water pressure built up that it could ever need, and is creaking at the seams to be able to release it.

It’s probably just as sad as I am that I can’t ever seem to be able to get the valves to work right… to allow the release that lets water flood even the furthest places of my cave.

Sometimes the weak trickle frustrates me greatly.

Other times, well, oh well, I have jars.

Broken, leaky, sometimes bitter, ineffective, and rarely full enough to really quench jars.

Plant death

Another summer… another round of plant death.

It’s not total destruction yet… but zucchini and green beans are gone. (Peas were already dead… but they are more of a spring plant, so that’s expected of them.)

Squash and cucumbers are at high risk of death right now.

Cantaloupe are affected, but it’s hard to tell how bad just yet.

Strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes don’t seem to have any leaves being attacked… but they aren’t producing much either… so I’m thinking they probably just don’t show as obviously.

But… this year is different. This year I know why.

Spider mites.

But I’m kicking myself… because when I first noticed the issue showing up on the leaves of two of my green bean plants a couple of weeks ago, I took a leaf to my mom… asking her if she knew what was making parts of it have yellow spots.

I was told I needed to water them more.

Then last week… those two green beans were almost dead, other plants were starting to show the same signs.. and the population was high enough that I noticed some light webbing on some of the green bean leaves.

Again, instead of hitting google… I asked my mom… and was handed a bottle of insect spray.

Which, as it turns out, is known for making spider mites worse… not killing them… because it kills all of the other things that are predators and that compete for space with them… including beneficial insects.

As I found out when I finally realized that this still wasn’t working… the two bean plants were gone and the other two and the 2 zucchinis were almost there… and turned to googling the symptoms.

The first round of spray meant for mites and aphids didn’t seem to do anything… and so instead of getting better, the cucumbers came under attack… and fast… they went from seeming fine, to having spots on about 1/4 of the leaves the next day, and about half with suddenly no flowers the day after that.

The second round of a different spray seems to have slowed the attack at least…. but was a lot more harsh on the plants. The leaves of the cucumber and the cantaloupe that were already showing spots basically died completely by morning… the rest seem to be ok for now, but I’m not real confident that either one can survive the loss of that large of a portion of their leaves.

But they would have died anyway without the spray… so I guess at least they have a bit of a chance anyway.

The two remaining squash plants have lost a ton of leaves and the main stems are weak…. one is able to still stay vertical because it was against a fence post, so I used some string to give it a bit of help staying there…. the other is flopped on its side across the sidewalk.

Why did I not take the time when I first noticed the problem to put that first leaf into a ziplock and swing by a plant store and ask them? It seems to be a common enough problem that I’m sure that they would have had a better guess than needing water.

Why didn’t I start googling for webbing on plants when I first noticed it?

As you can probably tell by the tone, I’m taking this year’s deaths pretty hard.

You’d think I would be used to this happening by now… but things were going so well this year! Things had hope!

And had I been on the ball more, this would have been so preventable!

Maybe that’s what happened the other years too… or something similar… when I just wrote it off… but this time I know about it… and yet there’s not much else I can do but just keep watering them and giving them miracle grow and see which ones can make it through.

😦

…with all I’ve got.

As mentioned in the last post on the book Passages, I found myself at a place where I couldn’t really say that I believe that reading through the Bible daily over the course of a year was guaranteed to make a substantial change in the lives of every person who completed it.

I believe that it can make a very big difference for some… but for everyone?

But if I don’t believe that it will for everyone, do I really believe that it will for me?

And if I don’t believe that it will for sure, do I really even believe that God in general makes a dramatic change in the life of every single person that seeks it?

And again, if I don’t, do I even really believe that it will for me?

I know my answer should be yes… but it took me a bit to be able to arrive there honestly.

Because as much as I know that it should… unfortunately I can think of way too many examples where it really doesn’t seem to.

My life has examples where both have been the case… but would I really be bold enough to stand up and tell someone that I would promise that would be the case for them if they directly asked me?

Honestly? I would probably give a wishy-washy “yes, but your mileage may vary as to the extent”. Which is really about what I felt wasn’t really put into the book that well.

But why?
Why I don’t believe everyone will get a dramatic degree of results is because it isn’t what I’ve seen through people.
So why don’t I see the same changes happening in everyone?

The answer sort of came in a roundabout way.

The author had used a comparison to being a workout, in that it could take time to show progress.
Which had brought to mind to me the comparison to a diet book, making big claims that some people have and will get, but that some people might not.

And that’s actually part of the key. Because it does work exactly the same way.

Because why don’t diets work as well for everyone as they do for some people?

I once read a book that gave the best answer that I’ve ever heard to that question. Because it said that every diet works. Every one.

But… they only work as well as you can keep them.

If you are passionately going after the weight loss, keeping to the letter of every food change, and working your tail off to the best you can, then you are going to have wonderful results no matter what the particulars of the diet are.

But, that’s really hard to do for any extended length of time, no matter which diet it is. You can push through the first part, but after a few weeks, it gets really hard to maintain the motivation and the momentum.

You may still be on the diet… but are you really giving it all that you’ve got anymore?

Which sounds a lot like how most Bible reading plans go. And most resolutions period.

How much am I really giving? Can I really say that I’m giving it all that I’ve got? Bible study, or relationship with God, or prayer, or really anything?

Uh, no. As I admitted around New Years, my year long reading plan that I started last January ended up stretching until like May of the next year because even getting the reading done was missing about one day for every two that I actually made.

Mediocre effort, mediocre results. Results… just not the big changes.

So then do I believe that if I truly made it an active pursuit, and truly put my passion into it, that I would get bigger results in response?

While not to the point of making the whole must do obligation for reward mentality leap, I do believe that the more I give it, the more that I will receive from it. So I do believe if I gave it my true dedicated effort, the results would be big.

And I do think that’s something that will happen for everyone if they give it the honest effort. And for some, that may be just geting through the reading… or just making the time to do the listening. And for others, it may take a bit more wrestling with it and actively processing.

So why don’t I?

Basically, because I’m both busy and lazy. I’ve got lots of other things going on that shouldn’t have priority but manage to get it anyway… and in the down time, I tend to prefer mindless things that require little thought or effort.

And I think the solution comes back to the same solution for diets… and for living the Christian life in general. And that’s to realize that it’s not the big decisions… its the accumulation of each and every little decision.

It’s not so much a decision to make Bible reading a goal, although that helps… it’s a decision in the moment to give this next 5..10..15 minutes to focusing on the Bible instead of whatever else I might be choosing to do with it.

And then to make that decision over and over.

And so I guess that I do believe that time spent reading the Bible daily will make changes in your life.

I just have qualms about making promises for big things without also making clear that your mileage may vary by how much you really want it to.

Passages by Brian Hardin

Passages by Brian Hardin is the latest book I’ve received from Litfuse to participate in its current blog tour. http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13507671/brianhardin

The subtitle is “How reading the Bible in a year will change everything for you”, and that’s actually a pretty good summary of the book! The majority of the book focuses on the practical benefits to your life that come from having the better understanding and frequent exposure to God’s Word.

It starts off with Brian’s story, and how he found himself drawn to creating a daily podcast reading through the Bible in a year. It then goes on to explain the changes that he’s seen in his own life as a result, and some about the community that has formed on the podcast’s website and the changes they have seen.

The book is an interesting read. He keeps the tone fairly casual, and uses a lot of real life examples.

And, given the subject matter, I was glad to see that it kept away from the beat you over the head sort of strategy. While he does have some discussion on the fact that we all know that we should be reading the Bible and making it a higher priority, it isn’t approached in a shaming sort of way that tends to dominate in a lot of daily Bible reading discussions.

Given that the book is written resulting from a podcast, it does lean a bit more towards the hearing and goes a bit into the origins of the Bible as verbally taught lessons, which made it a sort of an interesting twist from the common approach focusing on reading more than listening. Which probably does help make the whole thing seem a lot less intimidating to those who aren’t the strongest in reading and might otherwise struggle with the prospect of doing the amount of reading every day for the full year. (But then, I’m not sure those are the people who would pick up this book as casual reading…)

My one less than positive feeling about the book is that it does seem a bit like a diet book, promising big payoffs that don’t seem to be as guaranteed as implied. He does address this in the book, saying that daily Bible reading isn’t a magic bullet, and that it’s more like a workout routine that doesn’t always show results instantly but will certainly show them if you stick with it.

And I do know that there is a lot of benefit to knowledge and exposure to God’s word, and that it can be worked through in awesome and powerful ways. And reading it is a habit that’s probably only going to be a positive thing. But I guess I just find myself a bit reluctant to believe that these benefits are certain to be as dramatic of a change for every person, particularly within one year’s time. And particularly when they may be reading, but not deeply digging into it with passion. (Which is sort of interesting to realize in itself… but sort of off topic to go into right here.. but I’m going to make it the next post because it does tie in…)

In either case, it’s a good read, and interesting to see the results that have happened in people’s lives.


Daily Bible Reading & Devotion!

About Passages
Many Christians feel guilty when they think of reading the Bible. Though they want to love reading Scripture, they rarely have time for more than a few verses on the run. But the Bible is not meant to be a burden. It is the story of God’s passionate love for His children. It is also not a book of mystical incantations. It is a best friend offering counsel and companionship. And it is not a distant relic, but something very near. Near enough, in fact, to be every reader’s story. So how do Christians delight in this story rather than see it as a source of failure? The founder of the immensely popular Daily Audio Bible, Brian Hardin shows readers how reading through the Bible in a year will change their life and the lives of others.

Passages
 by Brian Hardin shows readers how to read the Bible and offers practical ideas for immersing themselves in God’s life-giving words.
 Here readers will discover that reading the Bible can be a breathtaking adventure.

Zondervan 2012.

About Brian
Along Wooded PathsBrian Hardin is a speaker, photographer, record producer and an ordained minister.In 2006, he created the Daily Audio Bible, an online podcast that now delivers 1.5 million downloads a month. He has produced over 150 albums and works with artists and the arts extensively. He is married to Christian musician Jill Parr.

Visit www.dailyaudiblebible.com for more.

Releasing what I didn’t know I still held

There aren’t many times anymore that I find myself just really wanting to have a boyfriend or husband. Baby, yes, man, no.

But I’m discovering that facebook doesn’t help much on the biggest trigger… a new commitment made by a guy from the past. (Even if it does take me 2 weeks to actually notice.. i’m really on top of things.. glad friend comments bring back up older posts.. lol)

It’s not like I expected anything to ever happen with this guy in the future. Since we haven’t even lived in the same state for quite a while, I’d be very surprised if I ever even talked to him again, and somewhat surprised if I ever even saw him in person again.

And honestly, you’d probably have to show him a picture before mr popular would even remember who I was… that’s how big of a non-blip on his life I was.

But somehow still… it makes me sad.

Sad for the way that things weren’t and never were to be.

I am actually glad that he looks happy (he is a nice guy)… and that the girl looks like a much nicer and more with it girl than his other choices that I’ve seen.

But its a weird sort of bittersweet…. a feeling of a death of a dream of us… that I didn’t know was anywhere in my head or heart anymore. It was once… but not active anytime recently, and long since written off as a brief spell.

And somehow… this sets of the spell of lonely… of wanting a close, deep relationship… even though nothing of that sort happened or ever would have happened with this guy. Not so much a jealousy of wanting him, more a jealousy of wanting a random perfect prince charming from some fantasy that I’ve long since figured out has no actual chance of existing in real world relationships that in brief dream he might have somehow had the potential to somehow become… if that makes any sense.

And somehow… it brings a sort of negative sense of wonder about alternate ways the story could have been. Somehow it always comes back to making me wonder… if only i’d been less of a mess and had my life more together, if things would have been different. Or even so far as to wonder if the relationship being successful would have been God’s plan, but I didn’t have my act together enough to make it happen.

Totally defeating lines of thinking that never lead anywhere except my feeling like a failure, and like things that just weren’t meant to be were somehow my fault for being who I am and where I am.

Sometimes I think I’d be better off without facebook. But then, I’d have still heard about it eventually, with the same result.

And life goes on… either way.