Thursday, December 09, 2010

Expensive Lessons: It's Only Money, Part 2

(In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of this series.  In order to reach the full effectiveness of these lessons, you must study each part.)

Part 2 further presents valuable expensive lessons learned, this time exploring money spent as a consequence of an unavoidable mistake.  Well, all right. This mistake was not unavoidable. But once it was made, there was no other way around it.

Lesson 1:  When I take my granddaughter and her friend to the nearby larger city for lunch out at the mall and an afternoon Christmas concert, I will be in for a great deal of trouble if I lock my keys in the car at the mall parking lot.  My consequences are sure to be more serious, then, if I do not realize this has happened until much later.

Remedy:  I could try to remain clear-minded while transferring important things from my purse to a lighter bag. Specifically, I might run through a mental list of “important things” that should make it into the lighter bag, including car keys.  If I am not able to handle a mental list, perhaps I should write down this list and keep it in a handy place in my car.

Lesson 2:  There are consequences; a chain of cause and effect can be spontaneously triggered. When we are almost to the car, thirty minutes before the Christmas concert is to begin, I will probably experience stress when I suddenly realize the keys are not in the lighter bag hanging on my arm.

Remedy: Fortunately, my friend could take us to the concert, leaving the locked-up keys for later solution. Note that this is not actually a remedy, but a temporary action, a postponement.

Lesson 3: However, because the keys are in the locked-in purse, we would suffer additional stress when we remember that the concert tickets are also not accessible, since they would be in the same purse as the keys. Stress stimulates the flow of adrenalin and causes the heart to pound.

Remedy: Quick thought and action are required in such a situation. The pounding heart and flowing adrenalin can either facilitate rapid thought and action or hinder it. If  I do indeed have my credit card, I will be able to buy three new tickets at the door, for an additional $35, from a sympathetic ticket lady. Perhaps I will even make it to a seat just before the concert begins.

Lesson 4: Once the two-hour concert is over and we have discussed its merits and beauty, we will once again have to face the reality of the locked car across town in the mall parking lot. It will not go away on its own.

Remedy: If I am doggedly persistent, I can eventually find a locksmith who works on Saturday evening. He will probably have very little trouble  opening the car door. Then I will be able to open my purse and write him a check for--you guessed it--a fee of $35.

Conclusion: Obviously, in Part 2 we have learned not to make the mistake of locking car keys in cars. This cause-and-effect chain can teach me to be more watchful of such small but important items like car keys. I will perhaps learn that I cannot let down my guard on myself, even in the season of joy and giving.  I had best keep a wary eye.

**This disgusted kitty picture was borrowed from "Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere." 

Friday, November 19, 2010


Everywhere I look now, I see the peace symbol--on purses, shirts, hair ornaments, caps, books, shoes, cars, you name it.  When I first noticed this phenomenon, I thought, oh, good grief--here we are back in the sixties with the flower children. 
But the more I think about it, the more I realize this is a good thing. Peace is elusive today. You can hardly find a quiet, calm spot, not a physical place, not a quiet moment in your spirit. People long for peace. We are universally wired to need it. Let there be peace signs on every surface, I declare, and let there be tremendous awareness and deep longing.

One of my favorite Bible verses is this:

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This verse is found in the first chapter of Colossians, verse 17.  In this chapter, we see that Paul was writing his letter to the Christians of Colossae, an ancient Greek city, who were said to have confused beliefs.  Paul was afraid they would not see the true nature of Jesus. So he wrote a statement of the principles of Christianity to clarify it for them.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This verse is part of Paul’s statement of beliefs--a testimonial prayer for the believer’s life.  It proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the supreme power and love of God, who redeemed us from darkness through Jesus. It means God created the world and everything in it, and that he is in control of it all. His awesome love overcomes chaos in every situation. We can choose to live in his love, in his Spirit, in his peace.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This understanding gives us hope and a sense of security, helps us even when it may appear that our lives are falling apart. Because God is love, I know I can depend on him. I will not be washed over by chaos. He makes peace possible.

**I borrowed this picture of a human peace sign from Wrangler News.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Successful Living

The preacher at the church where I visited this morning said some things of value that I want to remember. 

He told about a coach (name escaped me) who gave his son these guidelines for a successful life. Here are his thoughts and my comments:

1.  Be true to yourself.

This thought echoes the scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet  when Polonius gives his son Laertes a few words of advice as Laertes leaves to study at the university in Wittenberg: “This above all—to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”  (Thanks to Quote DB for reminding me of the exact words.)

In other, more modern words, if you will always be true to yourself, you can never be untrue to anyone else.

2.  Help others.

If you think about it, it usually takes no more than a few minutes to help people. I remember the TV commercial in which a small act of kindness triggers a chain of helping. Each person who gets unexpected aid from a stranger then helps someone else. I have no idea what the commercial’s featured product is, but it’s a neat idea—and it’s true.

3.  Make every day a masterpiece.

If we keep this in mind, we’ll be careful to make every moment count in a meaningful way.

4.  Drink deeply from books, especially the Bible.

I am a definite, unapologetic bookworm.  Here are a few blog posts I’ve written about books, in case you are interested:  Thoughts on Reading, Speaking of Reading…, Best Books, and Books: Snicker-Snack!  

5.  Build shelter for a rainy day.

Yes, it will come. Do not doubt it. Be ready.

6.  Make friendship an art.

I think this one goes hand-in-hand with #2.   Relationships are everything. The second greatest commandment Jesus gave is “Love others as you love yourself.” Treasure the people you love, and let them know it.  Love unconditionally, like God does.

7.  Pray for guidance.

The pastor said, “You will only find meaning in what you were created to do.” So don’t spend your life doing things you hate, living for The Weekend.  He added that it is important to respond to God in faith without worrying about how or what. He will take care of those things. Pray to have the courage to do it.

Excellent ideas, all, and worthy of remembering and following.

I borrowed the picture of Pinocchio from 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Expensive Lessons: It's Only Money

I’ve been learning some expensive lessons lately. Well, let’s hope I’m learning. Here are several lessons I learned just two days ago, along with the remedies I suggested to myself.

Lesson 1: Bottled water is expensive. The ones that are not labeled are not necessarily the bargain water.

Remedy: I should take my own water in my handy-dandy insulated bottle. But if I’m in a pinch and can’t or didn’t, I must ask or find the labels/price tags. Or I could consider drinking out of a water fountain. Really, a dollar and a half for a little bottle of water?!

Lesson 2: Buying a Grow-a-Frog Kit does not actually include the frog itself, but a coupon for the frog, which will be sent when the grandchild submits the coupon. Therefore, there’s no need for me to worry that the frog will die if I do not have it shipped “overnight” for a considerably higher fee.

Remedy: I might perhaps practice paying attention to instructions and descriptions. Or as a sign I once saw said, “Surprise us all and THINK!”

Lesson 3: Having copies made at FedEx/Kinko’s can cost me up to about $15.00 by the time I ask their computer to print 12 copies of 2 pages, and then it only completes 8, and I then finish my copying on a plain Kinko’s copier rather than waiting in a slow, long line to complain, because I don’t have time.

Remedy: The key phrase here is “because I don’t have time.” The remedy is, of course, to be organized and make enough time to do the printing on my own printer at home and then make my copies at a free copy machine I know of.

You recognize, of course, that these are good remedies for familiar kinds of problems, common at least at my house. The question remains, though, whether I will forgive myself, saying, "Oh, it's only a little money," or watch myself with a wary eye.

I borrowed the picture of the disgusted kitty from this site:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Love Songs: Unchained Melodies

My friends and I were such romantics when we were teenagers.  Great love was waiting out there somewhere, someday to ride into our lives on a magnificent white charger.  I still love the stories of knights and their ladies.  

Is it any wonder?  All these marvelous love songs with their unchained melodies were the background music of our lives!

“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers

“Only You,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “The Great Pretender,” all these in one video by The Platters

Earth Angel”--   the Penguins

Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners

Sixteen Candles”  by The Crests

There’s a Moon Out Tonight” by The Capris

And especially…. “In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins

The picture of Isolde and Tristan comes from this site:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Truth: Facing It

The typical living room has an invisible elephant standing in the middle of it, proverbially speaking. People who live in the house carefully skirt around it and try hard to keep from tripping over it. They feed it and keep it quiet.

 In today’s entry of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, “Continually bring the truth out into actuality; work it out in every domain, or the very light you have will prove a curse.”

One of the easiest things to do is gloss over truth. It is much more pleasant to pretend problems do not exist than to confront them. Confronting difficult situations can be complex and thorny, not to mention, daunting.

If we don’t bring out the truth into the daylight and stand on it, things become crazy and shifty. If we let falsehood be in charge of our lives, life becomes, as OC says, full of darkness, shot through with flakinesss and a feeling of instability. Whatever truth remains will be tarnished and shoved around by irony. And that's darkness.

Truth must be worked into every aspect of our lives. How? We can’t do it alone. Often we are too used to being self-sufficient. If we seek God, he gives us the help we need. In 2008, I wrote this:

He will be found if we want him—if we reach out, cry out, just say the word. Lots of people today (and always) think we can heal ourselves, actualize ourselves, fulfill ourselves. We can’t. People are imperfect; only God is perfect—only he has the answers we need. Love is the only source of healing. And God is the only real source of love; if we feel love, it’s because God put it there as a part of himself.

God is the ultimate truth. All other truth rests on him. Out with elephants.

The picture is me, quietly feeding elephants.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Great-Tailed Grackles

 I first experienced grackles when I was in college in Austin, TX, many years ago. Their loud whistles and gravelly squawks seemed cute and friendly to me. Click this linked site to hear a sample! God has a good sense of humor.

They made themselves entirely at home, wherever they were. Stalking around in a lordly manner, they obviously felt free to partake of any and all bugs that made the unfortunate decision to remain out in the open.
My family lived a couple of hundred miles farther north, and my home town had nary a grackle. They were citizens of the south. 
Then about fifteen years later, I heard that familiar whistle. I rounded up my small children, and we took binoculars to the back yard to find the grackle. There he was, perched at the very top of our neighbor’s tall pine tree, whistling away. From then on, the grackle population has continued to increase, and now they make up a large number of our bird citizenry.
Many people complain about them, but I still find them entertaining and funny—that is, except when they roost in the trees over our driveway and deposit their waste on our cars. A big plastic owl keeps watch, though, and they seem to believe it is real. As long as he guards the place, they find other trees for roosting.
The picture comes from this blog: From My Perch: Great-tailed Grackles

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Justin Cronin Novels

Last year, I read two books I dearly loved by Justin Cronin, an author I accidentally discovered. The Summer Guest  (reviewed in this linked site) was the one I read first. The story’s structure and characters and plot are wonderful, realistic and believable.  Then I had to scramble around and find his other novel, his first, Mary and O’Neill.  They are both about love as the thing most worth living for, not the terrible self-centered kind that we so often see.
The Washington Post review linked above has this to say about The Summer Guest:
"Cronin's unabashed skewing for joy when most authors would spill over into sentiment or only trace the callous missteps of love is brave and bold. The Summer Guest explores love as the binding agent of life, not the factor that pulls it apart."
Since I loved those two novels, I then had to buy Cronin’s latest novel The Passage , because that’s how I operate. What a shock. It is good for the kind of novel it is, but it is nowhere near the same kind or quality of story as Mary and O’Neill and The Summer Guest. (Now I have to admit that my reading preferences are probably different from many people’s.)
The Passage, I was surprised to see, is the ultimate vampire story. It is, like the others, beautifully written. The characters have distinct personalities and their lives have realistic, universal concerns with which a reader can identify. It is about 700 pages long; I thrive on big, fat books. The ending leaves things open for a sequel.  
Reviewers love the novel and call it the most talked-about novel of the summer.  As one Washington Post reviewer notes, "The Passage is for adults who've been bitten but can't swallow the teenybopper misogyny of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series.
I read that the book is already widely read and wildly popular. It was sold to a major movie maker for over  three million dollars, and it is expected to be a blockbuster movie. I’m happy about that for Cronin. But I hope that he will someday write some more wonderful literary novels about the human heart in real life struggles, because he does it with supreme skill. And I have a hard time with vampire novels.

*The picture comes from this site: 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wren's Nest

I went into the garage one day last spring to take down the long outdoor extension cord for some yard chore. 
A tiny wren had built her nest in the center of the cord. I could see her nestled down inside the nest. She had great courage to stay there while I peered at her.  
So how could I take down the cord?  My work had to wait, of course!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Butterfly Frenzy

When our neighbors' sage bushes bloomed last year, a whole cloud of these big black and iridescent blue butterflies enveloped them in a frenzy of feeding.

Another neighbor's yellow kitten was mystified by all the butterflies, and she kept leaping up and trying to capture them. Fortunately, she never succeeded. 

A small swarm of bees joined the butterflies--those big, fat, yellow and black bumblebees. They were just as excited about the flowers as the butterflies were. A mockingbird squawked warnings at the kitten, which apparently was too close to the nest of mockingbird children. She occasionally dive-bombed the kitten, who ignored the bird--too busy with butterflies.

The underside of the butterflies' wings were blue and black with a curved line of orange spots. An Internet search shows that they are pipevine swallowtails. Here's another picture, showing the outside of the wings, which have a span of about three and a half inches. I took these pictures with my trusty Olympus digital camera.

Here is a linked site that has gorgeous pictures and lots of information about the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sick Person in Need of Help!

Too many people look in all the wrong places, trying to find something that will satisfy their needs and longings.  Some things we don’t need to bother with can give us good feelings, and we may get deeply connected with some very harmful habits.

But the good feelings don’t last, and that’s because only closeness to God gives that rich, satisfied feeling.

Overindulging in alcohol or drugs or even food, for example, is not a sickness itself, but addiction is--and also a symptom of affliction of the spirit. The real malady is isolation from God, a deeper-than-the-bones soul sickness. He satisfies “more than the richest feast.”

Psalm 63 says it well—David was in the wilderness, thirsty, lonely and needy:

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!

I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Desmond Tutu, on Goodness

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a highly respected man, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against apartheid in Africa, a worker for the helpless, the hungry, the hopeless. He has written a new book called Made for Goodness.

The April 2 issue of The United Methodist Reporter features an interview with Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu, who is herself an Episcopal priest, a woman of distinction who helps the needy; she is the chair emeritus of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance.

In the interview, Mary Jacobs asked Ms. Tutu this question:

In (his) book, your father says: “We are tuned to the key of goodness. That is not to deny evil; it is to face evil squarely. We can face evil squarely because we know that evil will not have the last word.” Aren’t some people evil? How can we believe that we are all good when we see the horror that humans inflict upon one another?

Ms. Tutu answered:

He would say that no one is inherently evil . . . . that we are not born as sinners in need of saving; instead we are saints in need of seeing. We need to see who we really are and live into the truth of who we are.

Jacobs asked:

Not born sinners? Aren’t you contradicting a key statement of Christian faith?

Tutu answered:

I would say that we are not so much contradicting it as seeing it differently.

I have to respectfully agree with Ms. Jacobs’ assessment. The Bible clearly says we are all sinners from birth. We all need saving from ourselves. I think Archbishop Tutu is a wonderful man who has known and lived in the righteousness of God for such a long time that perhaps he has forgotten. That is one of the dangers we have to guard against.

We can’t forget that we need help to get out of the pit of self. Otherwise, why did Jesus Christ have to die on the cross?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Death--Our Ultimate Dilemma

Death hits us hard. We hate seeing the affliction of people we love, and we hate suffering when we have to do it ourselves.  Death separates us, and there are too many messy emotions.

Max Lucado says, “Something about death makes us accuse God of betrayal. ‘If God were here, there’d be no death!’ we claim.” Max calls death “our ultimate dilemma.”

Max writes about the passage in John 11, the story of sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, of Bethany, who were Jesus’ much-loved friends. Jesus heard about Lazarus’ desperate illness, but he waited three days to go to Bethany, and by that time, Lazarus had died. Jesus talked about belief to his disciples: “…I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe.”

He was concerned about Martha’s belief. She was a little testy with him, saying if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died. He said her brother would rise again, and she said sure, sure, “in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus responded, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 

 "Yes, Lord," she said, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 

Everybody was talking in sort of accusatory tones about how Jesus could have saved him from death if he had come sooner. By this time, there was an odor. Too late. He had been there four days. But Jesus, moved to tears, prayed, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." Then he told them to roll away the stone at the entrance to the grave. He called to Lazarus to come out, and he did. People gasped, amazed. They believed.

Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 

The thing is, God never leaves us alone, even though we may turn our backs on him, angry and defiant and determined to try to cope with it ourselves, without his help. Max says “if God is God anywhere, he has to be God in the face of death.” Only God has the power to deal with it. We can’t handle death’s destruction alone.  Lazarus, of course, eventually did die and remain in the grave. The story of Lazarus shows that God can do what he says he will do--give us eternal life. Do you believe this?
Here is a link to this amazing story, John 11, from Bible Gateway.

These thoughts come from Day 23 of Max Lucado’s Lenten Bible study Only Jesus--Forty Days with the Son. 

The "Death" picture is borrowed from