Focus the New Year

One word 2015I read The Write Conversation this morning and thought it was brilliant and had to share. Indeed … I’m choosing “indeed” as my word of the year. Here’s why:

 

 

Exodus 3:7                          God sees us and our blights
Psalms 85:12                      God promises good things
Psalms 121:4                      God promises protection
Proverbs 2:3                       God promises wisdom
Luke 12:7                             Jesus stresses our value
John 4:14                             Jesus promises eternal life
John 8:36                             Jesus promises freedom

Thanks, Edie Melson, for the challenge. Now it’s your turn. Let me know if you have a verse or word for 2015.

What’s Your Responsibility at Thanksgiving?

picture from Creationswap.com

picture from Creationswap.com

This is the season where families get together; celebrating the special closeness that you share. Yet so many families are splintered … feelings have been hurt over forgotten issues … that wearing a painted smile and staying close to the liquor cabinet are the best ways to deal. There’s more to Thanksgiving than sharing turkey. It’s time to make amends with one another; it’s a time for families to heal.

It wasn’t an accident that you were placed with your family. God’s plan put you there. Yet so many think they can improve that plan by putting walls of unmet expectations and hurt feelings around their hearts.

“I don’t want to be hurt anymore.”  “You don’t know what they did to me.”  “We have nothing in common; it’s best we just keep our distance and live our lives apart.”

All those sound good, right? But these statements are all self-serving … and wrong!

If you have hurt someone, apologize. If you have been hurt, forgive. It wasn’t suggested by God, it was what he told us to do:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35 (NIV)

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matt. 5:23-24 (NIV)

“… If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4 (NIV)

Did you get it? Did you see? Jesus died for the person you’re upset with or the person who’s upset with you. They have value. You have value. That value isn’t about you; it’s about our Heavenly Father. How would that Thanksgiving meal be if we sat at the same table as our Lord and our estranged family members?

Think about it, and don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Have a Happy … and Healthy … Thanksgiving!

Time to Apply

typewriter I’m still floating in the clouds over the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers conference I attended last week. There were so many gifted writers there … and their primary goal was to help writers like me.

I’ve been replaying some of the conversations I had with other conferees as well as faculty members in my mind. They all offered pretty good feedback and advice.

Then my thinking became polluted with pride.

Why did he think I needed that type of critiquing, anyway? Why didn’t she like my writing?

My goal all along was to go to the conference to get help from those in the literary field, yet for a moment I tried to defend myself and my work.

I’m so pathetic … completely pathetic.

After fighting my way through my mental arrogance, I hunkered down with my laptop and started applying some of the suggestions to what I had already written. I knew this process would include deleting and rewriting large sections of text. Many hours would be needed to apply what I had learned.

After my first marathon writing session and I finally closed the top of my laptop. I was blown away. It looks better … my writing is stronger!

Proverbs 15:31-32 says, “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”

I heard words of truth, but had to apply them to gain the benefit. I pray I will continue to be open to those around me who offer wisdom. How about you?

Panic Set In

Panic set in this morning; when my alarm went off it was still dark outside.

Summer is leaving!

My first reaction was to try and make it stay. There were so many experiences I still wanted to have during the Summer of 2012. There were still places I wanted to visit and people I wanted to meet.

But I knew I had no power over my days. David reminds us:

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalms 39:4-6 NLT

I might not have lots of time, but I want to make sure I use every moment as wisely as I can. How about you? Don’t let panic cripple you to the point of missing out on the sunshine and warmth of summer that is still here. Enjoy … make new friends … see new places. Do these things while you still have the time.

The Chick-fil-A Controversy

I’m a bit confused over the whole Chick-fil-A controversy. Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A Inc., has always been open about his established set of beliefs and values. As a Believer in Christ, one of those established values is to keep Sunday for worship. Because of this, he will not open his restaurants on that day. Another value he holds to is embracing traditional family values, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said in a recent interview. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

In a time when people say one thing yet do another, I would think it would be refreshing to see a man run his company the same way he lives his life: dedicated to what he believes.

I applaud Mr. Cathy for being consistent. And I throw a big Shame-On-You to the organizations and publications that want to take him to task, as well as the contributors who are using this issue to promote controversy.

I don’t hear anyone berating him for being closed on Sunday. I don’t hear anyone picketing his restaurants because chickens are killed to make their famous sandwiches. Here’s a man who is supporting his business doing what he believes is right. And he’s using his venue … his chain of restaurants … to support his values.

I’m not engaging on any side of this issue … because I don’t see an issue. Eat at Mr. Cathy’s restaurant or don’t. The choice is yours. It seems the only people making a big deal out of this are the people who are trying to impress their self-appointed superiority onto others. And this attitude is coming from both sides of the argument; the folks who feel that being in a traditional marriage is the only way to live and those who feel that homosexual relationships are enlightening.

The way I see it is that this is a fallen world and we are dealing with broken people all over the place. Understand, nobody listens to a screaming voice. If either side really wants to make a difference they need to concentrate on areas of commonality, not division. Start communicating from there and see what happens.

I’m all good with Chick-fil-A as I’m good with any gay-owned business. Like I said, I don’t understand the problem … all I see are opportunities to reach out to those who are different from me.

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

I have never re-blogged another person’s words, but Dannah Gresh’s words need to be shared.

God bless you, Dannah, and all other women who boldly stand on keeping their mind on things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

I Did Not Blink

Converting my closets recently from Winter to Summer clothes, I came across some summertime pajamas I purchased last Spring. They weren’t flashy, but the sweet kind of PJ’s you buy with comfort in mind. Pretty, yet functional. Finding them brought a smile to my face.

They were a pair of PJ’s I bought for my hospital stay when I had brain surgery, April 2011.

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since that incredible Friday evening when everything around me took on a new life of its own. If you care to reflect back, visit an earlier post.

This past year has been filled with wonderful gifts and blessings. I don’t know if I would have recognized them as such if it had not been for that fateful night in April. For example, I’ve always known that I have an awesome husband. But Lew was there for me in ways that I could not have anticipated … it had to be experienced. He was tested right along with me, and I will forever be grateful to him and his dedication to me and our marriage. My children really stepped up to the plate of responsibility and attentiveness. There’s nothing as wonderful as seeing your grown children react as the loving and caring people you always knew they’d turn into being. And I can’t forget my friends. I received so many cards, calls, and e-mails of best wishes and support. I just recently re-read all my notes and once again felt the surge of love from all my well-wishers.

It’s been said that beliefs and sponges are alike in that they need to be squeezed to see what they hold inside. Truly my beliefs were squeezed—or challenged—last Spring. I had to evaluate if what I believed would be enough to carry me through to whatever happened during the surgery as well as beyond. I had to look dead-on into the eyes of my mortality … I needed to see if I felt the need to turn away from what I saw or if I would be the first to blink.

No blinking for me!

I won’t say that it’s been easy, because this past year has brought challenges. Even after physical, speech, and occupational therapy, I have needed to find a new normal that works for me. I will probably always have some weakness and loss of dexterity in my right side. Running up or down stairs is just a memory now. The area on my head where my hair was shaved has filled in a bit and there aren’t as many renegade wisps as there were only a few months ago.

But I clearly know what I have gained. I can tell you—without a doubt in my mind—that I know Who holds my tomorrows. I can also tell you that I have peace knowing that the Creator of the Universe also planned the existence of Robin Gilbert Luftig. After I was created I truly believe that he stood back, looked at his creation, and smiled.

He watches my back just as he watches my tomorrows.

Life is sweet, don’t think it isn’t. There may be trials in your world today, but they are temporary. Time—along with trials—will pass. Don’t waste time fretting about what could have been. We should always hook our wagons to the “what-is”, remembering who it is that’s holding all of our tomorrows; because honestly … it isn’t us.

“… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NIV

A Witness to Life

It unimposingly sat on the table . Its purpose was to make life better by offering up sweetness. In itself, it wasn’t all that attractive … in itself it was plain and unadorned.

But its value to me was greater than many of my other possessions.

I’m talking about my family’s sugar bowl. This sugar bowl sat on our family’s kitchen table for as long as I can remember. The table coverings changed from Country Check to Simple Linen. The tables even changed from chrome and flecked laminate to a much more civilize walnut. But it wasn’t the style or the material that the sugar bowl rested upon that was so special. It was the conversations that were held over that vessel of sweetness that remain with me … the memories of how life changed and how those experiences happened around that simple piece of china.

… Like the time when my dad asked me to sit in his lap on Saturday morning so he could tell me that life just wasn’t working out between him and my mom; that he was going to live somewhere else. While I sat there, summoning up my whole four years of maturity, I remember how I sobbed into his shoulder while I asked if he would ever come back to visit me. Then, through his own tears he pulled me close. I can still see how he wiped away the tears from his eyes and said he changed his mind, he wasn’t going anywhere.

… Or there were the many times I can remember moving the sugar bowl aside so I could watch Mom make dozens of fruit pies, apple dumplings, or cookies. She would expertly reach her spoon into the white sugar to sprinkle glistening crystals atop each piece of homemade heaven.

… Then there were all the times when I would sit at the table that held the sugar bowl, waiting for Dad to come home from working his job at the factory. We would share a milk-diluted cup of coffee sweetened by too many spoonsful of that sweet white stuff and talk about life as only a six-year old understood it. No topics were off limits, and many times he would tell me that life would be difficult for me, because I didn’t just see life as black and white … I saw life’s experiences in shades of gray.

… Sadly, the day came when that same bowl of sugar and a less diluted cup of coffee occupied that maple table when Dad told me that he and Mom were, in fact, splitting this time and I needed to pick who I would stay with. I remember the pain from that conversation and how no amount of sweetness offered up from that sugar bowl could console me.

Years later, when that sugar bowl sat on my own table, I experienced life’s pain that came in shades of gray. Dad was right about that in my life.

For too many years my view of Christ was just like that of my sugar bowl. While I looked the other way, turning to resentment and cynicism to help me in life, he was always there witnessing all the good as well as bad that was happening in my life. Faithfully, he offered up a sweetness for my broken spirit whenever it held bitterness; all I needed to do was accept it. He was ever-patient, offering comfort from the unpleasantness that comes with life. John 10:10 shares, “… I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”.

Now that is what I call a real sweetness.

That sugar bowl is still in my home, but now in a place of honor and safety. It represents that no matter what happens, life’s bitterness can be dealt with properly with a filling of the sweetness That comes from a relationship with Christ.

Seasons in Life

Bonnie was a girlfriend from days long gone by (not her real name). Bonnie and I were incredibly close; our lives were so in sync. We were pregnant the same times, liked the same herb teas, and even went back to college as non-traditional students during the same season in our lives. We were connected at the hip. I would have a thought and she would express it. It was a wonderful friendship; closer than family.

Unfortunately, Bonnie and I also dealt with similar compulsions in our lives at the same time. I filed for divorce to start a new life. I soon began steeping in my dysfunction, not realizing the harm I was causing myself. And as a good (and compulsive) friend, Bonnie came right along. It didn’t take long for her to follow the path I had blazed and she, too, filed for divorce.

Again, she and I were inseparable. We even scheduled our children’s visitation evenings on the same nights so we could go out and enjoy ourselves; really paint the town red. Life was our oyster and there was no limit to what was before us. We were two attractive young women looking for attention and enjoying all that we received.

But, as scripture warns, we enjoyed the “pleasures of sin for a season”.  Slowly our lives began to fall apart. Bonnie and I began spending time with people we never should have met, doing things we never should have done … going to places we never should have visited … leading us to make choices—different choices—we never should have made. In the middle of the wallowing in muck and mire that was due to these choices, Bonnie and I severed our friendship. We remained civil with each other, but too many secrets were shared between us. Secrets that once bonded our lives were now feared as potential weapons that could do great harm to the other if shared indiscriminately.

I moved from that area where Bonnie and I lived and as it always does, life moved on. Years later I found myself on my knees, asking God to take over my mismanaged life, and was thrilled that his grace was waiting for me. My walk with Christ daily fills me with wonder and awe of how he could love completely … watch me walk away … then forgive completely when I changed my course in life and wanted back under his protecting wing.

A few years ago had the opportunity to re-connect with some friends and family back home. I walked into a fast-food restaurant while visiting and saw a young man who I knew immediately had to be Bonnie’s son; his features reflected his mother’s so strikingly that I had to ask if Bonnie was his mother. Yes, he said, shyly … how did I know her?

I vaguely shared how she and I had spent some time together years ago. I gave him my cell phone number and asked him to have his mom call me. I was so excited about having the opportunity to chat with Bonnie. I had been spending lots of healing time in scripture and working The Steps. The thought of offering an amend to my friend thrilled my heart. I wanted so desperately to share my new life with her. We had always been like two peas from the same pod and I knew she would get it, too.

But her return call never came.

I thought that maybe Bonnie’s son misplaced my note, so I called her number … the same phone number from all those years earlier. I left a message—clearly the voice I recognized was Bonnie’s—asking her to give me a call because I had lots to share with her. But nothing. It then hit me …. she just wasn’t going to be returning my calls.

Those secrets from years ago … could they still be controlling her? Just because I found peace in truth didn’t necessarily mean that she found it, too. I had faced demons and shared all my ugly past with the people who mattered—my new husband as well as trusted friends—and experienced a peace that can only come from trusting a God bigger than me. I needed to realize that Bonnie had the right to not want to hear my amend; that she had the right not to accept the new and improved me. If she wanted to hang onto her memories of me … that was her right.

I am sad to think that a great friendship was destroyed by sin so many years ago, but it was. Was it my sin, her sin, our sin … who can say?

I have few regrets in my life. I have offered everything to God and it has been important that every part of my life be directed to glorify him. But if I had the chance to take anything back … if I could have a do-over … I would fix my relationship with Bonnie. I miss her and I can only hope that she has found peace in her own life as I have found in mine.

Seasons … they come and they go. I was reminded this morning that as one season closes another season begins. Driving to work today I needed to wear sun glasses for the first time in months, reminding me that the days are beginning to get longer.  Another Winter season is coming to an end and a fresh Spring season is getting ready to begin.

Just as it should be.