Families, Relationships, Marriage

I spent some time with a branch of my father’s family this weekend. We spent much conversation “catching up”, but also discussing some of the dynamics of the three topics of the post title. I don’t think one of the things discussed was uncomplicated. There are so many shadings in human relationships, and rarely are our actions or those of others completely clear and simple… or maybe I should say few are “stand alone”.

For the past few years I have had this stream of thought about how much our lives influence others. Sometimes that influence is so slight and transitory that it is almost invisible, but certain circumstances highlight it. We are presently in the throes of summer Midwest heat, but much of this thought process took form in depth of winter; by happenstance when traveling in the passenger seat, looking through the window and observing tracks left in the snow. Those tracks left a story that I, in my fast moving vehicle, could read in an instant ….the meandering of a pet dog, the trail of someone checking their mailbox, the startled jump and changed direction of a deer. All were pieces of a story that unfolded in impressions upon the snowy white pages of the landscape. Leaving their marks upon the places they had tread, one could piece together whether they had hurried or whether they had followed their habitual trail, whether they belonged there or had wandered warily within boundaries designed to curtail them.

The thought, then, was of how often we tread within the realm of another’s life, for however long or brief a time; sometimes with enough repetitions and weight to wear a trail, but more often thoughtlessly rambling through. We are unaware, except by brief accident of circumstance, that our mark was left within time upon a persons experience, pressed in the earthen face of their lives. It made me think of how much more careful we might be with each other if our eyes could spiritually see our impact.

For good or for harm, but certainly for something. We often matter in ways we cannot fathom.

The conversations reminded me of this, and of truths which remain whether we recognize or live by them or not. we can read research or articles that assure us that our children do fine without us, or that we do fine without the nurture or care of our parents, or a relationship, over, is forgotten and left behind. We carry our stories of life, and they are somehow or other written into the terrain of our lives. As the mark of a long ago tree or ancient edifice might be seen long after its physical existence is erased in every other way. Some of us understand these truths, despite the assurances otherwise…. and some of us trip upon them disconcertingly, as we move on in life.

We carry the imprint of our family, of our friends, and even of strangers that cross our paths…. and they also carry those we have made. And are making.

Prayer That Works

I just had an experience that I thought I would comment on, not because it is new, but because though it has happened enough in the past it gave me a minute of pause and I decided to write about it.

It goes like this: You pray for someone/something you said you would or that you had on your heart, and felt confidence on all counts (faith, scriptural support, heart fervency, etc) – all those things that a person who prays knows as basis for faith that God hears, and answers. Then, the very thing prayed for seems to suffer some sort of attack that creates some doubt. Did God hear? am I disqualified for some reason? what is going on?

In this instance I prayed for some people in missions, and my daughter specifically, to be protected particularly in traffic. Whether simultaneously or soon after a report of a serious accident. So, what is going on here? Did this prayer not work or did it work, but in a flawed way. Some people are not going to like the phrasing “prayer working”, but we labor in our prayers, so it seems like a good way to think about this. And James speaks of effectual prayers, effectual meaning “producing an intended effect”.

While there might be numerous explanations, one that ought to be considered, when a seemingly opposite situation seems to come forward than the one prayed for, is that you have walked into enemy territory. You have started to wage war spiritually. Sometimes the enemy of our souls is used to having dominion over an area, of life, of a family, of a city or nation, and the prayer of a fervent saint is making an inroad of uncomfortable efficacy to take back blessing for the situation prayed for.

You may be experiencing the resistance of a an evil spiritual power. That is one possibility that you should consider. I believe the Spirit of God can give you insight into whether this is the case in your particular request. There are times when Jesus said we should be encouraged when we see seemingly hostile events taking place.

In the case of my own prayer, the lives of the people in that accident were kept, even though there was injury. My daughter was not involved though some of her coworkers were. What does this tell me? It tells me that in an area that desperately needs the blessings and freedom of the gospel, prayer for mission workers should be redoubled. That is right- I am encouraged to further pray for protection… to meet resistance with faith in the power of the covenant in Jesus blood. And therein is the key to prayer that works. God honors His covenant in the blood of Jesus. It is our confidence in that that the devil fears, and the enemy of our souls will try to squelch. The gospel (good news) of freedom is the news that a covenant, an everlasting agreement, has been given to us and sealed with the blood of God’s only begotten son. The psalm 91 promises of protection and deliverance are ours in Christ Jesus. When we know that God is pleased to answer us, then our prayer will “work”. Although it is more accurate to say that we know that God is going to act on our behalf.

I encourage you to pray, and to find what is promised you in the eternal covenant in Christ Jesus for us.

Bettering Your Business Through Social Media

I blog, twitter, and facebook. Each has its uses, and a recent experience made me aware of how they impact a business.

If you read my garden blog, you might know that I have about four acres of property, close to three which need regular mowing. This is the height of the mowing season, and we had already replaced the hand mower earlier, but then the deck mower finally rusted out after 23 years (it was a John Deere brand). They sometimes say “bad luck comes in threes”, but two mowers breaking down at the height of the mowing season this year was enough for me.

We decided that we needed a machine that could mow this size property and navigate around the trees and gardens in a better manner than a tractor with a rear deck mower. A “zero turn” mower seemed like the solution, and after due diligence in researching brands, the ‘Toro’ was decided upon. Next came shopping the outlets for such mowers.

Home Depot matched the price and we purchased from their store.

The rest of the story….

That should have segued into a happy ending… but then I wouldn’t have a post centering around bettering your business and the part social media plays in that. The trouble started when the said “new” mower was delivered. My husbands habit is to be here when there is an important delivery… and so he was. The new mower arrived uncrated, and on inspections, was covered over in scratches and had rust issues. My husband refused it on the spot.

This mower had been used. By someone somewhere -and now was being passed off as a new product. That, right there, is what made me so angry.

I take a lot of sometimes poor service from a business. I chalk it up to someone having a bad day, or the luck of the draw, or that sometimes stuff happens, and I don’t like to make waves unnecessarily, but I have learned it helps to speak up. In this instance, the sheer dishonesty of sending off a clearly unsatisfactory product to a customer paying for a new item was just plain wrong. It was wrong for me, and wrong for the next guy it might be foisted upon.

The Power of Squawk…

So I used the power of social media to squawk my complaint. It isn’t that I don’t believe I couldn’t have gotten satisfaction another way (through negotiation by complaining to the store manager,etc). My husband was doing that, but my own goal was to hopefully improve the way business gets done, for myself and for other customers, AND get a quick resolve on the issue. Any midwesterner with three acres of fast growing grasses, a rainy May weather pattern, and no mower, knows my need for a speedy resolve in this issue.

But that is the benefit of social media for the consumer, not for the business. For the business, social media is like a big PR machine. You want happy customers talking about how great your business is, not magnifying your poor service and below par product.

This home improvement store should have had more quality control, because bottom line, it is a good buying experience and a quality product that is going to make me happiest, and to give repeat business. And blog, tweet, and facebook that happiness- besides the Yelp reviews, et al….

Lots of businesses are investing in hiring bloggers, professional social media people, etc. to promote their businesses, but if they aren’t taking care of the customer in the store- it is all waste of time, space, and money.

How it was resolved and the lessons of that….

Home Depot

  • delivered a brand new, uncarted mower in reasonable time
  • apologized both verbally, and in handwritten letter for the trouble and inconvenience
  • included a gift card with the written apology

Those steps went a long way to assuage the anger, but I came across a business maxim that presents the lesson best learned by businesses in this post:

The bitterness of low quality is remembered l-o-n-g after the sweetness of too low pricing is forgotten

That is also true for the experience of feeling bunked by a business after they have tried to mop up the mess and attempted to make things right for the consumer.

As I remarked on my twitter account: people will RT ( Retweet, or multiply the message) a rant far more often than they will RT the satisfaction of the complaint.

Since my husband and I are also long time D-I-Yourselfers, and write a blog about the experiences of remodeling, etc. Home Depot would have benefited far more from just delivering on their goods and service in a quality controlled way, than anything that might have been gained from trying to unload a second rate piece of merchandise.

They didn’t know this customer blogged and twittered.

But now they do.

Businesses who pay attention to responses from their customers, or those of related businesses can learn about what is important to them and their customers. They can discover the priority of business practices without having their CEO needing to go undercover to find out how to improve.

And that is what makes social media a win-win for everyone, because I don’t want to rant and rave about poor service or second rate merchandise. I want to have a happy shopping experience and get my lawn mowed.


On the other side of it, people who relate within social media have responsibilities to be fair, and to try to better their world. I wrote about that at an earlier time, 5 Things The Web Taught Me.

Missing From Our Education

money

I may not agree 100% with everything that Robert Kiyosaki writes, but he gets some basic things very,very right. He wrote “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, which benefited my family with some common sense ideas that put finances in a perspective that is easy to grasp. He has made some trend forecasting for the next decade, and I think He may be onto something.

I especially agree with this quote:

Financial education is an important objective for this next decade. We cannot allow the gap to grow bigger. We must have financial education in our schools. Money will not close the gap — only financial education will.

This is something that parents need to gain and pass on to their children, and schools need to help.

I was raised by a frugal father, and he passed on some wise sayings to me about finances, but one thing that was of benefit to him that he did not pass on was investing information with the stocks that were in his estate. So I knew how to squeeze a dollar, but I didn’t know how to grow that savings. I had no idea about stocks, or understanding all those symbols and talk about fundamentals, etc.

How many other women out there find that they don’t know very much about finances? Suze Orman has made a career out of that demographic.

I had to learn quickly. The past few years have been quite an education for everyone, but one thing is certain…. most of us will need to understand how finances work as we near “retirement” age. I put that in quotes because many will join the ranks of my husband and I… needing to work as long as we can, without truly “retiring” from the workworld. With Social Security running out, all generations are going to have to make real adjustments in what they view as the costs, and the people they are financially responsible for.

Schools will need to teach about finances in a whole new and rigorous way. And we will all need to deconstruct the old thinking that government will take care of us, or that hard work is enough. We need real skills in understanding the debility of debt, and the way wealth increases and is preserved. We need it for our individual lives, and we need it for our country.

Christian Self Esteem

More about the core self, because that post, ‘The Best of Me‘ needs clarification and more thinking. The idea that we get wrong ideas, and then perpetuate them, about who we really are has been one of those swirling, vague, and just out of reach concepts for me. The light just dawning as I enter my sunset season.

I don’t mourn my late entry into this concept since enlightenment has its own time and sequence. We try to find it early in our lives, but our culture, or our own wills, -a number of things, really- , intervene. In terms of eternity, perhaps the important thing is to get it at sometime while we can still do something about adding to the cultural consciousness of it.

We sometimes see Christian doctrine as a static thing. And we are so tainted by modern ideas of what evolution is, that we resist the idea that Christian revelation is at all organic. Simply because our view is that evolution means transposing, when in Christian revelation it is a widening of the vision. “Here a little, there a little, line upon line” until a clearer vision of truth is evident.

“Who am I?” takes a different track… to “Does anyone know me?”, even myself? It is the “Message in a Bottle” transit from feeling alone, and that no one knows me, to understanding that we are all in the same basic situation.
A human condition. But to end there, with that “Message” is to be somewhat despairing, if one really understands the message to begin with.

The more we discover who we are… and what is true of humanity… the more despair grabs hold of us. It gets to the point that the platitudes no longer provide the emollient that they once have. “We are only human”…
Perhaps that is why God takes time to send His message that He does know us, in ways that we find hard to imagine.
Take these for example:
Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”
Psalm 139:13
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Isaiah 49:5
“And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD …”

The bottle gets found, the response is there… but we never leave our island, we never even look to see if we are truly on an island. That famous little maxim comes to mind: “No man is an island”*, yet we all have a tendency to feel so, especially in this disjointed post modern world. Until, through interjection of revelation, through driven to despair, or by happy chance.. or grace… we find a reality far from the lies we were told, or that we chose to believe.

This is the beginning of Christian Self esteem. To see what God’s image was meant to look like, what we were meant to look like… to be. It is a beautiful picture of worth and value, of fruit and music, of kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, joyfulness… a realization of paradise within.

How do we catch that view?
Certainly it can’t be until we throw off the old one.

Matthew 10:39
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Notes*
John Donne, Meditation XVII

Passion Week – Easter Sunday

“Passion” is a big buzzword now, especially on the internet and in marketing. I don’t know if most people are prepared to be passionate in our culture today. I know it seems I am conflating the meaning of Christ’s Passion, but let’s look at these things for a little while.

If the word passion connotes anything in the English language it is certainly intensity. Intensity in focus and in emotion, and that relates to all uses of our concept of passion. In the sense of Easter week it follows the height of Palm Sunday’s celebration of Christ on Earth through the sorrowful depths of the Crucifixion to the triumph of the Resurrection. That probably plays on every emotion a person might have, in some way, Joy and Jealousy, Love and Betrayal, Injustice and Fear, Relief and Sorrow… to just name the most obvious.

I’m not sure our emotionally medicated, mind distracting, self-absorbed society is ready for such passion. We love the idea of being sold-out for causes, wholeheartedly given to lifestyles, immersed in our job or interest, and so we talk about passion, but rarely live it. And those who do give themselves in such a way are “too much”, too restrictive, and too narrow for those who simply love the lip service of living a passionate life.

The old idea of “the Passion”, the one kept alive in churches with traditional rituals that center on such things, is from the Latin term for “suffering”. When you are passionate about art or gardening, or music, the idea of suffering for it is divorced from the contemporary viewpoint. We want our passions pain-free. We want our religion pain-free, or at least contained in its symbolic church boxes. But the kind of love that God showed the world was one of such intense suffering for it that whether in sight of it or removed by unbelief and centuries… we turn our faces from it. It is too painful to even glimpse for more than a second’s flash of revelation.

And yet that is what Easter week calls to us, the would-be disciples of Christ, those desiring to be loved and cared for by the Great Shepherd, those who want justice in the world, and healing for their wounds. “Look at the cross”. Any of all the possible sufferings that mankind is subject to cries out for a release. And in return, Easter calls us to view the incredible cost of suffering that lifting such a weight demanded. The release is there, and cost a terrible, terrible price. We are struck at the enormity and how impossible a debt we had incurred. We have to face the pain that we inflicted.

Our love of passion evaporates when its true visage is revealed.
Continue reading Passion Week – Easter Sunday

It’s Not About Tequila

At least not for me, it isn’t.
So, I was reading about the worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle because the Third Tribe sent me there. (I joined them this year because of just what the tequila post was really about). It isn’t just because I would like to somehow turn my garden site into an itty business, but because I want my blogging to have meaning, and purpose. And I want to feel I am making headway with my writing and let it at least break even in paying for itself instead of borrowing from the family budget ( somewhat like the government “borrows” from the Social Security funds.)

So, yes, honestly… I would like the affiliate relationships with Amazon and Google, etc, to help me with the hosting for my garden site, the premium templates, and all the other things that were once free on the net, but have become more necessary to pay for in creating a better quality output.

I once did everything free, both on my side of it and other’s side of it. It isn’t that I don’t still, but the realities are that everyone has to make a living. Oh forget this detour- I really wanted to talk about avoidance.

What This Was Really About
The Worm Post began describing the trough I often find myself in, not just in blogging, but in life.

It goes like this:

sometimes people love what you’ve got, love you, and shower you with roses and orders and blog comments and 83% organic dark chocolate.

And sometimes? Sometimes, not so much.

Sometimes it’s dead quiet out there and you feel a tad exposed. You troll Twitter and everyone’s tweets are so peppy, all about how great their businesses are doing, you start to feel a tad bad. The story line, “What was I thinking?” starts sucking you in.

I get sucked into that dark pit more than I like to say. I get sucked into it as a Christian. Sometimes because of the type of Christian I am. I wonder how much of us is what we make ourselves, not because we are so powerful at it, but because of how helpless we are to really see facts. We labor under false assumptions and vague presumptions we pick up along the way of life. Not blaming anybody, it just seems that we humans are very prone to this.

So I followed the post through to the “assessment”. That is what I call the analysis + resolution of pinpointing these problems.

Like I said, I don’t have a history with tequila, but when we got to this point *__________ (fill in your favorite avoidance technique here), I knew we were talking about me and where I go ( I tend to do avoidance technique #Surfing the Internet until your butt goes numb and your heart grows stiff)

These avoidance techniques are what I call “Shadow Comforts,” things we turn to for fulfillment, but which don’t really fill us up.

Ouch. sounds like the Preacher talking to the Sinner, here, right? So how come I identify?
The “Nifty Tips” all sound like things that could work on any battle with depression, etc., but I reduce it down to get rest, develop awareness, get perspective.
I will be translating that into my lifestyle context, and leave it to to you take what you want for yourself.

About God

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference…..And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference

Elie Wiesel said that. If you aren’t sure of who he is, Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor who came to terms with the horrible things that happened to him and those around him at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. And that quote says something that God wants us to understand about Him. I say God, because he also said some of the same in the teachings of the Bible. But we aren’t ready for that statement yet. Let me backtrack a bit. As usual in this sort of conversation I want to talk about us, because we understand ourselves somewhat more than we understand God.

First, A little About Us and this Conversation

Several things led here for me. Two are fairly recent, with input from two young women at very different places in their lives. One is just starting out, not yet out of High School, but questioning the things she was taught about God, Christianity, and though not calling it by name, Truth. The other is moving into that strange time of life as one approaches one’s thirties, a retrospective, an analysis of what one’s family of origin, teachings of the Church, and personal faith has actually returned in terms of that search for Truth. I capitalize it, because this sort of truth is the metaphysical, the elusive, great all encompassing sort of truth we seek in the final answers of who God is. Some give up on that, but not usually before they have spent some time in the search. So most of us have some experience with that.

I am not sure I am talking to either of them so much as to myself, because it is that underlying impetus that has always been a part of me, to know God, that occupies so much of my mental, and physical efforts. And that quest has been in company with many who are or have been atheists, or materialists, or religionists. The three are not so far apart as you might imagine. Much of what I have encountered and embraced has been “about God” and that is the core of this post, because you rarely come to know God unless you know something “about” God. Not that the information must all come from teachers,preachers, or tomes. Nature has plenty of puzzle pieces, enough to give us an inkling, but also enough information to make us dangerous. That is kind of a joke, but I’m going to let it stand with its grain of truth.

OK, about us. We learn that as little children we have a hard time seeing the world apart from ourselves, and in some ways, especially spiritual ways, I don’t think we manage to get very far from that subjectivity. We think “others” are like ourselves, and spend a lot of painful history finding out how much competition there is in the “selves” walking around. Not wanting to spend too much time on this, but how far are we –really– from two and three year old children? Just better quality masks.

Whether agreed on that, one thing that is quite clear anytime you talk to people about God is how sure they are that God is how they feel(in their own minds) He is. Or He is like what they are familiar with- or what they need Him to be. Invariably it starts with us. I can see one thing in which that is as it should be. We are individual persons, with our own personalities and characteristics, and our own experience of events and others, and all the rest of it that makes up our lives as sentient beings.

That ought to illumine us about something. If we have personal individuality and personalities, then a Creator God ( and all others are too small and inconsequential to bother with), at least has that much. And if God has His own personality and character, then it can not only be a possibility to be known, but it is also “other” than us. We don’t get to say we automatically can know who God is and accurately know things about Him…. not without His relating to us in some way.

Not anymore than someone would presume to know us, without relating to us and allowing us to express ourselves to them.

Now is the time to look at that beginning quote. Much of what we revolve around, indeed if you believe certain thinkers like Rollo May or ( as in the book I’m re-reading right now,Scott Peck) or even the Beatles, all that we center on.


So here is what I am going to say about all this:

We can’t possibly know anything about God, without Him revealing those things about Himself. He is very “other” than us, and we can’t project our emotions or thoughts on Him with any sort of accuracy. There are things we can presume, in the way the Bible puts it:

Psalm 94:9
He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?

If we are beings, we can see that God is a being. More of a logical sequence than a projection.

The truth of Wiesel’s statement about indifference as the opposite of life and love, both aspects of God, finds correlation in Revelation 3:16
“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

What Type of Conclusions, Then?

One of the universals, and there are very few, is the response of all living things to love. God states that He is love, and that would all make sense. Jesus stated that He is life, so again, you can see the tandem existence of life and love, the only remaining problem with this becoming the definition of what love looks like. While that isn’t small in philosophical efforts to define, the 1 Corinthians 13 definition is not only sufficiently challenging, but realistically practical enough to merit consideration. And more than that, real attempts to live by it.

Thus far, though I haven’t said anything earth shaking or ground breaking. We can all pretty much reside peacefully on that page: God is loving, He is lifegiving, He cares.

Where the division often comes is in the validity of the information which more specifically outlines things about God.

Like the Bible.
But that is for you to chew on for awhile. Let me think more about where I’m going with these thoughts. In the meantime, I invite you to please express how you see this discussion going, or where you have gone with it yourself. Or just wait until we take it up again…. probably after I repost things that might add to the conversation.

I’m probably going to meander around this landscape for awhile.

Advent and Penance

Reposted from 12/09/07, Some Advent history:

Originally Advent was a preparatory time somewhat like Lent- it’s liturgical colors of purple and violet calling up penance, fasting, and repentance. We have exchanged that for the often forced gaiety of prolonged Christmas celebrating. No wonder we get tired! I like downplaying the secular clamor and rush for as much quiet soul-preparing contemplation as possible, which is definitely not easy, going against the flow as it is.

It impresses me how relevant the Gospel of Christ is despite our best efforts to distort it. I think that the difficulty of depression and disappointment many have at Christmastime is due to the distortions of unmet expectations. This whole frantic jolliness is not in line with the Gospel or the Christmas story as it is recorded in the Bible, and it is very out of sync with how people really live.

It is not practical to expect that we will somehow go back to a penitent period of preparation for Christmas, and for many of us who have had a ‘born-again’ experience, we won’t look at Christmas as a time when we visit the “Christ Child” in some sort of time warp, but we will, and can approach Christmas with a little more solemnity and awe than the ubiquitous Santa’s and screaming ‘buy it all’ mentality would have it.
Continue reading Advent and Penance

What is the Impact of Religion on Society?

Some apologetics and opinions:

Why the World Needs Christianity. Aren’t Christians the source of intolerance and trouble?

What is Christianity? define Christianity for me.

Christians and Money. Aren’t Christians supposed to be poor and humble?

God Politics. Religious people in science and politics are just plain scary, aren’t they?

Impact of Religion on Society. Religion, Marriage, Homosexuality, Theocracy…it’s all in there somehow.

…are all religions the same?
Difference between the Western and Islamic worlds.

Helpless Secularism.

Christian muslims?