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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Right Tools

The other day I set out to fix what I thought should be a minor problem with a push mower. How did it go? Let’s just type that by the end of the project I was pretty sure that the broken push mower was going to push me to the breaking point. Suffice it to write, I was unsuccessful at my task. A bit chagrinned by the outcome, I decided that no one would be the wiser of my less than triumphant attempt if I put the mower back together; at least it would look like it worked.

As I worked rapidly to finish the reassembly before anyone arrived to see my efforts, I realized that not only could I not repair the mower, I couldn’t even reassemble it properly. No, somewhere, in the midst of my rummaging about, I managed to lose a bolt in the grass, making it impossible to fully reassemble the broken monstrosity. Alas, it was not my finest hour.

Resolved to the fact that I had to find that bolt, I searched for what seemed like an eternity, but to no avail; the bolt was lost. As I scanned the yard around me, now fully aware that the tall grass was not the best place to work on the mower, I decided that the bolt had no doubt been carried off to the abyss by an assiduous ant or a buried in the unknown by a vexing varmint of some sort. It had simply vanished. Irritated, the frustration was mounting like the pressure just before a volcano erupts and the stress of it all refused to slide from my shoulders, in fact, it wouldn’t even slide off my well greased hands. No, at that moment in tyme, you might say that both the mower and I had a screw loose, but I digress.

Since there was nothing more I could do to find the bolt, I decided to clean up my tools, trying to make myself feel better by at least accomplishing something, albeit the smallest of tasks. As I gathered up the wrenches and screwdrivers, I couldn’t help but recall the trouble I encountered when trying to take the mower apart. I really needed a socket wrench and quickly recalled the numerous tymes I stood at Lowe’s, starting at the shiny, multi-pieced socket wrench sets, each tyme convincing myself that I would never have need of them; never say never.

So, with no socket wrench in hand, I fumbled and struggled with a variety of other tools, each one with a specific use, none of which fit my task. Using the wrong tools, it took me ten tymes longer to get the mower apart than it should have and the whole ordeal was a thousand tymes more frustrating than it should have been. As I gathered up my tools that proved less than accommodating to my mission, it occurred to me that often we use the wrong tools in the jobs of life.

We use sarcasm when we should use compassion. We use criticism when we should use encouragement. We use bitterness when we should use forgiveness and the list goes on an on. Just like at a home improvement store, we have thousands of “tools” at our disposal and while they do not carry a monetary price tag, they do carry an emotional one; and I think most would agree that emotions can be quite costly.

The price can be really steep when we say the wrong thing, react the wrong way or simply avoid something altogether. The fact of the matter is, if we take the tyme to get the right tool, we’ll avoid a lot of emotional spending. Just think of God as the Tool Store and the Bible as the store manager. God has the right tools for us and the Bible will tell us where to find them. Compassion? Aisle seven. Understanding? Aisle fifteen, second shelf on the right, next to Trust and Forgiveness.

Coincidentally, moments after my pondering on the “right tools” theory, I found the missing bolt. It was there, in the grass, the same grass that, moments earlier, I had searched over and over again. I suppose you could conclude that it was there the entire tyme and I had simply overlooked it, but I’m not certain. Part of me thinks God hid it so I would have to seek His assistance. It seems silly to enlist God’s help in finding a bolt in the grass, but the truth of the matter is, God wants us to visit his tool store no matter what the job. Whether it’s to get a complex tool for an involved project or a simple tool for, well, for finding a bolt in the grass, God wants us to come to Him.

So, the next tyme you go to work on a project be sure to use the right tool for the job. It doesn’t matter what day or tyme of day you’re working because God’s store is open 24/7 and the price for everything in it has already been paid. The tools are free for the using, just seek out the right one and you’ll be amazed how much simpler the job will be!

Blessings,

~LK~

Monday, August 8, 2011

God and My Cell Phone

If you’ve ever spent tyme in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, you know that the weather patterns are not really patterns, but rather a series of guessing games. Perhaps that’s true for other areas as well, but here in the Valley we make speculations rather than predictions and we don’t put much trust in any of it. Someone asks, “Will it rain?” Someone asks, “Will it snow?” We just answer “it depends on the whether…whether it does or whether it doesn’t”.

I remember one early December day a few years ago that kind of shocked us Shenandoah-ians. The temperatures were on the warmer side for the tyme of year, so no one expected to wake up to six inches of snow. Now, it wasn’t just any snow; it was that wet, heavy, hang on the trees, great snowball making kind of snow. It was really quite beautiful, which is saying something coming from a warm weather person like myself.

Now, because of the warmer temperatures, the roads were easily cleared and drivable far earlier than on a cold day, so I decided to go on an outing. I called up a friend and by early afternoon we were headed south to view Falling Springs Falls just outside of Covington, Virginia. The drive was absolutely gorgeous and, being aspiring photographers, we got some wonderful shots along the way.

As we drove along, we stopped at picturesque locations, all the while remarking about the fact that we were looking at six inches of snow, but barely needed a jacket. We did not, however, make such comments when we arrived at our destination. In fact, our remarks were quite the opposite. The waterfall was only an hour and a half down the road, but clearly it too far from the Valley to be embraced by its balmy temperatures.

Now bundled up with every piece of clothing and winter accessory we could find, my friend started down the path to the overlook. I decided to do some exploring elsewhere, something that did not last long due to the glacial-like temperatures. I met up with my friend and we proceeded to take pictures of the booming waterfall. We snapped shots, working for interesting angles while being mindful of our slick surroundings, until our fingers were too numb to push the buttons on our cameras.

Moments later we were back in the car, thanking the Lord for a working heater and headed back to what we hoped would be our unseasonably warm Valley. As we journeyed home, we decided to call our respective families to inform them that our trip was successful and we were safely on the highway, headed home. As I reached for my cell phone, a phone I had just weeks before purchased, a moment of panic swept through me. It was not in my pocket. I thought for a moment and tried to recall the last tyme I had it and what I did with it. After serious contemplation I was faced with the realization that on my wayward excursion, I dropped my new phone.

By this tyme darkness had set in and the hopes of retrieving my phone were gone. I have to admit that I went through a series of emotions on the matter, but, shortly there after, I moved on and didn’t think much more about it, at least not until nearly ten months later.

It was September of the following year and unfortunately, the fall foliage around home was somewhat drab. The summer had been dry and in turn, the trees did not produce their usual, vibrant colors. Determined to get some stunning fall pictures, I decided to go on a quest for beautiful foliage. I called up the same friend that went with me the previous December and away we went.

Curious about how Falling Springs Falls would look in the Fall, we drove back down to Covington, Virginia. As we neared out destination, we recalled the details of our last visit and I got it in my head that, just for fun, I would try to find my lost phone.

Upon our arrival, I learned that nearly a year’s worth of tyme can really alter a landscape. I tried to follow the path I’d taken in the winter, but everything was grown up and nothing looked the same. I searched for a bit and decided it was a lost cause. Just as I was about to give up, something told me to look in a different spot. Wouldn’t you know it, there laid my phone, seemingly unscathed by the elements. I looked it over and aside from a little dirt on the outside, my LG flip phone had survived more than a collective five feet of snow, inches of rain and every other bit of weather we’d received throughout the year. I was flabbergasted!

When I got home, I pulled out the phone’s changer and plugged it in just to see what would happen. I hit the power button and…the phone actually worked! Again, I was astounded!

I never went back to using that phone; instead I keep in on my dresser as a daily reminder of God. How does my cell phone remind me of God you wonder? Well, I realized when I found my phone exactly where I had left it that God is the same way. Whether we intentionally put Him aside or we inadvertently walk away from Him, He will always be right where we left Him and He’s going to work when we go back to find Him.

My phone never left me, I left it. God never leaves us, but we leave Him. We stumble, we stray, we fail, we falter, but God never stops working for us. I felt lost without my phone. I couldn’t get in touch with my family and if something went wrong, I couldn’t have called for help. Such are the feelings of a wayward Christian; lost and out of touch. The difference is, I had to drive back to where I lost my phone in order to find it, where as God, He is always just a prayer away! All we need to do is call His name and we can be back in His hands just like my phone was in mine.

So, if somewhere along the way, you lost God or intentionally put Him aside, stop and give Him a call; He’s there, no phone required!!!

~LK~

Monday, April 25, 2011

Comparisons

Comparisons

Have you ever heard the song, “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”? It’s been used tyme and again in various television shows like The Nanny and a variety of other entertainment outlets from comic strips to video games. My latest encounter with the song however was when I attended a High School production of the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”.

While the students and the teachers put on an excellent performance, one of the most memorable things about the play was this song. Initially I was shocked because, having heard it here and there, I was not aware that the song was originally written for a musical, let alone a western like Annie Get Your Gun. The second wave of shock came when I considered what the song was really about; comparisons.

In the song, the players go back and forth, trying to out do each other on a variety of challenges from shooting to singing to shopping – oh my! It’s an outlandish battle of conceit, fought to determine who is “best”.

Now, you might be thinking that it was just a play and all in the favor of amusement. While that’s true, the underlying theme of the song is one that is so true to life and a constant struggle for many. I mean really, who does not want to be the best at everything he or she tries to do? I’m rather certain that most people do not set out to do something, hoping to be horrible at it. No one enters a contest with the intention of coming in last. It’s human nature to want to be good at what we try, but a lot of tymes our efforts fall short or we don’t even try because we focus on “our competition”. By doing so, we either lose our nerve or convince ourselves that we’re not as good as the person standing next to us, so we shouldn’t bother trying.

How many blessings are missed because we overlook the main point and focus on trivial nonsense?

Case in point:

I recently went back to the gym after months of absence due to physical and emotional burdens. I enjoy running on the elliptical and cross-training machines; treadmills and my back do not get along. Before my absence, I had trained to the point where I could meet my tyme and mileage goals with a certain ease. After my absence, well, suffice it to say that the ease was gone, replaced by unwelcome difficulty. I realized that I put on some weight and my stamina was definitely not what it used to be.

In my first week back, my tymes were up by a good twenty seconds a mile and I got very frustrated. When I shared this frustration with a friend, she verbally whacked me in the head by informing me that I was missing the point. My slower running tymes were the trivial nonsense. The fact that I finally felt well enough to go back to the gym was the major blessing.

I was too busy comparing my current tymes with my past tymes to realize that I overlooked the fact that I felt better than I had in a long, long tyme. That happens so often in life. We compare ourselves to who we used to be, to who the world thinks we should be or to other people and we miss out on the blessings that God so greatly desires to give us. God isn’t concerned with whether or not I run a 6 minute mile, all He cares about it the fact that I’m taking care of myself and I’m grateful to Him that I can put on foot in front of the other.

God isn’t concerned with whether we win first place in a singing contest, but rather that we are choosing to honor Him with our voice. It doesn’t matter if we’re not “the best” musician, photographer, carpenter, volleyball player or whatever. All God wants is for us to do our best and use the talents He gave us to glorify Him.

I am convinced that without Jesus I am nothing, but with Jesus, I have no need to compare myself to anything or anyone, including myself. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all unique, specially designed by God and loved equally and individually by Him. It might not be easy (trust me, even though I know it, I still struggle with it), but if you’re letting something or someone prevent you from using the talents God gave you, STOP!

God wants you to use your gifts, whether polished or not, and if you’re using them to please Him, nothing else matters! To Jesus you are one of a kind and if He doesn’t compare you to anyone, why should you?

~LK~

Rose Colored Glasses

Something happened this week that brought to mind a song titled “Rose Colored Glasses”. The version I’m thinking of was written by George F. Baber and John Conlee and performed by the latter of the two. The song entertains the emotional battle of a man trying to understand a relationship in which he invested a great deal tyme and effort only to have it go awry. As he analyzes the life he has with his girlfriend, he basically concludes that breaking ties is the best thing for both of them, but he always finds a way to refute his deduction; his rose colored glasses.

“These rose colored glasses that I’m looking through,
show only the beauty ‘cause they hide all the truth.”

Those two short lines are rather significant when you think about it. A lot of tymes we see what we want to see instead of what is real or what is right in front of us. Our judgment gets clouded by our thoughts of the way something should be and by the tyme we’re finished, the old rusty tractor in the front yard is the latest model, fresh off the assembly line. Point being, the color of a rose can beauty up even the worst of situations.

The happening this week, however, made me wonder if the opposite is true as well. Now, what the opposite of rose colored glasses might be in similar terms, I’m not sure; thorn colored glasses perhaps? The concept however would be that when wearing ‘thorn colored glasses’, we see something as far worse than it really is.

To better relay the situation, allow me to offer this background. There are two men in my acquaintance that have very dissimilar outlooks on practically every aspect of their existence. It’s probably safe to say that their accounts of agreement in their fifty plus years of association are of percentages smaller than that of an atom. Up is to down and east is to west when it comes to both the personalities and mindsets of these men.

Now, perhaps you think me a bit overdramatic, but in all honesty, drama seems to be the key ingredient in the dishes that these two men offer on the menu. I cannot describe it, but the animosity that exists between them is incomprehensible at best and at worst, well, I don’t think I want to venture down that destructive path. Suffice it to write that over the years the differences between them have constructed a wall of abhorrence that no one can scale, though many a good person has tried.

So this week when both men were party to a particular function, you can only imagine the arrows of hostility soaring through the room and the rumble of under the breath, back handed comments that ensued. It was really a sad display of humanity or perhaps a lack of humanity altogether. I think the worst thing about it though was how it affected everyone else in the room. I watched people tense, hang their heads, shield their eyes and some I think sat in earnest prayer as the mood of the room blackened with every angry word spoken between them.

The incident was disguised as a current issue, but as I listened to the irritation behind the words, I knew there was more to it that what was being said. Looking back, I wish I’d asked the Lord for the courage to call both men out on the underlying issues instead of trying to defuse the one that was about to explode in front of me, but as the old adage says, hindsight is 20/20. It’s that hindsight however that prompted me to my theory of “thorn colored glasses”. Truth be told, the current “issue”, while important on some level, was being clouded by years and years of ill will toward each other. I then had to ask myself, were these two men viewing each other through clear eyes or were they so jaded by the past that even the smallest issue seemed so problematic that it warranted World War III?

There was a point when Moses was struggling to keep the Israelites in order and finally in Deuteronomy 1:12 he said to them, “But you are such a heavy load to carry! How can I deal with all your problems and bickering?” The truth is, only Jesus can bear such a heavy load as two men who refuse to deal with their problems. I know now that I cannot change either of these men, nor can I make them see things any differently. I can pray for them, but in the end, only Jesus can perform the necessary eye surgery and eliminate their desire to wear “thorn colored glasses”.

~LK~

Saturday, January 15, 2011

About Face!

If what ‘they’ say is true and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, I think, what with all the ammunition coming at us, we should be able to over power superman. It’s tough enough to go through difficult tymes, but it’s even harder when we know that it’s our own, obtuse mistakes that created our pangs of despair. We long for the opportunity to go back and make different choices, proving true the old adage that hindsight is 20/20.

Pam Tillis recorded a song back in 2001, written by Craig Wiseman and Lisa Drew, called “Which Five Years”. The second verse of the song starts with the line; “Now there were some things, if I had a tyme machine, I’d have done them differently...” I think everyone, to a point, could say that line is true. We all have things we wish we could change, things we want to go back in tyme and do over, especially if we could take the knowledge with us that we currently posses.

Ah, but there’s the rub, at least for me, the longing to go back. I often get so lost in the “what could have beens” that I forget about the “here and now”, or, to rephrase it, I get tangled up in the things I cannot change and overlook those which I have the ‘power’ to alter.

I remember when I used to commute 50 plus miles, one way, to Philadelphia; it certainly left something to be desired. If you have never driven into the city of Brotherly Love, I should tell you that driving the main drag, the Schuylkill Expressway, can be a very nerve-racking experience, especially for a non city girl like myself. What do I mean by nerve-racking? Well, suffice it to say write that there were a lot of accidents on what we tended to call the “Sure-Kill Expressway”.

Each morning, as I got closer to the city, I would listen to the traffic reports to find out, not if, but where, the accident was on that particular day. There was one expression that always caught my ear and struck me funny. The announcer would say something like, “There’s a two mile back up north bound on the Schuylkill due to an accident at the Conshohocken exit and traffic is slowing southbound due to a gaper delay”

A gaper delay. As I think about it now, I am taken by how true that statement is to life. A gaper delay is caused by people slowing down to try and get a look at the accident in the other lane. As they near the site, they stretch their necks forward and as they come upon it they look off to the side and then eventually backwards, trying to catch a glimpse of the opposing lane’s misfortune. This gaping causes traffic to slow and sometymes even leads to another accident in the gaper’s lane.

Isn’t that just like life? We focus so much on what isn’t in front of us. We turn backwards, to the past, wishing we could change something or getting caught up in what did or didn’t happen and we lose sight of the life we have to live, and by doing so, we miss out on so many blessings.

Nothing can change the past; what’s done is done. We do, however, have the ability to affect the present and to clean up the aftermath of the past’s mistakes. All we have to do is call on The Insurance Agent and ask for His help overcome ‘the then’ and help us in ‘the now’.

Now, I’m not saying that we should forget about the past entirely, if fact, I’m convinced that mistakes of the past are like tools in the woodshop of life. We use them to build something, but when it’s all said and done, we leave the tools in the shop and walk out with the finished project.

Earlier when I referenced a line from the song, “Which Five Years”, I only gave you part of the verse:

“Now there were some things, if I had a tyme machine, I’d have done them differently...”

Now, here is the rest of it:

“but now I see that I just can’t see
what to blame and what to credit,
there’s just no way you can edit the shadow from the shine,
you see it’s all so perfectly intertwined.
And I’ve come to the point where I’ve faced the fact,
that it all adds up and I won’t subtract
not a single minute, not a single hour
if I had the power.”

The past can be a good reference when we need to make decisions about what to do or not to do, but we can’t let it draw our focus away from the present. If we do, we’re sure to develop a terrible case of the “shoulda-coulda-wouldas” and the life in front of us will not work out to our satisfaction. When it comes right down to it, the past made us who we are today but today is all we have, and that’s what we need to concentrate on.

Hindsight might be 20/20, but seeing clearly into the past will make you blind to the future. So, if you’re looking back, turn around and ask The Insurance Agent to write you a new policy for the future, because one decision will save you 100% on your life insurance and you’ll be in Great hands because like a good neighbor, Jesus is there!