Friday, October 30, 2015

For this I have Jesus - Mini Blog

Nearly 6 years ago a heavy clothing rack fell and its large, pointed metal arm landed on my shoulder and damaged my trapezius muscle. I'm reminded of the injury when I reach the wrong way, when I try to carry to much weight with that arm, when I get stressed out and sometymes on cold, rainy days. 

On this cold rainy day, I am feeling stressed and I reached the wrong way when trying to lift too much...the quadfecta. Ouch.

Recently though, I read a Daily Bread entry where a lady suffered greatly in many areas of life. When asked how she got through her struggles, her reply was, "for this, I have Jesus".

I don't think she'll mind if we borrow her mantra. A good day or a troublesome day, for it we have Jesus to thank or on which to lean. For this, I thankfully have Jesus.

Clearing the Fog from Your Joy - Mini Blog

When everything seems to be going wrong and we feel lost and confused, it's easy to let something like work or a project become the tangiable thing on which we place our main focus. In doing so, we allow the actions and words of other people to control us. 

That's been happening to me lately. Today when I relayed a situation to a friend and asked for prayer, my friend reminded me that when your main focus is blurring your joy, it's difficult to see anything clearly. 

So I thought about it and what it is that I've unable to see in my fog filled existence. Joy. Hope. Peace. Then I remembered, yet again, that God is joy. God is Hope. God is Peace. I put my focus on Him and, like a veil, the fog lifted and my vision cleared. 

God calls us to be kind and do our best, not to the expectations of others, but to His. 

Every now and then we'll have a Foggy Morning Breakdown, but the important thing to remember when it happens, is we have the power to let The Son shine in!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Can You Guess the Assignment?

He walked in and everyone shared a reaction of displeasure. His spirits fell. No one wanted him to come. If it was like last tyme, they would tolerate his presence, simply because they had to, but not without their share of under-the-breath comments containing snide remarks and over-the-breath comments dressed as lame attempts of humor at his expense. The obvious truth was, he was not wanted there.

It was a difficult truth for him to handle, for their feelings toward him were not always that of displeasure and disdain.  He had always come to them, on tyme and bearing new ideas and possibilities, but somewhere along the way, their good opinion of him soured. Now, his mere presence brought them nothing but distaste.

He longed to comprehend this terrible truth, to figure out what happened to alter their opinion of him, but he had his own truth that trumped his desire to understand. He had to come. That was his truth, an undeniable fact that they would realize if they were honest with themselves. They would see it and stop blaming him and resist the urge to use the thought or site of him as a focal point for their frustration.

He had to come. Why couldn’t they understand and appreciate his presence? After all, he was just like the others. He had the same look, the same build; in fact, the only differences between him and the ones they loved were his name and the tyme he arrived. Could such things really cause them to dislike him as they did?  Surely not. Surely they could recognize his likeness to the others. Surely they would not allow such insignificant details to create the prejudice they had toward him. But if not that, then what?

As he made his way through the crowd, he held his head high and acted as he always had. He smiled and offered them blessings in abundance.  He gave them his tyme and all the beauty within him. Still, they treated him with disdain and did not, or perhaps could not, appreciate all the opportunities he afforded them.

Later, after he endured their insolence for his required amount of tyme, he packed up his things and, as he made his way to the exit, listened to the sighs of relief and cheers that his leaving prompted. They were happy to see him go. Though his heart ached at the realization, he did not hold their ignorance against them.  He simply thought how horrible it had to be to live as they did, with such an inability to enjoy the moment because it didn’t come packaged as they wanted. Alas, their jaded perception of him forced them to miss out on so many blessings.

Finally, as he was completely gone from them, he smiled.  He would be back again, same tyme as always. He knew it. They knew it. They would have another chance. If only next tyme he could make them understand. If only next tyme he could help them learn to love and appreciate. If only next tyme…his name wasn’t Monday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

'Whale-ing’ Experiences

“Jack of some trades, master of none”. That altered cliché sums me up in a nutshell. I’ve spent my entire life gaining skills that so far have done nothing to advance my position in life. At age ten I was mowing yards and learning the art of ‘scaping’ land. At age twelve, I was still mowing lawns, but now I was babysitting as well…not simultaneously, as a rule, however…no, no, that’s a story for another tyme. Suffice it to type, I was adding valuable skills to my set.

At age 16, I ventured out in the world and got a job at the local fast food place and let me tell you, anyone who claims working fast food is not really a job, well, they are wrong. I learned a great deal working that job, so much so that I went from front counter attendant to crew chief in six months. I learned everything from how to work with high energy in a super fast pace – it was fast food after all – to how to be diplomatic when offering customer service. One of the most memorable pieces of knowledge I gained at the golden arches (admit it, you were wondering which one) was the art of multi-tasking. I got to the point where I could dress sandwiches (no, not with shirts and ties, but with special sauce, onions, lettuce, pickles cheese and two all beef patties on a sesame seed bun) with two hands while dropping nuggets to fry and taking drive-thru orders.  One tyme, while working both front counter and drive-thru, I took an order in the drive-thru and asked the person, “is that for here or to go?” Okay, so my multi-tasking moments were not always stellar, but at least the lesser ones offered some comic relief…but, I digress…

After high school I took a job as a wood-shop worker where I became a spray-paint, sanding and quality control professional. I developed my craft into a fine art and, with the techniques required of the profession, often found myself referencing The Karate Kid: wax on, wax off. Of course there was no waxing involved for me, but the back and forth motion, well, you get the idea. Before hanging up my spray gun, I helped implement new safety procedures and a mask filtration system. 

At age 19, my life fell apart in a way and I found myself treading uncharted waters.  I was all set to go to school to be a massage therapist, but the rough seas of life sent me in a different direction and I ended up taking a job as a data entry clerk for a company that happened to be working in the big city of Philadelphia. Now that might not seem like a wow factor to you, but to a small town girl who never traveled much on her own, especially not to cities, Philadelphia was a major wow factor.  The commute was 52 miles one way and it involved one of the strangest, craziest, busiest roads in the country: The Schuylkill Expressway – the definition of “Bottleneck”. While my job in the city (I advanced from data entry to Junior Consultant in a little over a year) taught me a lot, I think the most lasting skill I obtained from it is my ability to really drive with an aggressive caution.  And yes, that is a major skill, one that many (o so many) people do not have, but here I go, digressing yet again.

Fast forward several years, more than I’m willing to admit, and you’ll find out that I’ve been a roadie/merchandiser on the bluegrass music tour. I’ve been a publicist, a pattern and fabric cutter for a sewing business, a visual manager for a department store, a webmaster, a graphic designer, a photographer and a radio disc jockey. So yes, you see, “Jack of some trades; master of none” is my unsolicited mantra.  If you think that I have no idea what I want to be ‘when I grow up’, well, you’re wrong. I’ve pretty much always known what I wanted to be, what I lacked, however, was the confidence to go after it.

Yes, I admit it, I am a Jonah. I run away from what God tells me and try to justify my running with every excuse in the book. Oh sure, I have my reasons, good ones too and I can spout them off and spin them around to justify a fear or a concern or a Tuesday for that matter. What I’ve never been able to do is follow God’s prompting and because of that, I’ve had a life tyme of ‘whale-ing’ experiences that have led me no where…or at least that was my view point when I started this expedition.

I realize now, having typed down many of my experiences, perhaps God’s been using my tyme in the whale to prepare me for what I always wanted to do: write. You see, the main measure of a good writer is believability and the most authentic way for writers to achieve such it is to write about what they know. Well, it just so happens, a great deal of what I know comes from my whale tyme.  Isn’t that something? I’ve been struggling against what God has for me, but instead of giving up on me, He’s been using my rebellion to prepare me for the moment I’m ready to accept His direction.

All my twists and turns in life have made me who I am: A Jack of some trades with One Master, Who has equipped me with an eclectic collection of knowledge that He can use to reach, help and inspire people – or at least they can look at me and see examples of what not to do.  After all, isn’t that one of the lessons we learn from Jonah? What not to do? Of course we can also learn from Jonah’s adventure that God gives second (third, fourth…) chances and He is right where He was when we sailed away from Him. … but again with the digressing…

So, where does my profound revelation leave me? Is it an instant cure-all or even a cure-some for my current state of professional weariness? No, it isn’t. It is, however, a helpful reminder that God is in control and even in my weakest emotional state or my strongest moment of rebellion, God is right there, ready to hand me my ‘get out of whale free’ card and lead me on the path He has for me…and, having been in whale for a while, you might say I’m all write with that.

I believe God has a plan for each of us, a bright plan (Jeremiah 29:11) but some tymes it takes tyme in the dark of the whale to realize or appreciate that fact.  So if, like me, you feel lost in your professional (or personal) pursuits and you’ve fallen into the Jonah trap; just remember you know the Who holds the key to unlock your whale cell. There’s nothing fishy about it. Just knock and the door will be open (Matthew 7:7-8)…and then go tell your whale of a tale so others can see there’s no way to de-bait God’s reel plan. 

L.D. Kirklin

P.S. The Bible tells us in Jonah 1:17 that God prepared a "Great Fish" to swallow Jonah.  We don't know that it was a whale, but it could have been...and the idea that it was lent well to my word play.  Something to ask yourself though...after the Great Fish/Whale spit Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:10) do you think the Fish went down and told his sea creature friends..."I once caught a man and he was this big!"...it could have been history's first Whale tale ;)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Obstacles - A Lesson in Not Being a Zax

Obstacles are, at best, not fun and, at worst, detrimental to our progress. I’m reminded of the classic Dr. Seuss book “The Zax”. In short, there was a North going Zax and a South going Zax and it just so happened that in the Prairie of Prax they met on the same path and came to a standstill. So, after years of traveling in their respective directions they met with an obstacle and suddenly the Zax' were without trax in the Prairie of Prax.

What did they do, you ask? Nothing. They did absolutely nothing to conquer the obstacle in front of them.  They refused to budge from the path on which they wanted to go and they went NO-where, for years and years and yes, you guessed it, years.  They stood still for so long that an entire Metropolis was built around them and the highway was bridged right over top of their heads.

So, what does this story teach us? Well, in my mind, there are two different lessons to be learned; one from our stubborn title characters and one from the Metropolis and highway builders.  The Zax teach us that if we do nothing about the obstacle in our path, be it because of stubborn pride, fear or whatever reason we might conjure up to justify our motionless approach, then we will not progress in our journey. The builders however, teach us that when we encounter an obstacle in our path and we find a way around, over or under it, we will be amazed at what we can accomplish in our travels.

Now, while I am a country girl and do not advocate for the building of Metropolis’ and highways as a rule, I do see the genius in that aspect of the story. As a photographer of nature, I encounter obstacles in my efforts to capture the exact capture I am seeking. Everything from the tyme of day to the weather of the day, the height of the object I’m after and the briar patch in front of it can add frustrating obstacles to my process.

One rainy, Spring day – rainy days tend to, as a rule, be great obstacles for a nature photographer – I was working in my office, which is a self-standing structure near my home, and decided I needed a break. I walked up the path to the front porch which is closed in by lattice on the far end.  Now, one thing I do like about rainy days is seeing raindrops on flowers. Well has it happened, the roses on the other side of the porch’s lattice were in beautiful bloom and yes, delightfully decorated by raindrops…and yes, I did sing a bit of that song from The Sound of Music.

Naturally, I got my camera and went down into the yard to take pictures of the roses.

        Insert obstacles here –

No matter what I did I just couldn’t seem to capture the essence I was after. Finally, I decided to settle for the shots I had and went back up to the porch to go inside and get a glass of sweet tea. As I opened the door to go in, I took one more look at the roses through the lattice and that’s when I saw it; the shot I was after.  Excited, I got my camera back out and went to get the capture.

        Insert obstacles here –

No matter what I did or how I contorted my body or attempted to manipulate my lens, I simply could not get the angle I needed on the shot.  Frustrated, I took a few more pictures and then, begrudgingly, gave up on the idea.

So, how is this a lesson in overcoming obstacles, when clearly I didn’t?  Well, that came later when I looked at my pictures and saw something I didn’t expect. In frustration, I took some pictures of the roses and included the main obstacle in my path; the lattice. As it happened, that which I deemed a formidable foe turned out to be a unique aspect that gave my picture more depth in both view and meaning.

In the long run, I started out as a Zax, refusing to budge from the view I wanted, but eventually I built a Metropolis as I looked at the picture that God gave me and realized that He allows obstacles in the path of life to frame the beauty of life and that sometymes the best way to overcome an obstacle is to include it in the journey.