How ARE You Today?

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Tuesday morning I went to the grocery store. As the clerk rang up my groceries, she inquired, “How are you today?”

“Good,” I responded.

As soon as the word slipped from my lips I felt guilty. I wasn’t feeling good at all. My husband was home not feeling well, I was fighting off sickness myself, and from my last post you know I’ve experienced a host of other things recently.

I cleared my throat, “I lied. I’m not really feeling great today, but at least it’s a beautiful day outside.”

When we ask someone how they are, there are two tones we can use. The first is a casual greeting where all of the words run together in a cheery inquiry. The second one emphasizes the “are” part. When someone puts emphasis on the “are,” you know the question is genuine and they want a detailed response. The individual isn’t looking for a flippant answer of fine, good, or okay.

Who wants to answer honestly and in great detail to the casual greeting? I don’t want to be a wet blanket on every conversation throughout my day when things aren’t going well in my life. When you think about it, the custom is rather silly, because often we don’t really want to know the true answer. If the person’s response is negative, it can make us uncomfortable.

Allow me to propose an idea. The next time you encounter someone you would ask the typical, “How are you?”, ask them what is going well for them, instead. Science has proven that counting blessings can have a positive impact on our mental state. Let’s help people do that. No more, “How are yous,” just,”Tell me something good about your day.”

And when you do get asked the casual, “How are you?”, don’t be afraid to be at least a little bit honest, but be sure to point out something that is going well, too. By sharing our stories, we can encourage others to do the same.

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Image from this site.

Look Sideways: Wisdom from Preschoolers

baby birdThe low tire pressure light keeps coming on in my car. I took it in to the tire shop and decided to write a blog post while I waited. My portable keyboard wouldn’t work. The batteries were dead. I pecked out a few words on the touch screen, but didn’t get far. 

Today, I sat down to write the post at my desktop computer, and the keyboard wasn’t responding. What in the world was going on? A sure sign that what I have to write needs to be heard by someone.

Our credit card number was hijacked last week and we have to wait 5 days to receive new cards. I’m trying to take care of all of the dropped balls from that.

Today, before I sent my boys off to school, I made sure they took their inhalers, because this time of year God’s beautiful creation makes it so that they can’t breathe well. Additionally, I had to help my niece with her inhaler because she’s recovering from a virus and her sweet lungs are sensitive due to the flu she nearly died from this spring. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

Mess and more mess. Living in a world that is broken.

And yesterday, I waited anxiously with my mama in the doctor’s office to hear the results of a biopsy. The news was not good. Unfortunately, they found cancer in her breast which will require at least surgery and radiation…so many unknowns right now.

For me, cancer is like that person you keep seeing out and about that you would rather not see. Do you have anyone in your life like that? I’ve spent nearly every year of my life in this town. There are a lot of people I went to school and church with that still live here that I never, or next to never, see. But by golly, those individuals that I’ve had conflicts with or make me uncomfortable are the people I run into repeatedly. (If you are reading this, and I see you a lot, do not assume I don’t like you from the previous comment). I would like to stop running into cancer repeatedly.

Today I go with my husband to his appointment with his oncologist. I love her, but I wish I never had to see her again. I’d rather see her at a concert or a park, not talking about lymph nodes and white cell counts.

A couple of weeks ago I was assisting during the extended lunch time for some of the preschoolers. While they ate, the other assistant read the book Are You My Mother?. It’s about a baby bird that hatches while his mother is away and gets separated from her. He runs into various animals and objects trying to locate her, always wondering if he might have finally found his mother. At one point in the book it says he looked way, way down, and in the next scene he looked way, way up, to no avail. One of the kids hollered, “Look sideways!”

That boy needs a star for the life skills of problem solving and perseverance! What a great message: don’t ever give up!

Yesterday, my husband shared an inspirational video with me. One of the quotes in it was from Les Brown: “If life knocks you down, try and land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up.” You can watch it here.

So look up, look down, look sideways, whatever it takes to get you through your mess. By looking down at our little ones, they can comfort and inspire us. Looking up, we can rely on God to see us through. And, of course, look sideways at those around you who can instill courage in you and give you the strength to plod through the junk.

Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG), “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Blessings,

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Terrorized

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Americans who were around the day of the 9/11 attacks know what it is like to be terrorized. The phrase of “never forget” may seem overused, but for those of us who experienced it, the feelings we had that day are permanently inscribed in our minds and hearts.

I was a teacher at the time. The disbelief and fear were palpable in my school building as the events unfolded. The entire rest of that school year, my students would look at me wide-eyed whenever a plane flew over the building. Our sense of reason eludes us when we have been in the valley of the shadow of death, even if it was miles and miles away that the acts occurred.

Much has been happening in another part of the world. Iraq is being taken over by militant religious extremists (known as ISIS or ISIL). I’ll be honest with you. I have not followed the situation until this last week. I chose to stick my proverbial head in the sand. My inner dialogue told me that what was happening was too far away, and what could I do about it anyway.

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As I reflect on the anniversary of 9/11 and remember my fear (though mild compared to many closer to the conflict that day), I try to put myself in the place of the religious minorities that are being persecuted as I type these words. My imagination is good, but I have no ability to understand what these people are experiencing. Convert or die, they are told. So, many run for their lives, only to be faced with little means to survive and no idea of what the future holds.

This Sunday, my pastor put a scripture up on the screen that convicted me in a way I have rarely felt. It was Hebrews 13:3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Paul encourages Christians to feel this way about their fellow Christians. My reaction to what is happening in the world is a far cry from what this passage implores.

We live in a nation where Prosperity Theology is quite popular. Many believe God simply wants us to be happy and wealthy. If we do the right thing, God will bless us financially…a simple cause and effect relationship. In a recent video clip, I heard Victoria Osteen say to her and her husband Joel’s congregation: “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God–I mean, that’s one way to look at it–we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy. . . . That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. . . .” She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning — Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. . . . When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?” (copied from albertmohler.com).

I would argue that God is much more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus states his purpose, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

We should show concern for all of those oppressed, not those who simply believe like we do. There are certain human rights we should all enjoy, regardless of our religion.

Unfortunately, we may not be able to physically do anything to relieve the suffering of those in Iraq, but we can pray, and we can raise awareness. I hope to stop my navel-gazing, and consider those around the world who are suffering in unimaginable ways.

What is your reaction to the events happening in the Middle East?

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