Category Archives: Meditation

BACKWARDS

My family and friends know I am a fan of Neil Diamond’s music.

Whether I am a fan of Neil Diamond the man, I can’t say. I don’t know him.

But I know his music well. All his music. The lyrics to every  one of his  popular songs.

I can name that tune in three notes.

This morning I put five Neil Diamond CDs into my player so I could listen as I cleaned.

After listening to Play Me, I picked up the remote to press the back arrow and hear that favorite again.

What I heard was the beginning of Brooklyn Roads. A good song, but not the one I wanted.

I tried again.

I pressed the back arrow twice. This time I got Crunchy Granola Suite.

 What is wrong with this crazy thing? I thought.

After pressing the button more times and hearing the beginnings of several songs, I studied the remote in my hand.

I was holding it upside down.

Backward was forward; forward was backward.

When I was a little girl, I once watched my Uncle Jake drive home backwards.

He shifted his vehicle into reverse, used his mirrors, and backed all the way home, about a mile. We lived in the country where the dirt roads were crooked, rutted and hilly.

We could drive miles on that road and not meet another vehicle. That made his backward driving less risky, but still.

They say if you play a country song backward, the singer gets his house back, his wife back, his truck back and his dog back.

If you’re familiar with the writings of Shel Silverstein, you know he’d be bound to write a poem about backwards. Here it is, courtesy of www.poemhunter.com.

 

BACKWARD BILL

Backward Bill, Backward Bill,

He lives way up on Backward Hill,

Which is really a hole in the sandy ground

(But that’s a hill turned upside down.)

 

Backward Bill’s got a backward shack

With a big front porch that’s built out back.

You walk through the window and look out the door

And the cellar is up on the very top floor.

 

Backward Bill he rides like the wind

Don’t know where he’s going but sees where he’s been.

His spurs they go ‘neigh’ and his horse it goes ‘clang,’

And his six-gun goes ‘gnab,’ it never goes ‘bang.’

 

Backward Bill’s got a backward pup.

They eat their supper when the sun comes up,

And he’s got a wife named Backward Lil,

‘She’s my own true hate,’ says Backward Bill.

 

Backward Bill wears his hat on his toes

And puts on his underwear over his clothes.

And come every payday he pays his boss,

And rides off a-smilin’ a-carryin’ his hoss.

 

Living backward may work well for Bill, but it is a misery when practiced in one’s spiritual life.

A backward-living Christian tries hard to be good before she receives the Holy Spirit’s power to do good.

She demands to see a thing before she believes it, rather than believing by faith that she will see it.

She seeks to be first when Jesus assures her such groveling will cause her to be last.

She craves what her friends have instead of being thankful for her own blessings.

She determines to work her way to salvation when Jesus says, “The work is finished.”

SIXTEEN GRAHAM CRACKERS

In public, people often mask their emotions. They smile and say they are fine. They chat and then walk away.

Heather, Ellen and Tom do this.

And they always look to be the same. Steady ships sailing on the river of life.

 

The Heather I see at the grocery store is not the real Heather.

The real Heather’s boyfriend is becoming abusive. He hasn’t hit her yet, but he has jerked her arm so hard it hurt and shoved away from his car.

Heather fears she may be pregnant again. She can’t have this baby.

I would be a lousy mother, she thinks.

Heather cries and says, “I swore my first abortion would be my last one, but what else can I do?”

The Ellen I smile at during church is not the real Ellen.

The real Ellen is a cancer survivor. She lives every day fearing the disease will return.

Ellen’s husband has checked out. He comes home from work, eats dinner, and then falls asleep in his recliner watching reruns of NCIS.

The two of them exchange only four or five sentences a day.

Ellen cries and vows, “One day I’ll get the courage to leave him. I’ll find a man who understands my fear.”

The Tom I view standing on the sidewalk is not the real Tom.

The real Tom is seeing his psychiatrist later today to ask her to change his medications. He takes antidepressant and antianxiety pills, but they aren’t working.

Every morning, Tom’s first thought is to kill himself.

His job stinks and his wife has moved out. He lives in squalor. Trash litters the floors and furniture. The grass in his yard is eight inches tall but cutting the grass requires energy he does not have.

Tom cries and says, “Tomorrow I will clean the house and mow the grass. I’ll look for a better job. I’ll call my wife and ask her to meet me to talk.”

But when he wakes up the next morning, his first temptation is to kill himself.

Few people see the real Debbie. Everyone else sees my mask.

These few people know the intensity of my struggle with OCD.

An unstoppable, continuous loop of repetitive thoughts plays and replays inside my mind.

These thoughts push me to perform, organize, and count.

This morning, obeying my OCD urgings, I set out to wash both sides of every door inside the house.

My bed sat unmade and two piles of dirty clothes lay on the bathroom floor. My kitchen needed attention.

I cry and tell myself, “Only a stupid person washes doors when her housework and laundry are out of control. I am stupid.”

This sad thought drives me to the kitchen where I finish the last of the graham crackers.

My sister calls.

“How are you?” she asks.

“Awful,” I say.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m standing in the kitchen eating my 16th graham cracker.”

“Sixteen graham crackers will never be enough,” she says.

She is right.

Food, no matter how much of it I eat, cannot fix what is wrong with me.

 

Food is not the solution to my problem.

An abortion is not the solution to Heather’s problem.

Leaving her husband and finding a new mate is not the solution to Ellen’s problem.

Suicide is not the solution to Tom’s problem.

I am thankful my sister cares about me.

She and other family members and  friends encourage me. They check often to see how I am doing.

I am stronger because they care.

I wonder.

Who cares about Heather, Ellen and Tom?

 

 

 

 

YOU’RE WELCOME

Have you ever inserted yourself into a group without an invitation?

At the end of my junior year in college, I needed a roommate for the next year. My current roommate had decided not to return, and my other friends had roommates.

Two girls I knew casually lived on my dorm floor in a room with three beds.

I asked if I could share their room.

These girls were Pam and Patti Sanders, cousins from Paducah, Kentucky.

If they were unhappy getting a new roommate, they didn’t let me know.

Their welcome was a blessed relief.

Forty-plus years later, I remember their kindness.

Compare Patti and Pam’s welcome to this one.

I accepted a medical transcriptionist position at a hospital. On my first day, I faced an unwelcoming committee of one.

As I settled into my new work area, the transcriptionist sitting nearest me said, “You can call that your chair if you want to, but that will always be Jackie’s chair.”

Jackie, the former chair occupant, had left her position to move to another state.

My new coworker’s comment stung.

Entrances are hard. Walking into a party solo is awkward for single people. A student enters a new school with dread. New hires to a workplace crave acceptance. Visitors to a church fear rejection.

One Sunday our minister interviewed, in front of the congregation, four people who attend church nowhere. He asked them why they stay away from church.

One turnoff, they said, was the cool reception they received when they visited a church.

That motivated me, after the service, to approach a couple sitting in front of me. I introduced myself and asked if they were visitors.

“No,” one of them said. “We have been members for 20 years.”

(We attend a large church.)

They didn’t need a welcome, but our conversation was pleasant and embarrassed no one.

Relaxed partygoers do not intentionally shun uncomfortable guests. They eat, drink and mix with friends and assume everyone else is doing the same.

Students established in a school do not intend to avoid new students. They are focused on passing calculus or having a date to the prom.

The unwelcoming woman at my new job didn’t make the chair remark because she wanted to hurt me. She spoke out of her sadness over losing her friend.

Church members who fail to interact with visitors are not unkind people. They are busy people. Distractions keep them from showing visitors a warm reception.

Offering welcomes can be costly.

Patti and Pam’s welcome cost them one-third of their living space.

For relaxed partygoers, students, coworkers, and church members, the cost is less tangible.

It may require them to leave their comfort zones, endure mild inconvenience, and risk rejection.

They must take their focus off themselves and place it on someone else.

Those who master this graceful art leave blessed people in their wake.

One partygoer, one student, one coworker, or one church member can make a difference.

Look for opportunities to be that person.

IT IS WHAT IT IS

Two tough days for me each year are the days I go to the dentist for cleanings.

I’ve gone to the dentist since I was a child. I know the dentist and her staff are my friends. I like them. I just don’t like what they do.

At the dentist’s office last Monday, I said with confidence to the hygienist, “You should find less plaque buildup on this exam. I have a new toothbrush with a built-in timer. I now brush for two full minutes twice a day.”

I waited for a bit of praise, but I didn’t get it.

I got this instead.

“Four minutes,” said the hygienist.

“What?” I asked.

“Brush for four minutes at bedtime, two minutes on top and two minutes on bottom. Two minutes in the morning is good, though.”

Just when I think I’ve adhered to the rules, the rules get tougher.

I realize that I pay my dental professionals to care about and care for my teeth.

If I am unhappy, I can stop visiting them any time I choose. But I won’t  do that.

My teeth are important to me.

But today, so many experts (paid and unpaid) tell me how to take care of myself that I am overwhelmed with “good” advice.

From computer, television, and smartphone screens, from billboards, and from literally tons of unsolicited mail I pull from my mailbox, professionals offer me their advice.

Medical doctors say I should spend several hours each week exercising.

Opticians urge me to wear sunglasses when I am outside and safety glasses when I mow.

Dermatologists tell me to wear SPF 30 sunscreen.

Naturalists tout the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.

Audiologists say I should wear ear protection.

Personal trainers insist that I wear weights on my wrists and ankles.

Therapists whisper, “Go to your happy place.”

Psychiatrists tell me to take antidepressants and practice cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herbalists tell me to drink green tea.

Nutritionists tell me to stop eating salt, sugar, fat, wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, soy, artificial colors or flavors; meats from animals treated with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones; fish bred and grown in dirty water; and plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Apparently, Mark Twain got it right when he wrote, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

I am all for being as healthy, comfortable, attractive, and active as I can be. But this overload of “healthful advice” is oppressive.

As a good friend said to me this week, “Facts are facts. It is what it is. I am getting older.”

We all are. No one has yet developed a product, activity, or mindset that will stop the aging process.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that our outer selves are wasting away. He encouraged us to be focused upon being renewed inwardly day by day.

Inspired advice.

I throw away 99% of the advertisements I find in my mailbox.

I did recently, however, save a brochure urging me to make my final arrangements now so when I die, my grieving family will be spared that task.

That, I deemed to be advice worth heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FENCES

My grandchildren and I take many walks around my neighborhood.

Sometimes we encounter a sign that reads: Warning: This yard is protected by an invisible fence.

The homeowner has placed this fence around his yard to restrict his dog from roaming the streets. Often a compliant dog sits or runs within that yard, but it never approaches us.

Those are not the only invisible fences I encounter.

The most restrictive invisible fences are erected by your enemy and mine, Satan.

Satan often erects invisible fences inside our minds. Here are some of his fences I have encountered.

  1. Warning: You are not good enough to have a relationship with God. Stop expecting one.
  2. Warning: You have nothing of value to contribute to the world. Stop trying to be a giver.
  3. Warning: You are a woefully flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Stop sharing your life with others.
  4. Warning: God lets bad things happen to good people. Stop trusting His plan for your life.

More than once those fences and others like it have stopped me in my spiritual tracks. Sometimes I remain stuck there much too long.

I remain stuck until I recall some of the things Scripture tells me about Satan. These include:

  1. When he [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
  2. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  4. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).

Why would I allow such a one to dictate to me what I should and should not do?

But sometimes I do listen to Satan’s lies because there is usually an element of truth in what he whispers to me.

  1. I am not good enough to have a relationship with God, but God, out of His infinite grace and great love, offers it anyway.
  2. Through my own efforts, I cannot offer anything of value to the world, but God graciously works through me to accomplish His good purposes.
  3. I am a flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, but God has put me in those relationships. He will bless me with the ability to function well in them.
  4. God does allow seemingly bad things to happen to good people. But God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom. He is always working to bring about what is ultimately good for us. He asks us to trust Him, even when situations don’t make sense to us.

If we allow him, Satan will steal all the joy Christians are meant to experience. He will kill our hope of attaining eternal life. He will destroy any witness we can offer the world.

Satan relentlessly attempts to “fence us in.” God, on the other hand, offers us lives of freedom in Christ.

EXTEND GRACE

As many of my readers know, I have obsessive compulsive disorder.

Wikipedia defines the condition this way: mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected. This often takes up more than an hour a day. Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense. The condition is associated with ticsanxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide.

Some parts of this definition describe me. Others do not. I am not a compulsive hand-washer, and instead of “having difficulty throwing things out,” I feel compelled to purge.

I detest owning extra anything. When I begin obsessing over the fact that I have too many shirts, spatulas, Band-Aids, bath towels, etc., I go into full-fledged panic attacks, and some of these things must go.

My husband teases that he is afraid to leave me alone when we are having a garage sale. He fears I may sell our house for $10.

So, you ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

I am telling you this to educate you on this condition. You may know other people who are diagnosed with the disorder or display symptoms of it.

The OCD sufferer probably looks completely normal. She may seem a bit odd at times, but who doesn’t? But inside, she is often a raging mess.

She may be frantically counting the letters in the words she hears you speak. She may be panicking about having unintentionally harmed someone. At one time I feared (illogically, yes) that I may have been the force that prompted a man I didn’t even know and who lived in another state to kill his children.

The level of my fear of causing harm to people is off the chart. I have felt guilty for causing divorces, car accidents, illnesses, and violent crimes that I could not possibly have caused.

And, I am preoccupied with these fears. If you notice I am not listening to you when you speak, or I snap at you for no apparent reason, or I insist upon doing something that seems irrational (repeatedly checking the news feed on my phone), know this: I am acting on emotional impulses I haven’t yet managed to control.

Someone, and people disagree about who it was, said this: Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

You know this is true. You, being one part of the people included in the phrase “everyone you meet,” almost certainly fight battles. I don’t know what they are; therefore, I may not make allowances for them. I am sorry.

Don’t make quick judgments about people. Realize that you don’t know everything about anyone. And some of the things you don’t know are significant, life-altering, and painful. Make being kind your natural, default way of interacting with everyone.

And always, always extend grace.

GERANIUM SPEAK

I went out early this morning to water the plants in my yard and the potted ones in front of the house and on our patio.

The hose I use for this task isn’t optimal. It kinks sometimes and snags on every shrub and decorative rock in the yard. That is one reason I resist watering outdoor plants. That stubborn hose, and this awful heat.

I watered the rose bushes, the lilies, the spyreas, the hostas, and the newly placed slabs of grass Dan had put around the mailbox.

I unsnagged the hose at least 12 times and dragged it to water the petunias, coleus, and geraniums growing in big pots across the front of the house.

The clean, earthy scent of the geraniums always catches me off-guard and makes me stop and inhale deeply. They looked a bit bedraggled this morning because I had neglected watering them as I should have because of, you know, my kinky garden hose and the awful heat.

As I plucked off a spent blossom and stem, I thought I heard the plant clear its throat.

“What?” I asked, stooping down to its level.

“I’ve missed seeing you,” the fragile, white-flowered plant rasped.

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ve neglected you a bit lately.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s been awfully hot. Even now, the sun is burning the back of my neck.”

“Tell me about it,” the plant said.

“Plus, I planted more flowers than usual this year, and watering them is time consuming. The roses are blooming right now, and they require lots of water.”

Nothing.

“You and the other geraniums are still my favorites though,” I said. “I even named my blog after you.”

“I know.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard it through the grapevine,” it said, and laughed.

“Ha, ha.”

“Maybe you should plant fewer flowers. Then you would have more time for us geraniums, you know, your favorites.”

“Well, yes. But I love the other plants, too. Not as much I love you, of course.”

“Uh huh,” it said.

I stood, unwound the garden hose from the base of the rose of Sharon bush, righted the birdbath the hose had overturned, and cranked the cantankerous, green hose back around the metal wheel where it lives.

I went inside the house, cleaned up, drank about a gallon of water, and sat down with my Mornings with Jesus book, My Utmost for His Highest book, and my notebook for writing down new spiritual thoughts every day. I realized I was a couple of days behind in my study, but I dutifully read the May 30 passages, took a few notes, and began to pray.

“I’m sorry, God, that I’ve neglected my study a bit lately.”

“It’s okay,” I think He said.

“I’ve been really busy. We had the Memorial Day party on Monday. Plus, I’ve been working to get my family photos into albums, organizing things for the grandkids’ scrapbooks, taking care of my flowers and plants, doing some writing, and rereading A Separate Peace. It’s one of my favorite classic books.”

“I know all that,” He said.

“Oh, I forgot. Of course.”

Nothing.

“I have a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak,” I said.

I felt Him smile at me.

“But you are my number one priority.”

He hugged me.

“Uh huh,” He said.