Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Reverence

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth
so let your words be few.
As a dream comes when there are many cares,
so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

Ecclesiastes 5:11

I read Ecclesiastes this morning. I've never read it, I don't think. Some of the passages were familiar, and the most well-known verse about the "time for every purpose under heaven..." stuff was the one keeping me away. I just can't stand the repetitiveness of that song, turn, turn, turn...ugh.

But, I needed the wisdom of Solomon and I just couldn't start in with those Proverbs. Great and profound stuff mind you, but my goodness you can only take it in small bites. Not a meal. And, today, I needed a meal.

I've been a bit petulant lately. Okay, okay...not "a bit" a whole lot!

I've been feeling like I'm a bench warmer. When did I leave the game? I was on track, God's wind blowing into my sails, and I was on point.

But, something's happened over the past year and now I'm starting to see it as a transformation of me as a person. God's working on me to make me the person he wants me to be. Unfortunately, I'm still struggling to see it that way. Intellectually I can grasp what he's doing. Emotionally, I feel slapped down.

I've been seeing it as: This is not fair! I'm a player, for cryin' out loud, not someone's who's accustomed to being a bench blanket. I count! I can play! I need to be used!

All the while I sit and watch while God infuses his magnificence into everyone else's lives, and leaves me as an inert member of the team, watching...painfully watching as others utilize their talents for his glory and I sit back and wait for the call that doesn't come.

When I really get going on my little pity party about how God is weaving his Kingdom with everyone else's thread and not mine I can attribute it to my lack of youth or increased weight. If only I were thinner and younger, then I could make a difference, then he'd use me, then others would allow me to join in the game. I am shunned because of time and appearance. (You can see how dangerous it is when we allow the "woe is me" festival to continue--of course, it manifests differently for all of us, your issue may not be age or weight, but we all have chinks in our armor that the enemy will utilize given the chance.)

My father will be 80 years old in August and he is currently building a restaurant empire. When he was 50 he built a business from the ground up that made him his first million. At 32 he fathered me (in an age where 30 was considered over the hill). Now, if anything can teach me age is definitely not an issue, it's watching my dad.

And, the extra pounds? Man, it's hard to lose weight. I work out every day. I eat healthfully. I limit my intake. I'm trying to get the dose on my thyroid meds figured out. It's just plain tough, but I'm not giving up. But it's hard.

And so today I'm practicing more reverence and less petulance. Understanding that sometimes we're the main players and sometimes we support the main players, but it's all for the good of the kingdom and the advancement of the kingdom.

Mostly, I'm trying to become what God wants me to be, not getting God to support who I am.

Friday, May 8, 2009


So I volunteered in son's class. He was excited to see me arrive on the playground in the heat of the day, and met me with a sweaty hug and big sloppy kiss. As he fell into line to head back into the classroom, he grabbed my hand with his big paw, and pulled me with him, "C'mon, Mom, c'mahhhn." The heat doesn't slow the little ones.

As my body met the cool air of the building, son's little classmate Elsie fell into my legs and then others who knew me greeted me with the Kindergarten hug. I think that's the last year they do that. In First Grade they don't need that reassurance. But in Kindergarten they're still mushy and needy little creatures.

Elsie caught me later. "Come, do the book with me." I patted her curly brown hair and said, "I can help you a little, but I'm here to help everyone."

She wouldn't take no for an answer. She tugged at my sleeve and after trying to pull away a few times to work with the other kids including my own son, I ended up helping her write her latest publication, "The Hungry Kindergartener."

When next she insisted I take up a wand and help her read the room, I realized I wasn't going to spend time with any other kids that day. Elsie needed me. She needed someone. She needed attention.

So I gave it to her.

Son's teacher later let me know that Elsie didn't have a mom, and so she clung on to subsitutes in various forms at school.

Of course, as a mom myself, that devastates me. And, at the same time, I'm worried that one of the few times I get to volunteer in son's class, I didn't spend any time with him.

But, son was fine. His Center that day was Legos with his best friend Rialto. Occasionally, he'd come over and show me a speed boat or jet fighter he'd fashioned from the bold colored pieces, but he seemed content to work with Rialto and let me spend time with Elsie.

Maybe on some level he understood that she needed my attention, too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Miss Understood

Have you every been misunderstood?

Have you ever gone along with it just because it's easier to let someone believe a falsehood than it is to change their mind?

One time I made a comment to a friend about how I would not show violent films to his kids while they were in my house. I knew it was an issue for him. I was being earnest. He thought I was being bratty. He made a joke of it.

I tried to tell him I was being sensitive, yet he firmly held the belief that I was bratty. To convince him otherwise fell on deaf ears. So, it was easier for me to let him think I was being a bratty sister in Christ rather than try to persuade him that I really cared about his beliefs.

That happens to me all the time. Not just every so often, but I would say about ONCE A DAY. Regularly.

Today the sermon touched on Jesus' teaching that we need to make things right with people who are angry with us, regardless of...anything. If someone is angry with you, you have a duty to make it right.

Tough concept. Tougher implementation.

I have this friend who thinks I'm probably the rudest person on the planet. We don't speak anymore because he and his family went to another church and are in a different Life Group, and run in different circles. Not a blowout, no angry words or last goodbyes. Just welcomed distance.

He thinks I'm the rudest person on the planet because every time we get together I do something that annoys him. I interrupted his conversation. I didn't say please. I didn't thank him. There's a hundred different things I didn't do. And he noted every one of them. And, as I noticed that this was going on, I couldn't stop it.

I wanted to, mind you. I wanted to show him that I'm a grateful person. That I have manners. That I love him and his wife. That I can be decent.

But, it was like I was jinxed. Seriously, I couldn't act normal around him. I can give you excuses; hard, credible, completely understandable excuses as to why I interrupted his conversation, why I didn't say please, and why I forgot to thank him. I have valid excuses that any normal person would comprehend. But, excuses are pointless.

Have you ever felt like that? Like there's a wall up around someone and no matter what you do, you can't break in? Everything welcoming gesture you make will be defeated. Every movement you take will be misinterpreted. They won't know the depth of your heart, or your caring toward them. They won't see your gentle soul, and the warm and tender heart within. They won't see you as anything except what they suppose you to be, some shell of a character like a spoiled brat, an ungrateful woman, a greedy child. Those are nothing your heart holds, yet it's all they see.

I wrote about a fictional business on my blog and I hurt a lot a people. (To tell you the truth, I didn't know anyone but a handful of peeps read my blog.) Some were hurt just a little, and some very deeply. That's a bad result of getting on your soapbox with your righteousness and anger in full frontal display and your facts shaky or mismatched at best. I was talking about one business I love, and another business I'm glad to be away from, and another that I'm ambivalent about.

And, I was trying to do what? I don't know. Not hurt people, that's for sure. Yet, that's all I did.

I liken it to having a small trickle of water coming into a dark, stone cell, and weeping bitterly about only getting a trickle, then having the trickle dry up. I weep for wanting the trickle of water that I wept over because it was just a trickle.

And, I won't delete my words from my blog. That's cowardly. That's hiding in the shadows. If I said it, I need to live with it. Even though it brought me pain and distance from people I love. So, I email the people who contacted me and explain what I meant and it's all over. It's done.

But, it's not. They hurt, and I hurt that they hurt, and I hurt that I'm once again misunderstood.

I've gotten so used to being misunderstood that I've also gotten lazy about dealing with it. I simply let it go, and hope I can move on, or have another chance, or best of all, rely on their faith to make them give me compassion and grace. Talk about hypocrisy on my part!! Using God's directive to my advantage so I don't have to dive into difficult conversations or convince people their beliefs are incorrect. That's difficult, exhausting work. You have to stay vigilant and on your guard. You have to stay present and focused.

I can just let it go because I know the truth. I know the goodness in my own heart. Even if it's not seen by another. "Let them think what they will," I say, "it's not my fault!"


The words of Jesus tell me that I hold responsibility even when I'm not at fault.

Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

Your brother has something against you. Not: if you ticked off your brother. Not: if you did something wrong, go fix it. Not: if you had a good excuse, then you don't have to go. No, no, no.

It says, if he has something against you.

Regardless of...anything.

So, now a LIFETIME of being misunderstood must be stopped. I have been directed to stop it.

That's huge. I've spent my life being hurt by people who don't understand me, but letting it go because it's not my problem. It's theirs. But, Jesus says it IS my problem. Whoa. This is HUGE, indeed!

Now I have to begin...this moment. And, I have to figure out how to take out this thorn that has been bitterly uncomfortable, yet has been something to which I've grown accustomed.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I first met Curt in the Cairo airport. We'd emailed each other a few times before this jet-lagged rumpled shirt meeting, and he confessed to having a thing for redheads.

My email at the time had been, and he assumed the rdh stood for redhead not RDH as in Registered Dental Hygienist. He had already taken a shine to the gal behind the moniker. And, my hair was a tad red at the time, so even though I explained it to him, I don't think he ever thought differently than "Cathy Redhead."

I proceeded to spend the next month traveling Egypt with Curt, his wife Bev and a handful of well-traveled and delightfully interesting people. As I traipsed solo through the North African desert, Curt and Bev quickly became my surrogate parents though they had a decade on my own 'rents. We smoked hookahs in a tea house, ate shishkabobs in a star-blanketed picnic on the bank of the Nile, and even raced through the cocoa dunes on camel back. The trip was magical, and the company a joy. Departing Cairo at the end of the long and other-worldly adventure, I thought, well, here's another pair to add to my Christmas card list.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Curt told Howard the last time we saw each other that I was his "best friend." He was 88 years old and had flown out for a wedding in Virginia. He rented a car and drove a total of 8 hours to see us for one precious night. We laughed and he talked non-stop about his adventures. He had just gotten back from Japan, where he and his wife had lived for a year teaching English many years ago. He'd reconnected with old friends there and surveyed the changes in his old stomping grounds.

He told us of the sale of his house, the one he and Bev had purchased in the sixties when GE had moved them from East to West Coast. A few million-dollar bidding war ensued for the pretty property with gorgeous gardens in Los Altos. Not that he needed to worry about retirement income. He had invested well, and after leaving the corporate world, he spent his time with Bev volunteering and traveling the globe. I was fortunate enough to meet them on one of those jaunts.

We stayed in touch, we emailed often, and, when I moved out to CA, I found myself a mere 20-minute drive from their home. They had my sister and me in for tea, for lunch and for friendship. My sister became a pen pal/mentor to their special needs granddaughter.

When Bev got breast cancer, we prayed for healing, and God delivered. She joked about her wigs and gave us her trademark laugh, but there was worry in Curt's eyes. He couldn't hide his concern and I'm not sure he even tried. He was a gentle, sensitive soul, and loved to tease.

When I got married, Curt and Bev had a honorary place at my mother's side. They toasted us, and we wished to emulate their marriage and their gusto for life.

Curt and Bev held my newborn daughter in their arms, babysat her in their home on occasion, and even donned little pink party hats at her first year birthday party.

When the cancer came back, it was Bev who kept everyone's spirits up. But you could see Curt start to crumble. We'd moved away by the time Bev lost her battle, and had only email and cards to connect us to Curt. It was enough. Friendships aren't written in time spent by someone's side, but in the depth of your heart.

The letter came in the mail today. The three daughters sent out a form letter to the people in Curt's address book and told us that he'd suffered another stroke. He died in his own bed on tax day.

Howard had tears in his eyes when he told me the news. I said, "Now, he's with Bev and they're together again."

And, my friend is gone, but not forever gone.

3 biz

So I got so much email about my last post, and I think I've offended some people, so if you think I was writing about your business, I probably wasn't.

Though, I was trying to make a statement of those who don't practice what they preach, and I did base it off of three real, live businesses I'm in contact with. Well, just know, that I was talking about how bad it is not to practice what you preach. And, even I'm guilty of that. (I'm a parent!)

I have other pressing thoughts on my mind today, so I'll have to delve into this topic at a later date...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the matrix

So I know this business. It runs at a deficit. It's a noble place, doing good in the community and helping those less fortunate. But, it runs in the in red like our Carolina soil.

And it preaches for people to live within their means. And it teaches families how create a budget and stick to it. And it praises those who become and stay debt free. Great stuff, right?

Only, the business doesn't follow those rules. The business has large debt and doesn't work within a prudent budget. The business is above the rules, not because it's "holier than thou," but because it does God's work: aiding the poor and stregthening the weak. It takes money to do that.

So, I'm left wondering...can it really preach a Dave Ramsey lifestyle to its customers when the business itself can't do better than most households in America?

What would you say to the business owner?

I asked one time and I got a cryptic answer about how the business is not making the money it should based on the matrix of similarly sized businesses. The customers just need to buy more. Hmmm, I didn't know it worked that way.

With that logic, if I buy a bigger house with a bigger mortgage, but my household income stays the same, then I need to go to my employer and say, I need more money. You need to pay me more becuase I should be making more based on the matrix of similarly educated individuals. The matrix says I should be making more than I do, so you need to pay me that because that's where I set my budget.

My employer is going to look at me like I'm sporting a pink mohawk. What I get is what I get based on the job I have here, not what another widget worker in Cincinnati or down the street is making.

What this business earns it what it earns. It doesn't matter what the matrix says it SHOULD earn, it earns what it earns.

Instead of basing their budget on real-life intake, they base their budget on a matrix that clearly doesn't apply. They spend what the widget factory on the next block spends, even though the other factory generates more income.

People who use this business are encouraged to base their budget on their current household income, but the business itself designs its own budget based on a matrix of identical companies? Huh?

Honestly, the whole thing confuses me. I think I'll go consult the matrix.

Monday, April 13, 2009

bridges vs. canyons

It's difficult to stay on the right path when the enemy whispers in our ear at every chance--noticing even the smallest chink in our armor--and he's ready and willing to parade our fears and faults in front of us like an over-the-top Macy's Thanksgiving Day event.

When I'm tired, I allow anger to take shape. And, when I'm feeling abandoned, alone or abused by another COG (child of God), I'm righteous in how I'm going to "get back" at those who have wronged me.

Mostly, I'll turn and run. Nothing says "you pissed me off" like a Grand Canyon of distance coupled with the silence on the moon. You want me? Well, now you can't have me!

But, did they "tick me off" or am I just being overly sensitive? Do they even notice the chasm between us?

It comes down to communication. Taking the difficult step and mangling the words crafted to express what's going on with me and inquiring what's going on with you. Bridging understanding rather than giving up. Beating on like a boat against the current.

It's hard. But, it's what we should do. Because, so often it's not about what "they" did to "us," it's about how "we" took it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

it's not about the money

So she said, "but that's not helping people!"

When our church put up butcher paper along the walls and asked the congregants (love that silly word) to offer ways to help those in need or ask for help from others, Hubby and I grabbed pens. Hubby asked for help finding a job, and we also offered some ways we could help out others in our community. One way was to invite people to join us at our table. Our cup and plates runneth over, so we thought, hey, guys, come on over! We'll make you dinner. Our kids can play. We can talk and eat. We'll do the dishes.

Seemed reasonable enough to me.

She didn't think so. She thinks we need to make meals and deliver them.

"But," I said, "others are doing that. Inviting people to our table for company and companionship and good food is what we're giving."

"That's putting strings with your gift," she protested.

"No, that IS the gift," I shot back.

See, we get so caught up in thinking we have to give things to people. Money, food, clothes, whatever, we concentrate solely on transfering items to people. And that's good. But, I sincerely believe that there's more.

Jesus invited us into a relationship with him. He's all about the relationship, with him and between all of us. You can't have a relationship with someone when you drop off a meal and leave. Or, you take a bag of clothes to a shelter. Or, you write a check. Those aren't relational. Those are important, but they're not the whole story and they don't delve into what Jesus is about.

Likewise, just because someone has money doesn't mean they don't need someone to minister to them.

My church spends a lot of time on the poor. And, that's great. I love them for it. But, in my church's backyard is a very wealthy part of town. The attitude of some congregants is that "those wealthy people" need to give more and do more for the less fortunate in our society. And, that could be true.

However, does anyone ever ask, how can we minister to "those wealthy people?" They may have full bank accounts and full bellies, but they are probably emotionally bankrupt. You don't have to be poor to be desititute. The rich need compassion and love, too.

We get so caught up in the "helping the poor" that we forget we are directed to help EVERYONE! Not just someone who doesn't have food or shelter. We are required to do that. But, how about doing something harder? How about helping out a rich person? How about helping heal their heart?

God is above money, and we should be too. But far too often when it comes to ministry it's totally focused on money--who has it, who doesn't, and how we can get the people who have it to give it to the people who don't.

But, what if we sidestepped money? What if we didn't rate peoples' needs on the basis of their bank accounts?

What would it look like if a financially deprived person who is heart healthy helped a financially sound person who is heart heavy?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More questions than answers

So the question is, do you need to have your issue resolved before you can minister in that area? Like a drunk still drinking, can he be an AA sponsor? Or, a sex addict still indulging but guiding others away from porn?

The answer seems obvious, you say, "of course not!" So do I.

But is it really that simple?

What about the mother whose own mother's atrocities keep her from repeating the error? Or, the woman who uses the lessons from her abusive ex to forge a good marriage?

What if these people still harbor hatred and venom and use that to make goodness? Does it taint the good being done? Is it vinegar instead of wine?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


"Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be.”--Andy Stanley, Visioneering

Call it mid-life crisis, or Spring Fever, or what-have-you, I have tension and no vision. Hubby and I are going through a period together of figuring out what our world needs to look like. And, it's not easy.

Where do we live, what do we do, how do we live, what is our lifestyle, what does God want us to do, how can we give...the possibilities for us are mind-boggling, yet there are only a few right answers. We just can't see them in the myriad of choices.

Today was a pea soup foggy day, the kind I used to love in San Francisco, as the fog bank would roll in off the ocean and down the Bay in the late afternoons. And that's how my mind felt this morning. Thick with droplets as many as the stars in the sky, it was like walking through an airborne sea, and I was unable to contemplate the drops individually. I saw only the mass, the huge rolls of white clouds blanketing the trees and the ground equally, but I could not rest my eyes on a single drop.

What is that drop, God, that is Cat and Hubby's perfect drop? What is it you want us to do?