Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Does Everything Happen To ME??

Why Does Everything Happen To ME?? Years ago I took a drive with my roommate Janna, as we stopped to shop she twisted her ankle on the way back to the car. It immediately began to swell up double in size. Since she was injured, that left ME to drive the car we had borrowed from our mutual friend Melinda. In all the commotion, the seatbelt warning light got stuck on which drained the car battery. Melinda was forced to buy a new battery. Why does everything happen to ME?

Driving with ME does have its issues. Last Christmas my sister Sheri and I went to visit our Texas friend Billye. Her home was magnificently decorated with multicolored lights lining the house and driveway. Sheri, my chauffeur, was directed to drive around another car in the driveway ... as the sounds of snap, crackle, pop echoed down the street we realized that an entire string of Christmas lights had been flattened by the car. Sheri was embarrassed and Billye’s decorations were ruined. Why does everything happen to ME?

Janna hurt her ankle, Melinda had to buy a new battery, Sheri was embarrassed, Billye’s decorations were flattened ... and I’m whining because it affected my day. Hind sight gives ME a greater perspective with the most accurate description of ME = My Ego. How many myopic moments have I spent focused on ME instead of the one in distress? Drama does occur but not just to ME. Pastor Jim reminded ME today that our story is our testimony of faith. When I share my experiences, I want it to be a story of positive encouragement for the moments of restoration, redemption, and revival despite the disappointments. Focusing on the path ahead instead of my own feet not only frees ME from self-pity but opens my eyes to the ones around ME that do deserve the encouragement and support. Everything does not happen to ME; but everything does happen for a reason.

Phillipians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” ME is better served to submit My Everything to God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dame Bramage

Wise, mature, in control…well that’s not me of course, that’s just a list of qualities I’d like to have that seem to be just over the next hill. Most of what I learn is retro-active. It is like sitting in the back end of a truck watching the world go by then figuring out after it’s passed, just where I’ve been. It took me years but I finally learned that if I ever say the snarky words, “It’s not brain surgery” something very stupid will happen…to me. It is like I’m self humbling by announcing I’m above the situation. These are the moments of my life when my brain isn’t quite functioning that I call “Dame Bramage”. Perhaps I really do need brain surgery.

One of my “Dame Bramage” moments included the time I was asked to cover phones for an hour at the record label where I worked so the receptionist could go to lunch. I said predictably, “Of course I can, it’s not brain surgery.” Yep, I cursed myself before I even got started. First of all the phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree with everyone possible calling at once. Don’t these people eat lunch I thought? Then after several smart alec musicians called using fictitious names I decided to beat them at their own game. The next caller claimed to be from the White House. I told him in a sassy tone, “Oh really, well you’ll have to call back, we’re busy”. Thankfully he did, because it really was The White House and we weren’t really That Busy!

Another teaching “Dame Bramage” moment came when I was asked to take a job typing the Amendments for the House of Representatives in Texas. I had been working at the Capitol that semester when the typing job came open unexpectedly. They hadn’t had time to know the real me and apparently I forgot who the real me was too because I took the job. I thought, “big deal, typing isn’t hard”…well… no, typing without regard for being correct isn’t hard, precise typing is hard. In those days I had to type Amendments to the State Laws on an actual typewriter (without correction)…rot row…, then put it in a machine that made a transparency to project the Amendment on a giant screen for the House members to vote on….double rot row. It all had to be done in seconds before a vote. It was like having your sins broadcast. Every typo was up there for the puzzlement of the Congressmen to try and interpret what it was they were supposed to be voting on. Legislators were hopping out of their chairs like bunnies to run tell me I had just botched their Amendment and had made them look illiterate. That was the year we voted in the Armadillo as the State Mammal. Nobody, including me, is sure that was what we were really supposed to be voting on. The armadillo??, the ugliest creature on Earth??, surely that was an error, but it passed.

There are more than 97 verses in the Holy Bible that mention the word HUMBLE. Proverbs 3:34 “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble”. Yep, been there, felt that. James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up”. That’s how it should be. Start from a place of humility and there is room to be lifted up. Start from a place of highest ego and it’s a long fall down. Start from a place of an oversized belief in my own brain and it really does need a little spiritual surgery to size it down. Thankfully this dame is finally getting a prescription for change with a little less self inflicted damage. It's never too late if I'll just use my head.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Servant's Smart

I have spent many years of my life with a servant's heart. I was a waitress at one time and believe it or not, I (mostly) did very well. In those days I had a razor sharp memory and could recall what someone had previously ordered even if they had only been in my restaurant once. These days don’t ask me to quote more than three...or two passages of scripture in one sitting or ask me to recall the names of the U.S. Presidents, all 40 something, maybe, I think. I now have what my family calls Selective Memory.

In my waitress days I once served dinner at a benefit featuring Bob Hope as guest speaker. What a spectacular event, with special effects…created by me. What happened wasn’t totally my fault the way I (selectively) recall it. I accidentally set the flowers at my table on FIRE… but we were able to stomp it out without injury …except to my ability to collect tips. Some people thought I was paying homage to Lucille Ball in honor of Bob Hope, especially after I lied and said that I was.

In my quest for Servanthood, one year I decided to volunteer at the hospital…WHAT? Me?? “No Gory Lori”? Needless to say, gagging in front of the patients did not cheer anyone up. Then I read a quote by Frederick Buechner that basically said: “Your calling is where your greatest joy and the world’s deepest needs meet.” Bingo, I started teaching adults how to read and successfully did so for five years. I learned to use the qualities and quirks that God gave me in ways that would honor Him.

Being a servant enhances life for all those we encountered if one is willing to humbly be used. Mark 10: 45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Messiah himself chose to be a Servant Leader. That much I can remember. It’s not just caring, it is a life fulfilled if a servant’s smart.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trains Of Thought

I live near the railroad tracks in a Nashville suburb. Every night I hear the low wondering blare of a train whistle and the clacking of the wheels on the tracks. I love those sounds. It reminds of me of being home and going places, of the routine of everyday life and adventures in Europe.

My travels taught me many interesting things. Certain sounds and smells still trigger the memories. In my youth I once sat knee to knee with strangers on a Polish train. That was awkward. I could swear it smelled like sausage. I was too queasy to investigate and did I really want to know the answer? The next ride I took was the overnight train to Florence, Italy. I must have read too many spy novels because I talked my fellow travelers into sleeping with the window open so thieves couldn’t put sleeping gas in our car. Umm…what???...Why these kind hearted foreigners listened to me I’ll never know. Perhaps they thought it was safer to indulge the crazy girl than to distress her into a psychotic fit on a moving train. I felt personally victorious when I woke up the next morning freezing but un-robbed with my money still pinned to my underwear. Ha! Take that you thieves …except don’t actually take it especially while it’s pinned to the undies. I forgot about that last high tech security measure until it was time to pay for breakfast. ….Again with the awkward moments on a lamebrain’s train.

The trains that go by my house only carry cargo so they don’t have a strict schedule. I never know when I will hear that whistle blow but I always sleep better after I’ve heard it. During the recent floods the railroad tracks were damaged so there were no trains for several weeks. It was eerily quiet. Amazing how much I missed a jolting whistle in the blankness of night. Like the voice of my old friend that grew silent, I missed the familiarity. The loss of both put a hole in my night like a girl that missed her train.

There are no locomotives in the Bible, but there are trains of people lined up to follow the cloud of God through a wilderness. The most vivid train of people that come to mind is the one that passes through the Narrow Gate to the Kingdom of God as told in the book of Matthew. It describes this gate as small enough for only one at a time. It is mostly misunderstood as being narrow minded but the beauty in that story is that everyone has to walk through on their own choice and not dragged by someone else nor sneaking through without making their own commitment. Each one in a train of people taking their turn to step closer to God. Once you give your heart to the Lord of Creation then it opens up sounds of the familiar calling you home and new trains of thoughts will guide you in the night.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sometimes Bad News Is Good News

Sometimes bad news is good news… in the end. It might take a long and winding road (with moldy pathways and muddy waters). The day I dyed my hair Marilyn Monroe white by mistake it did not look like good news nor did I look like Marilyn Monroe for that matter. That was the day I decided to (quickly) go back to my birth color of Irish Red and received the first compliments ever on my hair. Maybe God really does know what He is doing when he designs each of us. That is good news.

So many times I have started down one path and it diverged into another. I clung for dear life to keep from making any unscheduled turns but most of my learning experiences came from U turns and detours. I planned to write something humorous the week of the Nashville Flood of 2010 but it seemed so inappropriate to laugh at bad news when it still is bad news. I took a detour and instead of writing I offered my hands as manual labor. In the process of letting go of my plans I was blessed by the spirit of love and grief, in the rally of volunteers who aided those who lost all in the flood. That kind of giving is good news.

After the flood I looked at the yards of my neighbors that had all of their private possessions spread out for all to see including muddy undies, various awards and funny pictures from their grandchildren. You can tell a lot about a person by what they treasure most. They laughed at their smashed Gold Records but cried at the loss of photos and letters. I admired them all the more. While the flood was bad news the friendships forged through the shared experiences will last long after homes are rebulit. Building homes is an act of energy, building relationships is an act of love.

My new, dear friends and flood buddies: Bob & Jayne Farrell, lost all possessions in the flood and gained new friends. Be a friend to these fine folks who dedicated their lives and careers to sharing the Gospel of Christ through their musical talents.

There will be a Benefit Concert to raise funds for Bob & Jayne Farrell and a tribute of thanks for their gift of music. Y'all come, be part of the good news.

Lifesaver Tribute: A Flood Relief Concert
Benefitting Farrell & Farrell
Wednesday, July 28th 7pm
The Village Chapel, Nashville, TN.
Featuring Pat Terry Group, Amy Grant
and more surprises

Sunday, April 25, 2010

All Dogs Go To Heaven

I have spent the last ten years following the lead of a beautiful dog named Georgie. I learned more about unconditional love (and biting) from this little stinker than anyone I’ve ever known. Georgie has shared some of my most personal moments of triumph and heartbreak along with some of my most embarrassing scenarios. I can see the wisdom in God designing these creatures without the ability to talk so they can be our “keepers of the secrets”, (not to mention who wants a chatty dog keeping them up all night?) But make no mistake; even without words Georgie would express his opinion. If Georgie objected to any command, he would throw himself across his pillow and pout like a rebel without his paws. In his later years he became the guardian of my well being and self-appointed top dog. If I worked too late at night, he would stomp into the room huffing until I turned off the computer and headed to bed. He also chimed like Big Ben at 5pm everyday to “subtly” remind me it was time to walk. In many ways he saved my life by forcing me to keep a regular schedule of meals and exercise.

Just like the rest of my family members, Georgie and I shared some hilarious memories. I still laugh out loud when I think about the day I caught him stealing my socks as I yelled “Drop it Monkeyboy!” at the exact time the trash man was picking up the trash. The trashman thought I was yelling at him while Georgie tried to muffle his giggles with a bark but I heard him. He was quite the prankster. I could almost swear he pushed me the day I fell in the man hole. That Son of Lassie was no help at all. Georgie was on his back laughing while I had to crawl out of the hole and drag home one bloody leg like the Bride of Frankenstein. It is no wonder that I took his medicine by mistake thinking it was a piece of cheese.

Animals hold a special place in God’s kingdom. God created animals even before man. He designed dogs to think, feel and express joy in their own way. A wise friend told me that God created our pets with a shorter life span for a reason. I think that it might be even harder on them to lose us, than for us to lose them. It is the loss of innocence, of companionship and unconditional love. Surely all dogs go to heaven. It is with deep sorrow that Georgie was laid to rest this week due to health problems and chronic pain. I will end this story with the simple prayer that has been on my heart since his passing, “Lord help me be the person my dog thinks I am. Amen.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Loving Family

I wasn’t born on a lamebrain planet. Perhaps I was transported at age three after a head-whacking fall off the kitchen counter while making a peanut-butter sandwich. (Thus began a life long pattern of self-inflicted suffering and snacking.)

I started out in a Loving family, the middle daughter of an architect/painter and a clever well-read homemaker. I can trace parts of who I am back to my circles of influence. (Okay, a lot of people just denied knowing me.) The ever-changing, zigzagging map of my life has been formed by “family”, whether it was self chosen or God given relationships. So what makes a family? There is: closer than family, adopted family, church family, work family, spiritual family, core family, like family and Loving family. Some people who seem like family stay for a season then fall away. Sometimes I attempt a common goal like the workout-but-never-lose-weight group. (I probably shouldn't have eaten pizza after exercise class but it's part of my self-inflicted suffering and snacking compulsion.)

One of the first groups I joined as a girl was the youngest level of the Girl Scouts called The Brownies. I joined thinking it had something to do with making brownies to eat. I soon discovered it was about earning badges by accomplishing goals. Because of that experience I can sew on a button with minimum bleeding while making chocolate toast with minimum burning. (Seeing a pattern yet?)

I have been a participant in all manner of groups since then: track team, volley ball manager, high school sorority, Singles or Suffer (SOS), Prayer Babes, Club Read and various church memberships just to name a few. Each of these "like family" groups shaped me physically, mentally, spiritually; bruising, building, and blessing me all the way. And in the reoccurring theme of my life there was plenty of snickering, sobbing, stuffing; giggling, grieving and gorging.

They say that “friends are family you choose” but our core family is by God’s choosing. I believe He put us in families for a reason. Realizing Jesus was born into a family changed my life. He could have appeared on earth any time as a full grown man. There is something about this life long family connection that is an important process to God. It is the first place where we learn to communicate and to sacrifice. Jesus is our perfect example of both.

I am especially thankful for the Loving family that God chose for me. There will always be at least one lamebrain family member and's me! Since my family can’t get away from me so easily they might as well endure the suffering and pass the snacks, preferably brownies please.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Telemarketer, Tell A Sin

I think a lot about forgiveness. It’s a big deal in the Christian faith and definitely one of The Essentials. I need forgiveness for telling my sister there was nothing stuck in her teeth...when there was. I need forgiveness for listing my weight as only 100 pounds on my driver’s license...when it wasn’t. And I need forgiveness for putting that telemarketer to “hold on” while I went out to make a ham sandwich. (Okay, that one should be exempt in the book of sins.)

I started to learn about mercy at an early age concerning the giving and receiving of compassion. At six years old, I had to forgive my older sister Toni for promising me, on a sweltering summer day, that I would never have to have another shot if I rode my bicycle around the block ten times. I relived the untrueness of that promise last year when I fell in a rusty man hole and still had to get a tetanus shot. When I became the older sister, I had to ask for forgiveness from my sister Sheri for making only a sarcastic one word reply of “SO!” to every statement she made when she was six years old. (Apparently like the mark of The Beast, age six is a pretty rough year in our family.) SO!

All sins are considered equal even though some transgressions leave a deeper impression. A silly prank is easy to forgive. To be unkind is harder to forgive and nearly impossible to forget. Try as I may, I cannot justify speaking harsh words. I cringe at the meanness I am capable of doing. One scorching statement can leave a lasting scar long after the healing of reconciliation. There are bells I cannot un-ring and foul words that will hang in the air long after they are spoken.

God has a sense of humor and may allow me to walk around with food in my teeth or even let me fall in a man hole. But the loving kindness of the one true God will never spew the word “SO” at my confession of sins. The compassion of the Creator is my example of perfect reconciliation. Through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, my sins are pardoned. Yes, forgiveness is a bottom line essential element in the Christian faith. I continue to keep the lines of communication open to work on giving and receiving grace, one telemarketer at a time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Adornments Of Easter

Yellow dress, white shoes, pearl necklace. . . and that’s just last year's Easter outfit! Easter has its own style and color that parallels the blossoming of spring. Like a parent who can’t bear to favor one of their children over another, I cherish each holiday equally but for different reasons. Each one is a mixed blessing of the sacred and the secular, yet I can appreciate both aspects and not feel conflicted. I have no problem snacking on a chocolate bunny all the way to the holiest church service of the year.

My childhood Easters are now speckled memories of patent leather shoes, fidgeting like a bunny in church and finding (then re-hiding, then losing) Easter eggs. One memory that stands out is the Easter I spent in the hospital with a broken arm after showing a friend my new circus maneuver: a monkey-like dismount off a clothes line pole. After anesthesia, I became violently ill and had to revisit the multitude of candy eggs I had eaten earlier in the day. I don’t eat candy eggs anymore; neither does anyone who witnessed that technicolor spectacle (and possibly not anyone who is reading this story.)

Like all holidays, the hardest part for a child is the night before the big day, the darkest hour before the dawn. Eventually the sun bursts through with excitement and the fulfillment of wishes. It is a life lesson that has resounded since the Resurrection. How let down and discouraged the followers of Jesus must have felt in the evening hours of Friday and Saturday. Then HOPE in all its brilliance rose so perfectly on Sunday morning with the Risen Lord. It is the constant message of encouragement that I cling to. When I go through the bleakest of Friday nights, I have to remember that Sunday morning will shine again.

Now I see the deeper adornments of Easter:
Yellow like the beaming dawn of Resurrection,
White like the brilliant robe of an angel in the empty tomb,
Pearls like the wisdom of the gift of salvation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Going Through The Change

Call me fickle, but I like to change my mind as often as I change my appearance. It's just my prerogative. Someone once asked me over the phone if I was the one with the straight blonde hair or the curly red hair? I answered, “Yes.” I have been both and more. It would have been just as logical to ask if I was the gal with the straight red hair and the Spanish accent (iQue raro!) Lately I've started to notice how my appearance is aging. Whether I like it or not, I seem to be going through “the change” right in step with the seasons. When the weather goes through its temperature spikes, my body chemistry also surges with hot flashes. It gives the term “hottie” a whole new meaning.

I also have warm memory flashes of the springtime of my youth. Back then the blossoming of love and being discovered by boys were the only things on my mind, that and the constant concern about my appearance. Besides continually changing my hair color, I had to have the perfect Coppertone tan. We didn’t have tanning beds back then, but we did have the next best (artificial) thing: sun lamps. Simply put, a sun lamp was just a huge infrared light bulb that we clamped onto furniture and presto, it burned one section of skin at a time. I was hot all right: red, hot and peeling. The only reason I was accepted socially was because most of my friends were also burned to a crisp or worse, they had a “natural” orange glow from the fake tanning products of the day. As I transition into the autumn of my life, I'm beginning to accept the fact that my freckles are never going to come together to form a beautiful tan. "I am what I am and it ain’t tan” is my new motto.

Fads change, seasons come and go, while the cycles of life continue on. I love that God created seasons so that Mother Nature—the Mother of all mothers—is perpetually in motion. Spring bursts forth and the earth is reborn, then all things living eventually die off by Winter. Year after year it is the same and yet different. The master plan repeats but the details vary, as though God Himself did not want to get stuck in a boring routine. Maybe Mama Nature is described as feminine because she reserves the right to consistently change her mind and her appearance at the same time, not unlike the way I operate.

How comforting to know that God remains constant in His faithfulness and His ultimate plans for our earthly days. The wise words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 'spring' to mind: “There is a time for every season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Whatever I am going through, I can remember that it is only for a season and there is an intentional purpose. Hair colors change (naturally or not), tans fade (or peel), but thankfully, God's love is for forever.