Monday, April 25, 2011

That we are made to shine like fluorescent stickers

My youngest son, Blake, has some stickers up on his bedroom ceiling that look like stars. When we lived at our old house, his older brother, Logan, had a whole solar system of stickers that we stuck on the ceiling to shine over his head while he slept. These types of stickers look plain and ordinary during the day. They aren't half as showy as the brighter coloured ones that we stick in books or on doors. Only at night do you get the full impact of how unique they are. All day while we don't them a thought, these stickers are quietly soaking in first daylight and then electric light. Then when we say, "Goodnight" and switch off the lights, they get their chance to shine the way their designer intended. That's when we breathe, "Wow" and the boys appreciate the beautiful glow of the sticker galaxies to lull them off to sleep.

I can't help noticing that some people are like these flourescent stickers. They aren't necessarily the most showy or outwardly beautiful people but we can't help sensing a calm, steady glow when we're around them. It seems they don't let the same things bother them that other people do. It's easy to imagine that they are ambassadors from a different, more refreshing place where we'd all like to live. They respond to the normal ups and downs of differently to others.

I used to try to copy the actions of people like this, with dismal results. I guess many of us go through the learning process of understanding why this doesn't work. It's like a prawn trying to practise the moves of a dolphin. But we don't need to shrug our shoulders and assume that this sort of radiance is just their personality, and unattainable to mere mortals. Like the stickers on Blake's bedroom ceiling, the glowing people aren't born with inner light any more than the rest of us. Just as fluorescent stickers soak in light, so do they! It's a habit we can all get into, and the longer and more consistently we do, the more light we will give off. That's just common-sense!

How do we attain this type of light? We simply spend time with the author and creator of all light, God Himself! We soak in His light as we read and ponder the Words He's given us in the Bible. We speak to Him in sincere prayer, maintaining a happy expectancy that He will keep His promise to keep filling our hearts with the things that please Him. We recognise the valuable input of human light-bearers whenever we see it. We acknowledge light in our personal circumstances with grateful hearts.

But we need to keep this up. When we don't let light into Blake's bedroom, the glow in the stickers soon runs out. Same thing happens to people who decide not to keep returning for re-fills of the sort of light we need to live well. I used to assume that only God can gauge the true state of any individual's heart but now I think that's not entirely true. He's made us to be reflect His light precisely so that others can be attracted to it and want it for themselves.

I know I have no light of my own but I really want to be a fluorescent sticker.

"I've set you up as a light to all nations. You'll proclaim salvation to the four winds and seven seas" Acts 13: 48 (The Message)

"You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light-stand - shine!" Matthew 5: 14-15 (The Message)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That encouragement to persevere may come from unexpected places.

Every night, I share bedtime stories with my two youngest children. As their taste in stories is, of course, completely different, this can take awhile. I'm reading L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon with Emma (which I like too) but for Blake, I'm plowing through Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood. I confess that I never begin another chapter of this book expecting to glean anything profound but last night I was surprised!

In the story, the boy-hero, Jo, had recently poked his head up through the hole in the cloud near the top of the Faraway Tree to see which new land was up there. Those of you familiar with this series will know what I'm talking about. It turns out to be an icy, polar-looking place and an aggressive, burly snowman snatches him up to be his servant. Jo's sisters, Bessie and Fanny (my old copy of the book is from the 1970s before their names were updated to Beth and Fran) are left gasping with shock from the safety of Moon-Face's house. Ms Blyton could certainly give some modern authors good, sound tips on plotting and suspense.

Anyway, later Jo is busy building the tyrant snowman an igloo, shivering in his thin little coat. He pleads with a couple of kindly bears to help him find a new way back to the Faraway Tree, as the hole has iced over, but all they can grunt is "Oooomph." Now comes the important bit.

"Never mind," said Jo, with a sigh, and made up his mind to put up with things till he could see a way to escape.

When I read that line to Blake, it seemed the old story took on new significance. What a fantastic attitude. To me, the situation would have seemed devoid of all hope. I could imagine myself weeping and dismissing all hope of ever being reunited with my family again, but not Jo. The possibility that no escape may be possible never occurs to him. His first few attempts have backfired, but his mind is ticking over, certain that with faith and determination, success will be inevitable.

When do we learn to doubt the optimistic whispers in our spirits? Why do setbacks crush us into accepting bad situations instead of challenging us to come up with workable solutions? What voice convinces us that second best may be all we can hope to settle for? Who kids us into believing that faint-hearted resignation is a virtue?

The famous "Serenity Prayer" tells us to change the things we can and accept the things we can't, but I don't think making a few attempts to achieve a goal before shrugging and giving up is what it is talking about. I see it more as an encouragement to put unworkable solutions behind us and come up with new ones. It's the sort of thing Thomas Edison did with his light bulb experiments, and look how we all benefit from his persistence.

I have an author friend named Laura O'Connell who has written her first Christian novel and her optimistic energy in getting out to market it inspires me to lift my head high and keep going too. She's paying no attention to the apparent fact that the Aussie Christian market is indifferent to fiction by its own citizens and similar stuff I've been tussling with for seven novels written over a decade. (Hey, I'm not saying that I haven't had good things happen with my writing because there have been many great moments. All I'm saying is that my spirit gets bruised and a bit rumpled at times.)

Laura sent me an email in which she said that on the evenings following discouraging days, she relaxes with a bit of wine, chocolate and a good sleep. Then she wakes up in the morning with a renewed sense that a new day is before her. To me, this attitude is as heroic as Jo making up his mind to discover a way to escape from the bossy snowman. The simple attitudes are indeed the most profound.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That the state of teenagers' bedrooms is not a battle worth fighting

We have a limited number of hours allotted to us. Each day is like a necklace threaded with twenty-four clear beads but they don't come beautiful and shiny. We are the ones who have to fill and decorate each of them, to make each finished necklace as gorgeous as it can be. And I've wasted far too many of mine on this contentious issue, which really shouldn't be such a biggie.

Logan is 16, Emma is 12 and Blake is 7. I think it's reasonable not to be expected to help the older two keep their bedrooms tidy. This has led to frustrated nagging from me when they fail to keep them up to a reasonable standard, but those days are past. Why waste precious mental energy on something like this? Here are six good reasons that just occurred to me.

1) If people come to visit, it's easy to just close the doors on this and hide it. We may have to kick a few things that are spilling out back in with our feet but even this only takes a moment.

2) It becomes a good learning experience at times. If they step on something sharp and hurt themselves, or can't find a particular item of clothing they want to wear, they know they can hold only themselves responsible.

3) It's sort of unreasonable for us to expect our children to be as houseproud as we are. It's true! When you think about it, teenagers are at a different life stage with other priorities that we've long put behind us. The house doesn't belong to them so it follows that they needn't think of it with the pride and care that we, their parents, do. It may be unrealistic and unfair of us to expect that they should.

4) It follows on that we needn't fear they'll be slobs when they finally move out. Pride and care will develop in their own good time. I've seen glimpses already in Emma that boost my faith. She may see a stunning girls' bedroom on some TV program which inspires her to give her own room a good clean-up and face-lift. She's even been known to say, "I'm never going to let it get that messy again!" (Although it does creep back to its old state, the good signs are still there)

5) At the moment, we have regular rental inspections from a real estate agency who works on behalf of our landlord. The kids do rush about, madly tidying up their rooms, in the days leading up to this. This is helping them learn responsibility and they way the world works, I'm sure.

6) Finally, I'm even tempted to leave their doors open, at times. If their bedrooms look like mad dog's breakfasts, my efforts in the rest of the house have got to show up looking wonderfully tidy in contrast!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

That we may think people know us when they really don't

A few Sundays ago, I was asked to step out the front and share a snippet about my writing in front of my church congregation. Then after the service, a senior lady told me, "I've seen a brand new facet of your personality. I always thought you were staid and reserved but you show confidence when you're talking about the things that interest you. And you have a sense of humour."

Now, I've chatted with this lady for years and her comment amazed me. My passion for the things I care about and my sense of humour have always been integral to me so I assumed they ought to also be evident to others. I've relied on it to guide through me through difficult times. It's a friend that sometimes cheers me up, sometimes gets me into trouble and always keeps life spicy. For an acquaintance of mine to say they didn't know I had one was a bit of a blow. But the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that there are good implications in this situation.

1) When people don't like us, it's easy to grow despondent. We may have been snubbed or heard mean rumours about us. Our gut instinct is to think, I need to change. This may be a sign that I'm not the person I should be. Yet the truth, my friend, is that you may be every bit the person you should be, and although the person concerned thinks they are making an accurate judgment about you, they aren't really. They simply don't know you, in which case we can be freed from caring what they think. How liberating :)

2) It also extends to the snap judgments we make about other people. We may decide somebody is boring, snooty, brusque or whatever, but perhaps we don't really understand the myriad of private thoughts and fancies that whirl through their heads either. Freeing ourselves to give others the benefit of the doubt when we feel slighted, for example, and refusing to get offended, is a favour we can do ourselves.

After all, resentment and bitterness is a nasty, heavy load to carry. I'd rather assume that people's intentions are good than carry it.

We don't know others completely. Let's assume the best.

That this needs to be a totally "different" blog

I'd spent a few years posting on my older blog about my writing experiences, our homeschooling journey or reflections from Bible study and prayer. It hasn't been a bad blog. It's just that I never gathered many commenters or followers, which made me erratic in my posting. After all, we're supposed to be weaned from talking to ourselves when we're little! The core group of faithful friends from all four corners of the globe who would continue to leave friendly comments were all that kept me going.

Well, it occurred to me why these luke-warm results continued. It is simply that time is short for blog followers and there are many far, far superior themed blogs to mine out there on the subjects I mentioned.

Homeschooling experts are out there blogging not just about homeschooling in general but on their specific schools of thought.

There are blogs devoted to Christian fiction and some are "joint" blogs with posts each day from far more high profile authors than Yours Truly.

Well known Christian missionaries, pastors, evangelists and scholars keep far classier blogs than mine.

Finally, my blog's name was "Faith, Family and Fiction." The alliteration is cute but maybe slightly hackneyed. I asked myself would I bother to follow my old blog, if I didn't know myself? I'm afraid the answer had to be, "Probably not."

This is something brand new for me. I want to have a little more fun and adventure and also provide some fresh insights and different ways of thinking, so friends will want to keep returning. I do believe that insights, hunches, 'God-leadings' and serendipitous thoughts are well worth celebrating.

I hope you'll join me for the journey.
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