Thursday, May 28, 2009

Musings for the Week - Adventure, American Idol and Aliases

1. I'm itching for an adventure. I'm not sure if it's because of the long icy winter being cooped up or just my free spirit expanding, but I'm ready for something crazy. In one of these moments a week or so ago, I read an article about various vacation ideas and saw whale watching. I was hooked! (pun intended) Whenever I want to express my free spirit, I always know my friend, Amy, is on board. So, I covertly mentioned this to her and she said, "Don't tempt me if you aren't serious." Well, I was. I began researching options....Northern California....Southern California...Cape Cod....Boston....I was so energized! Watching all the whale watching videos were making my adventuresome soul leap. But, alas, too rich for my cheap, um, er, frugal budget right now. I even researched going to Colorado....I have a yearning to experience the "big" things in God's World. Again, a bit much. Even with that disappointment, I never give up, and after some secret agent sleuthing online, I believe I've found the spot! It's within driving North Carolina....gloriously remote and scenic....includes a spa.....a coffeehouse on site....a lakeview...and looks like the set of Mamma Mia, sans the beautiful blue water. That's all I'm saying now. More later. Amy is in and we are going to be Thelma and Louise....well, without that driving off the cliff part.

2. The pressure around me to read Twilight is about make me break. I was a late adopter to the Harry Potter series and just read that last year. But, I've had multiple friends who've read the book, with various opinions, tell me about it and say, "You need to read the book." I'm now intrigued because I've been told before how much I would love a book only to find that it wasn't as fulfilling as expected. With all these multiple viewpoints I'm motivated enough given the snoop journalism in my blood that I need to know first hand. Maybe Thelma, I mean, Amy, can bring it on our trip for me.

3. American Idol came to a close last week with a blockbuster finale. I've been hesitant about this season. I love music...all kinds, which is the draw to American Idol for me. But, with the changes this year....a new judge....a new rule....I was skeptical. It appeared that maybe this show was about to jump the shark. Then the finale. Wow. Where else can you get Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Ritchie, Jason Miraz, Queen and KISS all on the same stage? I was in musical heaven! Then came the shocker finish when rocker Adam didn't win and Kris Allen did. It was a good outcome...Adam could never be tied to the American Idol strings and do what he does best. Plus, KISS has already offered him the opportunity to travel with them. Makes you want to "rock and roll all night!"

4. My sweet boyfriend, Clayton, the son of my friends, Rod and Julie, always knows how to make me smile. While chatting with his Mom on the phone the other day, he wanted to talk to me. And our conversation went something like this...
Clayton: "Hi Aunt Rose!"
Me: "Hi Clayton, how are you?"
Clayton: "I'm fine...know what, Aunt Rose?" (I love that he says "know what before he shares something with me)
Me: "What Clayton?"
Rose: "Mommy was on your Facebook page and I saw your picture. You are very pretty."
Me: (Once I cleaned up the dripping sop he'd turned me into) "Aww, Clayton you are precious. And, I've seen your pictures on Mommy's page and I think you are very handsome."
When Julie got the phone back, she told me he had the biggest grin on his face. Ahh, young love. On days when I don't feel pretty or beautiful....I know one little boy that always makes me feel that way.

5. At my company, we use many aliases to gather information from our competition. It's the closest way I come to fulfilling my dream to be a secret agent. The short of it that I can tell you (without having to kill you) is we use fake names under certain domains we own so we can be undercover when interacting with competition. Because of our love of superheroes at work, one of the aliases we use is Bruce Wayne. For those of you not up on your superheroes, that's Batman. This week, we received an email to that address from a customer trying to sell Bruce their product. The e-mail said they have not been able to reach him by phone. I was so tempted to respond with "I've been cave dwelling for a while and my phone is under glass. Once I get back to Gotham, I'll send up a signal." But, the humor would have been wasted and our cover blown.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Journey Through Revelation

The twelve-week study in Revelation that I've been privileged to lead at my church is coming to a close this week in a celebratory fellowship time with my ladies. Last Fall as I was getting ready to plan the curriculum for 2009, I posed the question to my ladies "What studies would you like to see offered next year?" Be careful what you ask for. Almost half of the ladies present said...Revelation. I gulped and almost fell out of my chair but felt that was a confirmation from the Lord we needed to do it. I was intimidated by the depth and mystery of that book, but willing to accept the challenge. And so I began a quest to find a study suitable for our group...not too deep...not too shallow....full of practical application.

God directed me to a wonderful little book, "Life Lessons in Revelation" by Max Lucado. I can't recommend this study enough if you are in a small group and looking to explore what is often a book we steer clear from. From the first week when John, exiled on the Isle of Patmos, has a vision of Christ to the final return of the Lamb, I can't tell you what great discussions and lessons we've all learned from this last book of the Bible. Although we didn't debate the finer points of ah-, pre-, and post-millieniallism, nor dissected the symbols and meanings behind the judgement, we learned the true lesson from the book....for the follower of Christ....we win in the end. Ultimate Good overcomes evil. And that's all that matters.

There are so many things from the study I will never forget and, surprisingly, would love to facilitate this study again. Funny how God does that with the very things we fear. But as this study came to a close, and the story of redemption came full circle, I found an interesting aspect of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. In short, to bring you up to speed, this is the home for the believers in Christ where we will dwell forever with the One who died for us.

Revelation 21 goes into great detail to describe this city. I love when Scripture gets detailed. I'm a detail person...I can't tell a story in under 30 minutes, or say my name in less than 3 minutes, so I relish a rich, descriptive passage. Verse 12 describes the gates, and says "On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel." We know from the Old Testament, that the lineage of Jesus is traced back to the Tribe of Judah, one of those twelve tribes. Old Testament connects to New Testament in the fulfillment of the gospel.

Verse 14 describes the foundations, "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." The foundations held the names of the twelve ordinary men chosen by Jesus to walk closest with Him during His life and ministry on earth. Watch Him lead, teach them how to carry the gospel on after His death and resurrection. No other twelve men were closer to the gospel in action, manifested through God coming as man in Jesus. The very vehicle used to redeem us.

As I read those Scriptures, I realized that the very city which I will be able to enjoy one day is built and fortressed with remembrances of my need for a Savior. The gates are open because Jesus came to earth through the lineage of the Tribe of Judah to be my Sacrificial Lamb. And the very foundation of the walls of that city are marked with the names of the men who walked the journey alongside Jesus....a journey that happened because God loved us enough to provide redemption for our sins. I sinned, I needed a Savior, God provided, I'm redeemed, and will live eternally in this beautiful Holy City. And, the plan of God comes full circle, and inscribed in the very firmament of this city.

I love a story with a happy ending. A plot with twists and turns is intriguing and interesting to follow, but ultimately, I want all things to end with a "happily ever after." It is humbling to know that my Savior will return one day and put a "happily ever after" at the end of the story...which will merely be the beginning of all eternity. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making it Through Mothers' Day

Each year when Mothers' Day rolls around, it's always a challenging time for me. I lost my Mom almost nine years ago and the day always carries a void. Couple that with the fact that I am not a Mom and I get a double whammy. Now, lest you fall into depression merely two lines into my post, it's not as dire as it sounds. I've had the privilege of pouring into the lives of many wonderful girls as their spiritual mother and know I'll do that until God calls me home. The fact that I'll never have a biological child is not something that wears me down because I see the benefit of having more "children" than I could ever bear. And, even on a day without one of my best friends ever, my Mom, her memory keeps me going. I want to be just like her in every way. The fit of giggles we'd have....her love for people and serving them...her boldness to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, even in a public restroom...her unconditional love for my Dad...and most importantly, her devotion to God, even in the end.

This year I seemed to dread the day more. Maybe because the memories begin to fade and I want to hold tightly to them more, even though I know each day I'm one day closer to reuniting with her again. But the coolest thing of all is that when those down times come, God always steps in to lighten my load. That very thing happened this weekend.

My friend, Liz, was coming to visit on her way to another destination and I had the blessing of hosting her in my home over Mothers' Day weekend. I hadn't been face to face with Liz since she moved to Charleston, SC, two years ago so it was a sweet time of getting to talk and share late into the night as opposed to our phone calls, text messages and Facebook encounters that are limiting. Blessing number one for the weekend.

Saturday afternoon, I got a frantic call from my friend, Julie. Apparently her husband, Rod, had not thought of sending his Mom anything until that day, which was a bit too late. Since Rod's parents live here, she was hoping I could go buy some flowers and deliver them to her house. I love a good mission!...especially when it involves making a Mom happy and rescuing a brother. Off to Kroger I went with Julie on my bluetooth (we go everywhere together at times). Once I found suitable flowers, I sent her a photo to make sure we were good on the flower selection and hopped in my delivery-mobile to drop off the goods. A bonus!...Rod's Dad was outside and I was able to give them to him and add a personal touch. Mission accomplished....Blessing number two for the weekend.

After making my flower delivery, I headed to the home of Kyle and Ashley, where my houseguest was hanging out. Liz had plans for the evening and seeing it was an absolutely gorgeous day, Kyle and Ashley were going to take their girls to the park. Kyle invited me to go along and I graciously accepted....spending time with that family makes me smile. And quality time with Kyle and Ashley is always refreshing. A trip to the park, with Qdoba in hand, and two little girls on the playground....doesn't get much better than that. Blessing number three for the weekend.

As I reflected back on my weekend, I longed to be able to just have a long talk with my Mom...the priceless blessing in my life. Share with her what's happened in the last nine years.....fill her in on all of the unbelieveable things in my life right now that would make her smile and bust out with the giggles....and thank her just one more time for never giving up on having a child. Those long 18 years of waiting could have caused her to give up and stop trying. But she didn't. And for my life, I'm forever grateful.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Seven Pounds

In January, I saw Seven Pounds at the theater with friends. I don't think I've ever left a movie with more things to discuss and process since The Lord of the Rings debut. Not all those in attendance with me grasped my extreme thinking through the movie, but I challenged those around me, who I knew would appreciate it, to watch it. My friend, Amy, who is like-minded when it comes to dissecting things, recently watched it and challenged me to blog about it. I planned on blogging about it in January and the time got away and the moment was gone. This weekend, through the glories of Red Box, I rented it and watched it again...and took notes. Yep, I'm a certifiable geek. I'll warn you, there are spoilers ahead, but even if you read them, you still need to experience the flick.

The story revolves around Ben Thomas (Will Smith) and his quest to redeem himself from seven seconds that changed his life. A successful businessman with all the luxuries...great car, awesome job and beautiful fiance'...he had the life. You don't realize his quest or why he's on it until much into the movie, but one fateful night as he was driving down a two-lane highway in his car, next to his fiance', he is looking at his Blackberry and loses control. The car swerves, hits a van and crashes. Six people in the van....all dead. And, his fiance'...dead. He is the sole survivor and seven lives are lost. He takes on the persona of his brother as an IRS tax agent to research seven worthy people he can give "life" to. From bone marrow to kidney donation to signing away the ownership of his beachside mansion, he thinks non-stop of redeeming those seven lives with seven more salvations. The ultimate redemption comes at the hand of his own death, when his heart is the rare, yet perfect match to, ironically, a woman he has fallen in love with. And, he plans his suicide to provide that heart, and his eyes, to a blind meat salesman he tracks down.

You either love or hate this movie. There isn't an in between. Some people can scoff at it's new age view of redemption and I'll amen that one, but before you dismiss it's own redeeming qualities, there is a story here that can be shared with those about true redemption through the only Redeemer....Jesus Christ.

Ben has the names of these seven people ever before him...the ones that died and the ones he wants to save. Like Christ, our names were written in His scars. Ben's scarred side where that kidney was removed had a coach's name on it. The nail prints in my Master's Hands have my name on them.

When Ben meets Emily, the recipient of the heart donation, he tells her he has heard she calls herself unremarkable. She responds by asking him if he saw himself as good. He says, "Unremarkable would be an upgrade for me." No one is good, aside from the Perfect One, who, was willing to humble Himself and come to earth and take on my sin. That is remarkable.

In watching the extras on the DVD (another sign of my geekness), the writer mentioned that he chose the occupation of tax collector intentionally, the lowest of occupations, the person no one wants to have come knock on your door. Yet, two of the seven benefactors actually reach out to Ben after he has visited them. We all need redemption. We don't realize we do at times, but when that wooing from the Savior happens, no matter how low you are, you are going to reach out to Him for redemption.

No, Seven Pounds isn't a picture of the right kind of redemption. None of us can do anything on our own to save ourselves or others. But, it does show a picture of why we need redemption. We are imperfect, we fail, and we simply can't do this on our own.

My favorite scene in the movie is when Ben signs over his home to a single Mom who has been abused by her boyfriend. She needs a new location and a new start and Ben gives it to her. In the letter with the deed, Ben writes, "If you wonder why you, please stop, all I ask is that you honor my wishes...and live life abundantly."

In His love letter to me, Christ encourages me to be obedient in response to all He's done for me....and says..."I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly." Now that's a Redemption Story.