Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dealing With Difficult People

Someone once said, “Being in ministry is great . . . if only I didn’t have to deal with people!” (Sounds pretty close to my own, “I love teaching -- it’s the darn kids that drive me crazy!”)

I get that, and I bet you do, too. Some people are just harder to deal with, aren’t they? And even those folks we normally find charming often have idiosyncrasies that just plain get on our last nerves at times. (Believe it or not, even I’ve been known to drive a few, select people crazy!) Then again, there are those people who, because of their own lack of social skills, tact, or sensitivity, are constantly stepping on our “feelers,” much like a blind person might stumble over and onto our toes. And once in a blue moon, we even run across someone who actually seems to downright relish stomping on us.

What to do?

Well, one thing’s for sure, we can’t do what comes naturally, which would probably be to send some stomping, stepping, bumping, and bruising right back at the offending party.

How come not?

‘Cause Jesus didn’t call us to be natural people. He called us to love -- and not just love any ol’ way, but to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (He said it was the second most important commandment!) . . . to love as He loves . . . (now there’s a doozy.)

How in the world -- literally -- do we do that? Certainly not on our own, I can tell you that. (Been there, tried that, big fat flop!) That’s why we have to continue to walk in the Spirit, by the Spirit. And even that’s pretty tough on most days.

Still, I’m gonna keep at it. I’ve found that I’m so much better off trying to walk with Him, even when I fall short, than when I don’t try at all -- when I choose to get up and run off on my own. (That’s probably when I’m most like to be the person driving someone else up the wall!)

Until next week, grins and blessings!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Getting Up and Going Again . . .

I once told a friend that I was so good at making apologies because I’d had to make so many . . . apologies, amends, repairs, redos . . . we’ve all been there. In fact, when you consider the many areas in which we have the possibility of falling flat on our faces, it’s pretty amazing that we don’t slip up or just outright fail more often than we do.

Home, work, school, church . . . all places where we can fall short. Our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children, our friends, our colleagues, our selves . . . all people we can let down at one time or another. And, of course, adding to the weight of our screw-ups at some place or with someone is the sense that we’ve somehow failed God, too.

Been there, done that. (You, too?) I take great comfort and find tremendous encouragement, though, in the fact that Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, Paul, John Mark -- so many of our brothers in the faith -- all stumbled at one time or another, too, and yet God lifted them from the dust where they landed, picked them up, and, when they were ready, enabled them to continue the journey, all the while walking with them, hand in hand.

And like me, I bet those fellow struggling saints hardly noticed their scraped knuckles and ragged, torn nails as long as their hands were tucked tenderly into His.

What a gracious Heavenly Papa we have.

Grins and blessings,


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saving and Counting the Cost

I have to tell you that I thought a lesson on saving money -- that's the Weekend Bible Study (WBS) lesson I was supposed to teach at the Big Church -- would be a pretty boring lesson. I mean, what is there to it? "God wants us to save money." Now what else are we going to say? So, to be honest, I was pretty relieved when Easter Sunday morning "bumped" me from my usual teaching schedule.

However, just for drill, I read through the material and studied the lesson anyway and was quickly reminded that, as with everything in our lives, the reasoning, the heart, if you will, behind why we do anything -- saving, spending, or whatever -- is really the meat of the matter. And with that in mind, I discovered that there were actually some pretty important points we needed to consider behind the idea of saving. So when it came time to teach my next class, I knew I needed to combine the lesson we'd missed with the one for the current week, "Counting the Cost."

It turned out that a lesson on counting the cost was a full of as much food for thought as any other lesson we'd had, but if I were honest, metaphorically, it was one of the few all-you-can-eat buffets that, left on my own, I'd have had no trouble passing up.

I mean, the truths those lessons exposed us to are hard ones -- ones that I personally struggle mightily with. Like most folks, including many of us "set-apart" people, I tend to think of the money in my bank account as just that: MINE! And if there's any left over after paying the bills, then it's MINE to SPEND! but if I take the time to recognize and acknowledge that it's all really Papa-God's and that I'm the steward -- the caretaker -- of those funds, then well, it puts a whole 'nother spin on things. One that, frankly leaves my head spinning!

Still, if I truly want to pour myself totally into Papa-God's hands, then that means pouring all of myself into His hand -- including my finances. Now I'm used to trusting God to provide finances -- and He's always been faithful -- but I'm not used to His trusting me to then, in turn, proved Him with finances. And isn't that part of what we're learning? that He provides us with resources so that we can then use those resources to accomplish His will and purpose? (Top often, I find myself much more committed to accomplishing my will and purpose.)

Yup, recognizing that Papa-God's name is on "my" bank account definitely puts a different spin on things, and sometimes it leaves us all felling a bit dizzy.

Food for thought. Eat up!


Monday, May 4, 2009


I once heard a well-known tele-evangelist comment on the need for some "retail therapy." She'd had a busy few days, she said, hadn't had a chance to go shopping for a while (at least a week or two), and so she told her husband that she really needed to stop by a favorite store on the way home from the conference where she was speaking, just to buy a little something to perk herself up. There was a definite sense of entitlement hanging in the air as she shared the details of her exhilarating drive-by shopping trip. I don't remember her story having any point other than that God wants to indulge all of His children with nice baubles and beautiful things -- that after all, as as children of the King, we should be cloaked in nothing less than the finest of royal robes, with our jewel-encrusted signet rings firmly in place (my words, not hers, but that was the drift).

Except for the attempted spiritual spin, isn't that the same message we're bombarded with daily from the Madison Avenue marketing crowd?

You know you want it. You need it. And, heck!
You've earned it, and you deserve it! (Oh, and if
you haven't yet earned it, you can always get it
on credit! You know, "Fake it 'til you make it!")

And when that kind of message comes from those who are supposedly on our team, is it any wonder that many of us who are called to be the set-apart ones end up acting not a whole lot different from the rest of the world? Is it any wonder that we, too, begin to develop our own sense of entitlement? That we, too, buy into the idea
of purchasing power -- the idea that if we can buy sex appeal, status, and significan stuff, then surely financing a little contentment ought to be a drop in the bucket.

But we
are called to be the set-apart ones -- those who live differently because of who we are in Christ. And how we use the resources we're given -- whether we use them to garner the things we think will bring us contentment or whether we trust God for our contentment and allow Him to direct how we use our resources -- is one of the greatest indicators of whether we're living the set-apart life.

Financial guru Dave Ramsey puts it this way: We are to "live like no one else so that we can
live like no one else." I can't think of a better way to describe every aspect of the set-apart life we are called to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sitting Pretty - Part 2

Well, I'm still sitting.
After three days back at work juggling papers, entering grades to make sure my kids' report cards would get out on time, trying to get caught up on anything else that had lapsed in my almost-four-week absence, I finally got around to calling the district's benefits department to ask about my short-term disability payments. (Yes, I know I should have done this much earlier, but that's another epistle entirely.)

"Are you in a weight-bearing cast or a walking boot?"

"No, but I'm in a wheelchair, so I'm okay."

It seems I wasn't. Our school district gives new meaning to the phrase "stand on your own two feet." It appears that that unless I can do that, I am not fully able to teach my children, and that means I must stay home until I can. (Stand on my own two feet, that is.) Thus, I have once again become one with the couch and shall remain so for at least the next three weeks.

While this frustrates me to no end -- as I feel it is my kids who will end up "sitting on the sidelines" right with me; there's no way around it, a guest teacher can't do what I do -- it gives me more time to practice my sitting, and as you may have gathered from my previous writing, I haven't done it all that well so far.

I admit to having a few moments of intense feeling sorry for myself (please don't ask St. Michael to elaborate -- there is that idea of spousal privilege, y'know), I have decided to choose to look at this as the gift I know it is: I am being given another chance to maybe get this sitting thing right.

So if you see me, hold me accountable and ask me how my sitting is going. Am I sitting and stewing (like something on the verge of boiling over)? Sitting and sour-ing (like a nasty old kitchen sponge)? Or am I spending my day sitting and soaking up the Son (like the Kingdom citizen that I truly am in my innermost being)?

Yup, you'd better ask me. I need to know you will.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sittin' Pretty

I am learning that I am not a good sitter.  

This is a surprise for me because I always thought I could sit pretty well; in fact, maybe even sit with the best of 'em.   After all, I love sitting on the couch, vegging out in front of the TV, at the end of a hard day's work.  I love sitting on the couch engrossed in a good book when the TV's not on and no one else is around to disturb the silence.  I love sitting on the couch catching up with E-mails and blogs, laptop nestled in my lap or propped up on a nearby TV tray.  And since I think of myself as basically a pretty lazy person by nature -- a bonafide sloth, to use the biblical term -- sitting, I thought I could do.

Not so much, I'm discovering.  

I've been sitting for the past thirteen days, and I don't think I'm doing it very well.  I mean, I think if I were doing it really well, I'd be enjoying it a little more.  I'd be experiencing some kind of fulfillment, y'know?   Some kind of satisfaction in the knowledge that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and I'm getting it right.  Right?  

In the past, guilt has sometimes kept me from enjoying sitting moments, usually because there was something else (or more often than not, several something elses) I was supposed to be doing instead of just sitting.  At other times the noise and distractions of others have kept the zen of sitting at bay.   And once in a while, the racket in my own brain, has disrupted my sitting groove.  

Still, none of that should apply now.  I am supposed to be sitting.  I am supposed to be doing nothing but sitting.  Sitting and letting my fractured-but-now-plated-and-screwed-back-together fibula heal.  Doctor's orders.  

But it's hard.  I don't like it.  And I'm frustrated.

I guess, as tends to be the case with everything else, I only want to sit on my own terms.  I want to be in control of the when and the where and the how and maybe even the end results of my sitting.  I'd like to say that's the wiggler and the squirmer in me because that sounds kind of cute, like I'm some hot-pink-antennaed neon-chartreuse glowworm pulsating to her own inner cartoon beat.  But I'm not.  I'm just human.  Painfully human.  From my broken spirit to my broken ankle, I am painfully human.  And it's not cute.

So, what to do?

First, I will confess that I am not in control of my sitting.  (Duh!  Y'think!)  Sounds simple enough, huh -- kind of like Twelve Steps for Glo-worms.  But I think that with that word confess comes the idea that, if I am truly coming into agreement with Papa-God about this control issue, then as an act of my will, I choose, also, to let go of my wanting to be in control. (Now, for me, that's where the rubber meets the road, like the kid who sits down in the backseat of the car and hollers, "But I'm standing up on the inside!")   

Second, I will ask Papa-God what He wants me to do in the midst of this sitting.   (Arghh!  More control issues, obviously, as I have a feeling He is calling me to sit quietly and listen, something I'm not especially good at -- the "quietly" part or the listening.  Ever notice the ears on a glowworm?  Yeah, me neither.  As I think about it right now, perhaps that why I'm being given so much time for this sitting assignment; it's going to take lots of practice to get it right.)

Third, I will choose to obey:  What He says, I will do.  Even if that means the aforementioned sitting quietly and listening.  (In my humanness, I'd rather be singing, "Where He leads me, I will follow . . . "   At least then I would be moving up and out and off to somewhere.   For a glowwormy human like me, it's much harder to yield to the "Whatever . . . " when the whatever may mean not moving up and out and off to somewhere else.)  

And last, I will write about it.  Quietly.  If Papa-God says it's okay.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Small Things Count

Okay, I admit it.  I've become addicted to Facebook.  I'm writing on the walls (that's leaving messages for you not-yet-Facebook-ers) of people I haven't seen or even talked to in years.  I'm catching up with former students, "meeting" their spouses and their babies.  I'm joining "I Support . . . " groups and "I'm a fan of . . . " clubs.  I'm not sending those little "free gifts" (or "water balloons" or "bouquets") to people, though.  (At least not yet.)  And I don't usually take the surveys or IQ tests (well, duh!) either.  Still, on a whim, I did take a "Find Your Spiritual Gift" quiz the other day.

Five quick questions.

Only five?  (Well, no wonder the answer was wrong.)  According to my five answers, the quizmaster said my gift is compassion.  I don't think so.  I'm the one who says that ministry would be great if you didn't have to deal with people.

Okay, just kidding.  (Well, kind of . . . at least for the most part and on most days.)  Actually it'd be awfully hard, if not downright impossible, to be part of the body of Christ without dealing with people.  In fact, I'm pretty sure -- okay, I'm positive -- that to be a healthy, fully functioning part of the body of Christ we must not only deal with people, we must deal with them in love.  Yep, we have to love them.  We get to love them!  It's not just our responsibility, it's our privilege as Kingdom people.  Papa-God invites us to partner with Him in growing the Kingdom . . . by loving those He loves -- those who are like us and those who are not.

Even the smallest gestures, done in love, have the potential to become building blocks of the Kingdom.  The smile we share with the person who checks our groceries.  The tip we give the person who delivers our pizza.  The time we spend listening to the co-worker whose spouse has walked out.  How we respond to the driver who cuts us off in traffic (especially if we have one of those fish thingies on our car) or the way we treat the colleague who always takes too long at the copy machine (or leaves it jammed).  It all counts.  It all matters.

When we filter our reactions and our responses to others through the heart of Christ, we begin to look more and more like Him.  In small things and in big things.  We become Kingdom builders.  Inside and outside.

Lord, make us ever aware that in our actions and words, large and small, we can be destroyers or we can be builders.  Let us strive to be Kingdom builders.  Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"So Great a Cloud of Witnesses . . . "

Well, I missed my self-imposed deadline of Valentine's Day.  That's when I had planned to have all of my Christmas things packed away.  Think whatever you want about what that probably says about me.  (Yes, I am too busy; yes, I watch too much television; yes, I'm undisciplined; yes, I am a terrible housekeeper; yes . . . oh, heck, just go ahead and pick one or "D.  All of the above.")

Still, it's not all bad, y'know.  How many people eat their Wheaties each morning while nine wisemen, three Marys, three Josephs, three baby Jesuses, and an assortment of cows, sheep and shepherds, and asses stand watch.  (Okay, some of you do eat breakfast with asses, but what about the rest of that illustrious band?  I'll bet you don't see them every day.)  It just happens that my kitchen table is where three of my nativity sets landed (along with my Santa teapot and assorted frosted fruit pieces and a grouping of red, green, and gold looks-like-glass-but's-really-plastic balls).  And I've actually grown to enjoy having them there.  Every time I sit down -- sure, I may feel a bit crowded -- but I can't help but think of Hebrews 12:1:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . . " (ESV).

Those wisemen.  Those Marys and Josephs.  The infant Jesuses nestled in their mangers.  The Shepherds and their whole barnyard lot.  The whole crew.  I imagine them for a brief moment each morning as my very own cloud of witnesses, cheering me on as I prepare to enter my lane for today's leg of the race.






Just a few of the links in the chains I sometimes, foolishly, parade around in.  Not very flattering.  Certainly not the uniform of the day for kingdom-class runners.  And that is, after all, what I aspire to be.  With eyes on the prize, I want to fly down the track like my hair's on fire!

Then I remember.  It's not a dash; it's a marathon.  It's not about sprinting between the chalk lines; it's about staying the course.  It's not about speed; it's about endurance. 

" . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1b-3, ESV).

Yep.  Gotta lay aside those chains, lest I grow weary or fainthearted for sure.  And there's too much ground left to cover to stop now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Proud Mama!

I've been claiming Shaun Rogers for years, but now I finally have real-live Longhorn of my very own! Daughter Leigh Muzslay Browne got notice today that she has been accepted into the graduate program at UT and on a fellowship, no less!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Deja Vu

Remember the baby chicks?  Well, they're back.  But this time I think I like them.

I had my already-pretty-doggone-light blonde hair highlighted and cut this evening.  White-blonde, I think she called the color.   And with the cut, think Mae West gone punk.  (Okay, that could be a delusion of grandeur. Perhaps Dog the Bounty Hunter's ol' lady gone punk.  Yeah, that's probably more accurate.)

Actually, I think I like it.  Prince Michael (so as not to be confused with King Michael, a.k.a. St. Michael, his papa) would probably say I am now the hippest-lookin' jaja around.   And Sweet Callie?  She'd probably just laugh and then drool.  (Now that I think of it, that would just about sum up her papa's reaction, as well.   Ahhhh, thankfully, some things about sailors and construction workers never change.)

Here's to doing things that are wild and crazy!  

Peep!  Peep!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Was God

Okay, well not exactly, but I was the voice of God.  

Okay, what I really mean is that as part of a four-person scripture reading a few Sundays ago, I got to read the words God originally spoke in the book of Samuel.  

I know what you're thinking, pretty cool stuff, huh?  Yeah, that's what I was thinking when I first got the call.  (I mean how often do you get asked to be God!  Especially if you're a woman, and doubly-especially if you're a woman in a church that has Baptist anywhere in its name!)  Yep, I was pretty excited.  

Then I got to thinking about the book of Samuel, and before I even looked up the assigned verses, I was pretty sure I knew what my lines would be.  


Samuel.  Samuel.

Samuel.  Samuel.

S A M U E L !

Yeah, that was the section, all right.  1 Samuel 3:14.  God calls the sleeping boy Samuel, who awakes and moves from his pallet but doesn't realize it's God Who has called his name.  Instead, young Samuel is sure it is his master, Eli, who voices his name in the night and goes running to him rather than God.  

This happens several times before it becomes clear to anyone in the household exactly Who is calling whom.  (This is the point in scripture where, I'm quite sure, if Samuel had had a middle name, we would have learned it.)

Ahhhhhh.  It suddenly became clear why they'd asked me to be God.  I'm a mom.  I'm a grandmother.  And I teach at a public intermediate school.  Of all people, I certainly know what it's like to call a child repeatedly, only to have that child run off in the opposite direction.

I can't help but wonder how many times Papa God has called my name, only to then watch me run off in the opposite direction.  

Sometimes I've heard His voice and, without even looking up, answered, "I'll be there in just a minute; I'm right in the middle of something here . . . "  When that's been my response, I've usually continued being wrapped in my own thing until I've forgotten He even called. Sometimes He's graciously (unbelievably graciously) waited a few moments and then called to me again.  At other times, well, there's no telling what incredible things I've missed out on because I chose to continue doing my own thing.  

While I could boast that I can hardly remember a time when I've spouted off an outright NO!, I've come to realize that that's really what my in-a-minutes amount to. My not-nows to the Almighty God of the Universe are every bit as rebellious as the belligerent, fist-shaking-in-His-face NO!  

Whew.  I'm glad we don't serve the God Who Zaps -- I'd be fried -- but, rather, the God Who Loves, Who Forgives, and Who, in His infinite grace and mercy, continues to call our names, inviting us to join Him wherever He is at work.   



Baby Girl.

May I be quick to recognize His voice.  And to then answer and respond, "Speak, Papa-God; I'm listening." 

This my heart's desire.  Amen

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New names. New words.

(NOTE:  I started this post January 1st, under the title "Happy New Year, Whoever You Are!"  I had absolutely no idea where my rambling was going and I set it aside for awhile.  This morning [January 24] it took shape, veering off in a "whole 'nother direction" than I had planned, as is often the case with my writing. Maybe it was watching racism react to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in The Long Walk Home this week with my Teen Leadership classes. Or having one of my sixth graders tell me that we needed to pray for newly-sworn-in President Obama because he is . . . and I won't repeat here the hate-filled inflammatory words my student quoted me to describe the new President -- words my student had gotten from his pastor, who leads a local ultra-conservative church.  Maybe it was from overhearing the sexual-laden filth a sixteen-year-old eighth-grade boy aimed at a fourteen-year-old female classmate.  [And, oh yes, I dealt with it.]  Whatever the reason, here's the result.)

Mama Bug.  Mama Bear.  Mama Muz.  Muz.  Rev.  Queen.  Queenie.  Pam'la.  Pammy.

Just a few of the names I readily answer to, along with Jaja ("Grandmother" in Runyankore, a southwestern Ugandan dialect), Senga ("Auntie" in the previously mentioned language), Preacher Woman,  Booger.  (Don't ask.)  

When I worked construction, the field engineers dubbed me Space Bandit.  (Those guys knew I was blonde before I was.) My youngest daughter sometimes calls me Pammster Hamster, and my father used to refer to me as Daddy's Mess (which he acknowledged as a reflection on his parenting skills rather than on me).  

Still, I don't suffer from multi-personality disorder. Maybe because I once read  an Indian proverb that said, "The child with many names is much loved," and I guess I believed it. Probably, too, because my own "many names" have always made me feel loved. Even Daddy's Mess and Booger.  (I told you not to ask.)

In my head, each name brings with it a certain inflection, a tone -- a memory chip, if you will -- that evokes the faces and voices of people who've made me laugh, cry, giggle, sometimes raise my own voice, or sometimes just grin a little.      

I don't know if no one ever really called me anything bad or if my sanguine brain just refuses to remember. I mean, I do recall the night a man jumped out of his little red sports car at a stoplight and raged, "Bitch!" directly at me because he'd finally passed and pulled in front of the truck he thought I was driving too slow.  And I know "the girl with the big boobs" was an all-to0-common description of me in high school by the guys who couldn't remember the new girl's name.  Still, all in all, I've never been verbally tattooed with something ugly enough, often enough, to have needed emotional laser treatment to have it removed.   

Never been repeatedly called Bitch, as if it were my name.

Or Stupid.  

Or Nigger.  Nigger Lover.





Worthless Pig.

Hurts to even write those words, but I know that there are those who live with those names daily -- or have lived with them so long that they still hear them everyday, even when there's no one around any longer to spew them.  They are the walking wounded among us.  Some are still oozing from open sores, some hemorrhaging from gaping holes. For others, the tourniquet is temporarily tightened while awaiting surgery yet to be scheduled.

Those of us who bear smooth skin, those who are unmarked  those kinds of scars, or who perhaps do bear the marks and memories of past battles but now walk the road of healing and recovery, must choose to to look to our left and to our right for those who are not yet with us. We must train our eyes to see those who stand, dazed, just off the path, those who are waiting for someone to stop and pour the oil and wine over their wounds, bind them up, and then gently lead and guide them to a place of sanctuary.  A place where old names are replaced with new ones.  Beloved.  Precious.  Mine.  

And we must choose also to stop the hurling of hatred where we are able.  We must not look the other way when weapons of words are used against those who are vulnerable to such attacks.   

Sound lofty and noble?  

Good for a "devotional" thought but hard to put into practical practice? 

Not at all.  How about we start by stopping the forwarding of E-mails that flail against the short-comings -- real or imagined -- of one group or another?  That pit one group against another?

How about refusing to listen to jokes that depend on the humiliation or stereo-typing of one ethnic group or another for their "punch"?  

How about correcting the kid in the grocery store who slurs another kid or group of people, even when we're not that kid's parent and not a certified teacher?  (We teachers already take license to correct kids everywhere, in and out of the classroom.  You should try it; it's actually quite fun.)

How about being sensitive to the inferences we make in front of our children (and grandchildren) about those who differ from us.   

How about refusing to publicly choose a political party for Jesus?  (Believe it or not, I happen to know some fine folks in each party.)   

Little things, people.  Little things.  But we can all start somewhere.  One word at a time.

Remember:  Beloved.  Precious.  Mine.