Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Pink Candle

Photo from featurepics.com

NOTE:   I have no idea why the type on the first part of this post is pink AND in all caps . . . and I can't figure out how to fix it!  Sorry!


Yes, I know this is not the continuation of the Being Thankful When You're a Basket Case!  I don't know why I haven't been able to finish that series here in Blog Land, but I just haven't.  I mean, I have the material and everything -- in fact, I shared that series at a women's retreat in Centerville, Texas in early October (at the FABULOUS Cowboy Church there and with some of the most incredible women ever!).  But for some reason, I just haven't been able to sit down and put it on the computer . . . so instead of avoiding the keyboard, I'm just gonna skip it for now and go on with other stuff.  (If any of you are hanging by a thread or waiting with bated breath for the rest of that series, E-mail me, and we'll "talk.")  


So, with Christmas right here upon us (how did it get here so fast!), I'm forging on with some Christmas thoughts this morning . . .


After hearing a great message on joy last Sunday, I couldn't help but think of where I was a few years back when it came time to light that pink candle of joy in the Advent wreath.  The truth about joy is as relevant today as it was then.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My newspaper reading habits probably say as much about me as anything else. (I'm afraid to guess at exactly what, but I'm sure someone like Patrick Jane of The Mentalist or the Criminal Minds profiling team could tell you.)  I never start with the front page -- in fact, I rarely ever get to the front page at all -- but instead, mumble each a.m. to St. Michael in my grumpy morning voice, "Gimme my section of the paper," which he knows refers to the Houston Chronicle's "Star" section (it has a big yellow Texas star top-center, duh!).  This is where one finds the comics, Dear Abby (or is it Ann Landers?), and the daily crossword.  (Obviously, I'm a lot shallower than I like to think.)   I only venture from this routine on Saturdays, when "my section" includes the "Religion" insert, as well.  

On the Saturday before Christmas, "A Blue Christmas" caught my attention in the "Upcoming Events" listings of the "Religion" section.  A Houston church was advertising a special Monday evening service for those who were experiencing loss of, or separation from, loved ones or just the plain ol' holiday blues during the Christmas season.   I seriously contemplated going.  I could only remember one other Christmas when I'd felt as un-Christmasy as I was feeling now, and that was over thirty years ago when my parents were in Iran and I was a twenty-year-old, home by myself, state-side.   Despite a last-minute flight to Atlanta to spend the holiday with a favorite aunt, I don't know that I've ever felt as alone and utterly forlorn as I did that Christmas.  Ironically, the differences between my life in 1977 and my life now are too numerous to list, and yet the overwhelming sadness that wrapped itself around me by mid-December 2008 felt remarkably the same.   Different time.  Different circumstances.  Same darkness.

The first two Sundays of Advent found me lighting the fat purple candles of hope and expectancy that sat on our family room coffee table.  I was right on schedule, echoing the lightings taking place at our local church.  As the third Sunday approached, however, with its pink candle of joy -- usually my favorite one to light -- I wondered how I'd manage to flic my bic when the time came.   You see, I'm not one of those people who likes ritual for the sake of ritual.  (In fact, that's one of the reasons I flinch when I hear someone describe me as religious.  I don't see myself as religious at all in the sense that so much of religion for so many is wrapped up in meaningless rote and ritual that has very little, if anything, to do with a growing, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.)  I tend to shy away from doing the usual if it has no meaning, even the "usual" that would normally be meaningful.  Anything that's supposed to be worshipful has to be real for me; I don't want to get in the habit of faking it -- it's too hard a habit to break.  Thus my dilemma:  How to light the joy candle when Casey has struck out.  When there is no joy in Mudville.    

I began to talk about this with Papa-God.  I began to review what joy was supposed to mean in the context of the believer's life, in this believer's life.   Round and round we went.   Sunday Number 3 came, and I did not light the pink candle.  

Monday.  I surrendered.  I chose to practice what I preach.  I chose joy.  And I lit the pink candle. 

In the days prior to and in the days since lighting the joy candle, more than ever before I've been reminded that joy is not happiness.  Joy is not related to my circumstances, to my relationships, to what's going on  or not going on in what I call my outer life.  (My outer life being those things, people, and circumstances over which I have no control but which impact me because they venture into my space.)  Instead, it's about my inner life and what's going on or not going on there.  And that's where choice comes in.   I may not have many choices when it comes to my outer life -- very seldom can I control what others think, say, or do.  (Instead, their thoughts, words, and actions stem from the choices they make in their inner lives and how those choices work themselves out and then spill over onto me).  I do control, though, my inner life.  There is where my choices come into play.  I can choose to allow Holy Spirit to take control of my thoughts, words, and actions or I can let my flesh take over (foolishly thinking that's the real me when it's really not since I'm a "new creature in Christ.")  

Holy Spirit will always walk me in paths of righteousness with a deep, not-depending-on-the-outer-life, abiding joy, while Flesh Woman will consistently look for paths of least resistance leading to momentary, fleeting, flash-in-the-pan happiness, at best.

Hmmm, tough choice?  Not really.  No, YES, really!  I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit that for whatever reason, on some days the choice is tough.  On some days, I shallowly want only the Star section of life;  I don't want to see the front page or the business section or even the "Outlook" section of life.  On some days, like a two-year-old, I just want what I want, how I want it, when I want it, and at that moment, to heck with the cost. 

But for Christmas 2008 and, I pray, for the entirety of 2009, I choose to count the cost, and I choose joy.  

I choose to remember that the foundation for my joy is Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I will choose to stay connected to Him, doing whatever it takes to grow deeper in our relationship.

I choose to allow Papa-God to use difficult times to strengthen my joy, remembering that regardless of the circumstances of my outer life, there is always room for joy in my inner life.  (And I'm a firm believer, if you haven't already guessed, that whatever's going on in my inner life will bubble up and spill over into and out onto the outer life.)  

I will also choose to serve others, knowing that few things bring greater joy than doing something that brings joy into someone else's life.  (Ah, that spilling out thing.)  When we serve others in the name of Jesus, we honor Him and we experience joy.

And speaking of choices, I will remember that Papa-God chooses ordinary people with ordinary talents and equips them to do extraordinary things and to experience extraordinary joy . . . for this is the life He has designed for us.

[A special thanks to the preaching staff of Church of the Woodlands for the principles shared in those last few paragraphs.] 

Here's to lighting the pink candle.  Each of us.  Every day.

Grins and joy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When It's Raining, When It's Pouring

Source:  BelovedandFree.blogspot.com

Thanking God When You're a Basket Case

*Part 2 CONT'D
Thanking God In 
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

*Maybe instead of writing "Part 2  CONT'D" for the next several posts, I should start labeling the posts 
"Part 2b" and "Part 2c" . . . 
What do you think?  2b or not 2b?  
(Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

When there's not a dark cloud in the sky, we don't normally spend too much time under an umbrella -- we're too busy just grinnin' and enjoyin' the sunshine. (Maybe we even work on our tans so that everyone around us can admire our "healthy glow.")  

But at any given moment, often with little warning,the weather can change. And before we know it, the skies have opened up and our baskets are being rained down upon by the bad and the ugly:

  • Something is said, and we find our "ME" soaked to the skin.
  • Perhaps a relationship is rocked, and we're soaked beyond the skin -- we're soaked right down to the bone.
  • Or circumstances veer out of control, and we're not just soaked, we're downright going under -- we're drowning.
And very often in the midst of a storm, it can feel like the only thing our umbrella is sheltering us from is the good.  But the bad and the ugly?  Well, that's drenching us.

And how on this earth do we "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18a) when we're standing chest-deep in the flood waters of the bad and the ugly?  

First, understand this truth:

Perspective is not the 
view from where your 
circumstances have put you, 
but, rather, it is the view from 
where you choose to stand in the 
midst of your circumstances.

[NOTE:  That's HUGE.  Read it again!]

In other words, we have choice in our perspective, and we must choose wisely.  Beth Moore puts it like this:  "Our questions and confusion must motivate us to seek God" (A Heart Like His).

But, again, how, exactly, do we manage to choose to stand in the midst of circumstances -- or even woalk into God's presence -- when we feel as if we've been cut off at the knees?  When we're bloodied and bruised?  Crippled by the weight of what we're feeling?

And the, how do we even begin to give thanks?

Right after acknowledging that we do have some choices and options, the next thing we need to realize is that magic pills, words, or rituals are not among those choices and options.  That's because there are none. 

There is no fast-and-easy, works-every-time formula or one-size-fits-all, guaranteed-or-your-money-back product that automatically takes you to the place where you can "give thanks in all circumstances."  If there were, trust me, I would've discovered it by now. (And I promise, I'd share it with you.)

There are, however, some practical time-tested suggestions I can offer.

1.  Acknowledge your circumstances.  

     In other words, "Get real.

     I'm amazed at how many people never look at the 
     real problem they're dealing with.  They focus, 
     instead, on symptoms that are stemming from the 
     problem, and then they try to deal with those 
     symptoms, all the while never looking at the 
     source of the symptoms.  

     They waste precious time and resources on band-  
     aids in an effort to not drip blood onto the carpet, 
     when what they need to do is acknowledge a 
     gaping wound that requires a trip to the ER for  
     stitches to staunch serious bloodloss.

     It's not until I'm honest with myself about a 
     problem that I can truly recognize the seriousness 
     of a situation or, sometimes, if truth be told, how 
     small in the grand scheme of things, a problem 
     might actually be.  

     Either way, I need to know.  I mean, if something 
     is truly life-threatening or life (at least as-I-know-
     it) changing, then I need to know that in order to 
     make the best decisions possible. (If it's 
     determined that something is serious, then 
     knowing how serious is also essential.)

     On the other hand, if I'm blowing something out of 
     proportion and driving myself crazy because I've 
     gone all drama-queen on myself, then I definitely 
     need to know that, too, don't ya think?  
     Bottom line:  Figure out the truth of your situation, 
     and then choose to walk in that truth.  

Whew!  That's a whole lot to take in at one sitting, so I'm stopping  there for today.  But tomorrow I'll share a few more pearls, so go grab some string and meet me back here.

Walking . . . in all kinds of weather,


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Speaking of Our HOT selves . . . NOT!

I'll post the next "Thanking God in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" thoughts tomorrow, but suffice it to say that today's entry is proof that I'm stepping more and more out of my comfort zone as the years go by!

Callie in the bosom of her Jaja in the pool with Jaja.

After returning home from a sister-friend's house, where we celebrated the Fourth of July, I told St. Michael, "I took two really big steps out of my comfort zone today!"

"I know the first one was going to the city celebration and having lunch there with everybody.  [Most people who don't know me well don't believe it, but I really am an introvert.  Given the choice, I will always stay home and read a book or piddle around by myself rather than venturing out and socializing where there are lots of people.]  What's the second?"

"Well, then I went swimming at Bev's . . . in front of people!" (Swimming's not the big deal -- it's walking out in a bathing suit that's HUGE -- absolutely no pun intended.  Well, maybe kinda.)

Woo-hoo!  Now ya'll know I've done gone plumb hawg-wild, sistas!

But Middle Daughter said something so true the next day.  "Mom, the kids had so much fun, and what they will remember is that you got in the pool and played and swam with them -- not what you looked like in your bathing suit with no makeup."

LOL!  Well, let's hope!

These days I'm trying to live by that saying, "Those who matter don't care, and those who care don't matter."  It sure is freeing.  I encourage you to try it.

(And, yes, I need to update my profile picture.  I've let my natural hair -- silver highlights and all -- grow out, and I'm loving it!)

Grins and blessings,


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gettin' on with Our HOT Selves!

Source:  Green Lotus for Hubpages.com

If you're one of those precious-women-I-love-so-much (and thank Papa-God for!) who's been reading this blog for a while (when there was something to read), then you remember that somewhere in A-Long-Time-Ago-Land, I decided to "go green" and share some "oldie but goodie" studies with you, starting with Thanking God When You're a Basket Case.  

NOTE:  If you missed those first few posts or just want a more in-depth review than the quick catch-up I'm going to give you here, you can find them here, here, and here. (If we're "here" now, should that be there, there, and there?)  Otherwise, we're just going to jump in where we left off back in February . . . 

The quick catch-up:
Back when we first thought about being basket cases (and sister, we've all been there), we learned that we can always trace being a basket case back to what's in our baskets.  

And each of us has three "basics" in our baskets:
  • Our "ME"
      Who we are as individuals -- spiritually, 
      physically, mentally, emotionally.
  • Our relationships
      The people with whom we share our lives -- our 
      family, our friends, our co-workers
  • Our circumstances
      What's going on in our lives -- short-term day-to-
      day happenings and long-term events that will 
      shape our lives for years to come.

It's our "ME" -- the innermost part of our being -- that's our HOT selves.  If we're spiritually healthy, we understand and embrace that we are women who are

         Owned and operated by God, and
         Tailor-made and designed with a purpose.

Now, we're ready to get on with our HOT selves!

Thanking God When You're a Basket Case

Part 2
Thanking God In 
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

More than anything else, knowing and embracing your identity as a HOT woman affects how you respond to the other two items in your basket -- your relationships and you circumstances -- because a HOT woman develops a God-perspective on how she views  the people in her life, as well as what's happening in her life. 

And it is, therefore, the HOT "ME" who is able to thank God in all things:  The good, the bad, and even the downright ugly.  (And, girlfriend, if you haven't had ugly in your basket yet, live long enougn, and you will.)

Our brother, Paul, writes, "Be joyful alway; pray continually; give thanks in *all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

*NOTE:  In Greek, "all" is the word pas.  When used collectively, it means "some of all types" (Thayer's and Smiths Bible Dictionary).  I'd venture to say that "some of all types" definitely covers the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I can tell you from personal experience, sisters, that only a HOT woman can "give thanks in all circumstances."

Good preachin' and hard livin'?  You bet. 

It's at this point that you may be thinking, Pamm, you don't know my husband, or you don't know what my kids are into right now, or you don't know what's going on with my job right now . . . and you're right, I don't.  

But I've walked through enough ugliness to know that while the "livin'" part is indeed hard -- often excrutiatingly so -- it's also choice livin', as in the best kind of living.  The other options are unthinkable.  This I know.  Intimately.

So stay with me, and next post we'll talk about exactly what it's like when our baskets are rained down upon by the good, the bad, or the ugly and how, on earth, we can manage to thank God in the midst of those moments (that often seem like eternities).

Love you much, truly,


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Sun Is Not a Baptist

I did something this morning that I haven't done in a long time.

I got up early enough to sit on my den couch and watch--and feel-- the sun slowly, gently and unhurriedly, bathe the room in its light. 

I plumped, pushed, and poofed the sofa pillows at the end of the couch by the big ol' skirted-to-the-floor oak dining room table that I use for an end table (always wanted to do that), grabbed one of the fuzzy red throws for my legs, and then nestled into the couch to sip hot set-up-by-St. Michael-the-night-before coffee, and watch the slow, lazy baptism of the room around me.   

I don't think the sun is a Baptist.  This ordinance was more of a steady sprinking, maybe gentle pouring, continuing until everything was drenched in its light.  No sudden emersion or bold flash flood.  

And I think to myself that, more often than not, that is how coming out of the darkness is. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Honestly, there were times when I wondered if I would ever write again.  

The after-February-10-2011 hiccup started out normally enough.  If you were around then, you remember that I was "going green" and revamping and blogging Thanking God When You're a Basket Case, and it was going great.  But sometime right after posting "One Hot Mama," St. Michael moved my notes while I was hard at work at the School House (must've been one of those mornings he was in cleaning-mode; see why I like to keep him on the golf course as much as possible?).  

No problem, I thought; I'd continue as soon as I recovered them.  Well, in the real world of blogging while also working full time to shape the hearts and minds of adolescents, one day turned into another, and before I knew it a week had gone by, and then another.  (And those notes still have yet to be found, sisters, and meanwhile . . .  well, on to that in a minute.)  

Then St. Michael announces one fine Sunday afternoon on the way home from the Church House that he thinks we should downsize (from the two-story Casa to a one-story) -- and says it just like it's his very own idea.  

NOTE:  The last time I'd mentioned down-sizing, he'd said I could down-size with my next husband but that he was living in the Casa until he died.  I told him that if he didn't change his attitude that could be sooner than he thought, but, truth be told, I loved the Casa (with the exception of the stairs that I tend to fall down), so I let that dog lie and just prayed about it.  God is good.

Reader's Digest Version:  Six weeks later, we moved into our one-story Casita, on the next corner, across the street from the Casa.  (We love our neighborhood, and so it was a matter of location, location, location.  From the Casita's driveway, we can still see Debbie and Terry's house, next door to the Casa, and we share our back fence with Mary and Carroll.) 

Packing up, stripping wallpaper, sewing curtains, painting, moving -- all in the midst of the aforementioned Monday-through-Friday adolescent-heart-and-mind-shaping -- those things account for busyness.  Not really for not writing.  

I wondered if I would ever write again not because I lacked hours but because I lacked words.  A rarity for me.  But I lost my words on March 3.  And it had nothing to do with working or playing or moving.  

I sat at my kitchen table that night checking E-mail as I had done a zillion other evenings, nothing out of the ordinary.  

Until I opened an E-mail from a friend and staff member at the Big Church.   

I read the E-mail and my brain totally garbled the words.  I'm usually only dyslexic with numbers, but that evening it was the letters that danced around the screen, refusing to make sense.  I got up from my computer, went and stood at the kitchen sink for a minute, and then returned to the table to try again.  

. . . called distraught this pm to say that someone went into the church in Arlington and beat up the secretary and killed her son Clint . . .       

Clint Dobson.  He called me "Mamalicious," and I adored him.

Clint was the most incredible young man I'd ever known.  I'd known him as a teenager, but came to love him during the two summers he'd chosen to love on "my people" as he interned in the tiny congregation I pastored.  

We'd talked theology.  We'd talked people.  We'd talked about what it was like to love Jesus, the great love of our both lives, and what that looked like in our every day walking and talking. 

And, of course, we'd spent hours -- often over Tookie burgers and onion rings -- talking about the next greatest love of his life, Laura, and the life he hoped to have with her.  (I once joked that I'd been a size 8 before Clint came to intern.)  

I sang at their wedding.

When Clint got his first church position as an interim pastor at a tiny country church while he was still in seminary, we texted each other over-the-top words of encouragement on Sunday mornings just before we were each to preach.  (This was our main duty in what Clint dubbed our mutual admiration society.) 

I lost my words when Clint was taken.  As days went by and bits and pieces of hideous details of Clint's last afternoon emerged, my words seemed to do what I wanted to do.  They bolted.  They hid.  They crawled under some kind of deep, dark cover, refusing to be called back out.  Totally out of my grasp.  

Truth be told, I had no energy to reach for them had they been right out in plain sight, right there in front of my face.  And more truth be told, I didn't know if I even wanted them.

For a long time, silence in the dark seemed easier.  

But I'm a writer.  I am words.  And though Clint is not here, I am.  Thus, so are my words. I am re-learning to embrace them, struggling not to continue to hold them at arms' length.  At the moment, it is an awkward slow dance between former lovers desiring to reconcile but not quite sure of the former pattern, the old fit.

There's lots more I need to say about these past months.  But these are enough words for today.   


PS  Thank you to Brenda at Cozy Little House for encouraging me (and others) to keep it real.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One Hot Mama!

Thanking God When You're a Basket Case 
PART 1 CONT'D:    
A Tisket, a Tasket, What's in Your Basket?

Being a HOT Woman (or Man!)

Yes, this is really is me and a close friend.  (I'm in the yellow.) Why do you ask?

Several years ago, a young friend who worked with a Christian student group at the University of Houston called to ask if I would come and speak to their group.  He said their program committee had come up with several topics to be parceled out among several speakers over the coming months but that he had saved one in particular that he thought would be especially perfect for me to take on: Body image.

Say wha'?  (Yeah, that's what I thought, too!)

I grinned later, though, and told the group I ended up speaking to that my sweet friend, Matt's, reasoning must've been that anyone as old as I am and as . . . umm, fluffy . . . but who still thinks she's so F-I-I-I-I-I-I-NE must certainly have something to say on the subject! 

We all had a good laugh, but it did get me thinking about what it might really mean to be a HOT woman (or man) who follows Jesus.  Here are some conclusions I came to.  To be HOT means that I am 

                     Owned and operated by God
                             Tailor-made and designed with a purpose

And just what exactly does that mean and why is it important?  (And, trust me, it IS!)

Your first thought might be, "Me? Holy?"  Well, yeah; that is, after all, exactly what God has called us to. And when we recognize that God has called us, through Christ, to holiness – to be set apart for Himself – then we understand that we are going to think differently than the world around us thinks. In fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be! (After all, Jesus called us to go into the world but not to be part of it.) God’s ways are not like man’s ways, so the closer we get to being like our Father, the more our ways are not going to be like the world’s ways, and we have to expect that that’s going to feel a little uncomfortable sometimes. (Knowing that ahead of time helps.)

There’s a song I love that says, “In his hands, there’s only safety . . . nothing there can touch me except Him.”
When we understand that, as His, we have chosen to be owned and operated by God, we can rest in the absolute assurance that we are held securely by the Lord of the Universe Who loves us so much that He gave sent His Son to come to earth to live as one of us so that He might then die for us to pay the penalty of sin.  He then raised that Son from the grave so that we, too, might have life in Him!  (And life to the very fullest -- I love that part!) As His children, when we then choose to allow Him to work through us -- to fill us with His Spirit so that He can operate through us, just as a hand fills an empty glove and operates inside of it and through it, we are set free from the fears that might otherwise keep us from being the believers we’ve been called to be. We know that it is He Who is at work in us and not our own selves. Now, THAT is freeing!

Learning to embrace the man or woman God designed us to be – flaws and all – is one of the hardest things for us to do, but that's exactly what it means to know that we have been tailor-made and designed for a purpose.  Unless we choose to walk in that truth, our human nature will always want to be more attractive, more successful, more
talented . . . the list could go on and on. But the bottom line is that we will never run our own race as long as we allow our pace to be slowed by focusing on the other runners around us. Hebrews 12:1 says, “. . . let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us [italics mine].” (Note: We are not called to run someone else’s race!) 

Paul also writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12b) and, “For we are
God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). See! Each of us was created for a purpose! But we will never fulfill that purpose until we embrace the manner in which we were individually, uniquely designed to fulfill that purpose, nor will we fulfill that purpose as long as our plans are more important than God’s plans.  (OUCH!  That hurts me, and I wrote it!)

Whew!  That's a lot of stuff I've just thrown at you, so stop, take a breath, and take time to reread and digest all of that food for thought.  And while you're chewing on some of that, I'm going to shut this down for now and head home to Casa St. Michael.  (I'm finishing this up at my School House computer.)

I'll add some more on to this in a couple of days . . . meanwhile, don't hesitate to let me know if I'm giving you too much at one time.  (I am at your service!)  And, remember, if all else fails, know that you are one HOT mama! (Or Daddy!)

Grins and blessings,