Defining Your Reality

Want to play a game? What are the first three words you see?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this puzzling assortment of letters and words. The “game” is to look for the first three words you recognize, so if you haven’t played the game yet and would like to, take just a minute and look until you recognize three words.

Have you found them? According to the game going around, those three words define reality for you. What did you find? Not that it matters, but I found “creation,” “power,” and “family.” I considered how those words might define my reality, but I was a little disappointed. I looked back and found words like “love,” “gratitude,” and “purpose” that I might have preferred. I also found “breakthrough,” “miracles,” “health,” “alignment,” “selfcare,” “lessons,” “connection,” “money . . .” the longer I looked, the more options I found.

Are you satisfied with the first three words you saw?

As a game, it’s fun and a little provocative, but it made me stop and think about this question: If I could have any three words define my reality that I want, which three would I pick? How about you? “Love, grace, and mercy” come to my mind today, but maybe I’d pick three different words if I gave it even more thought.

Our reality isn’t really defined by words on a page, although if we believe something defines us, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, today’s reality doesn’t have to be tomorrow’s reality. In fact, we can change our reality by changing our focus. What if we think hard about what we would like to become, and head in that direction?

“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Tastes of India? Pure Foods and Pure Water

I think the strangest things I’ve eaten in this past month were crickets and bone marrow…   but these weren’t items we were expected to eat on our trip to India and Nepal!   These were some of the upscale tapas offered on the menu of the Ox and Tail restaurant in Rochester, NY, where Alan and I had dinner with our son, Stephen last Saturday night.

Did I like them? Actually, no. Would I order them again? Definitely not!
But, did they make me sick? Believe it or not, the answer is “no.” So, how is it that I can eat disgusting (sounding…and tasting)
food in America without getting sick,  whereas Alan and I ate a lot of gourmet-appearing food  but were still sick the entire time we were in India and Nepal,  despite eating in extremely elegant places that catered to Western tastes? Part of the problem might have been that,
although we ate at some amazing venues  —including some palaces and UNESCO world heritage sites—  we were on a “discovery tour,” which included picnics on river banks in jungles,  buffets in over 100°F. heat under tent awnings in remote areas, steamy dinners in the jungles of Nepal,  and some gracious dinners prepared and served in local homes.We were always careful to drink only bottled water  and tried to choose our food very carefully  (although sometimes I wasn’t really sure what I was eating…), and we tried to make sure all the meats were well cooked. Unfortunately, these precautions weren’t enough.

I usually have a stomach of steel, but not this trip! I assumed it was simply that Westerners aren’t used to the types of bacteria in India, but after returning homeI learned that sanitation and water pollution is a huge issue in India, not  just for foreigners, but for everyone. Diarrhea is the fourth highest cause of death in India today…way ahead of any type of cancer! Several of the men on our trip required prescription-strength medications to recover, and about halfway through the trip, I began to worry that Alan and I might be too old for this type of travel.  After returning and thinking about things, I would like to offer this brief list of ideas for any adventurers who want to travel to India or other very remote areas of the Eastern world:
*Only use bottled water, never tap water, or ice cubes made from tap water.
*Take seriously all the precautions suggested by your travel guides
*Carry and use hand sanitizer before eating
*The one couple who never got ill took acidophilus tablets, which are an over-the-counter probiotic; I plan to use them too if I ever go again.
*Before you go, get a prescription for ciprofloxacin (or whatever medication your physician recommends for you in case of serious diarrhea and dehydration). Finally, I’d like to suggest that not only do our bodies require pure water for good health, so do our hearts and minds!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 21:6).

The Purpose of Memorials

Two days ago, in reflecting on the solar eclipse, I mentioned that we all like to commemorate special events by taking photos or keeping mementos to help us remember. Does that sound about right for you too? However, I don’t take pictures of miserable things; I take pictures of beautiful things and happy events I want to celebrate. It was in this light that I understood why many people want to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, and why it was draped in black yesterday (also as an expression of mourning for Heather Heyer).  One insightful reader sent me this note: “…the Confederacy has held a special power over this state. We’ve sort of changed history to make ourselves look better than we really were. We portrayed our losing generals as if they were triumphant in spirit or really on the right side of things – as long as we don’t emphasize the role that slavery played in the war. We might have lost on that point, but it [is] really about our right to be messed with and our right to live how we wanted to live without somebody from somewhere else to tell us how to live. We gave these men the status of heroes and placed their likeness on the footsteps of our courthouses. So every time we went to deal with a matter of the law, somebody white could look upon them and remember that they’re in the right and somebody black can look upon them and know that our history hasn’t died in our hearts. So, if we keep those statues on the steps of the courthouse, aren’t we really endorsing their legacy?”  What a wise reflection. Moving and true! I’ve been to Germany several times, but I’ve never seen a statue of Adolf Hitler, and I’m very glad for that! What if he were still revered in Germany? I would think that deep in their hearts, the German people still believe Hitler was right.  Part of admitting that we’re wrong about something is renouncing it…giving up our right to glory in it and mourning instead. In Germany, there are holocaust memorials so that we will never forget the evil that happened and continue to be horrified rather than attracted to anti-Semitism.  Similarly, there are many war memorials on the Normandy Coast of France. None of them house statues as such; they are filled with photos and information teaching about the devastating effects of war.  At Nagasaki, the memorials don’t exalt leaders, they portray the terrible suffering of the hundreds of thousands who died from the tragic bombings that ended the war, and they cry out for people to find peace. If we’re really sorry about what we’ve done wrong, we won’t be retelling the story and making heroes of those who led us astray. Right?  If I lived in Virginia, I would vote to remove the statues of the leaders who championed slavery. This morning I saw a map of where there are Confederate memorials. I don’t know the exact number, but it looked like over a hundred and possibly hundreds.  I thought back to visiting Tiananmen Square, where hundreds of protestors were killed in 1989. In the little shops all around the square, you can buy statues…of Mao Zedong!  He is still considered a great hero by many in Communist China (even among some Christian young adult Chinese students I know), although I was taught that he was responsible for millions of deaths and a brutal dictator. So, why do they revere him? And, what of Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum in front of the Kremlin in Russia? Millions visit every year, celebrating??? After the Iron Curtain came down in 1991, there was a movement to rebury Lenin’s body next to his mother’s grave, but Vladimir Putin “opposed this, pointing out that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during 70 years of Soviet rule” (Wiki).

This, I think, is very telling. Memorials celebrate the values of the person being memorialized! Logically, statues of Confederate heroes are memorializing what they fought for, which was slavery. Do we want that commemorated or approved in our country? I hope we do not. To show respect for all races of people, particularly the African Americans who were enslaved, I totally support the idea of removing statues of heroes who stood against racial equality.

Spiritually, there is a personal parallel for each of us. Are we keeping photos or mementos from past events that were negative rather than positive influences on us? Are we “worshiping” icons that represent values we should not be endorsing? Are we beginning to remember “the good old days” of sinful pleasures that were in fact “evil days”? May we repent of all evil—past as well as present—and take glory in God alone, focusing our minds on: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things: (Philippians 4:8).

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24).

(The photo of Stalin’s Mausolem at the Kremlin was taken by Andrew Shiva via Wiki; the rest our mine, taken in China, Japan, Germany, and France. Not all of them match the text perfectly, but they were the best representations for the ideas that I could find.)

 

 

From Jane’s Inkwell: Coping with Tragedy

This morning I had no inspiration and no time to write. That hardly ever happens to me, but I decided it must of God so didn’t fret as the hours slipped by. I appreciated the special privilege of encouraging a friend just back from the doctor’s office.

However, a few minutes ago, I saw this post from my dear friend Jane, and it struck me that God wants her story shared today! So, with her permission but without further ado:

Choose to be a Shining Star“Three years ago while at one of my favorite vacation spots, a horse ran over me. That’s all I’m going to say about the place, the event, and the accident that changed my life forever. I made a choice then. I make the same choice every day. I will not let this discourage me, will not allow depression to touch me, and will trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light. I went from healthy to broken in under 60 seconds.

“When I felt the sting on my head and heard scraping against the pavement, I remember thinking, “This is going to hurt tomorrow.” Then I was in and out of consciousness while emergency first responders saved my life. My head was hurt, my right lung was crushed my shoulder blade was broken and I had a herniated disk in my neck. This was not at all how I envisioned our last weekend of the summer.

“I was caught by surprise, but nothing catches God by surprise. I’m one small piece of the puzzle in God’s grand design, but we all know what happens when one tiny piece of a puzzle gets lost. Apparently God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m still living my puzzle piece.

“After just eleven days in the hospital, a patient advocate came to my room and said she had some news that might not seem good to me. Mystified, I asked, “What is it?” Apologetically she said she was sorry to tell me I wasn’t going to qualify to go to a rehab facility because I was functioning at a level that disqualified me. If you can just imagine the conversation. Me with a blank stare and her with apprehension. “Are you kidding me? If there is one thing I don’t want to qualify for, it’s rehab.” I still had a chest tube and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, but once I was able to be rid of that, I would be allowed to go home.

“Thirteen days after laying on the ground unable to breathe and thinking, “I could die from this,” I was on my way home. The medical attendants and doctors at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey were phenomenal. I was touched one afternoon when an older woman from the volunteer staff came into my room and told the nurse, “I have to meet this Jane Anderson.” I know crazy, right? I was baffled. She had a whole stack of cards in her hand. She said she had been delivering cards to people for over 12 years and never had she delivered as many cards to one person, so she had to meet me. Awwwww what a sweet gesture. Then before I left the hospital several of the nurses each gave me a hand written card. If you don’t think your cards and notes and emails to people matter, change how you think.

“A few days after coming home from the hospital a friend emailed me. “Stay strong and positive. Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Friends I hadn’t seen in months or years stopped over to see me. One of them approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” I was caught off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive?

“I hope I can explain this so you can apply it to your own circumstances. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death. I had been riding a bike with my then 9-year-old granddaughter and her 10-year-old friend. When I was told that I was in the hospital and had been trampled by a 2500 pound horse, I’m sure I thanked God a million times that those two precious girls were not harmed. They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury. To this day, three years later I still often stop and thank God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them. Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them. I get that.

“’I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.’ How could I be angry or bitter when I think about what I didn’t get. My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. My skull could have cracked, but I didn’t get that. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.) I had a concussion severe enough to do some brain damage that affects my short term memory. It could have been much worse. My eyes were swelled open, but I didn’t lose my sight. God miraculously spared my vision. I didn’t go blind.

“When I looked up to see the horse advancing too close to me, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that. When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life.

“What are the chances that the med station on Mackinac Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor, who wasn’t supposed to be on the island that day, to stand in for the regular attending doctor. Communicating back and forth with a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, it took three attempts but he finally inserted a chest tube to inflate my lung.

“My shoulder blade cracked and while it remains the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. I now have this nifty wing on my right side but it healed. I guess God knew I always wanted a badge for something. Maybe not what I was thinking but then as God reminds me His ways are not my ways. My winged shoulder isn’t beautiful but it’s a beautiful reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.

“That day I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal reinforced wallet were bent beyond use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord could have been damaged and I could have been unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.

“The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get that.
I want to tell you the rest of the story.

“A friend from our church and his daughter were in the emergency room at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey. Their attending doctor as completely distracted and wouldn’t stop talking on his cell phone. “Wait a minute, doc. Why are you not attending to this young girl whose ankle might be broken? Why are you talking on your cell phone?” How would you feel? I would be irritated too. The doctor apologized and explained I’m trying to help doctors save the life of a woman who got trampled by a horse. That changed everything. In that moment our friend and his daughter prayed for that woman and her life was spared. They had no way of knowing that woman fighting for her life was a family friend. Their whole family left their campgrounds and before heading home came to visit me in the hospital. I didn’t hear this story until sometime later, but even then, I felt the overflow of God’s love and faithfulness.

“Do you think prayer is just something you do because it’s expected? Is prayer something you value? Prayer is powerful. Believe God for something big. He holds life in his hands.

“”Ephesians 3:17, 20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

“On August 31, 2013 my life changed forever. It caught me by surprise. God knew all about it. Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

“You know, every day we have a choice. I could complain that life isn’t fair. I could grouch about my circumstances not being what I was hoping for. I could compare myself to someone else and totally lose out on any form of contentment. I could have a pity party all by myself because nobody wants to go to one of those. I could – but I won’t. And you don’t have to either.

“Philippians 2 says to not grumble or complain – and we will be like shining stars. That encourages me to put a positive spin on ‘What choice do I have?’ You’ll see that our choices begin with a thought and thoughts become actions. We become what we think about. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.”

*This, and other great thoughts, can be found on Jane’s blog: talkkindnesstome.com

2016 Academy Awards: When is it Time to Say “No”?

Marilyn_Monroe_Public Domain from WikiWhen I was a little girl, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were my ideal for what women “should” be. That lasted until I gave my life to Christ at age 12, and then I traded Hollywood’s Hall of Fame for the Bible’s Hall of Faith and began looking to women like Sarah, Mary, and my Sunday school teacher for modeling. However, Hollywood continues to have a huge influence on the current generation, so I’ve tried to keep abreast of what’s available to find the best that can be culled from their mammoth industry for my own growth as well as to recommend for others. To this end, I read up on films that are highly acclaimed, but this year’s list of Academy Award winners left me feeling quite discouraged. I’ve already written about Bridge of Spies, which I think is a fabulous movie, but the only other “winner” that I’ve personally seen was The Martian, which was nominated for several awards but didn’t win any. In fact, I’ve seen a number of excellent movies that came out in 2015, and I want to share some more of them with you ASAP, but this morning, I just want to grieve a little aloud and encourage you to resist the temptation to watch a movie simply because it’s “highly rated” or all the buzz. If a movie is R-rated (as almost all of this years winners are), then it contains contaminants for the mind and heart. God calls us to purity and teaches us: “ I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19, NIV). According to the reviews I read, one of the winners sounds like only thinly veiled pornography. Another film, which won the academy award for best picture and is based on a true story, addresses the crucial issue of child molestation, but I would still caution potential viewers to consider that the scriptures teach us: “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them [evil doers] in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). So, even if those who prosecute child abusers need to bring the facts to light (and I’m thankful they do), I believe God warns us against immersing ourselves in graphic descriptions of evil. God has given us the gold standard for filling our mind, and it’s basically what is both true and good. Let’s not lose sight of that vision, even during our times of relaxation, because anything we allow our minds to consider should definitely edify us—build up our souls and spirits—, and no amount of education and/or entertainment alone should be enough. After all, would you rather end up like Marilyn Monroe or Mary, the mother of Jesus?Virgin and Child with St. John by a follower of Andrea Del Verrocchio 1435-1488. National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Dalí: Bizzare can also be Brilliant, but is it Beautiful?

Kandinsky's improvisation 33Did you happen to read the Google Doodle about Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian credited with being the first purely abstract artist? He was born 148 years ago today but began his career as an artist in the early 1900s. Much of his work was condemned by the Nazis as “degenerate art” and destroyed in 1937, although in 2012 one of his paintings (shown below) sold for $23 million! Kandinsky-Study-for-Improvisation-8-20-30mDo you like abstract art? One thing I will say about Kandinsky is that he believed vibrant color can produce an intense sensory experience in the viewer’s soul, and I totally resonate with this. I love color! What do you think of his paintings?KandinskyIsn’t it true that so often, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”? I look at these incredibly expensive paintings and think, “Looks like child’s play to me.” But, I really didn’t intend to write about Wassily Kandinsky today. It’s “Travel Tuesday,” and I wanted to share about visiting the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which boasts the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work in the world. My brother had to talk me into going, tho, because I’ve really never been a fan of modern art. Of course, many are, including my son Jon. pablo-picasso-first-communion 1869 I remember perusing the Museu Picasso in Barcelona with Jon and being amazed that Picasso could paint such an artistic and realistic picture of his sister’s first communion at the tender age of 15! What happened to him over the years of his long life? Two world wars and despair? To me, his pictures became disjointed…ugly. What makes his art the most sought after in the world today??Picasso_Portrait_of_Daniel-Henry_Kahnweiler_1910Jon tried to point out some of the brilliance of his creative Cubism, but I was a skeptic, thinking more along the lines of Picasso’s comment to a friend concerning the above 1910 “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahweiler”: “What would have become of us if Kahnweiler hadn’t had a business sense?” Dali-Picasso_landing-pageThrough February16, 2015, there is a special exhibition of Picasso at the Dalí  Museum…rarely loaned works from more than 25 international museums and private collections. Dali Museum I went last month, and if you’ll be in the area, you might enjoy going, especially if you can make it to one of Joan’s 3:30 tours. She’s a peerless docent who’s been volunteering for nearly 30 years and makes each piece of Dalí’s work come alive by explaining the fascinating symbolism in both the themes and minute details.The Persistence of Memory Dalí’s best known work, “The Persistence of Memory,” suddenly became more than just a series of melting clocks…it was Dalí’s way of trying to express Einstein’s theory of relativity…an idea that came to him as he watched a piece of Camembert cheese melting on a hot August day! 🙂The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory Everything in his pictures represent something (some are almost prophetic), although much of the symbolism is so esoteric that only friends, art dealers, and those who bought his art understood the messages…often because he’d explain!

The Basket of BreadLike Picasso, Salvador Dalí was classically trained and as a young artist showed great promise, Picassoalthough it looks to me like the horrors and disorientation of World War I and II caused a spiritual disintegration.Salvador Dalí painting  He became a communist and an anarchist,The Discovery of America by Columbusand over the course of time, Dalí’s paintings became less and less “real” Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Manand more and more “surreal.” Portrait of DalíDalí took pleasure in Dadaism, an “anti-art” movement rooted in Wassily Kandinsky’s theoretical abstraction and totally detached from the conventions of reality. Ghost of Vermeer He liked to shock people, and I dare say, much of his work caught me off guard. Dalí painting Each picture made me ponder; Dalí painting St. Petersberg, FL some reminded me of Alice-in-Wonderland-style fantasies,Dalí painting 2 and some were totally grotesque surprises that made me wince.

Dalí paintings collageI left the museum with much more appreciation for the genius of Dalí, Picasso, and other Cubists, Surrealists, and Dadaists. The hands that smeared  bizarre graffiti across the pages of our 20th century were doubtless full of existential angst, but they also painted brilliant messages. However, these questions still remain: Are the messages true? And, are the works beautiful? They  certainly are wildly popular today: Picasso’s paintings are selling for astronomical prices…the most sought after in the world at the moment. But, the pictures these artists paint leave me with an ominous sense of impending doom. In reality, God promises our world a future restoration and holds out the hope of a spiritual kingdom of light that will last eternally. He doesn’t want us wallowing in disembodied despair. He wants us to think on the bright and beautiful! Look up, our redemption is coming. 🙂

 “Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

 

 

 

Flowery Thoughts on Writing

Because I’m going to visit my daughter today, I won’t have a chance to generate any new thoughts. However, Kathy and I both love writing, so perhaps this is a good time to share a few quotations on writing gleaned from my blog host, WordPress, adorned by a few cheery springtime photos I’ve taken.“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Elmore Leonard“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” — W. Somerset Maugham“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” Phyllis Theroux“I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Blaise Pascal“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” — Marsha Norman“Be obscure clearly.” E.B. White“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Gustave Flaubert“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” Agatha Christie“Every single creature is full of God, and is a book about God.” Meister Eckhart“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King“I do not like to write – I like to have written.” Gloria Steinem“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes(This last picture is a gift to you from my friend, Dan Andrist)

And here is my favorite quotation on what to write, or read, or think about:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).