Karen

On Meeting George Bush…

November 21, 2010 in Karen's Soapbox, Uncategorized

No matter how I feel about politicians,  I was excited to meet President Bush during his recent book tour here in Florida.  It was an honor for me to meet a President of the United States. It was my own little moment of history making.

It made my heart happy to hear him say things that reflected his great love for his parents, his wife, and his country.  I laughed when  he said he didn’t miss being the President, even with some of its perks.  He told some personal stories, shared some heartfelt observations and was generous to the crowd.

Those of us who had purchased copies of his book in advance, were invited to shake his hand in a receiving line.  I wasn’t sure what you actually say to a former President when you get the chance, so I simply borrowed a line from his book and said, “God is good…to me, and I’m delighted to meet you.”  He took both of my hands then, and smiled and said, “God is good all the time!”  Then we chatted briefly about the wonderful story that inspired those lines from his book and I moved on.  It was a sweet moment.

My sister came up behind me in the line and she simply told the President that he was “gorgeous.”  Of course, that made him smile and he told her she wasn’t half bad herself and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  Safe to say, it’s a moment she’ll remember forever.  I loved the whole incident though because it was so incredibly fun and Bush accepted it that way.  Yes, indeed a charming man.

I’m reading Decision Points now with a different perspective.  I’m reading the story of someone who has had experience that I’ll never have, but who in one brief moment in time touched my life.  I’m hoping to learn more about what motivates someone not only to become a politician, which I confess is right up there with tax collectors for me, but what motivates any of us to do what we do.

Sometimes we seek opportunity, sometimes it simply knocks on our door and we answer.  Sometimes we create it.  I imagine George Bush did all of that in his journey to the Presidency.  I imagine you and I do the same thing.  We embrace our destiny and create our future every time we trust the steps we’re taking and our life path.  We are molded and shaped by God, by friends and by family.  We’re only as good as our next decision.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t claim that I’m proud of every decision I’ve ever made.  I’m sure our former President might feel the same way, but the truth is, we do the best with what information we have at the time.  I do that.  You do that.  It’s how we discover the best course to take.

Maybe it would be a good exercise for any of us to look at our decision points.  Maybe we would see that the responsibility of our choices rests in one place whether we like it or not, whether we had good reason or not, whether we were right or wrong.  Responsibility rests squarely on our shoulders.  When we own the good, the great, the bad, the ugly of ourselves we can go on because the decision will always be to do better next time.

My hope for any of us is that as we get to the place where we have new decisions to make, that we trust in God and can truly say,  “God is good…all the time!”

President Bush, thanks for opening my eyes to these thoughts.  God bless you, and God bless the work He gives each of us to do!

Karen

Power-Surged Faith

November 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

The other day I was noting how many cords I have plugged into my surge protector.  It looks like I’m wired to keep up with the world, yet that mass of plugs is really all going into one channel, one wall socket.  It’s the place where I hope to stay plugged in so I can keep communicating with those around me and do the work I do.  Oh sure, my computer may be wireless, but it’s still getting its energy from the router plugged into that wall.

What about you?  What are you plugged into so that you can get the energy you need to do the work before you?  How many ways are you protected from a sudden jolt that takes out all your circuits at once?

I love the quote that says, “People are divided into three groups:  Those who make things happen, Those who watch things happen, and Those who wonder what’s happening?”  On any given day, I’m sure that I’m one of those people.  I’m sure that I’m not always plugged in to the things that I should be or to the work that is really mine to do.  Other days, I’m running on full power and nothing can stop me, or so it seems until I simply run out of juice to keep going.  So in my strongest state or my weakest state, I still need to stay plugged in, I still need a surge of power.  Of course, I can’t really count the times I’ve stood around and asked God, “What happening now?”

The apostle Paul tried to shed light on this issue when he talked about the “thorn” in his side.  He asked the Lord to take it away at least three times.  God’s response to the request was this:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

There’s a strange thought.  Does it really mean that God doesn’t want me to go around all the time at full speed, in full power, carving out a path like Wiley Cayote?  If I’m running as far and as fast as I can on my own steam, do I forget where that steam came from?  Hmmm…!   That could be the very place where I get off the track.

Sometimes I strive to make things happen and I do and it feels good.  I thank God with just a little pride that I accomplished something.  Sometimes I sit back and watch the world go by and feel uncertain as to what my role really is and  how I can be of any benefit to those around me.  That particular question will usuallly drive me to my knees.  Then there are times when I feel caught off guard, totally surprised, unplugged, wondering what is happening.  All my senses are on a roller coaster at Universal and I’m just left yelling at the top of my lungs.

That’s when it’s time to plug back in.  That’s when I need to find my Surge Protector,  the One who supplies all my need and the One who offers me strength when I’m weak.  As we walk into another week, let’s take all that leaves us dangling and wondering and plug into the real Source of strength.  Let’s believe that nothing can happen to us that we won’t take on together with His love.

So, plug in, stand firm, and know that your shaky knees aren’t in charge of anything.  The One who sees you on your knees has everything in control.  He’s willing to share the power of His love and His strength no matter how weary you are.   That’s a promise!

Karen

If Jesus was on Twitter

August 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Technology has given all of us a chance to be better communicators, better able to stay in touch with each other.  We almost have no excuse for not keeping connected these days.  Though the art of handcrafted letters may well be a thing of the past, creative emails and profound messages on social networks abound.  On any day of the week, hundreds of opportunities pop up to be inspired, to be reflective, and to be present in the moment.  In the world of leaders and followers, we get to post a thought for the day in 140 characters and offer each other incredible insights and favorite quotes.

All that considered, I can’t help wondering what Jesus would do if He was suddenly in a culture like ours.  Would He have followers on Twitter?  Would He follow His favorites?  Would He send out a pithy message for each day so we could have a pearl of wisdom at a moment’s notice to keep us strong and grounded?  Imagining that He might offer us that kind of opportunity, let’s pretend for a moment that we’re following Jesus on Twitter.  I think these might be some of His tweets…

  • Just wanted to remind you I’m here for you anytime!
  • Hey, did I mention how awesome you are?  Keep going on that kindness thing.
  • Thanks for noticing that I have friends everywhere who need your help.
  • Nobody can bring what you bring to my world.  You rock!
  • Sure do miss you…let me know when you have time to talk a bit.
  • Hey I woke up happy today just knowing you were out there taking care of my children.
  • If I can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to ask…I’m always right near by.
  • You may not see me just now, but if you listen, you can hear me.
  • If you need a good word, just take a look in my book.  I’m here to answer questions and I autographed it just for you.
  • What can I do for you that would make your life more full and complete?
  • Just wanted to encourage you in your work today and remind you that we’re in this together.
  • You’re an answer to my prayers.   Thanks for all you do for me.
  • You really are true to your word and that makes me always want to be true to my word too.
  • Wow!  You’ve got that love for your neighbor thing down!  I can’t help but smile!
  • I’ll be following you all the days of your life.  Thanks for inviting me in.

Who knows what all Jesus might want to share in his tweets…but somehow it makes me happy to imagine it.  Maybe we can tweet to each other in a voice that sounds like Him any chance we get.   My tweet for today is…I’m sure happy you’re here in my corner.   Blessings and joy to you!

Karen

The CEO

June 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

Culturally, we seem to have a thing for titles.  No doubt titles are created as badges of honor to those who have built a reputation or a business or a life around a cause or a work that makes a difference.  CEO status is earned and learned.  We like to think of the CEO as being at the top, the decision maker and deal breaker.  We see that position as the seat of power.

Well, hold on!  Stop right there.  What about you?  Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but you’re a CEO too.  You’re the chief executive officer of your own life, with a rather Heavenly board of directors.  When you put your plans out there, you go right to the top for answers and direction.  In fact, you don’t have any one else you have to answer to so that really makes you a powerful CEO.  That makes what you do incredibly important.

Some of us have lived with humility for so long, we’ve become unaccustomed to the idea that we actually have any power.  We’ve done a good job of keeping others first, playing our cards carefully, keeping life close to the vest, because we didn’t really know we had more authority to act.  The fact is, we do.  We are plugged into the greatest source of power the world has ever known or will ever know so sometimes our humility is not serving us well.  Humming along when we should be singing, joining the chorus when we’re meant to lead isn’t serving us well.  We have big, BIG jobs to do and keeping the light on is hard work.

My role is to be the CEO of this blog.  I think of myself as the Chief Encouragement Officer.  I think it’s a role that fits me well and one that gives me the courage to step out in front, wave my little candle, and hope someone sees the opportunity to raise their candle higher too.  It’s up to us to raise the vision of hope, to keep the light on all the time.  We’re a little like that hotel commercial that used to end with, “We’ll keep the light on for you.”

When it’s raining so hard you can’t see the path in front of you, it’s difficult to remember that the pummeling rain is soaking the flowers and bringing the earth back to life.  It’s hard to believe that the gray skies will give way to peaceful clearings, awesome sunsets.  In fact, for any of us, life can take us to places where it’s simply hard to believe that all things are possible with God.  Our impossibles become His possibles when we step up, shine a light on them, and put them before our personal board of directors.  Nothing else works!  Everything else is an imitation.  The moon can never give off the light of the sun, it is only a reflection.  But as CEO, in this case, Chief Energy Officer, you get to plug into the Source of light and shine.

It’s time to work on your inner CEO.  You’re in command of this day according to the work you have set before you.  Your neighbor is not in command, your spouse is not in command, only you are CEO of your life.  You’ve been given the power you need to act, to become, to live abundantly.  So hold that thought, and if anyone asks you what you do, just tell them you’re the CEO and you’re busy building your business because you have to answer to a heavily invested board of directors.

Keep on working it because what you do matters.

Karen/CEO

Karen

Designing Your Life Today

June 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think the clean white canvas of the day is mine to design and that I can shape things any way I like.  Oh, I might wave at God as I’m heading out the door, a nodding acquaintance, grateful that He’s out there somewhere, but not really stopping for a coffee chat.  I imagine when I do that, that He might be wishing I’d come back for a little latte and some warm discussion of all that is possible in the day. Alas, I go on, seeking to create a work of art all on my own.

I’m reminded then of a quote by André Gide, “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does, the better.”  In the best sense a collaboration of any kind is one where two come together to determine the next steps, create the vision, and prepare the canvas of opportunity.  I like collaboration.  I like knowing someone else is there to share the risk and reward.

The good news is that I can’t simply design today all by myself, even if I want to.  I can make the choice to nod at God as I go about my work, or I can choose to actually include His thoughts into what I’d like to do, but either way, I’m in a collaboration and the success of it depends on my willingness to be present, trusting and faithful to us, to what we bring to the table together.  Sadly, I don’t always remember this.

When I realize that I’m valuing my independence, more than the opportunity to collaborate, it makes me want to pack up my paint brushes and go back and start the day again. Oh, sure, I may have had a stroke of genius when I was out there on my own.  I may have stumbled upon some momentary brilliance, but nothing works quite as well as when I’m deliberate about the approach, willing to look at my true colors.

God has a design for your life and for mine.  Like a parent who sends his partially grown teenager off to a college campus for the first time, He sends us off into the world to become all that we’re meant to be.  But like a parent, He hopes we’ll call home often and remember that our greatest source of joy is knowing we’re not out in the world alone.

Let’s remember our Creator in all we do today, allowing His Master hand to vividly put us in the best possible direction, creating the most authentic canvas.  We can give the greatest expression of our true selves when we collaborate with Him, becoming a paint brush in His hand.

Go out now and show your true colors!  You’re an awesome design!

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,  the son of man that you care for him?  Psalm 8: 3-4

Karen

Filling Your Shoes

April 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

A classic greeting card offers the sentiment, usually with some big shoe on the  cover and a tiny kitten sitting in the middle of it, that “no one else can fill your shoes.”  It’s a great sentiment really because it offers a truth that there is no one quite like you.  Turning that phrase a bit we also might be reminded of the one that says “You have big shoes to fill.”  That one sets a different tone, now you’re the person in line behind someone great, stepping into the role, hoping you can do the job.

We also have the saying “if the shoe fits” meaning perhaps that we need to own an idea or an action because someone has reminded us of a truth we might not have wanted to recall.  Perhaps we borrowed that one from Cinderella, who apparently was the only female ever to wear tiny glass slippers.  Clearly, no one else could fill her shoes.  Personally, I love Ellen Jackson and Kevin O’malley’s version of that story called Cinder Edna.  Cinder Edna wouldn’t let life’s troubles ever weigh her down.  She didn’t sit in the ashes feeling sorry for herself  just waiting for her prince to come along.  She actually preferred loafers.  She was out there planting seeds of joy and giving back to the neighborhood.  She didn’t have time to even worry about what wasn’t happening because she was so busy making things happen all by herself.  When she was introduced to the Prince’s brother, she hit if off with him because he was a go-getter, a goofy dancer, and otherwise authentic person just like herself.  She left the Prince, who was really quite a yawner, to Cinderella.

As long as we’re remembering fanciful shoes, we might think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as well.  Getting blown out of Kansas, Dorothy has to retrace steps a hundred different ways, following the yellow brick road, fighting off scary creatures and making friends with unlikely characters along the way.  Fearless in her pursuit to find her way home again, she sets out to get wisdom in the form of a self-made wizard, only to discover she had the truth within herself the whole time. In fact, she was wearing the dazzling red shoes that would get her home again whenever she chose.

Sometimes, I think we’re like all these examples.  We get lost.  We try to fill someone else’s shoes but it doesn’t really work.  We lose our way and hope someone will find us, help us before we get caught in some other world where we don’t belong.  We try on shoes that don’t really fit, made of glass when all the time our loafers were actually the ones with the magic.  All the time, we had the power to change things because the gifts to do so had been put within us by a master designer.

These stories remind me of yet another one, the story of John the Baptist who was out in the desert making a path for Jesus.  John was a realist though, he had a sense of direction like few before him or since.  He said, “He Who is coming after me is mightier than I.  Whose sandals I am not worthy or fit to take off or carry.”  John had a sense that those sandals were going to be big ones to fill and he was right.

Wherever we walk today, we have big shoes to fill.  Whether we’re stepping out in fancy glass slippers, hoping to be discovered, or changing the world in our loafers, one act of kindness after another, we’re in the big shoe dance.  Like Dorothy, we can tap our shoes together and find our way again any time because we’re always connected to the Source, the One who gives us happy feet.

You may have big shoes to fill, but you can do it in your own style!  Just walk the walk!

Karen

DIY–God

March 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

We are blessed today, (or so it seems) with a lot of Do-It-Yourself opportunities.  According to Home Depot, I can assemble, build, create and update nearly anything in my house…myself.  I can go online and learn anything from how to make a great souffle to how to crochet and I can do it myself.  If I need legal help, I can actually go over to my local Staples store and get some forms to do my own divorce, my own will, my own business incorporation.  It looks to me, like there’s not a whole lot I can’t do if I put my mind to it.

The thing is, I was created that way.  The One who gave me abilities and talents made me good at some things and not so good at others.  Being good at some things helps me to survive in the world and gives me a chance to mentor someone else.  Being not so good at some things means I have to cooperate with others, learn to share, learn to accept help along the way.  The truth is I wasn’t really created to “do it all myself.”  I was made to be interdependent, made for community, more than isolation.

When I think about it, since Easter is on the way, I wonder sometimes if we don’t also think that God has set up a big DIY store somewhere and expects us to come on in and gather enough tools to get out there and do it.  Okay, to some degree that may be so, but the catch is, there are a few things He knows we can’t do without Him.  One of the big ones is about our connection to Him.  We can stand on the outside looking in, knocking on the door, seeing the party inside, but if we don’t go in, well, we’re still on the outside.  He knows we have trouble making choices even when the invitation is for everyone, no strings attached.  He knows that in at least this one thing the DIY just won’t work.  His Easter gift to us was just that.  He did it so we wouldn’t have to.  He laid the foundation stone at Calvary just for us.

Personally, that awes me, it blows me away.  I have nothing to compare that to.  If I could build a mansion, or feed all the hungry people of the world, if I could heal someone’s illness or someone’s heart, or if I could write a New York Time’s Best-seller and become a household name, I’d still just be an amateur.  I’d still be only on aisle six looking at the various paint colors, wondering if I can even pick the right one for the job I want to do.

I love that God gave me a way to do a few things well and that He also gave me a way to understand that I can’t do everything myself.  I’m glad that He saw me in great need of partnership, of friendship, of family.  In understanding that need for me, He then made a way for me to have that with Him as well.  He gave me His only Son.

This Easter, when I consider what God has done, I’m still in awe!  I’m beyond grateful.  I’m glad He invited me to come on in where the house is already nicely built and where we contribute all we do out of love.

Now, if someone could only teach me how to build a nice bookshelf.  Hmmm…it’s Home Depot time!

Karen

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

March 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Who can survive on a thousand dollars a month?” I thought to myself.  What is it I think I can accomplish out here in the world when I’ve just set myself up to fail? Those are the doubts.  Those are the fears that often greet me when I arise in a morning and haven’t quite figured out where the solid ground might be…where to set my feet. Of course, right after those thoughts, I’m greeted with the realization that other women my age have done so much better, have built nest eggs, have married well, have managed to put it all together, so what was I thinking?  Why am I always sitting somewhere between a Rock and a Hard Place?

Perhaps it’s ill-advised to even admit this here on a site where I hope to encourage you and a place where I want you to gain a new perspective that might offer a tiny bit more light into your lives too.  Oh my…and that’s it, isn’t it?  You see, now my spirit reminds  me that I am exactly where I should be.  I’m between a Rock and a Hard Place and the good news is that my Rock is so solid I have nothing to concern myself with.  Jesus bought me lock, stock, and barrel so that I would always have a place to stand.   Now I’m thinking it’s good to be between Jesus and whatever else the world might bring, because truth be told nearly everyone is in a hard place in one way or another.  It may not be financial, it may not be health, it may not be relationship, but it’s a hard place as they face something that feels like they are all alone.  If they don’t have a rock, the Rock, on one side to keep them safe, I’m not sure what they really do about that.

I know for me that I have to stand firm and trust and believe that being here doesn’t invite fear.  It invites faith.  It invites the opportunity for me to grow stronger and to be compassionate to others and to understand that life happens and unfolds for all of us in ways that are not always under our control, not always clear, but they are always in the sight of the One who is totally in control.

So today I’m going with Isaiah who woke up one morning, set his feet on the ground and said, “So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]. Isaiah 26:4

Okay, so I’m rethinking…it’s a new day…it’s a new opportunity to set my feet on Higher Ground and my heart in the direction of the Son…it’s a great day to be right where I am.  Yes, between a Rock and a hard place isn’t really so bad!

Karen

On Hold or Holding On

March 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Since we each have a starring role in this drama we call life, we sometimes get to influence the director too.  We can suggest scenarios, offer ideas about how we think things can play out, sometimes choosing the supporting cast, or the costumes we’ll wear, but ultimately, we don’t get the whole say.  That’s just not how the life movie is made.  Parts of our movie can be pretty exciting, complete with triumphs over great odds, or failures that were even hard to predict.  We get to have love scenes and heartbreak, and power and weakness.  It really is a chance to earn an Oscar of our own and it’s all about how we play it.

Interesting to me  is the idea that perhaps the greatest performance comes when everything you’re hoping for, every scene of joy you’ve played out a hundred times, still hasn’t happened.  It’s the scene where you feel like you’re simply on hold waiting for the moment, waiting for the stars to align, or simply waiting to come into the scene on cue.  You’ve been learning the material, getting ready for the part, practiced all the subtle nuances of the role because you know that when it happens, you will play it to perfection.  You’ll go for it in every big way.  The problem comes when you’ve been on hold for a long time and then another long time and you finally wonder if you’re on hold or simply holding on.

The Voice Translation of Psalm 40 reads like this:  “I was waiting a long time for the Eternal One; He finally knelt down to hear me.  He listened to my weak and whispered cry.  He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay.  With a gentle hand, he pulled me out to set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.  As if that were not enough, because of Him my mind is clearing up.  Now I have a new song to sing–a song of praise to the One who saved me.”

When the scene you’ve been practicing for your whole life doesn’t seem to play out, when you feel like you’ve been on hold for so long that perhaps the scene will end up on the editing floor and the story will end, try to hold on.  Hold on to the One who hears your whispered cry and who holds you in His hand.  Perhaps the scene won’t come out quite the way you’ve written it in your story, perhaps it will be even better bringing in elements of joy, and special effects you never imagined.  As long as you are ready to step into the role and play it with all you’ve got, well, the Oscar is waiting.  Keep holding on and keep writing the story.  You know for sure that it has an incredible ending!

Karen

Dangling Conversations

February 5, 2010 in Inspirational, Uncategorized

Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

(from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle)

Dangling conversations aren’t foreign to most of us.  Unspoken heartaches, silent glances, muffled awkwardness over misguided missiles invading territories long ago left unprotected.  Verses out of rhythm and couplets out of rhyme…whatever the reason or the breakdown in communication, the outcome is always the same…sorrowful sighs of something lost and uncertain.  What can we do when we’re dangling on the edge of the sighs of silence?  What happens to us when conversation stops in midair, words no longer volley back and forth, no one scoring the better position, or getting points for thinking quickly on their feet? Why do we lose our ability to keep a conversation moving?

One time or another, perhaps even more often than we care to reflect, we find ourselves in noiseless conversation, talking but not being heard, hoping to make an impact with thoughts that have been buried deeply in the heart for hours or days or even longer than that.  Yes, silence is golden, but not when you genuinely need communication, when you need to feel visible, heard, perhaps even appreciated.

For me, one of the most subtle forms of abuse in any relationship is the one where one person is desperate to talk, to get the ideas flowing, the solutions discovered, the needs unwrapped and sorted through, and the other person, the one other person that most matters refuses to take part, refuses to come to the table, to discuss the matters at hand.  Worse yet is the pretense of starting conversation on topics that matter only to shut down at the first hurdle, unable to go on because all that is ahead could be unknown territory.  Stop!  Stop shutting down!  Find another road, but hold on, hold hands, hold yourself together and keep going so that the moment can come for resolution, for truth, for recognition of what can and must be done, even for prayer to help bring all things back into perspective and balance.

True communication seldom happens, at least not to completion.    It’s surprising how easily misunderstood a phrase or a gesture or an idea might be.  The simplest intentions become roadblocks and dangling conversations are created, pausing the progress, omitting the most needed nouns and verbs, the most important heartfelt thoughts.  Listen to your words, to your intentions, listen to the other person you love, the one you are trying so hard to share this life with and keep things moving, lovingly, gently, clearly, all the way to laughter and hugs of joy.

Dangling conversations are like half baked cakes, jam without toast, music without harmony.  Finish what you meant to say, say what you hoped to say,  kindly forming the thoughts that keep you strong, keep you connected.  Don’t hang up on anyone, especially the ones you love most.  Keep the lines of communication open.  You’ll be glad you did.  If nothing else, it’s great practice for your prayer life.