Wednesday, May 21, 2014




Coming from Texas, I hardly ever meet a stranger—some strange characters, perhaps, but not really strangers. Most Texans whose families have lived here for generations are taught from childhood to treat others as we would want to be treated, so, we don’t meet strangers; we just meet new potential friends.

When we stand in line with others at the store, we sometimes share our views of the weather—at the very least. When we stop to help a motorist, we might share our water, our views on the lack of “relief facilities” on the highway, or, more likely, our common complaint about the heat and dry weather. Life’s common core concerns pretty much have Texans covered, so we never really lack the understanding that others have the same problems as we do.

Defining a stranger for me connects to someone entirely different from the folks we meet. The strangest one for me is the stranger within. Just recently I heard someone tell a group of people that folks who have addictions have an “emotional and mental age stop”—a cease from the maturing process that allows one to learn from experience and find channels of change. I thought about what was said and read some materials on the changes within the brain that occur both in those who are addicted, those who have some shattering experience—with or without associated grief—those who are already prone to some nervous compulsion (OCD or that type of problem), those who are suffering from some type of guilt, and finally, those whose brains have been affected by damage from some physiological source—stroke or accident damage.

I want folks to know right here from the get-go, the business about the brain being “stopped” at certain age or at a certain stage is a stinky pile of male bovine excreta! The documented plasticity of the brain is totally amazing! Even if we have physical brain damage, the brain can recover or at least compensate to be as good as or better than it was before the damage occurred. If we have an addictive “personality” or compulsion, or if we are suddenly confronted with a life altering loss and overwhelmed with grief, or if we have a tendency to look at everything with a negative outlook, we CAN change the way we live and think. ONE tiny little change or even attempt to change can make a huge difference. Every effort is rewarded in one way or another in the brain. Yes, we can have failures, but had failure not been an attempt, we would never have seen the incandescent light bulb! Our brain allows us to attempt, to hope. When we observe even a tiny change in our attitude, we have made progress beyond measure. The brain has developed a new insight that does not simply vanish.

When I look back at the past two years in my own life, I see some of the areas that I have not really challenged. I still do not like to be around crowds of people and still have little panic attacks when put on the spot to “participate” in group settings. Sometimes those attacks result in some pretty stupid comments or even actions. Maybe that will change in time or maybe it won’t. It does not really matter as long as I can be comfortable within myself and live with who I am. But thinking about how grief has affected me has caused me to think about how guilt and other problems can affect any of us. Guilt feelings can condemn us to hell and back because we may never be able to change any of the circumstances either of the past or what will happen in the future. I call this trying to live with the “if onlys” and “probably should haves.” For instance, I can’t go back and see to it that my little baby has the hospital care she needed right after birth for her to have a chance to live. That situation is a done deal. And if her death is partly my fault for not demanding better care, then nothing I feel about it can make a difference now. So, all I can do is ask God for peace. If I need forgiveness for my lack of active participation in her care, then THAT forgiveness is assured.

Everyone who finds this stranger within can see that we don’t really know ourselves as well as we think we do. We all have a tendency to feel that our problems are ours alone and that those will be with us always! God tells us otherwise. We are told that a day will come when there will be no tears. “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. The rebuke (blame) of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8

Won’t it be glorious not to feel guilt or condemnation! A stranger will live within us—already DOES—who will feel unbelievably happy and free! All we have to do in the here and now is take the tiny little steps to building a foundation for changing our thoughts. Little actions, little beliefs, little hopes will allow us to make the eventual changes that will make our lives better. For me, some of the first steps began with buying clothes that I really liked with a little “bling” to them. Then I took a couple of huge steps—two trips, one to the Hill Country with a friend, and then a trip to the East Coast with another friend. And now I have been to Europe with my daughter and have driven—by myself—to see my brother in Arkansas. I used to think that I could only go somewhere if my husband were with me or at least be where he could get to me if I needed him. He was my balance and my safety net. After his death, I could still hear his voice telling me what I should do, but now I listen more carefully to my own inner voice. Oh, Triple A and GPS help me get to places and feel safer on the trips, but to tell the truth, I know a better source of help is with me all the time. I have heavenly access 24/7 and don’t even need a phone to get in touch. And if I get a bit off balance now and then and become obsessive over some neighborhood situation, I ask for help as soon as I realize that my mind is making something out to be more than it is in reality.

Finally, let me just assert that I don’t plan on being “stuck” at any stage or plateau of emotional or psychological development. That part of my brain that gives me free will may see me revert back to fear and timidity once in a while, but overall, I can make the changes in my life that I want—even small changes. I can learn to love the stranger who lives within me, the one who wants me to be free and happy with life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where the Wind Blows

Carla Beard and I decided to challenge each other to write something on the same topic each week--no word limit or minimum. This was my first attempt to get myself back into the habit of writing. I will leave it to her to post her devotional about wind.

Where the Wind Blows

Comfort is nearly always found in the familiar; and if one thing is familiar to Texans, it would be the wind! From the gentlest breezes in autumn piling up dry leaves on the ground to the roaring gales of storm winds howling overhead during the spring, the winds are a constant. Whether cooling breezes off the lakes in the summer or wintery blasts carrying ice shards through the air, the wind is an accepted factor of living. Hummingbirds, butterflies, or flying seed pods of milk weed and dandelion, all these take turns tumbling with the vagaries of the winds. Dust brought from the flat lands of the Texas Panhandle coat the plains of Central Texas, while the pollution of the larger cities is whisked from the air by that same broom so that the wind is both a charming house keeper and a drying blast sucking up the moisture needed for growth in the fields. No amount of contempt will allow a Texan to take the wind for granted, no matter how familiar its patterns might seem.

Assigning the wind a personality purely based on a skewed perspective, most of mankind alternately consider the wind either a foe or an indentured servant. Modern Don Quixotes have built windmills in the form of wind farms to harness the forces seemingly ever present; yet despite whacking birds and drying some of the moisture from the air, these wind turbines have no more real effect on the winds than the sails of the schooners on the high seas had back when men were more helplessly dependent in their scuttling over the face of the deep. The wind is not some insidious power against which injustice can be claimed—despite the hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes; it simply moves across the face of the earth from corner to corner. However much man may attempt to change one form of energy into another, he may never really change or hold back that which God has put into play in His creation. Unlike the Spirit of God that hovered over the face of the waters, man’s tracks on the seas—just like his tracks through the skies--are washed away as quickly as the next wave or the next current of air. Something about the wind provides perspective like nothing else. Even in Texas, our size, our worth, all our imaginings compare as nothing when that sudden sound “as a mighty rushing wind” fills our hearts and minds.

When our most creative minds attempt to paint the wind or describe its effects, they may portray a whisper among the flowers and grasses or the swaying or twisting of trees to some degree of bending acquiesce. The mood of a narrative may be brought unforgettably to mind with the description of wind and its effects upon the landscape. Belligerent resistance to wind, as in Wuthering Heights, or protective escape from its grip quite often remind a reader of experiences common to anyone able to participate in what is referred to as weather. Just like the house in Wuthering Heights, which had to be strong to stand against the wind, the Bronté characters who loved the moors had to be strong and independent. But that same wind twisted trees and characters alike over time. When a non-fictional wind blows--the Chinook stirring from the southwest of Canada or the Zephyr blowing across Texas, those in the paths of these winds either must submit or resist—or at the very least, take cover!

Just like many other powers seen and felt but never truly understood—among them light, love, dreams, and even sleep—the wind seems surely eternal and immutable. Hardly does the wind ever cease its movements. In fact, that sudden calm before the storm or a lull in the wind generally creates a discomforting expectation among man and beast alike. Perhaps some ingrained sense warns that only a divine intervention can constrain a compulsion created for constant movement. But truly the wind will cease to blow one day for a time “for four angels will hold the four winds of the earth that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” Like any of the creative acts of God, the sudden observable beginning or cessation among the elements of nature becomes a sign to mankind.  Unsettling possibilities of the unfamiliar need not be cause for concern, however, because the Creator knows the end from the beginning—for man and for all of creation—not just in Texas, but to the ends of the earth.

What color the wind? What message to send?
Directed power? Who measures its hour?
Lifting wings as the cardinal sings, Fairy skirting to leafy wings,
Scooping out cliffs grain by grain, Moving mists or driving rain,
Sweeping mountains or dusty plain, Driving waves over the main—
By no man’s bridle or harness ridden—
Only to His voice wind is bidden—
Questions unnecessary, time erased with a spirit unfearing—
Wild winds carry the Word of His sudden appearing!