JUST THREE WEEKS AND COUNTING

Beautiful Cumberland University … but why am I stuck inside?
Beautiful Cumberland University … but why am I stuck inside?

By Lisa Huddleston

Some days are so packed with “have to dos” that it seems as though I can never get around to my “want to do” list. And that’s exactly where you’ll find me right now. I just left the Adult Learning Center (work I enjoy when I have time) and am sitting on the lovely campus of Cumberland University to borrow some internet. Country living is great, but not for providing internet–no signal, again. Ironically, I am here because I need to work on a project for my on-line class, but I have decided to squeeze some blog time in for good measure and just because I want to.

Ahhh … let me settle in to this a little bit. Feels good. Feels right. So why did I feel a need to upset my life by taking classes this semester? I was beginning to find my stride in this Second Half life I’m now living. I was working out, creating, writing, volunteering, and enjoying my days. Now I am checking assignments, making deadlines, and designing presentations–all things that add stress to my life. Again I ask–why?

Believe in who you are!
Believe in who you are!

Well, something in me always rises to a challenge. I like to achieve goals, and that is a good thing. In fact, I believe if I’m not growing then I’m dying. But this time I let other people pick my goal for me, and I’m too old (although clearly not too wise) to let that happen. Goals are great, but I only enjoy them when I care about reaching them. This time all I have really learned is that I do not fit into institutional settings very well–and I already knew that! That’s why I’m more comfortable with odd, quirky people, with home-made learning, with non-denominational gatherings, and so on. My daughter says I’m a nonconformist, and I gleefully respond, “It takes one to know one!” And maybe it also takes one to truly appreciate one.

Yes, I will finish well. I will do the best I can to complete my assignments, and I will take away the learning that I can use–perhaps not in ways that others would like me to, but no learning is wasted. And that is a good thing, too. I am thankful to affirm who I am. I love the new people I have been able to meet. And I truly have enjoyed the exercise for my aging brain. But I am who I am, and here in the Second Half I need to make time to be just that.

Three weeks and counting …. Next time I mention doing something that everyone knows is NOT me–and we all know it’s bound to happen–somebody, please, stop me!

EXPECTING GOOD NEWS

Had to sneak some chickens in here somewhere.
Had to sneak some chickens in here somewhere.

By Lisa Huddleston

Have you ever texted a message to someone and have them take it completely differently than you meant it? I have, and I bet if you haven’t it’s only because you don’t text. People today seem to be looking for a fight everywhere you turn. TV news programs, Twitter, Facebook, blogs–the comments often read like nuclear warfare.

That’s why I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to start looking for the best in the people around me. You know, when in doubt, expect good news. Choose to stay out of meaningless arguments: I don’t comment on threads that are headed down the tube, I block consistently negative or argumentative people from my newsfeed, and I don’t allow myself to get sucked into dark holes of negativity. No one is helped, and many are discouraged–including me!

Spread joy.
Spread joy.

Therefore, I was especially aware of a similar approach in Paul’s letter to the Philippians in my lenten reading for the day.

I plan (according to Jesus’ plan) to send Timothy to you very soon so he can bring back all the news of you he can gather. Oh, how that will do my heart good! (Phil. 2:19)

Even in prison, even when Christians were being persecuted, Paul expected good news from the church in Philippi! How much more should I as I sit here in my study in freedom and comfort? Good news! After all, it really is all around us–especially when we look for it.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse (Phil. 4:8).

Amen.

THANKFUL FOR ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

All creatures great and small … God made them!
All creatures great and small … God made them!

By Lisa Huddleston

Tonight I’d like to borrow a poem that has been running through my head all day since I sat in church this morning and thought of how happy the Quiet Life on Hudfarm makes me. The joy of the people, animals, and beauty of all the growing things around me–each reminds me of the Creator who made them, and each in his, her, or its own way tells me more of the greatness of our God. For all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, I am thankful.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Trillium growing in the woods.
Trillium growing in the woods.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

This is Goldie. Who know chicken's had so much personality packed into their little selves?
This is Goldie. Who knew chickens had so much personality packed into their little selves?

 

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Written by Cecil Frances Alexander and borrowed by me all day long. Amen.

 

“THE SKY IS FALLING,” AT LEAST I THINK SO

Doctor and chicken farmer!
Doctor and chicken farmer!

by Lisa Huddleston

The chicks, or “peeps” as Chuck likes to call them, are here. Twelve little beauties that we hope are mainly girls, but only time will tell. Right now they all look roughly similar in size, but their colors and personalities are already evidence of their coming differences. It’s hilarious to watch them run around examining everything they can get their beaks on–including one another. We noticed one is especially bossy and often runs right over the backs of the others. Another one is the loudest, constantly “peeping” her (or hopefully not his) little head off in either delight or complaint, “The sky is falling!” It all sounds about the same to us right now.

Not too surprisingly, I have already made connections between my little flock and my #LentChallenge reading. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us much about the variety found in the body of Christ. Each of us gifted in different ways but all for the glory of the same God.

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! … He decides who gets what, and when. (12:4-11)

Really into her food--I can relate!
Really into her food–I can relate!

Some of the peeps’ traits are already on full display; others will show up as they mature. Likewise, some of us are currently fully displaying the gifts God has given us through his Spirit, and God is receiving all the glory; others of us have yet to discover and/or take the steps to reveal our true colors. Truly God decides what and when! But it is our responsibility to be true to who we are, to be what he has gifted us to be: wise counselors, compassionate healers, proclaimers of truth, clear-sighted visionaries, confident teachers, and so on. Just like the peeps, we need to give less thought to what we should be and more action to who we really are.

Peep!

HERE A CHICK, THERE A CHICK

Relationships make me chicken!
Relationships make me chicken!

By Lisa Huddleston

Okay–tomorrow is the big day we finally get our first little chicks! Ameraucanas from Watertown. I am really excited, but also nervous about this new venture. Some people have told me how easy and care-free chickens are. Others are talking about “paste up” (ew!) and pecking orders and (gasp!) roosters. I probably have no idea what I’m getting myself into, but I’m sure we (yes, WE) will learn what we need to learn along the way.

Speaking of learning along the way, I have learned something really important in my education courses this semester. I am still a homeschooler! I may not have kids living at home any longer, but institutional school just isn’t for me. So much time wasted doing things that just come naturally at home. Oh well … I know homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it sure was and is for me! Tonight’s class reminded me who I am, and for that I am grateful. Maybe not grateful enough to make the time and money worth it, but grateful still. (Hmmm, maybe it is worth it after all.)

Back to the chickens, it’ll be interesting to see how chicken relationships compare to human ones. I mean do we humans jockey for power positions all the time, comparing ourselves and pecking at each others’ weak spots in order to make ourselves come out on top? Probably so. At least that seems to be the case. Either way, I bet I’ll learn a lot. Books give me good information, but I bet the real deal will be even more enlightening.

What the cluck?
What the cluck?

And, speaking of the real deal, relationships in the human realm are really difficult. I think I may do better as a chicken. I’d just peck a few eyes out every once in a while and move on. As a human, and a Christian human at that, I have to be compassionate and nice. Empathy is simply going to be the death of me! Really.

Okay. Long ADD day. Hope you were able to ride that train! And now I am trying to let go of it all–school, relationships, misconceptions, judgments, worries, and all–so that I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Deep breath in, and blow it all out.  Let. It. Go.

Here chicky, chicky, chicky …

THE LONG OBEDIENCE STUFF

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Paper research. Fun? Nope.

By Lisa Huddleston

Probably like many of you, I have a great deal of difficulty finishing long-term projects. Oh, I start out with gusto, raring to go and looking forward to the challenge, but after a few days, or weeks, or months, or in some cases even years, I want to throw in the towel.

And that’s where I sit today–towel in hand and just about to let it fly! I’m struggling with my exercise regimen, my healthy eating program, and I have yet another paper to write for a class that will not be completed until the first week of May and still has several projects left to conquer. I just don’t wanna do anything that I know I should do today. Ugh.

That said, I did do one thing already on my list of “supposed tos.” I read today’s #LentChallenge selection. How does God always know? Really, how does He always arrange it so that I am forced to look at the truth that hits me right where I sit? (Remember where? In my corner of the ring about to throw in the towel.)

“But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.” (Paul, Acts 20:22-24)

Man (said with a long, drawn out, annoying Midwestern aaaaaa sound, please) … I really want to quit. You name it, I want to quit it. But no, God has to go and make me read these very words today–and I actually have to hear and heed them.

Okay, I get it. For some reason, I felt compelled to begin these classes in order to renew my teaching license–maybe to continue my work at the Adult Learning Center, maybe to face what would feel like “imprisonment” by taking a real, paying job rather than continuing to work for free and in freedom. Who knows? (Yes, God does. I know.) But whatever the outcome, I need to finish what He started in me. Keep walking on that long obedience trail in every way that He has placed before me.

Obedience is tough even for the short-term, but this long obedience stuff just may be the end of me. I guess I can hope so anyway–all the way to the end.

ROACHES AND THE VERNAL EQUINOX

Balance is the great spiritual illusion--light triumphs forever!
Balance is the great spiritual illusion–light triumphs forever!

By Lisa Huddleston

Today, about 8 hours ago in fact, the planet we live on did something remarkable. It arrived at a tilt on its axis that allows for an equal amount of daylight and dark. This balance arrives twice a year: one time announces the arrival of spring (Vernal Equinox) and the other heralds fall (Autumnal Equinox). Imagine it (or actually record it–it’s not abstract but concrete)–light and dark each having equal time. Isn’t it an interesting balance to consider? Half light, half dark. Neither trumping the other. Yin and yang. Balance.

However, if we were to consider these phenomena in spiritual terms (as many on the planet do), we really would need a great imagination. While there is an apparent peace in the physical balance of the earth, such a peace in the spiritual realm is simply an illusion. Light and dark can never balance one another spiritually. Dark always flees from light. Just a pinprick in the night sky can dispel the whole canopy of black. Light always always wins–so why is it that we humans so often seek the dark?

Jesus put it like this, “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is” (John 3:19-21, The Message).

Ever turn on the lights in a roach-infested kitchen? That’s what we look like when God’s light first floods in. Scurrying and running for cover. Skittering across the hard surfaces to dive under the cabinets. We prefer to hide away in the dark, and if we really are roaches, that’s probably a good idea. Someone really is looking to flatten us with a shoe.

Can you relate?
Can you relate?

But we are God’s children–not bugs! His loved ones. His light doesn’t seek to destroy us, but to find us and make us the people he has created us to be. We have to trust him and trust ourselves, our terrified little selves, to his God-light. Only then, when we clearly see and are seen in the light of truth and actually welcome its revelation, only then can his God-work shine through the darkness we think we love.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself–Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration” (John 4:23-24).

God is shining his light into the darkness looking for us–the real us–even if we look a little roachy right now. It’s safe to come out of the dark. Welcome to the Light of the world!

#LentChallenge

A SEED OF FAITH

All the power is contained in the seed--not more not less, but all!
All the power is contained in the seed–not more not less, but all!

By Lisa Huddleston

The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”
But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.” (Luke 17:5-6, The Message)

We don’t need MORE faith, we need to act on the faith we already have! #LentChallenge

SERENDIPITY

Bridie & Kathleen Dancing 2

By Lisa Huddleston

As Irish luck would have it, I tried reading today’s passage for the #LentChallenge while listening to “Fresh Air” on NPR. In one ear, Irish-American author Alice McDermott quoted W.B. Yeats’ “A Drunken Man’s Praise of Sobriety”:

O mind your feet, O mind your feet,
Keep dancing like a wave,
And under every dancer
A dead man in his grave.

And in my other ear (or rather through my mind’s eyes) I read from The Gospel of Luke:

You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! …

People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never

suspecting the rot and corruption

that is six feet under.

And I smiled a wee bit at the similarities. The dancers and the walkers both willfully unaware of the corruption just six feet away. Twiddle dee dee.

ANOTHER SPRING

imagesBy Lisa Huddleston

It rained this whole long Sunday, and my husband built one of the last fires of this season while the dog and I curled up and dreamed one more time at the foot of our blue and orange altar. Only four more days and the official first day of spring will arrive. Tight-fisted buds with green tips, my first-born’s birthday celebration, and the first tick of the year found tightly affixed to the inside of the dog’s back leg have already come. And soon and very soon, we are going to see the spring.

And I am glad to know that the change is coming–as I always am. But this year I am less sure as to how it should be received. The young will rejoice with pastel and seersucker and bonnets and eggy baskets of pink and blue crunchy sugar. The old will smile and feed the excitement by hiding treasures in the tall grass and behind the roots of old trees, enabling the myths and stoking the fires of faith.

And apart from it all, not young and not quite yet old, I will watch and pinch a smile and wonder at my role to play.

“You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now” (Luke 12:56).