15 Days Til Christmas

I checked the calendar, then checked again.

I counted twice.

1) 10th

2) 11th

3) 12th

4) 13th

5) 14th

6) 15th

7) 16th

8) 17th

9) 18th

10) 19th

11) 20th

12) 21st

13) 22nd

14) 23rd

15) 24th

Make that 3 times….

There are 15 days til Christmas, not counting today.

Today is here.  (No need to count it.)  Christmas is…Christmas! (No need to count it.)

I’ve 15 days….

My tree is not up.  My house is not clean. The gifts are not bought. Christmas cards are not sent.

I sing the carols.  And, I attend the parties.

But, my heart is not in it.  My mind doesn’t celebrate.  It’s a burden and a hassle – an intrusion…interruption…imposition….

Don’t get me wrong.  I know the Reason for the season.  It’s all about giving (I mean getting) and doing good to others (I mean getting all the good I can) and celebrating the KING of Creation (I mean the king of commerce) and family, food and fun (meaning self).

Lest you label me Grinch, let me explain my dilemma.

My neighbor is Kurdish. “It is our culture, you understand,” these are the words expressed to explain the fasts and celebrations experienced as they move through the year.

And, once, only once, three words were added: “It is our culture, you understand, like your Christmas.”

“Like your Christmas” – WHAT?  We celebrate Christmas because it’s who we are culturally?  The calendar rolls toward the end of the year and culture dictates CELEBRATE!?


Truly…what religious significance does Christmas have?

“Christ was born today” is what the song says.  Do I believe that? No. I don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25 any more than I believe Rudolph pulls Santa’s sleigh.

Do I think it’s good to celebrate Jesus’ birth? I do think it’s good for Christians to celebrate the coming of the Christ, the Messiah…Jesus.  It’s a celebration of Christianity that should spill over onto those around us.  But, it shouldn’t be a cultural celebration.  And, it shouldn’t be consumer driven.  And…it shouldn’t be in December. That confuses the message of who Jesus is and why Jesus was born (and when).

A cultural, consumer driven holiday – that’s what it’s become here in the US.  Perhaps…just perhaps that’s what it’s always been.

My neighbor created a maelstrom within me – who am I culturally – and who I am religiously (dare I say spiritually?) – that raises the question: What happens when who I am culturally conflicts with what I believe religiously and hold to be true spiritually?

For too long culture and religion have been intertwined where Christianity is concerned. Traditions – whether born in culture or religion decree what we do, when and how.  Some say our culture reflects our religion.  Perhaps that’s true.  As I look around me, I sincerely hope not.

Perhaps it’s time for this Christian to step away from Christmas and take a long hard look at what I do and why I do it.  And, see which (culture or religion) is the driving force behind what I celebrate and how (and why).

We Christians make so much of Christmas. A month of celebrations and a year of planning.  We say we’re celebrating the birthday of King Jesus. But, if that were the case wouldn’t all the $ spent go toward making His kingdom a reality for all?

I’m torn and confused. My culture and traditions are Christian.  My religion is, too. But, spiritually, I feel drawn to abandon all and simply embrace Jesus and the kingdom of God He spoke of.

Culturally, that’s a radical attitude.  Religiously, it’s considered heretical. Spiritually…ah…would that not be freeing?


I am an imperfect person.

That’s not an excuse. It’s a fact.

No matter how hard I try or how good my intentions, I simply cannot live a perfect life or do things perfectly.

I fail.


It seems the harder I try the more imperfect I become.


Of course, it’s my failings and failures that call attention to and blatantly proclaim my inabilities…shortsightedness…selfishness…all the while my pride screams “cover up!” and seeks to do just that.

Put on a righteous facade. Point fingers at others (remember there are three pointing back at me).  Blame another.  Call attention to the shortcomings of…and wag my head…bad mouth…gossip…compare….

And, all the while it’s me, me, ME who plays the game, knows the shame, bears the blame….

Cursing, cursed wretch that I am…hypocrite.

I know who I am.  I am greeted daily by this fact each morning when I awaken, with every choice made, with each flash of emotion and flicker of conscience.

Enter God’s grace in the person Jesus.

Ah, there is hope for this wretched human.

And, there is hope for you as well.

See-through Christians

The search for my small glass measuring cup was on.  I needed it and it was NOT where it was supposed to be.

I’d looked in the cabinet, on the table, on the counter, in the sink, in the dish drainer, under the sink, on the stove…. And, I repeated.

Hubby entered the search and pointed to a glass object in the dish drainer.  I shook my head and told him the cup was clear glass.  What he was pointing at was a small antique Welch’s jelly juice glass with pictures on it.

Hubby patiently pointed again, so I looked closer.  And, I removed a cereal bowl that was partially obscuring my view.

There it was.  My 1 cup glass measuring cup was upside down and on top of the Welch’s jelly glass,  All I had noticed was the glass within the cup.

That’s the way Christians are supposed to be.  When people look at us, we should be so transparent that they see Jesus, not us.


Beyond My Control

Daughter mentioned she felt tired (had for two days) and thought it best she go to bed early.  5 a.m. would come too soon as it was and she wanted to be rested for work.  She also mentioned that two of her coworkers had been ill the first of this week (continued to work with fever/symptoms) and that one had said her husband’s fever climbed to 106, and had taken him to the ER.

Daughter hoped she was not coming down with the same thing they’d had.  I hoped not, too.

She had not been in bed very long when she called my name.

Chills were wracking her body and chattering teeth made it difficult for her to speak.

She was sick.  Fever was climbing and as it did so her body shook…hard.  And her teeth chattered so hard she repeatedly bit her tongue as she tried to speak…and broke a tooth.

Her only symptoms were fever, chills, muscle aches and headache. All attributed to the rapid rise in her body temperature.

Tylenol halted the climb and it stopped just shy of 102.  She slept.  And, after disinfecting where she had been and what she had touched since she’d arrived home from work, I went to bed, too, praying that she would soon be well and that Hubby and I would not come down with it.

This morning I woke about the time she usually heads to work.  She was in bed, had notified work that she would not be in, and said her fever had bottomed out to almost normal in the night but was on its way back up.

Symptoms this morning are: fever just under 100, headache, swollen.tender neck glands, tight chest, stiff neck and back.

I’ve no idea what she has or how long its duration will be.  And, I don’t know how contagious it is.

My responsibilities extend beyond myself and I can’t risk carrying this to Mom. And, if I get sick….

This is beyond my control.  I can wash my hands and Lysol everything possible.  I can isolate her to her room and her dogs with her, and bleach every utensil she eats from.  But, that’s about all I can do to prevent the spread of this thing.

Most likely she had been contagious for two days prior to developing the fever.  She first came in contact with it (at best guess) on Sunday or Monday.  She was off on Tuesday and here/at Mom’s…. On Thursday she developed fatigue and on Friday evening, fever. That’s about a 3 day incubation period.

Could be anything.

When her hands went white and tingled as her fever climbed, I thought of meningitis.  And, again, this morning when she mentioned headache and stiff neck…meningitis.

She’s sitting up in bed, eating breakfast and sipping coffee.  And, as she does so, she’s watching World War Z.

The day that I’d planned…the weekend I’d stretched before me changed abruptly last evening.  And, the next few days and the week ahead may change as well.

Everything is beyond my control.

All I can do is what I am able in this moment as things are right now.  And, truly, isn’t that how it is anyway?

I’ve no power to control – certainly not the future.  Everything is truly beyond my control.

While I can influence, I cannot control.

And, being out of control is scary.

Daughter just made a comment on the zombie movie she’s watching…”it’s kinda freaky.”

Yeah, it is “kinda freaky” when you realize you don’t know what you’re dealing with and have no clue what to do about it.  And, you don’t know whether it will invade and infect you or others you care about – and if it does what will happen.

It’s all beyond my control.

But, it’s not beyond the control of my Creator, Comforter, Savior, Sovereign God, The Great Physician…Jesus.

Knowing that He is in control calms my fears and gives me peace of mind to move forward with what I do know and work within the framework that I have available on a moment by moment basis.

Guess what…it’s beyond your control, too.

Light Living

Jesus’ invitation, “Come, follow me” was a call to learn of Him…to know His Father….

And, it was more.

“Come, follow me.”  That’s a personal call to leave where you are and go where someone else is. It’s a call to draw close and not remain at a distance. It’s a call to embrace and interact – to make it personal. It’s a call to make a decision to stop going your way and follow the lead of someone else.  It’s a call to pledge allegiance to Jesus and what He taught and not to ourselves and what we think or want.  It’s a call to lay aside who we are and what we do and become someone else doing something else for someone else.

In scripture, those who followed Jesus left all when they followed.

Followers of Jesus (then and now) experience a putting off and a putting on.

They put off their old way and put on His way.

I don’t know any better way to say it, so I’ll quote Paul in Ephesians chapter 4 (beginning with verse 22, using the New International Version).

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,

  • to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 
  • to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
  • and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
  • Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and
  • speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
  • “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
  • He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
  • And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another,
  • forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I don’t know about you, but from what I just read, I’ve been giving lip service and not truly following Jesus.

God, forgive me and empower me to truly follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Rain and Renewal

Throughout the morning, as opportunity presented itself, I checked the radar to see how close the red and yellow blobs were and if they were still tracking in our direction. There was nothing I could do to direct the rain our way other than pray.  And, as much as I wanted rain and our gardens needed it…doing so felt selfish.

Would it rain?  Yes.  It would rain…was raining elsewhere.  Would it rain here? Only God knew the answer to that question.

And, I was okay with that.

As I surveyed God’s Garden #2 from my back porch, I noticed the okra had wilted. The sun was hot on my skin.  A quick glance at the sunny sky above told me all I needed to know. There was an immediate need and I had a temporary fix, so I turned on the water (just a trickle) and placed the hose at the feet of the okra. Every 15 minutes I went outside and moved the hose 6 inches down the row.

Within 5 minutes of receiving the life-giving liquid, the okra had perked up.  (It was amazing to watch.)

And, by the time I had placed the hose at the base of the last okra plant (hours had passed), the sky showed promise of a better solution.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that rain arrived.  And, when it arrived it lingered long enough to break the dry spell.

The huge blob of red and yellow that I’d tracked all morning on radar slipped South of us.  That was okay. Sovereign God knew best where to send the rainfall…knew where it was needed most, and when.

And, God knew what I and the gardens needed most, and when, as well.

Sometimes all we can do is what we can do while we wait for God to act on our behalf.

The important thing to remember while we wait is to give thanks always for God’s many blessings.

Yes, there blessings even in dry spells.  There are always reasons to give thanks.  And, having a thankful heart provokes a can do attitude and a positive outlook on life.

And, a positive outlook on life changes everything.

Believe me, I went from parched to overflowing and nary a drop of rain had fallen.  From deep within a well of Living Water bubbled up and watered my withered soul, restored my faith in God, and renewed my spirit as it changed my attitude and outlook.

Dry Spell

For over 500 consecutive days, Suzansays saw a new post appear.

And, then…nothing for five days.

I hit a dry spell, I suppose.

It wasn’t that I suddenly lost interest in writing. No…that wouldn’t be accurate to say.  And, it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say.

I just hit a dry spell.

Life took an unusual turn and I had an unexpected response to that turn. I was thrown off schedule and off kilter. Everything seemed out of sync.

My dry spell began seven days ago, when rain loomed large in our forecast.  The ground was dry and the gardens thirsty – ample rain was on the way…enough to saturate the ground deeply…thoroughly…satisfyingly.

I prepared for it and for the possibility of hail and wind (also forecast).  I picked the garden clean, thinking it would be a couple of days before the ground firmed and dried enough to venture into it.

I hoped for rain…prayed for it…prepared for its arrival.  I needed the rain as much as the ground did.

But, rain did not fall.  An hour south of us is where it fell for two days.  I looked lustily at the radar, desiring it to move farther north.

It didn’t.

While I was grateful that they received rain, I was disappointed we (meaning I) didn’t and set out to water the gardens and hope for rain each time a cloud obscured the sun.

Six days ago, as rain promised us fell to our south, Hubby headed out in the wee hours and slipped Southeast along the interstate.  Two days of meetings determined his direction. And, after meetings ended, he would slip East to spend a couple of days with his mom.

After less than 3 hours of sleep, (to bed after midnight and up again at 3) my body craved more and I slipped back to bed and slept off and on until nearly 9 the morning of his departure.

Early mornings are my writing times and with early morning gone and morning at the mid point, there was no time to think of anything other than heading to work.  And, beyond work, my day’s normal schedule stretched before me.

With Hubby gone, my evenings were filled with gardening (and watering) and preserving foods gathered from the gardens.

And, early mornings were spent catching up on sleep I lost working late into each night.

The days grew hot and hotter, climbing to a wilting 95 degrees F.  Everything suffered from the lack of moisture.  Birdbaths filled at the end of one day were emptied by the end of the next.  The garden, in its prime, showed signs of shutting down production.  The peas, if given sufficient rainfall, could rebound and produce one more crop – but the rain didn’t fall when needed.  And, city water does little other than keep things alive.  It just can’t provide that trigger that induces new life like rain can.

It was frustrating and in some ways heartbreaking.  So much work had been poured into the gardens….

I felt as dry as the garden…as parched as the soil.

I’d hit a dry spot.  It seemed nothing I did helped and so for 5 days I moved into and through my odd schedule thirsting to write, but with thoughts too dry to utter a word here on Suzansays I did the only thing I could.

I waited for the dry spell to end.

And, when it didn’t end, I declared it ended.

This morning I woke early with intent – the first time in 6 days – said “goodbye” to Daughter as she headed to work, checked the forecast and radar, and slipped into Suzansays to break the dry spell and begin anew.

As I look out of the window before me, the sun casts morning shadows in the garden and a breeze stirs the tops of the okra.  The forecast is for rain…perhaps a lot of rain…maybe storms.  The radar is lit with colors this morning – all Northwest of us.

I am reminded of a verse which delivers far more than the forecast or radar can promise. And, it gives hope that God has not forgotten – for God loves and cares for all.

Don’t resist violence! If you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other too. 40 If you are ordered to court, and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. 41 If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.  43 “There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ 44 But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. 46 If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. 47 If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Jesus – Matthew 5)

April 27 Tornado Outbreak

During a four day period in 2011, April 25 – 28, over 200 tornadoes were confirmed in 5 southeastern states.  The deadliest time was the afternoon and evening of April 27 when an outbreak of 122 tornadoes took the lives of 313 people in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. (Read more.)

A quick look at the weather forecast for my area indicates a need to keep eyes to the sky and the weather radio nearby.  Folks who should know (storm chasers) are saying we could see a repeat of outbreaks similar to 3 years ago today.

I guess that means I’d better clean out the floor of the hall closet so Daughter and her pets can seek shelter should the weather threaten.

Me?  No…I tend to stand at the door and watch it happen.  And, I’ve been known to stand outside (while Hubby, our kids, and pets sheltered in the bathroom) and look up at a swirling cloud mass as it passed over our house (minutes later touching down a mile from me). Not a smart thing to do, I know, but a small house with no basement doesn’t offer much protection…. I want to know what’s coming my way…meet it head on.

Yesterday was spent in storm prep.  Everything that could be done was done to prevent damage here and at Mom’s.  The main concern I have is of a huge, ancient tree across Mom’s fence in her neighbor’s yard.  It’s leaning and top heavy.  If it falls…if any of it falls, it will be into Mom’s yard…onto her outbuildings. And, if the tree should come down it would crush Mom’s house.  All I can do is pray…pray that the tree falls in such a way that it damages neither houses nor outbuildings.  It would take a miracle, but the One I pray to is fully capable of doing the impossible. (Thank you, Jesus.)

I pray the forecasters are wrong and that the weather will be sedate. But, with all the chatter I’m hearing, that doesn’t look promising.  The closer the front gets the harsher the forecast sounds.

In any event, I’d rather be alarmed about (what turns out to be) nothing and therefore prepared for anything than to be prepared for nothing and alarmed about everything.

Hunker down, folks. The next few days could be a wild ride!

In the Midst of My Impatience

A still, small, whisper of an impression prompted me to refrain from planting last Saturday. A disturbance in my soul, if you will…an imbalance…a churning…a storm within me did not abate until I withdrew my stubborn decision to plant.

I knew God would not bless my stubborn stupidity.

Oh, I know…I wrote about my decision to plant and about how I felt certain the decision was founded in faith and felt assured that my desire to plant was God prompted and not self provoked.

A step of faith…against all odds…a move forward when everyone and everything was screaming “WAIT!”

Wisdom declared a delay of 5 days.

Dogwood Winter was forecast to hit hard bringing several days of colder than normal temperatures…breaking records…frost…hard freeze….

What was the low temperature last night?  At 3:52 a.m. the temperature here dipped to 32°F and remained there until 6:00 a.m. when it dropped to 31º.  That’s where it remains as I type this. Frost covers the grass and cars. 40 miles north of me, Portland hovers at 28º.

Yesterday afternoon, WKRN‘s news reported on the plight of strawberry farmers 40 minutes north of where I live. They stood to lose everything.  Many plants already had berries and others were just coming into bloom.  A light freeze could cause some loss but a hard freeze would be devastating.

From “could” to “would” with only a few drops in temperature…. Suddenly, my grouch about waiting a few days to plant because of a potential freeze became small fish to fry.

Thank you Spirit for disquieting me and for breaking through my stubborn pride. Thank you, also, for the lessons this cold snap taught me – about You and about myself as well. Forgive me, Father, for my headlong pursuit of my own will, my own timing…. Forgive me for my all consuming thoughts of self and my blindness to the struggles of others. Forgive me for my repeated betrayal of your Son, yes, with a kiss just as Judas betrayed him over 2000 years ago this day.