Abundance

 

Last week I found a beautiful, whole, sand dollar. It is rare to find a whole one that isn’t alive. More often, I find the green-brown ones that are still living and I toss them as far as I can back into the water. I knew how fragile it was so I carried it gently in my hand toward home. As I was walking I was thinking about all the sand dollars I had in the wooden bowl on my dining room table. This would make a great addition to my collection.

But did I really need another sand dollar? I had been blessed with this special gift from the sea, and I was so excited to find it, but I already had a bowl full of blessings at home. I started looking for someone to give it to, someone who needed it way more than me. And I found her! I came across a young tween-aged girl who was concentrating hard on the sand as she walked slowly along. “I think this is yours,” I said as I reached out my treasure. She looked up and her face brightened. “How did you know?” she asked, “I’ve been looking for one for hours.” She shyly opened her hand and I set it on her palm. Then she squealed a thank you and ran away.

That day I was given two gifts, a perfect sand dollar, and a young girl’s squeal. It was a two-fer!

Tell those who are rich to do good—to be rich in good works. And tell them they should be happy to give and ready to share.  1 Timothy 6:18 ERVsand dollar

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Close Enough

Beach and Pools

At low tide the beach where I walk has several pools of water between the shore and the waves. These still pools create a beach walking challenge. If you want to be close to the waves you either have to take your shoes off and wade across the pools, or you have to try to jump over the narrowest place you can find.

This morning when I started out I decided not to cross the pools. I decided that it was just easier to walk further from the waves. But it wasn’t long before I sensed I was missing things. I could hear the waves, but only faintly. I could see the foam but it wasn’t tickling my feet. I could see the sea birds skittering along but I wasn’t privy to them poking their tiny beaks into the sand. The gigantic ocean was right there, and I had full access to it but, at first, I wasn’t willing to cross a couple of shallow pools to be right next to it, to be in it, to be surrounded by its power, sparkling light and awe.

And I started to wonder, am I that way with God? He is right there in all His giganticness, power, and sparkling light, waiting for me to make the small effort it takes to enjoy His closeness. I am missing out on so much when I accept a distance between us.

Today, I finally kicked off my shoes, waded across those tiny pools, then marveled in the roaring ocean’s awe.

I hear the roar to the water coming from deep within the earth…God your waves come one after another, crashing all around and over me. Psalms 42:7 ERV

Are We Becoming Cyborgs?

4robin.monroe.Prj6Are we becoming Cyborgs?

I just finished working on my computer, taking an online art course, getting to know, and enjoy people who I have never met in person, and most likely never will. I am living in a house where I can lock and unlock the door from the phone that I carry with me everywhere because it keeps me connected to more than a 1000 people (LinkedIn) that I barely know, and more than 300 (FB) who have I have gotten to know pretty well simply by what they choose to show me.

And though I am not ancient, I am old enough that I clearly remember a time without computers in my home, a time when I carried a quarter in my shoe for an emergency phone call, a time when I wrote paper letters to people I loved who lived far away, a time when I went to a restaurant and ate and talked and never once looked up something on my phone, a time when sometimes people just sat still and thought about things, or lived in the present instead of frantically trying to take a photo to make sure they could share it with their “network” of friends.

And it is additive to be able to connect like that instantaneously, and it is fun, and there are some wonderful benefits from all the connection. I get it. I confess, I am addicted too. But like any addiction the pleasure is short-lived and the value relatively small. Like a wind-up toy that is unwound, when the screen is off so is the experience. There are no pink cheeks, or sticky salt water and sand left to wash off.

I believe that I have successfully made the transition from antiquity to the cyber world. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I can eventually figure out how to use whatever software I need to do a job, and then use it, with perhaps a few bobbles, but with at least a tiny bit of aplomb.

Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are amazing and fun, but deceitful because as their names suggest they are still virtual and mixed, but NOT real. Y’all! There is no substitute for a hand on your shoulder, a real hug, someone’s breath on your neck, or feeling a heartbeat next to yours. And nature, oh my, what online is like a warm spring breeze? A rollicking ocean? Or a leaf illuminated by the evening sun? VR and MR offer “close”, perhaps even “very close”, but still not real.

The thing that frightens us most about the cyborg idea is loss of control. But, real control is a myth anyway. We can make choices that can make a difference, but we can’t really have control over anything.

And I do have a choice. Every time I have a free moment I can choose what I do with that time, at least until something that is out of my control interferes. Am I going to have a conversation with the server at the restaurant, or will she find me on my phone posting on FB? Am I going to read a book, write a poem, paint a picture, or play hide and seek with my granddaughter? Or am I going to binge watch my favorite show?

We do live in a technological world, and we do have to be a part of that if we are going to have jobs and function successfully. And that is not all bad, a lot of the connection and equalizing is really good. It is only bad when we lose everything else, or diminish it so much that we forget the realness of real.

I think we love the virtual world so much because we don’t want to hurt. But pain has a connection to deep joy, and by skipping the hurt we miss the point.  In the real world, we don’t have control, but we do have a choice. We can choose to go see a friend instead of texting, or take a dip in the ocean. We can choose to do something real- or we can watch a movie.

The articles I read in my class inspired me to challenge myself to take one typical day and keep track of my screen time. I’m going to include it all, even those few minutes at a stop light when I am checking my work email.

Then I’m going to make a choice about how “real” I want to be.

Because it is my choice!

Excerpt below from my favorite children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margory Williams

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side…”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then your become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”…

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to carefully be kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

The Pain in the World

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First, I have to say, there is not an answer that will ever satisfy the question, “Why is there pain?” After my six year old daughter died of leukemia I thought I wasn’t going to be able to live through the pain, and I wrestled with God. Sometimes I just screamed at Him. But deep down I already knew that even if He had come Himself, and sat down beside me and explained why to me, it wouldn’t be enough. Not because God isn’t enough. He certainly is. He is everything. But instead because there is no way my puny human mind or my weak broken heart would have been able to comprehend it. “His ways are higher.” Isaiah 55:8-9

But I had to find a way to make peace with the pain and the following, an except from Devotions for the Brokenhearted is what I came to understand:

Although our own pain is not always the result of our personal sin, sin, in a larger sense, is the reason pain and disease entered Eden. Sin entered the world and altered it so completely that struggle and suffering became a part of man’s everyday existence. (Genesis 3)

From Genesis 3 on, the Bible’s central message is redemption. It is about how God chose not to wipe us out. It is the story of how a holy God who cannot tolerate sin made a way for us to be sinless.

Had God chosen simply to remove all the pain, He would have had to remove all the sin and therefore obliterate all the sinners. He loves us too much to give us a painless world. Instead, for now, He allows sin and pain to exist to give us time to receive the sinless nature of His Son.

He promises us that if we receive the forgiveness He has provided through Christ we will someday know a sinless, painless world. That promise gives us hope as we muddle through the darkness, suffering and grief that comes with living. This life is not all there is. It is not “it”. This is just the journey. The journey to our home, a home without pain.

When Something’s not quite

When I finished Gasparilla’s Treasure. I could tell that something wasn’t just right. I knew there was more to the story so I decided to do in depth character studies. Just yesterday I found my research notebook. I had written several pages about each character, things like their favorite color, their fears, their most embarrassing moment…..anything that could give me insight into who these kids were. Most of what is in that notebook is not written in the book but taking the time really think about these kids made them come alive and once they did they began to tell me what would happen next instead of the other way around. “Gasparilla’s Treasure” became “Silent Glades” and writing became an adventure.

Silver Lines - Robin Prince Monroe's photo.

Time

Time is invisible.

It sounds like rushing water or a gusty breeze.

It feels like getting pushed down hill with roller skates on….and sometimes…. if we are lucky, or very determined, it can feel like opening a present on Christmas morning.

Time tastes like vanilla ice cream all sweet and cold then melted away and suddenly gone.

It smells like sweaty boys after a baseball game and looks like home movies on fast forward.

It is a glass half empty or half full but not measurable because we can’t decide how much we will have.

We can only decide how we will spend it,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and who we will spend it with.

—Robin Prince Monroe

You Decide

IMG_0194You Decide

From the moment we wake up till the very second we lay our heads on our pillows at night, our days are made up of a string of decisions, one after another. From simple ones, like what to wear that day, to deeper more meaningful choices like how we to respond to the people we love. That string of decisions weaves a tapestry that one day will form the picture of our lives.

Just about a week after 9/11 my brother, Frank, and his wife boarded a plane for China. The terror alert was high, the security at the airports stringent and more than one person asked him why in the world he would get on a plane at such a time. Frank’s answer was simple, not swaggering or defiant. “I don’t make decisions out of fear.” And that made me wonder, do I?

So I prayerfully went to scripture, and I was amazed at God’s firm response to decisions made in fear. Here are just a few.

Numbers 14:9-11 The Israelites are afraid to enter the promise land because of the large people reported there. God’s response, “How long will these people treat me with such contempt?…”

Exodus 4:10 God promising to give Moses the words, calls him to free the Israelites, but Moses is afraid to speak. God’s response, “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…”

Matthew 25: 25-26 The servant who was given only one talent was afraid he’d lose it, so instead of investing it he buried it in the ground. The Master’s response, “You wicked, lazy servant…”

With wars raging, an economy sagging and the threat of terror hanging over us each day, it can be easy to fall into a habit of making choices out of fear. God wants us to be wise (James 1:5). He doesn’t want us to take foolish risks to test ourselves or His love for us (Matthew 4:5-6). But scripture makes one thing clear, we are to make our daily choices in trust, not fear.

Two thousand years ago, when God sent His tiny son to earth, the angel of the Lord appeared to a group of sleepy but attentive shepherds. We can only imagine the bright light, the bleating sheep, and that group of working men huddled together trembling. They were terrified. But the angel reassured them with these precious words, “Do not be afraid…”. They could have fled, I’m very sure they thought of it, but instead they made the decision to go to Bethlehem and experience one of the most joyful events in human history.

Listen in your heart. I can hear that angel, can you? He is saying, ‘Do not be afraid’, trust God, and don’t miss His best for you!

By Robin Prince Monroe copyright 2012

Where is joy?

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Where is Joy, Mama?
She is dancing in the wind.
She is sparkling in the sunshine.
She is laughing in your friend.
She is playing in your smile and
Splashing on the shore.
She is singing with the birds and
Opening up a door.
And on the grayer days she is 
napping quietly 
under blankets of thick clouds, or beneath an old oak tree. 
Sometimes it will be harder to hear her tinkling voice. 
When the brambles and the mud make it harder to rejoice.
When that happens child,
Remember from the start,
Joy is always with you,
Because Joy lives in your heart.